What’s a busy, overwhelmed day-to-day guy to do for his first session as a Numenera GM, why run Beale of Boregal of course! I was thinking I’d get through the whole thing in during the four hour sit that we had planned and got no where near that. I can probably milk this for three or four sessions, the players love detail and have lots of questions. First lesson here, you don’t have to barrage players with the setting for buy in, they will milk you for it, use those opportunities to wax poetic during play.
Prior to this session I introduced my 13 yr old son to the game, he games a great deal BTW, but had never experienced a live tabletop RPG before. Being the future hands-on technical/engineering mind that he is, I introduced him to the players guide and options book and and he was off and running. Nope, did not want my help, I was so impressed. Two-and a half hours later he had himself a Learned Nano who Possesses a Shard of the Sun, and was he ever pumped to put him to the test. This response from nascent RPGer attests to the elegant simplicity of character development in Numenera and the imaginations that process alone inspires.
Added one adult player to the mix from one of my other gaming groups and we were off and running. Spent the first hour ironing out fine details of their characters and associations, which was time well spent, even if only for two players and handed out an extra XP or two for their efforts and to arm them for the coming adventure. We ended up with a familial duo of an older Glaive Uncle and his young Nano charge traveling into the Beyond in search of Numenera, wealth and fame in order to bolster the fortunes of the larger family business back in the Steadfast. We polished off characters “letting them roll” for their Cyphers and Oddities, which provided much agog-disbelief and giddy excitement, my giving them just the generalist of details about their Cyphers, “thing that act like fireworks and go boom.” Then the swapping of cyphers began. Funny that. I rolled not one die all evening.
I then briefed the players on my feelings heading into my first run of any RPG at a table with players present in over a dozen years. I have plenty of online experience, including improvising on the fly, but this was exhilarating, to be at the helm again, with players present on the stage, both young and old, experienced and inexperienced. Also briefed them that I was more concerned about story and presentation than I was about the rules, simple and elegant as they are. It was also understood that we would take it slow and walk through any rules should the need arise, since my older player is a veteran rules monger from several other systems, but not at expense of the session or fun of play. Probably lost another hour examining certain rules during play. In the end I think we balanced it well, regardless of little errors and side-bars. Noting there is a propensity here for experienced rules lawyers and min-maxers to try and derail the game or take the most of it, which need not be the case. Numenera has a totally different ethos from anything I have seen and it is very refreshing.
I had the players run through the first section of Beale to spend the evening with other travelers and pilgrims on the Wandering Walk. I emphasized the uniqueness and voicing of the NPCs they were traveling with, describing the environment, setting, the bone cairns and such, then homed in on the old pilgrims and their characterizations and personal oddities, one minor mutant among them. The ritual-scared pilgrim, the one-eyed alcoholic and the hair-faced squeaky voiced fella. This provided a detailed level of interest and entertainment until everyone went to bed. Woken by a GMI in the early morning hours, they ended up saving one of the old pilgrims during an early morning potty break from a Skulking Band. On a meta-game and game philosophy level, I’d pulled heavily upon things learned listening to GM Intrusions podcast by Lex Starwalker and his battery of fine guests and read a few session summaries for Beale right here on Ninth World Hub. One of them split my gut. Hilarious! If you are reading this you know who you are. This made me think harder on how to introduce the Skulking Band and other encounters as a GMIs, or otherwise, putting my own twists based on others concerns about how it played out in their sessions. Thanks for the sharing. It was put to good use and made my preparation and play considerable easier and more interesting as well as fun. I will end up carrying on with the morning wake up call a during my next session this Sunday evening. We are all eager to get there.
Reading through and brushing up on some of the core rules and other books today in prep for this next session my son asked if I was preparing for tomorrow night, to which I replied yes. He gushed, he was so pumped to carry on. That says a lot about the game design, setting and hopefully my skills as a GM, as rusty as I may be. I thought working a little on a few of the specific and weird details, in the locale and the NPCs would be enough to guide the players imaginations and my own. Seems to be working well. Keep the broad strokes in water colours and pen in the few fine details in ink as it were.
Final analysis, having started almost 40 yrs ago cutting my teeth on running Gamma World and Traveller, both of which still sway nostalgic for me, they pale in comparison to the ease, comfort and fun I and my new players had sitting down and sharing a Numenera story, even if it is not a story of my own design. This is the game system I have been looking for my whole gaming career. It is everything my nostalgic side really yearns for. That return of the memories and Magic.
My son, the hard-core PC gamer, now awaits the release of Tides.