Cypher system – Pimp my ride

A couple of games and films I’ve enjoyed recently have me mulling over some ideas for a piratical, steampunk, fantasy type campaign. One of the key concepts for such a game would be the importance of your ship and the ability to upgrade it in various fashions. These thoughts are very much in their infancy… just a general outline really. It should also be noted that I’m going to talk about ships, but these ideas could easily be adapted to other vehicles, in a Mad Max style campaign, for example.

My overall idea is that the whole cypher/artifact system exists at two separate levels. The PCs gain cyphers and artifacts as normal, but there are also ship level cyphers and artifacts.
Each ship would have some basic statistics, according to its type; it would also have a number of fillable slots (engine, forward gun, armour, etc…). Into these slots would go the equivalent of artifacts; each one would provide a static bonus and a useable ability. The ability would require a depletion roll and if the item depletes then the static bonus is also lost.

A couple of examples…
Blink engine:
“Built according to quantum principles… works best if you’re not looking at it.”
Static bonus – Speed increased by 3; fuel consumption increased by 1.
Ability – Teleport 500′ in a random direction (will not teleport onto land). Depletion 1d10.

Tentacle hull:
“Not really an artifact, as such… more like a colony of very aggressive barnacles.”
Static bonus – Armour increased by 5, speed decreased by 1.
Ability – Grapple an adjacent ship, prevents it from disengaging when boarded. Depletion 1d20.

In addition to the artifact slots, a ship would have a couple of cypher slots. These would effectively be large scale cyphers that could be used once as per the regular cypher rules. For example…
Cloaking device: The entire ship is rendered invisible for ten minutes. Sound is somewhat muffled, but loud noises (e,g. guns firing) are still audible.
EMP: Shuts down the engines of all ships within 500′. Engines take roughly ten minutes to get started again. (The ship that fires the EMP can halve this time by shutting down its engine just before the EMP goes off.)

Cyphers and artifacts could be purchased from dealers or captured from enemy ships (possibly making weapons that disable ships without damaging them very valuable).

Obviously, to make it worth implementing something like this, there would have to be some systems in place for sea travel (probably basic speed and fuel consumption), as well as naval combat. This type of granularity may not suit some campaigns, so should be considered carefully.

Feedback is appreciated as always.

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2 Responses to Cypher system – Pimp my ride

  1. Interesting ideas. I’ve been working on some basic vehicle rules (treating vehicles more like characters with character-like Special Abilities) but my gaming group rarely uses Cyphers or Artifacts so they tend to slip off my radar. I’ll have to consider how they impact my vehicle rules.

    My firearm and vehicle rules are at

    • thatgiantman says:

      Your ideas on treating vehicle combat in much the same way as character combat are similar to what I was thinking. The main thing I feel would need adding (particularly for naval combat) would be some rules on vehicular movement in combat… facing would matter and maybe you could only turn as part of a move or something.

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