Saturday, March 14, 2015

7 Weird Book Formats for Ninth-World Biliophiles

Books figure heavily into the equipment of Ninth World heroes.  Most books are probably block- printed, hand-colored and leather-bound.  But what other kinds of codices could your Ninth Worlders have in their portable libraries? Here are seven types of books that blur the line between mundane gear and oddities, complete with suggestions for GMI's and additional benefits for players willing to spend a few XP:

1. A bio-engineered datapad from a recently fallen civilization full of useful (and sometimes not so useful) information. The pad is a living fungus that must be kept moist and protected from the sun to function properly.
-Players can spend XP to use the pad to access larger data systems or biological systems (fungal networks across great stretches of land, fungal symbiotes on large creatures, etc.), possibly accessing more relevant information.
-Game Master Intrusion: Proximity to certain data systems causes the device to shut down completely or release a cloud of data spores that communicate the character's presence to nearby plant, fungus or data-based creatures.

2. A cloud of nanites that analyze the numenera and give immediate sensory feedback to the person "reading" them.
-XP spend to gain additional levels of sensory input.
-GMI: Nano cloud creates sensory feedback which dazes the character for one round unless they perform a level 2 Might task.

3. A single thin sheet of material that can be rolled or folded like a sheet of parchment which contains a vast store of knowledge. This information can be accessed by swiping the surface of the sheet or searched via verbal (or mental) commands.
-XP spend to find a hidden page or section related to the subject of the book.
-GMI: The material freezes in the folded or rolled state, and requires some kind of re-start to open again.

4. A bio-engineered animal that has little mobility beyond riding on a character's shoulder, but can expound eloquently on subjects it's programed to understand or know about.
-XP spend to give the animal the ability to scout or deliver small objects.
-GMI: The animal begins a loud exposition at an inopportune time; the animal's programming suddenly turns it into a level 4 predator

5. A data-eidolon who constantly hovers and swirls about the character, whispering truths and half-truths about the subject in question.
-XP spend to ask a specific question to the eidolon about its area of expertise which will be answered truthfully.
-GMI: The eidolon is attacked by an abykos (Numenera, p.230)

6. A floating cranium without a jaw bone, shot through with tech (speakers, lenses in the eye sockets, wires clogging all available openings, etc.) that provides insight on a particular subject.  The skull may also provide opinions or crack wise, if you're into that sort of thing.
-XP: the skull can carry and use one cypher. (This is not a permanent ability; the player must spend one XP for every cypher the skull uses.)
-GMI: The skull suddenly remembers its past life and tries to recruit the players to help it take care of some unfinished business.

7. A hovering silver sphere that projects holographic scenes related to its area of expertise.
-XP: the holograms have sound and can be zoomed in or out to provide an amazing level of detail.
-GMI: The holograms are outdated, dangerously inaccurate, or are garbled in some way.

These "books" can also provide adventure hooks: Who knows what strange presence is lurking in the datasphere, eager to tell it's terrible secrets to anyone brave or foolish enough to listen? Is there a mossy palimpsest buried in your fungal datapad? Who is Jadreth, and why does the book-raven keep saying that he's awake? How would you use alternative books to weird-up your Numenera campaign?

Sunday, March 8, 2015

How to Remember Game Master Intrusions Without Breaking Your GM Flow

How to Remember GM Intrusions Without Breaking Your GM Flow

Many Numenera game masters lament their struggle to remember to use GMI's in their game sessions. Forgetting or forgoing GMI's cuts players off from earning XP, which are their tools to take narrative control and to become more powerful. In a sense, they are the real treasure of Numenera. Here are six suggestions to help you ensure that your players are getting the rich experience they deserve:
  1. Prepare customized GMI's. Before you play, create three or four GMI's based on each character's backgrounds from their type and focus, their initial link to the adventure, the connection from their descriptor, their equipment, or any other specific information you have about them. For example, A Tough Gliave who Fights With Panache may have Intensive Training as their background. This means a trainer, a master, a dojo or gym, training partners, past mentors and rivals, old grudges or favors and blind spots or deficits in training that can be exploited by other trained fighters.  Any one of these could be the basis of a GMI.  In the character's background, he is  regarded as a hero by the neighbors of a family that he saved from a fire. This can lead to flashbacks at inopportune times, being recognized inconveniently, community expectations that the character will always go into burning buildings to save whoever is inside, plots to frame the PC for arson, the sudden arrival of a member of the family who needs help or has fallen in love with the PC, and so on. If the players chooses the "You're acting as a bodyguard for one of the other PC's" for their connection to the first adventure, a GMI could make fighting or defending more difficult when the guarded PC is threatened, or interacting more difficult because the PC has become over-protective or suspicious. Fighting with Panache has a connection of always wanting to impress a PC.  GMI's for this could include embarrassing failure (next action is demoralized; 1 tier harder), foolhardiness (next defense roll 1 tier harder) or an injury from showing off (1 step down the damage track). Interfering with the PC's equipment and highest stat pool can also inspire GMI's. By having a few ready-made GMI's in ready to go for each PC, the GM has already taken a step towards making sure they happen.
  2. Use a checklist. A card or sheet of paper with check boxes for each character shows whether you have intervened in their story during the session.  This can help keep you honest as well; some players maybe easier or more fun to mess with and this tool ensures that they don't get all the GMI's. This could look like a simple list of names with check boxes next to them or it could be your list of custom GMI's for each player along with a few blank slots for improvised trouble.
  3. Use a timer. If your game session is four hours long, have it go off every hour.  If you haven't done a GMI by then, by all means intrude! If you've already given some thought to how you're going to intervene with the PC's, this will be much easier.
  4. Use tokens for XP.  Having a stack of tokens (glass beads, cards, poker chips, m&m's, washers, etc) set out in sets of two will act as a visual reminder to give them out. (I used this technique when I GM'ed Savage Worlds and it really helped.)
  5. Reward players for reminding you.  If you give the players something good, either a real-world reward or an in-game benefit (your next cypher goes up a level, you get a special token that gives a free re-roll, etc.) for reminding you to do GMI's, at least one of them will remind you.  Careful that you don't let greedy players bully you into over-intruding!
  6. Solicit player suggestions for GMI's.  Remind them often that GMI's equal XP. Share the idea of using their background, equipment, abilities and environment as a source of trouble and encourage their creative feedback.  Once the players get the connection between GMI's and rewards, many of them will be more than willing to help you out. Even if you only have one eager beaver, his or her input will remind you to intrude into the other character's stories as well.
 With forethought, a few physical reminders and your players' help, the GMI's should be flying at your next game session.  I think you'll be pleased with the results.

    Sunday, February 15, 2015

    Monte Cook and Kevin Crawford are chocolate and peanut butter

    The Ninth World is a great place to visit but I wouldn't want to game there.
     
    Part of my struggle with the Numenera setting is a basic difference of philosophy. I read once that Monte Cook is not a fan of origin stories.  I absolutely love origin stories.  I want to know why things are as they are.  The inscrutability of Numenera intentionally deflects "why?".  Monte makes a point of not telling players why things are the way the are; it's all part of his Weird aesthetic.

    Kevin Crawford, author of Other Dust and about thirty other amazing books, is all about Why.  Context is key to understanding his settings; his back stories are deep but not boggy.  His writing embodies Kenneth Hite's principle of every sentence containing at least one gameable idea.

    The sense of context that Kevin brings to his products extends to his random tables as well.  In the latest issue of The Sandbox, his free pdf periodical, there are two one-roll generators called What's That Abandoned Structure? and A Quick Backwater Spaceport. They work by rolling all the gaming dice from d4 to d20 at once and consulting six short but idea-rich tables.   These are ideal for generating quick ruins, claves and settlements for Numenera.  The What's That Abandoned Structure? table has the following categories:

    • Where are the usable entrances?
    • What's its most noticeable form of decay?
    • What was its original use?
    • What's worth finding in it?
    • What dangers exist in it?
    • What interesting features does it have? 
    Rolling on this, I got a structures whose external sheathing is decaying and falling away.  Its usable entrance is a sinkhole or tunnel to a basement level.  Originally, it was a government building of some sort. Inside is a somewhat cumbersome but precious object.  Something is emitting dangerous gas or radiation.  The running water still works and is stuck on.

    To turn this into a Numenera ruin, I did two things. First, I changed the question of original use to "What was its most recent use?" which allows for an inscrutable past as well as some recent context. Then I rolled on the A Weird Thing About That Ancient Structure table from Monte Cook's Injecting the Weird glimmer pdf.  I came up with "Interior is akin to a hive, with honeycomb
    walls, floors, and ceilings."

    So I have a decaying building whose exterior sheathing is coming off but for some reason cannot be accessed except through a subterranean tunnel.  It was most recently used as a government building  and is full of honeycomb-like structure on the walls, floor and ceilings. Perhaps the building has been overtaken by some insectoid creature or hive of creatures.  Hazards, complications and sources for GM intrusions include running water stuck on  (water source for current residents), radiation or gas (possibly not harmful to the current residents) and the current residents themselves. There is a cumbersome but precious object here (a discovery, in Numenera parlance.  Perhaps a stasis pod or datasphere access point that provides warmth or energy for the current occupants but also puts out a radiation that is harmful to humans and mutants.) After flipping through the Numenera bestiary, I've decided that a swarm of Caffa or some new radiation-resistant variant are the current occupants.

    That's a pretty decent adventure site from seven die rolls.  Kevin's basic structure plus one of Monte's weird details gave me a great basis for a location.  Adding in a few of Monte's insectoid beasties from the Numenera core book and I've got one corner of the Ninth World ready for adventure.  I'm sure that if I follow the format for the Backwater Spaceport (roll on the table, weird it up with an NPC or other element from the glimmer) I could come up with a clave worth remembering.

    I think a little context goes a long way towards making the Ninth World more accessible to me as a GM, and by extension to any future players I may host. Mixing Kevin Crawford's excellent context-building tools with just a dash of  Monte Cook's aesthetic of the weird and unexplainable will gives me a more accessible and therefore playable Ninth World.

    Sunday, May 4, 2014

    Game Master Intrusions ForTheWin!

    I felt pretty good about my last blog until I re-read it a few days later.  It was dense, jumbled and full of jargon.  I tried to do too much and I found it difficult to read.  This entry is my clarification for you and an exercise in revision, concision and penance for me.  It is a rewrite of the last entry; one that attempts to be readable and helpful.

    Essay Begins Here....

    In Other Dust, Kevin Crawford specifically invites game masters to make his game their own.  The game mechanics he presents are very simple and easy use. The new systems he has built for his setting and genre provide excellent models of how to supplement basic mechanics with innovation.  His game is essentially modular and allows for a great deal of modification without touching the core task-resolution/dramatic engine.*

    In the Other Dust game that I run, I am going to add a meta-game currency to give the players and I a few more options for the types of situations that they are going to face.  I don't feel that it is my job as GM to be objective and impartial. I've read too much Wick and Laws to feel like I am somehow detached from what is happening at the table. However, I have also read enough Wick and Laws to know that simply being an interfering, arbitrary bastard is not the preferred alternative. I want a way to drive the story that is fun for the players but does not turn into Mr. Nelson's Railroad to Story Town.

    The two alternatives that I considered were the Game Master Intrusion (GMI) mechanic from Numenera and the Benny system from Savage Worlds.  Both are fun systems and both have added a lot of fun to games I have played over the years.  I chose the GMI mechanic because it is the more pro-active of the two and because it has the potential to bring some of Other Dust's methods for making characters suffer to the fore more regularly.

    Bennies have always bothered me, because they are both given and played reactively.  They are awarded for things the players have done, either in or out of character, and are spent to re-roll or reverse some adversity.  Bennies are good for shaping player behavior, to be sure, but they hold little potential for advancing the story of the game beyond "I was hurt but now I am not" or "I failed but then I didn't."  One of the things that players always want to do is share bennies, but Savage Worlds requires the players to pay for that privilege by taking an Edge** and when they get the chance the usually opt for better skills or cooler abilities.  Bennies certainly add a great deal of fun to a game, but there is a better alternative for the kind of fun I would like to see at the table.

    With GMI's, the GM pays the player to allow some kind of trouble to befall him or her.  Examples of GMI's might be a torn pack strap, having equipment broken or stolen, or treachery from trusted NPC's.  GMI's in Other Dust can force saves to avoid conditions like Wounded or Radiated  They can  jam guns and foul rations. The story can get very juicy very quickly through the use of GMI's; their potential to raise the grain of the rules to ensure the characters a full taste of the dangers of the game world gives me goose bumps.

    On the player side, GMI's are immediately a bonding experience because the players are paid two tokens for their trouble, one of which they must immediately give to another player.  This cuts off the all-your-bennies-are-belong-to-YOU problem at the knees.  GMI tokens can be used for re-rolls, recoveries and reversals like bennies, but they can also be redeemed for explicit, story-driven bonuses that connect the characters with the setting.  For example, a character who has been fighting a clan of bandits for a few sessions might redeem a token for a bonus to fight that particular group of bandits.  He might also spend the token to recognize a bandit as a former childhood friend or rival, giving the group a new menu of problem-solving strategies.

    I am very excited about this.  Monte Cook has done something remarkable with GMI's in that he has given players and GM's a story-building tool that does not feel like a plot hammer.  The GMI allows a kind of ebb and flow between GM and player control of the action that can only enhance our Other Dust game. I will be sure to report back with the results of this experiment when I have some data. Wish me luck!

    *I think the core tension-building questions of most procedural RPG's are "Will this work?" and "Will I live through this?"  Answering these questions with random number generation give everyone at the table a jolt of risk-joy that is part of the fun of RP'ing.

    **Edges are like feats: special abilities gained via character advancement

    Friday, April 25, 2014

    Bolt-on GMI's and why I prefer them to Bennies

    One of the things I like about Other Dust and Old School RPG's in general is the explicit call to mess around with the rules.  To borrow the best line from a terrible movie, they're really more of a guideline.  There is no comprehensive list of combat modifiers; rather, Kevin Crawford just tells us that a -2 penalty will suffice for most situations.  There is a mechanic called Conditions through which conditions like hunger, thirst or broken ribs impose cumulative -2 penalties to hit rolls and -1 to saves and skill rolls.  There is no comprehensive list of Conditions either.  Some are specified in the rules, but there is no table 2.1: Conditions.

    This open-endedness is a little scary, but it's also freeing.  In the essay Rule 68A, which is written for Traveller but pertains to OD and Stars Without Number, the author suggests that the GM can invent mechanics on the fly without worrying too much about hosing the players unintentionally. Basically, in Old School games, whatever you make up will be fair enough for the situation at at hand.

    The line you walk as a GM in those situations is essentially the difference between "something terrible happens to you and there is nothing you can do about it" and "something terrible happens to you; what are you going to do about it?" Resolution mechanics are fine, but sometimes you want to introduce a complication that isn't covered by the rules but doesn't quite feel right to spring on the players without any kind of warning.

    Enter the Game Master Intrusion (GMI).

    GMI's are an essential component of Monte Cook's Cypher System that is the engine behind Numenera.  GMI's are transactional: the GM pays the player in a currency called XP and then does awful stuff to his or her character.  Suggestions in the Numenera book include breaking bow strings, dropping weapons, ruined rations, torn pack straps, NPC recovery, more damage to the character, floors or stairways that collapse...in short, mayhem and fuck-with-ery.

    In Cypher, the GM always pays the player two XP for the privilege of torturing their characters.  The player must then give one of the XP to another player.  I think this is brilliant because it creates bonds at the table and players are less likely to be neglected by the XP fairy just because the GM does not remember to mess with them.  It also can be a way for players to self-regulate.  A player who contributes and displays good table etiquette is more likely to be rewarded by his fellow players than one who is selfish or passive.  It also absolves the GM of having to reward players with XP; GMI's are proactive, as are many of the effects of XP.

    I prefer this system to the Benny system of Savage Worlds, which is almost entirely reactive.  Bennies are usually given to reward player behavior (good jokes, evocative role-playing, effective planning, deck shuffling, pizza-bringing, and anything else that makes the total experience more pleasant for the GM.)  This is a great way to shape player behavior, but it does not really relate to the emerging story that the game is creating; in fact, it can pull against it.  GMI's, on the other hand, are always story-driven; they are about something happening to the characters rather than a reward for good player behavior.

    Bennies are also used reactively for re-rolls, recoveries, and if your GM allows it, for moments of story control ("A baseball?  Like the one I happen to have in my saddle bag?")  XP can be used a bit more proactively by players to give their characters situational bonuses ("I am now really good at tracking abhumans so I am skilled whenever I am tracking them" or "I have spent enough time in these ruins that I am skilled in perception skills while I'm here").  Players can also use XP to advance their characters, and to eschew GMI's by paying one XP to the GM.  Not everyone wants to discover whatever put that evil gleam in the GM's eye, I suppose.

    For Other Dust, I'm going to use GMI's and XP (which I'm going to call Bennies just because my players are used to Savage Worlds and because XP sounds like experience points, which are used differently in OD.)  The Bennies will be metal washers, which I think are a good fit for Other Dust.  GMI's in OD will be the usual things like broken bow strings, dud grenades and spoiled rations or dirty water.  To be more fair --and interesting--GMI's will most often provoke saves: a tech save to avoid a jammed weapon, a physical save to avoid a Condition like Ruptured Spleen or Third Degree Burns, a mental save to avoid the psychological stress of a particularly horrific encounter.  I can also use the GMI's to subtly give the characters more screen time to be awesome.  A character with a good Dex score might make an Dex/Athletics check to avoid falling rubble, while one with a good Luck save might make that instead.  In fact, it could be a chance to let a player show off their character's optimal abilities by letting them choose how they deal with the calamity.  If a character can find a narrative way out or around without rolling dice, that is just as well.

    These Bennies will be used to re-roll damage and saves (not missed skill or to-hit rolls, because these are class features in OD), to eschew GMI's, to throw off Conditions (which may require a save or roll of some sort, depending on the nature of the Condition), to provide situational bonuses (+1 for skills, and they must be very specific) to cheat death and to provide players the opportunity to occasionally intrude on the narrative to their advantage.  I hope these GMI bennies will enhance the emerging story without smothering the risky thrill that is the game's true heart.

    Tokens like Bennies and XP add a layer of strategy and drama that my players and I enjoy.  Pathetic Aesthetic aside, I think they are essential for a game as lethal as OD.  Even with a table heavy with washers, there should be plenty of carnage, mayhem and death to go around.

    (For a more concise version of this entry, see the next entry.)


    Sunday, March 30, 2014

    I'll have apocalypse "B", thank you.

    Originally this blog was supposed to be about Kevin Crawford's excellent space-opera sandbox game  Stars Without Number.  (which is available as a free download  and well worth a look.  Even if you don't want to play, the random generators and tag system for locations are well worth the time of a curious GM.)  The kids rolled up characters and...that was it.  Daughter was put off by her character's one hit point and refused to play.  I tried to explain that this was an Old School game and that character death was part of the emerging story and that one hit point was just God's way of saying "Don't get into gun fights, li'l psychic" but she wouldn't have it.  So we moved on to Numenera, because it looked like it would be fun, easy to run and to play and because I didn't want to run d20.

    Since then, we have played and enjoyed some Numenera.  But to tell you the truth, I kind of don't get it.

    I have tried and tried to nail down the role-playing experience and the best metaphor I have come up with is story-telling as jazz.  The particular game you use is both the instrument and the style. Some games are three-chord electric blues; some games are smoove jazz with lilting pianos and clarinets, and some games are fast, hard bebop full of brass and drum solos.  The commonality is improvisation: everyone understands the structure, but no one really knows how it's going to turn out.

    To punish the metaphor: as an instrument of creative play, I like the action of Numenera, but I don't like the tone.

    Some people love it.  I think it may be an acquired taste.

    Stars Without Number, on the other hand, has a tone and action that I deeply appreciate.  And it's post-apocalyptic sibling, Other Dust, is just as good.  In fact, I think it's better.

    That's why I decided to run Other Dust for the grown-ups: I just like it better.

    To appreciate the setting of Other Dust, imagine Star Trek re-drawn by George Orwell: an ultra-tech veneer of harmony over a deep, dark well of repression and dread.  This anti-Federation is called the Terran Mandate.  Imagine that the power to create this far-flung stellar empire comes from humanity's mastery of psychic powers: jump gates, nano-technology, stellar navigation, even common appliances, all powered by the mental energy of a mighty choir of psychics capable of prolonging their own lifespans over centuries and manipulating planetary systems with their minds alone.

    Now, imagine that all of the psychics, all at once, go utterly and violently insane.

    They rip apart the planet's infrastructure including nuclear power plants and the world-wide nanite cloud that is the setting's internet.  They call in orbital strikes to try and kill one-another, deploy the Bright Mirror Orbital Defense System to incinerate any spacecraft that try to get on or off the planet, and re-purpose the nanites meant to keep everyone clean and healthy to a program of twisted genetic engineering that creates terrifying mutants of every imaginable kind.

    Two hundred years later, the seven strongest psychics are still alive, Earth has had no relief from the stars, and play begins.

    If you are familiar with Numenera, you will notice several similarities right off the bat.  The Iron Wind in Numenera is the Dust in Other Dust.  Mutants are common in both settings.  There is an element of super-science mimicking magic in both settings as well; Crawford's insane psychics are called "The Crazed" and are essentially the Lich-Kings and -Queens of New Terra.  In fact, Other Dust is more like the game I thought I was getting when I backed Numenera than Numenera actually turned out to be.

    After our first session playing Other Dust, which was great fun, it did occur to me that the whole thing would have been easier in Numenera's Cypher System by far. Numenera runs more smoothly, there's less book keeping, the characters that were generated would have been easily replicated in Numenera. I plan on incorporating a mechanic similar to GM intrusions into this game.  Numenera has a lot to offer, especially in terms of mechanics and ease of prep.

    Other Dust, on the other hand, resonates truer to me.  The creatures are based on real-world animals mutated by the High Shine nanite system.  The world before the fall has a history that I can understand and riff from, unlike Numenera which seems to be powered by inaccessibility to the past.  The rules for technology--repairing, salvaging and discovering it--all feel more genuine and player-driven than the Cypher System of Numenera which is based on random finds of one-shot items.  Finding a flare or a backpack with an old picture and a broken radio in it seems more evocative to me than finding a sphere that can turn your tongue purple or a headband that can shoot a single laser beam before it's useless junk.

    Monte Cook says that Numenera is about discovery, but it is equally about danger and daring.  Danger and daring are great fun, but the way Numenera presents them feels more like a super hero story than a survival story to me.  Ultimately, it's about being awesome by having awesome powers and going into dangerous, awesome places and doing awesome things to overcome awesome obstacles, collecting awesome loot, and then going back to do it over and over again because it was just so awesome.

    I find that...tiresome.

    Other Dust is also about being awesome.  However, it's about being awesome by being tiny and fragile and smart and brave.  It's about having just enough power to not die today, and trying to scrimp together enough to make it through tomorrow.  It's about finding favor in communities, making hard choices, scrounging and searching and fighting with a terrible will because you know that each fight could be your last.

    Other Dust seems more taut, more rife with tension, more random and because of all of that, more fun for me.

    Once the group is through this adventure, maybe we'll try some Numenera, just to see if the tone is as off as I thought it was at first.  I might learn to really understand Numenera's groove.

    In the mean time, Other Dust is on the table.

    Friday, March 21, 2014

    How I stopped hating and learned to love the Red Box.

    Our next gaming session was set up by Son, who contacted all of his friends and made it happen.  I was very proud of him.  He has made mention of having his own gamer group.  Fantastic!  I was looking forward to running the game since the last session went so well and I was eager to see how the Doctor and Snake Head would fare against the Golden Dawn-esque cultists in the Vortex.

    I had made notes about all of the cultists on a single sheet of lined paper, reviewed the adventure, marked rules in the main Numenera book that I thought might come up or had come up and confused me last time, printed character sheets, and honed and oiled my "How to play Numenera"spiel.  I was more than ready to show these kids how it's done.

    When the first friend showed up, he greeted me and Son and said, "Well, I guess we'll be playing what's in this backpack."

    Hunh?

    Then he pulled out a Big Red Box with the label "Dungeons and Dragons Starter Set."

    Now, I will confess that I had a kind of brain cramp at this point.  I felt kind of like saying "NO, we are not playing THAT, we are playing NUMENERA which is AWESOME and not THAT because it is CRAP, CRAP, CRAAAAAAAP!!"

    But I did not, because I am a grown up.  Besides, I expected Son to say "Actually, my dad is running a game for us which we started last week,  and you guys can join in and play.  It's called Numenera and it's awesome."

    My son did not say that.  He said "Sure!  Sounds fun!"

    My heart kind of sank, mostly because I knew that what was transpiring was exactly right.  Kids are supposed to play with kids.  Kids learn a lot from GM'ing games and from figuring out complex systems together.  Jack Chick 80's hysteria aside, playing D&D is not the worst thing they could be doing.

    But it wasn't Numenera.

    Man-oh-Man, was it Not Numenera.

    The D&D Beginner's Kit (4th ed based) does Character Generation kind of like a Choose Your Own Adventure book, with each decision point giving you something to fill in on your character sheet.  It's easy, but it's not quick and with three boys trying to do it all at once, it took a loooong time.  Hours.  We had Snake Head up and running in about 20 minutes and that included some rules and setting exposition.  It was painful to listen to.  One of the boys arrived late and did his Choose Your Own Adventurer while the other boys played video games.

    It seemed horribly tedious to me and I half expected them to bag the whole thing and ask me to run Numenera.  Truth be told, I kind of hoped they would.

    They did not.

    Rather, they made it through the funnish slog of D&D character generation, finally got to play, and had a ball.  They sounded exactly like a bunch of kids sounds playing D&D: loud, happy, funny, creative-y and completely crazy.  The were fighting a Nightmare which they finally defeated with 50' of rope, AT-AT style, which was old-school awesome.  Not a word was said about Numenera; D&D 4E was on tap and was enjoyed to the fullest.

    I related a very short version of this story on Facebook, and an old friend asked if there was an adult version and when he could join in.

    "Um, Hell yes.  Have you heard of Numenera?"

    Sometimes it's good to be a grown up.