I have been reading through The Players Guide for Monty Cook's Numenera game. I wanted to pass along a couple of thought for people considering buying it and those who may not know about it but should buy it. I will start off by saying I am not done reading it, I have reached the part talking about "class" powers which mostly wraps up the book.
So Numenera is as close as you are going to get to Digest Publishing Groups failed AI project as you are going to get. I have chatted with Joe Fugate through email and have a decent understanding of what AI was intending and Numenera is it. They both used even used the Asimov quote about sufficiently advanced technology being indistinguishable from magic as a design philosophy. Magicians work out to be humans who can manipulate nano swarms existing in an area in AI, where Nano's are the wizards of Numenera. The reason I supported the kickstarter was immediate fear this would be very similar to the game I have been working on for years. The art work in Numenera immediately conjures elements of my own setting.
The rules for doing things in the game are light but elegant. I am quite a fan of the idea of melee range, which is a nebulous distance where the fight is occurring. You just can attack people in melee range, you don't worry about speed or attacks of opportunity. Combat is fluid and moving. It really makes maps and miniatures completely not needed.
Skills are also simple yet elegant. You just roll a d20 verse a target number/target number step. A target number step of 1 may require a roll of 3+ and 2 may require 6+. The Game Master Sets the difficulty number and the players must roll it. The player uses their skills not to add or subtract to the roll but to decrease the skill target number step. So having a skill in jump will make that 2 step become a 1 step and drop the target number to 3+.
I have yet to get my hands on the Core Book so we will see if my impressions continue to ring true. I have a feeling The old Dark Space setting may also be influencing the game as well.
Follow up: I guess i should talk about the Adjective Class who Does Stuff mechanic. This is something that comes in at the end of the book. It allows for mixing of ideas and developing your character into a thematic concept. You have adjectives like Rugged and Mystical which allow for extra skills and stat pool points. These can work to expand your character into new areas or specialize your skills, a rugged nano being more well rounded and a mystical nano being specialized. These work in theory but i am not sure if there shouldn't be a few more.
The Does Stuff mechanic needs more options. From a crunch perspective this is very similar in that it just adds to your class. This can be things like controls beasts or Wields two weapons, basically creating the what type of class you are. I am going to come right out and say they need more, what they have is ok as it works to create a feel for the setting. But in looking to create the more iconic characters from my own setting, I see no way the game handles necromancy. I guess the nearest you get is telekinesis if you are moving a corpse like a puppet.