RogerBW's Blog

Genesys Core Rulebook (part 2, mechanics and character generation) 11 October 2020

So given that universal resolution mechanic, what's the rest of the game about?

Most of the mechanics simply make sense as extensions to the core. You can have a zero-difficulty task, which is basically just "how well can you do this". Meanwhile, if your PC is going directly against someone else's skill, the official way of doing this is to turn the NPC's good dice into bad dice rolled by the player. (Good dice are slightly more positive than bad dice are negative, so this gives PCs a slight edge in an equal contest.)

There are Story Points, which exist in two pools. The GM starts the session with one; the players' pool starts with one per player, and all the players share it. Spending a story point upgrades a d8 to a d12 (which is not a huge benefit but does make triumphs possible), or lets the player change reality in a minor beneficial way with the GM's agreement ("yeah, of course we have a load of spare vac suits in the hold"). Each side can spend at most one point per action. When a point is spent it moves to the other side's pool, so as the stakes get higher the points flow back and forth faster. As with most systems that have learned from Torg and early Shadowrun, there's no benefit to having lots of points left at the end of the session; character advancement is handled separately.

Characters' endurance is handled by a Wound Threshold (when your accomulated damage reaches this level you're knocked out and in danger of death) and a Strain Threshold (the same for mental damage). There's no impairment before that point unless you take a Critical Hit, which not only provides a specific immediate problem but adds to the severity of all future critical hits until it's treated; take two or three and you're at serious risk of death. (Weirdly, criticals are rolled with percentile dice.) You also get a Defence value (normally zero, but if it increases you add Setback dice to attempts to hit you) and a Soak (the amount you remove from each hit before accruing points towards your Wound Threshold).

Characters are created in a series of choices: first you pick an archetype/species, which for the core rules means the average human, labourer (better at Brawn, worse at Willpower), intellectual (better at Intellect, worse at Agility) or aristocrat (better at Presence, worse at Brawn). That gives you a stat line (the other is Cunning), usually mostly 2s with one 3 and one 1 (which you can spend starting points on improving), an indication of your wound and strain thresholds, a standard skill, and a special power (e.g. once per session the intellectual may spend a story point to roll their next check as though they had a skill level in whatever they're using equal to their Intellect).

The second step is to choose a career, or character class: entertainer, scoundrel, soldier, mad scientist, etc. That defines which skills as "career skills", which are cheaper to improve than others.

Then you spend your starting allotment of experience points on improving stats and skills, and on talents. You should also generate (roll or choose) some general motivations: a desire, a fear, a strength and a flaw. These don't have direct game-mechanical effects, but feed into the personality one's constructing.

Skills are broad: only 37 altogether, including ones for magic, and some of them don't coexist. Although this is a universal system, it's not built to let you take characters from one setting to another; so in a setting where the difference is important, you'll have separate Ranged (Heavy) and Ranged (Light) skills for rifles versus pistols, while if that's not significant to the genre you can just have a general Ranged skill. Something very useful which I haven't seen elsewhere is that each skill has three or four positive and negative examples, indicating the core uses of the skill and things that explicitly lie outside it, as other skills or as simply too mundane to need a roll. For example, under Leadership:

Your character should use this skill if…

  • Your character’s allies are suffering from fear (see page 243), and you want to try to rally them.
  • Your character tries to convince a crowd of citizens to take political action.
  • Your character leads troops into battle and wants to make sure they follow your character’s orders.
  • Your character tries to convince a mob of rioters to stand down and return to their homes.

Your character should not use this skill if…

  • Your character threatens to hurt or kill someone if they don’t obey. This would be a good use of Coercion, instead.
  • Your character tries to convince someone to do something simply by being friendly and appealing. Your character should use Charm here.
  • Your character has formal authority and issues routine orders, especially outside of combat or other stressful situations. If there is no good reason not to obey your character (and your character has the rank or station to issue orders), other people are simply going to obey most mundane commands automatically.

Unlike GURPS, this system isn't interested in the skills that normal non-protagonist-type people need to do their jobs. What's an asteroid miner's professional skill? Don't know. Even long-term favourite Demolition is absent from the list, though Skulduggery (which includes setting traps as well as picking pockets) or Mechanic would cover it.

Talents come next, and this is where most of the serious character customisation happens. They have increasing costs from tier 1 to 5, and you must always have fewer talents in each successive rank (so if you want a tier 3 talent, you'll need at least two tier 2 and three tier 1 too) but they mostly don't otherwise have prerequisites. They vary from the trivial (you can mount or dismount from a vehicle or steed without using actions, thereby being able to do something else in the same round; you may take strain to get advantages in a social check; you can ignore up to two black Setback dice on a specific named skill) to the profound (take two Strain to make your next check of a named skill two difficulty levels easier; make a hard Mechanic check to make any one device involved in the current encounter spontaneously fail).

Equipment has rarity, cost, and so on; weapons in particular may also have qualities defined by keywords, such as Pierce to ignore some of the target's Soak (from toughness or armour), or Vicious to boost critical hit rolls. (Which is a lot neater than having special rules in a particular weapon's writeup.) Note that there are only two weapons listed here, a knife and a revolver…

Onwards, to combat!

(to be continued)

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See also:
Genesys Core Rulebook (part 1, initial thoughts)
Genesys Core Rulebook (part 3, combat and other tasks)
Genesys Core Rulebook (part 4, GM advice and settings)
Genesys Core Rulebook (part 5, GM toolkit and conclusions)


  1. Posted by John P. at 09:57pm on 14 October 2020

    So are you going to run a game with it then?

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 10:06pm on 14 October 2020

    I already am.

    I ran a one-shot Firefly adventure with Whartson Hall while I was getting the basics of the system, and now I'm running a campaign in the same setting – not because I'm an especial fan of that setting but because it's a very easy one to get to grips with and tell interesting stories in.

  3. Posted by RogerBW at 10:08pm on 14 October 2020

    (Should have said - it was Mark of Whartson Hall who introduced me to this by running a Fallout game in it. See the previous entry under that Whartson Hall link.)

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