Tell Me About the Cypher System

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

  • I love it.

    Votes: 11 10.5%
  • It's pretty good.

    Votes: 17 16.2%
  • Meh, it's okay.

    Votes: 17 16.2%
  • It's pretty bad.

    Votes: 18 17.1%
  • I hate it.

    Votes: 3 2.9%
  • I've never played it.

    Votes: 37 35.2%
  • What's Cypher?

    Votes: 2 1.9%

PencilBoy99

Explorer
I ran a year-long campaign with it and actually had tons of fun, but I'd never run it again - for one thing, my players really learned to hate all the fiddling with the pools und difficulties.
Also, when I bought the Cypher System core book, I realized how anti-modular the whole descriptor-type-focus system actually is. It hides all kinds of powers away in types and focuses, and if you don't study all that stuff very carefully in advance, levelling up you might run into a power that plays havor with your character concept and/or setting. In Numenera, it was more or loss okay (though even there, a totally mundane archer suddenly gained the power to have explosive missiles through his focus - and his player wasn't delighted at all, because he felt that it simply made no sense), in less gonzo settings, it can give you a lot of headaches. I'd say for Numenera, the system is okay, but if you want to adapt it to virtually anything that has a concept behind it, you're pulling against the core design elements (don't get me started on cyphers ...).

I can see me giving it another try for superheroes, or maybe for urban fantasy of the weirder kind, but beyond that, nope ...
That was my concern also. the advice I've gotten is basically that (1) the GM should be familiar with all of the character part options (lots of them from official and unofficial sources) then (2) prune generally to fit setting then (3) work w/ players up front to pick the combinations that fit their concept within the setting AND prune options that don't fit. Not perfect but that's what they said.
So a Warrior type or whatever comes with a ton of goodies tier - you're not intended to just allow them carte blanche. They're a list of potential powers that you're supposed to curate. The system doesn't intend for you to use all of them in every setting.
 
Last edited:

log in or register to remove this ad

Swanosaurus

Adventurer
To be fair, I think that Numenera is less interested as a setting in solving the mysteries of the past or providing you with answers. The game doesn't care about telling you who and when each of the prior great civilizations were. It really doesn't matter because that's not what the game is about. Instead, IMHO, it's interested in characters exploring and taking what is present in order to build a future. It doesn't matter who built this thingamajig, when they did, or for what original purpose. What matters is that the characters can use this thingamajig they found to purify their town's water supply.
To be fair, I was mainly annoyed because I approached Numenera with the notion that "exploration" means "finding out", and not just "finding" (and then making creative use of). That was at a time when I wasn't aware of "exploration" as a term for one of the three "pillars" of classic role-playing games; in that sense, exploration comes much closer to what Numenera seems to be about, but I was thinking more in terms of discovering and understanding things.
In the end, I'm probably still disappointed that Numenera didn't provide that kind of "deep" setting that I felt the illustrations and the advertisements evoked. It's still not a bad RPG or setting at all, it just didn't meet certain expectations I had, both in terms of rules and of setting.
 

Swanosaurus

Adventurer
That was my concern also. the advice I've gotten is basically that (1) the GM should be familiar with all of the character part options (lots of them from official and unofficial sources) then (2) prune generally to fit setting then (3) work w/ players up front to pick the combinations that fit their concept within the setting AND prune options that don't fit. Not perfect but that's what they said.
So a Warrior type or whatever comes with a ton of goodies tier - you're not intended to just allow them carte blanche. They're a list of potential powers that you're supposed to curate. The system doesn't intend for you to use all of them in every setting.
Yes, I think that advice is right there in the Cypher System book -it's just that it's terribly intransparent which types and focusses feature which abilities. They tried to solve that problem by creating one long alphabetic ability list in the 2nd edition, but that didn't really make it easier, as well. I think what they could/should have done to make the Cypher system more universal is to stick to the core resolution system (as I said, my players didn't really like it, but personally, I think there's a lot of merit to it) and come up with a completely new character creation system that doesn't lock you into surprise bag types and focusses and provides a sounder, more abstract structure for special abilities that doesn't have you leafing through hundreds of idiosyncratic abilities with strange names.
 

I've only played Numenera and a couple of sessions of the Strange with it. I'm solidly in the "wonderful setting concepts, kind of shame about the game engine" school of thought. Which is something I've come to expect from Cook's work, really. Great creative ideas, often let down some by the mechanical stuff behind them.
 

demoss

Explorer
Ran a short Numenera game (5-10 sessions, maybe?) couple of years ago.

Love:

  • Player facing mechanics. (Ie. GM doesn't roll dice.)
  • Single use items that aren't for hoarding
  • Straightforward scale
  • Autosuccesses
  • Currency that players can spend
  • Straightforward stats

Meh:

- The 0-10 difficulty scale -> 0-20 scale for rolls seemed problematic for some players. I think I basically ended up ditching the 0-10 scale and just using 0-20 directly so, that there's no need for conversion. The Invisible Sun option of using a D10 instead of D20 seems valid as well.

- Complex descriptor and focus packages: not obvious at a glance what they do and how they evolve over time, are they weak or strong etc.

- Currency is also XP. (Quick hack that fixes this: spent currency becomes XP.)

If I were to return to Cypher system, I would be tempted to replace descriptors and foci with Over The Edge -style freeform traits / HeroQuest keywords. Like, first you get the "big theme", later you expand it with specific cool stuff, or make already-existing cool stuff easier.

I think it's fine. About as easy / painful as 5E, IMO - just different bits that are easy and different bits that are painful.
 

Aldarc

Legend
Note, the 0 to 10 difficulty scale is really 0-30 scale for TN rolls and not 0-20 since TN = 3 x Difficulty.

I believe that the original plan for Numenera was to use a d10 for resolution, but Cook decided on a d20 "because D&D." And while Invisible Sun does use a d10, it uses it from a scale of 0 to 9, with anything 10+ requiring a magic die.

Yeah, I had a few players who throught that Numenera would have been better with Fate-like Aspects or 13th Age Backgrounds rather than its system of Descriptors, Foci, and Types that each distill micro-abilities.
 

demoss

Explorer
"If something has a mechanical effect in the game world it needs a written splat, and the mechanical effect has to the same every time" is a terrible disease.
 


MintRabbit

Explorer
I'm curious about what pieces folks feel like they could take out of the Cypher System and plop into other games. Do you think there are pieces of the mechanics that show promise, that you'd like to see working inside another game system?
 

Gradine

The Elephant in the Room (she/her)
I'm curious about what pieces folks feel like they could take out of the Cypher System and plop into other games. Do you think there are pieces of the mechanics that show promise, that you'd like to see working inside another game system?
Cyphers are a great mechanic and easy to port to other systems, I think. Magic items are more-or-less single-use abilities, and hoarding too many of them causes actual physical damage from the body being unable to handle carrying that much powerful magic around with them, which encourages players to use them regularly.
 

Voidrunner's Codex

Remove ads

Top