"Come now my child, if we were planning to harm you, do you think we'd be lurking here beside the path in the very darkest part of the forest..." - Kenneth Patchen, "Even So."

THIS IS A BLOG ABOUT STORIES AND STORYTELLING; some are true, some are false, and some are a matter of perspective. Herein the brave traveller shall find dark musings on horror, explorations of the occult, and wild flights of fantasy.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

SAVAGE CYPHERS: Savage Worlds meets the Cypher System (Sort of)

One of the key features of the Cypher System is right there in the title; the cypher.  Cyphers are "...one-use abilities that characters gain over the course of play.  In the majority of games, these come in the form of items, like magic potions or alien technology..." (CSR, p. 340).  Cyphers are meant to be discovered and used frequently, giving players a steady stream of tricks up their sleeves in addition to more permanent abilities and talents.  They allow player characters to make that sudden escape, turn the tables on an adversary, or get that crucial edge in battle.  In this sense, they function exactly like Savage Worlds' "Adventure Deck," or its even earlier predecessor, the TORG "Drama Deck."  The key difference is that these cards existed outside the game as a player tool, while in most Cypher settings, they exist inworld for character use.

A portion of the old TORG drama deck.  One side
of the cards where used for initiative.  The opposite, 
with names like "Seize Initiative," "Action," and "Master Plan"
let players pull stunts and make changes to the game.

But nothing says they have to, and in some settings--where magic or super-science doesn't exist--they aren't appropriate.  This is where something like your Savage Worlds cards come in handy.

The principle is simple.  At the start of the game session deal out two Savage Worlds Adventure Cards to each player, or two TORG Drama Deck cards if you have them.  Alternatively, make your own (see below).  These can be played at any appropriate time.  They function like a guided Intrusion sans experience and generally in the player's favour.  The GM simply changes the plot to accommodate the card description.  Others might act as an asset for a combat or skill roll.  Once used they are spent and tossed away.

A sample of Savage Worlds Adventure Deck Cards

Players earn new a new card after major plot points or discoveries, or after rolling a 20.  The character type will determine how many cyphers the player can hold, and additional ones must be discarded without being played.

The Subtle Cyphers

If you want to make your own, start with the Subtle Cyphers from the core rules.  Grab a deck of playing cards and write the name of the cypher on them.  Feel free to add to these GM "Intrusion" cyphers like Love Interest, Escape, Second Chance, Ally, or whatever else you can come up with.  Your deck can grow over time. 



  1. I just had the same revelation about Cypher and Savage Worlds Adventure Deck equivalence for games where there is no Narrative explanation for cyphers.

    If we both thought about it, it must be a sign that it's not a stupid one.

    1. I have a frIend who independently came by the idea as well, and started running TORG with Cypher. Nah, not such a stupid idea. ;)