Recently a couple of fellow bloggers had the opportunity to look at Monte Cook Games upcoming Cypher System Rulebook. Since I wasn’t among the lucky ones, I got in touch with Shanna Germain and she was nice enough to tell me who to contact. And lo and behold, a couple of hours later, I had the PDF in my Monte Cook Games store account. Excitement ensued!
So what’s the Cypher System? The Cypher System is the rules system powering both Numenera and The Strange. The Cypher System Rulebook is a variant of those rules designed to fit various genres. With this book you can play games in the Modern age (with or without supernatural elements) or in the Science Fiction, Superhero, Fantasy, and Horror genres.
Overall the book is gorgeous. As with the other Monte Cook Games products’ it has a clear and easy-to-read layout and awesome artwork. I can’t wait to get the printed version as soon as it hits the shelves! The PDF contains 416 pages, so the hardcover book will be a veritable tome. Since it contains no setting information it’s all rules. But don’t fret, the actual rules are only a couple of pages. The rest of the book focuses on how to run the game and contains countless foci, descriptors, and cyphers.
After having played and run D&D 5th Edition for a couple of months I think it’s time to have a look on what worked and what didn’t work quite as well.
Overall D&D 5th Edition is a very good game, much better than several predecessors, but it still has a couple of things that bother me. But before focusing on the things that didn’t work let’s praise what WotC did right.
D&D 5th Edition feels like D&D. There’s a strong focus on roleplaying which is supported by the new backgrounds introduced in this edition. Ruleswise the advantage/disadvantage mechanic is a stroke of genius and basically removes numbercrunching to an absolute minimum. I also love that classes are much more flexible than before without the need for too many additional rules. After being burned out on D&D 3.0/3.5 and having serious issues with 4th Edition, D&D 5th Edition felt like a welcome breeze of fresh air.
Alas there are still a couple of things that bother me. Armor class is still among the first things I’d throw out if I had to redesign D&D. It just doesn’t make any sense that heavy armor makes it less likely being hit. Armor should reduce the damage taken instead. Another thing I don’t like is that attribute values are still a thing. They are actually never used. It’s probably a tradition thing but mechanically it makes no sense.
But the biggest problem is that there are other more exciting games out there. D&D was the hot new thing in 1974 but nowadays it has become the baseline for what we expect from fantasy RPGs. It has become a trope, a genre in itself. And as long as you want to keep it recognizable as D&D you have to keep some elements alive like the aforementioned attribute values, AC, hit points, the classes, etc. Without these elements it’s just not D&D anymore.
One of the systems I fell in love with is Monte Cook’s Cypher System (which has been used in Numenera and The Strange). It still retains a couple of D&D-isms, but overall it takes fantasy roleplaying into a different direction. In my opinion it is a very elegantly designed system, easy to pick up and play and extremely easy to run. When I run D&D it still feels a bit more like work.
This summer Monte Cook Games will release a Cypher System Rulebook which includes a section on how to run standard fantasy settings using the Cypher System. I have to admit I am very tempted to convert my D&D game to this new system or start a new one from scratch in one of the genres supported by it.
D&D 5th Edition is still my favorite edition of D&D, but there are games out there which are – at least in my opinion – more fun to play and run.
A Roleplaying Games blog
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