AMA: Adapting Numenera to a CRPG (and what that means)

Thomas said: 
A lot of Numenera's rules seem to be designed around a push-pull between the players and the GM. Are you finding that difficult to adapt to a cRPG where the "GM" is static content that is predetermined?  
This question I thought would be of broader interest to Torment backers, so it is answered in today's Kickstarter Update.

Steve MC said:
Can you explain the above question before you answer it? 
For my faithful blog readers (who are, perhaps, beginning to feel as though they've been dragged into something beyond their experience or comprehension... which is probably kinda true), first some definitions:
  • Numenera is the tabletop role-playing game (RPG) whose rules and setting we have licensed for Torment: Tides of Numenera.
  • A tabletop RPG is like D&D and is played something like this.
  • GM = gamemaster, the referee of sorts who determines what happens as a result of the things the players try to do.
  • cRPG = Computer RPG, which is basically the same thing as the tabletop except now the computer is the GM.
Hopefully that gives you enough context to already understand the question, but to take it further...

Tabletop RPGs, and Numenera in particular, rely on the imaginations of the players and the GM to collaboratively tell a story. This works because the GM can adapt to anything, even to the point of changing the rules.

In a cRPG, we have to somehow limit the player's options (so we can handle the consequences in a believable and satisfying way) while simultaneously making the player feel like they have freedom of choice in any given situation. It's a tricky wire to walk, and that's what the Q&A is primarily about.

Got a question? Ask me anything.

Jules Windu

  • The blog says drawing in the subheader.
  • The last drawing I posted was over a year ago.
  • I actually like this sketch.
  • I finished all my work, played games with the kids, and even wrote words today (read: I've earned a post).
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  • Samuel Leroy Jackson.

AMA: GM Intrusions and Messing With Time

Surface Rlf says:
Hi Adam, very nice of you to provide this channel into your brain. :P

Gm intrusions... how about achieving them through gameplay itself. You mentioned a simple example of getting a sword knocked out of players hands so im going to stick with that (because its easy). How about it is done by some enemy or some monster in the game? Or an environmental event, or some artifact in another scenario or situation... and so on?

You also mentioned player being able to revert his latest action? Is that like some quick time travel backwards... like some kind of Prince of Persia sands of time mechanic - trick?
Just checking.

Great to hear that changing Foci will cost something - and even better hearing you dont like respecing... respeccing? (what an awful word too). I was afraid that might be included. 

GM Intrusions
A brief definition for those new to Numenera: GM Intrusions are a means for the GM of a Numenera game to spice up a situation by introducing a difficulty, without making the players feel like he's screwing them over just because. This is accomplished by giving players an out; if they accept the complication, they gain 2 XP, or they can refuse the intrusion by spending 1 XP.

In Torment, this is trickier to pull off because there is no GM and because intrusions have a way of reminding the player he's playing a game (a thing we'd rather not do in a CRPG).

Your suggestions, Surface, are pretty much along the lines of what we've been thinking. As I said in that interview, we haven't solidified how GM Intrusions will work in Torment yet, but we do have some goals that give us a framework:
  1. Intrusions should be cool (not "good," but cool), something the player wants to accept. Of course, giving them XP is a major part of this.
  2. Intrusions should change an encounter in interesting ways, not just make things harder for the sake of making things harder.
  3. Intrusions should be framed as complications arising from external events, not from the PC screwing up (pretty much what you said, Surface).
Some ideas we've had along those lines are things like: extra guards appearing, a bridge going down (changing the terrain and the tactics of an encounter), a Broken Hound confers a Diseased fettle in addition to their normal attack, an item turns out to have been misidentified doing something different from what the player thought it would, etc. Will these feel right? We won't know until we can prototype them and try them ourselves, but it's in the right spirit.

In my mind, the real hard part is not what the intrusions will be, but how they're presented to the player. We have yet to delve into that UI in depth.

Reverting an Action
(Surface's question here is in the context of the interview again, where I mentioned that the player might be able to spend XP to undo a recent action.)

The tabletop game doesn't explain how this mechanic works narratively, probably because it's easier to immerse yourself in a story told around a table. We haven't talked about how this will be explained in-game for Torment. It might not be explained at all, simply something you can do, just like how you can use "renown" in Banner Saga to purchase items and food.

But the way you describe is not out of the realm of possibility. Numenera does actually have an "Undo" ability that lets you do exactly what you describe, taking back a character's most recent action. For Torment, we're talking about additional abilities along these lines as well, ones that let you fiddle with time in interesting ways.

The Ninth World is a strange and magical place, where nanites live in the air and dirt, where mysterious forces can be called on by someone who knows what they're doing -- or even some people who don't. It's entirely possible that this XP mechanic is one such situation.

Got a question? Ask me anything.

AMA: On writing too concisely

Valerie asked:
Do you have any advice for people who write too concisely (i.e., me)? 

Write more.

Okay, kidding. Honestly, I don't know how much help I can be here because personally I try to write concisely. I'm not a fan of purple prose, and I'm not sure how to write elaborate description well without falling into the purple trap (although I know it can be done).

So I aim for concise. I'm not sure you can write too concisely.

Rather than worrying about concise or verbose (which is really just word count, which really only matters if you're getting paid per word), take a look at whether the prose does it's job: to pull the reader into the story. There's like a bazillion ways to do that, but I think it can be done both concisely and verbosely. I've seen great authors do both.

Got a question? Ask me anything.

AMA: Self-mutilation in Torment?

hightechzombie asked:
Do you intend to add self-mutilation to Tides of Numera like in Planescape: Torment during Ignus "lessons"?

Probably asking this way too early, considering that you are still in pre-production. Still, this is very important to me!

Backstory (because my audience includes non-Torment fans as well):
In Planescape: Torment, you played the role of an immortal who lost his memories each time he died. Because you're immortal, we were able to include moments like plucking out your own eye and replacing it with a demon's, or having a powerful wizard (Ignus) teach you how to use powerful fire magic by, literally, burning the lesson into your body.

In Torment: Tides of Numenera, you don't play an immortal, but the castoff shell of a man who cheats life by jumping from body to body (he doesn't realize the bodies he leaves behind wake up and have their own lives after he leaves them).

So you're not immortal, but the castoffs are quite hard to kill. We haven't drilled down into the details of every area yet (which is where a lot of this stuff will surface), and I'm not allowed to give spoilers, but there is definitely the opportunity for PST-like moments like Ignus and Ei-Vene.

Got a question for me? Ask me anything.

Ask Me Anything

I'm adding a new feature to the blog (poor, neglected blog). You can now ask me anything you want. At any time. About writing or game design or how Torment's going or what it's like parenting a billion kids or living in Thailand or how awesome Firefly and Avatar are . . . whatever. Periodically, I'll answer your questions here (NDAs notwithstanding, of course).

Don't have any questions right now? There's a tab up top and a link on the sidebar. Use 'em.

(Why don't I use an existing platform for this, like tumblr or Formspring? (1) I have control here. (1a) When those platforms die (like Formspring almost did last year), I'll still be here. (2) I have enough platforms, thanks. (3) You don't need more places to go either, I imagine.)

That's it. Use it if you want it. I'll just be over here. You know. Waiting.