Review: Vertices

In October of last year, the books for Monte Cook Games’ Liminal Shores Kickstarter started fulfilling with the first book, Voices of the Datasphere.  Vertices continues the tally of material from this Kickstarter with additional material ready to drop into your Numenera game whether you use the concept of the Datasphere or simply wish for some new locations for your characters to visit.  Unlike many of the locations presented in the Numenera corebooks or the Ninth World Guidebook, however, all eight of the locations here are detailed for ready play, a great boon for GMs with only a little time to prepare for a session.  So let’s dive in and take a look at what’s in this book.

Manufacturing and Production

Once again, Bear Weiter and the production team have done an excellent job.  This volume is softcover only.  At 96 pages, that is not particularly a bad thing even though I (and Joann) do like my hardback books.  The artwork, as usual, is vivid and does a good job capturing some of the fantastic of the locales presented.  While some of the smaller character/creature art is reused from other sources, it does not particularly detract from the presentation.  The book itself is bound well, the page bundles staying together when it is opened wide without the glue cracking or separating.

Content

In October, when I reviewed Voices of the Datasphere, I offered a single criticism: give us more detail on what these “Voices” were.  If you need proof that Monte Cook Games listens to its audience, look no further than this book.  Generous man that he is, Sean K Reynolds took time to talk with me a little bit about such an inclusion (not content but type of material) and then went and did it.  The 8 locations in this book have the ability to be “colored” by three godlike personalities called Voices (should you choose to use them in your game) due to these sites’ connection to the Datasphere.  Pages 7 and 8 discuss these personalities and talk about their goals and desires, and pages 82 and 83 actually detail out their specification as “creatures”, “monsters”, “opponents”, or even “allies” depending on how your characters choose to interact with them.  Each of the locations then discusses, right at the beginning, how one might incorporate one or more of these Voices into player exploration of these sites.

“Most of these locations have only part of the structure mapped and described—typically, the main part that’s relevant to the site’s name and rumored features. You can leave these rooms empty (perhaps already salvaged or filled with useless ancient debris), or add more features and completely new areas, either with your own planned designs or by using a randomizer like the Ruin Mapping Engine in Jade Colossus: Ruins of the Prior Worlds or the Ruin Deck. These new areas might be lateral to the main structure, underground, in the air (such as on a levitating platform or orbital station), or in a parallel or partial dimension.


“Because each of these sites is also a vertice, new areas can expand into the Datasphere as well.”

Vertices, p. 6

From wondrous places like what may be a prior-World creature’s partial skeleton (or perhaps even a giant Ninth Worlder) to a series of flying stone islands, to an outdoor maze of crystals, metals, and strange plants, each chapter details one site and the core areas or rooms surrounding the potential Datasphere connection and interesting ties to the Voices.  As the preceding quote indicates, these are not the only rooms in the site, allowing the GM to expand as needed to encourage exploration and discovery (the soul of Numenera).

Following these chapters are a couple that deal with the Numenera themselves: more Cyphers and Artifacts that are thematically tied to the locations in this book.  This is not to say that they could not be found elsewhere either and, indeed, such may be a unique hook to get players and their characters interested in visiting one of these sites.  Following that is a brief chapter with a list of creatures used in the sites in the book that were presented in other materials (Discovery, Destiny, and the Ninth World Bestiary), a single new monster, and the previously mentioned statistics for the three Voices presented.  Such statistics are an excellent template for GMs to go and create their own Voices should they desire.  Following that are several pages of “Rival Explorers” or NPCs that the GM might drop into play as encounters inside or near one of these eight locations as friend or foe.

Finally, in what to me is a very lovely surprise, Sean Reynolds slipped two pages into the back that should go in any Numenera GMs quick-look up repertoire.  He included a Random Settlement generator.  A series of tables much like the Ruin Generator (only much smaller), it allows one to randomly generate a Numenera settlement quickly with enough detail to begin to riff off of including a table of potential quirks that one could apply to the people or the settlement itself.  This inclusion really doesn’t have anything to do with the Vertices in the book but it’s one for which I am incredibly grateful.  It is things like this that make my personal job as a GM much, much easier and companies that include them are among my favorites to purchase from. I am a big believer that a GM can never have too many tools in their toolbox, so from me to you: Sean, thank you for that.  It is appreciated more than you know.

Critique

Not a critique, but as with all such supplements, I can only ask for: more.  I understand that this is a stretch goal and has a page limit cap, but the way Numenera is set up, there is a huge potential for new sites and areas that one could drop in.  These eight are, obviously, only the tip of the iceberg.  Again, this is not a complaint by any means.  I could not be happier with what this supplement turned out to be.  Just suggesting that if someone wanted to write more setting material, I know a guy that might buy it and review it on Angel’s Citadel.

Summary

Vertices is a short supplement for Numenera’s Voices of the Datasphere that covers 8 new locations where one can traverse the boundary between Realspace and the Datasphere.  It introduces 3 god-like beings called Voices that live in the Datasphere and offers some insight into their goals and desires and how they might interact with characters from the Ninth World.  With a host of content ready to drop into an adventure or campaign whether you are using Voices of the Datasphere or not, Vertices is an excellent addition to any Numenera library.  Happy gaming!

  • Josh Walles

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