Cypher System Open License: The First Wave of Creators Speak

As part of their 10th anniversary celebration, Monte Cook Games announced a gift to the RPG community: The Cypher System Open License (CSOL) and the Cypher System Reference Document (CSRD). Announced during the week of Origins Game Fair 2022, these documents allow third parties to create their own Cypher System products. As part of the showcase, three early licensees and their Cypher System RPGs were announced. These creators agreed to discuss their games, why they decided to create Cypher System projects, and the mystery of how this came about.
  • Mystery Flesh Pit National Park RPG by Christopher Robin Negelein as Ganza Gaming.
  • GM Roulette by Dean Lewis, Anthony Fernandez, Alberto Mejias, and Erik Frankhouse of Erik Frankhouse Presents... as Cypher Unlimited.
  • Blood & Chrome by Andrew Marlowe and Monica Marlowe as Marlowe House.
Cypher Unlimited Logo.png

EGG EMBRY (EGG): Thank you all for agreeing to talk with me. Congratulations on leading the charge into the Cypher System Open License (CSOL) from Monte Cook Games (MCG)! You’re each producing products as part of the initial release. What is the pitch for your book?
  • CHRISTOPHER ROBIN NEGELEIN/GANZA GAMING (CHRISTOPHER): The Mystery Flesh Pit National Park RPG is cosmic horror meeting bureaucratic satire with a taste of cult classics. Lovers of the Laundry Files, Paranoia the RPG, and Cronenberg movies will find something to love – and be “loved” by – in our game. In an alternate 1970s, an oilman opens the gates to his Mystery Flesh Pit attraction and nothing is ever the same. By the way, I have about three more CSOL projects in the works, not all of them about crowdfunding.
  • DEAN LEWIS/CYBER UNLIMITED (DEAN): GM Roulette is a no prep rpg, improv experience where everyone gets to be the Game Master.
  • ANDREW MARLOWE/MARLOWE HOUSE (ANDREW): Blood & Chrome is (at its core) a cyberpunk rules and setting expansion for the Cypher System. But there’s more to it than just that. It is a setting of occult secrets and subtle unseen forces. Psychic phenomenon, hauntings, demonic possessions. Despite the rise of science these secrets are still known, if only to a few. Under the harsh glare of neon and in the deepest shadows things best left unnamed, stir unseen. In an age of unchecked ego, rampant commercialism, corporate greed and abuse these ancient powers are drawn closer and closer back into the mortal world on a black tide of human sin and apathy. If the cyberpunk genre is a continuum of pure no magic cyberpunk at “1” to gonzo full epic fantasy (D&D in the Future or Shadowrun) at a “10,” Blood & Chrome’s setting nestles in around a 3 to a 5 depending on the GM, and sprinkles in a tiny bit of horror to boot.
  • MONICA MARLOWE/MARLOWE HOUSE (MONICA): Anything punk is fun, being borderline bad guys is fun, and running capers is fun. And all that stuff Andrew said above.

Mystery Flesh Pit National Park 01.png

EGG: These are unique projects with one cyberpunk, one horror, and one general play. While we have the pitches for these, what inspired you to go in this creative direction? Why horror or cyberpunk or gaming for everyone?
  • CHRISTOPHER: Well, more horror and dark humor, really. Combining them is a natural, but it’s not easy - unlike how easy I grokked the Cypher System. I had been appreciating how Trevor Roberts made the combination look easy on his Mystery Flesh Pit National Park page for sometime. When I was invited to be a first adopter for CSOL, he was the first person I emailed. Lucky for me, we seem to share a vibe.
  • DEAN: We wanted to show the flexibility as well as the versatility of the game engine in a unique and intriguing way.
  • ANDREW: I’m a lifelong fan of science fiction and fantasy but cyberpunk holds a special place in my heart. From Blade Runner to the Sprawl trilogy by Gibson and the original CP2013 box set from R. Talsorian Games cyberpunk hit my teenage consciousness like a freight train and I still love it. Then some time ago a GM was looking for help online running cyberpunk in the Cypher System and one poster was vehemently of the opinion Cypher is the wrong fit and that it was Bad/Wrong-Fun to try. That challenge which inspired me to produce the first three Blood & Chrome releases to the Creator Program. I had so much fun with those and they seemed to be a success with the audience that I wanted to do more with it. The timing with MCG just came together perfectly.
  • MONICA: I love to read and watch movies, cyberpunk and its cousins steampunk, dieselpunk, and all the other punks are just some of the very best parts of the entertainment industry. I am especially drawn into the internal struggle of the characters, that is center stage in many of the stories due to the existential nature of anime and its enormous influence on the punk scene as a whole. I want to provide a new place to explore the individual against the machine, the individual against the corporation, and most importantly, the individual against themselves.

Blood and Chrome 01.jpg

EGG: What about the Cypher System inspired you to make it your game of choice?
  • CHRISTOPHER: Cypher System is asymmetrical, being a much more streamlined experience on the GMing side. It supports [improvisation] and gives you great advice to build your confidence quickly. I find myself needing little prep time to get my games up and going.
  • DEAN: Cypher System is the bee’s knees of gaming for me. It not overly complicated but extremely elegant and versatile. Its system that lends itself to any genre once you embrace it for what it is. It’s also a system that encourages and supports a cinematic narrative style of play.
  • ANDREW: Cypher is my favorite game system these days and it mechanically supports concepts I think are key to a great cyberpunk game: Character Focus and Discovery.
  • MONICA: Andrew mentioned Blood & Chrome is an answer to a “dare”, originating on social media. The Cypher System is incredibly versatile and I believe any genre of game play can be run using this system. Some nameless person on the internet said you can’t do Cyberpunk with Cypher System, so we’re here to prove him wrong and produce an amazing non-traditional Cyberpunk setting in New Orleans.

Marlowe House.png
EGG: With your version of the Cypher System, what do you plan to modify from the core rules to better tell the story of your setting/gaming option?
  • CHRISTOPHER: The MFPNP is setting where humanity is smaller, no supers nor superspies, so our challenge will be to laser focus Cypher on the setting. When one opens the Cypher System Rulebook, they see all the toys in the toy store and want to play with everything but if look over Monte Cook Games’ own settings like Numenera, they pare away what doesn’t fit.
  • DEAN: I can’t say we will be modifying much of the core rules, but we will be adding a few new unique approaches to storytelling. We’ll also be adding a few rules to allow for guided improvisation.
  • ANDREW: For us it’s less about changing rules but building on what’s there. Blood & Chrome will have some new character options: Types, descriptors and foci as well as rules for encounters in the cyberspace matrix which folks should find both familiar and easy to run.
  • MONICA: We have created some great new additions to the current rules, our focus is more on crafting a new space rather than adding rules. The beauty of Cypher System is that lack of hard and fast rules that makes it the perfect choice for whatever you want to play.

Marlowe House’s first Iconic PC- Sawyer a Bleeding Edge Technophile Who Has a Silver Arm.png
EGG: How did you become a part of the first wave of the CSOL?
  • CHRISTOPHER: I can only guess, no one from MCG has told us why, though I think we all bring something great to the table. For me, I was one of the first to publish on MCG’s own community content site, the Cypher System Creator, and for a time I produced a good 30% to 50% of the whole catalogue there. (You can look at the titles of my PDFs and see my literal growth in doing layout and design.) I slowed down making community content lately because I became a stretch goal for the Italian publisher, Here Be Dragons, on their Diamond Throne Kickstarter. I wrote a huge cypher adventure as well as help “cypherize” d20 material for them but that’s now wrapped up. As a side note, I’ve also done DMs Guild stuff that has 5-star reviews but it seems lost in the background static of all the other content. Making stuff in Cypher may be a smaller market, but it has been a more enthusiastic market.
  • DEAN: I’m not sure. Maybe it was my winning smile. Honestly, it’s an honor and quite humbling in the face of it all. I think the fact that Cypher Unlimited has the largest fan run Discord server didn’t hurt much either. We are pretty passionate about gaming and the Cypher System in general.
  • ANDREW: Monte Cook Games has been quiet on the subject even with us. I’m just very grateful for the opportunity. In fact, I think my arm has bruises from pinching myself to make sure it's real.
  • MONICA: I really couldn’t say, but I do know the MCG crew and their philosophy has always been a rising tide buoys all ships, they are an incredibly gracious group of individuals.
Blood and Chrome Logo.png

EGG: Thank you for sharing these projects. Where can fans learn more about them and sign up to be notified when your campaigns begin?
Egg Embry participates in the OneBookShelf Affiliate Program, Noble Knight Games’ Affiliate Program, and is an Amazon Associate. These programs provide advertising fees by linking to DriveThruRPG, Noble Knight Games, and Amazon.
 

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Egg Embry

Egg Embry

Dragonsbane

Proud Grognard
Wish this was out when I made my books for Cypher, I would have loved to include the normal rules too. Excited to see progress!

Cypher System Fantasy Compendium - Monte Cook Games | Cypher System Creator Program | DriveThruRPG.com

Spells! Magical Items! Monsters!​

Below I present resources to make your Cypher System fantasy genre games more robust and complete. Not only can you create your own fantasy adventures, but with these Compendiums, almost all D&D 5th edition (and some 3rd or even older editions) adventures and modules are compatible for play with a minimum of conversion or hassle, focusing on narrative and story without working on tedious stat blocks or conversions of spells.
These were originally made for my personal players, but they and a few Reddit members insisted I put them here. These books have information, not tons of art and fluff text so I can offer them for next to nothing. Enjoy!

Spell Compendium includes:​

  • All D&D 5E OGL spells (and a few from 3E), converted and playtested for use in any Cypher System fantasy game, with limits via assets on stacking and power levels - no bonus actions/reactions/concentration/multiple instances of spells
  • Detailed spellcasting rules to convert your own spells, and make them balanced
  • Additional rules for spellcasting, including Potency, the Spellcraft skill, attacks of opportunity, defensive casting, and mid-spell concentration
  • 50+ spellcasting foci that emulate bloodlines, otherworldly patrons, druidic circles, schools of magic, & divine domains
  • Spell lists that can be used as flavors for current character types - druids, mages, magus, priests, paladins, rangers, and bards
  • A revised Adept class that uses limited spell slots and familiar powers to enhance their spells or craft magical items

Magical Item Compendium includes:​

  • Many 5E magical items were converted and playtested for use in any Cypher Fantasy game - both cyphers (potions, scrolls, wands) and artifacts (armors, weapons, rods, staves, wondrous items, etc)
  • Robust rules for determining magical item levels and values, including lists of powers for DMs and PC crafters alike

Creature Compendium includes:​

  • Complete rules for converting any 5E creature or NPC into Cypher System, including level, Armor, attacks, damage, abilities, resistances, conditions, and more
  • Over 50 creatures and NPC, including almost all of the creatures from 5E modules LMoP / Starter Set
====================================================================================================================================================================================

Cypher System Fantasy Ancestries & Types - Monte Cook Games | Cypher System Creator Program | DriveThruRPG.com

Cypher System Fantasy Ancestries & Types
Below I present resources to make your Cypher System fantasy genre games more robust and complete.

These were originally made for my personal players, but they and a few Reddit members insisted I put them here. These books have information, not tons of art and fluff text so I can offer them for next to nothing. Enjoy!

Ancestries and Types includes:
  • Ancestries as an additional part of the Cypher Sentence: I am a Descriptor Ancestry Type who Focus
  • 5 Standard ancestries including Dwarves, Elves, Gnomes, Halflings, and Humans
  • 8 Nonstandard ancestries including Avian, Celestial, Draconic, Elemental, Feline, Goblinoid, Golem, and Infernal

Types based on Classic Character Classes:
- Includes Barbarian, Fighter, Paladin, Druid, Mage, Priest, Magis, Ranger, Rogue, and Bard.

Rules:
- Extensive rules on general skills, martial and spellcasting skills, combat using a battlemap, attacks of opportunity, and more.

Abilities:
- A section including over 60 new or revised abilities, many familiar from older editions of D&D

Reference:
  • Revised Combat and Magic flavors using the abilities from this book
  • Spell Lists and Spellcasting Foci lists reprinted from the Spell Compendium for ease of reference
  • Additional Spell Lists using standard Cypher System abilities as spells

About Me:
I am a grognard who started playing D&D just after the White Box in the early 80s and then transitioned to AD&D. I have always been the Forever DM and have DMed, created adventures, and created gameworlds for D&D 1E, 2E, 3E, Pathfinder, D&D 5E, Vampire, Mutants and Masterminds, Blades in the Dark, and Rifts, running hundreds of adventures with some of my players still around from the 80s. Cypher System is my current favorite after having too many house rules for D&D.
 
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