One of the characters in my lunchtime Numenera playtest wants to play a Nano Who Crafts Unique Items, but as I alluded to in my Game Day column I’m struggling with some of the rules.
There are several different defined “craft” skills for Numenera (chemistry, electronics, mechanics, transdimensional, p. 107). Our most basic question is … what does this get you? Can you craft cyphers and artifacts, or just artifacts?
The book explains that player characters can create artifacts by spending 3 XP, which is pretty straightforward. It also discusses modifying existing cyphers to have different powers, but it never spells out creating cyphers from scratch (for PCs; there are guidelines for GMs).
Although cyphers are common in Numenera, given their effectiveness as one-shot items I’m guessing there should be an XP cost; off the cuff I’d put it at 1 or 2 XP.
The “Crafts Unique Items” Focus
The Tier 6 ability for “Crafts Unique Items” says:
“You can create new artifacts in half the time, as if they were two levels lower, by spending half the normal XP. Enabler.”
So what does this really mean?
Artifacts, no matter how powerful, seem to have a flat cost of 3 XP (p. 111). Let’s say I have a player who wants to create an Amulet of Safety (p. 300).
Normally that’s Level 1d6 device. Let’s say he picks a Level 3 device. The difficulty is 5 + the level of the device. (p. 106). This would make it Difficulty 8 (Numenera Item) that takes many years and 3 XP to create.
He’d like to use this device within his lifetime, so he takes advantage of his Tier 6 ability for “Crafts Unique Items”. This drops the level of the device to Level 1. Adding in the +5 for numenera devices, and he’s at Difficulty 6 (simple numenera item, 1 month). The cost becomes 1.5 XP. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to round up or down; given that this PC wants to make a lot of artifacts, I might just leave it at 1.5.
It feels … incomplete. It feels like a legacy of an earlier, more robust crafting system for artifacts that upped the XP cost based on the complexity of the artifact. Alternatively, it also feels like an anticipatory ability — as though we’ll see new rules for artifact creation in the Technology Compendium, and this is meant to future proof the core rule book.
Either way the “Half the XP” cost feels clunky to me because it yields a fraction — we don’t see a lot of those in Numenera.
The Techno-arcane Economy
The Nano Who Crafts Unique Items also wants to sell his newly minted artifacts (and cyphers as well). Reading through the numenera book I get the sense that there isn’t a huge numenera economy. I’m sure you can buy and sell numenera in the big cities, but the book itself gives no guidance on how much cyphers or artifacts go for.
Any thoughts on that? My sense is that, when it comes to numenera, the 9th World is more about barter than selling items outright. That said, there must be times when these things are traded for shins, and it would be helpful to have some guidence on the going rates for such things. I could see mimicking the loose doubling (or maybe tripling?) of the existing level progressions (e.g. Level 1 = 100 shins, Level 2 = 200 shins, Level 3 = 400 shins, Level 4 = 800 shins).