Numenera – Breaking it Down (Part II)


TM and © 2014 Monte Cook Games, LLC.

In this installment of the series I will be discussing Task difficulty and die rolling in Numenera. Like all other RPGs the GM presents the characters with a story and in doing so, theybecome an integral part of the story. Will the characters live or die? Will they change the course of the story arc itself by failing to complete to the assignment they undertook in exchange for an artifact? These concepts are a common thread throughout most RPGs regardless of their genre. Success or failure depends on a set of circumstances and its resulting difficulty level.

Overview of Task Difficulty 
Anytime an action (combat or non-combat) calls for a die roll, the player will roll the die instead of the GM. The GM’s part in this is more mechanical. The GM sets the task difficulty and in doing so, he is establishing the number which will determine success or failure of the action. The task difficulty matrix is the heart of Numenera’s mechanical system. The GM sets the difficulty level which is based on the task at hand and modified by circumstances. From this determination, the player can then affect the difficulty by using effort to decrease the difficulty number. I know it sounds crazy, but it really works. Let’s talk about the three core stats that make up a character and then we’ll come back to effort.

There are three core stats in the game — Might, Speed and Intellect. Each of these stats has two components, Pool and Edge. Pool is a basic measurement when comparing one pool type (Might, Speed and Intellect) to that of another being or creature. Your pool  (Might, Speed and Intellect) is the character’s raw, innate ability to perform a task. Edge represents how well a character can use what they have (Pool). The better the edge, the less pool points it will cost to use an ability or spend toward effort. Yes, you read that right, every ability or even tasks could cost a character points from the applicable pool. The edge of that particular pool will decrease the cost by the edge number.

Let’s now return to effort. Effort comes into play when your character really wants to accomplish something, maybe a critical moment in the story or he needs to help defeat a particularly powerful automaton. Effort is the act of speeding stat pool points to decrease the difficulty number for a given task or action.

pile of diceOverview of Rolling the Die
Success in Numenera is determined by meeting or exceeding a task difficulty number as determined by the GM. Like other d20 based systems there are good rolls and bad rolls. Rolling a 1 is bad! These essence is failure, but the GM gets to intrude on the story by introducing a twist, in the case of rolling a 1 that twist is likely equialent of a fumble in other systems. Conversely, rolling a 17-20 is good! The higher the better, but for the effects to be implements, it must also be a successful attack or check.

In the next installment I will briefly cover GM Intrusions and experience points.

Please visit Monte Cook Games or your local game store to purchase Numenera!

~ Modoc


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