Get Your Asset in Gear

The Cypher System, as represented by The Strange and Numenera is versatile and simple. So simple I think, that some things can easily be overlooked. Take for example, the humble asset.

Need to get that artifact out of a deep pit? You can just climb down, grab it, and climb back out. What’s that you say, the thing masses 200 kg and the walls of the pit are greased synth? The GM calls for a Task Difficulty 7 climb check. maybe you need some help from that asset in your pack, rope.

    “…. but I do have my rope with me!”
Ilvarya Faelyn, a Clever Jack who Controls Beasts.
TRFP: Mysteries of the Ninth World, ep. 1.

Using the rope to help climb lowers that Task Difficulty 7 climb down to a, now possible, Task Difficulty 6. Not running solo are you? Have a teammate help with the rope and that 6 goes down to a Task Difficulty 5. Add two levels of effort and now you have a rollable Task Difficulty 3 with a Target Number of 9 on the dice. Oh, you’re specialized in climbing? So make that a Task Difficulty 1 climb now. Think you can roll a Target Number of 3 on the dice to climb out of a greased pit? Good thing you had assets to help.

The rules allow for two assets per action, they are a bit frustratingly vague as to what counts as an asset. I have elected to see this vagueness as freedom to use the world for assets.

The first place to look for assets is your PC’s abilities.  A player who Controls Beasts has an asset in combat, in movement, in survival, and even things like repair, if it is narratively possible. I.E., my monkey hands me tools. Someone who Consorts With the Dead also has a built in asset farm. I once had a NPC, a necromancer, who fought from within a mobile fortress of undead, I would call that a defensive asset.  Can you reduce gravity? That is an asset to movement, jumping, climbing, and lifting rolls.  Someone who Bears a Halo of Flame, would have an asset to cooking tasks, blacksmith tasks, or many other crafting tasks.  Do you Carry a Badge? That’s an asset anywhere laws are enforced, but not where laws are absent. Hedge magic is an asset to perform, cook, disguise, and other things.

One other source of assets is your cypher collection. Remember the artifact in the pit? Muscles alone might not get that out of the pit, but that gravity reducing cypher could help, even it only lifts 100 Kg, I would still call it an asset. Got some rocket boots and some super adhesive, yep assets. Cyphers are perhaps your most expansive range of possible assets, so get extra creative with them.

Your equipment list is a shopping cart of possible assets, get creative with your narrative to use what you have. The very first asset every Nano gets, is a book on Numenera. Other books and information devices are also knowledge assets, perhaps even a song or chant.  Your Spinner dressed to the nines? Oh yeah, that is an asset to talk their way into a club, or out of a problem. Anything on the special equipment list potentially is an asset. Brilliance Cloth would be an asset to disguise, persuasion, perform, and deceive checks. String, is an asset to fishing (and a thousand other things).

Cast off items could be assets. A spent torch is an asset for crafting ink, building a deadfall trap, or starting a fire. So you found a bag of old power cells, that’s a barter asset with the right NPC. Spent cyphers possibly still have a use, injectors could be refilled with venom or spices, to kill or cook with.  (Don’t mix those up.)

Don’t forget your friends. A player using skills can receive an asset from other players, but only if the other player is trained or specialized in the skill being used. But when doing something as basic as offering a hand over a wall, I feel this needs no training. Use a bit of judgment with this, but try to err on the PC’s side. Remember; “That’s not cheating, that’s awesome!”

An asset might take time to use, so be sure you use the right asset for the job. A book could add 30 min to identify a piece of Numenera. An expanding cypher might move a rock, but takes 10 min to do it. Keep the time to use the asset in mind when dramatically appropriate.

The idea of an asset in combat is even less defined, but things like scopes for ranged attacks come to mind. Direct Task Difficulty reduction from assets in combat, is limited with special items to their descriptions.  For instance a shield is specifically an asset to speed defense.  Situational assets, such as high ground, should be judiciously applied. Most of the things your companions could do as assets, are covered under cooperative actions rules and provide respectable additions to attack and damage.

From the GM’s chair, assets are also an endless source of GM intrusions. If it is a thing, the thing can fail, or go badly, in so many ways. If the asset is situational, say high ground, high ground can be unstable. Anytime a cypher is involved, it’s nature can be turned into a GM intrusion. Gravity was expected to be less, now your artifact is sinking into the ground.

I hope you have a better understanding of the humble asset and will try and include them in your game more. Why roll without an asset? Get your assets in your game, everyone needs a bit of help now and then.

1 thought on “Get Your Asset in Gear

Leave a Reply