Any character, any campaign. If you can imagine it, the Cypher System makes it easy!
The Cypher System is the critically acclaimed game engine that powers any campaign in any genre. You may have heard of it as the system that drives the award-winning Numenera roleplaying game. Lauded for its elegance, ease of use, flexibility, and narrative focus, the Cypher System unleashes the creativity of GMs and players with intuitive character creation, fast-paced gameplay, and a uniquely GM-friendly design.
Cypher System, Second Edition - Rules SummaryCollapse
Character Creation [ edit ]
Character creation in Cypher System starts with a sentence in the form "an adjective noun who verb phrases". For example, a character might be a Rugged Warrior who Stands Like a Bastion or A Guarded Adept who Keeps a Magic Ally.
Each part of this sentence determines the character's stats. For instance, a character with an adjective of Impulsive would gain +2 to their starting "Speed Pool", +2 to Speed-based defense actions, and an Initiative bonus ... but they would also be easily distracted, getting negative modifiers to any tasks involving attention, willpower, or impulse control.
After choosing a sentence the player must pick a "type" (ie. class) for their character. Cypher has four such types: Adept (someone with extraordinary powers, eg. wizards), Warrior, Speaker (a social-focused character), and Explorer (a catch-all for characters that don't fit the first three, such as a journalist).
Instead of attributes (or hit points) Cypher uses "Pools", with three separate pools for Might (ie. Strength/Constitution in Dungeons and Dragons terms), Speed (ie. Dexterity), and Intellect (ie. Intelligence/Wisdom). These pools are partly determined by the character type, and also partly by the player, and they can be used during play both to succeed at actions and to "take damage".
Characters also gain skills based on their background. All skills start out at a "trained" level, and if the character acquires that same skill again they instead get it at a "specialized" level (there is no third level). Because of its generic nature Cypher System doesn't have a fixed skill list, but the core book comes with a list of commonly-used skills.
Speaking of levels", Cypher uses a Tier (ie. level) system for advancement, with six tiers. When a character gains enough experience (which is gained through discovery and "intrusions", not through killing monsters or acquiring treasure) to raise their tier they can then spend those points to improve their characters.
Core Mechanics [ edit ]
All actions in Cypher System are assigned a difficulty of 1 to 10 by the GM (unless they are so trivial they don't require a roll). To succeed at that action, the player must roll higher than three times that number on a d20. For instance, to succeed at a difficulty 5 task would require a roll of 15 or higher.
Players can lower the difficulty of the task ("ease" it) by having a relevant skill for it, having the appropriate gear, or getting assistance from another character. Players can also ease a task by "applying effort" (ie. spending their Pool), which lowers the task's difficulty by one for the first three Pool spent, and one more for each two spent after that. If a task's difficulty is reduced below 1, it succeeds automatically.
If the player rolls a 1, the GM can introduce an "intrusion", ie. a complication for the character. For instance, a character failing a climbing check might find themselves hanging from a cliff ... but if they roll a 1 they drop a critical item they are carrying. GMs can also introduce optional intrusions: if the player accepts them their character (and one other) gains an experience point.
Finally, if the die rolls a 19 a "minor effect" occurs, and if it rolls a 20 a "major effect" occurs instead. A minor effect adds a small enhancement, eg. the character completes the task faster, or does three extra points of damage on an attack. A major effect is similar, but more pronounced: the action is completed in half the time, or an attack adds four points of damage.
Combat [ edit ]
Combat is divided into rounds in Cypher, but a round can be anywhere from 5-10 seconds, at the GM's discretion. To determine who goes first all of the players make an Initiative check, but NPCs do not; instead they have a fixed initiative of 3x their level (incidentally this is the same difficulty number used for any check against an NPC).
If a player beats the initiative of an NPC they go before them, However, the players are otherwise free to go in whatever order they want. Also GMs may opt to have all NPCs act at once, using the highest initiative (ie. highest level) NPC.
Each round a character can take a single action, eg. attack, move, or put away a weapon (although they can draw their weapon and attack as a single action). A character can also move an "immediate distance" (ie. up to 10 feet or 3 meters) before or after their action, but not both.
Note that in Cypher system the GM doesn't worry about PCs and NPCs exact distance from each other: instead everyone is either an "immediate" (ie. close) distance, or a "short" or "long" distance. All melee combatants are generally considered to be in immediate range of each other, and so a GM (who doesn't want to play with a battle mat) doesn't have to keep track of exactly where everyone is.
If a character devotes an entire action to moving they can instead close a "short" distance (ie. move 50 feet or 15 meters), or ... with a Speed check difficulty 4 ... they can close a "long" distance (100 feet/30 meters).
To attack, a player makes roll equal to or higher than their opponent's target number (ie. 3x their level). Melee attacks are either Might or Speed-based (player's choice), ranged are Speed-based, and special (eg. magic) attacks are generally Intellect-based.
If the attack hits a player, it deals damage to either the player's Might (normal attacks) or Intellect (mental attacks), but if it hits an NPC it instead deals damage to their "health pool" (which, by default, is also 3x their level). Damage is based on the weapon used, but a player can add 3 extra damage by applying effort to the attack roll.