RogerBW's Blog

Genesys Core Rulebook (part 3, combat and other tasks) 15 October 2020

You now have a character. Now let's break it.

Combat… starts with a distinction between "narrative" and "structured" gameplay. I think this is aimed at people coming from D&D: it's the idea that much of the time you don't need to be tracking people's specific actions moment by moment; sometimes you can just talk about what's happening, and only when the details matter do you move to initiative order and precision. (And there's no support here for tactical maps and measured movement.) In other words, the sort of thing most gamers I know tend to do anyway…

That initiative order is odd in itself. Everyone involved in a fight makes a roll against their Cool (if they were expecting trouble) or Vigilance (if they're surprised); all these rolls are sorted into order based on the quality of that result, but they aren't the order in which those specific characters will act. Rather, they're slots for either any PC or any NPC; when a player slot comes up, the players decide among themselves which PC will act in it (though you still only get one action per character per round).

Within a character's turn, they can do three sorts of thing: Incidentals, which are unlimited but generally minor in effect (dropping a held item, speaking); Manoeuvres, generally one per turn (though you can get another with help from your allies, by taking strain, or by forgoing your Action), and by definition not requiring a die roll (moving, aiming, diving behind cover); and Actions, one per turn, which do require a die roll (shooting, picking a lock, doing first aid). The order of these within the turn is up to the player. This sort of formalism is probably familiar to modern D&D/Pathfinder players.

This structure makes many complicated things simple. Aim and shoot? Add one Boost die to your attack roll, but that's not an option if you wanted to spend your manoeuvre on getting into cover before shooting (which would give the enemy a Setback die to hit you), or on drawing your weapon. Movement is in range bands (engaged, short, medium, long, extreme) with the longest being "outside shouting distance", so distances can matter without needing a map to show who's where. Smoke, cover, high gravity, and so on add Setback dice to whatever's being done.

Actual attacks use the universal resolution mechanic; each Success after the first adds a point of damage to the weapon's fixed value, and if you get enough Advantage you can also roll a Critical Hit. Unhealed criticals, even if the immediate effect has worn off, are how you can actually die rather than just losing consciousness. Some complicated weapons can use Advantages to activate special powers (such as Sunder, to break the target's gear).

Social encounters work basically like combat (I think I saw this approach first in Lace & Steel), although much of the time they can just be treated narratively (which is what I've been doing so far in my own games) with an opposed roll. The more formal approach might be used during a complex negotiation, in which each side is building up Strain (mental fatigue) until one or the other hits their threshold and concedes. To make this more interesting, you can use actions to attempt to determine your opposition's Motivations (desire, fear, strength and flaw), and then try to slant what you say to take advantage of them; I like the idea, but I haven't felt a need for it yet.

(to be continued)

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See also:
Genesys Core Rulebook (part 1, initial thoughts)
Genesys Core Rulebook (part 2, mechanics and character generation)
Genesys Core Rulebook (part 4, GM advice and settings)
Genesys Core Rulebook (part 4, GM advice and settings)
Genesys Core Rulebook (part 4, GM advice and settings)
Genesys Core Rulebook (part 5, GM toolkit and conclusions)
Genesys Core Rulebook (part 5, GM toolkit and conclusions)
Genesys Core Rulebook (part 5, GM toolkit and conclusions)


  1. Posted by DP at 12:06am on 16 October 2020

    Its a quite interesting system, though I haven't played it yet. Thanks for the review.

    I don't own the game, but on flipping through another's rule book I had trouble understanding the movement system.

    It seemed to have both a FATE-style "zone" system with discrete zones and a range band system, and I couldn't figure out how they meshed or how the concrete (if flexible) number of zones had to do with the range bands... Was this just an artifact of my quick skim and it's all fully explained if you get deeper into it?

    Overall, I found the rulebook well written but rather more "conversational" than many. On the one hand, this was pleasant to read. On the other, I often found it did seem to take a quite long time to tell me things...

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 08:55am on 16 October 2020

    The feeling I get from the rulebook (and I'll come back to this in later parts) is that the authors knew that FFG would produce a bunch of official setting material — so they also want to make certain that the prospective GM is aware that they can also build their own stuff, and they want to give them the tools for that.

    I think range bands predominate, but because they're one-dimensional they don't necessarily tell the whole story. Much of the time there's basically just one fight going on, and that the only ranges people care about are their distances from the centre of that. But if two people are trying to get into the fight while shooting at each other, you need to know that you're (say) Medium range from the fight and Long from your counterpart; at that point the GM needs to determine whether becoming Short range from the fight will also put you at Medium from your counterpart, which might be the case or might not depending on their picture of the situation. (Obviously an actual tactical map with measured ranges would make this clearer, but it's also an administrative burden on the GM and I don't think I've used one this century beyond basic sketches.)

    Compared with GURPS movement is much faster, so it can actually make a difference beyond basic jumping out of ambush. (I know people who talk about GURPS fights as "hermetically sealed", since if you're more than a couple of Moves away it'll probably be over before you get there; but these combat rounds represent a longer time and the characters are more robust.)

    It takes two manoeuvres to get from Extreme to Long (rifle range), two more to Medium (pistol range), then one to Short and one more to become Engaged in melee; and if you give up your action or take Strain you can do two manoeuvres in a round.

  3. Posted by DP at 06:23pm on 16 October 2020

    Is there any provision for different speeds being able to close faster in the same combat e.g., if party is on foot but someone is on a horse or bike, or your foe is a flying dragon? (I get that something like airplane vs. foot is a different system covered by the vehicle rules.)

  4. Posted by RogerBW at 06:49pm on 16 October 2020

    It's not a core part of the rules. "Most" flying creatures can go from Long to Short in a single manoeuvre, and one of the example creatures has "Swoop Attack (after making a Brawl combat check, can move from engaged to short range of the target as an incidental)", but for the most part if you want to move faster than someone else you need to spend more manoeuvres; I think the idea may be that while you can go faster you also need to spend more attention on not hitting things.

    When you get into the vehicle subsystem, which I suspect I might use even for combat on horseback, you do have speeds.

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