Extroverted Introspection

Me looking at new things

Numenera: A Random Focus

In my quest for more storytelling-oriented role playing systems and more exotic settings, I recently came across Numenera, a game by RPG-veteran Monte Cook, whom you may know from games like D&D or Call of Cthulhu.

I won’t go into a full review of the game here. If you are interested, you may find one on LivingDice or as a video by the Gentleman Gamer on YouTube.

The setting of Numenera allows for a number of strange and powerful character foci, which work a bit like classes in other rule settings. Here I’m going to present to you a new focus I came up with while becoming familiar with the material. I’m not yet sure whether the balancing is ok, but in the face of fire-wielding and mind-reading characters I don’t think it’s as over-powered as it may seem in other contexts.

Controls Chance

Where others only see random occurrences, you observe the underlying patterns. Others may think you just lucky but what they don’t know is what you can achieve with only little nudges to the fabric of the world. Sometimes it’s just unconscious, like stepping aside just before a projectile would have hit you, and sometimes you are fully aware of what you are doing. A possible explanation is that the numenera all around you feed you information that your subconscious interprets; but no matter what the cause, you know how the dice are going to fall. You need to be in the vicinity of the events happening and they must be happening right this moment: Drawing the right card from a deck is easy but knowing which numbers will be picked in the lottery next week? Not so much.

Connection: Pick one other PC. For some reason your powers don’t predict anything she does. It’s quite distracting and you may decide whether you fear her or want to solve the enigma.

Additional equipment: A deck of beautifully crafted cards and a set of dice. You learn so much from experimenting in small scale.

Minor effect suggestion: Your luck surprises your target, leaving them distracted for their next action which becomes one step harder for them.

Major effect suggestion: You are prepared for this to happen and can immediately take a second action during this turn.

Tier 1: Understanding Randomness. You know the likelihood of everything occurring. Whether it’s winning at Blackjack, a weapon misfiring or the chance for rain, you know how likely it is to happen, down to the last decimal. Enabler.

Tier 2: Influence Chance (1+ Intellect points). You finally have not only understood chance but even managed to open a back-channel. No one’s gonna beat you at dice. For every Intellect point you invest, you can improve the odds for something to happen by 50% of its original potentiality. Action.

Example: a perfect coin toss usually has a chance of 50% to come up heads. Spending one point increases it to 75%, another point to 100%. On the other hand, the chance for the opposing mercenaries gun to misfire may be 1%, so increasing it to 1.5% is still unlikely to save your hide.

Tier 3: Uncanny luck. Your understanding of your surroundings has become subconscious. For the suprise attack rules, the character is always considered to be on guard. In addition, you can reroll your Speed Defense rolls and take the better result. Enabler.

Tier 4: Lucky Coin (4 Intellect points). You can extend your power towards another player, usually by giving him a lucky coin or other small token. For the next hour, this player has the same advantages as from your Uncanny Luck. Applying an effort extends it to 24 hours. Action.

Tier 5: Zen Centering. You have finally mastered your understanding of the world around you and completely internalized it. You always pick the right ledges when climbing, time your attacks better and know where to set your feet to reduce the chance of a mishap. Your Speed Edge and Effort score increase by 1 and your Intellect pool is improved by 5. Enabler.

Tier 6: Nothing left to chance (1+ Intellect points). Your understanding of your surroundings has also made manipulation a lot easier and even quantum flux feels predictable to you. For every intellect point you spend, increase the chance for something to happen by 10%. Action.

Note: The initial chance can be really small but it must be plausible. It’s not realistic that suddenly a piano will fall on an opponent from the sky. But that doesn’t mean that some of the artifacts he’s carrying won’t suddenly go haywire or that his sword - despite being forged my a master craftsman - breaks.