Cypher System

What is the Cypher System?

It is a roleplaying system developed by Monte Cook Games.  Similar to Pathfinder and DnD, its main mechanic revolves around a d20.  However, it is very different beyond that mechanic.  One of the benefits of Cypher, is that it is setting agnostic, meaning it can fit just about anywhere.

A Brief Rundown

In Cypher there are no classes, per se.  However, you build your character from three “menus”:  Type, Descriptor, and Focus.  This makes a sentence that describes your character.  For example:

Dogmeat is a Brash Warrior who Fights Dirty

So, in this sentence, Dogmeat is the character’s name.  Brash is the Descriptor.  Warrior is the Type.  And Fights Dirty is the Focus.  You don’t have to build this sentence, instead think of the combination of these three items makes your character’s concept or class.  For example, Brash the descriptor gives the character a boost to their abilities, usually, a handful of skills, and maybe an inability.  Warrior is the closest thing to a “class” in Cypher and gives the character fighting-like special abilities.  Fights Dirty gives the character a few more special abilities that relates to “fighting dirty”.

And like any other RPG, there are abilities, combat rules, spell/ability options and rules and so on.  We’re not going to break down all the rules.  That’s what the book is for.  Instead we’ll just talk about the Genre (as it relates to the Genres in Cypher Core)and allowed Foci, the Types, and Descriptors as races.


In the core book, there are several genres.  Dark Sun Future is specifically fantasy-cyberpunk.  The Genres in Cypher give suggested Foci to use for that Genre.  Descriptors and Types are usually unlimited.  And the Foci list is only suggested, not absolute.

With that in mind, as mentioned we’re looking for fantasy-cyberpunk.  The core book has fantasy, easy.  But not cyberpunk.  Basically, this lets us use any focus in the book, mostly.  Here are a few that might not fit, but are not outright banned or excluded.

Dances with Dark Matter
Descends from Nobility
Exists in Two Places at Once
Flies Faster Than a Bullet
Grows to Towering Heights
Howls at the Moon
Loves the Void
Pilots Starcraft
Sailed Beneath the Jolly Roger
Travels Through Time

Some of these are more space-oriented, others just don’t fit the Dark Sun Setting.  Apart from these, any Focus is allowed.


In Cypher there are 4 types:  Warrior, Adept, Explorer, and Seeker.  As mentioned, this is as close as Cypher gets to “classes”, but it still lacks quite a bit and that’s where the Descriptors and Foci come in.  It’s all about building all these things and putting them together.  So, this is more of guidelines or suggestions as they would relate to a DnD or Pathfinder class.


As the name states, these are characters who make war or fight.  But they’re not just fighters.  Depending on the Focus you choose, they can be a full on soldier, they can mix magic or psionics with their fighting.  They can choose abilities allowing them to fight without armor or weapons, making them a kung-fu badass.  It goes on and on.  Have fun.


This is more a skill-class than really a roguish-class, but it is a good base for something that mimics the Rogue or even the Ranger.  Like with the Warrior, it depends on what Focus you mix with it.  The difference is, the Explorer’s choice of special abilities focus more on skills, but they do have their fair share of fighting abilities mixed in.  However, a Warrior can take some “stealthy” focus and be more rogue-like as well, just a more fight-oriented rogue.  The Explorer would be a skill-oriented rogue.


This is the “casting” or “magic” type.  But, though some of its abilities have the name “magic” in them (e.g. the tier 1 ability hedge magic), it’s not always magic.  As has been stressed in other pages on the site, magic is very suspect on Athas and magic practitioners (of an arcane sort, divine and elemental are alright) are very mistrusted.  With this in mind (heh, see what I did there), Adepts are also psionic, or their special abilities granted by the Type can be flavored/read as such.  Add on very psionic foci such as, Commands Mental Powers or Focuses Mind Over Matter, and it’s ever more psionic.  You can still be a sorcerer or wizard, but Adepts are also psions.


This type is more of a persuasion-esque type.  Some of them are actual persuasion, non-paranormal/supernatural abilities, but some are straight-up magic.  Like with the Adept, depending on Focus choice or just what you want your character to be, the Speaker can be magic or psionic.