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

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