Tell Me About the Cypher System

How do you feel about the Cypher game system, by Monte Cook Games?

  • I love it.

    Votes: 9 11.0%
  • It's pretty good.

    Votes: 13 15.9%
  • Meh, it's okay.

    Votes: 14 17.1%
  • It's pretty bad.

    Votes: 17 20.7%
  • I hate it.

    Votes: 1 1.2%
  • I've never played it.

    Votes: 27 32.9%
  • What's Cypher?

    Votes: 1 1.2%

Aldarc

Legend
Looks like ENWorld is giving the Cypher System an overall grade of "C-plus" (GPA 2.33).
In my experience, it's a love it or hate it sort of system. I think that it's less clever of a system than some of its fans believe it to be. IMHO, it's kind of like an inexperienced traditional gamer's idea of a narrative game,* but it's really just another traditional game that gives the GM a lot of latitude to curate a story.

* Usually the talking point that you hear is that the Cypher System lets the GM focus on the story. This is because the GM side of the game is incredibly light and fluid. I do agree that it's probably one of the EASIEST experiences that I've had GMing a game as the basic mechanic of a Number from 0 to 10 and then times three to determine the Target Number for a task, NPC, or monster is super easy. A lot of the mechanics are shifted to the player side of the table. But I don't think that any of this makes the Cypher System a "story game" or "narrative game." It's just another traditional game system with good marketing.

As I have said before elsewhere, I've been disappointed by its lack of evolution as a system or anything that addressed some of the common issues that people have with it. I feel like it's been mostly treading the water and just expanding into different genres or IPs while reprinting a lot of the same stuff over and over again. (It reminds me of Savage Worlds in this regard.) Invisible Sun looked like it would evolve the system, especially if they simplified it and removed the sort of byzantine setting material, but alas that hasn't come to be.

I'm not all that surprised; it's one of the newer systems. But it's got at least two things going for itself: it's the engine that drives a handful of successful games and Kickstarters, and it enjoys at least some association with the flagship D&D brand (it was written and developed by Monte Cook, who was one of the developers of 3rd Edition D&D).

OSR games are hot right now; I bet if Monte Cook Games were to develop and promote an OSR game that uses this system, and included some conversion notes for adapting SRD5.1 material to it, their GPA would improve by a full letter grade.
I have run it as a more OSR style dungeon-delve in Numenera. It was basically the premise of Diablo 1 except it involved a demonic A.I. deep within a crashed space ship instead of Diablo levels under the cathedral. There are some things that you have to adjust to make it more OSR-esque. For example, I would get rid of GM and Player Intrusions. One could also create Random Tables associated with a character Type or Focus for when a player rolls a 1 instead of using GM Intrusions.
 

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CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
I've only done three of these so far (might do another one after the weekend...any requests?) but this one is really struggling compared to the others. It's been played the least (only 22 ENWorld voters have played it) and it has the lowest GPA (2.50). To be fair, it is also the newest system...I'm sure that is a contributing factor.
 

Aldarc

Legend
I've only done three of these so far (might do another one after the weekend...any requests?) but this one is really struggling compared to the others. It's been played the least (only 22 ENWorld voters have played it) and it has the lowest GPA (2.50). To be fair, it is also the newest system...I'm sure that is a contributing factor.
I have noticed that there are definitely things about the Cypher System that commonly rub people the wrong way.

For possible other systems, I have some suggestions:
  • Shadow of the Demon Lord
  • Fantasy AGE
  • Zweihänder / Warhammer Fantasy RP
  • Forbidden Lands
  • Dragonbane / Drakar och Demoner

Might be interesting to see how those fare.
 


aramis erak

Legend
I've only done three of these so far (might do another one after the weekend...any requests?) but this one is really struggling compared to the others. It's been played the least (only 22 ENWorld voters have played it) and it has the lowest GPA (2.50). To be fair, it is also the newest system...I'm sure that is a contributing factor.
It's not just relatively recent, it was initially overpriced. (Not as bad as another Cypher system game, but, damn!)
And its fanbase at first were as obnoxious as the "Gygax is the One True Gaming God" type D&D snobs.
Plus, the way its written is, while not Old High Gygaxian, isn't plain English, either. Just look at the class names...

All four (Pricey, Recent, esoteric, and snobbish fans) do it serious disservice in non-fan gamer eyes.
 

I'm not sure whether Invisible Sun counts as Cypher System or merely a close cousin, but it's the only one we've played. We kept the campaign going but rapidly dropped the rules in favour of Storyteller (which says something when that's an improvement) due to being irritating and having perverse incentives.
 

PencilBoy99

Explorer
I'm not sure whether Invisible Sun counts as Cypher System or merely a close cousin, but it's the only one we've played. We kept the campaign going but rapidly dropped the rules in favour of Storyteller (which says something when that's an improvement) due to being irritating and having perverse incentives.
It's a different system. Do you mean you used like old storyteller Mage 20 or something?
 


PencilBoy99

Explorer
Is I have said before elsewhere, I've been disappointed by its lack of evolution as a system or anything that addressed some of the common issues that people have with it. I feel like it's been mostly treading the water and just expanding into different genres or IPs while reprinting a lot of the same stuff over and over again. (It reminds me of Savage Worlds in this regard.) Invisible Sun looked like it would evolve the system, especially if they simplified it and removed the sort of byzantine setting material, but alas that hasn't come to be.
I think you've hit a key point. I actually think it's excellent, but can use the sort of development you describe. At least Savage Worlds occasionally upgrades stuff, like working to remove stun lock, etc., they're just slow (which is the style).

Cypher did make one change, which was to introduce subtle cyphers, which work like inspiration or stunts in age, and they work well. Ideally, they'd actually build that out into a product, so you have subtle cyphers by genre.

I think its a challenge to run a long form campaign in this "generic" system that isn't zero to superhero D&D 5e (in the sense that everyone has magic powers and many challenges become become trivial). There's the math thing, the easing effort, and you can try to hack the powers so that people don't have crazy magical powers when it wouldn't make sense. They should really put out a product that addresses it, but instead the response seems to be "well, just cut off advancement at 3rd tier and start new characters."
 

bulletmeat

Adventurer
Though I did not play it I did character creation of from the main book and did a mock battle. While I didn't care for the system, it gave me the idea of using a similar tactic for D6 games; GM uses standard difficulties w/a wild die rolled for a major villain and the players do all the rolling.
This allowed my D6 games to go a little faster.
 


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