I recently got hold of a PDF copy of Numenera, a new roleplaying game by Monte Cook. I’ve not had a chance to play it yet (though I’m hoping I will at some point), but I thought I’d note a few of the more interesting concepts for anyone who is interested in such things.
Player always rolls – In all situations, it is the player who rolls the d20. This is not limited to skill checks, it also applies in combat; if their PC is attacking someone, they make an attack roll; if their PC is being attacked, they make a defense roll. This has two benefits: (1) it make clear the fact that the PCs are driving the story and (2) it frees the GM to describe and adjudicate, rather than getting bogged down in dice rolling.
One shot items – In many games, one shot items are saved until the best moment to use them, which occasionally results in them never being used (as there’s always potentially a better opportunity). In Numenera, one shot items (which are scavenged from ancient technology) can only be carried in small numbers and are found on a frequent basis, encouraging continual turnover.
Character concepts come first – The bulk of your character mechanics are defined by the description of your character as an “Adjective Noun who Verbs”. This allows you to concentrate on concept (I want to be a “tough glaive who masters weaponry” or a “clever jack who talks to machines”), knowing that the game mechanics will support you.
XP awards for story related reasons – Firstly, no XP for defeating enemies, which means you can sneak/negotiate/trick/think your way past without feeling like you’re missing out. XP is awarded for story goals (usually making interesting discoveries) and whenever the GM makes things more difficult for you (for example, the GM could offer you XP if you agree to slip on an icy ledge or accidentally trip the intruder alarm while breaking in to somewhere). This effectively means that you’re getting XP for telling an awesome story, rather than just playing the game, which is as it should be.
All in all, it’s well worth looking up if you’re interested in systems that heavily invest in storytelling over mechanics.