As we’ve established, I can’t stop hacking Numenera. The more I try to figure out how to mine the parts I like best, though, the more I feel like the most sensible thing is not to house rule the Cypher System—it will always been too fiddly for my purposes—but to run some other game entirely, set it in the Ninth World, bolt on the rules for cyphers (i.e., each PC can carry just a few one-use magic items, and they find more every few rooms), optionally find a way to use monsters who range in power from levels 1–10, and figure out a way to emulate the “I’m a [descriptor] [type] who [focuses]” character concept structure. And since the D&D rule set known as Whitehack can handle that last part especially well, I wanted to make a note of it here.
Whitehack characters can have a wonderful range in depth and detail if you want them to: They can be the traditional D&D-style “species” + “occupation” setup, like an elven wizard or human fighter, but they can also go in entirely different directions depending on what players are into. The traditional “class” trio of fighter, rogue, and magic-user is instead presented as The Strong, The Deft, and The Wise, offering options for combat bonuses, skill bonuses, and spell casting, respectively. (Other classes explore other archetypes, like The Brave and The Fortunate.) That’s combined with one or more “groups,” which offer bonuses to rolls when they’re relevant, which could be a species, but could also be an organization, profession, lineage, or what have you. You could make a traditional “paladin” character, for instance, by making The Strong, and describing some church or another as one of their groups—or, by making The Wise, with some knightly order as a group. They each get different special abilities and advancement options, depending on whether you want to stand out from weapon mastery or miracle working, but they’ll get bonuses to paladin-ish rolls in either case. (Check out this extensive two–part review of Whitehack for more details.)
How to translate this to Numenera? I’d try:
“I’m a [class] [group] who [belongs to another group or has a mutation].”
Like, “I’m a Wise Alchemist who has Skin of Pure Gold,” or, “I’m a Deft Hunter who Belongs to the Lodge.” (I suggest searching on Coins and Scrolls or Elfmaids and Octopi for “mutations” and rolling randomly for that result.) Personally, I’d also give some more flexibility in how you name the class for the sake of variety. Maybe you have two spellcaster types in your group, but only one is “Wise,” while the other is “Commanding”—both drawing on intellect/personality, but giving some more room to roleplay differently.
Something tells me that the next time I run Numenera, it will be some horrifically combined Frankenstein’s monster of all these hacks I’ve posted. I’ll let you know when “it’s alive.”