By Jason Campbell

Monte Cook Games has released their latest modern fantasy genre book for the Cypher System TTRPG, It’s Only Magic, by Sean K. Reynolds, Shanna Germain and Dominique Dickey. The book is a result of a spring 2023 backerkit campaign, and is now available for purchase in hardcover or PDF, and there’s also a free preview PDF. To clarify, this is what’s known as a “white book” (because of the base color of the cover). White books are dedicated to a single genre and contain additional optional rules, advice and a setting, but all white books require the Cypher System rules contained in the Cypher System Core Rulebook. 

A witch from It's Only Magic (c) 2024 Monte Cook Games

What About the Book?

The book is 240 pages (8.5” x 11”) hardcover and as many white books it contains a poster, but this one is single sided with a map of the Colvin Park setting. The artwork is well done as with most Monte Cook Games books, with a muted color palette favoring lavender tones. The layout uses the usual Monte Cook Games design format of 2 text columns with an outer sidebar for additional notes and pointers to related sections. The text is legible and the headline fonts display a sense of whimsy appropriate to the genre. The PDF is bookmarked and hyperlinked. 

What’s Modern Fantasy?

The genre of modern fantasy/magic, though present in many modern films and series, is not as well known or explored as fantasy or science fiction. It’s Only Magic wisely uses the beginning of the book to describe the genre, name dropping many instances along the way, such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Supernatural

The book continues discussing building a modern fantasy setting. This covers using inspiration from media within the genre, or building a custom setting of your own. This section contains random tables to give options for starting locations, access to magic and types of characters and creatures. There’s even a list of inspiring words. All of these assets are good inclusions for a genre that some may need some definition. 

There is a section for the Game Master with suggestions on theme, tropes and storybuilding. 

Where’s the Goods? What About New Player Options?

It’s Only Magic includes 7 new descriptors (adjectives in the Cypher System character “sentence”). Six of these are species: chimera, dragon, ghost, hunter, nix and sylph. The 7th descriptor is unmagical, which for me brings up memories of Piers Anthony’s Magic of Xanth series, but it’s a trope used in lots of books and series. 

There are 10 new foci, from the modernist Codes Magic Apps to more media specific foci such as Hunts Witches. My favorite is Turns Decay to Growth, which focuses on mushrooms and rot. 

The foci make use of existing abilities from the Cypher System Core Rulebook as well as many new abilities created to fit these new foci.

There are also 5 new flavors that focus on different sorts of magic.

More Stuff

There are several new rules modules which GMs can use in modern fantasy games but will also be useful in other genres. The Cantrips module adds simpler spells (without tying the system to other fantasy d20 games). There are several useful cantrips, but there’s also the very cool extra fries, which, well, gives you larger portions at fast food restaurants. There’s modules covering covens, familiars, and crafting magic items as well as the optional exceeding cypher limits, which I’m sure will be debated among Cypher System devotees. 

Creatures and Cyphers

There are several creatures in It’s Only Magic including some original concepts as well as  traditional creatures with twists to better fit the modern setting. There are a lot of new cyphers which are really valuable as GMs try to figure out how to fit the cypher concept into a modern setting. 

The Settings

The Axial setting is a modern setting except that magic is commonplace, so every player character is a magician. All PCs are born human, but some have been transformed into descriptors such as dragons or chimeras. The Colvin Park (the map mentioned earlier) is a city in The Axial that’s detailed in the book. 

New Grimsby is a mini-setting taking place in the American Northwest, where the supernatural is not common, but believed by most. 

The Adventures

 There are 2 adventures in this book. The first is Home Economics, set in The Axial setting. PCs deal with some suspicious creatures in a strange house. In the Tower of Time involves a movie theater, and could be set in The Axial, or any modern setting. Too Many Zorps is an adventure that has the PCs deal with way too many odd magical creatures. Honestly, Zorps are the stars of this book. 


If you like the Cypher System and want to run or play adventures outside the norm, you’ll want this book. I suspect that few will use The Axiom setting as written, but rather use it for inspiration in creating original weird supernatural settings in a modern world. 

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!