Saturday, February 4, 2023

Tiering up your Skills

Art Credit: Pixelbay

By Ganza Gaming

I’ve discussed skills in Cypher before and how the skills your player picked during PC creation can customize your campaign.  With the Cypher System Open License, though, some GMs may want to truly build a skill list from the ground up.

 To recap, though, there are two ways to get training in Cypher, either through a Descriptor or an ability.


Within Descriptors come in two varieties. Either as a PC gets training in a broad category, such as all positive social interactions. The second type is a narrow skill set, much closer to what most gamers think of as a RPG skill. These two types of skills balance out against a bonus to pool points. See Customizing Descriptors for more details.


(Abilities through Types, Flavors and Focuses also adds temporary training in narrow skills such as Stealth or Perception but only in certain circumstances like being invisible or swimming. Check out the Tasks category of focuses for more of these.)


For a skill list as we commonly know it, though, we’ll focus on the special abilities that assign narrow skills. Also, this type of list I am omitting the training for stat pools defenses and Initiative.


Incidentally while the sample skill list on page 19 is helpful, it does not exactly line up with how these skills are worded within the abilities. The list below might be considered the “official” Cypher skill list:


Areas of Knowledge: History, Geography, Geology, (and mentioned on the sample list on page 19 – Archeology, Astronomy, Biology, Philosophy, and Physics)

Assessing Danger



Breaking into Computers





Crafting – Computers

Crafting - Weapons

Crafting skill (as mentioned in the sample skill list and the crafting section: Leatherworking, Woodworking, Metalworking, Machinery, etc)




Detecting Falsehoods


Electrical repair




Identifying plants and creatures

Identifying tracks 




Machines - Tech skills


Navigation Night/Land






Public Speaking




Robot builder


Seeing through deception

Sleight of Hand







Vehicle driving


As you can see, even some of these skills blur the lines between narrow and broad depending on perspective and personal opinion. Honestly, I’m not dying on a hill for any of these skills.


If you want to make up your own skill list, though, you are in luck, several of the abilities offer a more open interpretation That make it easy to add your own. Those that offer training in “Areas of Knowledge” is a perfect example.


Others abilities are more straightforward so you will have to retool some skill giving abilities to better fit your vision. You could dig deeper and find those abilities but I’ve compiled a list for you guys.
There is one quick note.

It is not a typo that some of them do not have a Focus or Type listed next to them. These are “orphan” abilities hiding in plain sight. I have found one or two in the past but I had no idea how many there were.

Tier 1

Assassin Skill - Focus: Murders

Athlete - Focus: Feats of Strength


Balance - Focus: Moves like a Cat


Crafter - Focus: Crafts Unique Objects

Exploratory Experience

Handy - Focus:  Works for a living

Hard Choices

How Others Think

Interaction Skills - Focus:  Flavor: Skills And Knowledge Abilities; Was Foretold

Investigate - Focus: Operates Undercover

Investigative Skills - Focus:  Flavor: Skills And Knowledge Abilities (And at Explorer Tier 2)

Knowledge Skills - Focus:  Flavor: Skills And Knowledge Abilities; Conducts Weird Science (and at Tier 4)

Physical Skills - Focus:  Flavor: Skills And Knowledge Abilities: Type: Warrior; Type: Explorer

Physical Skills -Flavor:  Skills and Knowledge

Poetic License

Post-Apocalyptic Survivor - Focus: Scavenges

Stealth Skills - Focus: Infiltrates and Works the Back Alley

Task Training

Tech Skills - Focus:  Flavor: Skills And Knowledge Abilities; Battles Robots. 

Tracker- Focus: Hunts and Fights Dirty

Travel Skills - Focus:  Flavor: Skills And Knowledge Abilities  (And at Explorer Tier 2)

Wilderness Life - Focus: Lives in the Wilderness

Wilderness Lore - Focus: Speaks for the Land

Wound Tender: Focus - Looks for Trouble


Tier 2

Contortionist - Flavor: Stealth

Disguise - Focus: Operates Undercover

Extra Skill - Flavor:  Skills and Knowledge

Investigative Skills - Type: Explorer (And at Focus: Skills And Knowledge Tier 1)

Quick to Flee - Focus: Runs Away

Sneak - Focus Hunts and Fights Dirty

Travel Skills - Type: Explorer (And at Focus: Skills And Knowledge Tier 1)


Tier 3

Master Crafter - Focus:  Crafts Unique Objects



Tier 4

Expert Driver - Focus: Drives Like A Maniac

Knowledge Skills -Focus: Conducts Weird Science (and at Tier 1)

Master Thief- Focus: Works the Back Alleys

Multiple Skills - Flavor: Skills and Knowledge

Task Specialization -Flavor: Skills and Knowledge 


Tier 5

Further Mathematic - Focus: Calculates the Incalculable

Learned a Few Things - Focus Learns Quickly 

No One Knows Better - Focus:  Interprets the Law


That breaks down narrow skills for Cypher and I hope it helps you in your own world building with Cypher. If you enjoyed this abbreviated post. You can find the full version on my Patreon at

I’ve been writing 5-star, award nominated, and Electrum selling gaming stuff for both Cypher and 5e SciFi. You'll see how it's all done behind the scenes and get free stuff after clicking that pledge button.


In the coming months, I’m doing a kickstart for the official RPG for the website using Cypher. You can drop a line at GanzaGames at gmail dot com if you want to be update on MFPNP: RPG news!

Go, Ganza! Go.

I'm open to bribes for more Cypher stuff! You can do a one-timer at , or regularly via this Patreon. Regardless, I'm still working on Solar Sails, a fantastical world of SPELLs that's JAMMERed with all sorts of the fantastical.

Check out my 5e stuff!

Cypher PDFs!

Ganza Gaming Twitter: @ChrisRNegelein



Saturday, September 10, 2022

My two bits about Horror in ttRPGs

 By Christopher Robin Negelein

“Horror in TTRPGs don’t scare me. I can get anxious for my PC and their unpleasant death. But I am not, myself, scared so horror TTRPGs really don't work. ” -- Anonymous.
As we all know ttRPG social media is beyond the point were someone posts a clickbait hot take for the retweets. I had thoughts about his statement, but I'd rather share them with people who actually cared about said thoughts. 
Frankly for lots of horror fans, this is exact vibe they are looking for. For me, I don’t get "scared" of Horror movies. It’s more the allure of losing one’s self for a moment is a “safe” panic that ends when the show, or book, is over. While for others, the sheer idea of engaging in horror media makes them go, “Nope!” And that’s perfectly fine. 
But for most of gamers, this is how horror ttRPGs actually work. The genre is not “flawed,” it was Mr. "Hot Take's"  misunderstanding of how people engage in the horror genre overall.
So while we are still hanging out here in this abandoned house with the lights off, let's talk about how horror works and how a GM can use that for their game. 
The unknown and the imagination. One of the core tenants of horror is a sense of not knowing what is in your environment and a sense of weakness (usually isolation) in how to protect yourself from that unknown. I think this is why cosmic horror has become the successor to the haunted house -- by making the whole uncaring universe the haunted house.
When anxious, the human body floods the brain with chemicals to make it ready to do flight or fight. That overstimulation puts the imagination into overdrive. The thing in the shadows is scarier than what players can see.
Just one new stat and a new attitude. The addition of a Sanity check (or as in MFPNP, Conformity), is often the only mechanical change a monster gets when running a horror game. It forces a mechanical behavior on the PCs. But for GM masters, it is a tip off they, and the monsters, need a whole new attitude.
Horror monsters do not face the PCs head on. They prowl, they stalk and they wait until an NPC is alone before their first lunge. This does not mean the creature is out of sight AND silent. There should be plenty of sounds. The human brain gets so nervous when it hears a sound that it cannot pinpoint that unease translates into ttRPGs and horror media.
It may be cheesy, but one of my personal tricks is tapping my fingers or scratching them under the table as I describe a skittering noise just out of sight. Everyone knows what I am doing, it is no secret, but it still brings smiles and shivers as I do it. Every. Time.
Pacing and reading your audience are the tricks when drawing out the suspense until the creature finally ambushes a PC or looms over them as Conformity checks are made. And even if it is easy to kill a single one, things change as their many broodmates keep ambushing the PCs on the left every time they look to the right.
Just something to keep in mind for your next horror shesh.
Go, Ganza! Go.
I’ve been writing 5-star, award nominated, and Electrum selling gaming stuff for both Cypher and 5e Fantasy andSciFi. You'll see how it's all done behind the scenes and get free stuff after clicking that pledge button.
If you are not a Pateron fan, you can do a one-timer at , or buy some of my stuff!
You can also hang with me on Ganza Gaming Twitter @ChrisRNegelein

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Bloomed Earth Changes to Cypher - Part 2


By Christopher Robin Negelein

Here we roll into the rest of the changes I've made to Cypher for a gritter take.

Splitting XP and Grit

Splitting XP. When trying to tighten the scope of Bloomed Earth, I noticed XP costs established the worth of several things across the board. Change on cost on one reward and the incentives for the other choices changed. While I wanted to increase the cost of Advancements to give GMs the option of longer campaign, I preferred the enticement of other benefits to stay the same (for now.)
Part of this from is my own GMing style where I give away XP – I mean Grit a lot in play to encourage the behaviors I’d like to see at the table. We are also going back to the expectations that names give us. Despite requesting players to spread their XP around, they see the label of “Experience” and they only wanted to spend XP on advancements and advancements only. Combine that with urge to give XP out freely and split XP has been a long standing house rule. Simply adding a new name will hopefully cement a player’s mindset.

One Type Down and Powers as Flavor

I’ve already discussed the power of renaming and reskinning with a theme in mind but sometimes you have to take a step further.
Bloomed Earth (and the upcoming MFPNP: RPG) are worlds where individuals with super science and superpowers are rare or low-key. And while creating a watered down Adept is a valid choice, using the Flavor and the corruption mechanics lends to players making some hard choices of how much they want to dip into having strange powers and how far the are willing to go to pay for it.

Corruption (Spore) and Spiral Mode

This was the biggest challenge. Many systems give you a rising corruption score and away to check against that score. Few of them give additional ways to impact that score other than meeting more corrupting stuff.
I renamed horror mode as spiral mode to reflect that it covered things that could set off a Spore check. Since spending Grit can’t avoid a Spiral check, GMs can now make a player’s spore score go from background danger to an immediate threat until the scene has passed. I look forward to hearing the stories of close players came to losing their PCs on this one.

Vehicle rules

These were tricky because I wanted something just a bit meatier to appease my anticipated audience for the game, but wanted to avoid a rabbit hole of a whole sub game. The vehicles also have interplay with the Tier 3 cap of the game by letting PC enjoy additional Armor and damage without the GM needing Level 10 or Level 12 creatures. Protip: if you want to take on a Maak, get a weaponized sedan.
Community building rules
This was easy. Arcus Masmeyer/Qedhup’s rules looked great and I didn’t want to reinvent the wheel.
That wraps up the changes ... that I can remember. You can check out the playtest version of Bloomed Earth here.
Go, Ganza, go!

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Bloomed Earth Changes to Cypher - Part 1

First off, the Cypher SRD is Christmas in July with Thanksgiving and Halloween ladled on top. It is a very generous document compared to several other SRDs out there. Frankly, I don’t know if I could do what I wanted with my projects without all the goodies MCG give us.

The Bloomed Earth playtest is out now and some folks are curious the changes I’ve proposed for Cypher. Well, some are bold and some are subtle. The goals for my designs for Bloomed Earth were to stretch the envelope of what people expect Cypher to do and even hopefully surprise some Cypher doubters.
That said, I am not “fixing” the game. In the bygone times, many a fantasy rpg on the market was simply a “fixed” version of D&D. We called them fantasy heartbreakers. Bloomed Earth is not a Cypher heartbreaker.
At bird’s eye view, what is Cypher System? It is a highly cinematic game that is very plug and play for GMs who like worldbuilding before the campaign begins and lets them easily improv during play. For players, it gives a sense of competent, fantastical characters. It can handle the less grandiose with a more curated list of Type and Focus abilities.

The Power of Names

For Cypher fans they’ve noticed I’ve broken out artifacts and Cyphers as Lost Tech, Hyphae and Inspirations.
Cypher gives the great GMing advice to reskin/rename what you need. It is a time honored tradition that goes back to games like Champions, a superhero game that easily became a universal system where laser finger could just as easily be a flame spell.
For many players, though, their sense of disbelief needs a boost. I’ve used more than one superhero game as a generic system to only have it voted down by players who said they felt weird using the game for fantasy or science fiction. Many gamers feel that fantasy gaming should only be played with D&D OR any edition of D&D should be only for fantasy (don’t tell the long-standing Mutants and Masterminds which was also used for DC Heroes.) It is also where the desire to see psionics use different mechanics than magic in D&D or other games.
So for me, there’s lots of anecdotal evidence that changing the names of Cypher mechanics may open some eyes. It even happened to me while designing as Artifacts became Lost Tech. I wasn’t even finishing typing the Lost Tech section out when it occurred to we could assign repair skills to these artifacts to further the theme of jury rigged surviaval. 

Skills/Reduced Pool Points

For the CSR, there is a suggested skill set and a slightly different implied one throughout the Abilities section. The importance of a skills varies between genres but I think both Bloomed Earth and MFPNP: RPG benefit with a more granulated list. Skills also give Cypher characters a chance to shine … and set them up to spend recovery rolls later on.

Skills and Tiers

These become even more important with less pool points to spend, along with helping keep the power level of the game capped.
In point buy systems, the easiest way to tweak the power level is adjust the total budget for character abilities. And as I have mentioned a previous post, tiers are not levels, per se but a a clever way to purchase abilities while avoiding a point buy/ladder requirements as well as math. Thus by capping the game at Tier 3 and making advancements more expensive, we essentially done the same as capping the total character buy.
Next week we'll drop another load of changes and the whys for such things. 
You can check out the playtest version of Bloomed Earth here.
Go, Ganza, go!

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

The playtest PDF and feedback form are out!


Cover Art: ProdigyDuck/Purple Duck Games

    By Christopher Robin Negelein

The playtest PDF, all 173 pages of it, is ready to deliver a zombie/monster post apocalypse to your door. Will you fight the Bloom with its own bizarre powers or will you blast it with your armed and armored sedan?

You can download the PDF from this page or at

You can provide feedback or give us a heads up on typos at this form.

Your suggestions will inform future projects, such as the Mystery Flesh Pit National Park. 

Regardless, whatever yo do, have fun!

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Interactive Dungeons/Environments: More Mad Max, less Jonathan Strange


Art: Tan Ho Sim

There’s a rising discussion of “Dungeons as a Toy,” to create an adventure environment where the terrain is more than just ground, floors and walls. It perhaps starts with a bit of irony.

In the vastly underused 5e DMG, there’s a great but underdeveloped bit called Tricks (p 297.) In two paragraphs and two charts, it offers the idea that things can be tugged, pulled and experimented to find surprises or mystical effects; perhaps to remind players that their avatars are in a magical land. But mostly the effects are random and there’s no guide on how to clue players in on potential interactivity. (Though knowing players, just having a DM mention a thing in a room is going to provoke curiosity.)

M.T. Black, 5e freelancer and Guild Adept extraordinaire, delves into this a bit on Twitter and comes up with the next level of D&D appropriate effects, such as those that heal or summon critters to add high fantasy verisimilitude and theme.

It’s a level of verisimilitude and interactivity that Numenera players already know pretty well. Monte Cook Game’s fantasy game hiding as a science fantasy game often has strange non-puzzles to play with and  offer a bit entertainment. As I brought that along into my Solar Sails campaign, my players would call them “cool mind f%^&s.” In both worlds, these Tricks reminded players that civilizations have risen and fallen where they stood and some magics (or technologies) were beyond their current understanding.

Which is a thing in many D&D settings, the often overused and misunderstood golden age, a time when Elves/Giant/Dragons/All of the Above ruled and used powers beyond human understanding until some hubris or another brought them low and began an Age of Humanity. For many world builders, this is simply the excuse for why dungeons abound. But these ruins from a forgotten age are mostly thought in a historical context, as crumbling infrastructure that houses not artifacts, but mostly artifacts – like a +1 gladius.

But if a more extravagant and power civilizations perished before the current times, it would make high fantasy more like a green post-apocalypse. There would often be bits of things PCs would find that would stymie them and daydream about the wonders of another age. In other words, perhaps the best RPG to do this was Gamma World, which tried in essence to put a SF spin on the D&D dungeon and constantly had players trying to figure out what the World Before was really like without having an artifact blow off a limb.

As a fan of visual themes, I imagine that’s one way to put that Gamma World post-apoc vibe into your high fantasy game. Populate your world’s former golden age with the faux-Carthaginians clockwork engineers or pseudoByzantine bio-tech masters. Then tie in your Tricks or oddities with themes of clockwork or bio-tech to send a clear message to the players, that they are playing with powers unknown and sailing in uncharted waters.

Soon enough, they’ll equate your visual theme with a big red button right in the middle of the oddly shaped chamber. And then you can just sit back and let them entertain you.

As a very cool side note, I'm now an unlocked Stretch Goal on the Diamond Throne Kickstarter

Go, Ganza! Go!

 I'm open to bribes for more Cypher stuff! You can do a one-timer at , or regularly via this Patreon. Regardless, I'm still working on Solar Sails, a fantastical world of SPELLs that's JAMMERed with all sorts of the fantastical. 
Ganza Gaming Twitter @ChrisRNegelein
I’ve been writing 5-star, award nominated, and Electrum selling gaming stuff for both Cypher and 5e SciFi. You'll see how it's all done behind the scenes and get free stuff after clicking that Patreon link!

Monday, September 14, 2020

Achievement Unlocked: I'm a stretch goal!


That's right. If the Diamond Throne kickstarter hits $52k, I'll cram a ton of Cypher goodies into the exciting conclusion of the Width of the Circle adventure trilogy. Let's do this!

Go, Ganza! Go. 
 I'm open to bribes for more Cypher stuff! You can do a one-timer at , or regularly via this Patreon. Regardless, I'm still working on Solar Sails, a fantastical world of SPELLs that's JAMMERed with all sorts of the fantastical. 

Check out my 5e stuff! 

Cypher PDFs!

Ganza Gaming Twitter @ChrisRNegelein


I’ve been writing 5-star, award nominated, and Electrum selling gaming stuff for both Cypher and 5e SciFi. You'll see how it's all done behind the scenes and get free stuff after clicking that Patreon link!