Why Monte Cook’s Numenera seems to make sense for Brian Fargo’s spiritual successor to Planescape: Torment
There was a fair amount of buzz yesterday (including a nice interview on Rock, Paper Shotgun) that Brian Fargo would be making a spiritual successor to Planescape: Torment the Baldur’s Gate-like isometric overhead RPG from the 90’s in which you played some sort of blue zombie dude who had lost all of his memories, could not be killed and was followed around by a smart-mouthed floating skull. It was ridiculous. And amazing. My friend Rich and I used to walk around highschool (and after) and just say, ‘Updated my journal’ all the time. This, I’m sure, was not annoying or confusing to those around us at all. At any rate, the game was a big deal to me, so I’m glad that it’s getting some sort of follow-up.
So what, you might ask, would be the setting for a spiritual successor to Planescape: Torment? Planescape, as a setting, has been abandoned, more or less, by Wizards for a long time now. According to (the universally trustworthy) Wikipedia, the line only ran from 1994 until 1998, so it has been 15 years since what little relevance the setting ever had. The answer, it seems, came in the form of Numenera, the currently-in-progress RPG system and setting from RPG veteran Monte Cook. This intrigued me thoroughly. I mean, I pledge some of my money to help make Numenera happen (while Mr. Cook would have been fine without my money, given the final tally), so I’m at least partially invested in this thing. So, while Numenera is not out yet I decided to look at the official web page to see why or if Numenera would make a good setting for the Planescape: Torment pseudo-sequel, as suggested by Fargo in the aforementioned RPS interview.
And it seems like it would be. In fact, it seems like it shares some DNA with Planescape. Not that it was directly derived or inspired by it, but they seem to be coming from similar creative spaces. You see, Planescape was the place at the middle of all of the Dungeons & Dragons worlds, a hodgepodge of ecletic and interesting creatures, elementals and forces. Similarly, Numenera is, according to the site, a world “filled with the remnants of the former worlds” (it is currently set in the Ninth World) and – as such – contains a vast amount of things that might be considered anachronistic or out-of-place in a traditional fantasy setting (ie, nanotechnology). It sounds like Numenera is a place where the unknown is technological instead of magical, but it is the same sort unbridled energy that the settings seem to share that I think makes this look like a good fit. Numenera is a setting, according to the site, where interesting and strange technologies are out in the world to be found, but they cannot just be purchased from a shop in the city (as opposed to a more traditional high-technology settings). On his web site, Cook sums up (while not answering the same question) why this is a good fit for a Planescape: Torment follow-up: “In the end, what I wanted was a setting with wild possibilities,” Cook wrote. “I wanted upside down cities, ships that sail across solidified oceans, creatures that exist on more than one level of reality at a time, and so on. I wanted the source of power to be strange and mysterious, and I never wanted that mystery to fade with regulation or definition.”
I mean, yeah. I’ll write more both about Monte Cook’s Numenera and Brian Fargo’s game based thereon once I have more information about each.