April 13, 2012

[First Look] Degenesis

One of the most incredible things D&D 4th edition bringed to the RPG market was the destruction of his own monopoly. Right now I cannot keep up with all the amazing things I want to explore so I'm forced to leave behind a lot of things, focusing only on those I think deserve (or potentially deserve) more spotlight time in this flourishing market.

This week the english translation of a post apocalyptic German RPG caught my attention: Degenesis
Degenesis is the story of mankind’s struggle in the wake of Earth’s greatest catastrophe: a rain of massive asteroids. Europe and Africa have been cut off from the other continents and battle against each other for control of the known world. In Europe, the people are finally emerging from a dark age that spanned half a millennium, whereas Africa has become complacent and corrupt after centuries of wealth and splendor.
From the ashes of the Eschaton, seven new cultures arose. They span from the frozen northern regions of Europe across the Mediterranean and down into Africa. They are mere children compared to their ancestors and yet they rule over the known world.
These survivors have formed new organizations and factions, all with their own history and goals. There are now thirteen cults which vie for dominance in the ravaged lands of Europe and Africa.
Five hundred years later, the world is a very different place and a new threat to mankind has emerged. The great ice age is ending but the land is covered with a foul decay that twists the people and animals into bloodthirsty monsters.
The publisher, Posthuman Studios, is a little bit shy about this product and trying to find some info on it was pretty hard. Luckyly the same published who gave Degenesis a one page website (Really? One page? Come on!) Made available for free to the public a 16 pages Degenesis Quick-Start Rules including a brief background blurb, a quick start rulebook about CatarSys (a new rule engine) a small adventure and 4 pregenerated PCs.

CatarSys it's a d10-based rules system where the base mechanic makes you sum the stat value to the appropriate skill value to obtain the Action Value (AV), a number between 0 and 20, then the GM will assign a difficulty to the task, normally a number between 4 and 16. Finally the player will roll 2d10. If the result is a number between the difficulty and the action value, the action was a success.

Damage locations are also treated in a strange, but nice, way. You have 3 locations: head, torso and legs. Each location can stand a fixed number of flesh wounds. When a location is exhausted, the damages will remove trauma wounds, which are in common between all locations.

Another nice rule is the weapon damage/armor rule. A weapon have damages listed like this 5(7) meaning that if you hit you have to roll 5d10 and every die that rolls 7 or less is a wound. If you have an armor that grants armor 2 in all locations, the dice that rolls 1 or 2 does not wound the target.

Reading the Quickstart guide was nice: it's beautifully illustrated, the rule explanation is concise but very easy to understand, the 4 PCs are served with a nice backstory that can make spring out nice roleplaying moments between the.
On the bad side, the background section was way too short to understand if this settings hides some aces up his sleeve or if it's just another post apocalyptic clone.

About the adventure I have mixed feelings. For sure it's not designed for inexperienced GMs. Everything is just sketched and a GM will have to figure out by himself most of the NPCs reactions and do a lot of improvisation. I was also surprised by the combat attitude of the adventure: PCs are supposed to run all the time. There are 2 fights in this adventure, the first supposedly will make the PCs run, the second will make them run again, maybe thanks to a friendly sacrifice. Wow, that's butal! If all the setting is so dangerous prepare to generate a lot of characters. 

I admit that I've a soft spot for post apocalyptic games, so making me want to run a game with Degenesis was an easy win for him, but reading the quick start guide was also intriguing. The adventure, even if flawed as an introductory adventure can be, was a nice change of pace afetr a lot of games where PCs are invincible heroes and made me want to read the book.

Hope to put my hands on a physical copy of it soon enough.
What do you think? Would like to try it?


Disclaimer: This is not a review. This preview can be based on prejudice and/or wrong information. Be warned.

Degenesis is available from:

Degenesis Quick-Start Rules
Degenesis Quick-Start Rules
Degenesis Quick-Start Rules

NOTE: If you buy from here I will get a little income, with no extra cost for you. Just to be straight.

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