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Cypher System by Monte Cook Games: what do you think about it?

I love the setting, I like the idea of using stat pools as both health and effort resources, but find the combat, encounter and exploration rules really lacking.
This sums up my feelings about Cypher very well. Liked all the ideas, liked most of the settings it's been applied to, hated the actual rules and how they actually worked. The concept is sound, with the stat pools as resources, but it just doesn't work in a fun or interesting way for us. And it's quite clunky/fiddly/limited in a strange way.
 

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Ghost2020

Adventurer
Having not played this system, but having read the source material for The Strange, my opinion matches most answers here - I love the setting, I like the idea of using stat pools as both health and effort resources, but find the combat, encounter and exploration rules really lacking. The fact that any monster of the same threat level has the same AC, damage, and HP seems way too flat. And given the wildly open description of the setting, I found the sample adventure clunky and lacking in sense or inspiration.

All that said, I like the setting so much that I'm seriously considering running it as a 5E game, and just reskinning D&D monsters to Strange critters, cyphers become single-use magic that the players collect on a regular basis, and making characters for different worlds feels like it would go faster if I just say, "D&D classes, these are the ones available, give me an expertise and we'll call it your sub-class". All my players are very familiar with 5E, so character building this way makes sense to me. I'd really like to use the stat pools, but haven't figured that out yet.

Anyone want to talk me out of this? Does this sound workable?
This has already been done.
MCG has done the Artifacts of the Ancients, Beneath the Monolith, and Where the Machines Wait. All 5e compatible.
 

Well, over and above my not liking D&D5 (but then, I'm not a massive D&D fan in general and haven't been for nearly 40 years now), I don't think that's going to entirely do the job with covering the ground in some of the Strange worlds. I'd want to be starting with a superhero game at least.
 

Having not played this system, but having read the source material for The Strange, my opinion matches most answers here - I love the setting, I like the idea of using stat pools as both health and effort resources, but find the combat, encounter and exploration rules really lacking. The fact that any monster of the same threat level has the same AC, damage, and HP seems way too flat. And given the wildly open description of the setting, I found the sample adventure clunky and lacking in sense or inspiration.

All that said, I like the setting so much that I'm seriously considering running it as a 5E game, and just reskinning D&D monsters to Strange critters, cyphers become single-use magic that the players collect on a regular basis, and making characters for different worlds feels like it would go faster if I just say, "D&D classes, these are the ones available, give me an expertise and we'll call it your sub-class". All my players are very familiar with 5E, so character building this way makes sense to me. I'd really like to use the stat pools, but haven't figured that out yet.

Anyone want to talk me out of this? Does this sound workable?
Eh, well, I mean I have the same basic objections to 5e as I do to Cypher, they are both very 'trad' systems. I don't know enough about actual play of Cypher System to say how it stacks up against 5e in terms of danger, character progression, and general feel TBH. The Strange sounds like a sort of 'mythos adjacent' kind of setup, but I honestly don't know if the feel is supposed to be "we're in over heads, this is bad stuff, we're not going to get out of this alive." or if it is more 'Stranger Things' where the badder the monsters are, the harder they fall; and while you may lose some things along the way, you'll come out OK in the end (at least until The Demogorgon comes back in whatever its latest form is). The former sort of game is hard to do with a D&D-like, as character progression is not really a thing that works well in "we're all doomed in the end." OTOH it seems like it would work pretty well for something akin to Stranger Things, the PCs keep winning and each win makes them stronger.
 

Faolyn

Hero
Eh, well, I mean I have the same basic objections to 5e as I do to Cypher, they are both very 'trad' systems. I don't know enough about actual play of Cypher System to say how it stacks up against 5e in terms of danger, character progression, and general feel TBH. The Strange sounds like a sort of 'mythos adjacent' kind of setup, but I honestly don't know if the feel is supposed to be "we're in over heads, this is bad stuff, we're not going to get out of this alive." or if it is more 'Stranger Things' where the badder the monsters are, the harder they fall; and while you may lose some things along the way, you'll come out OK in the end (at least until The Demogorgon comes back in whatever its latest form is). The former sort of game is hard to do with a D&D-like, as character progression is not really a thing that works well in "we're all doomed in the end." OTOH it seems like it would work pretty well for something akin to Stranger Things, the PCs keep winning and each win makes them stronger.
The Strange is alternate reality/dimension hopping, with the Strange itself being the term (IIRC) for the weird semi-reality between dimensions. It has a dimension that is sorta medieval fantasy-but-weird, a dimension that are kinda evil biotech, a dimension of anthro crow mafia in a giant floating tree, dimensions based on various novels, etc. It's been a while since I've read the books, but I think any Mythos-type stuff is kind of just background stuff. There's not much of an overarching plot to the setting. Just... you can travel between dimensions and go forth to kill monsters and take their stuff explore.
 

The Strange is alternate reality/dimension hopping, with the Strange itself being the term (IIRC) for the weird semi-reality between dimensions. It has a dimension that is sorta medieval fantasy-but-weird, a dimension that are kinda evil biotech, a dimension of anthro crow mafia in a giant floating tree, dimensions based on various novels, etc. It's been a while since I've read the books, but I think any Mythos-type stuff is kind of just background stuff. There's not much of an overarching plot to the setting. Just... you can travel between dimensions and go forth to kill monsters and take their stuff explore.
RIFTS meets D&D, or perhaps another iteration of the M:tG multiverse, basically. So, yeah, maybe a D&D-like will work, though it sounds like there's always the assumption that if you mess with things a bit too much, you can run into 'Yog-Sothoth' and then you're hosed, no matter what. lol.
 

Ghost2020

Adventurer
RIFTS meets D&D, or perhaps another iteration of the M:tG multiverse, basically. So, yeah, maybe a D&D-like will work, though it sounds like there's always the assumption that if you mess with things a bit too much, you can run into 'Yog-Sothoth' and then you're hosed, no matter what. lol.
One could always end up in a recursion based on Lovecraft's New England. That's the only way that would happen, as HPL is fiction. Now a world eating creature could show up, that's an option. ;)
 


mrm1138

Explorer
The fact that any monster of the same threat level has the same AC, damage, and HP seems way too flat.

That's not entirely accurate. If you want to run monsters as basically as possible, then yes, their stats are virtually identical, but in practice, that's not always the case. For example, let's compare two different monsters from The Ninth World Bestiary for Numenera. Both are level 3.

Erulian
Health: 9
Damage Inflicted: 3 points
Modifications: Defends as level 4

Glacier Slime
Health: 12
Damage Inflicted: 4 points
Armor: 2
Modifications: Speed defense as level 2

That's not even counting the descriptions of what they can do in combat that makes them different from other monsters of the same level. In short, the monsters are as simple or complicated as you want them to be.
 

One could always end up in a recursion based on Lovecraft's New England. That's the only way that would happen, as HPL is fiction. Now a world eating creature could show up, that's an option. ;)
Well, that was why I put it in scare-quotes. I don't mean 'you end up dealing with Mythos beings', just that there are 'big bads' that are similar in nature. The concept exists in the series 'The Magicians' too, just in the form of weird stuff you do NOT want to actually meet. In fact, I would say that show fits the paradigm described pretty closely.
 

teitan

Legend
RIFTS meets D&D, or perhaps another iteration of the M:tG multiverse, basically. So, yeah, maybe a D&D-like will work, though it sounds like there's always the assumption that if you mess with things a bit too much, you can run into 'Yog-Sothoth' and then you're hosed, no matter what. lol.
My reading of the Strange is that you've essentially just done a Reductio ad Absurdam, I mean sure, let's go with that but it's more like Grant Morrison than Siembieda's gonzo houseruled D&D system/mega-setting. Reading MCG product I get the feeling they read a lot of the same source materials that I would read, or Alan Moore, Grant Morrison and Neil Gaiman would read. Qabalah, Kenneth Grant, Theosophical texts, weird theoretical physics and some of the more absurd new age material like David Icke (he's new age, not conspiracy, they're married now) and David Wilcock. Especially for The Strange and Invisible Sun.
 

Aldarc

Legend
RIFTS meets D&D, or perhaps another iteration of the M:tG multiverse, basically. So, yeah, maybe a D&D-like will work, though it sounds like there's always the assumption that if you mess with things a bit too much, you can run into 'Yog-Sothoth' and then you're hosed, no matter what. lol.
The conceit of the setting is basically that your characters can go from the "real world" to various alternate dimensions, which range from fantasy, futurism, cyberpunk, or even fiction (e.g., Wonderland, King Arthur, Atlantis, Hawaii Five-O, etc.). But your character also "translates" to more dimension-appropriate form and abilities. Translation is somewhat similar to "reboot" in the '90s animated show Reboot. It's essentially a setting about meta-settings and promoting a "you can play anything in this one game" sort of attitude. It's a pretty neat idea, though I don't think that it's really one for me, but it's also not the only game out there with similar ideas: e.g., Threefold for Green Ronin's Modern AGE.

That said, direct support for this game has basically dropped off the planet. It did pave the way for the generic Cypher System Rulebook, and one could pull from these books to support the Strange, but the last The Strange product was in 2015.
 
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The conceit of the setting is basically that your characters can go from the "real world" to various alternate dimensions, which range from fantasy, futurism, cyberpunk, or even fiction (e.g., Wonderland, King Arthur, Atlantis, Hawaii Five-O, etc.). But your character also "translates" to more dimension-appropriate form and abilities. Translation is somewhat similar to "reboot" in the '90s animated show Reboot. It's essentially a setting about meta-settings and promoting a "you can play anything in this one game" sort of attitude. It's a pretty neat idea, though I don't think that it's really one for me, but it's also not the only game out there with similar ideas: e.g., Threefold for Green Ronin's Modern AGE.

I really like the setting idea, but really don't like the system its in, and have not found another choice that would handle it in a way that's not a chore.

As far as support dropping off the edge--well, you can argue it had largely reached its needed support level, and may not have had enough of a market to start chasing diminishing returns.
 

My reading of the Strange is that you've essentially just done a Reductio ad Absurdam, I mean sure, let's go with that but it's more like Grant Morrison than Siembieda's gonzo houseruled D&D system/mega-setting. Reading MCG product I get the feeling they read a lot of the same source materials that I would read, or Alan Moore, Grant Morrison and Neil Gaiman would read. Qabalah, Kenneth Grant, Theosophical texts, weird theoretical physics and some of the more absurd new age material like David Icke (he's new age, not conspiracy, they're married now) and David Wilcock. Especially for The Strange and Invisible Sun.
Not sure where you get 'reductio' out of anything I said, we might not mean the same thing by that phrase I'm guessing... Anyway, yes Siembieda's material is very 'gonzo', it just happens to embody the central concept of multiple realities based on fiction. Actually that concept is a lot older, but I'm having trouble coming up with the canonical example, though I'm pretty sure it has lurked in western literature for centuries. Anyway, there are lots of classic examples, Moorcock, Zelazny, some other more modern fantasy authors have put more of the 'conspiracy twist' on it, etc. It has roots in many places. I mean, in essence the GW of D&D is largely another imaging of basically the same idea, certainly the 'alternate primes' fall into that category, though the rest is a bit more religious in its ultimate derivation (which does get you to the Qabalah as well eventually). Its like that old show 'Connections' where the presenter describes how everything in science links to everything else in some roundabout way. Anyway, tone-wise it sounds more conspiracy-like, which does get us back towards 'Mythos Adjacent' since "stuff most people don't know" is pretty much stock-in-trade there, and I would say that Conspiracy Stuff has pretty much eaten the Mythos too... sigh.
 

As far as support dropping off the edge--well, you can argue it had largely reached its needed support level, and may not have had enough of a market to start chasing diminishing returns.
Yeah, reality is that game developers need markets, so most products reach a level of completeness where the core fans are not happy, but the rest of the world hasn't enough interest to support more supplements. I mean, that's the core dynamic even for D&D basically! 'Lofting' the core system into a generic is one of the various ways a game designer can go in terms of pushing a project on beyond that point, another being endless version rolls; and there may be other ways, though less trodden (converting to a new system is one). Most games simply get abandoned and perhaps after a decade or three of being fallow get a rewrite if they were interesting enough. I mean, look at Everway, I think it has a somewhat similar tone and premise to The Strange. It managed to get a reboot not too long ago, but my guess is it will now slip back into obscurity.
 

Aldarc

Legend
I really like the setting idea, but really don't like the system its in, and have not found another choice that would handle it in a way that's not a chore.

As far as support dropping off the edge--well, you can argue it had largely reached its needed support level, and may not have had enough of a market to start chasing diminishing returns.
That latter bit does feel like the Cypher System in a nut shell. MCG produced a lot of quality content for it, but nothing as of late has really been about pushing the boundaries of the system or addressing some of the commonly cited/known faults of the system. So a lot of the products from MCG haven't really impressed me as of the past few years outside of retreading old hits for 5e (e.g., Ptolus, planes, outsourcing Arcana Evolved, etc.).
 

That latter bit does feel like the Cypher System in a nut shell. MCG produced a lot of quality content for it, but nothing as of late has really been about pushing the boundaries of the system or addressing some of the commonly cited/known faults of the system. So a lot of the products from MCG haven't really impressed me as of the past few years outside of retreading old hits for 5e (e.g., Ptolus, planes, outsourcing Arcana Evolved, etc.).

Its one of those things I have to try and explain to a lot of people who mourn the fact their favorite system isn't getting more support; every game has a natural support threshold beyond which producing more products for it makes less and less money. That's one reason why game systems don't just support the same edition forever; doing a new edition requires work, but it also almost always gains more money than producing Yet Another Add On for the prior edition at some point.
 

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