[Modification] Alternate stat system

Right now, in Cypher System, the following stats are present: Might, Speed and Intellect. It's not bad per se, but it seems really focused on the physical aspect of the game, while bundling together the intellectual and social side. Because of that, in campaigns focused less on combat, and more on discovery and interactions, Intellect stat becomes quite versatile, possibly to the point of no-brainer choice when it comes to Pool/Edge increase.

Instead, I'd like to propose an alternate stat system, to an extend inspired by another roleplaying system.


The core three stats would be PhysicalIntellectual and Social. Obviously, it comes with important differences in various situations. For example, in Cypher System you can run a marathon (depleting Speed pool) and have no trouble dealing heartfelt roundhouse kicks (depleting Might pool), while in suggested alternative all that running makes one so tired they can't really do strong kicking. At the same time, in alternate system one can sit and do some crossword or sudoku solving (depleting Intellectual pool) having just suffered through unpleasant social encounter (depleting Social pool); in Cypher System, such encounter makes one too tired for any puzzle solving.


Among these stats, there would be dominantauxiliary and inferior stat. The dominant stat would have the highest base pool, while the inferior stat would have the lowest base pool. The stats would be determined by the character Type.

Additionally, each stat comes with 3 areas:
  • Physical: Might (applying physical strength), Agility (acrobatics, dodging etc.), Fortitude (resisting attacks, poison etc.)
  • Intellectual: Memory (recollection of learnt facts), Analysis (reasoning and guessing), Concentration (resisting mental effects) 
  • Social: Charisma (making specific impressions, usually favourable), Empathy (recognizing others emotions and motives), Will (resisting manipulation and charms)
Among these areas, the player may choose their strengths and weaknesses. A strength decreases the difficulty of related challenges by one point, while a weakness increases the difficulty instead (like inability does now). There is only one degree of strength/weakness; you can't be double-empathetic or double-forgetful, for example. Strengths and weaknesses are applied independently from more specific skills.

I have yet to decide how strengths/weaknesses are chosen. One thing I considered was choosing one strength from dominant stat areas, and one weakness from inferior stat areas. In a more generous variation player can choose to strengths from dominant areas, one strength from auxiliary areas and one weakness from non-dominant areas.

Perhaps the most natural way in Cypher System would be having one strength and weakness determined by Descriptor, and one other strength by Focus. If descriptor and focus give the same strength, the character might choose any other area related to the same stat (e.g. excess Charisma can be exchanged for Empathy or Will, but not Analysis or Might). Also, the player cannot choose a Focus whose strength is the same as descriptor's weakness. Strengths and weaknesses could replace one initial skill and inability of descriptor, as well as one skill of focus.

A thing to keep in mind is that strengths and weaknesses affect the game balance to an extent, especially since they are applied independently from trained/specialised skills (thus, a properly specialised character can perform Impossible tasks more easily). At the same time, combats might become more challenging with only one Physical pool available.

Thoughts? Anyone feels like trying out the alternate stats?


  • This is a very interesting approach.
    Truth be told, since i've laid hands on the Numenera rules back when it came out, and later when I got a copy of Cypher System, I was annoyed by two things, one the stats, and then the prevalence of cyphers, but i've come to somewhat get over the second one.
    I've tried many times to come up with an alternative system for stats and some time i've come close to something similar to what you describe. Well maybe not THAT similar, but anyway.

    In my approach I was not changing the stat pools, they where still Might, Speed and Intellect, but I wanted to split them into more granular edge categories.
    So Instead of might having might edge, etc it would go something like this:
    Might Edges: strength, vigor (contistution)
    Speed Edges: accuracy(dexterity?), quickness
    Intellect Edges: intelligence, will or charisma
    Also, instead of gaining 1 edge to add to a pool of their choice (whenever they get it), players would instead get 2 points and put them into 2 edges, but not 2 points to one edge. So a starting character for example could have strength edge 1 + charisma edge 1, but not strength edge 2. Technically if a PC could only have X edge in one pool before, he can now have X edge to 2, let's call them, sub-stats.

    It felt like a good approach at first but later I came to realise that it would require a tremendous amount of work, to go through every ability that requires an initial pool cost and decide which sub-stat would be aplicable to apply edge to it.

    With your approach I believe that sooner or later you would stumble on the same problem, only it would be mostly require you to find out which intellect abilities fall under which of your new pools (obviously all might and speed abilities fall under physical). Technically that makes the physical stat more important than the others, although I'll admit that is just an assumption on my part and I haven't playtested anything to see how it goes.

    I am still interested in the endeavor of finding an alternate stat system for cypher though. 
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