Here’s my take on Monte Cook’s Cypher System Rulebook (ISBN-10: 1939979382, ISBN-13: 978-1939979384), the system used for Numenera and several other settings. You can generate a sample Cypher character with one click over at FastCharacter.com.
* Characters gain abilities through the sets of words used to describe them.
* Levels of experience or power are called Tiers of play, ranging from 1 (novice heroes) to 6 (experts and masters of skill).
* All actions are resolved by rolling one 20-sided die against a target number equal to a task’s Difficulty multiplied by 3. (For example, Difficulty 4 needs a d20 roll of 12 or higher to succeed.)
* There are only three ability scores – Might, Speed and Intellect – which are used for tracking damage, activating special abilities and “buying” temporary bonuses to task rolls.
* A “pool” measures how many ability points a character has at full health, while an “edge” measures aptitude used for lowering the cost of spending such points.
* In addition to stats, characters are given two or three “cyphers,” typically one-use powers that change from adventure to adventure. Each game setting describes what these cyphers represent (magic potions, spy gadgets, cybernetics, mutations or so forth).
* New obstacles introduced by the game master immediately earn characters experience points (XP), which can be spent to re-roll d20 dice or saved for later to level up a character’s abilities.
IN COMPARISON TO DUNGEONS & DRAGONS…
* Tier One is roughly on par with 3rd level characters, Tier Two to Five like 5th to 10th level characters, and Tier Six is about 12th level.
* A “pool” is like an ability score value, while an “edge” is like proficiency in that ability.
* The Might stat covers Strength, Constitution and Fortitude, as well as physical hit points.
* The Speed stat covers Dexterity, Reflexes and Movement, as well as damage affecting moving.
* The Intellect stat covers Intelligence, Wisdom, Charisma and Will, as well as psychic damage.
* “I am a [adjective/descriptor] [noun/type] who does a [verb/focus].”
* Character Type (akin to “character classes” of Fighter, Rogue or Wizard)
* Character Descriptor (akin to “prime stat,” backgrounds or feats)
* Character Focus (somewhat akin to “subclass” abilities)
Notes: In the Cypher System rulebook, the “generic” character types are warriors, adepts, explorers, and speakers. In specialty settings, character types are unique to that setting (such as Numenera’s glaive, nano and jack types).
TASK RESOLUTION DIFFICULTY AND TARGET NUMBERS NEEDED FOR SUCCESS (d20)
* Difficulty 0 / Routine … Automatic success
* Difficulty 1 / Simple … roll 3 or more (85% chance)
* Difficulty 2 / Standard … roll 6 or more (70% chance)
* Difficulty 3 / Demanding … roll 9 or more (55% chance)
* Difficulty 4 / Difficult … roll 12 or more (40% chance)
* Difficulty 5 / Challenging … roll 15 or more (25% chance)
* Difficulty 6 / Intimidating … roll 18 or more (10% chance)
* Difficulty 7 / Formidable … roll 21 or more (-5% chance)
* Difficulty 8 / Heroic … roll 24 or more (-20% chance)
* Difficulty 9 / Immortal … roll 27 or more (-35% chance)
* Difficulty 10 / Impossible … roll 30 or more (-50% chance)
TASK ROLL MODIFIERS
* Trained in Skill: Lower Difficulty by 1, dropping teh minimum target number by 3 (+15% chance of success).
* Specialized in Skill: Lower Difficulty by 2, target number by 6 (+30% chance of success).
* Inability in Skill: Increase Difficulty by 1, raise target number by 3 (-15% chance of success).
* Effort: Spend 3 points from a stat pool (or 2 with Edge) to lower a single task’s Difficulty by 1 (+15% chance).
* Extra Effort: If Effort value 2, drop a stat pool by 5 (or 4 with Edge) to lower Difficulty by 2 (+30% chance of success).
* Additional Effort: If Effort value 3 or more, continue as above with each -2 stat pool points lowering Difficulty by 1.
* XP: Spending 1 XP allows rolling another d20 and using best result single result among the d20s used. Multiple XP can be used to gain multiple d20s for a specific task result.
CRITICAL d20 ROLLS WHEN RESOLVING TASKS
* Natural 1 … automatic fail and GM imposes new trouble (GM intrusion)
* Natural 17 … +1 damage in combat
* Natural 18 … +2 damage in combat
* Natural 19 … +3 damage in combat or minor effect/boon
* Natural 20 … +4 damage in combat or major effect/boon
* Roll 1d6 and add that many stat points back among stat pools as desired.
* A first recovery roll in a day only takes one action (a turn in a round, 6 seconds).
* A second recovery roll requires 10 minutes of rest.
* A third recovery roll requires one hour of rest.
* A fourth recovery roll requires 10 hours of rest.
* Helping equally skilled character … +1 added to value of d20 die roll
* Helping a lesser skilled character … -1 Difficulty (target number reduced by 3)
* Two actions used to complement each other … +2 die roll bonus to each d20 roll
ACTIONS IN A ROUND (5 to 10 seconds)
* Activate a special ability (one that isn’t an attack)
* Defend (typically Speed defense vs. known incoming attacks)
* Rest (make first recovery roll of the day)
* Do something else
PERSONAL COMBAT MODIFIERS
(Modifiers shown as character being the attacker; reverse modifiers if the character is the target rolling to resist an attack.)
* Target behind cover … +1 Difficulty
* Target carries shield … -1 die roll penalty to attacker’s roll
* Target prone … -1 Difficulty vs. melee, +1 Difficulty vs. ranged attack.
* Target on higher ground … +1 Difficulty
* Target on lower ground … +1 Difficulty
* Target in point-blank range (ranged attack) … -1 Difficulty
* Target in extreme range (ranged attack) … +1 Difficulty
* Target in dim light (full moon, torchlight) … +1 Difficulty
* Target in very dim light (starlight, candle) … +2 Difficulty
* Target in total darkness … +4 Difficulty
* Target is invisible but general area known … +4 Difficulty
* Target is invisible, location unknown … automatic miss
* Target running or in fast moving vehicle … +1 Difficulty
* Target is dazed … -1 Difficulty
* Target is distracted (one round only) … -1 Difficulty
* Attacker in water up to chest … +1 Difficulty
* Attacker using a light weapon (punch, knife, small pistol) … -1 Difficulty
* Attacker underwater with slashing or bashing weapon … +2 Difficulty
* Attacker underwater with stabbing weapon… +1 Difficulty
* Attacker moving under own power … no modifier
* Attacker mounted or in vehicle but untrained … +1 Difficulty
* Attacker jostled (listing ship, vibrating platform) … +1 Difficulty
* Attacker is dazed … +1 Difficulty
* Attacker is distracted (one round only) … +1 Difficulty
* Attacker hit by melee and ranged attacks in previous round … +1 Difficulty
* Attacker targeted by covering fire (ranged weapon or esoteries) … +1 Difficulty
* Three or more attackers vs. same target … +1 die roll bonus to each attacker’s roll
* Attacker is in low gravity … no roll modifier but some damage reduced by 2
* Attacker is in high gravity … +1 Difficulty
* Attacker is in zero gravity (unless trained in zero-G) … +1 Difficulty
VEHICULAR COMBAT MODIFIERS
* Targeting vehicle’s weapons to disable them … +2 Difficulty
* Targeting vehicle’s defenses … +1 Difficulty
* Targeting vehicle’s engine/drive to disable it … +3 Difficulty
* Targeting vehicle’s maneuverability to lock its current course … +2 Difficulty
* Targeting vehicle’s power core or vital spot to destroy it … +5 Difficulty
* Immediate … within reach or a few steps
* Short Distance … up to 50 feet (15 meters)
* Long Distance … between 50 feet to 100 feet (15 to 30 meters)
* Beyond … specified by distance (500 feet/150m, a mile/2 kilometes, etc.)
* Planetary … on the same planet
* Interplanetary … within a single solar system
* Interstellar … within a single galaxy
* Intergalactic … anywhere in the same universe
* Interdimensional … anywhere
DAMAGE FROM WEAPONS
* Light weapon (punches, kicks, clubs, knives, small pistols) … 2 points per hit
* Medium weapon (swords, 2-handed melee, crossbows, pistols) … 4 points per hit
* Heavy weapon (huge melee, heavy crossbows) … 6 points per hit
* Numenera (blasters, energy weapons) … item’s level
* Critical hit (natural roll 17) … +1 point
* Critical hit (natural roll 18) … +2 points
* Critical hit (natural roll 19) … +3 points
* Critical hit (natural roll 20) … +4 points
DAMAGE FROM HAZARDS
* Falling … 1 point per 10 feet (3 m) fallen
* Minor fire (a torch) … 3 points per round
* Major fire (engulfed in flames, lava) … 6 points per round
* Acid splash … 2 points per round (ambient damage)
* Acid bath (immersed) … 6 points per round
* Cold (below freezing temperatures) … 1 point per round
* Severe cold (liquid nitrogen) … 3 points per round
* Shock … 1 point per round and often involves losing next action
* Electrocution … 6 points per round and often involves losing next action
* Crush (something falls on character) … 3 points
* Huge crush (roof collapse, cave-in) … 6 points
* Collision … 6 points
* Poison … varies; Might defense roll, if fail then move down damage track or other effect
* Disease … varies; as for Poison, but Might defense roll daily
ARMOR (Cypher System rule) (reduces damage per hit or round)
* Light armor (leather jacket) … -1 damage, Speed effort cost +1
* Medium armor (chainmail) … -2 damage, Speed effort cost +2
* Heavy armor (plate mail) … -3 damage, Speed effort cost +3
ARMOR (Numenera rule) (reduces damage per hit or round)
* Light armor (leather jacket) … -1 damage, Speed pool reduced by 2, plus 1 Might cost per hour
* Medium armor (chainmail) … -2 damage, Speed pool reduced by 3, plus 2 Might cost per hour
* Heavy armor (plate mail) … -3 damage, Speed pool reduced by 5, plus 3 Might cost per hour
TRADING DAMAGE FOR EFFECT (Optional Rule)
* Hinder/Distract … -1 damage
* Specific body part … -2 damage
* Knock back … -3 damage
* Move past … -3 damage
* Strike held object … -3 damage
* Knock down … -4 damage
* Disarm … -7 damage
* Impair … -7 damage
* Stun … -8 damage
EFFECTS OF DAMAGE (unless otherwise noted by attack)
* First, reduces Might stat pool (unless the pool is 0)
* Then, reduces Speed stat pool (unless the Pool is 0)
* Finally, reduces Intellect stat pool
DAMAGE TRACK (when one stat pool reduced to 0)
* Impaired (no benefit from natural 17, 18, 19, 20; effort costs 1 extra point per level)
* If already Impaired, then Debilitated (as above, plus crawl move only)
* If already Debilitated, then Dead.
Note: For simplicity, NPCs, animals and monsters only have “Health” numbers that work much like traditional hit points. For example, an orc warrior has Health 7 and drops dead after suffering 7 points of damage (after an Armor reduction of 2 per hit).
EXPERIENCE POINTS (XP)
* Awarded by the GM during play whenever a GM Intrusion occurs or when a character discovers something new.
* Individually, one player’s character gets 1 XP and that player picks one other player’s character to also get 1 XP.
* As a group, the GM awards 1 XP to each player character.
Short-term XP use…
* One XP can be “buy” a single reroll of a d20 dice when performing an action. Two rerolls costs 2 XP, three costs 3 XP, and so forth.
Long-term XP use…
* Increasing Capabilities: 4 XP can “buy” 4 points added across a character’s stat pools.
* Moving Toward Perfection: 4 XP can “buy” an increase of 1 to a Might Edge, Speed Edge or Intellect Edge.
* Extra Effort: 4 XP can “buy” an increase of 1 to a character’s Effort score
* Skills: 4 XP can “buy” training in any one skill other than attacks or defense.
* Other Benefit: Reduce the Might cost by 1 and Speed reduction by 1 for wearing armor.
* Other Benefit: Add +2 to recovery rolls.
* Other Benefit: Learn a new fighting style (glaives only).
* Other Benefit: Learn a new esotery (nanos only).
* Other Benefit: Learn a new trick of the trade (jacks only).
Increase character tier (“level up”)
* When a character gains four long-term XP benefits in Increasing Capabilities, Moving Toward Perfection, Extra Effort, a new Skill and/or one “Other Benefit” then the character automatically goes up one Tier as well, gaining better abilities from Descriptor and/or Focus.
* Only one benefit of each type is allowed before a new tier increase.
CLIMBING DIFFICULTY SCALE
* Difficulty 2 … Surface with lots of handholds
* Difficulty 3 … Stone wall or similar surface (a few handholds)
* Difficulty 4 … Crumbling or slippery surface
* Difficulty 5 … Smooth stone wall or similar surface
* Difficulty 6 … Metal wall or similar surface
* Difficulty 8 … Smooth, horizontal surface (climber is upside-down)
* Difficulty 10 … Glass wall or similar surface
KNOWLEDGE DIFFICULTY SCALE
* Difficulty 0 … Common knowledge
* Difficulty 1 … Simple knowledge
* Difficulty 3 … Something a scholar probably knows
* Difficulty 5 … Something even a scholar might not know
* Difficulty 7 … Knowledge very few people possess
* Difficulty 10 … Completely lost knowledge
CRAFTING DIFFICULTY SCALE
* Difficulty 0 … Something extremely simple, like tying a rope. Takes a few minutes at most.
or finding an appropriately sized rock
* Difficulty 1 … Torch 5 minutes
* Difficulty 2 … Spear, simple shelter, or piece of furniture. Takes 1 hour.
* Difficulty 3 … Bow, door. Takes 1 day.
* Difficulty 4 … Sword, chainmail vest. Takes 1 to 2 days.
* Difficulty 5 … Common numenera item (glowglobe, shaper key). Takes 1 week.
* Difficulty 6 … Simple numenera item. Takes 1 month.
* Difficulty 7 … Numenera item. Takes 1 year.
* Difficulty 8 … Numenera item. Takes many years.
* Difficulty 9 … Numenera item. Takes many years.
* Difficulty 10 … Numenera item. Takes many years.
Note crafting also requires items, generally kept abstract in the game. For example, to craft a level 5 item, one “level 1” material, one “level 2” material, one “level 3” material, one “level 4” material and one “level 5” material are needed.