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Table Solutions - Monte Cook Games
Some games are designed so that the game itself has every conceivable situation covered with a rule. Some use the GM as a sort of “safety net” for when holes in the rules pop up, allowing the GM to decide what happens in that situation, but otherwise sticking with the rules as written. And some games make the GM’s use of logic the actual rule. The Cypher System falls into that third category. What this means is, if you track me or anyone from Monte Cook Games down via email or at a convention or something and ask us a rules question, you’re almost certainly going to get the answer, “You and your GM should decide.” To some people, that might sound like we’re avoiding the question, but we’re not. That actually is the answer to the rules question. What the GM (working with the players) decides is the rule of the game. That’s how it’s played. That means that the rules as written in Numenera, in The Strange, or even in the upcoming Cypher System Rulebook, are not so much rules as guidelines. If you’ve got a copy of Numenera, check out the first column of text or so on page 84. Those are the rules of the game. That’s it. The rest is all helpful advice. Advice that’s meant to be fluid. Customizable. Adaptable. And there are good reasons for this. Story and Character. It’s the GM’s main job to facilitate a cool story and the players’ role to help her. It’s the players’ main job to create the character they want to play, that fits into that story, and it’s the GM’s role to help them. In both of these cases, a very rigid rules structure would hinder rather than help. For example: just yesterday, I ran a Cypher System game and one PC was supposed to have an Edge in Might according to the rules, but it fit his character concept to have that Edge be in Speed instead. So he and I decided together to change it Ease of Play. If the rules are king, they must be followed correctly. In that kind of ruleset, a successful game is likely contingent on the entirety of the rules—in other words, if you use some of them and forget, ignore, or misuse others, the whole thing likely falls apart. That requires a lot of memorization and/or a lot of referencing, which can slow down play and make things feel very complex. It’s much harder to focus on the story and the characters that way. Realism. It’s very difficult for a ruleset to both cover every contingency and do so in a logical, realistic manner. You end up with corner case scenarios where two rules make for an illogical situation in the game world. This hurts the story and the players’ immersion. A GM, using logic, can fix problems like that on the fly, often so easily that the players never even see that particular bump in the road. That’s why the Gamemastering sections of both Numenera and The Strange stress logic so heavily. Here’s another way of looking at it: When you sit down to play an RPG, there are really three parties at the table: the GM, the players, and the rules. In every game, the power structure of these three is different. In many RPGs, the rules are the most important party at the table. In some, the players are the most important party. Because of its focus on story and logic, the Cypher System puts the GM in that role. But perhaps most importantly, it is designed so that …
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