That's right! Into the Night, the first of the Into the Ninth World series! I just now finished reading it, so this post will be a review of sorts.
Shields up! Incoming opinions!Honestly, Into the Night is a bit of a disappointment. The book is 160 pages long and is basically all setting. Not that there's anything wrong with setting in general, but in this case it feels like a missed opportunity. One thing I would have preferred would be some more in-depth rules on spaceships. I'd also have liked some character options, but apparently that's coming in a separate PDF, so whatever.
So it's pretty much just a setting book, then. That's not so bad, given Numenera's great setting. The book describes Earth's moon, Venus and Mars (apparently now called "Urvanas" and "Naharrai") and a bunch of other stuff just floating around the solar system, but not the other planets! What's going on with Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune? They at least deserve a sidebar.
That describes the first two parts. The third part is about random other stuff in space. Two alien planets are described in detail, both of them about as backwater as Earth, and three BDOs. That is, "Big Dumb Objects" for those of you not inducted into the occult mysteries of TV Tropes.
We have Swarmstar, which is a bunch of giant space manta rays forming a living Dyson Sphere around a star, with humans building cities in their dangling back hairs. There's the Thon Irridescence, which is a sort of alien Second Life style MMO with no particular reason for being in space. Last, there's the Gloaming, which is a giant CD-shaped thing around a star, full of countless alien races being kept in Medieval stasis by some people-eating transdimensional alien nasties.
Last in that chapter is a grab bag of 10 other neat space things, planets and such. They include an alien planet with its own technology based on the physics-warping effects of a nearby portal to the home of the Nibovians, no doubt taunting us with Into the Outside. There's a nebula full of ghosts that makes stuff disappear, and a random free-floating Medieval castle that brainwashes people into being its servants.
There's nothing wrong with these settings, per se, even if there are a few too many BDOs. Swarmstar is a damn cool idea, at least. Nevertheless, it all feels like a missed opportunity. See, I imagine Earth of the Ninth World as sort of a backwater planet just getting back on its feet, while alien spacecraft thunder through the sky overhead on their own errands. I feel there is a profound lack of civilized alien planets, and basically zero mention given to any sort of galactic community or Federation.
This is a problem because we could have had alien civilizations of varying levels of advancement all competing and interacting, an opportunity for an interesting new mode of game play that drastically widens the lens of a Ninth Worlder's perspective. Instead, space in Numenera feels as empty and used up as any Ninth World ruin. There's plenty of neat tech to plunder, but there's plenty of that on Earth. Rather than a radical new direction, it's just more of the same.
There is a creature section, too, but it contains 16 creatures, most of which are tied to specific locations described in the book. The book describes many more creatures in the text (with stats in the sidebars), so I don't really see the point. One of the standouts, however, are the sorg. Sorg are basically the proud warrior race, except they're clams. Giant space clams, with lasers and anti-gravity generators bolted to their bivalve shells. I thought that was hilarious and awesome. They apparently control a big star empire called the Sorg Reach. I'd much rather have a chapter on that than Medieval stasis CD world.
Overall, Into the Night isn't a bad book, but it could have been so much better. I don't regret supporting the Kickstarter in the least, however. $45 for three books like this a great deal, and I'm getting nine instead. If you didn't support the Kickstarter, though, think hard before dropping $15 on this when it becomes available for sale. You might be better off writing your own space adventures and waiting for the Character Options book.
What to Do About It
So Into the Night was not all it could be. There's nothing for it now except to fix it. Going forward, I intend to create some supplementary space material. I think my first priority will be making some tables for randomly creating alien species, civilizations, and planets. I'd like to take a crack at some weird twist on a Galactic Federation, and examine how species of vastly different technology levels interact with each other, as is bound to happen in a ripe old universe like this. I might also look into rules for handling advanced technology that isn't "Numenera" but actual mass-produced technology with brand names and instruction manuals, like what aliens might buy in a store.
If anybody else has some suggestions for what to do with Into the Night, by all means, let me know. Keep in mind, though, I am but one man, and busy at that. Nevertheless, if there's one thing that Into the Night has done it's given me plenty of material for future blog posts.