Tabletop Review: Artifacts and Oddities Collection I (Numenera)

Artifacts and Oddities Collection I (Numenera)
Publisher: Monte Cook Games
Cost: $2.99
Page Count: 10
Release Date: 12/23/2013
Get it Here: DriveThruRPG.com

Similar to the Cipher Collection I, Artifacts and Oddities Collection I is a list of objects that a GM can throw into their Ninth World campaign for players to find and use. Where Ciphers tend to be items good for only a single use, Artifacts are longer lasting items, and thus can have a more powerful effect on a adventure, or even a campaign. As such, it’s harder to design one without risking the balance of a game. Oddities, meanwhile, are just super strange things that have no real use or benefit to players, save for being weird and puzzling reminders of the previous worlds that came before. To help GMs out, Monte Cook Games has created this ten page collection.

There are thirty-three Artifacts and fifty Oddities to be had in this piece. That’s a lot of new items to pack into ten pages, isn’t it? Well, the Oddities only take up two pages in this supplement, and one of those pages is merely descriptor text about the concept of Oddities. The last page is the Oddities in a single list, each getting only a sentence of description. I was a bit disappointed in that respect, but the Oddities do live up to their names, with the level of weirdness I keeping hoping to find on every page of a Numenera release. These include things like a piece of cloth that is oddly pleasing to touch, a small jar that fills with one ounce of green paint every morning at dawn, a glove that makes your voice extremely high pitched and a metal rod that makes anyone who touches it sneeze. These are great and really showcase the billion years of history that came before the Ninth World. Just drop one of these into an adventure and players will agonize over the original purpose and how it can help them on their quest du jour. It has to have a purpose, right? WRONG! It’s flavor, pure and simple.

The thirty-three artifacts are far less weird, unfortunately. Each of the thirty-three items gets a paragraph of text to describe their use, so they are pretty fleshed out. Like many of the Ciphers, though, these items seem to be more run of the mill dungeon crawl loot than things that truly help to define Numenera as something new and different. Indeed, many of the items merely feel like scientific versions of Dungeons & Dragons mainstay magical items. The Handy Hollow is a Portable Hole variant, for example. The Interceptor is simply a Protection Against Missiles spell, but in tech form. The Spider Harness is a more literal version of Spider Climb, and the Skin of Water Breathing is like any magical item that gives you a water breathing effect. I was a bit disappointed that the team behind Artifacts and Oddities Collection didn’t get more creative or bizarre with their artifacts, as too many of these items feel too similar to your standard hack and slash fantasy loot – which is not what I (nor really anyone) wants from Numenera.

That’s not to say that all the Artifacts fall into fantasy loot trope town. Some are pretty innovative and outside the box. Take the Foldable Coach for example. This is an interesting little vehicle that is sure to make characters stand out wherever they go. There’s also the Obedient Rope, which is a semi-intelligent (perhaps sentient) piece of cable. The Yesterglass is perhaps the most out there item. When held before a user’s face, this glass panel will show the last major event to happen in the general vicinity, even if it happened hundreds of years in the past. That’s pretty crazy and can, in and of itself, set off many an adventure.

All in all, the Artifacts and Oddities Collection I is a nice little collection. At $2.99 I’d say it’s probably one or two dollars overpriced, especially if you’re good at homebrewing your own items for PCs to find. If, however, you like to stick to only published material, you’ll probably get your money’s worth out of this collection. Again, I’d personally like to see some weirder and more nebulous items in these collections, but opinion may vary on that one.

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