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 Post subject: RPG Review: Genesys
PostPosted: Fri Dec 29, 2017 4:15 am 
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Genesys is a roleplaying game for all settings by Fantasy Flight Games. I've generally been happy with Fantasy Flight's efforts in the RPG arena and have noted with pleasure their ability to refine and improve on the systems they've worked with. I recall the all settings sci-fi RPG Alternity with some affection, despite its limitations, and I respect the ambition to make a multisetting system. That said, I can be a picky and demanding motherfucker. How did they do?

Initial Impressions: The book's pretty, but not that thick (252 pages). There is some trepidation because of this. It's supposed to allow me to play just about any setting and that feels to slim.

Art: It's great. I should stop reviewing the artwork in RPGs because of the transition from Industrial Age to Information Age printing technology (this is an Alternity reference and probably only I will get the joke, but fuck it I'm making it anyway) means that even small company RPGs can and do have beautiful art.

System: Okay, here we go. Straight into turbulent waters. The game runs off of a slightly modified version of the engine for the Star Wars RPG, a good narrative dice pool system. It's a great system for skill/task resolution and fairly good at just about everything else. Some of the career skill packages are questionable (melee, as a Leadership skill particularly stands out because that works well in only half the possible settings) As an engine first used to power Warhammer Fantasy (as setting that has always placed a high value in using Toughness to resist damage) and Star Wars (a setting with fairly deadly weapons that big creatures can tank but Stormtrooper armour is only moderately effective against) its not surprising that it places a high value on Brawn to soak damage, more so than on armour. This works fine in Star Wars, but its very suboptimal for a rule set that also has to measure how swords work against bare flesh and plate armour and 9mm handgun bullets and kevlar, let alone cool space age power armour. That said, its also very easy to hack soak to more heavily favor armour.

Settings: The settings are: Fantasy, Steampunk, Weird War, Modern Day, Science Fiction, and Space Opera. That's a fairly diverse bunch of settings, but each only gets 10 pages and a lot of that is fluff, not crunch. It's too little and it shows. There's enough to build off, but you will be building. Compared to say Alternity, its disappointing in its poverty.

Hacking: Hacking is a bugbear of Cyberpunk and near future games. The mechanics and timescales are often different from the rest of the game and it often involves the hacker doing solo action while the rest of the group is up to life or death shenanigans or is waiting to commence life or death shenanigans which means it also involves large periods of solo adventure and coordination issues, which is too much of a pain in the ass for a lot of GMs. In our own group our negative reaction runs from "I would prefer that NPCs handle this off screen, but I will support PCs being hackers" (me) to "I don't want it at all and will only do it if my arm is twisted really hard" (hi frigid). It is therefore essential that hacking rules be easy to understand and easy to run (Shadowrun go into the corner and stay there. You know what you've done) in order to soothe the fury of the might GM.

It succeeds. There's no neon coloured cybercombat against Black ICE kill programs, but its a good and easy to use hacking system.

Magic and Psionics: There's a little bit of psionics in the Space Opera setting and magic gets it own section, but its small. It's fairly generic and vanilla, but the since this is generic system that's just me being picky not an actual problem.

Vehicle Rules: It has good vehicle rules, courtesy of its Star Wars background, but very few example vehicles and this really does hurt. A couple of pages of Steampunk to Space Opera vehicles would have been really nice.

Customization Help: It does a good job at this, within [DANGER ALERT] system biases and does help deal with have bare bones the setting crunch is (there are, for example, no mechanics for early firearms despite having both a Fantasy and Steampunk Setting Sections).

System Biases: This is, of course, a big issue with universal system. The game doesn't even try to grapple with high powered settings (the badass sci-fi exoarmour is only somewhat superior to the plate armour stated out in the fantasy section and someone wearing it can be dispatched with a bunch of rifle shots). The magic is on the low powered side, the cybernetics (of which there are only a half dozen as compared to Alternity's whole goddamn chapter) are on the low powered side and fuck you if you want to play a game with epic heroes or posthuman badassess. No Lensmen for you. While you can pile on the xp and gear on starting characters and build a more advanced hero, the game doesn't talk about starting more powerful than vanilla low level shmuck except for the dreadful bit on Superhero themed games, which is also on the really low powered side. And then there's the bit about armour and soaking I already dealt with.

Overall: I'm disappointed. Now my standards in this area are high, perhaps unreasonably so, but this game does not meet them. The game does a good job of supplying a basic system that can handle multiple settings, but they're on the low powered side and the support is too thin. There's nothing wrong with low powered, but if you're looking for something more high powered, this game will not do it. You will also have to build a lot of it yourself. You will not do picking and choosing for a wide variety of pre-generated options, you will be building a lot of this shit yourself. I feel Fifty more pages of crunch in the setting and magic system as well as ten pages on human augmentation would have really improved the book but as it is, there's not enough support.

There is a solid skeleton there. It does a good job of presenting its settings in the space it devotes to them and showing variety and options between with them, such as with the kind of realistic laser weapon in the Science Fiction Setting and a more badass laser deathray in the Space Opera part. If it does cover something you want to do, it does do it well. So consider it carefully. If it doesn't cover the thing you want it to do and you already own a copy of the Star Wars rules, its not really worth it.

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 Post subject: Re: RPG Review: Genesys
PostPosted: Fri Dec 29, 2017 5:58 am 
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From your review I would assume they are planning some support books for different settings, if they aren't then I would have to ask why bother printing this book?

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 Post subject: Re: RPG Review: Genesys
PostPosted: Fri Dec 29, 2017 6:14 am 
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frigidmagi wrote:
From your review I would assume they are planning some support books for different settings, if they aren't then I would have to ask why bother printing this book?


It's a logical assumption, Alternity did the same thing. Alternity, however, provided much better support in the main books. It had, for example, four different types of powered armour over three different tech levels (Fusion, Gravity, and Energy Ages) as well as more conventional and civilian friendly armour and supporting gear. Genesys mostly makes good choices about what it chooses to include, but the thinness of the supporting material is jarring.

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 Post subject: Re: RPG Review: Genesys
PostPosted: Thu Jan 11, 2018 6:10 pm 
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I guess the factory backup caused a lot of things to get pushed down the pipe.

That said, it is a little disappointing that they didn't launch a fully-formed supplement alongside the core book, or just have essentially a full supplement within it. It seems pretty thin on the face of it and while there's a good framework, a lot of it is "these numbers are the baseline, work from there". While my previous favorite system, Silhouette CORE Rules, was not a much larger book overall, it was far more dense and had far more essential things to throw at prospective GMs. One of those things was the utterly awful vehicle and system construction system, which had something of the opposite problem. Once the stats were done, everything worked fine, but the ridiculous equations needed to actually build anything were utterly unmanageable, resulting in, you guessed it "these numbers are the baseline, work from there" from anyone who wasn't utterly devoted to the absurd equations that ruled that chapter.

Overall, I find it interesting that they're starting with a pure fantasy setting. I'll give it a shot, but I honestly get the feeling that the rules are better set for near-future/sci-fi than they are fantasy. Part of that is my inherent bias that fantasy settings should be more of a D&D/Earthdawn/DARPG hitpoint grind sort of thing that allows mortals to contend with dragons, rather than systems where errant weapons fire can annihilate you from a mile away. That said, I'll see where they go with this, as you don't need to have massive hitpoint pools to have decent fantasy, as WFRP and Iron Kingdoms have shown.

That said, I'll probably start fiddling with Cyberpunking things in the near future with this. I was actually banking on Android being their first setting and seeing what I could crib from that, but I get the feeling I'll be okay flying without training wheels as it were.

So I'll agree, it was a bit disappointing, but there's still quite a bit to work with, it's just going to need a bit more musclepower.


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 Post subject: Re: RPG Review: Genesys
PostPosted: Fri Jan 12, 2018 1:59 am 
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It's not at all surprising that they're starting with the setting they've recently released board games and a war game for is at the top of the list for settings to be converted. I suspect their rune system will help power up advanced characters to the level where they can fight big nasty monsters. Also the way soak works and power level of the general system means getting annihilated by stray fire from a mile away isn't much of a risk in a fantasy setting.

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 Post subject: Re: RPG Review: Genesys
PostPosted: Fri Jan 12, 2018 2:48 am 
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I'll have to grab both books.

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 Post subject: Re: RPG Review: Genesys
PostPosted: Fri Jan 12, 2018 4:33 pm 
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I'm hardly surprised they went with the Runescape setting that they've been pushing pretty hard since the GW partnership fell apart, and I'll very much be interested in seeing where it goes. I was just hoping for Android for personal reasons, and I figure with the cross-platform push they've had for that recently it won't be far behind.

One thing I think might be interesting is in addition to fiddling with the damage and soak numbers, creating weapons or tools designed specifically to aid with buff and debuff statuses, since one of the issues with the game is the relative value of spending advantages in combat. As it is, right now it's more worthwhile in many cases to spend advantages on crits, extra attacks, or healing strain, rather than things that could make the enemy easier to deal with. It's a relatively minor issue, but it is one of concern when the basics of the NPC design still has big bads being able to be taken out potential single round of combat from a single player.


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