Cypher System Rulebook

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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.

The Cypher System is easy for beginners to learn, but offers all the depth, nuance, and complexity you want. Some people call it a “rules-light” system, but it has the power and sophistication of games that are much more mechanically heavy—and yet it is substantially more flexible. GMs find the game easy to prep for and easy to run—it frees up the GM’s attention, in prep and at the game table, to focus on cool, creative ideas rather than numbers, mechanics, and “crunch.”

Cypher System characters are built from the concept up. A descriptive sentence provides not just an easily-understood overview of the character, but also the mechanical basis for skills, abilities, and stats. And the Cypher System gives players amazing narrative engagement, rewarding player-driven subplots and giving players resources to bear on the tasks and situations they most want to succeed at.

Uniquely Easy on the GM

While preparing for their games, and at the game table, Cypher System GMs spend their time and mental energy thinking up exciting and creative adventures, settings, encounters, twists, NPCs, and creatures—while spending only mere minutes on numbers and stats. This is in part due to the elegant, math-free simplicity of the system, and in part because of the “players roll all the dice” approach, which shares the mechanical burden with the players.

The Cypher System is amazingly easy to adjudicate. The GM decides how difficult a task is on a simple 1-to-10 scale, and the players apply their skills, resources, and other assets to lower that number—and then they roll the dice. If you can rate a task between 1 and 10, you can run the Cypher System—even if your adventure goes in a completely unexpected direction, or you’ve had no time to prep. Of course there’s more to it, and creatures, encounters, and special situations can add layers of additional sophistication. But at the heart of it all is that 1-to-10 scale.

And that’s it! Virtually everything that makes routine actions more complex is on the players. The GM is the arbiter of what skills, special abilities, and other assets apply, but it’s up the the players to bring these elements to bear, resolve the final difficulty of the task, and roll the dice. This has the dual benefit of increasing the players’ narrative engagement and keeping the mechanical work of running the game off the GM’s plate.

All the while, the GM is focused on running imaginative encounters, spinning great adventures, and building vivid and memorable campaigns!

Intuitive, Descriptive Characters

Cypher System characters are built with a three-part sentence. You might be a Rugged Warrior who Stands Like a Bastion. A Guarded Adept who Keeps a Magic Ally. Perhaps a Graceful Explorer who Moves Like the Wind. Or a Charming Speaker who Bears a Halo of Fire. Each part of your sentence says something about your character—but also provides some of your abilities, skills, and stats. They even offer guidance on your connections to other characters in your party, creating bonds that can be a foundation for an ongoing campaign, or facilitate great roleplaying in one-shot adventures.

Cyphers give characters single-use abilities frequently gained and spent, adding variety to the character’s capabilities and providing exciting new approaches and options. Depending on what’s appropriate for the campaign, cyphers can be subtle, representing advantageous conditions, blessings, or unusual turns of luck, or manifest, in the form of minor magic items, charms, or bits of unusual technology.

Character arcs encourage and reward players for pursuing their characters’ own motivations, in addition to the overall story of the campaign. Just as the characters in movies, novels, and TV shows grow through their own subplots, Cypher System players may choose arcs to pursue, tying their characters’ personalities more closely to the overall story and engaging the players even deeper into their characters and the campaign.

Creating a great Cypher System character is as easy as coming up with a great concept. You build the character you imagine through a short, easy, largely math-free character creation process. And you get a character with depth, nuance, and flexibility.

Narrative Focus

Everything about the Cypher System is focused on making great characters, adventures, and campaigns. The flexibility of the system frees the GM to build the adventures they imagine with a focus on creativity over “work,” and the GM intrusion mechanic enables great plot twists that the players welcome rather than shy away from.

For their part, the players call upon resources such as Effort, player intrusions, and flexible uses of XP to influence the course of the game and bring advantages to the rolls and situations they most want to succeed. And character arcs let players bring their own priorities to the game, developing satisfying and engaging subplots in collaboration with the GM.

Any Campaign, Any Genre

The Cypher System is flexible. From fantasy to science fiction, horror to post-apocalyptic, superhero to cyberpunk, the elegance of the Cypher System makes it easy. The Cypher System Rulebook includes advice and special rules for nine different genres.

The same flexibility that makes Cypher System characters so awesome also makes it easy to customize them to your campaign. Simply pick the types, descriptors, and foci that are appropriate to your setting, and exclude those that aren’t. The Cypher System Rulebook even makes it easy to customize your own types and foci.

Whatever game you want to run—whatever world you want to create and explore—the flexible, fast-paced, narrative-focused Cypher System makes it easy!

The Cypher System Rulebook

The 448-page Cypher System Rulebook gives you all the character options, equipment, game rules, special coverage of key genres, creatures, NPCs, and cyphers you need for any game.

  • Complete game rules
  • Special rules and advice for nine specific genres, including fantasy, modern, science-fiction, horror, superheroes, and post-apocalyptic
  • Four character types, each easily customized to the needs of your setting
  • 50 descriptors and more than 90 foci, along with all the tools to create new foci
  • Loads of equipment and hundreds of cyphers and artifacts
  • Nearly 60 creatures and NPCs
  • Great GM advice on adapting the Cypher System to a variety of settings, and on running fun, engaging, fast-paced, easy-to-GM game sessions

Start a new campaign set in a fantasy land of elves and fae creatures, a science fiction setting spanning the galaxy, or a modern slasher horror game. The Cypher System Rulebook gives you everything you need to run your game using the critically acclaimed, award-winning, and just plain fun-to-play Cypher System!

How to Play the Cypher System

Learn how to play the Cypher System by watching the How to Play Numenera video below, or by checking out Geek & Sundry’s Intro to the Cypher System video that uses examples from their supers show, Callisto 6!

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