Review: Jade Colossus – Ruins of the Prior Worlds

Most of the time, a given rules system has that “must have” supplement.  The one that makes your life so much easier as a GM.  Sometimes it’s released by the main company, sometimes it’s a third-party.  I’ve known several.  For Dungeons & Dragons 3.XE it was AEG’s Ultimate Toolbox.  For Shadowrun 4E it was Runner’s Companion.  For Cyberpunk 2020, it was Listen Up, You Primitive Screwheads.  For Monte Cook Games’ Numenera, however, that book is Jade Colossus: Ruins of the Prior Worlds.

This supplement, written by Bruce Cordell, is, in this writer’s humble opinion, the highest value product supplement for the line.  Like all of Monte Cook Games’ products, Jade Colossus is extremely well put together in manufacturing quality and layout.  The artwork is particularly evocative, both sharply-drawn and dark, which goes particularly well with some of the themes of the Jade Colossus (some underlying body horror and cosmic weirdness).


Jade Colossus begins with a chapter discussing the use of the book, including a beginning discussion of the weird of the Midnight Stones, strange greenish-black stones that are commonly found in and around the Jade Colossus.  It introduces a new city, Ballarad, that can serve as a base from which explorers can begin discovering the Jade Colossus.  Chapters 2 and 3 deal with getting your players into a Jade Colossus campaign, regardless of whether they are new or existing characters.  Chapter 4 offers 4 new Foci for characters that begin in the general vicinity of the Jade Colossus.  Chapter 5 discusses some local organizations that may or may not figure prominently in your campaign, and Chapter 6 offers some introductory scenes to help a GM get started.

Parts 2, 3, and 4 discuss the Colossus itself as well as other ruins related to it.  Part 2, comprising 3 chapters, deals with the surrounding area around the Jade Colossus.  The first of these chapters deals with Ballarad, providing a keyed map, location descriptions and NPCs for the GM to use.  Part 3, 5 more chapters, deals with some of the major finds that have already been made inside the Jade Colossus itself.  These areas also have maps included and are set up much like mini-adventures reminiscent of the formats seen in Explorer’s Keys and Weird Discoveries.  Part 4 is only one chapter but deals with some periphery locations that a GM might use in conjunction with the Jade Colossus to add some flavor to the campaign.

Part 5, however, is where this book truly shines and the entire cost of the book is worth it even if one only received this part.  This is a Ninth World Ruin generation system.  It is what they based the Ruin Deck off of (that I greatly appreciate and love using in my games).  Coupled with some freely available isometric graph paper that one can find on the internet, this section of the book allows a GM to build small or massive Ninth-World ruins for their players to explore, and then populate them with an astounding amount of weirdness to interact with. 

If you want to get really crazy, combine it with the Glimmer, Injecting the Weird for even more varied combinations.  Put together in such a way as to allow the GM to gradually map out entire complexes, this generation system is the single most useful tool in the Numenera GM’s arsenal.  Armed with this system, you never need wonder what is in that cave that they just walked into or down that turn of a corridor that they just took from a published adventure that didn’t describe it (for example, the Vortex – there are TONS of undescribed and unmapped turns that you could flesh out if you wish).

Critique and Summary

I will not often say this, but for my part, I have no critiques of this book.  It is as close to perfect as I can reasonably expect without using the age-old standby, “You could give me more… more.”  I can always use more idea seeds to riff off of, but from a standpoint of doing what it was designed to do, Jade Colossus – Ruins of the Prior Worlds does it flawlessly.  If you play Numenera, run, don’t walk, and pick up this book.  While I love Decks (and I do), they are a luxury, a nicety, something that is convenient at the table.  This book, however, is hands down, the best money you will ever spend for running that system.  Happy gaming!

  • Josh Walles

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