Saturday, April 11th was International Table Top Day and I spent the day running Numenera at one of our local FLGS, Comic Kingdom here in Reno. I ran two sessions and introduced several people to Numenera and one person to roleplaying in general. Everyone had a great time, the venue was great, and it was fun to game with both old friends and new. I was intending on writing an article focused on the what happened at the table but instead I wanted to take the opportunity to say a few words about the company responsible for Numenera, Monte Cook Games.
A month or two ago I signed up for the MCG Asset Team. The Asset Team is a group of GM’s that run public demo scenarios for their games at conventions, gaming events, and local retail stores. When I heard back from them I was pleasantly surprised at their support; an exclusive forum for the Asset Team, access to downloadable demo scenarios, a bunch of pre-gen characters, and a several helpful documents including an excellent, one-page explanation of the setting and rules. The forums had a wealth of advice from both other Asset Team members and people from MCG. The downloads were highly polished and on par with their published material and included such things as handouts and visual aids (called Show Em’s). After looking through these things I was really excited to use them. My opportunity came with International Table Top Day.
The staff at MCG decided to use ITTD to preview their latest upcoming product, Weird Discoveries: Ten Instant Adventures for Numenera. The preview for the supplement claims, “A night of gaming that’s as easy to set up as a board game. Just add gamers!” The core concept of these adventures is that they only require a brief amount of prep time to run. To drive home this point (and test their theory I suppose) the Asset Team received the scenario for download at midnight Saturday morning. I printed out the material and went to the event without even glancing at the scenario.
After setting up and explaining the setting and rules, which took about 10 minutes thanks to the handouts, I let the players look at the pre-gens and decide what they wanted to play. While they worked that out I read the scenario. Two sentences in I was a little worried, Guilty! was a murder mystery featuring multiple crime scenes, various witnesses, and a suspect on the run. Running a mystery adventure can be one of the most daunting GM scenarios even with a great deal of prep time!
By the time the players had selected their characters and introduced them (about 15 minutes), I had gone from slight anxiety to cool confidence in the adventure. The designers’ use of side bars, an easy to follow flow chart, and the application of “keys”, allowed me to completely digest the scenario and run it as if I’d written it. Moreover the presentation was such that I had no difficulty improving or accounting for the actions players would take, expected or unexpected! This, combined with the natural ease of running the Cypher System (the engine behind Numenera and The Strange), allowed me to run a fast-paced, exciting adventure that felt like I had spent hours prepping but seemed to the players to be nothing more than masterful improv!
Besides providing an excellent, unique adventure I was also impressed with their overall Asset Team support. I received PDF downloads of all the material, however MCG also sent me a packet of the adventure material already printed out, including character sheets and graphic aides. Their support staff, Tammie Ryan in particular, did a wonderful job ensuring that I got the material and was available to answer questions. It’s a true pleasure seeing a company provide this kind of support to our hobby.
If you haven’t had the opportunity to play Numenera or The Strange get out their and give them a try. Excellent settings, excellent mechanics, and a company that truly shows interest in supporting and growing the hobby. Well done Monte Cook Games!