Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Nuts & Bolts #96 - Hacking the Cypher System - Expanded Dominion Abilities

Ok, technically this should probably be "Hacking Gods of the Fall..." but if you're like me then the god-specific systems from GotF will end up in other Cypher games anyways, even if only in the ways I have been discussing for the past couple of Fridays (and this coming Friday). Regardless, this is still Cypher System-centric, but I'll admit it's a bit left of dead center.

One of the things in Gods of the Fall that makes character feel like Gods are divine shifts, another is their aura and symbol, and a third, distantly, are dominion abilities. You see, dominion abilities are a cool idea, but there only so much room in a book and only so many options at the disposal of players and GMs, and because Gods of the Fall doesn't use a preset list of canned dominion (Canned dominion, now with 33% less salt!) the list of dominion abilities simply cannot encompass all possibilities. Add to that that many of the abilities feel less like "dominion" abilities and more like "divine" abilities - including some of which you'd expect to be standard kit - and sadly the dominion abilities can be the lesser, oft overshadowed, aspect of playing gods.

But it sure as heaven and hell doesn't have to be that way!

You see, sometimes it just takes a simple readjustment of your point of view to see a solution. In the case of dominion abilities, I think that Bruce Cordell saw that there would be times when players didn't want to take any of the available choices, and he built in the option to forgo a dominion ability in favor of an additional type ability. That's great, and it helps, but it doesn't really "solve the problem" of dominion abilities being overshadowed and occasionally forgotten. 

Before I get to me solution I wanted to touch on another problematic non-problem: namely that some dominion choices seem to push very heavily on certain choices of foci. A Hardy Destroyer who Stands Like a Bastion, God of Fire may seem really odd choice - he doesn't have any fire abilities! Here's the thing though, Fire is the character's dominion, so shouldn't their dominion abilities help to speak to that?

The solution to both problems is really quite simple: allow players to take a second focus to replace all of their dominion abilities. That character is now a Hardy Destroyer who Stands Like a Bastion, God of Fire, and his dominion abilities are just taken from the Bears a Halo of Fire focus. In play he'll have all those cool fire abilities to pull from which will play into his dominion, but both the player and character won't need to feel obligated to play a Hardy Destroyer who Bears a Halo of Fire, God of Fire. 

I'd probably implement this at 2nd tier by giving players both the Tier 1 and tier 2 abilities of the focus that best suits their dominion. This doesn't prevent a Hardy Destroyer who Bears a Halo of Fire from being God of Fire, and if they did they could just take dominion abilities from the standard list, or even take abilities fro other foci that would also apply. A God of Fire might also Bear a Shard of the Sun or Blaze with Radiance!

Players and GMs shouldn't feel like doing this is an all-or-nothing choice either. There's no reason why a player couldn't take an ability from the core list like Call Seraph, and then take an ability from a focus at the next tier.