Numenera: The Devil's Spine, Episode 002


  • Junloo, a learned jack who explores dark places
  • Zuko, a swift nano who rides the lightning

Now that they had alien worm-things nice and snug against their spines they were ready to meet "mother".

In the adventure exploring the underground complex is represented with an hourly progress check. You roll a d20 and consult a table, which might have you consult a second table depending on what you get. Each hour exploring gives you a cumulative +10 to the roll, but you need to get 150 or more to get to the end.

For the first few hours they wandered around, stumbling upon the remains of a digested person, some metal crates containing mostly junk, and a room that was likely used who knows how long ago to mix strange chemicals. Then they rolled an awakened
nagaina sleeper.

Given that I have next to no experience with Numenera, I have no idea just how difficult a monster can be. Like, in Dungeons & Dragons monsters tend to have a level-based rating to give you an idea of what to expect, and while everything has a level in Numenera I am not really sure where things become too difficult to survive (and how the number of people in a party affects that).

Thankfully they did survive, albeit barely: in the end Zuko had almost burned through all of his Might pionts, and Junloo had just a handful of Speed points left. They probably would not had I factored in its Armor or increased damage on a grabbed target, and Melissa's cold shield-thing shaved off almost a third of its hit points in one go, but to be fair I would have dropped its level a bit if I had considered the fact that the party consists of all of two characters, and "softer" types at that.

I also avoided using intrusions, and gave them XP for defeating a noteworthy foe. I know that "officially" you are not supposed to get XP for killing things, but I do not think that this will change the tone or style of the game much, if at all, especially considering that the other six or so XP has been from discoveries and intrusions.

The progress table is an interesting way to manage abstract exploration, though the way it works out is that you will likely find nothing for a few hours, then random things for another few hours, then a creature or two, then a few largely harmless events before reaching the end point. I would change it up so that each hour gets you closer to your goal, but give you a chance to constantly run into nothing, a strange feature, or creature, instead of having certain things "roll off". Maybe include a "lost" result that gets you further from the goal.


  1. I have very little experience with Numenera, but I'd suggest that there's a crucial tipping point between levels 3 and 4 in terms of enemy threat.

    Players will hit a level 3 enemy 60% of the time, and it will hit them 40% of the time. Players will hit a level 4 enemy 45% of the time and it will hit them 55% of the time, which tips the balance *just* the other way.

  2. Good to know, though we dropped that game awhile back due to one of the players having to juggle a baby. He schedule has since opened up, but we were not too impressed with Numenera in actual play, and are shifting gears back to Dungeon World or maybe FATE.


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