Friday, April 28, 2017

Gods of the Fall - Another Approach to Cyphers


Cyphers in Gods of the Fall are relatively unchanged from those we see in Numenera, The Strange, and other Cypher System games. The explanation of where they originate from is different but the core concept is the same: single use devices of fantastic power. In Gods of the Fall cyphers are explained as crystallized motes of divine energy, physical things that can be picked up, carried around, sold, traded, lost or stolen, and eventually used up, their physical form evaporating back into the aether as the divine energy is spent.

But what if we took a different tack?

The gods are dead and those that may yet become gods are only beginning their journey. Heaven (Elanehtar) is gone. Divine energy is at its least constrained. In prior times before the Fall there were dozens, possibly even hundreds, of gods, each brimming with divine energy. Elanehtar was whole and was itself a realm entirely divine. So in such a case why would free divine energy retain a static form?

Why would cyphers stay in the same form and function until they were used? Heck, why would divine energy even solidify into any form at all? Why wouldn't all this energy just return to some kind of formless and pervasive state waiting for the right person, place, or thing to render it into the world?

To put it plainly: Why even have cyphers be things, and why have those things be statically the same until used? It's all divine energy, and gods channel divine energy.

Here's my proposal. The characters are gods, and cyphers are part of their divine abilities. They are not physical things (though the can be MADE physical). Each session you roll up new cyphers for each character (unless continuing directly from a prior session). These cyphers are power the character can use by channeling divine energy. If they want they can make one manifest and pass it off as a minor miracle, but otherwise these cyphers are internal to the character and their power. Whenever the character rests they replenish their cyphers, and can also re-roll any they still have if they want.

Before you freak out about how this undermines some of your NPCs there's no reason that an evil god-to-be couldn't manifest and bestow cyphers to their followers or minions. It might even be possible for powerful soul sorcerers or bibliomancers to capture a young god and "milk" them daily for the cyphers that their divinity produces. Likewise slaying divinely empowered foes would offer people (NPC and PC) to capture the divine essence in cypher form for a short time after death.

This spin on cyphers could either justify making the cypher limits a hard cap, or could make the soft cap threat of ravers even more damning. After all, if you go over your cypher limit you probably did so by making your cyphers manifest and not giving them away, or by taking the divine power of others (in manifest form) and hoarding it.

Of course, if you take this approach it also means that the idea of cyphers as shard of Elanehtar is probably gone, and with it the idea of restoring that lost heaven once enough cyphers have been used up. It also makes divinely charged remnants of the prior gods and prior worlds more valuable because these are that much rarer and exceptional. The divine weapon of a dead god would potentially be a more precious artifact than an enchanted blade created in Corso. Not by virtue of ability (though very possibly) but because it represents a rare stable nexus of divinity.

Then again, the way cyphers are written works pretty well too.