From publisher blurb:
Cypher System gameplay involves a simple die roll that determines success or failure for any kind of action. There are few modifiers to encumber this roll; instead, the players apply their skills and other assets reduce the difficulty of a task. They can also focus a limited resource called Effort to further lower the difficulty of the actions really important to them.
It’s up to the players to bring to bear any advantages they have to lower a task's difficulty. Once they do, they roll the dice. The GM's job is to present imaginative and colorful situations, not fiddle with modifiers.
Characters earn XP when they make new, interesting discoveries (not from killing things, although combat is often necessary to make discoveries and accomplish missions). They also earn XP when the GM "intrudes" on the action of the game to introduce new complications. Lastly, players have the ability to award XP to other players for great ideas, useful actions, or other reasons.
XP can be spent to increase character abilities, or to affect events in the game (such as rerolling dice), gain short-term benefits, or advance in tier.
The Cypher System has been uniquely designed to make things easy on the GM. The goal is to decrease the amount of time the GM spends juggling game stats, and allow him to instead focus entirely on the story and the action at hand. Creatures, NPCs, and entire encounters are incredibly easy to make up on the fly — and even easier to run — but they still present vivid and interested challenges.