Torment: Tides of Numenera Post-funding Update #22: Crafting

A new, meaty post-funding update (as per usual I'd say) for Torment: Tides of Numenera has just been published over at Kickstarter, covering the creative writing process, the team's crafting design proposal, the progress on the novellas, and a link to a five-page "Crises" design concept, among other things. Here's an excerpt on crafting:

Adam Heine: One of the things I've been working on this past while is our crafting system (which was part of the $4.25M Stretch Goal). The Numenera game, and the Ninth World in particular, is uniquely suited to crafting. Heck, when you categorize the numenera by origin, all but the first are examples of crafting:

1. Scavenged: Discovered and/or identified items.
2. Cobbled: Two or three parts joined together to make something new.
3. Bonded: Like cobbled, but handcrafted to look like a real device. Some even come with a name or instructions.
4. Fashioned: Unique items made from scratch, usually by studying the numenera for years. The rarest of the four types.

Our crafting system (as of this writing, and subject to change based on future design decisions, your feedback, etc.) will primarily deal with cobbled items although bonded items might make it in, and certain NPCs may fashion numenera for you. Our goal with crafting is to be engaging rather than tedious, to have an aspect of puzzle-solving as opposed to simple recipe-following.

We're leveraging our item design, and thus also crafting, to support both the narrative and gameplay. I'll focus on the system itself for now. Here's the basic idea. There are items, which include both mundane objects and numenera relics. Most items are useful by themselves, but some are components that can be assembled with other items to confer additional effects, or disassembled to use the components elsewhere.

For example, you may have a disruptor device (component) that, when attached to a sword, adds +10 damage whenever it is activated. Or you have a bounder crystal (component) that, when attached to armor, teleports anyone who strikes the wearer; when attached to a weapon, it randomly teleports the target a certain distance away when they're hit; when attached to ordinary gloves, it enables this ability on an unarmed punch.

But the relics of the prior worlds are not so easily understood. That disruptor device might have been a sparkplug for an unimaginably complicated transdimensional engine, or the bounder crystal might have been some kind of child's toy (why would a child play with such a thing? That's the fundamental mystery of the Ninth World). The point is, you can never fully understand this stuff, and although you can figure out enough to make it work for you, there will almost always be unintended side effects and quirks.

Side effects is our term for semi-predictable consequences. The specific combination of items and components based on what they do and what they're made of determines what side effects a device acquires. For example (remember these are just for illustration purposes and may not represent actual, final side effects):

  • You add a biological grip to a mundane sword (perhaps a severed hand that grasps your wrist when you use the weapon, giving you +1 on attack rolls). You also add the disruption device from the earlier example. But the disruption device has a side effect with biological material, causing 1 damage to the user whenever you activate the disruption device. The result is a sword that gives you +1 to attack rolls all the time, but when you also activate the device, it does +10 damage to the target and 1 damage to you. The damage to you is a side effect caused by the combination of two components.
  • You wear a Suspensor Belt which negates gravity enough to give you a +1 Speed Edge. You try cobbling the bounder crystal (from the earlier example) to the belt, so that when someone strikes you, they will be teleported a certain distance away. The belt tweaks gravity, and the crystal uses teleportation. One side effect is that when these two effect types are combined, it increases the potency of the teleportation effect. Now when someone strikes you, they are teleported twice as far away as they would be normally.
  • You have an artifact that summons imp-like creatures when activated. You attach it to your azure steel body armor to see what it will do. It does nothing special, but you leave it cobbled together (because disassembling items has a risk of failure, because you can still use the device, and because it actually saves space in your inventory since the artifact is now part of your armor). But the transdimensional nature of the artifact has a side effect when combined with the otherworldly azure steel material, and now whenever you summon the imps to attack your enemies, additional insect-like creatures are summoned that attack everyone in sight (friend, foe, or imp).

Through lore skills or trial and error, you can eventually determine beneficial combinations, or at least combinations that work for your character build and/or the particular device you've put together.

Quirks, on the other hand, are random, unpredictable, and sometimes detrimental. A quirk might cause the device to make a loud noise everytime it's used; or cause the device to graft onto the user's body, so the character can't unequip it until it has been disassembled (also making disassembly more difficult); or it might occasionally knock down all characters within a set range, whether friend or foe; or strange fish appear in the air and swim around you, harmless, but killed by area effects.

A device can acquire a quirk when it is assembled. The chances of acquiring a quirk are increased by the quantity and power of the items you are trying to combine. The chances are decreased with training in the appropriate skills, access to good crafting tools and/or workstations, and applying the Numenera concept of Effort. An inexperienced, untrained character could slap a component onto their mundane sword with only a small chance of a Quirk appearing, but if the same character tried to cobble three components onto a piece of transdimensional armor, they'd find the resulting hack had one Quirk for sure and maybe even two (assuming they were able to successfully assemble it at all, of course).

This is just the beginning of crafting design, of course. We have a lot of details to hammer out and a LOT of balancing to do, but that's the idea we're working with. We hope the end result is not only fun but also emphasizes the strangeness of the Ninth World.

This system also suggested to us some ideas for item identification. We're thinking there might be different levels of identification, including (but not limited to):

1. Basic identification (item description, properties, effects, etc.)
2. Identify Side Effects after two items have been assembled
3. Identify Quirks after two items have been assembled
4. Identify which two items/components caused a specific Side Effect
5. Identify Side Effects before you assemble two components

This system implies that you can use an item even though you aren't aware of all its effects. That means you can cobble a device together using two identified components and see the main effects of your cobbled device, but maybe not the Side Effects or Quirks, but these Side Effects and Quirks would still happen. Furthermore, when you first use the device, you would get a bonus on identifying it, giving you a chance to learn more about the device (like identify those Side Effects or Quirks) through using it.

And if you can use cobbled devices without knowing what they do, then why not artifacts you find in the field? Well, you can! If you scavenge a piece of numenera armor, you can wear it even though you don't know what it does, and by wearing it you increase your chances of learning more about it.

Again, the paint is still very wet on this identification part (seriously, I just wrote the design document last week), so it's subject to change, but this is what we're thinking right now.

Adam out.