Numenéra: Gift of the Calimshan
Numénera is a term for the artifacts, wonders, tools, and devices of the previous worlds. Numenéra can reshape matter, bend the fundamental forces of nature and physics, and bring light to the darkness. From a 21st Century point of view, this usually means the machines, devices, vehicles, robots, computers, weapons, satellites, drugs, and their component parts – especially if those parts are no longer attached to the whole!
Numenéra are most often found in the forms of Cyphers, Artifacts, and Oddities. Cyphers are simple, usually small, one-use items, similar to disposable magic items from other campaigns. Artifacts are powerful numenéra which can be used repeatedly, although not necessarily infinitely. And Oddities are .. odd. Oddities frequently do odd things, and can sometimes be useful, but their use and purpose is frequently unknown or unknowable, even to the Aeon Priests.
A Cypher is a special kind of Numenera. Cyphers are generally one-use, cobbled together bits of technology that are discovered and used fairly frequently.
When the PCs come upon an old device, defeat some artificially enhanced or designed creature, or simply sift through the ruins of the past, they can scavenge a handful of new cyphers.
Because the technology of the past is unknowable, cyphers are often determined randomly. A GM, however, can place them intentionally as well. They’re one-use cool powers that can heal, make attacks, or produce effects like nullify gravity or make something invisible. The sky’s the limit. But they’re always consumed when used. And they cannot be hoarded. Collecting cyphers together in one place, or carrying many on your person can potentially have a detrimental effect–from the long term (illness) to the short (explosion!). So essentially, characters carry only a few at a time, but they are found with such regularity that players can be pretty free with their use. There will always be more. And they’ll have different benefits.
Cyphers may be entire devices, or just components that do a task and then stop. Identifying a cypher, once found, is an Intellect task, modified by your knowledge of Numenera.
Artifacts are the things left over from the civilizations of the past that remain the most useful. These numenera are devices of a more permanent nature (unless they run out of power) with more straightforward applications. Weapons, armor, utility items, and so on. Still, rarely are they quite that straightforward. It’s far less likely to find a “gun” than it might be to find some item that can be used effectively as a ranged weapon, but that also might have originally been some kind of power conduit that has been modified and adapted as best as Ninth World understanding could manage. Some characters, given the right tools and parts, will be able to construct these on their own.
They are likely as not powered by interdimensional, biochemical, gravitic, or nano technology, and although your character may be able to use them, they will likely elude the understanding of even the most learned Aeon Priest.
Unlike Cyphers, Artifacts can sometimes be recharged.
Oddities are Numenéra about which nobody can quite figure out the purpose. Ninth Worlders often simply shake their heads and dismiss the objects as mere curiosities, trinkets, or baubles, but it is fairly evident to the Aeon Priests that the ancients weren’t mad. These at one time served some purpose, likely when combined with other machines or technology yet undiscovered, or worse, no longer existing. It’s just that, well, to you and your clave, and everybody else, frankly, the purpose is unknown, and probably unknowable.
Sometimes a purpose is found, though, usually in conjunction with other Oddities, Cyphers, or Artifacts, so it can be helpful to hang on to the ones that aren’t dangerous.