Mystery and Plot hooks in every bite!

I’ve sung the praises of Numenera before. But more and more I’ve been appreciating something about the Numenera corebook that has nothing to do with system design or game mechanics: Short, strange descriptions, and open-ended plot hooks.

Allow me to explain with an example. Here’s a random excerpt from the book:

Pg 159 for those of you following along at home

Pg 159 for those of you following along at home

Read that. I know, reading! Who woulda thought?

That is one of at LEAST 100 locations (I stopped counting when I hit 100). Every location has a point on the map, and 2-5 paragraphs of text about it. Almost every single one comes complete with a plot hook, mystery, secret, or potential quest for the PCs.

They do it with Monsters too. Here’s an excerpt from the creatures section.

Screenshot 2014-05-01 14.48.42

Pg 248 of the Numenera Corebook

Read it. Cmon! Be a trooper. Examples are examples.

Okay, so there are 40+ creatures in this corebook (and 120+ more in the Bestiary). Every Single One of these creatures has a small quest hook or recommended usage section.

Now David, you might be asking, what’s the big deal? I mean, that’s kinda cool and all, but the descriptions aren’t even that long! That’s the point. Each one of these little blurbs is just enough to build a session on. Each one has a reason for the players to be there, a need for their help. There are no long extended histories, no past listing of kings and dynasties. Just enough to be useful for the GM and interesting to the players.

This is exactly what I need in the table. Here’s how it goes:
Players: “So, what is the nearby town? what’s over there?”
GM: “Uhh….give me 2 mins. *reads paragraph* Okay! well *insert plothook here”

It’s a quick enough read for me to review, and the lack of extreme detail let’s me make stuff up and insert whatever I think would be interesting. I’ve started using these locations and the map in ALL my games, from Dungeon World to Numenera, simply because the locations are so interesting and easy to use.

I hope that more RPGs and settings books will use this same technique. I hate reading pages and pages of history, only to realize that nothing is happening when the players arrive! Monte Cook has done a great job with this, and I plan on using the locations and creatures for a long time to come!