How to use Cyphers

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This topic contains 6 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by Avatar Philipp Tsenin 5 years, 9 months ago.

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  • #526
    Marc Cardwell

    Hi all,
    I just ran my first session of Numenéra (also my first time as a GM ever!) last Thursday, and I had a blast. Seriously, loved it. Still getting a hang of how the more complex aspects of the rules apply, but everyone seemed to have fun. As suggested, my current campaign is the Beale of Boregal.
    My question is this: How would my players go about using identified cyphers in combat situations? Say one of my player’s identifies a cypher and determines it’s a level 4 explosive cube.

    1.Does the cypher’s level compare to the creature’s level (so the level 4 cube automatically hits a Level 2 creature, but always misses a Level 5 beastie?)

    2. Or is there some sort of roll required to determine a cypher “working” in the moment? Like, the player has to make a roll to see if their attack with the cypher hits (but they attack with the cypher instead of their regular weapon?). Ex– they’re trying to hit a Level 5 creature, so if they roll a 15 or better they “hit” with the level 4 cypher.

    3. Is the cypher’s level indicative of the damage it deals (so the level 4 explosive cube always deals 4 points of damage)?

    4. Finally, using a cypher counts as that character’s action for the round, yes?

    I hope these questions make sense, and sorry if I missed the answers in the rules! Thank you for answering.

    Incidentally, thank you for putting this forum together, and for crafting such engaging games. You folks at MCG are all fantastic, and you’ve definitely got me hooked for the long haul!

    • This topic was modified 5 years, 9 months ago by Avatar Marc Cardwell.
  • #528
    Philipp Tsenin


    As for me, I deccided for myself that, if there is not said specifically in cypher’s description about the lvl., it’s irrelevant.

    So, you roll against lvl 4 creaure as if it’s lvl 4 (12 or higher), even if your damage dealng cypher has higher lvl.

    May be wrong, though.

  • #529
    Philipp Tsenin

    Sorry for double posting.

    I forgot to add, that even if the cypher’s lvl is irrelevant for the cypher itself, it can be used in some other circumstances.

    And yes, activting the cypher is an action.

  • #533
    Arturo Caissut

    If I understood how you use them then I agree. Shall we just write down a recap of all a GM must know about Cyphers (and Numenera in general) here as a reference?

    I could be wrong but I would say that the following points apply:

    1. Identification is NOT automatic but is usually a trivial task: this translates in the GM considering them as a rule of thumb as level 1 or 2 Intellect tasks. For Trained or Specialized characters this means that most of the times identifying a Cypher becomes automatic, not per se but due to the level reduction.
    2. Artifacts always require an Intellect roll, if only when a character uses an Artifact for the first time. The difficulty would be Artifact level * 3 (again, Skills and assets may apply).
    3. Cypher/Artifact level is a parameter that may or may not come into play when using them: some objects have effects that depend on their level while others don’t. Level should be used in any case in all those tasks not covered by the rules to evaluate their difficulty (e.g., A Glaive wants to break a Cypher in two, asking for a Might roll with difficulty Cypher level * 3 may be the case).
    4. Using a Cypher/Artifact is an action, this means that a character may be asked to spend a whole round to use a Numenera in combat.
    5. Using a Cypher/Artifact requires a roll as common sense would recommend: if a Nano wants to use a bomb that causes all the Murdens in a short range area to become Smurfs, a Speed roll will be needed with difficulty Murden level * 3.
    6. It is possible to use an unidentified Cypher: this would be an Intellect task of level equal to the Cypher’s level.
    7. Each character can carry up to N Cyphers depending on their Type and other parameters. A character can carry more than N Cyphers but then bad things may happen. The more a character goes above this limit, more likely is for something bad to happen. The GM may perform a d% roll to check whether anything terrible happens to the character, to the whole party, to the Ninth World and/or to the Multiverse depending on the number of Cyphers above the limit.
    8. There are two kinds of Cypher, anoetic (i.e., simple, like a pill) and occultic (i.e., more complex, like a hadheld device with ten buttons): each occultic Cypher count as two anoetic Cyphers when verifying that a character respects her carrying limit.

    Do you agree? I have some uncertainty points as well:

    1. Does taking a pill that turns my Jack’s skin into a layer of Synth for 1 hour require a roll? Would this be an Intellect roll? Which level would it be? (i.e., How do I deal with tasks that are not convoluted ways of attacking foes?)
    2. Would it make sense to adopt a rule like “If a Cypher is anoetic then identifying it is a level 1 task, if it’s occultic it is at least a level 2 task”? Are there instances where distinguishing anoetic vs. occultic comes into play, out of the simple (yet very important) “flavor” part of it and out of the Cypher limit mentioned above?
    • This reply was modified 5 years, 9 months ago by Avatar Arturo Caissut. Reason: Little addition
  • #535
    Philipp Tsenin

    1. I don’t think that using a cypher on self need a roll (if not stated otherwise). Again, the cypher’s description should tell if the roll is necessary.

    2. I agree with this rule of yours.

    Anoetic/ocultic also come in play when dealing with exceeding the limit of cyphers.

  • #537
    Charles Ryan
    Charles Ryan

    Just FYI: Monte wrote up a post about cypher levels–why they exist and what they’re for–not too long ago. You can find it here:

  • #539
    Philipp Tsenin

    Charles, thank ou very much for the link, it helps a lot.

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