On March 6 of 2013, inXile launched a Kickstarter for a new video game that was funded in 6 hours with an initial ask of $900,000. It went on to gather over 4 million dollars in pledges. Claiming to be the spiritual successor to one of the highest-rated computer RPGs of all time, Torment: Tides of Numenera was based on the Numenera tabletop RPG that had kickstarted August 9 of the previous year. Released to generally positive reviews, it has since come under some fire by those who felt that such a claim was unwarranted.
This article is not a review of that game. It is a review of the book that the game spawned. Torment: Tides of Numenera – the Explorer’s Guide is a supplement that covers the section of the Ninth World illustrated in inXile’s game known as Greater Garravia. Written by Shanna Germain and released in 2016, it provides the detail for a GM to take their players outside the Steadfast, beyond the Beyond and into a new area of the supercontinent. Unlike many of Monte Cook Games’ other products, this book was not a Kickstarter offering or a stretch goal. It was released separately as a sourcebook to the first edition Numenera game.
Manufacturing and Production
Weighing in at a respectable 160 pages, Torment: Tides of Numenera – the Explorer’s Guide is an example of what I have come to view as a “typical” Monte Cook Games offering. The manufacturing quality is excellent, with quality cover material, sturdy binding and sturdy pages with good ink quality. The layout is standard for Numenera products, two-column with an outer sidebar, and the print readable and easy on the eyes. The artwork in the book is excellent as usual with the inner cover boasting a two page width map of Greater Garravia. The cartography style is the same as in previous offerings and is, at least to my amateur map-making eyes, excellent. This book is, once again, a fine example of the quality work that Bear Weiter, Monte Cook Games’ Art Director and his team of freelancers put out.
The first two chapters of this book are a brief introduction to the content, both from the designers of the Computer Roleplaying Game (CRPG) Torment: Tides of Numenera, inXile, and from Monte Cook Games. It is worth noting that this book was originally written to pair with the first edition of the Numenera game which only had a single corebook. The content, however, works perfectly fine with the revised edition (Destiny and Discovery). One simply has to ignore the page references and find them in the new books. As one who has both the first and revised editions, the layout is roughly the same between the original corebook and Discovery, so the page differences are fairly small in size (typically 1-5 pages at most in my observation).
The next nine chapters (93 pages) detail out the area of Greater Garravia, located East of the Clock of Kala, past the Beyond (both of which are detailed in Numenera: Discovery). The format of these chapters is very much the same as both the original corebook and Discovery. A location or environ is detailed, either with interior locations (as with the Sagus Cliffs) or site locations (as with Garravia Sound). Then at the end of a section, there are some suggestions for hearsay in the region and “weird” of the region (because it just wouldn’t be Numenera without the “weird”). In fact, I like this format so much that we mimicked it in our Hope’s Horizon material.
Chapter 12 deals with the Organizations and Groups in Garravia, so that the GM has a sense of the power players in the area and can use them front and center or for a backdrop for their games. The next three chapters give additional game material to add to your campaigns. More Numenera (cyphers and artifacts), more creatures, and NPCs from the area. Following this are some optional rules that you can add in (or not) to color your experience some. There are 4 new descriptors, 3 new Foci, and a new racial option – the Ghibra. Finally, there is a chapter dealing with the Tides (a primary force – like Gravity) that exists in the Ninth World and how to include them in your game if you choose. They are not necessary, and the standard game will work just fine in Greater Garravia, but if you wish to add additional flavor from the game, the rules are available to you.
This is another one of the Numenera books that I struggle critiquing. For me, personally, the setting section of the original corebook and Numenera: Discovery are exactly the right mix of information, vague hooks, and lack thereof. There’s enough information for me to riff off of and not so much that I feel like I’m boxed in with cannon. All of the setting books that Monte Cook Games has done follow this pattern, and it’s perfect for me. I understand that there are those who want more (or less), and that’s absolutely fine. But this works for my thought process.
The only thing I would critique about the book is the art. This is not to suggest that Bear Weiter did anything wrong with the layout or the placement or the selection. Simply that I can get a large chunk of the artwork by playing the game, and while this is a related property, it is not, in fact, a walkthrough of the game. I personally would have liked to see more original art that illustrated different takes on the locations rather than simply screen captures of the layout of different areas. In all of the other Numenera books, one of the big things that evokes “the weird” for me and many others that I’ve talked to is the nature of the artwork. I would have recommended that they did more of that than was done in this particular book. I honestly get why they likely didn’t. I can’t really fault them for the choice, per se. It is, simply, a critique that I would offer that might have enhanced the feel slightly closer to the “Ninth World standard” that the other books in the line create.
Torment: Tides of Numenera – the Explorer’s Guide is a Numenera setting book set in the world illustrated by inXile’s CRPG Torment: Tides of Numenera, released in 2017. Written by Shanna Germain, it details the area of the Ninth World supercontinent known as Greater Garravia. Like the other setting books such as the Ninth World Guidebook, Into the Outside, and others, the Explorer’s Guide paints a picture of a strange and wondrous new portion of the Ninth World with new people and places to discover and challenge your players. Offering new options and optional rules, to go with the setting material that stems from the game, the Explorer’s guide is a worthy addition to your Numenera library. While I would struggle to call this a “must buy”, I would certainly suggest it for the GM that is serious about running Numenera as a semi-dedicated or dedicated endeavor with their group. It represents more ideas, more options, and more weird to feed your players so that the Ninth World continues to feel fresh and new. Happy gaming!
- Josh Walles