Huh, I'm at page 350 of the core rulebook and haven't seen anything that is that specific about the previous worlds... or if I did, I guess it slipped away under the onslaught of so much setting detail. Reading Numenera was enough to remind me that I don't want someone else's loving-detailed setting, I want a toolkit to develop my own wildly-improvised (and occasionally strategically-detailed) one.Maybe the cyphers had psychotherapists and dreams had conductors. It's hard to say, but fun to imagine, if the 8th world really is supposed to be beyond understanding. I got the feeling that the "8th world" was stranger than, say, the Enterprise.
A 100-120-page Numenera "World Toolkit" hardback (full of tables and seeds and advice on building your own Ninth World setting, and play mode widgets for different tones of game or session), plus a stripped-down, slimmer version of the core ruleset with a toolboxy approach covering new cyphers, how to create new/alternate classes and character species, and a bestiary with tips for creating new monsters? I'd be all over that.
(Which I guess amounts to me saying, I wish there was a version of Numenera available with a more DIY-ish OSR sensibility.)
In any case, yeah, the previous worlds seem to have been supposed bafflingly advanced, which. Which actually makes it hard to worldbuild around: Vernor Vinge (the SF author) has been talking about the difficulty of imagining and depicting authentically Singularitarian consciousness (and the worlds they would inhabit) since the 70s (and there's a thread there that goes back at least to H.G. Wells), and I think it's not coincidence that Numenera is set after the collapse of a series of incomprehensibly-advanced civilizations, and yet features recognizably human characters as the primary player character race. (Because smashing humans up against weird-as-hell postsingulatarian stuff is the most relatable method: the characters end up basically just as baffled as the players are.)
I spent a few minutes this morning thinking about how one might build a set of playbooks for some kind of PbtA game designed to allow play in a Ninth World type setting—again, Legacy: Life Among the Ruins comes to mind, though it's more modest about how advanced the world got before collapse, and how many times it's happened—and I'm curious what playbooks people imagine.
I can totally see Glaive, Jack, and Nano being playbooks, by the way, but I wonder what other roles people would imagine for the setting (as presented in the core rulebook). I can imagine:
- Glaive (fighting, commanding battles, treating wounds, repairing weapons)
- Jack (a little of everything; rogue skills)
- Nano (interfacing with the nano; hacking cyphers; manipulating energies)
- Trash Miner (wilderness survival & guiding, barter, salvage, cypher affinity, a little archeology & cryptic history)
- Sleeper/Outsider ("secret" setting knowledge of past Worlds, "other" tech & maybe bio-augmentation)
- Merchant (transport, languages, negotiation, intercultural communication, resource management)
- Believer (theology; propaganda/preaching; spy abilities; recruitment; social organization)
- Relic (long lived survivor of a single past age: arcane lore, weird abilities, story-advancing flashbacks)