I am playing a tough glaive who masters the great sword heavily modelled on a black man version of Ringil. I was assuming that the skill Might Defence would allow me to use my Might pool to block attacks. However, no where in the description of the skill does it mention that you can do that.

This sounds really odd.

I can see how you might use all three statistics to avoid getting hit: Speed is obviously dodging, Might is parry, and intellect is predicting the opponent's actions -- not dissimilarly to a recent film version of Sherlock Holmes. Thus, I would assume that one could learn (and thus become a master) at a set of defence skills based on those pools. Clearly, all three variants have massive advantages and disadvantages. This makes for interesting and empowered characters which is something Monte Cook is apparently keen on [1, 2].

Is my reading of the skill Might Defence correct or not?

PS: Answers with RAW would be best (either from Numenera, The Strange, or the Cypher System Book) but home rules are of interest too as long as they were used in play and not conjectures.

Addendum: Nano have one, and only one, major pool: Intellect. Jacks have one, and only one, major pool: Speed. However, a mêlée Glaives must have two: Speed (to defend) and Might (to attack) if they want to be competent. This make playing a competent glaive twice as expensive as playing either a Nano or Jack. Unless either a parry can be done with Might or all attacks are Speed based.

  • \$\begingroup\$ From memory, melee glaives can use both their speed and might pools to attack. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Aug 3 '15 at 3:09

From the margin notes of p26 of the Cypher System Rulebook:

Might defense: Used for resisting poison, disease, and anything else that can be overcome with strength and health.

Speed defense: Used for dodging attacks and escaping danger. This is by far the most commonly used defense task.

Intellect defense: Used for fending off mental attacks or anything that might affect or influence one’s mind.

The comparison for Might Defense would seem more about endurance and resilience, than your expected interpretation. Just as Intellect Defense is more about willpower and prodigious psychic fortitude.

Further detail in the Rules of the Game reinforces this differentiation, per the Action: Defend sub-section (CSR p209) -

The type of defense roll depends on the type of attack. If a foe attacks a character with an axe, she can use Speed to duck or block it with what she’s holding. If she’s struck by a poisoned dart, she can use a Might action to resist its effects. If a psiworm attempts to control her mind, she can use Intellect to fend off the intrusion.

This is not to say that you cannot parry with an object, take advantage from a cluttered environment or heft a barricade against a pummeling assault. However, here you need to grasp the nuances of the system. You still use a Speed Defense to square off against an attacker, intercede with a shield at the right moment or brace against an assault at the right moment, but you will reduce your difficulty with appropriate skills - like the faculty to take advantage of your environment - or assets - like a keenly fashioned shield, a neural-linked cybernetic hand or a well-braced barricade of lashed together timbers.

Example of Two Warriors - one of Speed, one of Might

See the cartoon strip The Red Viper Vs. The Mountain That Rides for the nature of the battle. If you're a fan of Game of Thrones who hasn't read A Storm of Swords or seen all of Season 4, and doesn't want a spoiler - STOP HERE!

Oberon Martell is a Vengeful Warrior (Might Edge, trained in Speed Defense) who Moves Like A Cat, with Extra Edge (Speed), Trained Without Armor (Speed Defense trained), Thrust (+1 damage with a stabbing weapon, c: 1 Might) and Fleet of Foot (succeed at d2 Speed roll to run, taking a move and action in the same round). M11, S16, I10. Oberon is armed with a light spear (Light Weapon).

The Mountain is a Tough Warrior (Might Edge, trained in Might Defense) who Masters Weaponry (+1 point of dmg with any weapon), with Control the Field (inflict 1 less damage, maneuver enemy into position you desire within immediate range), Practiced in Armor (starts with Heavy Armor, -3 dmg), No Need for Weapons (unarmed attack counts as Medium Weapon, doing 4 dmg) and Surging Confidence (when you use your first Recovery Roll of the day, you immediately gain another action, c: 1 Might). M16, S10, I8. The Mountain is armed with a two-handed sword (Heavy Weapon).

Oberon's player has put more of his 6-point pool into Speed than Might as well as getting +3 Speed from his Focus, while The Mountain has put all 6 points into Might.

Oberon uses his lightness of step and quick maneuvers to run rings around The Mountain. He trades the small amount of damage he manages to inflict for effects - specifically he looks to distract, knock back and move past his opponent.

Oberon goads The Mountain, tormenting him about the fate of his sister and her children at the hands of the monstrous warrior. Oberon might strike time and again - because of his high Speed and the lumbering armor-laden Mountain - but he damages primarily through rolling high.

The Mountain has his massive sword and hits infrequently because of his low Speed, but when he does hit he strikes for 7 damage or more. He will tend to use his Effort to inflicting more damage rather than decrease difficulty - and may trade these strikes of 10 damage to knockdown, impair or stun his opponent.

The Mountain doesn't need Speed to win. Indeed, he can't. He simply can't maneuver fast enough to defend himself. He lumbers and suffers a withering assault of small blows, but his armor soaks up much of it. He might have a two-handed sword so heavy no one else in the arena could lift it, but it can't parry or defend against the flurry of stabs from Oberon's spear. To parry, block or dodge means being in the right space at the right time - Speed Defense every time... but, The Mountain does not fight with Speed.

Oberon manages to poke through chinks in his armor, but Might Defense means The Mountain is never knocked back and hardly seems to feel anything. He isn't fast - he doesn't need to be. When he rolls 17 or higher, his attacks become massive - up to 14 points - and in the process of his raging swings, these blows kill members of the crowd outright.

In the end, he stuns Oberon after recovering points with his Surging Confidence, then uses his No Need for Weapons to poke out the fleet warriors eyes before rolling a 20 and squeezing out his brains with his bare hands.


Yes - By Interpretation and by RAW

The answer is right there in the explanation of Might Defense on p.30 of the Numenera core book - emphasis mine:

Might defense: Used for resisting poison, disease, and anything else that can be overcome with strength and health

Are you going to block a poison dart or dodge a stunning ray with Might? No. It doesn't make any sense.

Can you block a giant sword with it? Maybe. Is the threat of the sword defined by its speed or its size and power? In my game, intercepting a giant sword isn't going to be the problem - it'll be stopping it.

So by RAW as well as the spirit with which the game is written, two factors will impact whether using Might defense is correct:

  1. How is the threat described? Is it a fast threat? A powerful one?
  2. How are you describing your response? "I defend with Might!" Isn't a response. "I grab the blade of the axe with my cybernetic hand and tear it out of his grasp!" is a response. And a Might defense. "I duck beneath the blow!" Is another response - and a Speed defense.

In his series of recent blog posts, Monte seems to support the idea that what makes sense in the game fiction is a powerful influence and that the GM is empowered to make decisions that make sense in the context:

The Cypher System is designed to put the power in the hands of GM and the players (probably in that order). The rules exist to help, not dictate. That doesn’t just mean that the rules are meant to be ignored, however. That means that the rules were designed to make way for GM logic. There aren’t a lot of fiddly rules or things that require rulebook lookups.

Furthermore, on p. 382 of the Cypher System Rulebook, it states:

...you could allow a PC to use a different stat for a task. For example, a character might try to break down a door by examining it closely for flaws and thus use Intellect rather than Might. This kind of change is a good thing because it encourages player creativity.

This is not the kind of game that uses the rules to enforce the story, it's the kind of game that uses the fiction to govern the use of the rules.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Very important second half. Running Numenera, I find the possibility of using which pool makes sense in which situation liberating. \$\endgroup\$
    – Raphael
    Apr 16 '16 at 13:45

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