But l had to have Degenesis. All pages from the two core rulebooks spoke to me, in the way books sometimes do, whispering of impressive quality, originality and fantastic art. Degenesis is everything the siren hardbacks promised, but no RPG is perfect, and indeed this game is not for everyone. Let me begin by giving you the headline summary, before diving into a more in-depth Degenesis review, or losing you to this impactful live-action trailer for the game. Degenesis: Rebirth Edition is for you if you enjoy playing in a richly detailed sandbox. The second book, Katharsys, is all about the system and character generation.
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Degenesis: Rebirth is a visually astounding, sumptuous, two-volume, page passion project — a richly-layered, horrific, intrigue-riddled, techno-mystical post-apocalypse Earth that feels like it was discovered rather than created. This is truly a game for players who enjoy being immersed in a deep, artfully-revealed setting.
Read on for more details. What is life like for player characters, what is their place in society, and what are the complexities of their culture? What is going on around them, and how does their place in the world influence their actions? For me as a game master and as a player exploring those questions is one of the primary joys of roleplaying. So I tend to gravitate toward games that feature dense, complex settings. The worlds of Glorantha and Eclipse Phase , for example, are near and dear to my heart because of their originality and breadth, as well as the way they weld seemingly disparate elements into an immersive whole.
There is no such thing as a neutral review of a creative work, whether it be of a novel, a movie, or a tabletop RPG. The world of Degenesis is revealed through gorgeous illustrations, vibrant two-page spreads, bold maps, stunning layout, and voluminous, sometimes oblique text. This is not a setting meant to be easily mastered. You dip into the spore fields of Franka, then absorb the strange wonders of the Anubians before careening off to the lush splendors of Tripoli or the horrors of the Psychokinetics.
Degenesis is set not in the wide-open deserts of Australia or the vast wasteland of a blasted America, but in the lands surrounding the Mediterranean. This is Europe and northern Africa hundreds of years after the apocalypse, a moment when civilization has rebounded but faces a relentless threat.
There are no irradiated mutants in Degenesis. It was a meteor strike that delivered the Eschaton, the end of the old world and the beginning of the new. The meteors tore into the landscape and brought a horrifying alien biology with them — the Primer, foundation of a host of terrors. Massive spore fields now cover the land, and the humans they infect become Homo Degenesis — warped, powerful, and supremely confident that Earth is their dominion. Civilization is spread across several Cultures that have risen from the remnants of the old world:.
Across the land Cults carry out their own mysterious plans, each seeking to create a better world in their own fashion. Each approaches the Primer invasion differently. The Cults engage in convoluted stratagems against each other, form alliances where necessary, and stay vigilant against the smaller but often dangerous Clans that pursue their own goals.
Primer forms the building blocks of a takeover of Earth biology. Microscopic spores infect living things, birthing all manner of twisted horrors, from Rift Centipedes to Acid Jellyfish. Sepsis burrows deep into the soil, giving rise to massive Mother Spore Fields that can stretch for kilometers. The Mother Spores contain Burn, a powerful drug.
When ingested it takes over its host, turning that person into a Leperos, a walking spore infestation. Depending on which Spore Field infected them, they will mutate into one of several different kinds of Homo Degenesis:. The Stream. Machine Men. In Degenesis a panoply of pre-Eschaton technology is commingled with resurrected machinery, scrap-manufactured gear, and post-Eschaton constructs.
Sometimes the ancient technology is obvious, for example the Surge Tanks that roll into a town and enforce Scourger dominion. The rules provide information on a wide array of weapons, from stones and slings to submachineguns to Soul Burner rifles. Adventuring gear, transportation, medicines, and other items are also covered. Degenesis includes rules for combing through scrap, manufacturing new items, and modifying weapons and other gear for improved performance.
Post-apocalypse games often concern themselves primarily with survival, scouring the ruins of the old world for technological advantage, and building a new civilization.
While these goals can make for engrossing game play, it can be difficult for even the most experienced game master to turn them into a lengthy, compelling campaign. Degenesis deftly avoids this trap by placing the Primer at the core of the game. It shifts, it changes, it gives rise to new horrors. How characters see themselves in relation to this alien invasion defines a campaign.
Orbiting closely around that central conflict are the machinations of the Cults, of which player characters are members. Regardless of their goals, characters will have to maneuver through complex inter-Cult politics as they pursue their own goals.
This is not a game of good versus evil. There are no Cults without blood on their hands. That said, PCs in Degenesis are not rootless murder hobos. They are tied to Culture and Cult. Called upon to make difficult choices, what they do tangibly affects their reputation and standing within their Cult and with others. So what do player characters do in Degenesis?
What sorts of adventures can GMs build for them? Here are a few examples:. As a GM one of the things I look for in a game world is hooks I can use to create my own adventures. Tidbits of information, notes about hidden conflicts, scraps, hints, references to fragments of ideas — these are the things that ignite my imagination and help me prepare to run a campaign. Degenesis provides over a dozen enticing story hooks that can be used individually or combined to build adventures.
Throughout the books there are also liberal sprinklings of ideas for people, themes, items, locations, and events. While the first volume of Degenesis: Rebirth is purposely diffuse, the second book lays out the KatharSys game mechanics in a much more straightforward fashion.
KatharSys is built around a d6 dice pool mechanic:. Players build characters by assigning points to Attributes and Skills from a starting pool. These modifiers are additive. Two skills, Primal and Focus, are mutually exclusive, and are indicative of how a character approaches problems. Primal is tied to Instinct, while Focus is tied to Intellect. The same is true of Faith and Willpower, though both are tied to the Psyche Attribute. Each character starts at Rank 1 within their Cult, but can move up in Rank during character creation.
Cult Ranks are important not just because of the benefits they provide to characters, but also because Ranks fulfill specific roles within a Cult. Sometimes a Cult structure provides for two different Ranks at the same level. For example, a Rank 2 Scourger could be either a Hondo, an intimidating warrior, or a Damu, a shrewd scout.
Characters also have access to Potentials, which can be either Common accessible to anyone or Cult-specific. These are legendary maneuvers, extraordinary special skills, and feats of Willpower or Faith. Each character starts with one Potential at Rank 1. After filling in a few more details and gearing up, your character is ready to go.
But be wary as you go out into the world of Degenesis. Combat is deadly and healing from serious wounds can take weeks. As the book puts it:. When two enemies attack each other, anything is possible: a marksman is dropped by a sword blow; a legendary pit fighter is killed by a pack of farmers with pikes.
If you fight, you can die. If you fight without any tactic or act thoughtlessly, you most certainly will. In the KatharSys, weapons are violent tools that kill with hits. Honorable combat is dangerous and seldom rewarded. If you want to survive, hit as hard as you can—or run. Characters advance by way of Experience Points, which are earned for accomplishing goals and surviving difficult situations. XP can be used to improve Attributes and Skills. This eventually leads to increased Cult Rank and with it increased responsibilities as well as access to greater resources.
The game mastering section of Degenesis is a useful collection of ideas and suggestions to help get a campaign rolling. In a world as expansive as Degenesis it can be difficult to think of a starting point. But the suggested technique for mixing themes, people, locations, items, and events is a good one. From the short idea lists provided, a game master can come up with a number of quick adventure outlines. For example: A Hybrispanian slave has escaped a brutal Neolibyan slaver and found his way to an ancient fortress where Khari and his Scourger compatriots are conducting a training mission.
Khari is duty-bound to take the slave back. As a Traditionalist he believes he must return the slave. But his closest colleague is set against this path. Sekai the Scrapper is a Protector, and she knows what will happen to the slave should he be returned.
To make matters worse, the locals have had enough, and a band of Guerreros are heading to the fortress to free the slave, by force if necessary. So for example an Anubian, a Jehammedan, and an Anabaptist could all be found in the same group, but there needs to be a strong, believable reason why members of three Cults that often find each other at odds would be together.
Degenesis includes an adventure, Embargo , that can be placed with minimal modification in a variety of locales. In published Degenesis adventures there is always a story, and the world is always in motion. The backstory, motivation, and actions of NPCs are examined in detail. The adventure is written essentially as a linear narrative with predefined scenes.
Each incorporates a meticulously-detailed adventure and serves as a guide to a particular region, with information about the geography, factions, and key NPCs in the area. Taken together, they also lay out a densely-woven metaplot that stretches across all three books. These adventures follow the same underlying structure as Embargo — the PCs are essentially along for the ride.
Degenesis: Rebirth Edition — The Review
The post-apocalyptic RPG is from a German design studio that gets paid to make movies look amazing. The RPG now has a dedicated website at Degenesis. Head to the books section to find what you want. You can download the core rules or any of the many supplements for free. If you fall in love with the art, then you can buy print copies too. The world of Degenesis is bleak. A corruption sweeps across the survivors of the apocalypse and humanity is fragmenting, fighting amongst itself, rather than against the common foe.
Free to Download: Degenesis RPG
An RPG with not one but two high budget live-action trailers , that despite the heinous sin of referring to itself as "Primal Punk", is actually quite nice. Also called "that kraut porn RPG" by one creative anon, most likely because the rulebook features some artwork where you can see naked humans, along with that one adventure where a girl forces herself onto a PC, complete with illustration and graphic description " Black Atlantic ", pages to In , a large swarm of asteroids hit Earth. The immediate consequences were nothing short of catastrophic. Tsunamis, earthquakes, and absolutely massive tectonic shifts completely overthrew the old way of life.
Our final battle – a review of Degenesis: Rebirth Edition
It was originally produced and distributed in by Sighpress-Verlag. Since April all of its materials are available to download online for free. The game is categorized by the designers as "Primal Punk", a description detailing a world in which humanity struggles for survival in a world filled with perils both alien and humane. The game is set in the regions of Europe and North Africa at the end of the 26th century, more than years after a major asteroid event devastated the face of the Earth and the ensuing chaos and conflict reset human civilization, when it was just at the edge of transhumanism. From the ashes of the old world, new cultures emerge and fight for survival. Furthermore, an alien entity travelled within the asteroids, and in its interaction with terrestrial lifeforms it pushes them to mutate and evolve. The Primer, as it is called, is a menace to the human species, for when it infects a human embryo it can turn it into something more primal: A Homo Degenesis.