Sunday, August 30, 2020

Cinematic Cypher: Automatic Weapons


By Christopher Robin Negelein              Art by Nick Ong and Norah Khor

Even in generic games, designers bring in assumptions that highlight what tropes will be important in stories their game provide. In GURPS, it's competent, skilled characters and in Savage Worlds, it's tactical map combat and pulpy excitement.

Cypher’s strength is creating in highly capable characters with just a few flaws and access to amazing powers and devices that are solutions just waiting for a puzzle. So in an "average" Cypher game being good with a gun is usually something one or two characters can Focus on (see what I did there) while everyone else is just “meh” with guns or “meh” about guns. Those other PCs are too busy being awesome with their own power themes. 

Gun genesis

So as with any new Cypher game, you should comb through all the Types and Foci and abilities to cherry pick what you want in your game -- and just as important -- what to exclude those things that don't match your game's power level and themes. It's at this very early stage that you should also tackle guns if you want more weapon variety and gun shenanigans to be  front and center.

Thanks to the new Revised Cypher* book series offering a variety of gun related abilities is pretty straight forward.  Instead of creating vampire bloodlines like in the Cypher horror book,  Stay Alive, a GM can adopt the same scaffolding to build a few schools of gun-kata with a list of several different abilities. 

Weapon buffet

Cypher's abstract weapon profiles are great for improving on the spot. But it also a long tradition in RPGs of making weapons unique. There are several easy ways to bolt on some new aspects to your Long, Medium rifle. 

Take the abilities in the Focus “Is Licensed to Kill” and assign them to some hero guns (or ammo) in your game. (Those dragon breath cartridges give your shotgun 5 extra Lethal Damage) 

You can also make new guns with the Function/Malfunction method in my Cruel Stars:Gear PDF. Each gun has a Malfunction roll much like an Artifact's Depletion Roll.The Malfunction Roll represents possible jamming or running out of ammo. But at the risk of making Malfunction Roll worse, you can change Functions of the gun like its Range, Damage or another stat in your weapon.  (Your shotgun has a Malfunction: 1 in d10. You could increase its damage to +3 with dragon breath cartridges but now it has Malfunction: 1 in d6.)

 We can also tweak abilities if they are willing to trade pool points for damage. For example, the Stun Attack costs 6 Speed points, allows for the full damage of the attack, and then stuns an opponent. The same ability can become a Cover Fire attack that costs 3 Speed, allows for only 2 damage max as well as a Stun effect.  

Gun cyphers

And now that cyphers are split between the more mundane and the fantastical, it’s even easier to see what can be used as additional gun gear, especially if you have an under-slung grenade launcher on your rifle. Or just explain away select subtle cyphers as using special sights and other modifications. And some manifest cyphers need no explication as they are literal grenades and mini-missiles. 

And of course, the best Cypher games are those that integrate the main theme with how cyphers get used. Is there a secret order of warriors who have married the mystical martial arts with guns? Is the a new experimental nano tech that can provide awesome gun accessories? Does Q never let his spies go out in the field without the latest R&D? Also two words: Judge Dreadd. 


With all these new ways to deal damage from a distance, some GMs might be rightly nervous about long their NPCs are going to last. There's a few ways to mull this over:

  • If the players are having fun, don't sweat it. (This should always be the cardinal rule.)
  • One of the main tropes in action adventure is for minions to go down quick. (See up above)
  • Build NPCs more creatures with Damage and Health ratings higher than their Level suggests
  • Remember in Cypher, any fight that goes on beyond 5 rounds a bit much

Regardless, if you want guns to be a very cool conceit to your Cypher game, they need to be given the proper love and attention up front. Also, don't be afraid to tinker. 

*Just a reminder, the original Cypher book is also perfectly fine for doing these shenanigans. The biggest help the Revised offers is that its organization makes for less page flipping for the GM during world creation. 

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. 

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