The Numenera pen-and-paper roleplaying system does a lot of interesting things to simplify stats, combat, and to offer players more choice in action and outcome. I am extremely interested to see how those systems translate to Torment: Tides of Numenera [official site], which is using the setting and system as a basis for a spiritual successor to the beloved Planescape: Torment. The first chance to see some of how it's working is in a video below, as Jeremy Kopman - who has the excellent job title of 'Lead Crisis Designer' - talks through the game's encounter system.
Watch the video here:
Crises are Numenera's combat encounters, so named because they're designed to be more flexible than straight-up 'it's hitting things time'. The video highlights some of the differences, including the character-specific ways enemies will react to situations, such as changing tactic, using the environment or running away, as well as your ability to talk to the monsters mid-fight. There's also a challenge other than the enemies you're fighting in a set of light-bridges which can overload and explode if you don't spend effort, one of the game's resources, to prevent it. Unlike most combat in RPGs, each of these crises will be hand designed by the Torment team so that they have this same density of character-specific twists and environmental challenges. That's an exciting prospect.
I'm still curious how other Numenera systems are going to port across to digital form, however. I spoke to the team at inXile earlier this year and, while they said they had solutions, they couldn't yet share many of the details. For example, here's them talking about GM intrusions, through which game masters can introduce a more difficult twist on a challenge and players can either address it or barter experience points to make it go away.
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.
Frankly, it's just kind of exciting to have a major new RPG which isn't so closely linked to the systems of Dungeons and Dragons.
Torment: Tides of Numenera was funded to record amounts through Kickstarter in 2013, is currently in limited backer alpha, and currently has no release date.