Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Nuts & Bolts #149 - Hacking the Cypher System - Shifting into Theme

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I mentioned a while back (here and here) how I liked that Unmasked really embraced Shifts as a tool rather than a set list of options. Part of that is that there are so many ways to use Shifts in this way that weren't really possible before. I like this not just for Unmasked, and not just for other super-heroic games, but especially because of what it means for Gods of the Fall. I think that this kind of approach will make it easier to generate god PCs and NPCs in Gods of the Fall because a godly dominion can be used nearly directly for the character's shifts.

Consider a god of Fire. Previously when gaining shifts one would allocate perhaps a shift to Resilience and two more to Power for a specific fire power. Instead you could allocate all three to God of Fire and this would allow true divine mastery over the dominion of fire. Instead of having 1 armor against all attacks and 1 step better with all Might Defense the character is now +3 armor against heat and fire and 3 steps better on Might defense to resists heat, fire, smoke, and the like. In addition in place of having a single fire power that is two steps better all of their Fire themed powers are now 3 steps better.

Sure, this may result in a little more "bang for the buck" but it's also balanced into the character's theme. This also means that the player can champion their theme where appropriate, and allows the GM the freedom to adjudicate as they see fit for their game. This paves the way for less traditional themes which may not have been as easy to work with previously. It also still leaves room for the player to take other shifts accordingly; your god of fire may also be exceptional dexterous, or may also have a lesser dominion over crafts (in the way Vulcan did as god of fire, volcanoes, metalworking, and the forge).

This also means that if a GM wanted to create special shifts related to a given pantheon they could. In real world mythology gods of a given pantheon tended to share certain traits. The gods of Egyptian myth, for instance, all had strong relationships with the realm of Duat, the realm of the death. A divine shift in this pantheon specific shift would allow the god to enter the underworld, and provide them with some level of ability over the souls of the dead, based on their theme.

Opening up the design space of power shift rules with the guidelines of being "Clear," "Restricted in scope," and "Indicative of the PC they are attached to" will really help both players and GMs to create interesting and unique characters with powers that strongly match their themes rather than forcing a character to bend to accommodate their shifts.