As you may know, for I say it so often here on the blog, I am in love with the Cypher system. Monte Cook Games has created a fantastic game that with every reading eclipses my desire to play anything else. Currently the system is ‘limited’ to the Numenera line, but soon the Strange will be added into the mix. I am looking at doing more reviews of the Cypher system products (like the Devil’s Spine, or the upcoming Character Options book) as well as third party Cypher products (like Ryan Chaddock’s Angels & Ashes pdf (which you should run out and get sight unseen right now!!)) in the months to come.
Monte Cook Games does a great job with their core books and adventures, but they also put out monthly (or near monthly) pdf supplements known as Glimmers. These Glimmers, which are a reference to a strange visual or data phenomenon in the Ninth World, are short pdfs which cover specific topics for your gaming pleasure. From interviews I have listened to, it seems that the Glimmer line is Monte Cook Games’ way to react immediately to what their fans want. Instead of putting together a book that won’t get into player’s hands for months, they can ‘patch’ the game with Glimmers. Note: I use the term patch here for a quick download of information. This is not a reference to these pdfs being ‘fixes’ to the game. They are clearly expansions.
So far we have seen Glimmers that run a gamut of topics. A new adventure. How to add Lovecraftian horror within the Ninth World. Two pdfs on new cyphers, oddities, and artifacts. Love and sex in the Ninth World. And currently making your game weirder. This weird pdf is the focus of this review.
Injecting the Weird
Injecting the Weird is a 22 page Glimmer that is available on Drivethrurpg.com (for $4.99 at the time of this post). The layout in Injecting the Weird, and this holds true for all the Glimmers, is comparable to the physical products that Monte Cook Games produces. Some of the art, in my opinion, doesn’t mess as well with the art from the main product line, but I can only assume this is due nature of the Glimmer release schedule.
The focus of this Glimmer is Numenera’s weird factor and how to capitalize on it. It begins with a short explanation of ‘weird’ in the Ninth World and why that is important. For me the weird factor is what makes Numenera stand out. It is not science fiction. It is not fantasy. There is no modern or gaming corollary. The core rulebook gives some great advice on how to GM the weird, like how to do shift your vocabulary to prevent the players from drawing inferences to the familiar. This Glimmer goes deeper into the how and why of the weird.
For me, the section that changed how ended up reviewing this product was the Random Weirdness section. It precedes the bulk of this pdf, which is the random table section. At first glance, I was really disappointed in this. I will be honest; I didn’t read the product description too deeply before I bought this pdf, but from what I remember, I did not get the impression that I was investing in a bunch of tables. The other Glimmers have been $2.99 and were 10-18 solid pages of information. Injecting the Weird was $2.00 more and while it was almost double the length of most previous Glimemrs, 14 of the 22 pages are random tables. It was off putting because I was expecting far more substantive writing, and got, well 14 pages of tables. However, on my re-read before writing this article, the section I mentioned above clicked for me. It changed my perception of the seeming randomness of this pdf.
The random tables are there not there just for randomness sake. They are there to create connections between things that you might never have thought of, or that shouldn’t go together. And where that randomness intersects your game, you get weird. Inside this Glimmer we find tables for: weird things about ancient structures, weird things going on inside the structure, weird things out in the wild, weird creatures, weird things about places, weird NPCs, and weirdness for devices. The entries on these tables, when used to spice up your game, are very strange and some are very evocative.
Wrapping up this Glimmer, we find three new weird character options. The Weird Descriptor, and the Masters Insects and Sees Beyond foci. Each one brings its own level of strangeness to the game, and allows players to build characters that thrive on the weird setting that is the Ninth World. New options for Cypher characters are always a good thing. We also find sprinkled among the side bars of this Glimmer ideas, creatures, three cyphers, two oddities, and a new artifact.
After a disappointing first read through, and a weirdly satisfying second read through, I am torn on a final concluding recommendation. The foci and the descriptors are fantastic, as are the main article portion. At $5, you are getting a lot of table entries as well, which if used as the Random Weirdness section suggests serves as a perfect realization of this Glimmers title. Injecting the Weird is a weird Glimmer. I hope that this review interrupts it for you, and helps you understand a bit more what you will be getting.
Content: 3.5/5 – With the majority of the pdf being random tables, the content could be very hit or miss depending on your GMing style.
System: 5/5 – What system is there here is spot on. The new numenera, descriptors and foci are great.
Aesthetic: 4/5 – The pdf’s layout is consistent with the Numenera. Some of the art pieces just feel a little out of sync with the style of the Numenera books.