Cypher System: Using The Force

So today I’m going to muse a bit on how you might incorporate the Force into Star Wars as its own thing, distinct from the descriptive line, or perhaps in addition to it. Bear with me, as I may ramble a bit in the process of seeing what ideas spring to mind.

First, of course, is the default method – either making a ‘Force’ flavor that everyone has access to, or re-skinning the ‘magic’ flavor to look more like the Force. This is a perfectly valid option, although re-skinning Magic as a flavor might be a little tricky, since some of the powers aren’t really Force-like; you could just disallow them, but that goes against the spirit of the Cypher System as a whole, which is a “Yes, And” kind of game. My main qualm with simply having a Force flavor is that I, personally, would want a distinct thematic difference between the Light and Dark side of the Force, and I’d want to let players have the opportunity to swing their balance between the two extremes. I’d also want to have a middle-path option, so that those who don’t want to embrace one side over the other can still tap the Force. Still, a single Force flavor has one strong argument going for it – it’s rules-simple, which is just about as important to the Cypher System as the “Yes, And” component.

Another option would be to simple create Foci for each of the three options, and allow players to change Foci if they narratively push in a different direction later on. This, again, has the advantage of being mechanically simple overall, but also doesn’t quite capture what I’d like to see in a game like this. It’s a strong option, and you could even expand the scope a bit, with options to be things like a Dark Jedi or a Sith, allowing for multiple options among the Light and Dark sides. That’s verging into a bit too much, though; I want something less problematic than a pile of Foci with only a few ever seeing use.

So then there’s the third option that’s come to mind, which itself violates the rule of simplicity to a degree; an additional advancement track in the form of Light and Dark Force Point, awarded for doing things that lean one way or the other. Under this, you can spend the points to pick up Force abilities, just like spending XP for the regular tiers; of course, Light points can only be spent on Light Side powers, and Dark points the other way. If there’s a ‘Grey’ set, those powers would cost two of each point type. To keep players from doing a catch ’em all scenario, each tier of powers lowers the tier cap on the other powers by one; you could theoretically gain second tier in all three, but those aren’t going to be the nice abilities. The downside here is the additional book-keeping required, and needing to allow for the additional firepower players have on top of their own.

Since I want to let players swing their alignment one way or the other, I might also allow them to spend opposite-alignment points to forget abilities, making the opposite tiers available again. Again, Grey powers would take two of each to lose. Collecting a surplus of points of a given type would cause additional difficulties in using abilities from the other tiers; Grey abilities would have penalties if they let one set of points gain over the other, so they’d be fine collecting a surplus if they keep it balanced. Additionally, the points can be spent to influence Force-specific rolls; burning Light points to reroll Light-aligned actions or add a bonus to Force powers, vice-versa for Dark-aligned actions, and so on.

I’m breaking the rule of simplicity big-time here, but not the Yes, And rule; and it allows for players to literally choose their own destiny, if they want to go one way and then later decide their character should fall to the Dark Side or redeem themselves with the Light. I probably won’t include a Grey side, instead letting anyone who want to be ‘Grey’ simple pick powers on each side to represent their mingled allegiance. With this, each tier in a given alignment will likely bar two tiers from the other side; someone in the middle will be capped with only two tiers on each side, but they’ll have free reign within that structure. Paying for versatility with their potential power is always something that good characters and stories can be built from.

There are other options, but these three are the ones I’m most likely to consider, particularly if I run a campaign of nothing but Force users. The third option would be right out if anyone plays a character without Force use, of course; it’s no fair to anyone to let everyone else have the toys when they don’t get compensated.

Just some musing.

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Cypher System: Using The Force

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