Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Nuts & Bolts #93 - Hacking the Cypher System - Insight

What is Insight?
1. an instance of apprehending the true nature of a thing, especially through intuitive understanding
OK, OK, Insight is a new mechanic to the Cypher System that was added in the CSR. It didn't exist in Numenera or The Strange, but it sure could be ported backwards if one so desired. You can find the full rules on page 216 of the CSR. Briefly, it is a means for players to establish facts within the game that will hold true unless they act upon them in some way. E.g. the players can use Insight to know that the security for a bank is always at its weakest on Tuesdays when a less motivated guard is on duty. So long as they don't do something to change this it will be true and remain true.

Using insight

The Insight mechanic is one I don't see used or discussed very often. It may just be that this is a case of being a newer rule, or it may be something that people who started playing with Numenera and/or The Strange don't think of. It's a shame because insight has a lot of potential for any kind of campaign. It's an especially powerful tool when players are trying to plan as it allows them to gain facts on behaviors that they can then plan around as in the example of the bank security above.

When it comes to Insight it's a two sided usage. The GM needs to be ready for it and to (ideally) encourage it to some extent until it is adopted into the player skill/tool set, and it also needs to be embraced by the players as a valid use of XP during play. This is one of the potential stumbling blocks for Insight as there are certainly already a number of in-game XP options and there are absolutely some players who are disinclined to spend XP in game and instead hoard the XP for advancements.

Generally, however, the normal solutions still function. If you have an XP hoarder you can either allow it, knowing full well that they are telling you with their choices what they consider important for XP.  For others it may be worth the effort to create player reference sheets for in-game XP use, or add Insight to an existing XP reference tool. Likewise, as mentioned above, the GM may want to be prepared to ask the PCs if they want to use Insight for the first few sessions until the players are used to it.

From a usage side the advantages for the players and GM are numerous. As stated, Insight allows for behavioral facts to be established that can help players to makes plans in game around known facts. GMs can plan for Insights as clues in a mystery or specific location factors that they can suggest as well. This may help players get used to Insight and also help the GM during session planning, even if the insights are not used they can be potential axes around which to plan parts of the game.

Power Shift - Insightful

As I have found myself wont to do I am seeing more and more ways to expand on the existing Power Shift rules (as discussed here) into new areas. Insight is no different and I think a new Power Shift that allows a limited amount of "free" insight (i.e. without spending experience) to be used by the character might make for a good Shift. As a result I suggest the following new Power Shift:
Insightful - The character gains 1 free insight  per game session that they can use without spending XP to pay for. With two shifts this free insight now refreshes after every 10 hour recovery roll. With three shifts the character now refreshes their insight with every recovery roll.  
This shift would work well for many character types. A warrior may be able to use this to aid in battle planning, or setting ambushes or traps. A thief could use this to establish a guard pattern or even an understanding of the locks used in a building (and then potentially gain a master key). A caster type could utilize Insight to determine the location of places of power, the timing of powerful events, or even the typical offensive magics used by a rival (and thus be better equipped to defend).

So, does your group use Insight? Do you think you'd use it more if you could invest Power Shifts into Insight?