Torment: Tides Of Numenera
How inXile Are Bringing Pen-and-Paper To PC

I’m interested in Torment: Tides of Numenera [official site], but not for the typical reason around these parts – I’ve only ever played the first two hours of Planescape: Torment, to which the game is a spiritual successor. Instead, my interest is the result of playing the game’s other source material: Numenera, a pen-and-paper roleplaying game set a billion years in the future, which throws out much of the levelling, stats and combat of D&D-derived games in favour of a streamlined system that favours storytelling and improvisation above numbers and hard rules.

Curious about how many of the pen-and-papers unusual systems were being translated to a computer RPG, I spoke to inXile’s Colin McComb and Thomas Beeker – creative lead and associate producer, respectively – about bringing effort, cyphers, GM intrusions and backstories to the PC.

RPS: What made you choose Numenera as the base for a new Torment game – was it the story and world, or the mechanics?

Colin McComb: It was mostly based on the world. I did get to do some of the playtesting when Monte [Cook, the designer of the pen-and-paper Numenera] was developing the cypher system, but it was… When we were developing the idea for Torment at the very beginning, Adam and I defined four pillars of what would be necessary to make a Torment game, and one of those was a world that’s unlike any other, and Numenera’s got that in spades. I don’t think there’s any game out there right now that does anything anywhere near it. We saw that and Adam and I were like, ‘We gotta take that one.’ If possible, if Monte would licence it to us. It turned out he was pretty excited about it.

RPS: What’s your favourite thing about the setting?

McComb: Well, I’m a big Gene Wolfe nerd. The whole Book of the New Sun has been a huge literary influence. Shadow of the Torturer, Claw of the Conciliator, that whole series. I just love the idea of thinking about what it is that humans are going to become, what the world is going to become after we’re all dust. It ties in really well with our legacy question, too – what does one life matter? When you’re talking a billion years in the future, none of this is going to matter, that made it a natural fit as well.

But of the setting itself, just the fact that it’s so weirdly evocative and imaginative and cool.

RPS: What stuff are you lifting mechanically from Numenera?

McComb: Everything. We’re doing Effort, we’re doing the three pools, we’re doing cypher poisoning. We’re basically trying to make it as closely representative of the Numenera tabletop experience as possible.

Beekers: We have freedom to adapt it, because not everything makes as much sense. The focus of Numenera, a lot of it is on simplicity, which makes sense for pen-and-paper because it keeps the flow going. That’s not as big an issue for us, so we’re all choose to make things more complex in underlying mechanics but still keep the same flow going.

RPS: Can you give an example of an area where you’ve added complexity?

McComb: Obviously random number generation, any of the complex rolls that we’re doing, I don’t think we’re just going with a straight d20 under the hood. Then there’s the random encounter generation; we’re not doing a lot of that, but. Anything involving rolls.

Thomas Beekers: Just the way Effort works is a good example, because you kind of have to back and forth on it with a videogame, and we can do a lot of that quite easily in computer games. So we can throw little things out there to make it work for us, but I would say everything works essentially like the pen-and-paper.

RPS: Are you doing stuff with GM intrusions?

McComb: Yes, we are.

RPS: How does that work when there’s no GM?

McComb: That’s a randomised thing that’s going to depend on the number of sleeps you have, the… I’m trying to think of what things effect that without giving away any spoilers… There are things that are going to happen in crises – the encounters and the battles that you’ll have – where suddenly things will take a turn for the worse and you can choose to accept that or reject it and get the XP for it.

Beekers: But it does work differently. That’s a system that works very well in pen-and-paper and you really have to just make it work on computer, so we’re doing something similar but it’s different. We’re at the stage now where this is something you have to play to see how it works, so anything we say right now will be a bit up in the air because we’re going to have to play it and see how it works and then adjust it to make it work.

McComb: We don’t want to make any promises. We’ve learned a lesson on that.

RPS: Do you link character progression to backstory development in the same way as Numenera – that thing of, if you want to give yourself a particular skill, you come up with a backstory for your character to justify how you know it?

McComb: I think that’s currently the plan, yeah. We want to make sure that we have a good story reason for everything so it seems seamless, and interactive as opposed to just, ‘Woop, you hit a tier, and now you can cast a fireball!’. Because that makes it feel like, ‘But what did I do to get that?’ I’ve been designing games for twenty years and I still don’t know how to cast a fireball, so maybe I just haven’t hit the right level yet.

RPS: Given the Effort system, does that radically change how you balance the game over the course of it? Because the Effort system allows you to make certain tasks trivial for your character if you’re actually good at it.

McComb: But it’s depleting your pools.

Beekers: The question for balance is not the Effort itself, it’s the depletion of pools and how you recharge it. So when we’re looking at Effort we’re mostly looking at management of pools and estimating how many points someone has to spend, and how many rest opportunities we want to give them, because you cannot rest anywhere in the game. You cannot be constantly recharging your pools, because that would make everything free, but we have our methods of limiting that.

McComb: Yeah, we’ve got an urgency mechanic that we’re trying out that we want to make sure works and that it’s not just annoying.

RPS: So that’s changing the rest system from the thing of–

McComb: Oh, you still get the four rests – I still get the instantaneous, the ten minute, the one hour, and the overnight – and it’s the hour and overnight that we’re trying to rope in. But each of those things increments the urgency, and if you do that too many times it’s possible that it’ll trigger a GM intrusion essentially.

RPS: That’s interesting.

Beekers: That’s sort of the same mechanic in Numenera where a GM would say, ‘But you can’t really rest right now.’ It’s the same logic, we just have to figure out a good pacing and presentation for it that doesn’t feel annoying to the player.

McComb: Right, like Mask of the Betrayer had the spirit-eating and even George said that it annoyed him. Our lead area designer is George Ziets and he was the creative lead on Obsidian’s Mask of the Betrayer, and he said that he just found it really frustrating and annoying and he wishes he hadn’t included it, so we want to make sure that our urgency mechanic is not annoying.

RPS: Most computer RPGs are based on the D&D model of combat and stats and progression. Does making it more based on something like Numenera, which is less well-known because it doesn’t have that history, does it make it harder to get players to understand or relate to it?

McComb: I don’t think so. It’s going to depend on the tutorialisation that we do in the early part of the game, but from what we have developed right now it seems like we’ve got a pretty good natural progression of accreting these skills so they’ll feel natural to the player.

Beekers: But I think we do have an awareness that we have to tutorialise, not necessarily more, but be aware of the fact that some of these systems are not going to be intuitive. Some of these concepts like not getting XP for a kill is something that we have to present in a way that does make sense to the player. It’s new enough that you just have to tutorialise it better, whereas with a D&D game you can just be like, ‘ach, everyone already knows how this works anyway.’

RPS: Similar to the XP thing: cyphers appear really special but most computer RPGs throw loot at you all the time. Do you expand the loot system so… will I be raking through bins like a binraker, picking up loafs of bread?

McComb: Everyone on the design team has expressed great distaste for the ‘Why would somebody hide something like this?’. Why are they going to be hiding their loot bag inside a barrel of ale?

Beekers: That’s not going to happen. But that’s actually the good with Numenera, because cyphers are not necessarily things that you pick up that someone dropped there. It’s part of a machine that you cobbled together into a tool, and that’s how we present it at times as well.

McComb: Yeah, and I don’t think we’re going to have totally destructible environments where you just go through and smash everything in a pottery shop and he just stands there and watches.

Beekers: I think the interesting challenge of cyphers for us is going to be because– I do the item design for the game, it’s good and fun to come up with unique cyphers, but the angle is so different because usually the player’s instinct is, ‘I’m going to hoard all this stuff and keep it for a big boss,’ but we have to make players understand that you get cyphers all the time and you have to use them all the time. At first opportunity.

McComb: Have you guys done cypher poisoning yet in your game?

RPS: No.

McComb: You’ve got a cypher limit, essentially. If you start carrying more than that, the chance of something really bad happening – explosions, mutations, you know.

Beekers: It’s not a hard limit [on how many you can carry], but the things that will happen are so bad that it might as well be. Really nasty things can happen.

But if you’ve played the Numenera pen-and-paper you’ve probably felt how different that feels and your instinct adapting and being more open to just using the item right away. I think that will actually be really cool in Torment, if we do it right.

McComb: Monte is always saying that the cyphers are essentially one-shot special powers. Think of it as potions, but even accumulated faster than potions, so it’s something that you’re always finding and always using.

RPS: You mentioned taking pieces of machinery. How does that crafting system work relative to other computer games?

Beekers: It’s a bit closer to modifying and cobbling together weapons than…

McComb: It’s not like Minecraft. Each item is going to have slots essentially that you can attach stuff to, to create like magnetic effects or fire effects or gravity effects. So suddenly you’ve got a gravity-disrupting sword and you hit someone with it and weird things happen… I don’t know that we have gravity in the game.

RPS: Does Monte play games of it and give feedback?

McComb: Right now it’s mostly describing things to him. We’ve got some builds out, but I don’t know that he’s actually played them.

Beekers: I know that we’ve provided them to Monte Cook Games, but it’s kind of in that stage where it’s not that useful yet to play. It needs to hit a certain point and then we’ll probably ask him to play it for at least a few hours to give us feedback, but he’s not constantly playing rough versions and giving feedback. That’s one of the reasons we like working with him, he’s not like a hands-on license holder, he’s not constantly in our stuff reviewing everything.

McComb: I think he’s pretty confident that we’re respectful of his license and his ideas… The fool. [laughs]

This article was originally part of the RPS Supporter Program. Thanks for supporting RPS!


  1. Dorga says:

    I like the urgency thing a lot

    • Nibblet says:

      I hate the urgency thing alot.
      There has never been a successful implementation of an urgency mechanic in any tabletop inspired crpg.
      It either forces the player to not explore and skip content (mask of the betrayer, fallout 1), or is so forgiving that it may aswell not even be there (fallout 2 after patch).

      • klops says:

        Urgency mechanic in Fallout 2?

        • ponyPharmacist says:

          After a certain period of time the village dies and you receive game over screen with bones in the sand.

      • Phasma Felis says:

        I’m not convinced that it’s necessary to allow the player to see 100% of all possible content in a single playthrough. People often make fun of games like Skyrim, where supposedly there’s this big war going on but in practice nothing ever happens unless the player is there to trigger it, and if the player decides to go spend 6 months exploring caves and collecting flowers, the armies all just patiently wait for him to finish. It breaks immersion for me; it kills the idea of a living world.

        The player, generally, should be the center of the story and the catalyst for the plot. That doesn’t mean they have to be the catalyst for every single event that ever happens anywhere.

        • wraithgr says:

          The problem is the only other alternative, at least until we have the means to do procedural story development, is the timed game over screen…

          • Vayra says:

            No, there could easily be certain world states that incorporate ‘missed chances’. Example: find a murderer before a certain moment in time, you don’t find it in time, murders take place, removing NPC’s from the game world that could otherwise be talked to.

  2. Zallgrin says:

    You’ve got a cypher limit, essentially. If you start carrying more than that, the chance of something really bad happening – explosions, mutations, you know.

    That really does sound interesting and a good incentive to use the cyphers immediately. I’m a potion and consumable hoarder myself, therefore I appreciate this new mechanic.

  3. fahrenheit says:

    You have a minor typo there i think:

    McComb: Have you guys done cypher poisoning yet in your game?

    RPS: No.

    Should be the other way around no?

    • Morph says:

      Graham’s been playing the tabletop Numenera, so was being asked if that had come up in his game. At least that’s how I read it.

    • karthink says:

      Reads fine to me. Colin was asking Graham about his Numenera campaign.

      • Premium User Badge

        Graham Smith says:

        Yep! He was asking about the tabletop campaign I’m involved in.

  4. Wowbagger says:

    Glad to hear that Gene Wolfe is a big influence, he’s quite possibly my favourite author. The far future setting is definitely a great idea.

    • Cerzi says:

      It’s funny, the entire reason I found out about (and went on to love) the Book of the New Sun and Gene Wolf was as a kid after playing Planescape and searching for “books set in a world similar to Planescape”. It really is such an incredible world to draw inspiration from.

    • trashmyego says:

      If you’re a fan of The Book of the New Sun, I’d wholly recommend checking out the work of Jeff VanderMeer, China Mieville, and M. John Harrison if you haven’t all ready. Specifically Harrison’s Viriconium novels, Mieville’s Bas-Lag work and VanderMeer’s Ambergris sequence.

    • Shiloh says:

      Yep, this. If I can’t play a game set in Gene Wolfe’s universe (and short of Steve Jackson’s GURPS, I’m unaware of any gaming systems out there that handle the Urth of the New Sun), this might be the next best thing.

      Alternatively, games developers – make a brilliant Gene Wolfe game and take my money!

      • Premium User Badge

        Waltorious says:

        Those looking for a game inspired (at least, partly) by Gene Wolfe may wish to check out the (unfinished) roguelike Caves of Cud. It’s apparently more inspired by the pen and paper game Gamma World, but I felt there was some Wolfe influence too. Also, it’s great. The devs are working on getting it onto Steam, which means it will be seeing some updates soon which is great. But the older, free version is still around (that’s what I’ve played).

    • Arglebargle says:

      Yeah, that inspiration for the game is a major plus. Gene Wolfe is one of this era’s finest word weavers. Great guy too.

    • corinoco says:

      Another author suggestion for ‘weird’ sci fi is Terry Dowling. His ‘Rynosseros’ series is set in an indeterminate future, full of desert sailing barges, fire-chess and rogue AIs imprisoned in fossilised tree-lampposts and treated as oracles.

      If that series isn’t enough, his books ‘Wormwood’ and ‘The Man Who Lost Red’ are set in a world that might not quite be the Ninth World but is almost certainly the Seventh World. Terry specifically mentions being inspired by Gene Wolfe, Harlan Ellison and H P Lovecraft.

      Another author who evokes Numenera is Cordwainer Smith, specifically ‘Norstrilia’ or any of the stories of C’Mell. Wonderful McGuffin he uses too: the Cape Triangle stamp. Yes, the protagonist is a stamp collector.

      The other series that for me evokes the Ninth World is Steven Kings Dark Tower series; ok a little bit mainstream but the passages set in The Calla & Thunderclap fit the weird quite nicely.

  5. emperor_nero says:

    I seriously enjoy table top RPGs, but I just get the feeling that I am not going to enjoy this game. Maybe it is the system itself, but I just feel like the game is going to be extremely linear. With a table top game your GM presents a situation and you can literally choose any way you want to deal with it and it really creates infinite number of branching paths that follow a general idea. You don’t have a thinking and scheming person behind a computer game.

    • Zallgrin says:

      Planescape: Torment was not exactly linear, therefore I wouldn’t worry too much. Although of course it won’t be able to match the freedom of a pen and paper session, still I’m sure there will be quite a few diverging paths.

      • JamesTheNumberless says:

        Hm… Actually I thought Planescape was rather linear. But didn’t suffer for it. Most of the time you were limited to one town or location, especially as you got towards the end. It’s just that there was a lot of stuff to see and enjoy in those places. Almost every character and every scene was fascinating to explore – there weren’t many moments as you find in other RPGs where it felt like a chore to have to go around all the named NPCs or explore every corner of a map aimlessly looking for quests or clues.

        • trashmyego says:

          It’s sense of being linear is deceiving considering that you could play the game a handful of times and not have the same results or interactions. And you could approach each situation in a number of ways. But any game trying to tell a story, or multiple stories in the case of Planescape and Numenera, is going to be tied to unavoidable chunks of linearity in locale and structuring.

    • Turin Turambar says:

      That sounds like the basic difference between tabletop RPGs and computer RPGs.

      Like… I don’t know what you expected.

  6. Easy says:

    Gosh, as a big Numenera fan this has to be the one “old-school” cRPG I am most giddy about. All the environment art we have seen so far looks beautiful and evocative.

  7. silentdan says:

    I loved, and still love, Planescape: Torment. I really want to like this game, and with any luck, I’ll get there, but … I cannot figure out what Numenera is. “What’s Numenera?” “It’s whatever you want!” “Okay, I want it to be D&D.” “No, it’s definitely not that.” “White Wolf?” “That neither.” “Okay, but I’m no closer to understanding anything.”

    The Numenera website and Wikipedia have both let me down. I’ve managed to learn that it’s imagination-oriented, not rigid or excessively defined, and puts the emphasis back on the story. Also, the word “cypher” is frequently used in conjunction with the game, but does not seem to reference a code or mystery. This tells me nothing. All of that stuff is just a love song; it tells me how you feel about the game, but not what the game is or how it works.

    Here, let me explain D&D: a team of 4-6 people, each with distinctive abilities based on their class, go adventuring in a high fantasy setting. Challenges (such as speaking to an NPC, performing a feat of athleticism, or combat) involve comparing statistics such as strength, dexterity, or intellect to determine the outcome. Classes include Wizard (poor defence, high damage), Cleric (healing abilities) and Rogue (lockpicking, stealth), as well as several others. All available spells, items, and organisms are clearly defined. Popular cultural touchstones of a similar nature to D&D include The Lord of the Rings, Wheel of Time, and Game of Thrones.

    If anyone feels like writing a comparable summary of Numenera, that’d be swell.

    • damoqles says:

      It’s Book of the New Sun and Dying Earth. It’s science-fantasy weirdness, wonder, adventure and horror. It’s world exploration: diving into the quasi-magical alien remains of million-years old supercivilizations. It’s not, however, some paradigm shift of pnp rpgs, so the thing you wrote about characters with special abilities going on an adventure or things like that – it applies to Numenera as well. Btw, it’s not D&D because combat is not at all a focal point (ie. no XP for killing things).

      “All available spells, items, and organisms are clearly defined.”
      Yes they are, for the most part. It’s not a freestyle game(system) if that’s what you’re afraid of.

      • silentdan says:

        Oh, thanks goodness! I really was worried about the freestyle-ish adjectives surrounding Numenera. Okay, classes, items, monsters, check. Compared to D&D, combat and archaeology have swapped emphasis, but it’s not entirely untethered from a foundational structure. Good. This is encouraging, thanks! :)

        • Fuscus says:

          I’ll try to take you up on explaining Numenera the way you did D&D, but patently not as concisely.

          In Numenera a team of 2-6ish people, each with distinctive abilities based on their character type and descriptor, go adventuring in a futuristic sci-fantasy setting. Challenges (such as speaking to an NPC, performing a feat of athleticism, firing a ray emitter/crossbow, dismantling machinery, keeping one’s mind intact while under psychic assault from a million-year-old AI, etc.) involve rolling a single d20 to hit a target number based on the difficulty of the task. The target number is 3 x [the difficulty]. The difficulty between 0 and 10, ranging from “no one should screw this up and I’m not making you roll” to “I’m pretty sure that you nearly broke the fundamental constants of the universe.” Really high difficulty tasks are literally impossible (Try rolling a 30 on a d20!) without assets that decrease the difficulty—e.g. using a rope decreases the difficulty of climbing down a cliff—or expending effort from the relevant pool, like speed points to make it easier to dodge an energy whip. Every character has three point pools (might, intellect, and speed) that represent their stamina, not competence, at tasks and can be spent to exert effort. These pools also act as hitpoints.
          There are three “types” for characters: nano (large intellect pool, skilled at using ancient technology, abilities are more spell-like), glaive (large might pool, skilled at armed and unarmed combat, abilities usually involve using weapons effectively), and jack (more total points between the pools, more flexible, has more roguish abilities and access to the other types’ also). Descriptors for characters include things like “wields two weapons at once,” “talks to machines,” and “bears a halo of flame” and give a character abilities not accessible to other characters of the same type. Characters also have an adjective that give them access to skill bonuses and special traits. An example character might be a “cruel glaive who manipulates gravity” or “charming jack who fuses flesh and machine.”
          Published rule- and content books clearly define types, descriptors, adjectives, items, abilities, and creatures but also explicitly encourage homebrewing additions or modifications. Characters have few special abilities compared to many RPG systems. Most items found are one-use (called “cyphers”) and replace what might be more permanent abilities in other RPGs. A character has a small number of abilities compared to those in other systems but a meatheaded tank character can still use an item that lets her teleport between shadows and a glass cannon “spellcaster” can use an item that temporarily grants fists made of metal that deal extra damage.
          There are few popular settings that involve long-dead civilizations, ancient and high-tech megastructures to be explored, but Jack Vance’s Dying Earth books were strong sources of inspiration for the gameworld.

          • Troika says:

            Thank you! I was wandering about Numenera as well.

          • silentdan says:

            That was great, thanks! I think I’m getting it now. Seems to hold some real potential. I had kind of written this one off, but now I’ll be keeping an eye on it. Cheers!

          • Fuscus says:

            Numenera is handily my favorite pen’n’paper RPG, so I’ll jump at a chance to explain it accessibly to evangelize.

            The most confusing thing is that there aren’t stat checks in the D&D sense. Some things might cost some points from a pool to attempt, but even if my might pool only has 3 points in it I’m still just as strong as anyone else. I just can’t invest as much effort to make a task easier. And a character that has a might pool of 15 and intellect pool of 8 isn’t automatically dimwitted; he could be, but just as easily could be a genius who doesn’t have the same endurance for intellect tasks. Likewise, sometimes a high intellect pool might mean that the character isn’t particularly bright but is dogged and won’t give up on trying to figure things out.

            The second most confusing thing is XP. It not only isn’t handed out for killing things (unless it’s something clever like combining the effects of two cyphers in a non-obvious solution like when my players used a short-range teleporter to get onto the shoulder of a hulking behemoth of a machine to jam a control device into its neck and force it to dismantle itself) but also comes just one or two points at a time and can be spent to reroll in addition to leveling up.

            Also, I botched my terminology. Characters are defined by the formula “I am a [descriptor] [type] who [focus]” but I was calling foci “descriptors” and descriptors “adjectives.” My bad!

  8. EhexT says:

    Hopefully they are far away from Cooks mechanics, because the actual Numenera rules are a clusterfuck of insane proportions.

    For example, if you ever wondered if DnDs Wizard supremacy could get any worse, Numenera answers that with a resounding “hell yeah”. The same level a Numenera Fighter gets a jump attack, a Numenera Wizard gets something literally called “Move Mountains”. Their fighters can hit stuff slightly better than a normal fighter. Their Wizards quickly gain the ability to teleport anywhere on the planet (which later expands to ANYWHERE IN THE SOLAR SYSTEM). That’s just the tip of the bad mechanics iceberg.

    Mechanically, Numenera is a horrible system. The only good thing about it is the setting (when it’s not “this is standard fantasy or real world item X – but we call it “weird numenera term” because this ain’t your normal sci-fi fantasy).

    • JamesTheNumberless says:

      This comment makes me want to actually read the Numenara corebook I got for being a backer of Torment. Right now it’s a pretty bookend.

      • EhexT says:

        Read the armor rules for a laugh – packing any heavy armor (kind of the point of their fighter class) literally drains your hitpoint equivalent (which are a bigger deal in that system than most others) in regular intervals. I think it’s hours or days. While your Wizard is moving mountains and teleporting across the world your fighter is dying because he’s wearing armor.

        • silentdan says:

          You might be putting that armour on inside-out. The spikes are supposed to face outward. I made that mistake, too; it’s why I only have one nipple now.

    • Arglebargle says:

      Ouch, that sounds painful. Hopefully the translation to the computer will help ameliorate some of the worst aspects.

      Still, it’s not like D&D is any great system. The mechanics suck. It is shallow in scope, while managing to be murky and haphazard at the same time. It has huge, horrible flaws, flaws that were ossified and replicated into almost every version.

      The original D&D rules birthed a generation of game designers because every GM had to supplement and invent their own adaptions just to get the game to work in any sort of half-assed manner.

      • Reivles says:

        It’s not make l nearly as bad as the critics make out. Yes, you can take Move Mountains – and it will shift heavy (not Mountains) things slowly for you, and be one of your 7+ class-based powers, total. Their teleportation power requires them to have been there before. Etc. Glaives trivially ignore those armor penalties anyway, idly – they’re more to put the party wizard off from wearing the powersuits

        That said, glaives do still get the short end of the stick, but it’s a failure of imagination that weighs them down their abilities in the core book pretty much equate to ‘hurt things’ and ‘hurt things in other ways’, when what they really wanted to go for (and implied) was more of the ‘physical mage’ idea. .

        Note importantly, while I won’t defend the fact that the default rules is a bit full of wizard-love, this is a problem with individual character powers – not the system as a whole.

        Everyone does things using the same ruleset, and that ruleset is pretty solid. My worry is how much they’ll need shaping. The basic system is relatively lightweight and fast to run, but whether that’s actually good for a cRPG or not, we’ll have to see.

        • Fuscus says:

          The other thing is that the high-tier abilities can still fail on a poor roll, basically causing a nano to spend a large chunk of their intellect pool (which could end up being a quarter of their hitpoints) with no results to show. Glaive high-tier abilities are less costly, so failure carries a lesser penalty and are likely even free (before effort) with their edge at that tier.

          They aren’t as imaginatively exciting though, I agree. But there’s not much reason why players couldn’t flavor their attack descriptions to make them battlemage-y even if the corebook doesn’t do that itself.

      • Reivles says:

        It’s not make l nearly as bad as the critics make out. Yes, you can take Move Mountains – and it will shift heavy (not Mountains) things slowly for you, and be one of your 7+ class-based powers, total. Their teleportation power requires them to have been there before. Etc. Glaives trivially ignore those armor penalties anyway, idly – they’re more to put the party wizard off from wearing the powersuits ;-)

        That said, glaives do still get the short end of the stick, but it’s a failure of imagination that weighs them down their abilities in the core book pretty much equate to ‘hurt things’ and ‘hurt things in other ways’, when what they really wanted to go for (and implied) was more of the ‘physical mage’ idea. .

        Note importantly, while I won’t defend the fact that the default rules is a bit full of wizard-love, this is a problem with individual character powers – not the system as a whole.

        Everyone does things using the same ruleset, and that ruleset is pretty solid. My worry is how much they’ll need shaping. The basic system is relatively lightweight and fast to run, but whether that’s actually good for a cRPG or not, we’ll have to see.

    • Not Marvelous says:

      I’m not surprised if this is true – but then again, I don’t know what people expected when Monte Cook tried making a game of his own.

      Seriously though, I can’t remember too many computer RPGs that have interesting mechanics. Or just mechanics that you are not having fun in spite of. It’s usually just numbers and numbers and numbers till your brain hurts. So maybe Tides will still be a good game by CRPG standards!

    • damoqles says:

      Nah. Thanks to the wildly varying (in effect and in power level) one-shot magic items that are the Cyphers – which are EVERYWHERE, you simply can never find yourself without one or three – even non-Nano characters have more than enough “wizardry” abilities/potential beyond just hurting things. Plus the ‘focus’ part of your character provides even more interesting options – you can be a boringish brute of a Glaive while also being able to, for example, Command Mental Powers, Master Insects, Travel Through Time etc.

  9. fco says:

    I didn’t understand a any of this.

    • JamesTheNumberless says:

      Your reasons for your incessant clicking are not known to me.

      • Phasma Felis says:

        I’m kinda the target audience for this, and I wanted to understand it. I like PnP, I’ve heard really good things about Numenara, I was excited to hear about its basic mechanical concepts and how they would be translated to electrons.

        Instead, I a got transcript of three GMs talking shop. What is Effort? What are Cyphers? What are the three pools? What is a GM Intrusion? I want you to tell me about these things! Why won’t you tell me about these things?!?

  10. caff says:

    PC Zone used to bang on about Planescape having one of the richest story telling experiences out there. But my brain didn’t have the patience – I got about 5 or 10 hours in before I got bored and wandered off to another adventure. I feel like I’ve missed something though.

    I backed this because I thought, as with Pathologic, my experience hole might be filled with nutritional remake goodness.

  11. vahnn says:

    Am I the only one who got all hot ‘n’ bothered by the mention of Book of the New Sun? Hands-down some of the best sci-fi/fantasy (that combination actually makes sense when applied to this series) ever written. I’m about ready for a third reading.

    • Premium User Badge

      Waltorious says:

      You are not. The Book of the New Sun is the best science fiction series I’ve ever read. I’ve read through Long Sun and I’m in the middle of Short Sun now, and they’re also amazing.

    • Shiloh says:


      Nope – see Wowbagger et al up the thread. I’m a Gene Wolfe fan – I’ve read all his Solar Cycle stuff, from the Book of the New Sun right through to Return to the Whorl, as well as most of his novels and short stories.

      I have a couple of issues with the latter part of the Short Sun trilogy, but for the most part he’s pretty much my favourite author across all genres.

      Why no one (apart from the above-mentioned GURPS role-playing system add-on) has ever developed a game set on Urth is beyond me.

  12. MattMk1 says:

    Ahrgh… I really want to like Numenara, Torment being one of those games I’ll still go back to for a weekend once every year or two.

    However, this interview just makes me worried. I *hate* urgency mechanics in computer RPGs, and a lot of the other ambitious narrative-shaping stuff they talk about is hard to implement even when you have a live GM, never mind trying to make it work well in a CRPG.

    It also doesn’t help that – based on my experiences to date – I generally dislike “narrativist” (in the GNS theory sense) RPGs.

  13. Biaxident says:

    I’m kind of wary about this game now. Used to love Planescape (not played in over 10 years though), and kickstarted this game. All the other isometric RPGs kickstarted recently (Wasteland 2, Pillars of Eternity mainly) have been pretty disappointing, while Witcher 3 (obviously fully 3D and open world) has been exceptional. Don’t know if the whole isometric RPG “thing” is just a bit dated for me now.