Disclaimer: This pdf was graciously given to me for the purposes of review by Ryan Chaddock Games. All opinions within the review are my own.
As I stated in Echoes of the Prior Worlds, I was excited when Ryan reached out to me to review his products. I had already planned to purchase and review Celestial Wisdom. Personally, I tend to gravitate towards divinely linked characters when I get to play in games. My game world Ta’nar was conceived around the idea of the gods and as a way for me to explore a cycle of divinity; it is a subject that fascinates me. So a product that throws a deific spin into the science-fantasy Ninth World was sure to catch my attention.
Celestial Wisdom is a 54 page pdf that is available on Drivethrurpg.com (for $3.00 at the time of this post). The only main difference in layout from Echoes is that Celestial Wisdom has a single column format that can, at times, make it slightly harder to read.
Celestial Wisdom is the perfect length for its limited scope. This limit is not a bad thing, in fact it is an asset. In the wide breadth of the Ninth World, there are a plethora of things that could and do masquerade as gods. Ryan Chaddock does not try to tackle the topic of Ninth Worlds gods as a whole. Instead he focuses specifically on the the entities that are gods of the Datasphere. Within this structure he delivers a well thought out product that is reminiscent of both the gods of Dungeons and Dragons and the artificial intelligences of Cyberpunk. Which is fantastic, as Numenera blurs the lines between the two genres those games represent.
The Data Gods
After a brief introduction, we are introduced to a menagerie of digital gods. Most of these beings are remnants of the prior worlds that have outlived the civilizations the spawned them. All have their own unique outlooks and goals. As all things in Numenera, the gods are given levels to provide a mechanical frame of reference. Most are in the 8+ region as befits a deity. We are also given the portfolios of influence, backgrounds, manifestations, motivations, powers, followers, and benefits of nine gods. The chapter ends with a brief list of seven dead gods. Living gods currently reside in the world’s data sphere, while dead gods reside on servers hidden away from the world, longing for the day when a character stumbles across them and reconnects them to the Ninth World.
Three of the gods really stand out to me. One is an archival program worshiped by sects of the Order of Truth. It ties in very well to games set in and around the Steadfast and provides an interesting layer to add to the Aeon Priests. Another entry, the Old Ones, dovetails nicely into the Lovecraftian glimmer, In Strange Aeons, we received from Monte Cook Games last year. They are using the Datasphere as an invasion point from their reality into ours. But my favorite of the deities presented is known as the Godslayer. It is an AI that was designed in a previous world to break encryptions and to expose secrets. It now uses that power to decrypt and de-render data gods.
One part of each god’s write-up is the benefits they grant to their followers. This is a great mechanical twist that allows characters to show their devotion to a god. Buying this connection to a data god costs 4 XP and replaces a character’s skill choice at that tier. I think they are all on par with a skill advance but tie into the theme of the god in question quite well. For example, the Godslayer deity grants his followers an asset when trying to open locked electronic doors.
The Lost Power
This chapter is full of new descriptors and foci. This is one place that Ryan Chaddock Games really shines. Across all three of his books, the descriptors and foci he provides open up brand new and exciting options for players. Although I have not seen any of them used at the table yet, none of the descriptors or foci seem radically out of scale with the ones in the Numenera core book. In theme with the rest of the book the options presented in this chapter revolve around interacting with digital gods and the Datasphere.
First we are given new Tier powers for Tiers One through Six. These are primarily for Nanos and Jacks, but options are given to enable Glaives to have access them. These powers revolve around retrieving and storing information from the Ninth World’s Datasphere. They look like they will play out much like having access to the internet or the Matrix.
Six new descriptors and six new foci make up the majority of this section. Blessed, Cybernetic, Ghostly, Handy, Inquisitive, and Zealous are great descriptors that I would allow all of my player’s access to, even if I was not going to use the rest of the product. Blessed and Zealous are simple ways that your players can establish a tie to the gods of the Datasphere, even if you are not planning on having them play a prominent role. And the Ghostly descriptor causes your player to be partially manifested information from the Datasphere. Very cool stuff!
For foci we are given: Channels a Deity, Enchants Devices, Know Too Much, Resurrects Dead Gods, See Distant Places, and Walks the Datasphere. The concepts behind these foci are very unique but you can see their roots in the source material and they echo options we see in other games. We have a cultist of the Old Gods foci with Knows Too Much, a twist on scrying with a foci that links the player to a satellite network, and even a cyber-necromancer who Resurrects Dead Gods. Ryan Chaddock keeps the theme of the book at the forefront while still providing solidly designed and thought out mechanics.
The Dritty Tools
The first thing that stood out to me about this chapter was how much I wish Echoes had a chapter like Dritty Tools. If all this book had was this chapter, I would still pick it up for the cover price. Celestial Wisdom provides players and GMs 100 new Oddities, 50 cyphers, and 15 Artifacts. One of the Artifacts is Rod of Three Parts (which is four parts short of a TSR box set) that can become the focus of a campaign setting. The rest of the artifacts really add to the cyberpunk feel of this book. Cybernetic limbs and organs, techno-decks, and exoskeletons are just a few tastes of what lies within. Beyond just the wealth of new Numenera, Celestial Wisdom lays the Cyphers and Artifacts out like cards on the page (8 to a page for Cyphers and 6 to a page for Artifacts) enabling you to print and cut them out for use at the table. A small layout feature that adds a lot to the value of the product, much like the 1-page adventures layout from Echoes.
The Azuresteel Seeds
The final section of Celestial Wisdom is a series of four adventure seeds. Each of the four is about technology gone wrong. We have a Datasphere entity invading the Ninth World, a strange story about a city in a dome, a downed satellite that causes havoc, and a valley full of ancient automaton tombs. All of them sparked my imagination and would easily serve as the basis for one to four nights of adventure.
I really enjoyed Celestial Wisdom. As I stated before, it is a great mash up between cyberpunk and fantasy couched within the terminology of the Ninth World. It is not as game agnostic as Echoes was, which is ok. It establishes its theme in the opening paragraph and doesn’t stray from it. Some of the character options do require a higher level of communication between the GM and the Player to make sure both understand the level of commitment to the concept. For example, the foci Resurrects Dead Gods requires the GM to plant dead gods for the player to find.
Even if you don’t plan on using the digital gods in your game this product is still full of interesting options, a ton of great Numenera, and some good story seeds.