Monday, July 30, 2018
Cypher System After Action Report Round Three - Hitting It's Stride
I ran the third session of Cypher System this weekend, set in the "Ensaria" fantasy/SF mashup I started developing in Genesys Core and am now expanding on (heavily) with Cypher System. Some new observations after the third session.....
The GM's side of the table is really, really easy in terms of mechanics. It's still important to keep up on the player end to help them out, but while we tend to find ourselves looking up specific abilities, actually adjudicating the rules is very simple, and after three sessions I've effectively got the mechanics memorized.
The players seem to be getting the hang of the mechanics, too, but they are also aware of the fact that the pool of points which powers abilities and makes tasks easier also keeps them alive. I've run some fairly intense combats, though, to help give them an idea of how much "survivability" their characters have....although tier one PCs in Cypher are fairly unskilled, they still are tough hombres. Against low level foes they can cut a swathe through the opposition without much effort, and a gang of mid level (3-5) foes can be a tough combat but still something they can overcome. I threw one very tough opponent against them late in the game that was meant to hammer home the power scale, and they definitely noticed it.
One new player was quick to notice how inverted the mechanical structure was; with very few static modifiers, much of the game's probability curve is entirely a matter of percentages, minus any imposed assets or spent pools. However, it's clear that with a bit of work you can make a character in this game who rapidly builds up zero cost assets (skill defense, for example) that can generally make life much easier for that character.
The notion that you can have automatic outcomes...foes you can't miss, or enemies who can't miss you, seemed a bit of a surprise to some at the table. I haven't played a system like this since Tunnels & Trolls. It's an interesting conceptual space.....it basically places a mechanical cap on the point at which enemies are worth engaging with; if the entire party, for example, were automatically able to overcome a low level foe then the low level opponent no longer needs to be treated like a relevant encounter and can be delegated to the status of a "and then you killed all the goblins" description. The reverse isn't true for foes too powerful.....it becomes a life or death moment for PCs to figure out what gimmick the GM expects them to find/use to make the enemy go away, or to flee with all due haste.
Unlike T&T, Cypher System is a but likelier to let PCs survive their first encounter with an overwhelmingly more powerful foe. If you play T&T, and the PCs accidentally attack an enemy they somehow they didn't get warning was too tough, it can potentially annihilate them in one round of combat.
The low emphasis on skills in Cypher continues to be a perplexing experience for all of us. I mean...the skills are there, yeah, but the game doesn't hand out many at tier one unless you pick the exact right combination of descriptor, type, flavor and focus.
Despite all of this, I am really enjoying the system, and look forward to continuing this campaign for as long as everyone is willing. I am also thinking about developing a new science fiction setting for Cypher System to see how it fares with a genre shift.
Monte Cook Games did announce a second edition is in the works, for late 2019. It's part of the Kickstarter for "Your Best Game Ever," located here. As Monte Cook Kickstarters go this one is almost reasonable, with a $100 buy in for the Best Game Ever book and 2nd Edition Cypher System. I may buy in to it if things look good financially closer to the end of the Kickstarter.