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Clarke's Third Law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

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Numenera is a Science Fantasy Tabletop Roleplaying Game set on Earth one billion years in the future, after the fall of many, many future civilizations. A brainchild of the veteran d20 System designer Monte Cook, the game was crowd-funded via Kickstarter in August and September of 2012 and released on August 13, 2013. In April 2013, before the game was officially released, a separate Kickstarter campaign raised money for the February 2017 licensed computer RPG, Torment: Tides of Numenera.

In the game's setting, eight great civilizations have risen and fallen, with the setting being what is called the "Ninth World". Although the current civilization is at a medieval level, the eight previous civilizations have left behind innumerable technological artefacts — machines collectively called numenera. To most people, the numenera are curious remnants of the past that are rarely understood, sometimes useful, often dangerous and usually thought of as magic. In the Ninth World, the future is built with the bones of the past — a past that is mostly unknown, yet always present.

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Like most independent games of its era, Numenera focuses more on roleplaying and narrative than on combat and powergaming. As the player's guide itself says: "The key to playing Numenera is the story. The way to "win" this game is to come away with a great tale." Using the Cypher system, characters are created by having the player fill in three blanks in a simple sentence: "I am a (descriptor) (type) who (focus)." The descriptor is an adjective that describes the character, the type is the character class, and the focus is a verb that also describes the character in some way. Each of the three variables have their own effects on the character; for instance, a Tough Glaive who Rides the Lightning gains various bonuses to defensive stats, is skilled at physical combat, and can control lightning in various ways. Every challenge in the game, including combat, is treated the same way mechanically: a d20 is rolled against a set difficulty level, and if the die beats it, the player succeeds at the task. The player can influence the difficulty level by expending Experience Points or Cast from Hit Points, and the Game Master can intrude on player actions and cause unforeseen difficulties; the intention is to allow storytelling to flow organically from the system in this way.

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Following a successful Kickstarter campaign, Numenera is set to receive a conversion to Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, in the form of a series of sourcebooks titled Arcana of the Ancients.

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This game provides examples of:

  • Abandoned Mine: Guran's old bauble mines are no longer used and are firmly boarded up at each of their two main entrances.
  • Absent-Minded Professor: A textbook case in the form of Sir Arthour Torein, in-universe author of the (out-of-universe) Technology Compendium. The introduction to the book characterizes it as "Like the man it is named after, [...] informative and more than a little dangerous."
    Sir Arthour: [of the numenera] Only the most learned and intelligent among us should tamper with it. Oh, uh, now where did I put that container of flesh-reshaping nanobots?
  • Academy of Adventure: The University of Doors. Located in its own pocket universe and requiring that prospective students fashion their own keys to enter, among other things, the University teaches its students everything they might need to know about doors and portals, from lockpicking, to architecture, to wormholes, to password recovery.
  • Acid Attack: If pressed, a void snail defends itself with acidic spittle able to eat through almost any substance.
  • Affably Evil: Darcadian Everlar is friendly, smiling, even-tempered, and prefers that others use his name as if they were all friends and equals. He is also a tyrant who constantly schemes to improve his position and seeks to reunite the entire Frozen South under his rule.
  • After the End: Taken Up to Eleven. Highly advanced civilizations have risen at least eight times already, and done whatever such civilizations do — collapsed, moved out, transcended their physical forms — leaving behind a world practically made of unaging ruins.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot:
    • Disassemblers are artificially intelligent automatons that seem to have gone mad at some point. Now they act erratically—sometimes attacking creatures, sometimes ignoring them, sometimes destroying what they come across, sometimes wandering aimlessly.
    • Mozck is an insane (at least by the standards of a Ninth World human) AI, far superior in intelligence and capability than most other machine minds created—or self-evolved—before or since. A fault within its mind gives it the capacity for both godlike brilliance and demonlike rapaciousness.
  • Alien Abduction: Calramite dissenters sometimes abduct humans and other Earth entities and put them through mental and physical tests. Those who survive testing usually forget the experience afterward.
  • Alien Geometries: One of the ancient worlds could fold space and play with physics, so this is not too hard to find:
    • One of the starter adventures in the corebook, Three Sanctums describes three towers in distant parts of the Steadfast. Each has two conduit hallways that run directly to the other two when walked down, despite the conduit ending a short way from the tower. Taken Up to Eleven with a black cube in one tower, which somehow either contains or links to a Dyson Sphere of the red giant star Antares.
    • The Violet Vale from the Ninth World Guidebook, and the official adventure named after it, manages to do this with just flowers. The reglae plants are purple flowers of extradimensional origin, bend time and space as they grow, and then grow through the rifts. So any unplanned step near them can turn into a semi-random teleport to another part of the plant, many miles (or even years!) away.
  • Alluring Anglerfish: Spiny schisans, eel-like predators found in the ocean depths, are a variation. While they do have a glowing lure at the tip of a stalk on their chin, their main way of attracting prey is with the kite-shaped, red and yellow fin at the end of their tail. Through their low-level telepathy, they make it seem like something a viewer swears they recognize from somewhere, luring them in to investigate and stumble into the schisan's mouth.
  • Alternate Calendar: The Ninth World Guidebook reveals that there are a number of calendars in play, but the most used one is the creation of the Aeon Priests — 313 days that are 28 hours long, divided into 10 months of 31 days each (310) and the last 3 days serving as a buffer between years. Comparatively, the year is still 52 weeks long, but the weeks only last for 6 days rather than 7 days. And even though the days are 28 hours long, time is kept rather loosely via the position of the sun rather than an actual number.
  • The Alternet: The Datasphere is the worldwide wireless network that connects a wide variety of devices, satellites and other machines to store and exchange data.
  • Always Chaotic Evil:
    • The varakith, giant insectoid warriors that were believed to be mindless monsters until someone managed to translate their singing. The first song translated was a bloodthirsty chant that gloried in their slaughter of other races, and others didn't get any better. Their culture views the world as a giant gladiatorial arena, with the implication they were created specifically for gladiator games.
    • The yovok are motivated primarily by the desire to kill for pleasure, and are so disorganized that the only way they get things done is by yelling at each other until one gets their way.
    • Abhumans in general are abhuman rather than mutants because their ancestors chose to become violent and cruel rather than to maintain their humanity.
    • Anything with "Nibovian" in its name, and Ultraterrestrials in general, can generally be assumed to be incredibly unpleasant with little clear motive.
  • Amazing Technicolor World: The surface of the Lambent Fields is covered in multicolored dust that shines even in the dimmest light.
  • Ambiguously Human:
    • Quanon, a roughly humanoid creature, has undergone so many machine enhancements and biomechanical replacements that it's hard to imagine what he looked like originally or if he even started out human.
    • The Sorcan is a man so riddled with implementations and upgrades that it's almost impossible to tell whether he truly is—or ever was—human.
  • Anti-Hoarding: There is a soft cap on how many Ciphers (basically one-shot magical effects) a character can carry at once, with consequences if too many are in one place (description is left to the GM, but he is very much encouraged to not be subtle). Combined with the explicit instructions for the Game Master to be generous about Ciphers specifically, this is designed to counter the RPG players default urge to hoard every resource they obtain indefinitely.
  • Apocalyptic Log: The section on the Ausren Woods in the core Discovery rulebook is presented as the journal of Temallis Crost, who ate the purple fruit of a tree that only grows in the forest, and ended up growing roots from his body that burrowed into the nearby soil before the journal ends.
  • Applied Phlebotinum: Numenera come in four different types:
    • Cyphers: Old devices that once served a purpose, perhaps as part of a larger machine. With a little jury-rigging, an adventurer can make it do something useful, like turning an ancient battery into a bomb. They break down or are consumed during use, and carrying too many at once can be bad for your health.
    • Oddities: Devices that are usually useless for an adventurer, and may have no discernible function at all. Their supernatural/superscientific properties make them interesting to scholars and collectors, which makes them great Vendor Trash. That said, one or two specific items might turn out to be a case of It May Help You on Your Quest in the hands of very savvy and resourceful explorers.
    • Artifacts: Straightforward gear, like weapons, armor, tools, etc. Unlike cyphers, they're not likely to break down anytime soon, though some might run out of power and need recharging if you use them too often. Most artifacts are jury-rigged from pieces of larger machines and modified for use as combat gear. Artifacts often invoke the maxim, "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a big gun".
    • Discoveries: A catch-all term for numenera that are immediately useful, but not entirely suited to be used as adventuring gear. An example would be a functional underground mass transit network.
  • The Archmage: The Telluram wields incredible powers, like unto the greatest of nanos. Able to reshape matter and wield energy as a tool, the Telluram might be one of the more powerful beings in the Ninth World.
  • The Ark: Humans came to Urvanas from Earth about five hundred years ago in a vessel called the Ark, and then couldn't find a way to leave again. Legends say that the settlers came aboard the Ark because an authority or entity on Earth called the Clamant had marked them all for death; fleeing to another world was their only option for survival.
  • Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy: The Nusmen are a violent group that believes in using force and intimidation, and they justify their actions based on their superior genetics.
  • Artificial Gravity:
    • The Sunken Palace in Rarmon, home of the Empress of Pytharon, can rotate in any direction and has its own gravity. The sphere can be rotated so that the entrance is concealed underground and the floors are perpendicular to the ground, with no discomfort to anyone within.
    • A machine keeps all creatures and objects within Calram at a weight slightly in excess of Earth gravity.
  • Asskicking Equals Authority: The people of the underwater city of Ahmas firmly believe this: in their society, might and combat prowess are the only ways to achieve status and power, and their king is thus the best and deadliest fighter of their lot.
  • Asteroid Thicket: The Phaeton Halo is a wheel-shaped region around the sun, created by a shattered ancient structure, relatively dense with tumbling fragments of synth.
  • Attack Drone: Once activated, a vuechi follows within 1 m of the user and attacks anyone or anything within immediate range that attacks them.
  • Authority in Name Only: Jshang, the Order of Truth Archbishop of the Beyond, lives in Malevich, has never been to the Beyond, and has no interest in trying to govern what he calls 'the wild and savage lands filled with undisciplined hordes of abhumans and a few half-mad Aeon Priests willing to risk their lives sifting the ruins for trinkets'.
  • Awesome Personnel Carrier: The war chariot is a multi-wheeled enclosed vehicle of shining synthsteel with wide windows for passengers to look out. The vehicle can carry up to nine passengers, who can use their control surfaces to fire an integrated weapon from the vehicle's surface (including two energy ray emitters, two missile launch silos, and two emplacements throwing slugs of pure force).
  • A World Half Full: Sure, it's a Scavenger World After the End... er, eight ends, but you're going to reclaim the secrets of the past to save the future.
  • Baby Planet: Branu's Kiss is a habitable bubble of blue-green water about 48 km in diameter, tumbling between the sun and Earth.
  • Back-to-Back Badasses: Choosing the "Wields Two Weapons at Once" focus allows players to do this with another PC, granting them both defense bonuses.
  • Bad with the Bone: If called on to fight, Sallian Orsay wields a long sword made of honed whale bone.
  • Bag of Holding: A cypher bag can contain cyphers (as long as they aren't too big) that do not count against a character's limit.
  • Barbarian Tribe: The Jaekel people of Aras Island want nothing to do with the nearby kingdom of Ancuan, revere a bloodthirsty, animalist nature above all things, and have turned their bodies into highly specialised killing machines.
  • Bare-Fisted Monk: Renowned for his otherworldly hand-to-hand combat skills, Kollos claims to have found a way to harness the power of the universe within his cells, channelling this energy into a lethal fighting style called fistprayers. He and his followers preach about creating a more harmonious, safer world.
  • Base on Wheels: The town of Umdera is periodically disassembled and hauled to a new location where it is rebuilt. The longest the elders recall the village ever staying in one place is ten years and the briefest just a few months.
  • Battle Trophy: Margr wear trophies of their dead opponents and stink of rotting meat at all times.
  • Bazaar of the Bizarre: Hidden Rarrow is home to a significant marketplace of taboo, forbidden or dangerous goods.
  • Bears Are Bad News: Ravage bears are blind, tusked predators that can track you via smell and hug you to death.
  • Beast Man:
    • Margr, a species of abhumans with goatlike body parts. Individual margr vary greatly in appearance, so one might have a full goat head while another just has horns and a third has goatlike legs.
    • Animalistic surgery is common among the Jaekel people of Aras Island. Bandages and odd healing accouterments are frequent sights, and claws, teeth, horns and wings are prized body enhancements.
  • Beast of Battle: Stratharian war moths were bred for battle in a prior world.
  • Beneath the Earth: The Inner Sea, also called the Beneath, is a massive worldwide ocean buried between the upper crust and the mantle.
  • Betrayal Insurance: Rumour has it that their numenera devices allow the recruiters of the Milavian warlord Tarvesh to implant a failsafe in the recruit's mind. Should they prove traitorous, the psychic imprint will destroy the mind from within.
  • Big Creepy-Crawlies:
    • The scutimorph, which look like twelve-foot-long centipedes that wrap themselves around trees. Oddly, they're actually peaceful unless you bother them. Circumstances will likely lead to you having to bother them.
    • Otolins resemble large-bodied insects with wings made of cut synth and cast-off automaton pieces. They range from half the size of a human to more than triple the size.
  • Big Dumb Object: The Ninth World is littered with them, the Amber Monolith featured in the cover art and intro fluff being one of the most prominent.
  • Big Fun: Harcorth Munn, mayor of Dynafel, is a well-liked, well-known, rotund man; no stranger to the city's bars, casinos and brothels.
  • Bigger on the Inside: The so-called empty pockets of the Jutting Remnants have h a hollow interior larger than the exterior would indicate.
  • Bio-Armor: The living armor sheath is an organic material that is worn over normal skin and adheres to the wearer's body shape.
  • Bird People: Murdens are hunched abhumans who look like enormous ravens with spindly arms rather than wings. Their skin is covered in shiny black down, and their huge black eyes are perched above a sharp, dirty yellow beak.
  • Bittersweet Ending: "The Amber Monolith" short story. Calaval discovers and activates a teleporter to an orbital station and finds the information he needs to join the Aeon Priests, but his beloved thuman Feddik dies of exposure to the Iron Wind during the journey to the eponymous Amber Monolith.
  • Bizarrchitecture: One glance is all that is needed to realise that no human built the Empty Embassies. Twisted, asymmetrical and grotesque, they are covered in an array of strange crystalline formations slowly growing and spreading like a pox along each embassy's outer surface.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: Some of the strange flora and fauna of the Ninth World isn't just from scientific experiments from the past, but also because some came from other worlds or even other dimensions.
  • Bizarre Alien Sexes:
    • The skeane — an alien species vaguely resembling emperor penguins with fluke-like, bony tails and six limbs, four ending in seal-like flippers and the front two in webbed hands — have three sexes: egg givers, who produce a small egg once a year; egg takers, who take it into their bodies and brood it until it's ready to hatch; and feeders, who feed the young by regurgitating a special nutrient fluid. These sexes are physically identical to each other in almost all respects, with the only occupation being the presence or absence of white nodules underneath their tails: givers have two, takers four and feeders none.
    • Otolins have no fixed number of sexes, though five genders are most common. Four of those are usually required to bring a new otolin to birth. The sexes don't map congruently to human ones, and the names otolins use don't translate well either.
  • Blade Below the Shoulder: Mastigophores can instantly transform their hands into long, barbed whips whenever they wish.
  • The Blank: Sathosh are gaunt abhumans that have a long tentacle where their face should be.
  • Blinded by the Light: Lantern eels have glowing eyes that dazzle prey before their maws tear out prey's throat.
  • Blood Knight:
    • Margr live lives of terrible violence, killing anything they find out of rage, sport or lust. They breed and mature quickly, however, so their numbers never seem to diminish. They travel in small bands led by the strongest and most savage.
    • Varakith see the world as one big gladiatorial arena in which they must constantly prove themselves. Even a respected combatant is still a foe to be overcome eventually—long-term alliance is not possible.
  • Bloody Murder: The blood barm's main attack is spraying out blood bubbles that are filled with long, sharp seeds and burst on impact.
  • Body Horror: Several monsters in the setting. Certain phenomena are known to mutate humans and beasts, almost always into freakish things with too many tentacles and orifices.
  • Born into Slavery: The children of slaves are born into slavery.
  • Born Under the Sail: The Redfleets, an organization of traders, explorers and small-time pirates. They revere the ocean, and dedicate their lives to exploring it both by ship and submarine to discover its many treasures. They have no interest in man-made things, however, and focus exclusively on natural treasures — oceanic formations, islands, sea creatures and so on.
  • Bow and Sword, in Accord: The weapon proficiency systems of most games is cut down to "light, medium, and heavy." Starting Jacks and Glaives have this trope.
  • Brain Food: If anyone comes close to the Brain Devourer, it sprouts bladed tentacles that lop off heads and siphon out brains.
  • Brain in a Jar:
    • Abellor no longer has a human body and exists as a brain within the interior of a powerful automaton that he controls.
    • The brain of Abipona Scar, a crew member of the derelict Vlerryn, has been preserved inside a solid crystal matrix. From the brain’s perspective, it's locked in a dark room, unable to move or speak. As time goes on, this becomes more and more oppressive, eventually driving the brain completely insane.
  • Brain Uploading: The only way to get into the Thon Iridescence (a nigh-infinite virtual world powered by a black hole) is to let the scanning beam deployed by the docking station scan your body, disintegrate it, and create a virtual construct within itself.
  • Brown Note: Cromulek communicate with each other with intense transmission bursts, which are highly disruptive to most organic minds and nervous systems.
  • The Caligula: Holiva the First, king of Thaemor, lost his sanity long ago. He doesn't see the potential of his lands or his people, and spends his waking hours talking to his own hand, which urges him toward only one thing: the restoration of the 'shadow herd', which it describes as a group of dark, formless creatures, born of a wicked mind older than Thaemor, that will help Thaemor become what it once was if they're freed. Holiva pools all of his country's resources toward this single purpose.
  • Call a Smeerp a "Rabbit": A billion years in the future, all the animals we know in the 21st century are long gone. The text might talk about rats, deer, flies or ravens, but the animals being described are at least slightly different from the creatures we think of today.
  • Canine Companion:
    • Seskii, which resemble large dogs, may become particularly devoted to anything and anyone, including other seskii, humans, statues that seem like creatures, and places they call home. Intelligent and loyal companions, seskii can be trained in various methods of hunting, stealth and attack.
    • Thumans look like large hounds, with an almost human face. They are intelligent and affable companions, extremely loyal to their masters. Thumans are almost never encountered in the wild; they actively seek the company of humans.
  • Cannibal Tribe: Tirrum's inhabitants are cannibals who waylay travelers and eat them. No one wants to travel past Tirrum if they can help it.
  • Cast from Experience Points: Players can sacrifice unspent XP for temporary advantages. (Conversely, they can also gain XP by accepting disadvantages.)
  • Cast from Hit Points: All three classes (or 'types' as Numenera calls them) power their abilities by expending an appropriate physical or mental stat: essentially, the game is designed to model progressive exhaustion and avoid Critical Existence Failure. As you progress you gain 'edge' which represents endurance, allowing you to blunt the damage.
  • Casual Interstellar Travel: At least one of the ancient empires spanned the stars with ease. Although that empire is dust just like the rest, the Into The Night supplement is all about finding and using that tech (there are spaceships and teleporters, at least) to explore outer space, other planets, and more inconceivable locations than what Earth provides.
  • Ceiling Cling: The lux of Urvanas inhabit the structures and levels that hang beneath each cloud city. Built to hang, their seven segmented, nonsymmetrical limbs are arranged above their torso, while their heads hang beneath.
  • Chameleon Camouflage: When activated, a chameleon cloak temporarily takes on the colours and textures of everything around the wearer.
  • Chaos Architecture: If explorers in Nachant lose direct sight of the entrance, finding it again becomes difficult because the interior is constantly shuffling, expanding and retracting through spacetime. If visitors use some kind of marking technique, the marks often turn up missing or moved, due to the schemes of the pyths that occur on a level of reality that most creatures can only sense indirectly. This confusion is one of the reasons most explorers don't emerge from Nachant again.
  • Character Class System: Starts with the Fighter, Mage, Thief archetype and expands on it.
    • Glaives: The Fighter, equally capable of being built as a heavily armored Mighty Glacier or a Fragile Speedster.
    • Nanos: The Mage, who uses the power of numenera to work miracles.
    • Jacks: The Thief, whose name comes from "jack-of-all-trades" and have a lot of tricks to make them the setting's skillmonkeys.
    • The Character Options 2 book introduces two new classes.
    • The Second Edition Destiny core rulebook added the Arkus (leader-types that can bolster his group's actions, gather followers or better the disposition of people who meet the group by spinning tales), the Delve (a scavenging/exploration-based Thief, who can do things like gather parts for the Wright and prevent danger interrupts from being activated by the Game Master (or reducing their damage)) and the Wright (a Numenera "techie", so to speak, who can create purpose-made gadgets by fiddling with Numenera parts).
  • Character Customization: The character creation process starts with picking your class, then picking descriptors (e.g. "clever, tough, strong-willed, or mystical"), then a build focus.
  • Charm Person: Ormakal has the ability to encourage others to do his work for him without most people even realising it.
  • A Child Shall Lead Them: King Yorvic of Malevich is a three-year-old boy, and is served as regent by his cousin Ellabon.
  • Church Militant: The Order of Truth, called the Amber Papacy by its enemies.
  • Citadel City:
    • Bodrov lies atop an impossible sort of plateau, and the path into the city leads through a series of artificial caverns and tunnels, which can be sealed at many points and have never been fully explored. It's difficult to imagine an invading army or other danger gaining entrance.
    • Kordech possesses a high, well-constructed wall and no fewer than 26 defensible wooden palisades near or around the surrounding small villages to protect the shiul herds at night.
    • Jyrek, designed by Kaldon to keep his wife, eleven sons and four daughters safe, is as much a fortress as it is a city. With its triple walls (made of redstone, limnelwood and electrified synth), interconnected walkways between buildings, and guard towers at every corner, Jyrek might be one of the best-protected places in the Steadfast.
    • Urzat Zarteri is a fortress-city built on a high plateau and surrounded by a tall wall of artificial stone. The place is stark and functional, its primary function being defence.
    • Arxil is surrounded by a 61 m tall wall that incorporates some of the surrounding terrain (or perhaps the terrain has incorporated the ancient wall), although the city itself is only about a quarter of the area enclosed by the wall.
    • There are still fully functional satellites orbiting the Earth, only reachable by means of teleportation or space flight. Because of the Schizo Tech setting, a satellite sitting in orbit is functionally a nigh-impregnable fortress. In the short story "The Amber Monolith", the main character Calaval explicitly thinks of a satellite as a citadel.
  • City on the Water: The City of Bridges, capital of Ghan, extends out from the coast, a number of ancient bridges stretch more than a mile to a series of massive metal platforms joined by another web of bridges. Despite common belief, the city doesn't float and the platforms are affixed to the sea floor.
  • The City Narrows: Mulen's beautiful streets and towers conceal a vast undercity, home of thieves, beggars, escaped slaves and inhuman creatures.
  • Clarke's Third Law: The setting runs on this. The Ninth World is filled to the brim with lost technology that for most intents and purposes can be considered magical. Word of God states that the setting was conceived with the Third Law as its basis.
  • Clingy Costume: When placed on the wearer's flesh, a suit of armored flesh grafts on permanently.
  • Collector of the Strange: Ghamalso enjoys the process of finding and adding new prizes to his growing assemblage of rare and unique items. The several billion items, art and creature specimens (many still alive but in suspended animation) in his Menagerie beggar the imagination.
  • Colony Drop: Kruem fall to the surface of Earth like shooting stars every few hundred years. They target barren places to spawn and lay eggs before blasting off again into the night.
  • Combat Tentacles: Tetrahydras have four tentacles that they keep coiled along their lower half and can be used as feet and weapons.
  • Combining Mecha: The yfilk are artificial beings made up of thousands of tiny metal spheres and particles that flow and interact in such a way that the yfilk appear to have solid bodies about the size of humans.
  • Common Tongue: The Truth is the predominant language in the Steadfast, where it's spoken by about 80% of the people; in cities, that number is closer to 100%. In the Beyond, about 60% of the people speak the Truth as their primary language, but many isolated villages have their own specific tongue.
  • Conjoined Twins:
    • The skeane — aliens somewhat resembling emperor penguins with six seal-like limbs — almost never have twins, but when twins are born they are almost always conjoined. These are raised with great care, as the skeane believe such children to be gifts from their gods and as these conjoined twins are very susceptible to disease and usually die young.
    • Hesterin Hthumos, current head of the Hthumos family, is a mutant albino with a conjoined twin brother named Sterrick. Sterrick is little more than a head and a hand with tendril-like fingers on Hesterin's torso.
  • Cool Airship: Soarcraft, biomechanical creatures that fly via naturally-produced sacs of lighter-than-air gas, are used in the kingdom of Corao to travel huge distances quickly and safely.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: The Aian saying 'Those not rich are poor' is used to justify avarice and ruthless business practices. If you don’t fight to get all you can, you'll have nothing.
  • Cosmic Horror Story: The creatures, technology and creations of the past civilizations, as seen from the perspective of the Ninth World, are no less incomprehensible than Lovecraft's gods, monsters and sorcery. Humans of the Ninth World who begin to think about the billion or so years behind them, and the immense civilisations that have come and gone in that time, each so much greater than the Ninth World that humans can't even comprehend them, can easily begin to feel the grip of cosmic horror.
  • Cover-Blowing Superpower: The mlox (robotic brains wearing human bodies) can open a third mechanical eye in their foreheads to gain access to sensory and movement abilities. Generally they don't because they're terrified of people finding out what they are.
  • Critical Hit: On twenty-sided dice, any roll over a 17 in combat can deal extra damage and/or have additional effects (such as knocking the target down), and 19 plus on any other task can have additional beneficial effects (such as an artifact works as if it were a level higher for a short time). Interestingly, the GM never rolls dice, so players are fairly safe from these.
  • Cthulhumanoid:
    • Sal's reddish-brown head has overly large eyes on either side and nearly a hundred tentacles writhing at the edges, and she uses two of them to speak to others.
    • Calramites are humanoid who have a set of five cephalopod-like tentacles in place of arms, each of which branches into a smaller and finer set of tendrils at the far end.
  • Cyborg: Everywhere. A few major NPCs have cybernetic parts, and a couple are essentially just brains-with-life-support in metal shells. The character focus "Fuses Flesh and Steel" allows players to be subtly biomechanical or openly cybernetic, and grants significant boosts to the character's Might and Speed, along with innate Armor. Cyborgs require regular repairs and maintenance however; unlike normal characters, they cannot rely on Recovery rolls alone. And then there are the Decanted, who are cryogenically frozen heads walking around in robotic bodies.
  • Damage Discrimination: When the Aeon Priests in Ishlav fiddled with a numenera device in an attempt to understand it, the device released a powerful burst of energy that destroyed most nonliving matter within a radius of 3 kilometres. None of the soil, people, animals or plants were harmed.
  • Damage Reduction: How all Armor works. To be more specific, your Armor rating is subtracted from incoming Might-based damage. Any damage that runs over your Armor rating applies as normal. Armor doesn't apply against certain environmental effects, psionic effects that deal Intellect damage, and so on.
  • Death World: On the surface of Urvanas, the pressure from thick, dead air means the heat is enough to melt some metals and synth. At ground level, the pressure is almost 100 times that of Earth. Immense electrical storms or the massive volcanoes sometimes explosively erupt with little warning.
  • Deface of the Moon: Earth's moon is smaller-looking than it would be in our time, thanks to having a wider orbit (with corresponding effects on day length), and sometimes a wide green band can be seen around its equator. The comic "So Long as You Can See the Moon" shows it in three pieces hanging together in complete defiance of physical laws.
  • Deflector Shields: When activated, a force dome projects a powerful force field dome with a diameter of short range. The field is immobile, impermeable, and impenetrable until it is brought down by a force of a higher level.
  • Demonic Possession: Members of the Soul Court can send their conscious minds throughout the world, inhabiting the bodies of whomever they come across. They experience the world through the senses of their hosts and completely control the hosts' actions.
  • Do-Anything Robot: An assistant robot has a repertoire of up to five non-combat capabilities, hard-coded into the assistant when it is first constructed.
  • Domed Hometown:
    • The Cold Cities across Naharrai are silver cities encased in shimmering domes of pure force. The interiors of these cities are sealed and have their own atmosphere. Within the cities, the temperature is very low, and gravity is Earth-standard.
    • The cloud cities floating above Urvanas have, at minimum, a flexible synth gas dome that provides breathable atmosphere and lift that keeps the city aloft.
  • Dragon Rider: The Angulan Knights ride xi-drakes, winged dragon-like reptiles. Xi-drakes are themselves intelligent creatures, and willingly serve the knights as steeds due to a pact between the two groups.
  • Dual Wielding: A full build focus, "Wields Two Weapons at Once". Only for melee combatants, though.
  • Dungeon-Based Economy: The Ninth World setting is based around this concept. Growing up among the ruins of the previous eight great civilizations, the Ninth Worlders seek out their secrets (by crawling through said ruins) to build their own great civilization, piece by piece.
  • Dying Race: Every year on Naharrai is a bit drier than the year before it, while the storms likewise grow more violent. The ellaticurids are well aware that their race and their world are dying, and they can do nothing about either.
  • Dying Town: Thriest is lined with many crumbling, abandoned buildings, and only about half the number of the former population continue to dwell there. The city struggles to keep from collapsing and the folk of the regions around Thriest fight just to survive.
  • Dyson Sphere: The Swarmstar from Into The Night is an organic one, consisting of hundreds of millions of creatures surrounding a star.
  • Earthquake Machine: When triggered, the rods of an earthquake carillon peal forth a sonic wave that builds in intensity the farther outward it travels such that anything near the tower merely vibrates but objects and creatures 1 km or more away are affected as if by an earthquake.
  • Earth-Shattering Kaboom: Mercury's gone, and has been for so long that no Ninth Worlder knows there was ever a planet between Venus and the Sun.
  • Eat Dirt, Cheap: The warrow beetles native to the Jagged Wastes subsist on the glass that gives the region its name.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Ubiquitous enough that a Glimmer (supplement) called "In Strange Aeons" has all to do with working Lovecraftian ideas and creations into the setting.
  • Enemy Scan: An analyzing shield has a display that analyses the best place to strike a foe viewed through it.
  • Energy Absorption: At its heart, the dark fathom has a construct like a singularity, driving it as an eternal source of power as well as a terrible weapon. The singularity draws in all ranged attacks and consumes them so the creature suffers no harm.
  • Enfant Terrible: A Nibovian child will end up taking over their caretaker's entire life, eventually using their dead body to create another Nibovian child.
  • Everything's Squishier with Cephalopods: There's an underwater octopoid kingdom on the western edge of the current megacontinent. It is an extremely old kingdom, at that. One that apparently remembers a prior incarnation of humanity;
    Many believe that the octopi bear little affection for humans. Hundreds of years ago, when the first human encountered them and was able to establish some kind of communication (thanks to a numenera device), the only response he got from the octopus was an enigmatic, “Oh. You’re back.”
  • Expy: Given their all-concealing attire, their advanced technology, their penchant for invoking Vagueness Is Coming, and their sheer mysteriousness, the philethis are clearly copies of the Vorlons from Babylon 5.
  • Extreme Omnivore:
    • Using the force of its singularity, a dark fathom can consume any matter or energy smaller than itself.
    • Yovoki eat constantly and seem able to digest almost anything.
  • Eyeless Face: The ravage bear is an eyeless predator that hunts entirely by sense of smell.
  • Eye Scream: The flying creatures who serve the Man of the Mountain living in the Black Riage near Thaemor especially like eyeballs and will not hesitate to attempt to take one from someone who’s still using it.
  • The Faceless: Ghamalso's head is always sheathed in a helmetlike device that sprouts whirring lenses, ears like dishes and antennae. He says that this prosthesis allows him to notice every detail of his environment. Certainly, he has never been seen without the helmet.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Upon subsequent visits to a black bell, there's always something that went unnoticed before. It's always worthwhile to go back and look again a day or two later—and maybe again a day or two after that. Sometimes a black bell is stripped completely bare on the inside, fully scanned, and utterly studied. And then a year later, someone goes in and finds a panel that no one found before, behind which lies a completely new discovery.
  • Fantastic Metals: Azure steel, which can be cut off from an ancient structure beneath the mining town of Omar in Ghan, is highly sought for its durability and strength.
  • Fantastic Racism: The degree varies heavily from place to place, but generally speaking most settlements are uncomfortable, if not outright violent, towards obvious cyborgs (nanomachines and subtler effects are fine), mutants (abhumans are shot on sight for very good reason), and "visitants" (beings of extraterrestrial derivation who have lived on Earth for so many generations that they are effectively native now). The Angulan Knights and many others, are outright genocidal towards mutants, regardless of whether the mutants in question have actually, you know, ever done anything wrong, and pure robots actually live in their own little town, the Weal of Baz, where they have a broad array of attitudes towards non-machine life, ranging from tolerance to resentment to outright violence.
  • Fantasy Kitchen Sink: Through a lens of Science Fantasy, but definitely in force.
  • Fauns and Satyrs: Margr are abhumans who have some aspect of goat—a goat head, goat horns, goat legs, goat hooves, or some combination or varying degrees thereof.
  • The Federation: Milave is a loose confederation of small noble states and even a few so-called republics, loosely united by the fear of an invasion from the Pytharon Empire. Ostensibly, Milave is ruled by a council of representatives of disparate governments, clans and factions.
  • Feudal Future: The Steadfast, a collection of kingdoms that only share a religion between them.
  • Fighter, Mage, Thief: Glaive, Nano, Jack. Played with, since a Jack or Glaive can be a Red Mage or Magic Knight by picking the right descriptors and focus, and Nanos can subvert Squishy Wizard and be decent in combat.
  • Fish People:
    • The Joirans, a species of tall humanoids with grey skin, a large crest on their head, a pair of fins down their sides and the ability to breathe both air and water, although they're best suited for living very deep in the ocean.
    • The inhabitants of the submarine city of Ahmas are descended from humans melded with various sea creatures by ancient captors, and are very prone to mutation besides. As a result, they resemble a very varied and mixed take on this trope, with each having a humanoid frame with scales, fins, gills, tails, heads, tentacles, legs or pincers from sharks, bony fish, arthropods, cephalopods and other sea life, no two looking truly alike.
    • The heeldra are a race of man-eating, aquatic abhumans with scaly skin, fishlike heads, finlike feet and tubes along their spines that secrete copious amounts of mucus, which they use to communicate with each other.
  • Floating Continent:
    • The seven Foundation Stones float high above a particularly desolate area of Matheunis. The largest of the stones is almost 1.5 km from top to bottom.
    • Somewhere, floating above the tundra of Suruliath is a cloud of smoke. However, those flying up to it discover a hovering city of smooth, crystalline synth.
    • In the Into the Night supplement, self-replicating cities populate the skies of Urvanas (known to us as Venus).
    • Not an actual cloud city, Ruxali is a massive series of platforms and descending towers suspended via a web of synth cables from a perfectly spherical green object that hangs at just above cloud level over Urvanas.
    • Pursectran is a fortress-city that flies high above the Earth of a parallel dimension.
  • Flying Saucer: The voidglider is a diameter disc-shaped craft that can convey passengers to distant locations around other stars.
  • For the Evulz: Members of the Soul Court steal the bodies of people to simply relish in the dark entertainment of it.
  • Free-Love Future: Some cultures have this attitude, according to the Glimmer "Love & Sex in the Ninth World". One of the more common attitudes (though certainly not universal, humanity being as varied as it is) is that prostitution isn't looked down on or illegal as long as they're doing it willingly (or are slaves). Likewise, monogamy isn't expected in most relationships (but those who do agree to a monogamous marriage had better not cheat).
  • Frog Men: The Frog King is a frogoid mutant who was scorned and ostracised by his family and society for his amphibian appearance and habits. Using the numenera devices in Le Temple de Frogue, the Frog King has created an army of anura: followers built of mud, living frogs and dead worshippers.
  • From Camouflage to Criminal: Many bandits operating in Malevich are veterans of the kingdom's past wars, aged men with few skills outside violence.
  • Fusion Dance:
    • Lady Vount uses the Despoiler, a numenera artifact, to fuse the bodies of men with dangerous river fish.
    • Guhaquah is ruled by a council of eight octopi that meld into a single fugue entity when together, wielding an array of powerful psychic abilities.
  • Future Food Is Artificial: A food tube produces a grey paste that provides enough nutrition for one person for one day.
  • Future Imperfect: The tale of "Jack and the Beanstalk" has been distorted into a legend. A large tower is called the Beanstalk, and the locals have a legend about the giant one day returning to get his revenge on Jack's descendants. Actually, given the literal eons that have passed since modern civilization, finding ANY recognizable fragments of history or culture is suspicious at best and implies there is more going on.
  • Future Primitive: Approximately one billion years in the future, the life of a Ninth World human isn't all that different from the life of a human around the year 1000 AD, and they don't fully understand of the numenera, detritus from the previous worlds.
  • Garden Garment: The Queen of Lilies wears only garments made of flowering plants.
  • Genius Loci:
    • Nearby residents believe Mount Zanlis to be some kind of living being possessed of great power. Aeon Priests suggest that the mountain's core might be artificial, housing a machine intelligence with the ability to affect reality on a fundamental level.
    • The Twisted Spire in the Amorphous Fields is made out of organic tissue. Interior vessels carry vital fluids to the top of the tower, pumped by massive, heartlike organs that can be seen beating within it.
    • The cloud cities of Urvanas reproduce like living creatures. After two or more cloud cities float in close proximity to each other for a few days, one or more of them buds an offspring that quickly develops into a small but complete new cloud city childlet. Over time, juvenile cloud cities grow larger and more complex. Because of their genetic programming and ability to replicate, cloud cities have undergone selective pressure and evolved interesting lifelike behaviours.
  • Ghost City:
    • The village of Torin in the Amorphous Fields has been discovered abandoned. While all buildings are intact, every inhabitant is gone. A strange greenish mist clings to the ground in places, but there are no other clues to what might have happened here.
    • Small abandoned cities lit the moon's desolate landscape.
    • The Cold Cities of Naharrai are stark, eerily lifeless places, like a well-preserved city of the prior worlds of Earth.
    • The interior of Nachant is hollow and contains what seems to be a perfectly preserved city of synth skyscrapers, empty of life.
  • Ghost Ship: The Vlerryn is a prior-world spaceship infected by an artificial machine mind named Mozck, which began to transform the ship and the crew to its own needs. Before it could completely succeed, the last survivor managed to send the ship through the mouth of a massive artifact called the Vendav Ring, which burned both out of the Vlerryn, leaving it derelict.
  • Giant Flyer: Rasters (biomechanical creatures that fly by means of batlike wings and antigravity) and xi-drakes (white, winged and telepathic reptiles that apparently can fly thanks to an organ in their crest). Both are tamable as flying mounts.
  • Giant Spider:
    • Ghost crabs are a species of spiders that average about 1 m across and can grow as large as 1.5 m.
    • Steel spiders are the size of a dinner platter, and spin thin webs made of metal.
  • Go Mad from the Isolation: They say that time alone in the white wastes can drive one mad, and perhaps all the people of the Frozen South are indeed a little mad. But some are more mad than others, and what is called the evanescence sets in. In such cases, an individual recedes from life to such an extent that he simply withers and dies from self-neglect. For an even rarer few, the evanescence manifests as a mania and a loss of any sort of identification with other humans, leading to a psychopathic urge to murder those around them.
  • The Good King: King Falton and Queen Sheranoa of Nebalich are just leaders and two of the most loved rulers in the Beyond (and perhaps the Steadfast as well).
  • Grand Theft Me:
    • The Decanted, old frozen human (?) heads in robotic shells, kidnap (or purchase, if they're slaves) humans that are especially fit or attractive. The Decanted "nobility" look like athletic or beautiful humans crowned with a shriveled, frozen head. It doesn't take a genius to figure out where they got those bodies from.
    • Another example is in the Tech Compendium, where a collar can separate someone's head from their body and graft it onto someone else's headless body, as long as it's been dead for no more than an hour. It's exactly as creepy as it sounds.
  • Grey Goo: Out-of-control nanobots are mentioned as a hazard.
    • A Red Goo variant is the Iron Wind, a kind of duststorm that will mutate anything it catches into a writhing monster. Or possibly just tear it apart completely! You can never be sure with the Iron Wind.
    • More generally, nanites have integrated themselves into the ecosystem. They are as common as bacteria or fungi, and most go without any notice.
  • Guardian Entity: Most people of the Frozen South pray to one of a thousand or more ice gods called the Nacrescenti. Some people believe that each person has his own Nacrescenti that watches over him.
  • Hailfire Peaks: The Invisible Vale is an island of temperate climate in the icy Frozen South. It is believed that at one time in the distant past, the Invisible Vale was far warmer, perhaps tropical. But the shield has been fading over time, and the protected area is growing colder.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Deep ones sometimes breed with insane humans to produce squamous offspring that eventually develop fully into deep ones well after maturity (or even middle age).
  • Hazmat Suit: A suit of battle armor or battlesuit is entirely sealed and has its own eternally renewed internal atmosphere, which completely protects against toxic gases and allows the wearer to operate in an airless environment.
  • Healing Shiv: A healing sword consists of a Ninth World-forged broadsword blade and a numenera hilt (which likely was not a sword hilt originally). When squeezed properly, the hilt injects a healing substance into the wielder's body.
  • He Knows Too Much: Residents of Astaria who discover their leader Ormakal's ability to enslave people either keep quiet or are made quiet by Ormakal's regiment of loyal worshippers and watchdogs, men of dubious intent who call themselves hivers.
  • Hidden Elf Village:
    • The Weal of Baz is a hidden town for intelligent machines. It's carved out of a cleft in a cliff face, concealed by holograms and on constant guard by sentries. Occasionally, an organic that they deem worthy is given a token that allows them passage into the city, which includes access to their machine smiths and their truly enormous stockpile of spare parts.
    • Far below Mt. Jaspar in the southern part of the range is a small subterranean civilisation of bestial, almost apelike abhumans. They don't raid human settlements and never leave their unlit realm, but they are quite hostile to intruders.
  • High Priest: The Amber Pope guides the Order of Truth, an organisation of Aeon Priests.
  • Hive Mind: Many examples exist in the setting, but of particular note are the denizens of an alternate dimension called the Pure. The Pure seem to have undergone The Singularity, and exist as a gestalt consciousness that contains the ego of every intelligent being in their universe. This seems like the grounds for an Assimilation Plot, but the Pure are genuinely nice — they'll invite any dimension-hoppers to join them, but bear no ill will towards those who refuse, often showering them with gifts and wisdom regardless.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Kaldon, previous king of Thaemor, designed and commissioned the Citadel City of Jyrek to keep his wife, eleven sons and four daughters safe from wars so that his legacy might live on. Its most unusual defensive mechanism is the Eyren, a structure that would support up to twenty people for two months, providing food, shelter, recycled air and an escape route. It turned out to be a colossal waste: no war was waged, but when the Eyren caught a virus from Kaldon's youngest daughter, it believed this new thing to be an inherent part of human physiology and spread it to the other children, killing every single one of them after six weeks and leaving Kaldon heirless.
  • Hopeless Suitor: The Vacant Palace was built by an ignorant but well-intentioned suitor who argued that in times of war or other calamity, Queen Armalu should come to Bodrov. He didn't realise how truly committed she was to never leaving her chambers in Empiternal House.
  • Horde of Alien Locusts: On Urvanas, shiny blue insectlike creatures have recently started to sometimes blow in on storms and prey upon the domes of cloud cities. Several cities have been sent to their dooms, their domes punctured, in a city-sized Death Dive.
  • Horse of a Different Color:
    • Aneen are bipedal pack animals twice as tall as the average human, used as pack and riding animals and as meat producers.
    • Snow lopers, bipedal mammals native to high altitudes, are thought to have been created as steeds capable of navigating cold, mountainous environments. While they are easily tamed and do make very good steeds, most in the setting's present live in the wild.
    • The priests of the city of Lhauric ride razorcats, huge tiger-like beasts with spikes growing from several parts of their bodies.
    • The cavalry of the Mahal Shards ride reptilian coursers called brehm.
    • A number of flying mounts exist as well, including the biomechanical rasters and the xi-drakes.
    • In an interesting inversion, there's mention in the corebook of a woman riding a strange steed of a kind no one has seen before, which she claims to have unfrozen from an ancient tomb and says is called a "horse".
  • Human Aliens: Yrk claims to be an extraterrestrial fugitive hiding from others of his kind, and appears to be completely human.
  • Humanoid Aliens: Perelande is home to two intelligent species: the short, hairy wedoth and the tall, thin etteramerith with finlike crests atop their heads.
  • Human Sacrifice: The Challifani 'gods' demand blood sacrifice and mandate that Challifani priests and adherents practice flagellation, mutilation, and torture. The people of Lhauric believe that these horrific rites keep their gods happy and thus keep their city blessed. In reality, the Challifani have no power other than granting the priests scattered bits of information from its observations.
  • Humans Are Average: All Player Characters are assumed to be human by default, and while playing a non-human grants many useful advantages, it also comes with steeper penalties and prevents using anything else in the Descriptor slot of the character.
  • Humans Are Psychic in the Future: Somewhat justified: not only are the "humans" of the Ninth World heavily modified from what we would consider "human," but there's so many nanomachines and weird science things in the ecosystem that unusual powers are the norm.
  • Human Subspecies:
    • Although Augurs appear no different from the humans of the Steadfast and the Beyond, they come from entirely different stock. They are, on average, smarter, stronger, faster, more attractive, far less prone to disease, and longer-lived. Augurs rarely mate with outsiders, and procreation is possible but highly unlikely.
    • Nusmen say that they are not of the same stock as other humans. They claim to be a more ancient breed whose size, strength, hardy nature and resistance to cold make them better than lesser folk.
  • Humongous Mecha: The buildnought is a gargantuan automaton about 300 m in diameter that moves on hundreds of legs and is designed to build whole cities.
  • Hungry Jungle: The Caecilian Jungle, a large star-shaped patch of rainforest at the northern end of the Beyond and home to a great variety of predatory beasts. Its depths are home to ruins and wonders — such as a frog-shaped temple that draws amphibians to it, a miniature city and a garden of carnivorous plants — that draw a steady stream of explorers and expeditions, despite the fact there no one who ever went in has been know to come back out again.
  • Idiot Hero: Characters with the Foolish descriptor. They can actually be quite intelligent when they get down to business, but are prone to rushing into situations without thinking.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: The yhalthi are also their own food source, which has been slowly winnowing down their numbers.
  • Inescapable Net: The Zhev project nets within short range that immobilise a struck target unless they can break or wriggle free.
  • Instant Armor: When a liquid armor is activated, a watery liquid sprays out of the cylinders on the belt. An electric field shapes this smart fluid, causing it to form a protective shell around the wearer, not unlike full body armour.
  • Ironic Name: To say Simple and Serene, the daughters of Maggie Yets, and Temperance and Tranquility, the daughters of Marchie Yets, occasionally create havoc by intentionally confusing guests as to their real identities would be a wild understatement. The girls, who look nearly identical, are as mischievous as their names are not.
  • Istanbul (Not Constantinople): The people of the Ninth World know Venus as Urvanas and Mars as Naharrai.
  • It Can Think: It came as a great surprise when the scholar Niomedes discovered that the strange noises the varakith make are actually songs and have meaning. Until that point, they were assumed to be near-mindless beasts.
  • Kaiju: Titanothaurs are impossibly huge (over 300 feet/100 meters on average) one-of-a-kind creatures that are usually based on normal-sized fauna and are usually attracted to large, densely-packed cities, which they then proceed to smash. They often have unusual powers in addition to their size and strength, and are rare and devastating enough that most of them get unique names. Oftentimes, the easiest way to kill one is to find another one to fight it.
  • King of Thieves: The bandits in Malevich are unified and organised by Polele, the Bandit King.
  • Klingon Promotion: In the underwater city of Ahmas, whose society is essentially a giant gladiatorial arena, the most expedient way of becoming king is often to fight and kill the previous king, as the current monarch did when he took the throne.
  • The Klutz: Any character with the Clumsy descriptor. Interestingly, the text indicates that Clumsy characters tend to be quite charming.
  • Knowledge Broker: Iyene Who Knows is a knowledge broker who gathers and trades information in Norou. Known by the criminal element of the city, by those in more legitimate work, and even by people in distant towns, she only wants information in exchange.
  • Layered Metropolis:
    • Many of Qi's centralmost sections lie on multiple levels, with decorative bridges and raised walkways connecting the higher levels and bright glowglobes illuminating the lower so that each level is equally lit.
    • Nihliesh has three tiers: the first and lowest is the machine originally discovered by the founders, where workers maintain it; the second consists of the squat, crowded original buildings erected atop the machine where the lowest caste live; and the third, home to the wealthy, consists of the elegant, artistic buildings that Nihliesh is best known for.
    • Ephremon occupies many levels of the forest, from cavelike dwellings among the tree roots to nest-styled homes in the highest canopies. A complicated system of risers, ladders and swings (all made from metal, synth and wood) allow access to every level of the city.
  • Left-Justified Fantasy Map: Played straight despite the continents having been joined together into one enormous Pangaea-like supercontinent. The Ninth World Guidebook reveals that the supercontinent is shaped like a four-pointed star, with the Steadfast on the western coast of the southern spur. At least one area, the Lands of the Dawn on the other side of the map, is detailed for anyone looking to subvert the trope.
  • Lightning Gun: Storm staves can be used as short-ranged weapons, projecting bolts of red lightning.
  • Lilliputians: Each building in Archeol stands no taller than a human's knees. The inhabitants are sometimes said to be supernatural beings, sometimes mechanical, and sometimes just very small humans.
  • Limited-Use Magical Device: Numenera has the eponymous artifacts left behind by the precursor civilizations. The most common type of numenera, the cyphers, are one-shot items the game encourages you to expend as an Anti-Hoarding measure. Artifacts, on the other hand, are much more durable, although most have the "Depletion" stat, given in standard dice notation, which means that every time you use an artifact, you have to roll those dice and if the result is below the given threshold, the items goes inert and useless.
  • Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards: Played 100% straight, as one would expect from a Monte Cook game. At low ranks, glaives can hack enemies apart up close or far away, while nanos have a number of useful-but-not-incredible support powers and some quasi-magical zaps. At high ranks, glaives are terrors in combat and useless everywhere else, while nano are terrors in combat who can literally move mountains with their minds. Jacks are stuck between the two, with a broader array of skills than either but not access to the raw power of a nano or combat power of a glaive. And while glaives, to be fully effective, have to split their points between two resource pools, which also count as their hit-points, and jacks all three, nanos are free to focus their Edge and extra points only on their Intellect, letting the other pools serve as expendable hit-points and nothing else.
  • Literary Agent Hypothesis:
    • The Ninth World Bestiary is presented as being an in-universe document written by the Pact of Jarash, an organization of naturalists and explorers dedicated to studying and understanding the many strange creatures of the Ninth World, as a compendium of their knowledge and research.
    • On a similar note, there's the Technology Compendium, subtitled Sir Arthour's Guide to the Numenera, which quotes extensively from the in-universe guide assembled by the Gentleman Adventurer and noted scholar Sir Arthour Torein.
  • Living Ship: A creature is ensconced within each submergine's hull that provides food and fresh water and recycles contaminants.
  • Living Statue: The Scarred Monoliths are massive humanoid statues that drift slowly across the sky in an area in central Ghan.
  • Long-Lived: The expected lifespan of an Augur is 300 years.
  • Lost Technology: The numenera are the detritus leftovers of the previous eight worlds, and the people's understanding of these resources is crude and incomplete.
  • Lost World: Due to its isolation, the Driftless Valley hidden on the top of the Great Slab hosts creatures found nowhere else in the Ninth World, with genetic mutations that combine two or more creatures into one. Its diverse ecosystem and potential treasures remain unknown to most people, due to the impossibility of climbing the Great Slab to reach it.
  • The Lost Woods:
    • The Westwood, a large forest of redwood trees taking up nearly the entirety of the kingdom of Navarene's western coast. It has a reputation for being infested with dangerous spirits and monstrous beasts, and as such has been completely uninhabited for most of its history. Recently, Navarene has begun settling it and building towns and roads within it, which has brought it in conflict with the spider-like culovas that live within it and viciously ward off trespassers.
    • The Ba-Adenu Forest is an enormous wilderness in the Beyond, large enough to be divided in three distinct biomes — dry forest, jungle and muddy swampland. It is inhabited by jiraskars (ferocious, predatory theropod dinosaurs) and a mysterious vampiric humanoid.
    • The Caecilian Jungle is dense with trees underbrush, rivers, fog, and rain. Natural and mechanical creatures stalk its shores, lie in wait along the branches, and wing their way down upon prey in the dark of night. There are no known reports of anyone returning from a visit to the Caecilian.
  • Loud of War: The thunder cannon emits a 15 m wide cone of pure sonic force when activated.
  • Luck Manipulation Mechanic: A core mechanic. Characters can spend points from their pools before rolling to make rolls more easily, and XP can be used to reroll critical die rolls as well as to level-up.
  • Macross Missile Massacre: When activated, a fiery hellmaker fires a barrage of fiery long-range missiles in all directions.
  • Made of Phlebotinum: Anything more advanced that the things available to a medieval peasant.
  • The Mafia: The Marish Clan is a large, family-based criminal organisation that runs much of the illegal activity in Qi. These transgressions consist mainly of robbery, smuggling and dealing in stolen goods, but murder by contract is also included. The Marish Clan is filled with some of the city's most dangerous individuals.
  • Mage Tower: Zigzagged with the Aulifex, who refers to himself as a sorcerer, but his powers come from his tower, a numenera device whose enough secrets were mastered by the Aulifex.
  • Man Bites Man: Captain Jamson Connell goes berserk when physically or verbally threatened, attempting to strangle and eat his opponent (often at the same time).
  • Mass Teleportation: Eurynomec can jump vast distances through space, apparently without limit as to how far she could go or what she could carry. She uses this ability to move the entire Menagerie around the solar system up to a few times each year, apparently instantaneously, according to her employer Ghamalso's requests.
  • Matter Replicator:
    • The odlarks have access to organic versions, called grup vats. Anything made by them is perfectly functional, albeit slightly translucent and smelling of ale.
    • Castle Sarrat has devices that could create edible food for hundreds of people at a time and can spontaneously grow walls, floors, support structures and more.
  • Mayor Pain: Marvyr Rann, mayor of Qi, is a madman surrounded at all times by a cadre of nearly naked young men and women who attend to his every capricious whim. Fortunately for Qi, the city virtually runs itself, and the Amber Pope can accomplish what needs to be done.
  • Mecha-Mooks:
    • Oorgolian soldiers. Like every advanced piece of tech in the Ninth World, their creators are long gone and their objectives are all but incomprehensible.
    • The Narit Gresh sentries that patrol the area around Urzat Zarteri appear to be ancient, floating, rusty metallic cylinders topped with beast heads, fleshy tendrils, sensory apparatuses and weaponry.
    • The half-mechanical Zhev make up the elite peacekeeping force in the city of Qi.
    • The basic mech soldier is a buildable automaton that can attack foes with its blade or patrol an area.
  • Mechanical Lifeforms: The Phaeton Halo is home to a variety of 'living' machine creatures that fill niches the way plants and animals do on a normal world. Most of these creatures are descendants of automatons that served a completely different purpose in the original Phaeton.
  • Mechanical Monster:
    • Dread destroyers are giant war machines with organic brains and internal organs protected by a self-repairing metal shell. They can attack foes up to a mile away and possibly much farther with missiles that can kill hundreds of people at once. Unless you have an army on your side and are willing to lose a large portion of your forces, fighting a dread destroyer is unwise.
    • Warstrikers are giant war machines difficult to control or influence. Built for destruction, even a newly constructed warstriker is likely to turn on its creator.
  • Medieval Stasis: Enforced by the Inconae in the Gloaming.
  • Mental Picture Projector: The mind imager shows a visual image of what a creature is thinking.
  • Merchant Prince: When the royal line died out, power in Draolis was seized by a council of wealthy plutocrats who didn't want another hereditary monarchy to take control.
  • Military Academy: The Knights of Durranet uses knowledge of the numenera and extensive physical training to create exceptional scouts, spies, and officers. Their teachings emphasise honour, cooperation, loyalty to the Steadfast, and military strategy. The knighthood does not educate common soldiers; its goal is to prepare highly trained agents and leaders for the countries of the Steadfast.
  • The Minion Master: A character who chooses Leads or Controls Beasts for their focus will have a small army of critters or NPCs following them around at high tier.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters:
    • Broken hounds resemble emaciated dogs with birdlike heads.
    • Ithsyns appear to be the result of a genetic experiment gone awry and possess distinctive qualities of avians, reptiles, mammals and fish.
  • Mordor:
    • The nation of Vralk. A volcanically active nation whose people are warlike and authoritarian in the extreme, practice a religion focused around The Power of Blood and Human Sacrifice, and who are planning an invasion of the Steadfast, who have no idea they exist and are focused on the non-existent threat of the Gaians.
    • Dessanedi is a mostly barren field of broken, jagged glass where travel is slow, arduous, and filled with cuts and scrapes or worse, something which no one would do if the Jagged Wastes were the only way to reach the Sheer. Nothing grows in Dessanedi, and only a few scavenger birds live there.
  • Mother of a Thousand Young: They're prettier than most, but given their status as living extradimensional portals, Nibovian wives are this.
  • Moving Buildings:
    • The Crowd City is a mass of millions of preserved corpses fused and sculpted into the shape of a city. Animated by a mysterious force, buildings change shape and size, and the entire city moves across the landscape.
    • Outside of Mehbivrobek, ghru temples are mobile. Each temple is housed within a metal vehicle that moves like an enormous, bulbous insect.
  • Multi-Armed and Dangerous:
    • A few years back, the Empty Machine was the home of a large tribe of hideous, four-armed abhumans called the dzaal.
    • An erynth grask has two long, spindly arms and six smaller arms, and can manipulate up to six objects at a time.
    • Saunukar are smooth humanoids with elongated heads who sport multiple sets of flippered arms.
  • Multi Boobage: Ni-chodoss, ruler of the Second Tier of Nihliesh, is a multibreasted woman whose elongated torso is almost like a snake's tail.
  • Named After Their Planet: A Calram native is usually called a calramite. If they possess an actual species name, they've never revealed it.
  • Nano Machines: Invisible nanites are omnipresent throughout the Ninth World.
  • Nigh-Invulnerability: No one has ever opened the smooth synth hatch that would provide entrance to the head of the Fourth Mark. No explosive, destructive ray or cutting tool has so much as left a mark.
  • Night-Vision Goggles: The artifact of the same name is a pair of synth goggles with dark, protruding lenses that allows the wearer see at night as if it were daylight.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Some bestiary entries feature commentary from the naturalist Carl Linnal. Any resemblance to Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus is unintended.
  • No Need for Names: Ghru with titles (like the queen) do not have additional personal names. Priests have numbers, such as priest-755 or priest-931.
  • Non-Indicative Name:
    • The sailors of the Ghan merchant fleet are often called Sternmen, but most of them are female.
    • One of the three main citadels of the Convergence, the Empty Sanctum is not empty at all, despite its name.
  • Noob Cave: The corebook contains three ready-made adventures, including one for first-tier characters called The Beale of Boregal, which is explicitly recommended for new players starting a campaign.
  • North Is Cold, South Is Hot: Inverted. Matheunis, the Cold Desert, is located in the southern part of the game map, and things like the Caecilian Jungle are located closer to the northern edge, with the implication being that the setting is in the Earth's southern hemisphere.
  • Not the Intended Use: Quite a few numenera were intended for other purposes than the inhabitants of the Ninth World put them to. Examples include an explosive which was once a vehicle's power plant and a personal energy shield that was once reactor shielding.
  • Offing the Offspring: Vona originally produced a large progeny, but afterward she went mad and hunted down each of her offspring.
  • Off with His Head!: A creature slain by the mesomeme has its head severed and placed on a new tendril that rises up to impale it.
  • Older Than They Look: Sallian Orsay appears to be about 20 years old and has appeared to be that age for as long as anyone can remember.
  • Omnicidal Maniac: The Temple of Death is actually a colossal automaton with one purpose: destroying all life everywhere. Fortunately, it seems unable to leave the Dead Reality.
  • One-Gender Race: There are no Nuswomen. Nusmen mate with normal women, and their sons are often but not always Nusmen. But Nusmen claim no women as part of their breed, which seems to make sense only to the Nusmen.
  • Ontological Mystery: One billion years into the future, nothing on the Earth is even remotely recognizable to people from today. The one exception are humans, which are still practically unchanged. However, the game hints that humans have not been around the whole time and somehow remained unaffected by evolution, but actually only reappeared a few thousand or million years ago. Given the premise of the game, there most certainly isn't any official answer to this mystery.
  • Open Secret: The leaders of the towns of Lhauric on Earth and Arthoyn on Naharrai have long maintained an agreement to keep the existence of the tunnel connecting their towns secret. Tharimalles, priest-king of Lhauric, closely guards the secret, but most of Arthoyn knows the tunnel exists, and many outside the town have heard rumours.
  • The Order: The Angulan Knights, which are dedicated to protecting humanity as a whole, unattached to any government or religion. Many believe they're the militant arm of the Order of Truth, but the Knights only have the Order's blessing to carry out justice, rather than anything more official. They routinely train xi-drakes as flying mounts.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: Xi-drakes resemble a white take on a classic wyvern, with two wings, two legs, a long tail and a large crest on their heads. This crest also contains an organ that helps them fly, but no one is really sure how it works. They are intelligent and can read minds, and are extremely long-lived.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different:
    • Living biological creatures that pass through the Vendav Ring usually disappear, but sometimes their ghosts show up later, flickering into and out of reality like two-dimensional projections, unable to make a sound or affect anything solid, but sometimes cognisant of the events occurring around them.
    • The eulm are incorporeal creatures that inhabit and are the namesake of the Haunted Cloud, because they seem very much like ghosts. They might appear within a starfaring vessel passing through the cloud and take up residence within the same space as an existing creature or object. Eventually, they take on the essence of the creature or object, possessing it and controlling it, if applicable.
  • Our Monsters Are Weird: Blue-skinned mandibled abhumans addicted to increasingly-difficult murders, white-skinned humanoids with no eyes and far too many mouths, flying snakes made of electricity, purple tetrahedrons that refuse to shut up or understand that people might not be interested in playing...
  • Our Orcs Are Different: Everything you need to know about Margr in five words: goat-men with orcish souls.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: A gaunt humanoid creature, possibly a mutant, haunts the Ba-Adenu Forest, draining the blood of its victims and leaving their desiccated corpses for others to find.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: For some reason, some technological strangeness creates what can only be called a bog-standard fantasy horror werewolf. Because... technology.
  • Panthera Awesome: The Sarrak, which appears to be a panther with a sphere of energy for a head and mind control abilities.
  • People Farms: Humans are uraeyl's preferred source of meat. They still tend herds of humans in some places, and some of these herds are very old. The humans in them have lived as livestock for generations. Most have no language and certainly no tool use. Human prisoners introduced into these herds find their captive brethren to be little more than degenerate beasts.
  • Planetary Romance: Quite possible as of the supplement Into the Night.
  • Planet Spaceship:
    • Urvanas had no natural moon before a prior-world civilisation left the Green Moon, composed of diamond-hard synth, to orbit the world.
    • The Phaeton Halo is the remnant of a massive world created by a prior-world civilisation that once orbited the sun. The destruction of Phaeton likely spelled the end of that civilisation's reign.
  • Police Brutality: The Thyrn, guards of the city Stirthal, are harsh, violent and oppressive. They wield two swords, one inscribed with the word JUSTICE and the other MERCY; a common joke in Stirthal is that they use the first blade incorrectly and the second rarely, if ever.
  • Polluted Wasteland: All that remains of the Island of the Last Migration, formerly a paradise of extraordinary splendour, are the remnants of a collapsed society: crumbling, overgrown buildings, empty cities and rusted machines.
  • Power Crystal: Ever-growing crystalline shards slowly drift high above the Cloudcrystal Fields. Some so-called sorcerers and priests contend that the crystals are the perfect foci for magical power, oracles supposedly watch the future here, and gods speak to mortals more clearly and more often.
  • Powered Armor: The battlesuit is a suit of heavy armour that boosts the wearer's Might pool.
  • Power Nullifier: The outside of each structure in the Black City is coated by a living slime that feeds upon raw energy, which can come from powered numenera devices. Numenera devices that are not biological or chemical in nature do not function in the Black City.
  • Power Perversion Potential: Mentioned in Love & Sex in the Ninth World, mentioning how pieces of numenera have been put to... other uses. Specifically mentioning the friction-reducing gel, gravity nullifiers and magnetic masters from the core book, though leaving their uses to the reader's imagination.
  • Quicksand Sucks: The Amorphous Fields are a strange mixture of rock and earth that moves and churns, where the ground can turn to pools like quicksand, rise up with a sudden thrust, or open like a yawing chasm without warning.
  • Ragnarök Proofing: Millions upon millions of years have passed without maintenance, and all the insane supertech still works.
  • Ray Gun: The skull blaster fires a brilliant beam of focused light. The transdimensional ray projector fires a beam of energy that exists on many levels of reality at once.
  • Razor Floss: Steel spiders can spin entire webs of it. Useful, if you can keep yourself from being shredded on it.
  • Raised by Wolves: Adopting the "Bazian" descriptor from the Character Options supplement means your character comes from the Weal of Baz, where the machines live. You gain several machine-like attributes and working with machines and machine intelligences becomes one step easier, but communicating with organic lifeforms becomes one step harder.
  • Reality Is Out to Lunch: The Amorphous Fields, a section of the Beyond where the ground itself continually shifts and flows around a structure known as the Twisted Spire.
  • Really 700 Years Old: Mhaviser is one of the original humans who came to Urvanas in the Ark from Earth five centuries ago, and keeps her age in abeyance with secret tech. If anyone knows what terrible thing lies trapped in the wreck of the Ark down on the surface, it is Mhaviser.
  • Really Gets Around: The warlord Cromulus led his armies on a trail of conquest throughout the southern regions of the Beyond more than 80 years ago. Due to his depravations in the villages and towns that he conquered, a surprising number of people in that region can correctly claim to be his descendants.
  • Recursive Precursors: The Ninth World is built on the bones of the previous eight, and in particular the last four. Each former world stretched across millennia and played host to a species whose civilisations rose to supremacy before vanishing.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: Nibovian companions are absolutely adorable balls of fluff that resemble big-eyed Tribbles... that attempt to turn anyone that adopts them into a life battery to sustain them.
  • Ridiculously Difficult Route: The Umbil has become a place for dark dwellers, thieves and worse. Although it remains the shortest passage between Jargolamis and Luigolamis, it's also the one most likely to get you killed. The abhuman slaves have regained their freedom, the markets dark wares and dangerous creatures skulk around every bend.
  • Ridiculously Human Robots: Mastigophores are automatons that appear to be average, uniformed humans with a military stance and need to consume organic matter to function.
  • Rubber-Forehead Aliens: The ellaticurids of Naharrai superficially resemble tall, lanky humans with a bluish tinge to their flesh.
  • Sand Worm: A cragworm is a spined serpent that can grow up to 15 m long. Its mouth opens horizontally and has many rows of teeth. It lives alone in wastelands and prey upon whatever it could find.
  • The Savage South: Matheunis, the vast, wild, untamed cold desert south of the Steadfast. And south of Matheunis lies the Frozen South, a realm of cold and year-round snow, where merely a few (relatively) habitable regions contain a handful of towns and villages.
  • Savage Wolves: Broken hounds are starving, vicious animals, understand only hunger and fear, and cannot be reasoned with.
  • Scavenger World: Much of the gameplay is about collecting tech from the previous ages, the titular Numenera. This can be anything from curios which glow green to Deflector Shields that shoot lightning at the enemy.
  • Schmuck Bait: Though the origins of the term have never been fully revealed, anything described as "Nibovian" falls under the "too good to be true" category of this. It appears to be good and useful, right up until it does something horrible to you.
  • Science Fantasy: The game is inspired by works like Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun. The setting, called by its inhabitants the Ninth World, mixes a society with medieval technology with technological artifacts left behind by the previous civilizations that have risen and fallen over the previous billion years. While Monte has said that he is grounding the game firmly in science (or at least science fiction), he has cited Clarke's Third Law to explain the presence of things that would otherwise be at home in a fantasy setting such as "wizards" (Nanos, whose powers are derived from cybernetic implants, extradimensional aliens, or other non-supernatural sources), "gods" (alien entities or ancient AIs), and floating cities (kept aloft by some sort of anti-gravity or repulsor tech).
  • Schizo Tech: The civilizations in the game are roughly medieval but are surrounded by advanced technology from Before the End. This can even exist within the one character — one of the three options for the source of a player-character's skill and talent is cybernetic augmentation. Meaning you could have a glaive who goes to town with a big battleaxe but where most of his talent comes from a variety of implants, either obvious stuff like mechanical limbs or subtle ones like nanites in the bloodstream to better conduct oxygen and regulate other biochemicals.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Lampshaded in the Bestiary entry for the neveri.
    "In fanciful tales, it's not uncommon to find incredibly powerful Evil Things, secured by Ancient Powers in a forgotten prison. But why? Why didn't those Ancient Powers simply destroy the Evil Thing? Many possibilities suggest themselves, but the plainest answer may be right: because the Evil Thing would not die."
  • Secret Circle of Secrets: The Gaians, a secretive and mysterious cult believed to control the lands north of the Steadfast. Subverted as of the Ninth World Guidebook. Not only are the Gaians a society of peaceful animists, they have no idea the Steadfast even exists, let alone is planning a crusade against them.
  • Secret Police:
    • Argust Provani, the ruler of Shallamas, employs an elite group of secretive operatives called the Shadowlings, who infiltrate criminal organisations and destroy them from within.
    • The Masked Legion of Iscobal operates in the shadows of Mulen, opposing the Sarromere family's covert attempts to undermine the royal family.
  • Seeing Through Another's Eyes: Serrain sees and hears through her children's and brother's senses at all times.
  • Shock and Awe: Anyone who takes the Rides the Lightning character focus gets the ability to shock people with their touch, hurl lightning bolts around, the ability to fly and teleport using electricity, and a big sack of batteries.
  • Sibling Team: A pair of sisters named Gaera and Funae work as master thieves, one posing as a noblewoman and the other as her servant. They use this ruse to gain access to any location, steal wealth and numenera, murder victims and take their spines.
  • Single-Biome Planet: Most of Perelande is ocean, covered in a crust of organic material 30 to 46 cm thick. For the most part, the crust extends for miles upon miles of relatively flat, dry terrain, with only occasional small plants.
  • Single Task Robot: The cleaning mech, garden mech, lifting aventron and storyteller automata, whose only purpose is, respectively, cleaning objects, tending to gardens, lifting objects and spinning stories.
  • Space Elevator: The Beanstalk, is a thick synth tether 36000 km long that will transport a vehicle up the stalk at great speeds. There is a way to find a viable spaceship at its terminus.
  • Spawn Broodling: The poisonous trunked lily flowers quickly kill any creatures that eat them; once the host is dead, the flowers cocoon inside the body until they're ready to sprout.
  • Spider People: Culovas, which resemble giant spiders with a humanoid torso, arms ending in clawed fingers, almost no neck and a head with multiple spider-like eyes and a mouth full of sharp teeth. They aren't abhumans, but they're still getting into conflicts with the locals over territory and resources.
  • Spider Tank: The dread destroyers are living versions of these, possessing brains and organs inside a self-repairing metal hull. They're sufficiently well-armed to be able to take out cities by themselves, can scale vertical surfaces, and move very fast in the water.
  • Spike Shooter: The nano-needler projects a single needle that can carry poison or disease, and the injection is so tiny that the victim doesn't feel it. The needler is a bigger version, capable of spraying multiple needles at once.
  • Split Personality:
    • Lattimors have this as a basic fact of their existence. They're a symbiotic combination of a bursk (big, bulky, unintelligent bipeds) and a neem (a sort of sentient lichen that grows on their backs). They can switch between the bursk or neem personality to use the advantages of each mentality, or join together to counter the weaknesses of both.
    • Holiva the First spends his waking hours talking with his own hand in the form of a shadow puppet.
  • The Spook:
    • No one knows where the mysterious philethis come from. Some people think they might be the remaining inhabitants of a prior world, as they seem to have a far greater mastery of numenera than do most creatures alive today. No human has seen the entire body of a philethis and reported what they saw. They can speak in the native language of whomever they talk to, but their explanations for things rarely make sense, and the questions they ask seem unrelated to anything going on around them. Philethis are meant to be an enigma: players should never fully understand them, and if they believe that they do, something should happen to show that they are wrong.
    • A nameless man lives in Tuleer's understory among the lux, though they give him a wide berth, whispering that he is Zhoh cursed. He lives alone and rarely emerges. When he does, he never shows his face, hiding it under a scarlet mask. Both human and lux children say that he is so hideously scarred that one look at his face would kill one alike.
  • Starfish Aliens: Some of the weirder creatures, like the travonis ul (a mass of tentacles with bulbous yellow eyes in the middle of each) and the erynth grask (wormlike sapients with four tentacles around its mouth and eight arms) are almost certainly extraterrestrial if not extradimensional. Also literal with the Ulagra, alien starfish hundreds of feet wide, who reside on a sunless rogue planet, and can occasionally host psychic transference phenomenon.
  • Street Urchin: Kaparin's street rats were born at sea and then left behind. They live in small groups beneath the docks and often create graffiti on the sides of docked submergines, searching for or cursing their parents.
  • Stun Guns:
    • The Zhev are armed with stun gas canisters that can be fired from long ranges, explode and impede actions for creatures within immediate range of the blast.
    • When activated, the stunner fires a beam of energy that stuns the target.
  • Superstitious Sailors: A tradition of the Ghan merchant fleet is to never leave dock with more men than women aboard. To do so is considered bad luck.
  • Supervillain Lair: The Forestead serves as Darcadian Everlar's luxurious home outside of Cyanachor, filled with his retinue of slaves, harem of captive consorts, and hoard of numenera devices and other confiscated wealth. Here he watches criminals fight to the death in his own personal arena, and where his hand-picked technicians experiment with new devices, drugs and processes on living victims.
  • The Swarm: Yellow swarms are ultradimensional insects that must stay in close proximity to one another, or they lose their ability to remain in this reality. They look like a small cloud of yellow locusts until you get close enough to see that they are transparent and have asymmetrical bodies, seven legs and five wings.
  • The Symbiote: The nevajin is not a single creature, but two. Its head is a separate creature that adheres to the main body by means of powerful suction. When joined, the two portions infuse each other with filaments that allow an exchange of information and nutrients. Separation is a painful process that the nevajin does not undertake lightly. Both portions of the nevajin have their own brains, sensory organs and digestive systems.
  • Taken for Granite: The shatter wand realigns the molecular structure of a living target, in effect crystallising the flesh.
  • Talking Animal: Along the coast of the Sea of Secrets, every once in a while, an impressively large fish breaks the surface near a small boat and attempts to engage the occupants in a conversation in perfect Truth.
  • Talking in Your Dreams: Communicating with a huluraloch is done by sleeping in an Empty Embassy. During this time, a sleeper will have a lucid dream, in which they see a creature that seems like a huge, floating, insubstantial eye. If treated with respect, the huluraloch will speak in the dreamer's language.
  • Terraform: Legends say that Naharrai was once a lifeless place of red sands, but that long ago some great force transformed it into a lush, green place, not unlike Earth.
  • Tested on Humans: Darcadian Everlar's technicians experiment with new devices, drugs and processes on living subjects.
  • The Theocracy: The theocratic city-state of Lhauric is ruled by the Priest-King Tharimalles, speaker for the million gods of the Challifani.
  • Things Man Was Not Meant to Know: Weaponized memes are ideas that, once learned, slowly drive all who know them insane and subsequently drive them to suicide.
  • This Is a Drill: When a drill spear is activated, the wielder lets go and the spear drills into the foe.
  • Those Magnificent Flying Machines: The people of Qi often travel by fantastically huge helium or hot air balloons and dirigibles, leading to the common saying 'half of Qi is in the sky'.
  • Threatening Shark: Jybrils are sea monsters resembling titanic, monstrous sharks with three eyes in a row on each side of their heads. They will attack and eat anything they come across — humanoids, fish, other sea monsters, machines... — with the nanites living symbiotically in their tissues allowing them to digest all of it.
  • Three-Stat System: Might, Speed, and Intellect, which are simultaneously resource pools for three types of ability checks and the game's Multiple Life Bars. They can also be mapped to the game's three classes, glaive, nano, and jack.
  • Thunderbolt Iron: Azure steel is not steel and may not be from Earth at all. While somewhat lighter than steel, it is at least ten times harder and tougher.
  • Time Abyss:
    • The game is set a solid billion years into the future, in a world filled to the brim with the ruins and artifacts of bygone civilizations that have been waiting derelict in the wilderness for anywhere from hundreds of thousands to hundreds of millions of years. Depending on when specific tombs, installations or pieces of numenera was actually made, many likely predate the formation of the setting's supercontinent, having been carried to their current locations as they were rafted around by tectonic drift over millions of years.
    • More specifically, the octopi are an extremely ancient species, old enough to have seen at least some of the great ancient civilizations rise, flourish and either die out or leave. This is part of the reason they do not interact much with other species — from their perspective, none ever last long enough for any meaningful interaction to occur. This also applies to individual octopi; they managed to make themselves ageless long in the past, and many octopi are thus very old indeed; their current queen, for instance, is over a million years old.
  • Time Machine: The main function of the chrono engine is travelling backward in time.
  • Time Travel:
    • Rarrow was built on both sides of a spatial rift, with the portion on the other side of the rift being called Hidden Rarrow. Since Hidden Rarrow seems to have a similar sun, but the moon never appears and the stars are similar but not identical, it's believed that the rift is temporal instead of spatial, and Hidden Rarrow lies some time in the future.
    • For reasons unknown, sometimes the moon shifts backward in time, many millions of years. When this happens, everything native to the current moon disappears and is replaced with the moon as it was so very long ago. Explorers are not affected, but everything around them is. This time slippage is limited to a sort of bubble around the moon, extending just 10 miles or so from its surface. Passing out of that bubble while the moon has slipped backward sends a traveller hurtling back to his proper time period. The time shifts usually last about twenty hours, and occur once every seventy to eighty hours.
  • Too Awesome to Use: The titular Numenera. The Anti-Hoarding mechanics means that, sooner or later, they will be used and a replacement given soon after, but the fact they are are (mostly) one-shot effects means that beginning players will obviously be reluctant to part with them.
  • To Serve Man:
    • The uraeyl living in the Lands of the Dawn are all but incapable of seeing humans as anything but sources of labor and meat. They keep herds of "domesticated" (read: bestial) humans.
    • Some saunukar in Branu's Kiss hunt the humans of Kestin's Folly, which a few of the outlying pods have developed a taste for.
  • Town with a Dark Secret:
    • Queslin is a town on the Sere Marica that posts flyers advertising for workers throughout the Beyond. It's got the prettiest houses you'll ever lay eyes on, friendly and generous merchants, and a breathtaking view of the inland sea. None of which you'll ever see if you take a job there, since you'll be dragged into the salt mines, tied down, and force-fed saltfeed so that the leeches that will feed from your body will become savory enough for Queslin's masters to sell as snacks to nobles around the world. It's VAGUELY possible you'll survive, in which case you do get the promised rewards. It almost certainly won't have been worth it.
    • The Gloaming works as a slaughterhouse for the Inconae, who manipulated its makers into creating it and filling it with prey. Luckily, it seems that said makers suspected something and they also created the Cypher-like Archadian motes, which also work as a Kryptonite Factor against the Inconae, in order to make the Gloaming's inhabitants' lives easier.
    • The Into the Deep supplement describes another, Lampshaded example of the abovementioned trope: the "beautiful city with a dark secret" Onisteles. Said secret also involves people being eaten.
  • Toxic Phlebotinum: Carrying too many cyphers will kill you. Exactly how they will kill you is abstracted because there are so many different kinds of technology, and nobody knows enough science to determine the root causes for certain. A numenera could kill you with nuclear radiation, unchecked nanotech, psychic interference, alien laws of physics, or something as simple as lead-based paint.
  • Translator Microbes: The All-Speech automatically translates any word spoken within the city of Orrila and a fair distance beyond into a language understandable to each listener.
  • Trick Arrow: An exploding arrow explodes when it strikes something.
  • Tube Travel:
    • A network of huge ceramic pipes run through Uxphon and are used as thoroughfares by residents.
    • An underground tube conveyance allows citizens to travel between the two main sections of Arxil.
    • The cromulek came to Perelande from their original home through extradimensional tubes that extend through space to allow quick travel across immense distances. Wedoth legends also say that they were brought to Perelande long ago from another world in tubes that stretched across the distance, and it's not hard to imagine that in the past, the wedoth migrated from another world just as the cromulek are doing now.
  • Tunnel Network: The humans of the Slant Milieu live in a handful of underground rooms and interconnected tunnels built not by their current inhabitants but by someone or something long ago. They wind on in a seemingly endless tangle, far more extensive than needed to house the small number of people living there today.
  • Turtle Island: The granthu, a titanic crustacean that lives deep beneath the sea to the west of the main setting. It's big enough that a good-sized city, Joira, has been built on, in and beneath its carapace. The Fish People who inhabit it, who speak about the granthu like humans speak about the Earth, are firmly of the belief that the beast is not unique, and that there are more out there bearing their own cities on their backs.
  • Tyrannosaurus rex: Jiraskars are T. rex-like creatures whose dim senses are augmented by their inborn ability to tap into the internet. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
  • Uncanny Valley: Proxima, from the Ninth World Guidebook, are unusually healthy people born to normal humans who have something off about their looks that's hard to put one's finger on. They're described in-world as looking like a sculpture of a human by a skilled non-human artist: all the details are there and correct, but the essential human-ness of their appearance is missing.
  • Underground City:
    • Vebar is a city located in a vast artificial cave, lit by a series of artificial lights. The buildings hang from the cavern's ceiling.
    • Antre is located in a vast (and likely unnatural) cavern on the edge of the Matemal Mountains.
  • Underwater City: Several, some in fairly shallow parts of the sea and some in the blackest depths. Their inhabitants collectively refer to these places as oceia.
    • Joria is a city built on the back of an enormous crustacean called a granthu, which moves in a roughly constant orbit around the ocean floor. The city is partly open to water, and inhabited by a species of amphibious humanoids called Jorians. The Jorians believe that there are other cities of their kind on the backs of other granthus, following their own orbits somewhere in the global ocean, and put in a great deal of time and effort in searching for them.
    • The City of Rust is a large settlement on top of a massive slab resting on the ocean floor, which gets its name from the rust-red metal making up its buildings. It's mostly inhabited by a species of aquatic aliens called the skeane, and watched over by four massive and fickle AIs that its inhabitants worship as gods.
    • Ahmas is a city in the darkest depths of the ocean, home to the descendants of humans who were transformed into monstrous Fish People by mysterious entities centuries in the past.
    • Minifera, located even deeper than Ahmas, is lit by tiny, bioluminescent swimming creatures. It's home to the naiadans, an aquatic race whose individuals are made up of thousands of tiny creatures called dyremmi.
    • Morenel is a city on the abyssal plain inexplicably inhabited by humans, who have been living there longer than any surface-based human civilization has been around.
    • Onisteles is a colossal sea sponge that was colonized by an aquatic race called the glanae. The skin flakes the glanae shed feed the sponge, which in turn provides them with a home in a symbiotic relationship. What the glanae don't know is that Onisteles is in a similar relationship with a species of predatory animals called ebons, where the predators protect the city from certain sponge-eating slugs… in exchange for Onisteles occasionally spitting out glanae to feed the ebons.
    • Salachia is located at the deepest point of the Sere Marica (460 m), and is home to fewer than 1200 people.
  • The Usurper: Rabbar tiKalloban seized the throne of Iscobal about forty years ago from Queen Whenith Sarromere, whom most believed unfit to rule.
  • Vampiric Draining: Sathosh and varakith drink the blood of their victims.
  • Van Helsing Hate Crimes: The Angulan Knights, for all the good they do, are profoundly uncomfortable with "visitants" (the non-human, non-hostile inhabitants of the Ninth World) and absolutely vicious in their attempts to wipe out all mutants, whether or not the mutants in question are actually doing anything wrong.
  • Vestigial Empire: The Pytharon Empire, which once ruled much of the southern Steadfast and almost completely collapsed a hundred years before the game's timeframe, but was brought Back from the Brink by Empress Challadien II and is looking to expand once again.
  • Virtual Ghost: The southern coast of Ghan is said to be haunted by ghosts, which are actually the intellects and memories of people from the distant past that were loaded into storage that uses smart fluid housing.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: Vona has the power to alter and shape her own genetic material and that of other beings within immediate range. Thus, she can transform herself or others.
  • Was Once a Man:
    • Abhumans are once-human creatures that rejected humanity to become bestial, murderous, and degenerate. In other words, they or their forebears chose to be abhuman.
    • The orolin vermin that infest Nachant are devolved otolins. Thus, otolins find them both physically dangerous and spiritually terrifying.
  • We ARE Struggling Together: The ruling council of Milave does little but bicker over petty matters while the Pytharon Empire grows in military might. If war does come, this loose union is likely to collapse, each state fighting for itself and no other.
  • Weird Weather:
    • The welkerwind is a fierce, angry blow that storms down off the Black Riage to the Slant Milieu almost constantly, day in and day out, to the point that the trees bend sideways, the mountains point their tops toward the ground, and creatures become stooped and hunched.
    • The Westwind is a corkscrewed tornado that constantly moves in the Caecilian Jungle and carries trees, animals and all manner of debris, changing its size depending on what it holds.
    • When the winds rise in the Jagged Wastes, they gather the glass shards on the ground and carry them along like tiny razors and needles. After such a storm, one can found the skeletons of unlucky travellers, covered in tattered, bloody flesh.
  • Wetware Body: Ghru are humans with machine minds. When a ghru child is born, its brain is ritually removed and replaced with a biomechanical brain built by the ghru in a processing plant. Ghru brains are designed with knowledge and skills already in them.
  • Wild Wilderness: The Beyond. Far less settled than the Steadfast, with fewer roads and paths and vast stretches of wilderness between population centers.
  • Won the War, Lost the Peace: Thaemor was once part of a three-way war between Navarene, Draolis and Malevich until claimed as a kingdom by Goldguard Landon, a fearsome warrior who knew everything about how to defend a region from multiple enemies but absolutely nothing about running a kingdom himself. Under his rule, Thaemor's borders were always well protected, but its residents and places within were not.
  • The Worm That Walks:
    • Naiadans are a species of beings whose bodies are entirely composed of thousands of tiny creatures called dyremmi, all acting together to form a larger individual being. There are also naiadapts, the descendants of humans who modified themselves or who were modified to have colonies of dyremmi living in their bodies and acting as extensions of their beings. Both naiadans and naiadapts have the ability to alter their bodies and abilities by simply removing some of the dyremmi currently making them up and exchanging them for new ones carrying a desired trait, altering themselves by manipulating the balance of their component creatures. "Wild" dyremmi also exist, some of which are reported to have developed individual intelligence and see the naiadans and naiadapts as horrific conglomerations that must be destroyed to free their "enslaved" dyremmi.
    • Each clure is a colony of tiny creatures, all dwelling within a humanoid-shaped, transparent field of force.
  • Wretched Hive: Ingwald is a town of cutthroats and thieves. The de facto ruler of Ingwald is a lattimor named Gravish-Morel, who commands a band of river pirates that operate on the Welbyway.

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