So my wife and I got our standard edition of the core book, and it’s pretty slick. Gorgeous art and design, wonderfully written, very evocative.
I definitely have some things I don’t understand, having not played Cypher System games before, though.
For one thing, there isn’t much way to like…round out an oddball character, especially if you play a sage. Being untrained in weapons across the board, no abilities in tier one to gain weapon training at all, on top of the hard line the game wants between the real magic user type and basically anything physical.
I figured I could make a character I’ve had in my head for a weird west game, so I gave it a try. His concept is that he is a graceful scrapper with some natural gift for the supernatural, especially seeing through people and deceptions/illusions, who is learning to delve deeper into the magic as he builds his place in his home and seeks justice for his parents.
The problem is, being trained in some magic means taking a type that gives no weapon training, so he can’t really feel like a scrapper who learned to fight on freight haulers in his teens and early 20s at tier 1. Taking a physical type means inability with magic. No Focus really lets you bypass these roadblocks.
Like I can figure out the character and make it work (Sage has 2 fairly immediate abilities and a “read people good” ability, and can get light weapons trained in tier 2) but it is odd to me that the system works so hard to silo characters with no method to round them out, while also saying in the book that “this isn’t a zero to hero game, you’re already competent and experienced”. Like why not just let player take 1 or 2 trainings completely outside their type at tier 1?
Most PCs seem to have very few skills.
Perhaps I’m overthinking it, and the mechanics of the game make it not a big deal to have no training?
does this sound like other Cypher System games?
Anyone else backed it and got y’all’s book?
Thanks for the info. That clears it up a bit. I’d gladly trade my Wrap ability for training in light weapons.
I don’t think the book mentions that at all, and idk if it ever says that Cypher System stuff outside the book is considered fair game, but that’s a convo for the actual group I play with.
I have trouble imagining that working, tbh. Old Gods isn’t old school cosmic horror. Oppositional to the deep dark is The Green, and there are powerful folk who protect others and hold back the darkness. IME CoC is much better at hopeless battles where the PCs are all they can lean on. In Old Gods, the folk doing the fighting can lean on thier community, seek council from wise folk with deep knowledge, gather tools and secrets to make it manageable to stop something from the dark from eating people, etc.
The Thing Whose Name Sounds Like Horned Head But Is Not can be kept at bay with a strong warding spell. The Dead Queen can be kept in slumber and can be put back into slumber if it goes wrong and she starts to wake. (Although that did cost some lives)
Old gods has costs for standing at in the shadow and keeping it from swallowing your town, but it isn’t hopeless, you aren’t a fool to try.
I thought at first you were asking for a character build to prove if it was possible within the system. Now I see you are asking how the rules for character creation allow more variety in builds than the fairly restrictive types offer. So I guess my approach to trying to help with these questions will be to first highlight some of the rules that jump out to me related to character customization, note some general considerations for flavoring abilities differently, then suggest some character builds/directions to highlight some different approaches to the character concept as I understand it.
First, I think you are right that the type is a largely limiting factor in what your character can do. The Flavor options to swap special abilities between different types mentioned above don't seem to appear in OGoA. There are some focuses that grant weapons (unarmed attacks) or magic (Hedge Magic). But being practiced/trained/specialized with any weapons is almost exclusively limited to your Type. And magic comes largely as a type's special abilities, or through cyphers and artifacts. Now, here the rules suggest that's a feature, not a bug, specifically in regard to cyphers:
p.282 Dealing With Character Abilities
Many RPGs are thought of as “class and level” games because each character has a class defining their role (like fighter, thief, or priest), and they start at level 1 and gain levels as the game progresses. A lot of people might think that the Cypher System is a class-and-level game because it has things that are similar to classes (types) and levels (tiers). And that’s fine. But here’s the real secret: it’s not tiers, types, or any of that stuff that is the key to really understanding the system. It’s the cyphers. The cyphers are the key to making the game work differently than other games. The Cypher System isn’t about playing for years before a character is allowed to charm a creature, talk to objects, protect their friends from death, walk in someone’s dreams, or draw a door to travel anywhere. They can do it right out of the gate if they have the right cypher. This system works because both the GM and the player have a say over what cyphers a character has. It’s not limiting—it’s freeing.
I guess saying something like, "hey, I want these kind of cyphers" is technically part of a character build in OGoA. Elsewhere, the rules talk about Artifacts as a form of character advancement, too.
Characters think about and understand magic in varied ways, so a connection to the supernatural can come exclusively through cyphers and artifacts thematically as well as mechanically. A Protector can use cyphers/artifacts that grant them some form of true sight, while a Sage can use cyphers/artifacts that make them better at combat.
Defensively, you can essentially become practiced in armor as an "Other" advancement option once per tier, reducing the Speed penalty when applying Effort to a Speed Task by 1, which is exactly what being practiced in armor does. This is where I will bring up flavoring things that are typically thought of as endurance/toughness-related as being speed-related/gracefulness. Armor and other defensive abilities would seem to fit right in with the idea of a graceful scrapper. I would flavor armor points like from the Sage's Wrap ability like the character was able to roll with the punches and partially absorb momentum from the attacks. I don't think I would want to trade that away!
As far as how important is the difference between inability=hindered/practiced/trained/specialized, each tier is equivalent to a +/- 3 on a d20 roll. So a Sage starts out -15% to hit versus a Protector. At tier 2, a Sage could maintain the same gap, as the Protector could become trained in a single weapon type while the Sage can become practiced with Light weapons. That's it for weapon progression for a Sage (outside of the Gets Rough and Rowdy Focus) but the Protector doesn't get specialization in a weapon type until tier 5 (though they can get trained in more types to be more versatile). Now, uneven tier progression can be a thing. The rules assume a character will use half their xp for character advancement. If your Sage spends more xp on advancement than a Protector, you could conceivably be better at a specific kind of fighting than a Protector is at fighting in general for however long it takes for the Protector to catch up in their tier advancement. Likewise, I think some focuses grant extra (like +6) stat points, which may help one character keep up with another character that's better at combat for a little while by affording them additional points to ease the attack.
Taking this concept:
graceful scrapper with some natural gift for the supernatural, especially seeing through people and deceptions/illusions, who is learning to delve deeper into the magic
...I think the choice for the type falls between Protector and Sage. Looking at the Sage first, I think a Skeptical Sage Who Gets Rough and Rowdy could fit the concept pretty well, though that character would be restricted to unarmed attacks. The advantages are that you are not as dependent on the "soft" (undependable availability of) cyphers/artifacts and have "hard" (encoded in the rules) options for delving deeper into magic through the Sage's special abilities. You'll have pretty decent unarmed combat options, optionally gaining specialization or +5 damage at tier 6 rather than gaining specialization at tier 5 AND additional attacks/damage at tier 6 like a Protector, but getting trained at the same time in tier 2.
An Offish Protector Who Crafts Powerful Objects could be a different take on the concept. Again I am mitigating the "soft" nature of cyphers/artifacts - I guess from not being familiar with this system I am a bit skeptical of it - by choosing a focus that lets you choose what items you make. Perhaps part of your ability to see through people is that your natural suspicion of everyone motivates you to research them (and any potential enemy) thoroughly - checking into their connections, finances, reputation, weakness, and the like, leading you to having made the right supernatural tools just in time. You'll be good at combat while all of your magic will come from items.