The Cypher System Open License (CS OL) was rolled out last summer, and it’s recently been getting a lot of attention. If you’re one of the many people curious about publishing under the CS OL—for a product big or small—here’s some info that might help you decide!
First, Let’s Talk about the Basics
The Cypher System Open License allows you to use Cypher System rules in your product, and to indicate that your product is compatible with the Cypher System. You can make supplements, adventures, or whole new standalone roleplaying games. The Cypher System Reference Document (CSRD) includes pretty much the entire core rules for the system—just about everything rules-related from the Cypher System Rulebook—you can use as much or as little of it as you want, and modify the rules to whatever degree you like.
It’s a simple, straightforward, human-readable agreement designed to make it easy to publish games, supplements, and more, based on the Cypher System.
That’s it in a nutshell, but you’ll definitely want to read and understand the license before getting started.
Designing for the Cypher System Is Easy!
If you have cool ideas—or maybe full-fledged products designed for other systems—it’s super easy to turn them into Cypher System content. The Cypher System does not have rigidly formulaic design parameters, or delicate game balance requirements. The same design elements that make the Cypher System super easy to GM make it equally easy to design for. The game’s emphasis is on evocative, creative ideas, to which the mechanical underpinnings are easy to apply. (Here’s the TL;DR: if you can decide how hard something is on a scale of 1 to 10, you can make anything work in the Cypher System.)
There’s a Large, Eager, Positive Audience Waiting for Your Game
The Cypher System has been around for nearly a decade, and continues to grow. There are thousands and thousands of players and fans out there, and the market is underserved. They are eager for your content!
And the best part: It’s an extremely positive and supportive community, and they’re easy to reach. The Cypher Unlimited Discord is a great place to generate interest, find fans and potential creative collaborators, and spread the word about your products. And you’ll actually like—no, love—dealing with the friendly and supportive folk there.
Plus Loads of Great Cypher System Designers
Looking for advice on designing for the Cypher System? Or maybe you’re a publisher looking for Cypher System-experienced freelance designers?
There are a lot of great Cypher System designers out there, and again, they’re easy to find. Start with the Cypher System Creator Program on DriveThruRPG. This program is different (and more restrictive) than the Cypher System Open License—but it’s been around a lot longer, so it has quite a history. Check out the many titles there, and contact the creators of titles you like.
But Is the CS OL Really a Forever License?
In a word, yes.
MCG is a small, privately held company. The wizard behind the curtain (not that there really is a curtain) is Monte Cook himself. There are two other owners—Shanna Germain and Charles Ryan—and the entire team is about a dozen people. We publish our own work (all of our products are designed and written in-house, not by freelancers), of which we are extremely proud. We’re also proud of our reputation as a business—and as a group of human beings—that is reliable, straightforward, and ethical in our personal and business dealings.
So when we say, through the language of the license itself, that the CS OL is “perpetual,” that’s exactly what we mean. Forever.
(Some people have been disappointed to recently discover that, in legalese, a “perpetual” license might not be irrevocable. We’ve been asked a few times recently if we could add the term “irrevocable” to the Cypher System Open License. We’re looking into the possibility of making the license terms more watertight for the creators, but it’s not as simple as just adding another word.)
The bottom line is that we’re not a corporate entity that changes management personnel and strategy every few years. We are a group of humans who are fully vested in the success of the Cypher System forever, with a true love of RPGs and a history of delivering on our promises.
Great! So How Do I Get Started?
You can find the CS OL and the CSRD here. If you have a cool idea for a TTRPG product, getting started is as simple as reading and understanding the license, downloading the CSRD, and bringing your ideas to life. We can’t wait to see what you come up with!