Origin Mechanic

Today, I thought I’d introduce one of our Cypher System Mechanics written for Echoes. This allows the player to customize their character with some abilities they might have from their origin. i.e.: They are a vampire, or maybe they are an elf. Or maybe they’ve lived a long time and learned a lot. It’s not a mechanic with tiers and does not grow as you increase in power.

To balance out the ability the chosen inability must be a good balance or there is a risk of overpowering a character

The Summary

All characters have an origin. Make a choice for each of the following:

  1. Choose a Shift in which your character came from (Color #)
  2. Choose an ability that caters to your origin and your backstory (subject to GMs approval)
  3. Choose an inability that detracts from your origin and your back story (a flaw of some sort — you may opt out of #2 and #3 if you opt out of both) (subject to GMs approval)
  4. Choose 1 skill in which you are trained that is a hobby
  5. Explain each of these choices in your back story
  6. Choose either to be a Drifter or an Anchor
  7. If you are a Drifter who is your current Anchor? (if you don’t have one explain.)


A drifter can travel easily between Shifts. But if a drifter is not properly bound to an anchor they will drift from shift to shift with no way back home.

Drift (2+ Intellect point): You and your anchor can drift (make an entrance) to another Shift. In addition to the normal options for using Effort, you can choose to use Effort to bring other people with you; each level of Effort used in this way affects up to two additional targets. You must touch any additional targets. Action.

Determine Shift (1 Intellect point): Determine what shift an entity is from just by looking at their aura. Action.


Most people are anchors and are tied to one place — their home shift. With training an anchor can bond with a drifter

Bond (1 Intellect point): Bond with a drifter through a special ceremony. May only have one bond at a time. Action to initiate.

Mental Link with Drifter: The same as Mental Link except there is no cost and you can only link with your drifter. (161) In addition to the normal options for using Effort, you can choose to use Effort to extend the duration by one hour for each level of Effort applied. Action to initiate.

Create Anchor (1+ Intellect point): Create an anchor to pull themselves and their drifter (and party if included) back to the anchor from another shift. In addition to the normal options for using Effort, you can choose to use Effort to bring other people with you; each level of Effort used in this way affects up to two additional targets. You must touch any additional targets. Action to initiate.


Shifts consist of a color and a number. Each color represents the type of world your character hales from, and the number is the distance from the Nexus your shift is found in regards to the major differences in your world.

Diagram of the shifts around Arcadis

Shift #0 (has no color) -> this is the real world as we the player knows it. This is also the shift Arcadis is in.

Purple #45 vampires and werewolves and other associated supernatural creatures are real -> Supernatural

Blue #125 the steam engines became the predominate form of locomotion (electricity was not invented) -> Steampunk

Cyan #3 aliens landed and shared their tech with Earth in the late 1800s -> Hard Sci-fi

Yellow #10 World War 2 ended in a nuclear war devastating the world making a barren waste land -> Post Apocalypse

Red #236 During the dark ages magic became well known and used throughout the world -> High Fantasy

When creating a different world the historical differences do not need to be taken into consideration, but remember that the higher the number, the more things have changed in the past in order to make the changes you wish to happen in the future. You can use the examples above as guidelines.

As a side note: Arcadis only Shifts in the purple zone. All other zones only create real world derivatives.


AJ has three examples. (Mine is oddly not done yet — I’m being saved for last.) But we want to showcase Ant’s. Mostly because it shows a non-human ish variant to the mechanic.

Ant’s origin is “Vampire”. But we don’t have to call it that anywhere, but that is the concept in which we wanted to create his origin from.

Ant is from Purple #45: An Arcadis derivative where vampires and werewolves and the supernatural exist. It is high magic and high tech. In other words the supernatural are known to the world and pretty much rule it. Their tech is the average of what Arcadis is, which takes from the other high tech areas as needed.

The ability we chose was Drain Creature (131). And the inability that goes with it presents a problem and the solution.

If you fail to drain a creature once per session your might and speed pools are decreased by 1 until you use drain creature to restore one lost pool per action. i.e.: failure to use it once per session would require 3 the next session to regain all your pools back and not take another hit. The affects are cumulative.

Basically if he doesn’t feed at least once a session he’s penalized for it and it takes double the effort to return to normal.

Ant has been a live a long time and has the hobby of the ancient art of bonsai trees. A pretty useless skill but something fun to play with. As most of these skills should be when taking a hobby.

And finally Ant is a Drifter and his bonded anchor is Ryan, and has been for all his very long life.

Cypher System disclaimer and Open Game License
Numenera, the Cypher System, No Thank You, Evil!, Invisible Sun, and their respective logos 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. Content derived from Monte Cook Games publications is © 2013-2022 Monte Cook Games, LLC.

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