Cypher Shadowrun Totems, Fetishes, and Talismans

So here we are again readers Totems, Fetishes and Talismans! The long-awaited adaptation of Shadowrun inspired Foci Magic in the Cypher system. Long awaited, so long awaited one of my awesome gamers took up the task of tackling most of the work. He took the foundations built on the new version of cybernetics found Here and built a solid set of options for magic items in Cypherrun.  So if you like the following be sure to give my good friend Nick (@Negeta76 over on Twitter) a thank you because if it was not for him we likely would be just starting not finishing this blog. So, let’s take a deeper look at what Shadowrun style magic in the Cypher System.


It should be noted that in Shadowrun magical gear is called “foci”. With the term “Focus” existing as a keyword in the Cypher System, it is important to separate the two so that we can minimize any confusion. So in the Cypher System, Shadowrun Foci are classified as “Magical Gear” and further divided into three groups. These Groups are.

  • Fetishes– Items that can summon spirit animals or grant single-use abilities.
  • Talismans– Act as power Assets tied to specific skills or powers.
  • Totems– These powerful Magic Items give access Tier Powers or Power Shifts

Limits of Magic

For balance with cybernetics, it was determined that only characters who have taken Adept or the Magic Flavor are able to unlock the magical potential of these items. Additionally, to keep the balance both ways in Cypher Shadowrun the same item limits apply to Magic as they do Cybernetics.

One difference between magic items and cybernetics is that a player must bind themselves to their magic item. Given time a player can shift their bond to other magic items that they own or find, but this takes time and they must adhere to the Item limit rules for bonded items detailed below.

Cybernetics Limits

1 Major, 2 Standard, 3 minor

Magic Item Limits

1 Totem, 2 Talismans, 3 Fetishes

Further, if you are playing a concept that might have both magic and cybernetics the only requirement that you must meet is adhering to the Type or Flavor of Adept or Magic. The mixing of magic and cybernetics is a costly one in Shadowrun. Installing cybernetics costs Essence in Shadowrun. To represent this in Cypher System if you meet the requirements to access magic items and chose to install cybernetics. You lose access PERMANENTLY to whatever analogous slot that you have taken. Make these choices with the knowledge that there is no going back.

To be clear Magic Item Slots lost due to Essence loss can NEVER be restored.

  • Each Minor cybernetic implant PERMANENTLY removes access to one Fetish Slot.
  • Each Standard cybernetic implant PERMANENTLY removes access to one Talisman Slot.
  • A Major cybernetic implant PERMANENTLY removes access to the use of  Totems.

Also, the power that a player gains through Magic Items has diminishing returns. The more often a player attempts to call on their power over the course of a day the more difficult the check becomes.

Item Level

Fetishes, Talismans, and Totmes much like artifacts and Cyphers each have an Item Level. In the case of Magic Items, the level of an item is tied directly to the power level of the summoned spirit or Tier associated with the ability the Item is mimicking. This was done for balancing factors and if wanted to play a high power game from the jump. You could forgo this. But I think in the interests of game balance this is a good rule of thumb.

Fetish Level

  • Level 2 Items = Tier 1 & 2 Ability or Spirts
  • Level 4 Items = Tier 3 & 4 Ability or Spirts
  • Level 6 Items = Tier 5 & 6 Ability or Spirts

Item Level Restrictions

Magic Items of Higher Tier than the Player cannot be bound with until they reach the same Tier as the item.

Control Checks

Any time that a character wishes to activate a Magic Item he must make a Control Check 999d438d5ab66f7dac4303ded84dad01 summonto activate the power of the Magic Item or gain control over the Summoned Spirit. When a spirit is summoned the spirits appear in at an immediate distance to the item they are bonded with and may act immediately. The Spirit will behave as instructed by the player who is bound to the magic item as long as the character succeeds in their control check.  Once Summoned and Controlled the spirits will remain until Dismissed or Destroyed.


Nick chooses to summon a Level 2 Earth Spirit. The check needed to summon and control the Earth spirit is a Rank 2 check. On the third round of combat, the Spirit is destroyed. With combat still going Nick chooses to resummon the spirt. The difficulty increases by 2 requiring a Level 4 check to summon and control the Earth Spirit again. When the combat ends Nick can choose to dismiss the spirit or retain control until the end of the scene.

If Nick decides later in the adventure so summon the Earth Spirit yet again this check would now be a Level 6 Control Check.

In this same example if Nick was summoning a Level 6 Fetish Spirit the check after the above example would be a 10.  
Level 6 CC to activate + 2 to resummon in combat, Lastly an additional +2 if he decided to summon it later in the adventure. 

If a Spirit is Dismissed it returns to its plane of existence until called again. Likewise, if the Spirit is destroyed it is only its Material body that is lost and can be resummoned. At the end of a Scene if the Spirit has not been dismissed or destroyed the player. They may choose to attempt another Control Check to force the Spirit to remain for an additional scene.

Loss of Control

If a player makes a control check and the result is a fail, the summon breaks free.  A free summon has the preference to attack those that have damaged it or the conjurer that failed to control it.  

Additionally, if you wanted as a possible GM intrusion on a rolling a 1. The summoned creature only goes for the conjurer that failed to control it, ignoring others that attack it. At any point before the control check, the summoner can choose to release the creature. Released creatures will simply disappear before it takes its turn.

Bonding with Magic Items

Magic Items alow Adepts and Magic flavor players a bit of versatility similar to the “Casts Spells” focus. Players may unlock the powers and abilities contained in a Magic Item. They take the time to Bond with the Magic Item and are of the appropriate Tier. The length of time required to bond with an item varies. Players must also be of the of the same or higher Tier of the item to bond successfully.

Time Needed to Establish the Bond:

Fetishes:  These magic items can be bound within just 10 min.

Talismans: Talismans require 1 hour to bond with. 

Totems: These powerful magic item can only be rebound to a character once every 10 hours.

SPECIAL: A player may force the bonding with a Magic Item at the cost of 1Exp. Spirts will NEVER like this and it will prompt an immediate Control Check.


Now with the basics laid out next blog will give you some sample Magic Items. I hope you all find this useful. Comment below and let me know what you think


Revisiting Cybernetics in the Cypher System


A little over two years ago I set out to start running a Shadowrun RPG game using the Cypher System rules instead of the Shadowrun Rule Set. I had two options that I could see in regard to Cypher system and how I was going to have to handle cybernetics.

1. I could treat all Cybernetics as flavor, thus having no in-game impact on the overall way that the Cypher system was run. This would allow my players to have as little or as much cybernetics as they desire, accomplishing the feel of the setting with no extra workload.

2. I could come up with a few simple options based on examples already set forward in the Cypher System and find a common ground between the two settings that would allow for cybernetics to stand out in the game yet remain simple and very flexible.

I had come to the realization that if I was going to run a faithful conversion in Cypher I was going to have to make some modifications. As I said in my previous blog the easiest answer would just make cybernetics in the cypher system Artifacts. On the surface, this would appear to be an easy fix. Yet as a solution, it posed its own problems. First, in Shadowrun and other Cyberpunk settings, Cybernetics are commonplace. Artifacts are not commonplace,

In the Cypher System

“Artifacts are considered to be more powerful than equipment and can’t simply be purchased.”

Second I did not feel 100% comfortable with the idea of allowing most of the table to begin the game with one or more artifacts, this felt unbalanced. Additionally to further complicate the idea of simply hand-waving cybernetics and treating them as Artifacts is Depletion. So artifacts were out.

So the first version of cyberware was born.

The first version of cyberware came in three flavors.

  • Simple (Simple cybernetics that can only accomplish minor things in game)
    A player was limited to 3 of this type of Cybernetic
  • Standard (Things that can only have a minor effect on game)
    A max of 2 Standard Cybernetic could be taken
  • Major (These provide “Boosts” At the time of the writing I did not know of “Power Shifts”)
    Players could only have one of these items.

About Limits:

My reason for limits largely remains the same as it was when I wrote the first blog. Shadowrun has a system of essence, wherein the body can only hold so much cyberware. This system also maintains game balance. So, for this reason, limits make perfect sense to port it over into the Cypher System. Thus keeping to the spirit of Shadowrun as well as preventing players from power purchasing their way into an unbalanced game.

There were a few exceptions if a player had enough money to afford the best gear available they could double these limits. Also, desperate players who were willing to take the risk on shoddy gear could save on money and purchase “Gutterwear” This gear comes with the cost of doubling its limit base cost as well as the risk of “Depletion” Borrowed straight from the Artifact section.

There was always to be one other exception to this rule that I never mentioned in the first blog.


As Cybernetics were not intended to be Artifacts I also wanted to have the opportunity to award players with Prototype, Custom or Personalised cybernetics and not be hindered later in-game by a player already having reached their limit count. So cybernetic Artifacts do not count against a players limit.

Updates and Changes

As our group sat down to start up a Cypher System Shadowrun game for the first time since I wrote the first blogs we could see there were some changes that needed to be made to dial the feel of cybernetics a bit more.

The first round of cybernetics had been organized around two key factors.

  1. The level of a modification to the body it would take to install the cybernetic gear
  2. It’s in-game effect that provides

My flaw here was that I was vague on #2, as it needed to be further defined to better represent cybernetics in the game as a whole. So, in some regard cybernetics went back to the drawing board. The new categories make far more sense as well as set the foundation for easily defined placement of cybernetics in the future.

This brought about the first change we discussed, adding a 4th cybernetic category. The newly defined categories look like the following:


Cypher System Cybernetics

Simple Cybernetics

Any cybernetic enhancement that is cosmetic and had no effect on the game in regard to dice rolls.
Examples: Internal Watches, Implanted Cell Phones, Shifting Tattoos
Limit: No Limit to this type of cyber implant
Character Creation Costs: Inexpensive During Character Creation.
In Game Cost: Moderately Priced in Game


Minor Cybernetics

Any Cybernetic Enhancement that mimics or provide skills, or assist in the completion of a skill. In short any implanted gear that would allow the player to make a Trained/Specialised check. Combat and Defense Skills are not included at this level this Cybernetic Enhancement.
(Note: Cyber Enhancement benefits still must adhere to the two-step reduction limit for tasks)
Examples: Skill Slot Jacks, Climbing Spurs, Grappling Launcher

Limit: Four Implants of this type
Character Creation Costs: Moderately Priced
In Game Cost: Expensive


Moderate Cybernetics

These are by design Cybernetic Enhancements that provide an Assets to the Player. These Cybernetics often come in the form of Weapon or Equipment implants. But can be any range of Cybernetic equipment upgrade that could provide the player with an Asset.(Note: Cyber Enhancement benefits still must adhere to the two-step reduction limit for Assets)
Examples: Cyber Arm Blade, Cybergun, Hydraulic Jacks, Subdermal Motors

Limit: Three Implants
Character Creation Costs: Expensive
In Game Cost: Very Expensive


Major Cybernetics

Major Cybernetics are so powerful that they provide players with Power Shifts. Cybernetics of this level require major surgeries and a huge amount of money. These cybernetics bestow superhuman levels of ability. In some rare cases, these cybernetic can also mimic powers.
Examples: Subdermal Platting & Bone Lacing, Wired Reflexes, Muscle replacement

Limit Two Major Implants
Character Creation Costs: Very Expensive
In Game Cost: Exorbitant

Alpha and Gutterwear

As far as Alpha and Gutterwear are concerned I have chosen to retain the same rules that I had blogged in the past and they are as follows.

To represent Gutterwear and Alphawear it turned out to be a very simple fix. If a player wishes Alphawear gear they must pay the next step up in cost for the item. This treats the cybernetic as half of the cost towards their cybernetics limit. If they purchased Gutterwear they may cut the cost of the cybernetic by one level but the item now has a Depletion of 1 in 20. Any Depleted cybernetics must be repaired before they can be used again. Repair Tasks are based on the level of the cybernetic. Simple=3 Average=5 Major=7

#RPGaDay2017 22nd Day Which RPGs are the Easiest for you to run? #DND Homebrew

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Today I will be running with the majority of the blogger’s and vloggers with my answer of Dungeons and Dragons and Dragons. I cut my Teeth on D&D and after more than 30 years of running games, it is hard to think of any game that comes to me easier. Roll in my personal homebrew content and it is it’s like inviting an old friend to the table. I just love running my world, because it is mine.

Star Wars RPG rolls in for me in a close second. I love Star Wars as you know if you have read my blog for any amount of time! Running games for Star Wars comes easy for me, made easier by the fact that it fits naturally into one shot or episodic formats. With that in mind, WHY HAVE WE NOT HAD A STAR WARS TV SHOW YET FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!

Lastly, I will go with a newer game as I feel Cypher System games are very easy to run. All I have to do is pick my plot points and a few images for encounter locations and foes. The rest for me as the Story Teller is to sit back and focus on the game and let the players roll all the dice.



#RPGaDay2017 21st Day: Which RPG Does the Most with the Least Words? #CypherSystem


I think on this one many people are going to pick games like Lazers with Feelings or Fate Accelerated because they are going to reply in the most literal sense. While both Lazers and Fate are both indeed some of the shortest worded RPG games you will ever have the pleasure to come across. I do not think that we are talking about what they do in their word count here.

Monte Cook Games Cypher System with its.

I am (adjective)Descriptor  (noun)Type  who (Verbs)Focus’s 

The power of this single sentence might do the most with the least amount of words in the history of any RPG. With developing everything they way they did around Type Descriptor and Focus you not only have a natural way to convey to everyone at the table who you are and what you are known for. But you also in a just once sentence have simultaneously given the players a Roleplaying description of your character as well as told them what your character is capable of stat and power wise.

Now to be fair and in the interest of wanting a slightly longer blog post, I also mentioned Lazers and Feelings as it literally created the genre of single page RPGs.


#RPGaDay2017 Day 19: Which RPG Features the Best Writing? #Numenera #MonteCookGames

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With an interesting setting coupled with Monte Cooks excellent layout decisions. MCG set the ground work that would give birth the Cypher System. It is hard to argue that Numenera is not an excellently written RPG. In Ptolus we see the perfection of the layout and writing style of Monte Cook. In Numenera we see the evolved rule system that Monte Cook had been considering and I think may have even suggested from 5E D&D before he left the creative team.

Numenera is fresh take on using a D20 at the tabe for everything, and a whole new take on character creation. This was refreshing and eagerly embraced by the fan base. Cyphers themselves were by design constantly rewarding the players with items that they could use to influence the game. Polishing the whole experience off by telling the GM to just focus on the game and not worry about rolling dice. Over all at least in my opinion it was a wild success at writing an RPG.

#RPGaDay2017 Day 15: Which RPG do you Enjoy Adapting the Most? #CypherSystem #FATE

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In the day of Open System RPGs, This answer for me is the CYPHER System. Followed by the close second of FATE Accelerated & FATE.

csr-mockup-coverCypher System

On a personal level, I love the way that the CYPHER System plays both plays and runs. I find that the system loans itself very intuitively to mimic many other RPG settings with fall less bulk. That is an accomplishment that leaves a GM wanting to find more settings to sick the Cypher ruleset with.





FATE & FATE Accelerated fall in second for me on this because of the amount of front end work that goes into preparation for a game of FATE. Both Cypher and FATE have some front end work but FATE requires more so it is edged out just slightly in my opinion.

#RPGaDay2016 Day:24 What is the game you are most likely to give to others?


This one is pretty easy for me. If I wanted to give a game to others my fist choice would be Cypher System, Why?

Handing a gamer the Cypher System is literally handing them a system that is designed to run anything or any genre one can imagine. So by giving them one ruleset I have also given them a game with the ability to run any game they would ever want to and more. See a show on TV that you like? Sit down and make that world in a few short min. It can be as easy as that!

My reasons for giving the Cypher System over D&D or Pathfinder is two-fold. First the
Cypher System is rules light so I would also be gifting a player a system that would not require them to do a lot of heavy lifting to learn from both players and GM’s perspective.
Secondly, so many people have seen or played D&D or Pathfinder I would want to give them something they might be able to experience that would be new for them as well as fun and useful.