Author Topic: The Cypher Conundrum  (Read 40 times)


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The Cypher Conundrum
« on: August 05, 2014, 04:54:43 pm »
I believe I may have found a solution I like for the Cypher Conundrum. (For more on the Cypher Conundrum, check out the linked GM Intrusions episode 41.)

I've started really thinking about context when I come up with cyphers. Where are these cyphers coming from? What materials are available?

I don't worry so much about what the cyphers do, as with hyper-advanced tech, who knows what's possible? But I do worry about materials. If the PCs are scavenging the remains of an Accelerator, for example, they're unlikely to find cyphers made of cloth.

In the case of the Accelerator, most materials would work--metals, crystal, glass, synth and ceramic are all materials one could conceivably find within an Accelerator. So in this instance, I just roll on the table. If I get a result that doesn't work, I either reroll, or perhaps just change the material.

If the source of the cyphers is more limiting, then I look through the tables for ones that will fit. For example, a recent encounter involved a biological organism that yielded cyphers. I looked for any cyphers that made sense, and I also took some cloth cyphers and made them leather (hide) instead. Easy peasy.

There are other times you'll want to do this as well. For instance, in The Hidden Price the PCs find a cache of cyphers that are all made of glass and crystal. It's relatively easy to find cyphers that fit the bill and take others and just change their material to glass or crystal. Not only does this make more sense and not break suspension of disbelief, but you're also in effect creating new cyphers (or at least new forms of cyphers) that are unique.

I almost always come up with cyphers ahead of time (which I highly recommend). Now that I'm putting more thought into where they come from, it makes it a more active process than just rolling randomly, and I find I more often have an idea of a cypher or oddity to throw in that's of my own creation, or of a slight variation on one that already exists that especially fits.

The other part of the Cypher Conundrum, you'll remember, is that so many cyphers you come up with are "wasted". Either the PCs never find them, they throw them away, they explode in a mishap, or something else happens that results in your lovingly-created cypher never seeing any action. However, it's so easy to reskin things in this game, that I just keep those cyphers in a master list and use them sometime down the road--either with another group, or a long enough time later and with enough cosmetic changes that the PCs won't recognize the same cypher recycled.

I do believe the Cypher Conundrum exists, though some choose to ignore it, and that's fine. However, I've found that working through, for myself, how to solve the Conundrum has deepened my game and my world. Even if my players never notice (I think they will), it doesn't really matter because it makes my Ninth World more concrete and real to ME, which in turn allows me to present it much more convincingly to my players.

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