Character Creation

Having introduced everyone to the background elements and the long-running history of Dark Horizon, I’m back with some actual game mechanics. Or, sort of. This post is to clue everyone in to how player characters are designed in the setting and why they are slightly different from other Cypher characters.

For the most part, character creation in Dark Horizon follows the same steps outlined in Chapter 4 of the Cypher System Rulebook: you fill in the blanks of the phrase “I am a [Descriptor] [Type] who [Focus].” Your Stat Pools, Edge, Effort, skills, special abilities, and recovery rolls all come from those elements coupled with your Tier. You could bring over a Cypher character from another game, in fact, with no large-scale changes beyond changing their background and easily play in a game of Dark Horizon.

There are some additional options, however, that make the game run more easily. First of all, there are overtly supernatural abilities in the types described in the Cypher System Rulebook and it’s easiest to remove these abilities in favor of other abilities described below. There are two new flavors (Cybernetics and Orgatech) which provide new options for Dark Horizon characters and the Stealth, Technology, Combat, and Skills and Knowledge flavors all add to character options as well.

Players also make two important choices during character creation: culture and species. You can think of this as a secondary sentence after the main one (which is how it is presented on the Dark Horizon character sheet) which reads “I am a [Species] from the [Culture].” These can be simply cosmetic aspects to your character, reflected indirectly in your character’s mechanics by ability choices, but each comes with a list of abilities that you can choose instead of your type’s abilities in similar fashion to a flavor. These are almost identical to flavors, in fact, except that they come with other aspects like languages and gear limitations.

Too… Many… Options… Can’t… Choose…

Between descriptors, types, foci, flavors, cultures, and species, players have a lot of options out there. This gives them the option to craft exactly the type of character they want to play but it also means that they are faced with a growing number of choices for their few ability slots at each tier. If your players express some concern about this you can appease them with an additional ability at each tier, allowing them to pick more of the abilities they are excited about. This should be applied to all player characters (obviously) and those who don’t want to take flavor, culture, or species abilities can take an additional ability from their type.

Image from ESA/Hubble

Character Type

Characters in Dark Horizon use the speaker, explorer, and warrior types from Chapter 5 of the Cypher System Handbook. In addition, the Technician type (included below) takes the place of the adept: the miracle workers of this setting are mechanics not wizards.

Suggested Types in Dark Horizon




Warrior with stealth flavor.

Bounty Hunter

Warrior with cybernetics flavor or orgatech flavor.


Speaker with technology flavor.

Combat Pilot

Warrior with technology flavor.




Technician with skills and knowledge flavor


Technician with cybernetics flavor




Explorer with technology flavor


Explorer with technology flavor


Technician with stealth flavor or combat flavor


Explorer with skills and knowledge flavor

Ship Tech

Technician with technology flavor

Ship’s Captain

Speaker with technology flavor

Social Chameleon

Speaker with cybernetics flavor




Explorer with stealth flavor

Squad Leader

Speaker with combat flavor



Character Descriptor

Though it might sometimes require modification, any descriptor can work in this game, except for the location-based Numenera descriptors and the racial descriptors from Numenera and the Cypher System Rulebook. A character’s species is another matter (see below) although options exist for species descriptors as well if nothing else catches your eye.

Character Focus

There are many different people in the galaxy and your character’s focus shows how they fit into that galaxy. There are many foci from the Cypher System Rulebook that work in this setting (see below) and others from Numenera and The Strange also work in this context. In addition there are new foci available later in the book, including some designed for specific cultures.

Suggested Foci for Dark Horizon

Builds Robots

Hunts Non-Humans**

Operates Undercover

Calculates the Incalculable

Is Idolized by Millions

Pilots Starcraft

Conducts Weird Science

Loves the Void*

Resides in Silicon*

Conducts Rocket Science*

Looks for Trouble

Serves in an Elite Military Squad*

Doesn’t Do Much

Masters Defense

Transcends Humanity*


Masters Weaponry

Solves Mysteries

Fights Dirty


Wears Power Armor*

Fights With Panache

Needs No Weapon

Works For a Living*

Fuses Flesh and Steel

Negotiates Matters of Life and Death

Workds the System

Fuses Mind and Machine

Never Says Die

Would Rather be Reading

* Detailed in the Expanded Worlds sourcebook.

** In Dark Horizon, this works for non-humans was well. Other species adjust the focus’s abilities to affect anything which is not the same species as them.

Artist’s Conception of a Black Hole. Image © JPL/NASA

Character Culture

A character’s culture is perhaps the most important aspect of their identity on the galactic stage. Just like our world there are sub-communities within each of the regional powers but characters will likely identify themselves first and foremost by what power they are citizens of. Two characters of the same species might have plenty in common but they will share the most cultural touchstones with another individual from their same region (even if they are not from the same system) regardless of their species.

There are eight options for culture in this book. More will be released in future products.

  • Chell Protectorate: This collection of systems is bound together by the Chellist faith and the shared threat of the expansionist Questos Dominion.
  • Eriptych: While most of the galaxy uses the biological orgatech alongside computerized cybernetics, the Eriptych highly favors the former and restricts cybernetics.
  • Interstellar Systems Coalition: This corporate-dominated region is large and holds the newest edition to the galactic community: Earth.
  • Kesaris Holdings: These independent systems are on the frontier and readily launch new expeditions to reclaim lost systems.
  • Mercantile Combine: A powerful collection of systems governed by noble bloodlines reticent to share power with the majority.
  • SenTillesni Union: A paranoid set of systems constantly pushing back against Combine hegemony and the noble families.
  • Trakherium: An empire of star systems which forms the largest barrier against the armies of the Questos Dominion.
  • Varosin Halo: A conquered territory held by the Dominion and only partially opened to the rest of the galaxy.

Character Species

As the major outward expression of a character, species is an important decision. There are ethnic differences, body modifications, and even cosmetic surgeries that will change the appearance of a character but generally two characters of two different species will be very obviously different. Species spread throught the Vincularium before the Wormhole Collapse so in this period of reconstruction they are widely spread throughout the connected galaxy. While the Jurgann and the Tivanni (two of the founding species of the Vincularium) are the most numerous in terms of population, others are just as common and in certain regions or systems may greatly outnumber those two species. Humans are not particularly widespread but they will likely occupy a soft spot for Dark Horizon players who are, themselves, human… probably.

In addition to these six species, there are many more species that occupy only a system or two, or that are so thinly spread that most galactic travelers will never encounter one even if they venture fairly widely. If you want to make a new species, use the “Build Your Own Species” guidelines and work out the specifics with your GM. Like cultures, there will be new species options for player characters in future products.

  • Dupalan: These tentacled, night-loving explorers fled a dying system millennia ago and are still at home among the stars.
  • Grup: The amphibious, leather-winged inventors of orgatech have spread themselves and their close-knit communities across the galaxies.
  • Human: Newcomers to the interstellar society rebuilding from the Collapse, humans are an unknown quantity to most of the galaxy.
  • Jurgann: A strongly independent reptilian species that prizes mastery of one’s chosen life-skill, especially if that skill is war.
  • Luaneran: Long-lived and with slow life cycles, luanerans are a naturally spiritual people who often provide the long view to their impulsive neighbors.
  • Tivanni: Instinctively possessive and curious, tivanni have a reputation for selfishness that is only partially warranted.

2 thoughts on “Character Creation

  1. I’m curious why the bounty hunter is a warrior with cybernetic/orgatech flavor?

    Also, it would seem they’d need a lot more than just beat somebody up type abilities to employ the more roguish aspects of tracking, tailing, sneaking, interviewing, streetwise, and ambushing their prey.

    It just seems to me that in literature and movies, bounty hunters are about guile, not force. Wouldn’t one of the more hybrid types be more appropriate?

    Anyway, that’s just my opinion, so I thought I’d ask about that. 🙂


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