Last week I talked about starting a new campaign (here). The concept; convert Curse of Strahd to the Cypher System. I’m keeping the basic concept, antagonists, and locations as written but I’m adjusting the tone somewhat from fantasy horror to a more traditional Gothic horror. The heroes are agents of The Estate, but since the entire campaign is going to play out within the recursion of Ravenloft, I’m having the players build characters from the Cypher System Rulebook as opposed to The Strange.
For these heroes I’m allowing them to use any of the Descriptors from the rulebook. I’ve also included the following Focuses: Carries a Quiver, Casts Spells, Consorts with the Dead, Defends the Weak, Explores Dark Places, Fights Dirty, Fights with Panache, Hunts with Great Skill, Infiltrates, Looks for Trouble, Masters Defense, Masters Weaponry, Metes Out Justice, Moves Like a Cat, Murders, Needs No Weapons, Performs Feats of Strength, Rages, Shepherds Spirits, Siphons Power, Slays Monsters, Stands Like a Bastion, Throws with Deadly Accuracy, Wields Two Weapons at Once, Works Miracles, Would Rather be Reading.
One of my favorite elements of the Cypher System are flavors. The love being able to modify each of the four types (adept, explorer, speaker and warrior) to really dial in a “class” concept. Using types and flavors I developed 16 Gothic archetypes for the players to choose from.
- Alchemist [Adept with Skills & Knowledge flavor]
- Apostate [Adept with Stealth flavor]
- Bard [Speaker with Skills & Knowledge flavor]
- Crusader [Warrior with Skills & Knowledge flavor]
- Duelist [Warrior with Stealth flavor]
- Huntsman [Explorer with Combat flavor]
- Inquisitor [Explorer with Magic flavor]
- Magi [Adept]
- Mesmerist [Speaker with Magic flavor]
- Mystic [Warrior with Magic flavor]
- Rogue [Speaker with Stealth flavor]
- Scholar [Explorer with Skills & Knowledge flavor]
- Sorcerer [Adept with Combat flavor]
- Thief [Explorer with Stealth flavor]
- Warlord [Speaker with Combat flavor]
- Warrior [Warrior]
In addition to the standard choices players make to build Cypher System heroes, I have also included the “Touch of Shadow.” Each hero has a Touch of Shadow which thematically colors their powers and abilities. For example, whenever the hero heals someone with her Works Miracles abilities, nearby plants and animals wither and die; life for life. These elements have no specific mechanical effect, they are just designed to reinforce the dark, corrupting aspects of the setting.
Lastly, I have given the players some specific notes regarding how XP are earned in this campaign:
- GM Intrusions: Ravenloft actively seeks to thwart heroes. Misfortune, bad timing, even the weather all work against the heroes. They gain XP by overcoming adversity and setbacks.
- Spreading Light & Hope: Gloom and despair permeates the recursion. Heroes that bring light to this dark realm, and hope to the hopeless, gain XP.
- Discovering Relics: Several important relics are tied to Ravenloft’s history and reality. Finding these significant items and learning about them is worth XP.
My players are really looking forward to getting started with their new heroes this evening. Hopefully they can find a way to escape the evil machinations of Count Strahd von Zarovich and not become the latest victims of the vampire lord!