Table of Contents
As mentioned on the main Cypher page, Cypher Rules make no distinction between magic and psionics. Any special ability granted by the Adept or Speaker types, or any magic or psionic-sounding foci are magic or psionic. Or however, you want to present them.
But on this page we’ll be discussing Defiling and Preserving specifically.
Divine, Primal, or Psionic Practitioners
Or in other words, Cleric, Druids, Psions, and Templars (or Warlocks) don’t have to worry about Defiling or Preserving. The energy they draw upon (Primal/Natural for Clerics and Druids, Sorcerer Kings/Queens for Templars and Psionic energy for Psions) flows freely and has no issues. It’s magic that is the problem, always has been. Cypher (as mentioned many times) doesn’t make a distinction, so you’ll have to. If you choose to be a practitioner of the above mentioned types, you have no issues casting your spells other than standard situational issues that may occur. But in general, your magic or psionics works fine. Although, you do not get to go through the transformations.
This will be the same as the Living 4 Crits’, but we’re adding an overall effect similar to Dark Side/Light Side mechanics in Star Wars as well as adding more effect to the spell when you cast it in Defiling or Preserving and your Transformation. Because, there’s a reason people Defile (and sometimes preserve) apart from it’s just easier.
Defiler or Preserver
When you start out, you are just a caster. Call yourself what you like: sorcerer, wizard, witch, hedge mage, etc. You are not a Defiler or Preserver until you hit the first tier.
You have a new pool, or more a slider. It starts at 0. If you successfully cast a spell in either direction, you earn a point for that type, i.e. if you cast a Defiler spell, you gain a Defiler point, vice versa for a successful Preserver spell. Once you reach 5, you move up in a tier of that type.
A Defiling point will cancel out 1 of any Peserver points you have. However, it takes 3 Preserver points to cancel out a Defiling point. This can be done “ritually” before taking a long rest, but will again take 3 days of this to remove 1 Defiling point, but doesn’t require a successful cast.
For example, Rix the caster has 3 Preserver points. In a pinch, he cast his spell as a Defiling spell. So, his Preserver points drops to 2. Many months into his career, a lot of those desperate situations had popped up and he’s now at 4 Defiling points. He doesn’t want to Defile, so he starts on a path of “redemption”. He will need to successfully cast 3 Preserver spells (or cast at 1 level higher) to drop one point of Defiling, or spend 3 days of “ritual” casting/cleansing to remove 1 point.
As you can see, it’s more of a sliding scale with 0 being the middle. You can’t have 3 Preserver points and 2 Defiling points, because they cancel each other out. Once you reach 5 on either side, the “slider” resets to 0. But you gain the benefits and hindrances of that tier. To move to the next tier (2), you need to double the points, and double for the next, and so on. So, it takes 10 points (Defiling or Preserving) to get to tier 2, 20 for tier 3, 40 for tier 4, and 80 for tier 5. Tier 6 is special because this is when you complete your transformation. This is detailed in the Final Transformation section for each type.
This is what separates the Defilers and Preservers from other casters, their tier benefits where the other casters have no increase or decrease in their target levels for rolls. So, let’s look at those juicy benefits…and hindrances.
When you cast a spell and Defile, you decrease the difficulty by 1. That’s the easy part. However, when you do, you cause any plants to wilt and lacking that a charred spot appears at your feet. The charred spot, or the wilting of life around you, will be more noticeable the higher the tier. A perception test vs the tier times 3 (standard rules) will notice the defilement. Noticing this will definitely turn any NPCs against you and if they aren’t already, they will call the local Templarate, if in a city.
Once you reach tier 1, you are officially a Defiler. Here are your benefits and hindrances.
Benefits: along with making spells a bit easier, when you defile you can also add 2 points of damage, if the spell/ability causes damage. If it does not, it works a bit better. Work with your GM to decide how it works “better”, but it won’t be substantially better, only a little.
Hindrance: You have something about you that puts people off. Perhaps the defiling you’ve been doing causes a “smell”, maybe not a bad smell but one that people turn their noses up at. You now have an inability with all social interactions.
Benefits: You no longer have to defile to gain the +2 points of damage to your spells, but if you do, you now add 3 points. All non-damaging spells, still work “better”, but still not drastically so. Work with your GM on these improved effects.
Hindrance: The beginnings of your transformation are starting to show. Black scales start forming around your eyes, giving them this very sexy, smokey look. Unfortunately, the rest of Athas doesn’t like this smokey-eye look. You will need to take active measures to hide this. Be it make-up, a hood, an illusion, if you do not and a denizen of Athas sees you, they will immediately identify you as a Defiler (correctly so) and act appropriately. And by “appropriately” they will call a guard or take an actively aggressive action against you.
Note for GM: This is where the majority of players should plateau. If they still progress too quickly, add more defiling points (or preserving as this rule applies to the other side as well) to obtain the next tier. Note within a note: Obviously as a player, you’re reading this too. So don’t be surprised if the GM enforces this!
Benefits: You’ve mastered your casting. You no longer need to preserve or defile. You can cast your spells without raising or lowering the difficulty. Additionally, your power grows and all spells that cause damage, whether you defile or not, do 3 extra points of damage. Additionally additionally, you gain a Minor Effect when you roll a natural 17, 18, or 19, but only when casting a defiling spell. Otherwise, it’s just on a natural 19 per normal.
Hindrance: More of your transformation is apparent. How this manifests is up to you, but your tongue could start forking, your pupils could split vertically, you could start drawing out your S’s. This means that it is even easier to notice that you’re changing. This also means that Sorcerer Kings and Queens will take notice. Your connection to magic is powerful, enough that those tapping into the same power recognize power. Be weary, more than just the eyes of the public are upon you.
Benefit: Improving your casting further, Minor Effects happen any time you cast a spell, defiling or not, AND you roll a natural 17 to 19. If you defile, Minor Effects happen on a natural 17 or 18 and a Major Effect happens on a 19 or 20. You still get the damage bonus. You also gain Breath Attack.
Hindrance: Your body slims and becomes more reptilian, there is no hiding it apart from an illusion that encompasses your entire form or some sort of polymorph or shapechange spell or special ability. Also, the Sorcerer Kings and Queens are actively hunting you. Now, some may put more effort into it than others, but if you enter their city, they will definitely know and the Templarate will be hunting you.
Benefit: You gain all previous benefits: 3 damage to all damage spells, Minor Effects on 15-18, Major Effects on 19 and 20, number of Breath Attacks increase by 1. Add on to this that you have now sprouted leathery, dragon-like wings and can now fly (long distance, 50mph/80kmph).
Hindrance: Did you see the part about the wings? That door swings both ways. Now, 3 Sorcerer Kings and Queens have united to actively hunt you. Also, as this is your penultimate step in your transformation, the Dragon of Tyr has also taken notice (whoever that happens to be).
At this point, you become a creature equivalent to the Dragon of Tyr, both in form and strength. To sustain this strength, you must defeat the current Dragon of Tyr and take their place. It is probably also at this point that you character becomes an NPC Villain.
When you cast a spell and try to preserve, you raise the difficulty by 1. Not just mechanically, but also by visual effect, you preserve the area around you. Now, flowers don’t sprout and butterflies don’t flutter, but there is an almost audible sigh, seemingly from the planet itself, that flows into your mind.
Once you reach tier 1, you are officially a Preserver. Here are your benefits and hindrances.
Benefits: You learn to supplement your magic with psionics and you no longer need to raise the difficulty by 1 to cast a spell. You can cast it normally, but it’s not actively preserving. To gain more preserver points and attain the next tier, you must cast spells 1 difficulty higher.
Hindrance: You have something about you that puts people at ease. This is nice at first, but Athasians are a suspicious lot and they tend to overthink it and wonder what’s make them so at ease and then they hate it. You don’t have a full inability with all social interactions, but the longer you leave it (or stay in a social situation) the more people start to wonder about you.
Benefits: Your skill in supplementing your magic abilities with psionics has increased. If you cast a spell that causes damage as preserving (1 difficulty higher), you raise the damage by 2.
Hindrance: The beginnings of your transformation are starting to show. Your eyelids start folding over your eyes giving them a thin, horizontal “slit”. Your skull elongates. Your skin becomes more leathery and pallid. Remember how Athasians don’t differentiate between preservation and defiling, yep. They’re going to think you’re an “evil” wizard and will likely call the guard, or Templarate, or both.
Benefits: You’ve mastered weaving your magic with psionics. You now have a flat +2 to all damaging spells. If you cast a spell preserving, you not only gain a preserver point, but you also add 3 damage if it’s a damaging spell. Additionally, you gain a Minor Effect when you roll a natural 17, 18, or 19, but only when casting a preserving spell. Otherwise, it’s just a Minor Effect a natural 19 per normal.
Hindrance: More of your transformation is apparent. How this manifests is up to you, but the skin between your fingers could become more webbed, as well as under your arms, your taller. This means that it is even easier to notice that you’re changing. This also means that Sorcerer Kings and Queens will take notice. Your connection to magic is powerful, enough that those tapping into the same power recognize power. Be weary, more than just the eyes of the public are upon you.
Benefit: Improving your psionics and casting further, Minor Effects happen any time you cast a spell, preserving or not, AND you roll a natural 17 to 19. If you preserve, Minor Effects happen on a natural 17 or 18 and a Major Effect happens on a 19 or 20. You still get the damage bonus. You also gain Psychic Scream.
Hindrance: The leathery skin between your hands, legs, and arm are too apparent, there is no hiding it apart from an illusion that encompasses your entire form or some sort of polymorph or shapechange spell or special ability. Also, the Sorcerer Kings and Queens are actively hunting you. Now, some may put more effort into it than others, but if you enter their city, they will definitely know and the Templarate will be hunting you.
Benefit: You gain all previous benefits: 3 damage to all damage spells, Minor Effects on 15-18, Major Effects on 19 and 20, number of Breath Attacks increase by 1. Add on to this that you can now fly (long distance, 50mph/80kmph).
Hindrance: You kind of look like a flying pancake (this is the 5e version, but it works for this too). Now, 3 Sorcerer Kings and Queens have united to actively hunt you. Also, as this is your penultimate step in your transformation, the Dragon of Tyr has also taken notice (whoever that happens to be).
Unlike Defilers at this tier, you do not have to defeat the Dragon of Tyr to attain this tier. But, like them, you will be a being of such power that you are now an NPC. A good one! But an NPC nonetheless.
Like other planes of reality, just a bit more accessible, the Cyberplane exists alongside the Prime Material plane. However, unlike other planes, it is “modifiable” by means of programming. Thus, hundreds of tiny worlds exist within the Cyberplane at any given time. The Cyberplane is normally accessed by a secure connection. For non-Cybermages, they do so with a Cerebral Processor and a WiFi link. The Cybermage does the same, but their connection runs deeper.
For the Cybermage (or the Cypher version here), they pass beyond the secure “playgrounds” coded and programmed by various companies and groups. For example, Tyr Tech has a presence in the Cyberplane to run their various Internet operations. There are security layers, much like with our internet, but they have their own world in which they can interact. However, to access you need a secure link and your link allows you access only to this virtual world within the Cyberplane. The Cybermage, with a bit of hacking, can go between these virtual worlds.
As mentioned above, the average user only needs to connect via a Cerebral Implant with the appropriate connection to the Internet, be it a WiFi Link or a hardline connection to their Cerebral Processor (all processors come with a connection point not only for software updates but to install and/or connect to other Neuralware, thus you can “jack-in” directly with your standard Cerebral Processor). But these are the playgrounds for the newbs. The safety is on, the corners padded…easy-mode. You came here for god-mode, right?
To attempt to hack between the playgrounds, you need a Cyberdeck, or specifically the artifact that makes you a Cybermage (again, detailed here). To gain access to the “in-between” requires a hack or Computer skill test. It’s not exceptionally difficult, but it does start at level 7 (21). Thankfully, your Cyberdeck acts as an “equivocal asset”, meaning you gain a number of assets to the roll equal to your Cyberdeck’s tier, i.e. tier 1 acts as 1 asset reducing the test level to 6 (18) and a tier 4 ‘deck acts as 4 assets reducing the test level to 3 (9). This goes for any interaction with the Cyberplane.
Normally, you can only interact with what is programed/coded for end user interaction. If the devs make a door, they code the door to be interactive with anyone and may add additional layers of security so not EVERYone can get in, only those who need to/are allowed to access whatever is behind that door.
Anyone can try to hack these access points. The level to do so depends on the level of security and can range from level 4 (12) for very basic security to 10 (30) for the most elite security. Anyone with the appropriate skill can attempt to hack these points, or any other “coded interactive” object, at any time and may use training, efforts, cyphers, or assets to reduce the difficulty per normal rules. Of course success may give you different access to different objects, coded interactive or otherwise, but all this is up to the GM to reveal to the player. However, the Cybermage has their Cyberdeck and as mentioned it is treated as an “equivocal asset” for these hacks…er…interactions as well.
Hackers (or non-Cybermage hackers) can try to change or affect the Cyberplane around them, but only within the confines of the code. Meaning, they can attempt to “destroy” a wall, but only if that wall was coded interactive. Also, they cannot shoot, punch, kick, or even move anything that is not coded interactive. A Cybermage is another story.
When a Cybermage connects with their Cyberdeck, they are putting a version of themselves (or an avatar of themselves with the same parameters) “physically” in the Cyberplane. Physically is in quotes because obviously it’s digital and not physical, but for all intents and purposes that version of the Cybermage is actually there any anything the Cybermage is capable of in the real world, they are capable of in the Cyberplane, but “enhanced”. Everything they do is tied to their Intellect pool and is affected by any Edge they may have in Intellect as well. Even things that aren’t normally considered Intellect, e.g. running fast or jumping high, still falls under the purview of their Intellect while in the Cyberplane. This means their spells can affect programs, applications, avatars, and other items or entities within the Cyberplane.
When their Cyberdeck is Tier 3, the Cybermage can physically enter the Cyberplane without having to connect via a VR or AR link. While they’re there physically, this resembles a VR link, only again, you’re actually THERE.
At tier 5, the Cybermage can bring other beings physically into the Cyberplane with them and they do not have to be other Cybermages. Any non-Cybermage physically in the Cyberplane affects the Cyberplane with any physical attack or action just as they would in the Prime Material plane, meaning if they shoot a program or entity with a physical weapon they do normal damage to the program or entity. A Cybermage can take up to his 5 companions with them.
Note: Like with any other plane of existence, you are physically in, if you die there you physically die there. Your spirit may pass into some other realm or may stay in the Cyberplane, but your physical shell will remain and rot where it lies.