Capitalising on the recent success of tabletop RPGs using their rules, Monte Cook Games has announced plans to release an open licence for the company’s popular Cypher System that will allow independent artists to create their own titles within its rule set.
The Kansas-based publisher, which handles the fantastical Numenera and Invisible Sun setting along with The Strange and kids-focused No Thank You, Evil! Series, outlined its plans in a June 7th blog post to its website. The Cypher System Open Licence will launch sometime this summer and allow designers to “freely create and market tabletop roleplaying games compatible with” the Cypher System, according to the post.
All of the relevant rules, definitions, mechanics and game terms will exist in the Cypher System Reference Document, providing the explicit text for the system’s building blocks that designers can replicate, as Monte Cook states, “in part or in full, within products created under the Cypher System Open Licence.” This situates the CSOL closer to the Mörk Borg Third-Party Licence than, say, Fandom’s latest iteration of its Cortex community licence.
Tabletop RPGs and other related products created under the CSOL can be sold on any site and receive crowdfunding via any means, including Kickstarter, Gamefound, Itch.io or the creator’s own website. Monte Cook has not announced any plans for a proprietary marketplace similar to the now-Wizards of the Coast owned D&D Beyond, DM's GUild or the forthcoming Cortex Creator Studio. Dicebreaker has reached out to the company for more information.
Monte Cook claims it was spurred to release the open licence by the recent crowdfunding success of both Tidal Blades RPG and the Old Gods of Appalachia RPG. The former is an expansion of the nautical world that serves as the setting for Druid City Games’ Tidal Blades board game series, and the latter uses the dark, supernatural alt-history detailed in the popular horror storytelling podcast. Tidal Blades very nearly cracked the US$1 million dollar mark on Kickstarter back in March, while OGoA finished with a staggering US$2 million and change to see the audio world etched into paper and PDF.
Monte Cook seems hopeful that the open licence will draw other big names - and big dollars - to their system’s shores, but that doesn’t mean the publisher is focusing solely on larger names. It lists three current projects - Mystery Flesh Pit National Park, GM Roulette and Blood & Chrome - as examples of what a CSOL-focused tabletop RPG might look like, and all of them come from smaller teams or independent artists.
The Cypher System can be purchased as its own standalone book, the Cypher System Rulebook, which can be used to create homebrewed systems and campaigns from its setting-agnostic toolkit. In essence, it boils down character creation to a single explanatory sentence and places a lot of power in the hands of players to drive the fiction. For example, a character in Numenera might be summarised as “I am a strong-willed Delve who shreds the walls of the world.” Stats, abilities (called cyphers) and all other mechanical levers and buttons generally from that one descriptive sentence.
The Cypher System Open Licence and its accompanying SRD is scheduled to come out later this summer. More information about Monte Cook’s Cypher System, along with a free preview, can be found on their website.