Share this project


Share this project

Project Eternity is an isometric, party-based computer RPG set in a new fantasy world developed by Obsidian Entertainment.
Pillars of Eternity is an isometric, party-based computer RPG set in a new fantasy world developed by Obsidian Entertainment.
Pillars of Eternity is an isometric, party-based computer RPG set in a new fantasy world developed by Obsidian Entertainment.
73,986 backers pledged $3,986,929 to help bring this project to life.



Update by Josh Sawyer, Project Director

An agent of Dunryd Row attempts to perceive a "housed" soul within a piece of evidence.

Hello and welcome to today's class update! We'll be discussing some newcomers to the Dyrwood's "magic" scene, the enigmatic and deadly soul-manipulators known as ciphers. Read on to learn how ciphers went from being an animancer's theoretical possibility, to the feared foes of Dyrwoodan settlers, to an integral part of Defiance Bay's secret police, Dunryd Row.

Cipher Mechanics

Contemporary ciphers are fighting casters, like the Glanfathan "mind hunters" who invented the discipline. When engaged in physical combat, they use an Ability called Soul Whip to contact and drain the psyches of their targets. Recognizable by the purple flames that engulf a cipher's weapons, Soul Whip generates a Focus resource that ciphers can use to power their abilities. Though ciphers begin combat with a modest amount of Focus, their more advanced techniques demand large expenditures of Focus. Additionally, repeated uses of even minor powers will quickly drain a cipher's Focus, requiring them to dive into physical combat to generate more.

Cipher powers are not limited to mental manipulation. They have abilities that allow them to use a target's soul energy to "leak" and burst into flame, to generate a physical shockwave of that knocks down everyone behind the target, or even to bend back toward the cipher, creating a field of protective energy around him or her.

With the exception of Soul Whip, all cipher powers require Focus and a nearby target other than themselves, one with a "housed" soul. In practical terms, this means that ciphers must always target a nearby ally or an enemy with their powers. It is impossible for them to target themselves, a distant target, or open ground.

Here is a sampling of some of the cipher's abilities:

  • Soul Whip (Modal) - At close range, the cipher's weapons generate fields of parasitic energy that lash out at a target's soul. The Soul Whip mode reduces the amount of damage caused, but each successful hit briefly lowers the target's Psyche defense and generates Focus for the cipher (attacks Psyche).
  • Mind Wave - The cipher violently intrudes into an enemy's mind, Stunning the target (attacks Psyche) and generating a cone of concussive force behind him or her that can knock down anyone in its path (attacks Fortitude).
  • Soul Shock - The cipher causes an ally's soul to "crack" and violently release energy into the physical world. The resulting explosion of electrical (Shock) energy damages everyone nearby except the target (attacks Reflexes).
  • Psychovampiric Shield - The cipher drains Intellect from enemies and uses it to temporarily increase his or her Deflection. The increase in the cipher's Deflection is dependent on how much Intellect he or she successfully drains from victims (attacks Psyche).
  • Mind Blades - The cipher uses the souls of nearby enemies to generate attacks against the subjects themselves. Each target is attacked once by a slashing "mind blade" which then moves on to the next nearest enemy up to a maximum of five targets (attacks Deflection).
  • Recall Agony - The cipher causes the target to re-experience the pain of a wound moments after the target originally suffered it. The damage is a percentage of the original value, but it ignores the armor of the target (attacks Psyche).
  • Ectopsychic Echo - The cipher and an ally generate a bolt of psychic energy that periodically rebounds between them, causing Crush damage to anyone caught in the area (attacks Reflexes).

Cipher Lore

Many classes have abilities that allow the user to channel the power of their own soul or ambient soul fragments to produce incredible effects. Paladins ignite their souls to produce auras, wizards draw soul fragments into grimoires to shape and cast spells, and monks use personal suffering to focus energy through their bodies. While these classes often develop abilities that allow them to affect the minds and souls of others, the power is always generated by the user.

Feared for their mental powers and extreme hostility, the vithrack were once eagerly pursued by animancers for research purposes.

In the field of animancy, which focuses on the study of souls, researchers wondered for centuries if they could develop a discipline or technology that would allow people to connect with the soul of another living thing -- not just reach or strike out toward it. Wizards and priests had developed abilities to overwhelm or inspire the mind, but not to connect with it. Animancers theorized that it could be possible for one soul to reach out and connect to another, but they had no proof. Animancers studied folk legends about figures called Watchers who reportedly were able to see lost souls and perceive an individual's ancestral lives, but claimants to that title were typically charlatans at best or mentally unstable and violent at worst. A few intrepid animancers attempted to communicate with the reclusive spider-like race known as the vithrack. The creatures, obviously of advanced intelligence and extraordinary capabilities, seemed to possess the ability to connect to an individual's soul -- albeit with horrifying consequences. The dangerous nature and rarity of the vithrack combined with their inhuman physiology have still proven to be insurmountable obstacles in understanding how their powers work. Still, the animancers had a few other leads to follow.

Over a century ago, during the Broken Stone War, soldiers in the Dyrwood reported wild tales of having their minds invaded, of seeing comrades lose control of themselves, of orlan and elven Glanfathan warriors wielding knives engulfed in purple flames that "cut away" the souls of their victims. The war was a new experience for everyone involved, so many Dyrwoodans dismissed many of the more outlandish tales over time. But over the decades that followed, more settlers reported similar violent encounters with Glanfathan guerilla fighters. In the War of Black Trees, Dyrwoodan animancers confirmed many of these experiences across a wide number of soldiers and settlers. However, with Dyrwoodan settlers in a state of war with the population of Eir Glanfath, the researchers couldn't find many Glanfathans who were willing to talk about it.

After the Dyrwoodan revolution for independence, the Dyrwood officially stopped the Aedyr Empire's practice of exploring and plundering Eir Glanfath's sacred ruins -- the practice that had ignited the earlier wars between Dyrwoodan settlers and Glanfathans. In the years that followed, the tribal princes of Eir Glanfath allowed Dyrwoodan animancers to speak with some of their brîshalgwin ("mind hunters"), the elite warriors that had terrorized Aedyrans and Dyrwoodans in past wars. From the brîshalgwin, the animancers learned that Glanfathans had developed mental abilities that allowed them to perceive and contact what animancers categorized as "housed" souls, i.e., souls held within a physical vessel. They initially developed these talents in an attempt to communicate with souls held in the Engwithan ruins they were sworn to protect. When the tribal princes outlawed this practice as disrespectful and dangerous, their councilors advised the princes to turn the efforts of the brîshalgwin towards protecting the ruins and developing new methods of warfare.

Standing stones of adra like these were carelessly knocked down by early Dyrwoodan colonists, starting a conflict with the local Glanfathans that erupted into what became known as the Broken Stone War.

Excited by these revelations, animancers in Defiance Bay began working with the brîshalgwin, whom the animancers had previously described as "ciphers" due to their mysterious nature. Given Dyrwoodans' general discomfort with the Glanfathan language, the cipher name stuck and continues to be used in everyday conversation. For decades now, the ciphers and animancers have worked together, each generating new ideas and expanding their collective understanding of soul manipulation. Today, Dyrwoodans and foreign visitors from Aedyr, the Vailian Republics -- even distant Rauatai -- have learned and expanded the ciphers' growing field of techniques. Recently, encouraged by the potential the ciphers have shown and dismissive of the superstitious concerns of locals, Lady Webb, a prominent noble and advisor to the duc, petitioned the Dyrwood's erls to create a spy service in Defiance Bay consisting primarily of ciphers. The erls approved, creating what would become known as Dunryd Row, a respected, if somewhat feared and mistrusted, organization that operates out of an old, vine-covered house in the city's Brackenbury District.

Though ciphers' powers are still being explored, unlocked, and debated across the civilized world, most people recognize that their abilities hold great potential -- for good or ill -- in the cultures that develop them.

Dmitry Eliseev, Caleb Disbrow, and 9 more people like this update.


Only backers can post comments. Log In
    1. Missing avatar

      L00p on October 6, 2013

      "...a respected, if somewhat feared and mistrusted, organization that operates out of an old, vine-covered house in the city's Brackenbury District."

      This put a big grin on my face.

      It sounds so... foreboding.

    2. JimH42092 on October 4, 2013

      Love it! This is the kind of stuff we used to get when games actually came with manuals. I fondly recall reading this type of info while waiting for the game to install.

    3. Sir Chaox on October 3, 2013

      I know what's going to be in my dreams tonight... :D

      *has horrid dreams about the vithrack*

    4. Céline .S. Sauvé on October 3, 2013

      Am I the only one wondering if members of the Dunryd Row might regain "focus" from suspects/captives?

      I hope Classes are not going to be restricted by Race... The background of this one makes me wonder.

    5. Gilgajazz on October 3, 2013

      MCA, give us a great Vithrack npc please! Pleeeaseee! :D

    6. Silver on October 2, 2013

      Interesting update. I like the general lore behind ciphers. I think it could be refined and expanded a bit though, as you've probably planned to do. The cipher abilities seem a bit generic name-wise though, so I hope those aren't final.

    7. Missing avatar

      Nicolas on October 2, 2013

      Sounds fantastic! I can't ever bring myself to play a caster but since this requires melee to build power it may be a cool compromise. XD

    8. Nick Eglinton on October 2, 2013

      Welp, I know what I'm playing!

    9. Missing avatar

      Ravi Viswanathan on October 2, 2013

      Hmmm... I wonder if the Cipher can get a sort of "harpoon crossbow" - a short spear (or just the spear blade perhaps) attached to a retractable chain so he/she can use Soul Whip for least at medium range if not long range. Just a thought, and of course not necessary if Soul Whip can be used with a bow / crossbow / throwing weapon :D

    10. Azureblaze on October 2, 2013

      I love the concept for the Cipher and the direction you guys are going, I may have to make this my main character. Thanks for all the love and care that is going into the game, you guys rock!

    11. Rebecca Wilson on October 2, 2013

      One of the best updates so far. As someone else mentioned, I think I will still prefer to play a monk character, but the cipher sounds like a very dangerous class indeed. I remember in some older games having a lot of difficulty with mind flayers and such. This game is sounding more and more exciting as time passes, and the graphics are wonderful. I pledged at the $65 level, and now I'm wishing I had pledged more!

    12. Missing avatar

      Quantomas on October 2, 2013

      The mystery and lore of Dyrwood deepens, like an excellently spun yarn, and has our minds spinning what we may encounter in its ruins and dungeons. May I request a cipher's lab and secret service liaison being added to the stronghold's prison? After all, considering what we may encounter, we are in dire need of more resources and intelligence.

    13. Theobeau:OOoE\Mad man with a box/Exiled on October 2, 2013

      Great update on a very interesting class. I especially like how OBS are able to give context, colour and character but without any spoilers.

      Excellent example of a quality update.

      Keep up the great work!

    14. Michaeljack on October 2, 2013

      Well i was always going to play a Ciper, but i'm doubly going to play one now!

    15. Keith & Diana on October 2, 2013

      Psionics who are 'wizards with mindpowers and ectoplasm'? I do not like.

      Psionics based on soul magic? This, this I like.

    16. Yosharian on October 2, 2013

      Josh.. stahp.. stahp Josh.. these updates are getting me too excited.. please stahp

    17. Gavin Reading Rainbow KS backer! on October 2, 2013

      So... use archers against ciphers? ;)

      I like this update. Who is working on ciphers?

    18. Shiroco-Librarian of Unwritten Tales 542 on October 2, 2013

      Sounds very interesting but I'll probably stick with my all time favourite class the monk for my first play through. But if I can get a cipher companion I'll definetly get him ;D

    19. Tobi (Crusader Kickstarter pls!!) on October 2, 2013

      wow that graphics quality in the screenshot is awesome!

    20. Rolan Storm on October 2, 2013

      Soul-centered magery is good touch. Very creative approach to classes.

    21. Paul Andersen on October 1, 2013

      Loving the attention to detail.

    22. Missing avatar

      Luke on October 1, 2013

      Looks like our setting has its Mindflayers in the vithrak

    23. James Jones on October 1, 2013

      I wonder if abilities like charm and mind control wouldn't be a lot more advanced than where the cipher's skills are currently at. It sounds fairly early in their development and like it's still more of a brute force technique. Like the finesse needed to influence the mind hasn't been reached. Or maybe the soul powers might not have any relation to the mind.

    24. Sérgio Schüler on October 1, 2013

      For some reason I thought ciphers would be some sort of mathematician (?)

    25. Patrick Marchand on October 1, 2013

      Nice update! I know who I'm playing as :P
      And Daniel, I'm guessing that souls are an integral part of the universe, like everything has a soul, but not every soul is equal. Would make sense why they can use physical weapons as a conduit for their psyche sucking powers.
      And Rokku, I think that those undead creatures are raised through the use of soul energy, it may be possible for the cipher to directly siphon that energy.

    26. Jean-Luc Picard on October 1, 2013

      Quite nice though the Cipher's abilities mentioned so far feel a bit too damage oriented and not very psion-y except for stun and knockback. Would be nice to see more charm/dominate-like abilities, fear inducing or alleviating, confuse, sleep, hope, despair, etc. Leave electrical shocks and chain-"lightinings" to the wizard.

    27. Daniel - Obsidian Order on October 1, 2013

      ...and do ciphers have non-combat abilities like mind read ? mind/body control ? soul travel ?

    28. Daniel - Obsidian Order on October 1, 2013

      hm... but if all powers of a cipher rely on the focus. does a cipher detective first need to hit something before he can use his powers to receive information from a soul? or did I misunderstand something ?

    29. squareking on October 1, 2013

      These lore updates are just oozing with passion and attention to detail -- I love it. I'm obviously not alone in saying I can't wait to play this, bit dammit it's never been more true.

    30. Bobby on October 1, 2013

      The kids don't say that, in fact.

    31. Missing avatar

      Cutter on October 1, 2013

      So in other words it's a psionic class. That's cool. I'm 'hep' to that as the kids say. In fact, I'm hip to the 'whole scene', man.

    32. Laurent Maire on October 1, 2013

      Fascinating update. The Cipher has definitely been my most anticipated class also - I love psionic characters for the sense of the weird and enigmatic they bring, even to a fantasy setting. There's something unsettling about the psychic character which draws me to them. You haven't disappointed with your lore either. I love how the paranormal in PE is treated as a science or technology, while maintaining that sense of mystery and unfettered potential. That's a tricky balancing act and I tip my hat to you!

    33. gandalf.nho
      on October 1, 2013

      Looks a very interesting class to play

    34. Kenny
      on October 1, 2013

      Great update, I've been looking forward to playing a cipher ever since the class was announced!

    35. Missing avatar

      Rokku on October 1, 2013

      I hope we can play a successful non-melee cipher. This was my most anticipated class but I expected a more fragile telekinetic caster then melee cleric type.

      What happens if a dungeon is full of skeletons and zombies (or other non intelligent monster). Will the cipher be able to use his powers against them?

    36. John "King" Roberts on October 1, 2013

      Nice, this is going to be great.

    37. Jesse Jacobs | Obsidian Order on October 1, 2013

      I for one am very, very happy to see such depth to the world. Bring on all the history and geography you can muster!
      The art is also lovely. It makes me want to play every infinity engine game to death in preparation to playing Project Eternity, even if it'll be better.
      I can see some very fond gaming memories coming my way!

    38. Zombra on October 1, 2013

      Great art! I love the whole concept of "object reading" as a way to gather information.

      Other than that, I'm a bad person, because history and geography lessons put me to sleep ... so I didn't read any of that stuff. Bad person!