Character Creation


Creating characters in Numenera is meant to be quick and easy (with options and customizable detail for those who like to tinker). It’s built, in fact, like constructing a sentence that describes your character. In prior articles, I have mentioned that each character has a type, a descriptor, and a focus. The sentence looks like this:

I am a [descriptor] [type] who [focus].

In other words, descriptor is an adjective, type is a noun, and focus is a verb. So you might say, “I am a tough glaive who controls beasts.” Or perhaps “I am a clever nano who consorts with the dead.” Or even, “I am a graceful jack who explores dark places.” This means that foci always have interestingly constructed names like, “Commands Mental Powers,” or “Wields Gravity Itself.” It’s odd at first, but once you’re used to it, it’s fun.


Even though type is in the middle of our sentence, you start there. Because the noun is the anchor of the sentence, right? As I’ve stated earlier, there are only three types: glaives, nanos, and jacks. Your type gives a basis for what your stats will be, and what you’re initially trained in and good at. Your type also helps determine your background and starting equipment.

  • Glaives are the warriors of the Ninth World.  Glaives can wear heavy armor and wield massive weapons, or they can fight with light weapons and armor so they can move quickly.
  • Nanos are wizard-like characters who harness the numenera to work miracles. These miracles, called esoteries, walk the line somewhere between machine and magic, depending on the nano’s particular skillset.
  • Jacks are named after jacks-of-all-trades. They have a lot of tricks up their sleeves, which makes them skilled at a little bit of everything.


Descriptors are pretty straightforward. There will be a dozen or so, and they just tell you something about your character’s talents, personality, or particular way of doing things. They might be something straightforward like “strong” or something a bit more nuanced like “sneaky.” These provide a few skills and things of that nature, and perhaps modify your stats and starting equipm. Descriptors also help define how you got involved with the other PCs and got to the point where you start your first adventure.


Foci are numerous, and really define your character, making it something really special. Some of these are like professions or areas training, making it clear that your character is a leader, a weapons master, or a rugged wilderness wandering. Others, however, are almost like superpowers, like wielding fire or creating illusions. Foci are some of the best expressions of the numenera in the game, and might arise from the use of nanotechnology, genetic experimentation, mutations, or any of a number of other sources. Foci grant your character new, specific, and unique abilities. They also present you with a way to have a special link with one or more of the other PCs in your game.

Those are the “three choices” of character creation. Once you’ve got an idea of what they are, it’s pretty fast. I’ve watched someone create a Numenera character in about 5 minutes. The three choices basically determine everything about your character–although as I said, those that like to tinker will have a lot of customizing options if you’re into that. In future articles, I’ll give you an overview of stats and how they work (it’s likely pretty different than what you’re used to), skills and abilities, and more.


In addition, I’ll be having everyone select a Seed to base their character around. This seed will let me tie your character and their interests into the plot and secrets of the campaign. Finally, we’ll come up with a reason why the octopus court trusts you enough to have you assist with the search for Prince Alloor’roo, was it because you owe them for saving your life or because you’ve proved yourself an ally of Octopus-kind in the past? Seeds marked with * can be taken by multiple PCs. These seeds will replace the “Initial Link to the Starting Adventure” provided by your Descriptor.

  1. You will end up knowing someone in a key location. Is this person a close friend, a sworn enemy or a family member?
  2. You have amnesia and can’t remember six months from a year ago, but you have dreams of a strange island.
  3. You’re searching for a cure for a disease or for a path to immortality.                 
  4. You're a member of the Redfleet, a crew of vagabonds, thieves, scientists, and other miscreants who sail the high and low seas in search of natural treasure. For the most part, they show public disdain for numenera they find, but aren’t above selling it to the highest bidder. The Redfleet are based in the Ancuan city of Kamparin.                                
  5. You're a member of Sarracenians, a widespread group of scholars who study and worship plants, in particular unusual and carnivorous plants and plantlike predators.
  6. You’re from Glavis, a city in Ancuan, and are dedicated to the local Glavis deities Relia and Bianes.
  7. *You’re a member of a pirate family who have menaced ships in the Sea of Secrets        
  8. You're a member of the Merchant Fleet of Ghan. The sailors of the fleet are often called Sternmen, but despite the name, most of them are female. It’s a fleet tradition to never leave dock with more men than women aboard. To do so is considered bad luck.
  9. You’re a scholar who has dedicated yourself to studying the creatures, ruins and numenera found in the depths of the oceans of the Ninth World.
  10. You’re a member of the Cold Grasp, an Assassin/Thief’s guild based in Iscobal
  11. You’re an Octopus trapped in a human body. Requires you to take the Weird Descriptor.
  12. You’re a member of the Order of Truth, searching for your mentor who had ventured into the Sea of Secrets looking for a cure for a strange disease.

Character Creation Caveats:

I’ll allow multiple PCs to have the same Type, obviously, but for the Descriptor and Foci, I’m going to limit them to one PC each, which shouldn’t be an issue since there are so many more of them. I’m going to allow all the Descriptors and Foci from the Player’s Guide/Core book, but only some from the Character Options book. The Descriptors and Foci available from the Character Options book that I’m allowing are below:

Descriptors Available from Character Options


Clumsy             Craven              Doomed           Driven               Empathic          Exiled               Foolish
Guarded           Hardy               Hideous            Honorable         Inquisitive         Naive                Perceptive        Resilient            Strong              Tongue Tied      Weird   


Location Based

Ghanic              Iscobean           Ancuani


Racial Option


Foci Available from Character Options

Consorts With the Dead                       Constantly Evolves (Mutant Only)
Defends the Weak                                 Exists in Two Places at Once
Explores Deep Waters                          Fights Dirty
Fuses Mind and Machine                     Hunts Abhumans
Metes Out Justice                                  Moves Like a Cat
Needs No Weapon                                Never Says Die
Performs Feats of Strength                 Possesses a Shard of the Sun
Sees Beyond                                          Separates Mind From Body
Siphons Power                                      Stands Like a Bastion
Throws With Deadly Accuracy