RogerBW's Blog

Genesys Core Rulebook (part 4, GM advice and settings) 17 October 2020

That's more or less the players' part of the book. The rest of it is advice to the GM.

The first part of this is basics that most experienced GMs will have worked out for themselves: the social contract, how far one can go in describing things for other players, separating player and character knowledge, how to prepare session notes, and so on; it's definitely worth having for new GMs, and even an old hand may learn something from skimming it. The subject then shifts to the specific Genesys system, suggesting how and when to use the various tools in the GM's box (Boost/Setback dice, story points), as well as narrating the dice results (e.g. if the successes came on the Boost dice from someone else's assistance rather than native ability, one might narrate it as "your friend's help gets you through" rather than "you tough it out alone"). (Players could probably do with reading this too, since it takes a load off the GM if they can narrate some of their own results.)

Adversaries are classed as Minions (mooks, who come in groups), Rivals (individuals who might be a threat to a single PC but will go down quickly in the face of a group) and Nemeses (PC-grade opposition). Some specialised rules streamline large conflicts: any critical hit will take a Minion out of the fight, and Minions and Rivals don't keep track of Strain. There aren't many examples, but (a recurrent theme) there's lots of good advice on how to build one's own.

In fact, I think that's another conflict between FFG's profit-focused management and the game's authors. FFG obviously wants to sell books with pre-built opponents, but the authors insist on also giving the GM the tools to make their own as well as laying out just how easy it is. The same applies to the settings that make up the next section; some other reviewers have complained that the book doesn't really have a ready-to-play world the way you'd get in D&D or Pathfinder, and I'd agree, but as a GURPS fan this feels aimed squarely at me: I'm already expecting to put in some work to convert the brief notes on a fantasy-ish setting to Roger's Fantasy Game, but once I've done it I'll end up with something unique.

Each "setting" starts with its tropes, the sort of things that put a game into a specific genre; there's then an "example setting" which gets a bit more specific, and some supporting mechanical material (including more equipment – so an assault rifle can be found under the "Modern" setting rather than in the core rules). So Fantasy talks about quests and dungeons and magic; reminds you that FFG owns Terrinoth (for all it was originally created only to be a generic baseplate onto which you can stick any fantasy trope you like; I don't suppose there's anyone out there who would praise Terrinoth for the things that are unique to it); and gives some archetypes, equipment and foes appropriate to the setting. Steampunk works similarly, though the publisher doesn't own a steampunk setting yet so that example is a bit more interesting. Weird War doesn't have much to say (perhaps because it's trying to give guidance for any sort of war-plus-magic story, not just the 20th-century ones), but Modern makes up for it; this is very much the world of cinematic realism and rule-of-cool.

The odd distinction to be is between the last two settings: Science Fiction and Space Opera. Here, SF means "vaguely realistic or at least plausible" (no FTL, time travel, etc.); the example is of course FFG's Android, another of those settings that accreted from a bunch of standard tropes rather than being designed with a flavour of its own. Meanwhile Space Opera is bigger-canvas stuff, aliens, androids, space pirates, and, sigh, Twilight Imperium. (You want to role-play in that setting? I thought WH40K was depressing enough…)

Naturally if the GM starts with an idea of the setting they want it may not fit very cleanly into any of these; for example, I've been using this system to run the Firefly setting, and that takes on elements of Modern, Science Fiction and Space Opera.

(to be concluded)

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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 3, combat and other tasks)
Genesys Core Rulebook (part 5, GM toolkit and conclusions)

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