One of the great things that Monte Cook Games has done is to make it possible for their most loyal, and some would say their craziest, fans to produce content under license and sell it. Patterned after systems like DM’s Guild, the Cypher Creator System has been the source of some excellent fan-created content while allowing new authors to dip their toes into publishing things for a game system they love. Mortal Fantasy by Christopher Robin Negelein who publishes under the Ganza Gaming banner, has been and remains one of, if not the most downloaded Cypher Creator System supplement on DriveThru RPG to date.
A meaty PDF, totaling 44 pages, Mortal Fantasy is a supplement that allows a player or GM to build and inject “customary” fantasy classes into their generic Cypher Fantasy games and particularly into Gods of the Fall. While the Revised Cypher System Rulebook has base classes for Warriors (Fighters) and Adepts (Wizards), the four core types require some tweaking to get to something approximating a “Bard” or a “Druid”. The layout was done by both Christopher and Irrgardless and both the quality of the page design, the tables, and the artwork chosen are clean and evocative.
What amounts to about half of this book (pages 2 – 27) is Christopher converting the Cypher core types into customized versions to match the typical character classes of more widespread fare such as Dungeons & Dragons or Pathfinder. The upside to doing this is that it puts things in terms that 99% of the tabletop gaming community is already familiar with while still keeping those types in a format and with content that is familiar to those who have read the Revised Cypher System Rulebook. Each of the types has enough changes from the base type to “feel” different while still maintaining their easiness to build, and by setting them all up through Tier 6, Christopher has taken a lot, if not all, of the work out of doing so for the GM unless they want it customized further.
In the second portion of the book, he first covers having Races as Descriptors (like Monte Cook Games did in the Fantasy Genre section of the Revised Cypher System Rulebook, pages 258 – 259). Next up is what I believe is a new mechanic – group race, which he calls Crews, and how to build a party of the same race. Then he talks briefly about several tools that a GM can use to tailor their game for a different “feel” easily, from starting with no cyphers, to heroic tiers and custom foci. I liked very much that Christopher references the ideas of dual Descriptors (on page 33) and Milestone Advancement (on page 37). Both of these concepts find play in my games and I think they both add a “feel” that gives a wider appeal to Cypher and offer another level of flexibility of play to the table. It’s good to see them getting more attention.
Then he discusses how to inject such content into a Gods of the Fall game which is, until Godforsaken, Ptolus, and the Diamond Throne (which Christopher is on the team on with Here Be Dragons Games to work on) are complete, the closest thing Monte Cook Games has to a “fantasy” setting. Finally, starting on page 40, he gives an adventure for Gods of the Fall called Ruins of Memri set in the style of the Explorer’s Keys or Weird Discoveries instant adventures books. The map here from Dyson Logos brings back a classic Dungeons & Dragons feel that makes me smile every time I see one of his maps, almost like coming home.
As this is, first and foremost an opinion blog, I will state that I enjoy the heck out of this supplement. I have used it for fantasy gaming and it’s design and layout is an excellent example of a quality product. With that said, there are a couple of things I would change. First, there are no bookmarks for the PDF. My personal take? If it’s designed to be referenced, it needs bookmarks at a minimum. Something this “simple” can probably get away without an index, particularly since the bulk of the character creation information and abilities are referencing the Revised Cypher System Rulebook (which has the index), but a good PDF needs bookmarks. Second, I understand why it was done and I’m sure that it’s the ingrained Dungeons & Dragons player/DM in me, but “Elf” is not a character type. Call it “Arcane Knight” or something, anything class-like, but “Elf” goes with the Races as Descriptors section, not the types.
I don’t know that there are going to be many third-party products that I’m going to recommend as a “must-buy”, unless you want to count the ones created by Angel’s Citadel. Then you should absolutely run and buy them RIGHT NOW. But seriously everyone, this is a “must-buy”. It is so difficult to separate role-playing from high fantasy given the medium’s history and while not perfect, Mortal Fantasy is an incredible adaptation of the Revised Cypher System (and using that philosophy) to bring high fantasy characters to your Cypher Fantasy games. Christopher has done a great service to the community by putting the work in to take much of the headache out of doing so for a GM. If you’re interested in learning more about Christopher, the gang over at Cypher Unlimited have done two videos with him. See them HERE and HERE. Do yourself a favor and add Mortal Fantasy to your library. You won’t be sorry. Happy Gaming!
- Josh Walles