Monday, July 16, 2018

Notes on the Cypher System Part 2 - Two Things it Needs

After only two sessions of Cypher System I can safely say there are a few things that the books does need, and from studying other resources and fan sites this isn't just me talking, either. Given that Monte Cook has announced plans for a Cypher System 2nd Edition, I'm hoping the following are considered in the next iteration:

Equipment - more of it, with more guidance on making it

Cypher System doesn't put a lot of emphasis on equipment, but it's still there. The game provides a lot of detail on cyphers (the one-use "magic items" of the system), talks about artifacts, and then provides some equipment lists for different genres. On the surface it seems enough, but when I was running the game simple questions like, "How much is horse barding?" require you the GM to start pulling numbers out of your ass if you hadn't thought of that before hand.*

Games like Pathfinder may be so complete they are overwhelming, but they are also so complete that you never need to make up the answer to a simple question like the cost of horse barding.

Likewise, after playing Genesys Core recently, I rather liked how that system had lots of interesting descriptors/traits for gear that could come in to play. Cypher System has gear that does stuff, and provides artifact rules, but in many ways it has some serious gaps in providing the GM with more than cursory direction on making your own stuff....or providing enough basic stuff for each genre.

For do you reflect a rocket launcher in a modern setting for Cypher System? Is this just a heavy weapon that deals 6 points of damage? Because that doesn't sound like a really impressive weapon when deployed in actual play. Is it an artifact that does a lot more? Probably, but the mechanics of the system are not offering me a lot of guidance on how to model that in a way that isn't also possibly game breaking. Cypher System has some interesting gaps like this. Indeed, the rocket launcher question I had is why I decided to try it out with the fantasy genre first.

Anyway, my wish list for Cypher System 2E is for a 20-30 page section on equipment, with better guidance on building non-cypher equipment, and a fantastic, detailed "default" list of equipment and costs by core genres. Like, ten times more robust than what is in the current book.

Playable Fantasy and SF Species

It looks like the intent of Numenera was that species a player could play would be part of their descriptor, and this is how individual species are statted for play as characters. The result however is that the character gets defined by a species descriptor and has to ignore all the other cool "personality" descriptors. Why can't you be a Fast Elf or a Witty Dwarf? In theory no reason at all, if the GM lets everyone pick two descriptors, but that requires modding the game.

The simplest solution, of course, is to add a Species/Kindred descriptor to the list, and let people pick from that. Add a default "human" descriptor and problem solved. Or, allow for species descriptors that have more flex to them and let you stack/combine with other descriptors in a manner similar to how Flavors stack with Types.

The genres could use a few more baseline examples, as well. 4-6 examples per relevant genre would be greatly helpful.

There may be other things that I feel Cypher 2E could benefit from.....more later!

*I know there are two modes of thought on this in RPGs today. Systems either treat money as an abstraction or a reality, and you either track it or you don't. Some systems give you a mix....Call of Cthulhu's Credit Rating skill lets you abstract some big expenses while still providing precise costs for items. Cypher System doesn't raise this question, except when it does (e.g. Gods of the Fall provides a money system while core rules just say "pick some items.") In the games I run I could just abstract it and say, "Your patron gave you enough money to get what you want," but I am of the school of thought that people (and myself) like actually knowing how much money we just found; treasure is, indeed, its own reward and part of why people play. Abstracting it makes it less interesting and less useful as a feature of the game, and doesn't work well with long term campaigning. 

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