Amid a busy schedule of gaming releases this week, inXile launched their latest video game, Torment: Tides of Numenera. I reviewed the game, and also shared some additional thoughts in a quick video on the project and on our podcast; peruse any of those articles, and I think you’ll be able to tell that I’m an enthusiastic fan of the setting. That’s because Numenera, the tabletop role-playing game upon which the video game is based, is an absolute treasure trove of stellar world-building – a virtual master class in how to defy expectations while still keeping a fiction grounded and understandable. 

Since its launch in 2013, Numenera has continued to grow its universe and whether you’re a tabletop RPG player or not, it’s worth exploring. If you’re a fan of heady, unusual, speculative fiction, this is a world that should be on your radar. And if you discovered Numenera through the recently released video game, these are the books that can let you continue your adventures into the broader universe of Numenera’s Ninth World. 

Numenera Corebook
By Monte Cook

If you are interested in jumping in to try Numenera as a tabletop RPG, the original corebook is your best option. This massive tome includes the full rules for both players and game masters to run Numenera adventures. In addition to rules on character creation, running game sessions, and all the equipment and artifacts that you might need, a large bulk of the Corebook is devoted to establishing the setting of the Ninth World. Here, we learn that humanity has risen again on Earth, a billion years in the future. At least eight previous great civilizations have risen and fallen in the vast gulf of time between now and then, and the remnants of those sprawling (sometimes intergalactic or interdimensional) civilizations still litter the Earth – these strange leftover items of science and technology are called numenera. 

The Corebook introduces the Steadfast and its nearby surrounding, a great hub area for any Numenera game that is filled with bizarre creatures, detailed cities, and numerous influential organizations. You can discover strange places like the Beanstalk, an ancient tower with a “stalk” that rises, apparently all the way into planetary orbit. Or face the horror of the Iron Wind – a swarm of insane nanites that surge across the surface, devouring and warping everything they touch. Even if you just hosted sessions in and around this these core locales, you could keep your gaming group busy for years. But there’s certainly places further afield that afford even more curious opportunities. 

If you’ve never played a tabletop RPG before, and you want a less intimidating entry point, I’d also recommend the Starter Set box, which includes premade characters, summarized rules, and an adventure to get you going. 

Ninth World Guidebook
By Monte Cook and Shanna Germain

If you’re intrigued by the potential of locations only hinted at in the Corebook, the Ninth World Guidebook is your next stop. While it remains focused on terrestrial locales, this setting book highlights hundreds of new characters, lands, and creatures to uncover. 

Among many wonders, the Ninth World Guidebook takes visitors to the Frozen South, and a strange oasis city there called the Invisible Vale, a shielded paradise in the midst of the snow where people have settled in relative comfort. Or discover the Seraph Tempest, a mountain-sized machine that wanders the wastes. Elsewhere, encounter the Triumvirate, an enigmatic group of entities – three androgynous faces that hover ceaselessly over an ever-calm inland sea. Or dare the horrors of the Red Kingdom of Vralk, and find a culture built around cruelty, where the fear of pain is the primary motivator rather than wealth or accomplishment. 

The Ninth World Guidebook is filled with new places to visit, and due to the nature of strange science and technology inherent to the Ninth World setting, it’s easy to transplant a group of characters to one of these new locations with a portal, a strange conveyance, or anything else the game master might imagine.  

Torment: Tides of Numenera – The Explorer’s Guide
By Shanna Germain

Perhaps even now you are in the process of falling in love with the unusual characters, cities, and dynamics of the Torment video game. If you’re a player of Torment who simply wants to continue their adventures with the Last Castoff, or you don’t even want to play the tabletop game, but you just want a deeper glimpse into the lore of Torment, this is the book for you. 

The Torment Explorer’s Guide highlights most of the major characters and locations mentioned in the video game, and then blossoms outward to describe all sorts of details that lie beyond the scope of that adventure. Yes, you’ll find new descriptions and fleshing out of party members like Matkina and Aligern, and you’ll also encounter extensive descriptions of the strange living city called the Bloom, alongside a tour of Sagus Cliffs and its many districts. But you’ll also uncover new discoveries about the surrounding land, like the Black Cube – a hellish prison where everyone has amnesia about the nature of their crimes, or the city of Archopalasia, where an ancient machine regularly copies and recycles all its residents, turning their old bodies into goo that powers the city. 

If your main connection to Numenera is through the new video game, I recommend snagging a copy of both this book and the Numenera Corebook. A gaming group could have a lot of fun taking on the roles of other Castoffs of the Changing God that were not mentioned in the video game, and setting out onto a nearby quest. 

Next Page: Want to travel beyond the bounds of the Ninth World? Visit outer space, the deep oceans, or even other dimensions