[Numenera] Den tomme verden

I en fjern galakse for længe siden (Star Wars), i den hyperboreanske tidsalder [for 10000 år siden] (Conan), vid da, at det er året 10191. Det kendte univers regeres af padishah kejser Shaddam IV (Dune)

– Fiktionsuniverser kan bestemt godt være placeret langt hjemmefra.

I min anmeldelse eller beskrivelse af rollespillet Numenera klagede jeg over settingen. Systemet bag Numenera – dvs. regelsystemet – er interessant nok, og det rummer nogle interessante ideer, som jeg ser frem til prøve, men selve den verden, som Numenera udspiller sig, fandt jeg uinteressant, og det vil jeg se nærmere på her.

The Ninth World is a science-fantasy setting approximately a billion years in the future. The people of the world dwell amid the flotsam of impossible ultratech of eight prior civilizations and call it magic. Unimaginably huge machines lie beneath the earth, and satellites orbit high above, transmitting a web of data and free energy. Nanotech, gravitic technology, genetic engineering, spatial warping, and superdense polymers allowed the inhabitants of the previous worlds to reshape the planet. Mass and energy were theirs to command.

In many ways, the Ninth World is a medieval fantasy setting without the historicity. When people who haven’t done a lot of homework on the dark ages run a traditional fantasy game, they often insert modern sensibilities or developments such as democracy, hygiene, or matches. But in the Ninth World, these things, and more, make sense. Characters can have rain slickers, ink pens, zippers, and plastic bags, all left over from the prior eras (or fashioned from leavings of the past). They can understand how illnesses are transmitted or how socialism works. They can know that the earth revolves around the sun and be aware of other “anachronistic” bits of knowledge.

On the other hand, characters in Numenera don’t refer to weapons as “guns” or vehicles as “cars.” The technology in the Ninth World is too advanced and too alien for such terminology to have endured. Using 21st-century terms for weapons and vehicles is as inappropriate as using medieval terms. The numenera is weird—much of it wasn’t created by humans or for humans. It isn’t designed or presented in any way that might be familiar to the players or the characters. Only through experimentation, player insight, and character skill can the PCs identify, and possibly use, what they find. (p.14)

Numenera er et science fantasy-rollespil, der udspiller sig en milliard år fra nu, hvor der har været otte foregående hyperavancerede civilisationer, og det er et rollespil, der har sat sig for at løse en række problemstillinger ved klassiske adventure-rollespil som D&D og Pathfinder, herunder at de fleste fantasy rollespil udspiller sig i middelalderlignende samfund, men de rummer udprægede modernistiske elementer, og i stedet for at bortforklare, at den gennemsnitlige spilleder ikke er medievalist, og derfor har en velkonstrueret middelalderverden, så ignoreres problemet med science fantasy-settingen. Med science fantasy-elementet er det intentionen, at Numenera kan spilles som science fiction eller som fantasy eller noget midt imellem alt efter interesse. Det er også et rollespil med fokus på efterforskning.

Trods de gode intentioner, så var det en undervældende oplevelse at sidde med regelbogen og kigge på fiktionsverdenen eller universet i Numenera.

Udforskning

Udforskning – Numenera vil gerne udforske, og udforskningen kommer i form af to elementer:

  • Levn, man finder på missionerne (anbragt af spilleder), som giver XP (og egentlig bare er ‘Milestones’ i D&D 4th-terminologi; dvs. punkter i forløbet, hvor spilleder uddeler XP for at være noget til et bestemt punkt). Levnene er bare ting, der anbringes i scenarierne.
  • Cyphers, som er teknologiske dingenoter, som fungerer et begrænset antal gange, og som gør sære ting. Cyphers er ‘tegn’, som spillerne bruger til at interagere med fiktionen med og til at løse udfordringer. Der er ingen korrekt måde at bruge dem på, men derimod er der oplæg til at spillerne skal være kreative. Cyphers modsvarer D&Ds magiske ting (og trylleformularer), særligt de mere skæve af dem, og det er en god og sjov ide og klart en af spillets forcer.

Men der er ingen setting at udforske, kun to elementer i mekanikkerne, hvor den ene er de gizmos, som spillerne kan lege med, og den anden er de levn, som spilleder finder er XP værd at opleve.

Verdenen

Settingen i Numenera indeholder to elementer. Den ene er den milliard år, der er gået, og den anden er den verden, som nu står tilbage, Den niende verden. I begyndelsen fascinerede den fjerne fremtid mig. Det var fascinerende, at der var gået så enorme mængder af tid, men der er gået for meget tid. Lidt rundhåndet kan man sige, at vi har 10000-50000 års civilisation og kultur bag os. Af de årtusinder har vi nogenlunde styr på de sidste 3000 år. Nu rykker vi tiden 1.000.000.000 år frem. Der er ingen spor tilbage af vores tid, og verden er så forandret, at vi ikke længere kan sige, om Numenera faktisk udspiller sig på jorden eller bare påstår det. Numenera fortæller desuden også, at den er ruinerne af otte hyperavancerede samfund, og selv hvis hvert af disse samfund havde en levetid på en million år, ville der stadig kunne være 100 millioner år mellem hvert af dem (og dinosaurerne uddøde for 65 millioner år siden …).

At der har været otte civilisationer er Monte Cooks undskyldning for at have otte ‘kategorier’ af teknologi (en nano-baseret civilisation f.eks.), men hvem og hvad de var, forklares ikke, og ej heller, om de andre hyperteknologiske civilisationer har levet i ruinerne af hinanden, eller hvorledes de har formået at sameksistere, da Numenera nu er den niende verden, som er i ruinerne af de foregående. Der er ingen forklaring på, hvorledes disse foregående verdener har været eller hvorfor, der er ruiner af dem (er de tusind år gamle eller 800.000.000 år gamle?).

Så ligesom Numenera er en science fantasy-setting i en fjern fremtid for at dække både science fiction- og fantasy-genrerne og legitimere modernismer i en fantasy-setting, så er de en milliard år bare en legitimering for at anbringe en masse fremmede ting, og det er ikke noget, som Numenera anvender til noget.

Den niende verden er så der, hvor Numenera er nu, og det er der, hvor tingene udspiller sig. Denne verden er kun kortfattet beskrevet, og der er nogle få referencer, der angiver, at de samfund, vi har nu, er 1000 år gamle, og der er ikke rigtig nogen viden om, hvad der kom forinden. Det er den verden, der er at arbejde med.

Den ser sådan her ud:

NINTH WORLD HISTORY

To the people of the Ninth World, recorded history began about 900 years ago, with the work of learned scholars who organized themselves into what would later become the Aeon Priests. Before that time, humans lived in barbaric tribes and isolated farming villages.

No one knows how much time passed between the fall of the previous civilization and the rise of the Ninth World. Likewise, no one can agree on where Ninth Worlders came from. It’s clear that many residents of the prior worlds were not human, but perhaps some were.

The first Amber Pope organized the Aeon Priests into the Order of Truth about 400 years ago. At this time, the kingdoms of the Steadfast began to take the form that they have today, although wars, upheavals, and changes have come and gone since then (and more changes are likely in the future).

In the end, to scholars and broad thinkers, the petty squabbles and changes that took place during the last few centuries seem as nothing compared to the vast, unknowable past of Earth. This is likely part of the reason why people of the Ninth World don’t care much about history. (p.133)

Along the western coast lies the Steadfast, a collection of kingdoms and principalities with little in common except for a unifying religion. This religion, called by its adherents the Order of Truth (and by all else as the Amber Papacy), reveres the past and the knowledge of the ancients as understood by the enigmatic Aeon Priests. By decree of the Amber Pope, the Steadfast and the Order of Truth wage war with the lands to the north, believed by many to be enthralled by a secretive and mysterious cult called the Gaians. Nobles in the Steadfast are called to the Crusades, making war against the infidels with ever-stranger weapons discovered or devised by the priesthood. (p.134)

NAVARENE

Navarene is one of the largest and most prosperous kingdoms in the Steadfast. Disliked by all the other lands, the people of Navarene are thought of as aloof, difficult, and even arrogant. “Wealthy as a Navarene merchant” is a saying in the Steadfast that almost always has implied negative connotations.

The southern part of the kingdom is known for its rich farmland. Simple farmers and herders work for wealthy landowners who in turn pay fealty to a small number of aristocratic families, each of whom answers to the queen, who rules from her capital of Charmonde. Her palace is known as the Empiternal House, and at its center is a set of sealed chambers that Queen Armalu never leaves. To come and go, her court must pass through a series of airlocks and undergo a misting spray that removes any potential contaminants. This odd but careful behavior, coupled with a variety of strange treatments and procedures, has allowed Armalu to live for 253 years—so far.

Queen Armalu is known for being both shrewd and ruthless, and her kingdom prospers as a result, for she uses these traits to best her enemies and the foes of her people. As long as her subjects are obedient and efficient, they are treated well and with a fair hand.

Navarene forms the boundary between the north and the rest of the Steadfast. Thus, the northern portion of the kingdom, south of the Tithe River, holds many forts and war-castles that help defend this border from the dangers of the Beyond. Now that the Amber Pope has declared war on the mysterious lands to the north of the Cloudcrystal Skyfields, these fortresses are even more important. Queen Armalu has petitioned the Papacy to require the other eight kingdoms to pay to help maintain the bastions. The other rulers balk at funding Navarene’s military, feeling that Armalu is as likely to use it to invade them as she is to defend them from the Gaian invaders—should those infidels ever come. (p.137)

NAVARENE HEARSAY

Dark Whispers: Word from the Garrathol is that the Obelisk of the Water God has begun to glow at night with a faint yellow-green luminosity. No one knows the cause, but the glow isn’t constant; some believe it’s tied to the phase of the moon. Regardless, strange people have been seen holding rituals in the glowing obelisk’s light.

Missing Caravan: A merchant in Shallamas is looking for mercenaries or investigators to find a long-overdue caravan that was supposed to arrive from the north. Among its valuable goods, the caravan carried a trio of near-priceless silver statues said to be sacred to a primitive tribe living below the Cloudcrystal Skyfields.

Ghosts of the Westwood: Even the culovas seem terrified of a new, strange presence in the Westwood that drives them from a locale near the southern edge. Lumberjacks say that the “green ghosts of the wood” have finally begun exacting their revenge on everything they come upon.

THE WEIRD OF NAVARENE

Harbinger: An odd woman walks the edge of the Westwood, telling anyone who listens that within the next ten years, something will rise out of the forest and devour whole cities. Before she can get much of her story out, she disappears.

Blessed Event: A child born just weeks ago in a small village called Mirbel heals the wounds of any who touch her.

Black Skies: A flock of a thousand or more black vessa birds keeps returning to an ancient tower at the land’s western edge, no matter what is done to drive them off.

Biosynth Grove: Fifteen miles (24 km) west of Bodrov grows a small grove of transparent trees made of living synth. (p.144 – tekstboks)

THE AMBER MONOLITH

Calaval climbed the hill, his pet thuman at his side. Crumbling bits of ancient brick turned to gravel with each step. At the top, he saw the amber obelisk the old woman had told him about. It stretched impossibly into the sky. The reddish-yellow light of the old, tired sun caught in its angles high above the plain of ruin. Even after all these aeons, the machine at the heart of the obelisk still thrummed with power. Rings orbited the device, spinning with unearthly precision.

—Sacred Chronicle of High Father Calaval, Amber Pope and Founder of the Citadel of the Conduit and the Order of Truth

According to Calaval, the original Amber Pope (an office that gains its name from the floating obelisk), somewhere inside the Amber Monolith lies a teleportation device that gives access to a numenera edifice floating high above the earth. However, despite Calaval’s descriptions and explanations, no one has ever found it or even discovered the secret to accessing the monolith’s interior since he supposedly went inside and used the device 400 years ago.

Today, a fortress guards this sacred site and prohibits anyone from attempting to follow in High Father Calaval’s footsteps. The fortress is maintained by soldiers in the employ of the Order of Truth who owe no allegiance to Navarene. The queen tolerates their presence as a concession to the papacy.

The Amber Monolith floats 500 feet (152 m) above the ground and stands approximately 2,000 feet (600 m) tall. It floats above a region called the Plain of Brick, a wide expanse of worked stone many miles across. (p.144)

UXPHON

Along the western edge of the Black Riage mountain range lies Deathwater Canyon. A distinguishing characteristic of the canyon system is the network of huge ceramic pipes that run through it, exiting from the solid rock for a time and disappearing back into a canyon wall. The pipes are 10 to 15 feet (3 to 4.6 m) in diameter and sometimes split into two or three conduits at key junctures. No one has ever determined where the pipeline originates or terminates, but the pipes are said to be empty now, or mostly so.

The large city of Uxphon sits at the heart of Deathwater Canyon, amid a central core of the pipe system where something still flows. The 25,000 people that call Uxphon home use the pipes in two ways: the empty conduits have become thoroughfares, and the others radiate heat. The homes of the wealthy abut the warm pipes, which also provide hot and cold running water thanks to some recent ingenious engineering of small pipes.

Uxphon is a very old city. Seven families that have lived there the longest claim noble status and dwell in ancestral manors. Rumors say that some or all of the buildings have hidden chambers and subterranean levels where the nobles hide their debaucheries, treasures, and greatest secrets. Local thieves claim to have broken into the manors and seen some of these secret places, but most such boasts are probably lies. Of course, that doesn’t mean the hidden chambers don’t exist.

Uxphon has a large slave population, and the city’s slave market is renowned. It’s fueled by the gladiatorial arena, where well-trained slave combatants fight each other as well as captive beasts. Successful gladiators not only win their freedom but can also become wealthy in their own right. (p.176-177)

Don Lawrences tegneserie Storm er for mig et godt eksempel på blandingen af fantasy og science fiction. Der er ubegribelige teknologiske mysterier side om side med lav-teknologiske samfund og bizarre monstre – men også en historie om an astronaut fra vores tidsalder fanget i denne mærkelige fremtid, der kæmper for at finde en vej hjem.

Citaterne er mere eller mindre tilfældigt udvalgte afsnit fra grundbogen. Jeg forsøgte at læse mig gennem afsnittet, men jeg blev ved med at tabe interessen om at læse om endnu et kongerige og endnu en lille særhed ved kongeriget. Jeg er generelt ikke særligt tålmodighed, når det kommer til at læse om fiktionsriger i rollespil. Få formår at fange min interesse – Mystara, Fading Suns, Planescape, Transhuman Space, Nephilim, Whispering Vault, Delta Green – og Numenera er ikke blandt dem.

Beskrivelserne føles meget generiske og fortæller mig ikke om de store historier, om temaer eller emner. Tilbage er en verden, som er et påskud for at spille scenarier, hvor man udforsker cyphers, og hvordan de kan påvirke fiktionen, og det er en verden, som er et påskud for at løse et problem med folks hverdaglige pseudomiddelalder-fantasy-verden, og jeg oplever ikke Numeneras univers som et, der vil noget. Det efterlader mig med en tom fornemmelse. Sære verdener tiltaler mig ellers, f.eks. Planescape, som er en oplagt mærkelig verden.

Tilbage er så at finde en anden måde at tage systemet i brug på. Her tænker jeg en mytisk nordisk verden, hvor cyphers er rune-inskriptioner og lignende, og overalt er der levn af de farlige folk, alfer og dværge, hvis høje man kan udforske, og nogle steder kan man møde dem og erhverve sig kraftfulde skatte, der gør underfulde ting.

Endnu en Don Lawrence-illustration fra tegneserien Storm (der for resten fik tre album på dansk, nenlig #1, #2 og #7 i god klassisk, dansk tradition med at udgive album på kryds og tværs af den egentlige rækkefølge, som særligt fans af Thorgal har lidt under)

Om Morten Greis

Historiker, etnolog, brygger, fægter, rollespiller, science fiction entusiast History and Ethnology, brewer and fencer, roleplayer and science fiction enthusiast
Dette indlæg blev udgivet i Anmeldelse, Numenera, Rollespil, Rollespilartikler og tagget , , , . Bogmærk permalinket.

4 svar til [Numenera] Den tomme verden

  1. Johs siger:

    Du ved det sikkert bedre end mig, hr. rollespilssælger😀
    Men er der ikke lavet indtil flere rollespil som blander den græske antik med rumrejse science fiction?

    Fx Hellas: World of Sun and Stone

    – men jeg tror der er flere…

    Måske lugter det lidt af vikinge sci fi?

    Har du haft tjekket det/dem ud?

  2. Morten Greis siger:

    Joh, der er også Dogs of Hades til Savage Worlds/Suzerain, og der er selvfølgelig Spelljammer, der i sin alsidighed også indeholder nogle græske elementer samt vikinger med magiske drageskibe.
    Fading Suns har en viking-kultur, som er ret fascinerende, men ikke nogen antikke grækere (da Fading Suns er middelalderen i rummet og ikke antikken i rummet).

    Der er sikkert nogle flere med antikke grækere i rummet, men jeg kan ikke komme på dem i skrivende stund.🙂

  3. Johs siger:

    Jeg er ret vild med de der mash ups. Fx synes jeg at Firefly verden er sej. Måske fordi jeg faktisk ikke synes at sci fi er så fedt, men er ret vild med rumskibe😀

  4. Morten Greis siger:

    Firefly er ret niftigt.
    Jeg kan godt lide science fiction i dens mange former, men jeg synes, der er meget få uden for bøgernes verden, der formår at lave egentlig science fiction (Transhuman Space, Eclipse Phase f.eks. eller Shock: Social Science Fiction) ved enten at konstruere en vitterlig futuristisk verden eller ved at bruge science fiction til sociale kommentarer.

    Men mash-ups er også sjove, og Firefly er et rent fint univers (og besynderligt nok er westerns qua pulp-mediet forgængeren til den amerikanske science fiction-genre).

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