Friday, November 23, 2018

Nuts & Bolts #154 - Hacking the Cypher System - Nightbane & Cyphers


This is a follow up to this post about using the Cypher System, and especially the design aspects laid out by Unmasked, to resurrect one of my favorite game settings: Nightbane.

So after kicking things off successfully with the characters finding their true nature as shape-shifting monsters of shadow and darkness (though really they are more dual nature, and they aren't evil per-se, so monsters may be a bit racist) the third session finally found myself as GM with an opportunity to expand the setting for the characters. While washing the blood off himself one of the PCs found himself drawn into the bathroom mirror and into the shadow-Earth known as the Nightlands.

With his arrival into this place I also had the first opportunity to provide one of the PCs with a cypher. I'm using this game to try out something a little different for cyphers. Firstly, cyphers are going to be PC abilities and not physical objects, kind of like a subtle cypher, but without the need for the effects to be subtle. Secondly the source of cyphers will depend on the character's supernatural nature. A nightspawn (because Todd McFarland can't sue me for using the game's original title!) gain cyphers from the nightlands, the shadowy alternate earth which may also be their home dimension. They essentially get to charge up strange and powerful one off abilities when visiting that realm; abilities that will stick with them until used.

The half-vampire dhampirs gain cyphers by consuming blood, providing them with a very real hero vs. monster struggle for players to (hopefully) have fun with. Human psychics will need to spend time in the astral realm, the dream realm, or during intense meditation (depending on their particular psychic leaning). Ordinary humans will almost certainly be associated with the covert remnants of the legitimate US government (a.k.a. the Spook Squad) and have access to prototypes and special devices that with act as more traditional cyphers.

I'm hoping that this will work to make cyphers feel integral to the setting in the way that they do for Numenera. Likewise, I hope that this will give the players something to sink their teeth into for role-play purposes. Time and more sessions will determine how well this works.