The Ninth World Bestiary for the Numenera role-playing game is a book that I’ve been looking forward to ever since I started playing Monte Cook’s game last year.
One of the many qualities of the RPG that originally drew me in was all the strange creatures that were featured in the core book.
From the horrific giant centipede-like creature of the Scuticmorph, to the Nibovian wife who creates a transdimensional rift in her womb giving an ultraterrestrial being access to our world; the creatures in the core book were weird, unique and fantastic. You could easily write adventures centered on any one of them.
So it’s no surprise that the Ninth World Bestiary packs in more beasts and throws in more wonder and weirdness to a world already brimming with it.
There are some truly bizarre and extraordinary creatures in the book, both of organic and inorganic origins that will inspire. The book not only does a good job in describing them, with the assistance of some great art work, but also gives some flavorful background and ideas on how to introduce them into adventures.
One of my favorite creatures is the Decanted, an automaton with a preserved human head featured in its chest cavity. The Decanteds’ interests lie in obtaining attractive humans either by kidnapping them or paying a bounty hunter to hunt them down.
An attack the Decanted can use against its enemies consists of a “sharp stream” of liquified air which causes the victim to lose a turn and suffer some devastating damage.
Another favorite is the Latos, a giant and mysterious creature made of some kind of alloy with a transparent spherical head containing a lost and abandoned city. One of the details provided for the Latos is an idea for an adventure involving the players attempt to locate an artifact which leads them to a lost city contained in a Latos’ head.
And then there’s the Dream Sallow, a creature that appears to be a great tree but sucks the life out of unfortunate adventurers who want to a take a quick nap under a harmless looking tree.
There’s more than enough horrific beasts in the book as well with the white multi-mouthed Slidikin taking center stage with its dreadful appearance and its talk of “the hideous game.”
There’s a plethora of exotic and dreadful creatures to throw at your players, but you may get caught up JUST reading the book like I did. It’s a good book to read about all the unusual creatures that populate an equally unusual world, and you’re not limited to the creatures in the book.
There’s a chapter devoted to creating your own beast of wonder. It may seem like a lot, but Cook breaks it down by telling would-be-creators that it all comes down to the level which dictates the creature’s hit points, attacks and skills, then going from there to appearance, modifications, etc. It’s a pretty straightforward and easy process to understand.
Probably the most important lesson I got out of that chapter, and the book for that matter, was to create AND vary combat attacks instead of the run-of-the-mill sword/bite/laser/club attack. The weirdness of Numenera not only comes from the time, environment, people, cultures and creatures of the world, but also how beings react to one another in both a hostile and friendly environment.
No two creatures, especially in the Ninth World, are going to have the same reaction to a humanoid walking toward them.
The adventurer could find himself in the belly of a carnivorous plant, or having a pleasant conversation with an inhuman cosmic-like being, or even maybe find themselves decapitated…with their head forever preserved in the chest cavity of an automaton.