Welcome to the Cypher System Reference

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The modern setting is easy because it’s just the real world, right? Well, yes and no. It’s easy for players to understand the context of a modern setting. They know the default assumptions—cities, cars, cell phones, the internet, and so on. It’s also easier for some players to get into character, because their character could be someone they might very well pass on the street. It can be easier to wrap your mind around a history professor than a thousand-year-old elf wizard. These things make it easier on the GM as well.

But for the same reason, it’s not easy. The setting is the real world we all know, so it’s easy to get facts wrong or let them bog you down. What happens when you pull the fire alarm on the thirty-fifth floor of a major hotel in a large city? How fast do the authorities arrive? In truth, the facts aren’t as important as the story you’re creating, but some verisimilitude is nice.

Molding Characters for a Modern Game

If you’re trying to portray a psychic with a few basic powers, you might not want to use the Adept character type. Instead, choose a different type (perhaps a Speaker) and encourage foci such as Commands Mental Powers or Focuses Mind Over Matter. Some of the Adept’s powers might be too over the top for the genre.

Similarly, the technology flavor is probably too high-tech for a modern game. For someone with technical skills, use the skills and knowledge flavor instead.

Sometimes, the types might be more physical than is always desirable for a modern game, but that’s because the least physical type, the Adept, is often inappropriate for other reasons. The Calm descriptor is very good for such characters, not only granting them a great deal of skill and knowledge, but also reducing their physical capabilities.

Last, don’t forget foci such as Doesn’t Do Much or Would Rather Be Reading for “normal” characters who have useful skills but not much in the way of flashy abilities.

Suggested Types for a Modern Game

Role Type
Police officer Explorer with combat flavor
Detective Explorer with stealth flavor
Soldier Warrior
Criminal Explorer with stealth flavor
Teacher Speaker
Professional (accountant, writer, etc.) Speaker with skills and knowledge flavor
Technical profession Explorer with skills and knowledge flavor
Dilettante Speaker with skills and knowledge flavor
Doctor/Nurse Explorer with skills and knowledge flavor
Politician Speaker
Lawyer Speaker
Scholar Explorer with skills and knowledge flavor
Spy Speaker with stealth flavor
Occultist Adept
Mystic/Psychic Adept

Basic Creatures and NPCs for a Modern Game


level 2, business tasks as level 3


level 1, Speed defense as level 3


level 2


level 2, perception as level 3

Dog, guard:

level 3, attacks and perception as level 4


level 3; moves a long distance each round


level 1


level 2; health 8

Additional Modern Equipment

In a modern setting, the following items (and anything else appropriate to the real world) are usually available.

Inexpensive Items

Weapons Notes
Ammo (box of 50 rounds)
Knife (simple) Light weapon (won’t last long)
Other Items Notes

Duct tape roll Flashlight Padlock with keys Trail rations (1 day)

Useful and ubiquitous

Moderately Priced Items

Weapons Notes

Hand grenade

Explosive weapon, inflicts 4 points of damage in immediate radius

Hunting knife Light weapon
Machete Medium weapon
Nightstick Light weapon
Armor Notes
Leather jacket Light armor
Other Items Notes

Backpack Bag of heavy tools Bag of light tools

Binoculars Bolt cutters Cell phone Climbing gear Crowbar Electric lantern

Asset for perception tasks at range

First aid kit Handcuffs

Asset for healing tasks

Rope Sleeping bag Tent

Nylon, 50 feet

Expensive Items

Weapons Notes
Light handgun Light weapon, short range
Medium handgun Medium weapon, long range
Bow Medium weapon, long range
Rifle Medium weapon, long range
Shotgun Heavy weapon, immediate range
Armor Notes
Kevlar vest Medium armor
Other Items Notes
Camera designed to be concealed Transmits at long range

Microphone designed to be concealed Cold weather camping gear Nightvision goggles Scuba gear Smartphone Straightjacket

Transmits at long range

Very Expensive Items

Weapons Notes
Heavy handgun Heavy weapon, long range
Assault rifle Heavy weapon, rapid-fire weapon, long range
Heavy rifle Heavy weapon, 300-foot (90 m) range
Submachine gun Medium weapon, rapid-fire weapon, short range
Armor Notes
Lightweight body armor Medium armor, encumbers as light armor
Military body armor Heavy armor
Other Items Notes
Disguise kit Asset for disguise tasks
Used car Level 3
Small boat Level 3

Exorbitant Items

Other Items Notes
Large boat Level 5
Luxury car Level 5
Sports car Level 6

Optional Rule: Handling PCs as Children

The regular character creation process makes fully competent, adult characters. To account for playing children, the GM could adopt this optional rule. First, the players make their characters normally, and then they apply the following adjustments to their PCs, as appropriate to their age category. You might also consider applying a tier cap of 3 to childhood adventure games with kids of up to thirteen years old, and a tier cap of 4 for childhood adventure games featuring PCs who are aged fourteen to seventeen.

Age 9 to 13


–4 to your Might Pool.


Adults look out for you. You are trained in all pleasant social interactions with adults.


Might-based tasks are hindered.


Tasks involving knowledge are hindered.

Age 14 to 17


–2 to your Might Pool.


Tasks involving knowledge are hindered.

The Cypher System is a setting-generic tabletop roleplaying game designed by Monte Cook Games.
This product is an independent production and is not affiliated with Monte Cook Games, LLC. It is published under the Cypher System Open License, found at https://csol.montecookgames.com.
CYPHER SYSTEM and its logo are trademarks of Monte Cook Games, LLC in the U.S.A. and other countries. All Monte Cook Games characters and character names, and the distinctive likenesses thereof, are trademarks of Monte Cook Games, LLC.