Optional Rules

In an attempt to keep the game relatively simple, the rules are designed to be streamlined, straightforward, and easy to use. However, some players and GMs might desire a bit more complexity, especially as the game goes on, in order to remain engaged and challenged. If you find yourself wanting more robust rules or more options to tailor the scene, use some or all of the optional rules in this section.

The GM is the final arbiter of which optional rules are available in a scene. If the scene is not GMed, check with your fellow players before using an Optional Rule.

Trading Damage For Effect

You can decrease the amount of damage you inflict in combat in exchange for a special effect that is usually attained only on a roll of 19 or 20. To determine the amount of damage you must sacrifice from a single attack, consult the following table, and add the amount for the desired effect to the foe's level. For example, if you want to impair a level 5 monster, you'd have to sacrifice 12 points of damage from an attack (7 plus 5). The player can wait to determine if he hits before deciding whether to trade damage for an effect.

Damage Reduction Effect
1 Hinder/Distract
2 Specific body part
3 Knock back
3 Move past
3 Strike held object
4 Knock down
7 Disarm
7 Impair
8 Stun

Hinder/Distract: For one round, the difficulty of the opponent's actions is modified by one step to his detriment.

Specific Body Part: The attacker strikes a specific spot on the defender's body. The GM decides what special effect, if any, results. For example, hitting a creature's tentacle that is wrapped around your ally might make it easier for the ally to escape. Hitting a foe in the eye might blind it for one round. Hitting a creature in its one vulnerable spot might ignore Armor.

Knock Back: The foe is knocked or forced back a few feet. Most of the time, this effect doesn't matter much, but if the fight takes place on a ledge or next to a pit of lava, the effect can be significant.

Move Past: The character can make a short move at the end of the attack. This effect is useful to get past a foe guarding a door, for example.

Strike Held Object: Instead of striking the foe, you strike what the foe is holding. To determine results, refer to the rules for attacking objects (page 98 of the core rulebook).

Knock Down: The foe is knocked prone. It can get up on its turn if it wishes.

Disarm: The opponent drops one object that it is holding.

Impair: For the rest of the combat, the difficulty of all tasks attempted by the foe is modified by one step to its detriment.

Stun: The opponent loses its next turn.

Lasting Damage

For a more realistic simulation of damage, the GM can use a GM intrusion to indicate that damage suffered by a player character is "lasting". Most of the time, this damage is described as being a concussion, a broken bone, a torn ligament, or severe muscle or tissue damage. This damage does not heal normally, so the points lost cannot be regained by using restoration rolls. Instead, the points return at a rate of 1 point per day of complete rest (or 1 point per three days of regular activity). Until the points are restored, the damage has a secondary effect.

Using lasting damage is particularly appropriate in cases where it would be an obvious consequence, such as when a character falls a long distance. It is also appropriate for characters who are already impaired or debilitated.

Damage Type Description Other Effect
Might Broken arm Useless arm
Might Muscle damage Difficulty of all physical tasks is increased by one step
Might Tissue damage Difficulty of all tasks is increased by two steps
Speed Torn ligament Move at half speed; short move is no more than 25 feet (7.6 m); long move is no more than 50 feet (15 m)
Speed Broken leg Cannot move without assistance
Intellect Concussion Difficulty of all Intellect actions is increased by one step

Permanent Damage

Similar to lasting damage, permanent damage is a special situation adjudicated by the GM. Permanent damage never heals normally, although the numenera can repair damage or replace lost body parts. This kind of damage should be used sparingly and only in special situations.

Damage Type Description Other Effect
Might Severed hand or arm Self-explanatory
Speed Permanent limp Move at half speed; short move is no more than 25 feet (7.6 m); long move is no more than 50 feet (15 m)
Speed Severed leg Cannot move without assistance
Intellect Missing eye Difficulty of most or all physical actions is increased by one step
Intellect Brain damage Difficulty of all Intellect actions is increased by one step
Intellect Blindness Character acts as if always in complete darkness
Intellect Deafness Character cannot hear

Lasting or Permanent Damage as Death Replacement

The GM can use lasting or permanent damage as a substitute for death. In other words, if a PC reaches 0 in all of her stat Pools, she would normally be dead, but instead you could say that she is knocked unconscious and wakes up with some kind of lasting or permanent damage.

Alternatives to Points of Damage

Sometimes, a GM might want to portray the dangers of the Ninth World in ways other than points of damage. For example, a particularly nasty disease or wound might give a character a weakness or inability.


Weakness is, essentially, the opposite of Edge. If you have a weakness of 1 in Intellect, all Intellect actions that require you to spend points cost 1 additional point from your Pool.


Damage can also inflict inabilities. As explained in the Descriptors chapter, inabilities are like "negative skills." Instead of being one step better at that kind of task, you're one step worse.

Modifying Abilities

Sometimes, a player can use a special ability in a way that goes beyond its normal bounds. Such changes can be done on the fly. In some cases, it simply costs more points to use the ability in a new way. In other cases, more challenges are involved.

For any Intellect ability with a specific range, you can increase the range by using more mental energy. If you spend 1 additional Intellect point, you can change the range by one step — either from short to long, or from long to 500 feet (152 m). You can't increase a range beyond 500 feet by spending more points. Any Intellect ability that has a duration (anything more than a single action in a single round) usually lasts one minute, ten minutes, or one hour. By spending 1 additional point of Intellect, you can increase the duration by one step, so an ability that lasts one minute can be made to last ten minutes. Durations cannot be increased more than one step.

A player can make a special roll to modify the range, area, or other aspects of an ability. The roll is always modified by the stat it's normally based on.

The GM sets the difficulty for the roll based on the degree of modification. Like any roll, the player can use Effort, skill, and assets to reduce the difficulty. Generally, the difficulty falls into one of three categories:

  • Impossible (difficulty 10): Modifying an ability to accomplish an effect that has nothing to do with its description or intent
  • Formidable (difficulty 7): Modifying an ability to do something similar to the description or intent, but changing its nature
  • Difficult (difficulty 4): Modifying an ability to do something within the spirit and general idea of the ability

For example, say a nano knows the Hover esotery and wants to modify its use in the middle of an encounter. If he wanted to use it to blast someone with fire, that's an impossible task (difficulty 10) because fire has nothing to do with the ability.

If he wanted to use it offensively within the general description of the ability, he might try to make a foe fly up and hit its head on the ceiling. However, turning an ability that is not offensive into an attack changes its nature, making the task formidable (difficulty 7).

If he wanted to use it to make a friend hover rather than himself, that's within the spirit and general idea of the esotery. That's difficult (difficulty 4) but not unreasonable.

Choosing to Roll

Sometimes, if a player spends points on an action (for example, to apply Effort or to activate an ability), she might want to toss a die even if there is no chance for failure because a roll of 20 reduces the number of points that need to be spent.

In addition, in some situations, particularly in combat, a roll of 17 or higher indicates more damage or a special effect.

In these cases, players are allowed to roll not to determine success but to determine whether they achieve an above-and-beyond success. However, there is risk involved because if they roll a 1, that results in a GM intrusion It does not necessarily mean failure, although that's an obvious GM intrusion to use.

Acting While Under Attack

When a character is engaged in melee combat, doing anything other than fighting makes him more vulnerable. This is true for PCs and NPCs. If a character engaged in melee takes an action other than fighting, each of his opponents can make an immediate extra attack. The only exception to this rule is moving. If the character's only action is to move, he is assumed to be moving slowly and carefully out of the fight, safely withdrawing from combat.

For example, Toram has his back against a security door while fighting two sathosh. If he tries to open the door using its control terminal, he is taking an action other than fighting, and both sathosh get to make an attack against him.

Modifying the Range of Weapons

If a character with a ranged weapon wants to attack a foe outside the weapon's range, he can do so, but the difficulty of the attack is increased by two steps. Generally, the increase in range does not extend infinitely. A character using a weapon that has a short range can only try to hit a target that is a long distance away. A character using a weapon that has a long range can try to hit a target up to 200 feet (61 m) away with a difficulty modification of two steps, a target up to 500 feet (152 m) away with a difficulty modification of four steps, and a target up to 1,000 feet (300 m) away with a difficulty modification of six steps. Weapons with ranges that start out greater than long range must be adjudicated by the GM.

Attacks with hard limits, such as the blast radius of an explosive, can't be modified.

Optional Major Effect

When a player's roll would grant him a major effect, instead of taking the effect, he can choose to roll a d6 and add the result to the initial roll. This option makes it possible to succeed at tasks with target numbers greater than 20 without decreasing the difficulty.

Weapon Distinctions

Weapons have only a few distinctions — they are light, medium, or heavy, and they are melee or ranged. However, you can also add the following distinctions.

Slashing: Weapons with sharp edges, like swords and axes, are slashing weapons. On a successful hit, they inflict 1 additional point of damage against an unarmored foe but 1 less point against an armored opponent. The claws of a creature might be considered slashing weapons.

Stabbing: Weapons with a point, like daggers, spears, and arrows, are stabbing weapons. When an attacker using one rolls a 17 or higher on a successful attack, he inflicts 1 additional point of damage beyond any bonus damage normally granted by his roll. However, if he rolls a 5 or less on a successful attack, he inflicts 1 less point of damage as the weapon glances or grazes off the foe. A creature's pointed teeth might be considered stabbing weapons.

Crushing: Blunt weapons like clubs and hammers are crushing weapons, effective against even wellarmored foes. Crushing weapons ignore 1 point of Armor, but they inflict 1 less point of damage against unarmored foes. The powerful bashes of a creature's flailing tendrils might be considered crushing weapons.

Reaching: A reaching weapon is a long melee weapon, like a long spear, a pike, or a whip, that can attack foes at a bit of a distance. Someone with a reaching weapon can hold attackers at bay (unless they also have reaching weapons). Attacks against someone with a reaching weapon are modified by one step in the defender's favor. In certain situations, such as close quarters fighting, a reaching weapon might be hindered (the wielder's attack difficulty is increased by one step), or using such a weapon might be impossible. The attacks of a very large creature or one with long arms might be considered reaching weapons.

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