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Genesys Core Rulebook $19.95
Publisher: EDGE Studio
by Daniel K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/04/2020 16:15:59


I purchased this book immediately upon release, and promptly ran a 9-month campaign using it, as well as numerous one-shots.

Good Points

  • The narrative dice system is unique and very cool! Doubly so if your group is into the more improv-centric aspects of RPGs.
  • Character creation and advancement is moderately flexible (though not as open as some generic systems).
  • Very cool system of gear qualities that make it easy to create interesting weapons and armor that feel mechanically distinct from one another.
  • Threat and advantage make every roll interesting!
  • Strong community support.
  • Simply being a generic (multi-genre) system is a huge selling point, and makes the system more widely useful.

Bad Points

  • Attack and defense scaling is not ideal. It's easy to make a character with maxed-out defenses at or shortly after character creation (especially in fantasy settings, where shields are available). Attack dice pools are very limited in the early game, which can lead to characters with absurd tank potential. Conversely, attacks scale up over the course of a campaign, but defenses largely do not (the defensive talents available to player characters are high-cost to use and have a pretty limited effect), so combat in the late game becomes rocket tag because almost all attacks hit.
  • Characteristic points can be purchased at significant expense during character creation, and are extremely difficult to increase during play. This means that the best character creation strategy is generally to spend as much XP as possible on characteristics (something the book advocates), while leaving all other aspects of the character relatively underdeveloped until the characters gain some XP during play. (This was easy enough to house-rule by reducing starting XP by 50 and giving each player three free-form characteristic increases to spend, but that's a big recurring theme with this book; a lot of things required house rules to function in a way that felt right.)
  • Talent pyramid system can force players to invest XP in low-rank filler talents that they don't want. This also makes character creation for one-shots more complicated than it needs to be.
  • Magic/powers system feels profoundly incomplete. There are a lot of classic effects that aren't available by RAW, leaving them up to the GM to house-rule. The rules assume a traditional D&D-style magic "class" breakdown, and give no insight into how to create a balanced system of your own for sci-fi settings or those with magic that follows a different paradigm. (This is another case that was fixable with house rules, but again, that shouldn't be necessary for a set of rules that cost money.)
  • There are no guidelines for creating vehicles, and a paltry three example vehicles in the book.
  • The hacking system provided is pretty shallow, and not very interesting in play. It also implements a success threshold system (i.e. measuring difficulty by number of successes required), which is a weird outlier given that nothing else in the book measures difficulty in that way. I actually would have been really interested to see this mechanic used more, but it's only in this one place, from what I can recall.
  • The list of talents in the core book is pretty limited. (Note: These last four issues are partially solved by subsequent books and fan-made material, but that doesn't excuse them being issues in the core, especially given that the other books were not available at launch.)

Variable Points (Will vary a lot by personal taste and group)

  • The narrative dice system can be overwhelming for new players.
  • Dice rolls can take a long time to resolve, which can slow down play a lot. Dice pools often take awhile to assemble, and although canceling the symbols gets a lot quicker with practice, figuring out how to spend advantage and threat bogged down play. Additionally, the symbols are abstract enough that a few of my players never really got the hang of reading them, and not for lack of trying.
  • Triumph, advantage, and Story Points give players a truly phenomenal amount of agency. For me, this is one of the biggest upsides of the system, but it won't be to the liking of all GMs.
  • Because Strain is used as both a resource and a damage track, and because increasing Strain Threshold is more expensive per point than increasing Wound Threshold, weapons that deal damage as Strain can be substantially more powerful than weapons that deal damage as Wounds, and a party that wants to abuse this disparity will be able to make combat encounters far easier than intended.
  • The proprietary dice are a major turn-off for some people. I didn't have any issues with that, since the system does a great job providing mechanics that validate the existence of those dice.
  • The setting IPs available to FFG may or may not increase your interest in this product. I personally really like the Android setting, but Terrintoh and Keyforge aren't terribly interesting to me, for example.

Overall Thoughts

I love this system overall, but I can't give 5 stars to a generic system core book that treats magic, vehicles, and hacking as "optional rules" and doesn't fill them out very well. Prior to expansion books, I had to spend a lot of time homebrewing content of my own just to make the system feel playable, to an extent that after I stopped playing it, I actually started work on my own homebrew setting, which didn't feel like all that much extra work in comparison. Genesys evangels will trumpet that the system is a "toolbox" and is thus exempt from critique on this subject, but the fact is that an empty toolbox isn't very useful. I've run systems that gave me a well-stocked toolbox to craft a campaign with little or no homebrew, and this system is not that, nor is it really trying to be. If you're willing to put in the work, Genesys can be a blast, and I highly recommend checking it out if your group enjoys narrative systems and if you don't mind generating rules content for your games. The issues described above prevented Genesys from becoming my long-term main system, but I had a great time running and playing it.

[4 of 5 Stars!]
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Genesys Core Rulebook
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