If we’re being completely honest, cyphers and artifacts sit at the core of the Cypher System; these disposable bits of power that can temporarily – or permanently – alter and amplify your character, so that even two perfectly identical characters are still varied according to what they happen to be carrying. As such, the last chapter of Gods of the Fall that I’m going to review is the one of these devices.
Technically, there are 16 new cyphers in Gods of the Fall, although three of them are variants on one of the others. Of them, only one doesn’t rely on someone involved in the cypher’s activation having divine shifts; it’s pretty clear these were thought of for use by gods and their ilk.
Aegis, for example, requires a creature with divine shifts and the ability to show their divine nimbus to non-divine creatures; doing so for an hour after using the Aegis cypher provides an Armor bonus to the user. That’s all the detail given, and for mechanical purposes all we really need. I imagine it makes the nimbus flare up and outline the person using it, a kind of armor of whatever the nimbus is made of.
The three editions of Apotheosis – lesser, normal, and greater – require a creature with divine shifts to use, but they grant a certain number of divine shifts for a minute after use. I can’t help thinking of this as popping open a can of something and slugging it down before swelling up with Power, Popeye style. These are most likely going to be random chunks of the Heavens, fallen to the Afterworld, still resonant with the power that once held the realm in the Aether.
Beneficence bothers me a little; the wording isn’t entirely clear. I’m fairly sure it’s a straight-up healing cypher that restores points to be distributed as the user sees fit, but it’s ambiguous enough to be argued that it could restore a specific amount on all three pools at once. As a GM, I’d rule the former, but if you want to roll the second way more power to you.
There are several cyphers ‘of the Gods’ which effectively have an effect based on the number of divine shifts the user has, mostly in the form of providing an additional amount of a specific Edge. Handy, when you know you absolutely have to defeat your enemies in a given challenge; as a mid-tier character you can easily muster enough Edge to shove aside 2-3 levels of Effort without a sweat, even before applying the free Effort of your divine shifts.
There are also 13 new artifacts, most explicitly described as being crafted before the Fall. (Incidentally, being someone who plays Eclipse Phase, the terminology of the Fall causes a little cognitive dissonance, and then I consider that the TITANs were essentially AI with divine shifts.)
Right off the bat, the very first artifact seems like it might be handy for dealing with Reconciliators; it allows you to squirrel divine shifts away inside it to amplify how powerful it is. Using it to pass yourself off as an irritable sorcerer might let you hide out as a god directly under their noses, unless they can sniff out the shifts in the amulet itself.
Most of the artifacts are tied to one god or another; the Book of Dead Gods isn’t, and was likely simply a book of gods prior to the Fall. Still, it serves a useful purpose, as it details the fallen gods and knowledge about them, as well as providing a significant asset if it can be consulted about any of them. Oddly, despite being referenced in the setting text, the Book of Fate isn’t listed as an artifact.
Another item not tied to a specific god are the demonchalices; literal chalices, they’re unkeyed until someone touches them, at which point they only function for that person. Each one lets the holder summon a raver that can be commanded for a minute; the last thing before that minute expires should be to command the raver to begone back to where it came, otherwise it turns on the user quite promptly. Messy, but a decent way to manage a divine labor if you’re prepared, I’d guess; call a raver to an unoccupied place and kill it or bind it so it can’t roam free any longer.
One that’s handy to have if you expect duplicity or shapeshifters is the Pen of Aren, a quill that never runs out of ink. Nice as this is, the real prize comes from the artifact function of it, which allows the person holding it to write down the true name of any creature in a short range, piercing any illusion or disguise equal to or lower than its own level of 14. If you think a shapeshifting rakshasa ate the ruler of the city and took her place, just get near her and write her true name down; odds are you’ll get the correct identity.
The Sword of Yesterday is a cool item that I’ll never allow in a game, because it makes things far too messy: putting a divine shift into it for every creature involved allows the user to take those involved to any point in the past ten years; each additional divine shift extends the range ten more years into the past. While there’s a bit about travel to before the Fall and the block involved in doing so, it’s nothing a god can’t handily overcome. It’s a given that any player with this sword will go try to prevent the Fall, and and in so doing force the GM to suddenly have to come up with blocks against it or come up with a completely new Afterworld-free setting for the characters to be gods in. It’s a cool idea and an absolute horror to contemplate.
That’s the last item in the chapter that I’ll be reviewing, and the end of my Gods of the Fall review. In sum, while it’s not the setting I was expecting and hoping for, it’s certainly unique and interesting enough in its own right. I encourage everyone to pick it up and give it a shot!