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Game Mastering Numenera - Monte Cook Games
The Numenera corebook’s design and development are complete. There’s still a lot of editing to do, a few illustrations and maps to complete, and layout’s only just begun, but things are moving along quite quickly now. It’s very exciting to see it pull together. In coming weeks, you can expect to see a number of previews of the material inside, and discussions of how we created the game, and why we made the choices we did. The ReaperCon Question This past weekend, I was at ReaperCon in Texas. It was a great convention, and I had a lot of fun. I ran a game of Numenera for some attendees and we all enjoyed ourselves. On the ride to the airport, however, I was asked a number of questions about the game’s design by some people who hadn’t yet had a chance to play. One question that stuck with me was, “Is Numenera player driven or GM driven?” That’s a difficult question, not because it’s hard to come up with an answer, but because it’s difficult to know what’s really being asked. The real truth is, a good game is “driven” by everyone involved and the fun that they’re having. But that’s certainly not an answer to the question actually being asked. The question might mean, “Who’s more important, the players or the GM?” Again, the answer to that should probably be, “Everyone,” but that’s not true of many games–some of them great games. Or it could mean, “Who drives the action?” This latter question is probably too simple (again, everyone does, if everything is firing on all cylinders), but it’s the one I sort of seized on in my mind when I answered, “Numenera is GM driven.” The Numenera Answer The reason is this: The Running the Game section of Numenera is probably the most important one. It’s the key, I think, to making Numenera work. There are many games, particularly newer games, that de-emphasize the role of the GM as an adjudicator of the rules and a provider of the setting. They formalize the rules to the point where little or no adjudication is needed, they regiment the role of the GM to one of procedure, and they put setting and event creation in the hands of the players, at least in part. (To be certain, few games do all of these things at once–I’m generalizing.) Some games, of course, have done away with the GM altogether. These are all fine things, but to be very clear, Numenera does not stand among such games. This game’s approach is far more classical–traditional, if you will–than that. It assumes a GM with the authority to use logic and fiat to give the game structure and substance. Mechanically, it empowers the GM to do whatever she wishes to advance the story or portray the setting or characters as needed. Although NPCs have rules, they are not the same rules as PCs (they are far simpler, and designed to allow them to fulfill their role in the game appropriately). GM intrusions can change the course of events. In the same way that you might shut down various processes running in the background of your computer to allow it to do the things you want it to do more efficiently, Numenera takes away the things that can be cumbersome on a GM to free her to focus on the story and the fun. NPC and creature stats are simple and easy to create on the fly. It’s easy to randomly generate–create whole cloth–interesting devices, locations, situations, and anything else the GM needs, so that if you want to spend a lot of time preparing, it …
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