A Ninth World Primer

I am David Dear, producer and writer of A Ninth World Journal. This audio drama is based on the roleplaying game Numenera, and since there are a lot of people that are not familiar with the game, I’ve decided to create this episode as kind of a primer, an introduction to the setting and some of the terminology used in the game and in this podcast.

The story takes place a billion years in the future. Within this timeframe there have been eight prior great and advanced civilizations that have come and gone. Each of those civilizations have created and employed technology, technology that exceeds our wildest imagination and that technology left a profound effect on the current civilization that is known as the Ninth World. The effect that was created from the prior civilizations messing with reality, the laws of physics and the laws of nature as we know it ended up making the Ninth World a very, very weird place.

Currently humans inhabit the Ninth World, but they share this world with visitants – that are sentient beings that did not originate on Earth, with abhumans – they’re kind of distant cousins of humans, they’re humanoids but they do not resemble humans in any way; they are more akin to beasts with some modicum of intelligence, and many, many strange and bizarre entities, creatures, beings that evolved or mutated or were created or engineered by the prior civilizations. A lot of them are biomechanical in nature, and several of them come from different stars, different galaxies, and many of them also come from different dimensions.

Now here in the Ninth World humans are about at a technological level of about medieval times for us. They’ve been around (or returned?) a thousand years ago, maybe a couple thousand at the very most, but nobody really knows, it’s really hard to say. While they’re very simple technologically they are surrounded by all this powerful and crazy and miraculous and dangerous technology that comes from these prior worlds. It’s to them akin to magic, kind of like what Arthur C. Clarke said that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic; well that is the case for the people of the Ninth World.  Rather than refer to it as magic they refer to it as Numenera, or the numenera. As common as it is and as much as it surrounds them, it’s still very disturbing and scary and frightening to most people of the Ninth World when they just want to survive their simple lives. But there are a few people who do understand a bit of the numenera, some better than others, but no one will ever fully understand it. What comprises the numenera is these microscopic nanites that pretty much permeate everything in the Ninth World, as well as iotum. Iotum are the basic components that are used to create all the effects that you find in the numenera devices that are all around the Ninth World

Okay, that’s a gist of the Ninth World itself. So let me go into some of the terminology:

Our protagonist of the story Januae is an Aeon Priest of the Order of Truth. Now they’re called priests but they’re not religious in any way. They’re really actually  researchers and scientists that study the numenera. They travel throughout the Ninth World and place themselves in places where the numenera is plentiful and they spend their time studying it, researching it, and learning how to utilize it so they can improve the lives of the people of the Ninth World. At least that’s what they’ve been told and that’s what people understand.

Now there are other types of people in the Ninth World; think of them as classes from an RPG standpoint. We have Nanos, they’re ones who are understand numenera better than other people and they can actually produce effects called esoteries, which are akin to casting spells. Think of them as similar to a magic user in an RPG. We also have wrights who are able to construct items using the bits of numenera that are found. For example, they can create a cypher, which is a single use item that’s cobbled together from numenera that can be used once for a crazy effect, then discarded. Glaives are the muscles of the group, they’re like the fighters, the protectors, and we have jacks who are jacks-of-all-trades, pretty versatile and good at a lot of things. And we have delves. Delves are the intrepid  daring explorers would can find their way in and around all of those ancient ruins that are scattered and numerous throughout the Ninth World.

Most of the story takes place in the Steadfast and the Beyond. The Steadfast is an area about the side of Western Europe minus Scandinavia or the Eastern United States and is comprised of nine kingdoms or lands. Each of these lands is ruled by a different ruler or different monarchs that are often embroiled in politics with one another and infighting, and even sometimes within that land there are a lot of politics. Any of the lands outside the Steadfast is called the Beyond. Now the people of the Steadfast consider it kind of a frontier land, but there are areas and cities with significant populations throughout the Beyond. A significant population would be like tens of thousands of people, and they range from big cities close to half a million in the city of Qi in the Steadfast, to other smaller cities, towns, and even small small villages that are called aldeias which consist of just a few dozen people at most.

Now time has changed a billion years in the future due to orbital shifts and such. A day in the Ninth World is now 28 hours long and a year is 313 days. Outer space is often referred to as the night or the void and the moon still exists, though now it has a nice green band on it that shows in occasion so it’s got that going for it. Along with the common materials used to construct with in current day such as metals and wood and glass, they also have something called synth which is pretty much a close cousin to plastic, think of it that way. Pretty versatile, can be used in a number of things. And the dirt is now called drit, which is a composite of soil and the structures that have been pulverized and eroded over the course of millions and millions of years.

So there you have it, a quick primer to the Ninth World. A billion years in the future ancient technology is like magic and it’s a really weird and dangerous place. I hope this primer gives you an edge on understanding the world of Numenera… or at least as well as it can be understood. Thanks for listening and enjoy the story!