Numenera Posts

Dust of the Cold Wind

Environmental GM Intrusion

A character ingests the Dust of the Cold Wind and contracts a potent poison that rides on the particles and debris that are blown around the The Cold Desert .

This poison has no effect at first, other than a nagging cough. The next day a difficulty 4 Might test is required.  If the test is failed the PC is wracked with a horrific cough as the toxic particles affect their lungs. All Might and Speed tasks have an Initial Cost of 1 until the sickness can be cured.  All actions involving Stealth are increased by two steps, as the PC finds it nearly impossible to stop the cough.

The affected character can attempt a difficulty 4 Might task every day to fight off the condition.


A capable healer can act an asset, reducing the task from 4 to 3.

A healer, shaman, or mystic can attempt to cure the malady as a level 4 Intellect task.

Ovoid Portal

Ovoid Portal


Level: 4

Form: A 6″ flat oval substance about three feet in width and five feet tall. The Ovoid has four protrusions that look like teeth, two on the top and two on the bottom.

Effect: When activated, the portal will unfurl and attach itself to a wall via its toothy protrusions. Once attached, the ovoid portal gives a violent shudder and takes on the appearance of rippling water. Afterwards it offers access to any open space on the other side of the wall, up to 40′ away.

The portal can only offer passage through materials that are level 4 and lower.

Depletion: 1 in 1d6

Sopoforic Pollen

Environmental GM Intrusion



While exploring a strange looking forest, the PC causes an exotic plant to emit a toxic pollen that has a soporific effect. The character’s aggressiveness is greatly decreased, causing any Might task that the PC spends Effort on to have an Initial Cost of 1. The effect lasts for 1d6 hours. During that time, the PC must consume twice the amount of food that they normally would.

The Doppelganger Effect


The PCs are traveling along a road, or even in a city when they come across two people fighting, one savagely mauling the other.

A quick level 2 Intellect task quickly reveals that the two people are twins. Not only are they twins, they are exact duplicates, down to every article of clothing.

If the PCs are able to break the fight up (the person that is being attacked will die without their help, after which the doppelganger dies as well), they find that the aggressive person has strange white eyes, and becomes violently enraged when they see their twin.

To make matters worse if the PCs harm the strange doppelganger any damage they inflict they upon the doppelganger will also be inflicted on the person who’s form it assumed.

When questioned about how this happened the original person that was copied points the PCs to a strange device that he found nearby. After touching the device, the doppelganger appeared and became enraged upon seeing him. It chased him until it finally caught up with him.

The doppelganger will not speak or communicate with the PCs, or anyone else for that matter. If left to its own devices, it will continue to seek out its twin.

Important Questions

  • What, if anything, can be done about the doppelganger?
  • How will this effect the person that was copied?
  • Could the original device help undo this?
  • Could this device be used as a weapon, or should it be destroyed?
You rolled a 1.. again?

You rolled a 1.. again?

When preparing a Numenera adventure, I always write down a few intrusions that are relevant to the environment or story that I’m trying to convey to the players.   Before I started writing these ideas down, I would invariably forget to give a couple of players an intrusion, causing an inequitable distribution of experience points in the group.

Writing these intrusions ahead of time gave me more freedom to focus my creativity on conveying the world and interesting characters that the players encountered. I’m also pretty good at handling impromptu intrusions based on the characters actions.  I thought I was as prepared as a GM could be… until I encountered “that” player.  That player happened to be my son. On two separate occasions, he rolled five ones in one encounter. The first one was funny and I came up with something pretty fast. “Okay, your weapon flies free from your grasp and lands a few feet a way, it will take an action to get it back“.. or.. “the last cypher injection that you took had some kind of strange effect on you, your next task has an increased difficulty of one“… “or you trip and fall“..  It can be taxing to dole out a high number of memorable or meaningful intrusions in one encounter.

There are a couple of ways to handle that many player created intrusions.  Monte Cook Games  recently released a fantastic GM Intrusions Deck. Having these cards at the table is like having an extra GM there helping you come up with ideas when you need a helping hand.

While the GM Intrusion deck is great, I have found another way to handle player rolled intrusions using Dungeon World‘s GM Moves list.  A GM Move is essentially an action that a GM can make in response to the player failing a roll. So basically, its just like a player rolling a one.

Dungeon World GM Moves

  • Use a monster, danger, or location move
  • Reveal an unwelcome truth
  • Show signs of an approaching threat
  • Deal damage
  • Use up their resources
  • Turn their move back on them
  • Separate them
  • Give an opportunity that fits a class’ abilities
  • Show a downside to their class, race, or equipment
  • Offer an opportunity, with or without cost
  • Put someone in a spot
  • Tell them the requirements or consequences and ask

As you can see, these moves are very much like intrusions. Print out this list and tape it to your GM screen and you will never run out of good ideas when your players roll too many ones!

Happy GM’ing!