How Many Numenera per Adventure

In a "typical" Numenera Adventure, how many Cyphers and Artifacts will each player encounter? I know there is no "right answer" but I'm just looking for a ballpark.


  • As you said, it varies based on the encounters.  If they're encountering people or exploring ruins, probably a lot, if they're fighting monsters in some jungle, probably a lot less.  I'm generally trying to go for 2-3 cyphers per session per player on average, with some variability from one to the next.

    The trick with it is, if you drop to few cyphers, they'll conserve them and not use them.  If you drop a lot, they'll be more liberal with using them.  So I'd encourage to err on the side of too many cyphers, which will make your players feel more free to use them up, and cyphers add a lot of creativity to a given session.

    Artifacts are a different story.  I didn't provide a single artifact until Tier 2, and I'm a bit more reserved with them.  For one, every artifact you give them gives them experience, so too many artifacts may result in quick level progression that you may or may not want in your game.  The other is there's a lot of power associated with artifacts, so you want to be careful doling them out.  However, I would say by Tier 3 your group should have at least one artifact per player plus one or two.
  • Well, since they're supposed to be used all the time, I'd say about one per player per encounter, not necessarily all gathered at the same time. It's easy to dole them out a little at a time if they're, say, exploring an ancient ruin, but if they're in a forest or something you could just reward them in large chunks. For example, I'm planning an adventure that has to do with sathosh raiding a local farm, in a region not commonly known for sathosh activity. Farms typically don't have many cyphers lying around, and any cyphers the sathosh had would likely be used against the players. I accounted for this by having the grateful locals reward the players with some random cyphers, which they had plenty of, as their town was having a dritsifter swap-meet at the time.


    As for artifacts, I'd put off handing those out for as long as possible. They're supposed to be the really cool, powerful tech, and I think the players getting their hands on their first artifact is a milestone. Even at Tier 6, I'd be a bit uncomfortable if the players were carrying more than 2 or 3 artifacts per, though of course I would modulate the rate of rewarding them as the depleted.


    So anyway, cyphers you can dish out pretty regularly with little trouble, but use artifacts sparingly.
  • I would lean toward Muton's level of cyphers (2-3 per person per session), 2 seems like a good number since at tier 1 you can handle 2, maybe 3 without having problems. I'd hate to have it be like Elixer's and be neck deep in them but not daring to use them. I think a party has to learn to use them and not be hoarders so make sure that when people are maxed out on them, you drop more. Get to a point where bad stuff starts happening due to hoarding and make sure they understand the reason.

    For artifacts, I would hand them out as either part of a quest specifically to claim 1 artifact, or if they get to a suitable plot milestone. If you are scaling the tower to take on a boss or a key plot device, you can have one hidden in the rubble somewhere. Or possible used by a boss. A possible reward for being thorough during critical events sounds about right. I would be let down if I delved a long-lost research facility and didn't find anything impressive at the bottom or along the way.
  • Well for artifacts bear in mind that on page 112, a player can purchase an artifact by effectively "crafting" it by spending a mere 3 XP points.  So everyone's entitled to make a game how you want with your own abundance or scarcity of artifacts, but I would at least consider this aspect of the rules for when your players ask about it.

    The other thing to consider too is that not all artifacts are created equally; I think the problem is the term "artifact".  If this was DnD, then an artifact is an all-powerful item that grants ridiculous powers and are either the focus of a campaign or encountered much later on the level progression.  In Numenera, an artifact is simply something that grants a power more than once.  The equivalent of a +1 sword in DnD is a Numenera "artifact", which in DnD you'd likely have by levels 4-6.

    In Numenera, a device that allows you to see a long distance multiple times, like an electronic pair of binoculars, is an artifact.  A device that emits that acts like a flashlight with repeated use is an artifact.  So is a suit of powered armor, so is a back-pack sized fusion generator, so is an artillery piece that can level a city, so is a global teleportation system.  But in terms of effect or utility to the characters, these are very different things.  So while I think both of your concerns are valid ones, I would hesitate to make general, universal statements about "artifacts" as the term in Numenera covers a very broad range of power and effects.
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