Cypher System: Easy on the GM (Part 1)

This is the fifth in a series of articles by Monte about designing, running, and playing the Cypher System. You can read the first one here.

I’m always thrilled when I hear that someone feels like Numenera or The Strange is their opportunity to try gamemastering for the first time. Thrilled because it’s the goal of the Cypher System to be easier to GM, and thrilled because the world needs more GMs.

If the Cypher System is based on logic (see the first article in this series), which puts more authority in the GM’s hands instead of the rules, we need a way to apply that logic simply and with some consistency. In effect, a Cypher System GM needs to be able to rate how hard a dangerous creature is to fight, how tough a machine is to operate, how tricky a puzzle is to solve, and so on. Fortunately, the game lets you do this in the most straightforward way possible. Everything in the game that the GM has purview over is rated on a scale of 1 to 10. This makes game prep simple and fast, and makes improv GMing really easy.

Cypher-System-Rulebook-24-Jacob-Atienza

That latter point—about improv GMing—is an important one. Because the one thing that keeps RPG sessions feeling very linear, and makes players feel like they’re on a railroad, is that GMs usually need to have material prepared. If the GM prepares for the PCs to go to the haunted house or the cemetery to look for clues and they go to straight to the mayor’s house instead, the game comes to a crashing halt (or the GM steers the PCs back to one of his two prepared routes). By enabling the GM’s ability to just create things on the fly, this becomes less of an issue. In other words, making things easy on the GM gives players more freedom and authority over their own choices.

Because the “stats” for everything in the Cypher System are basically just a single number (NPCs sometimes have a few exceptions or special abilities to make them more interesting), the GM can focus more on the story than on the stats. This also makes improv GMing easier. Since the GM doesn’t have to worry too much about the mayor’s stats or the stats of her alarm system, he can give a bit more thought to what the PCs find there and what the mayor knows and what she might tell them.

(Continued in Easy on the GM: Part 2)

Look for additional thoughts on the Cypher System over the weeks to come! The Cypher System Rulebook hits stores in early August, but is available for pre-order now!

Read the whole series here:

1: Logic as the Core Mechanic

2: Player Authority

3: Player Authority and the GM

4: Playing the Character You Want to Play, Part 1

5: Playing the Character You Want to Play, Part 2

6: Easy on the GM, Part 1

7: Easy on the GM, Part 2

Monte Cook
Monte Cook

Monte Cook has written hundreds of roleplaying game products, along with numerous short stories, novels, nonfiction titles, and comic books. He is probably best known for his work on such notable titles as Planescape, Ptolus, the 3rd Edition of Dungeons & Dragons (which he codesigned with Jonathan Tweet and Skip Williams), Arcana Evolved, and of course Numenera and the Cypher System. He is a cofounder of Monte Cook Games, and is our lead designer.