The player characters of Degenesis campaign aren’t only defined by the civilization they grew up in, they’re also very much influenced by which of the Thirteen cults they join. Each “Cult” is a faction or organization of differing agendas and methodologies. Some are content to pursue a particular trade or vocation, while others are religious or political in nature.
The one thing that these cults share is that they’re all very pro-active when it comes to their individual agendas. Each of the cults is given a thorough treatment in the book, going over their beliefs, organizational structure, goals and practices, as well as a short one-page summary of what they think of everyone else (hint: They mostly hate each other).
It’s because of this setup that I feel that Degenesis might work best as a limited or single Cult game. Some Cults work naturally together as in the case of the three African cults, but there are those who despise each other to the point that their standard orders are to kill on sight.
That said, let’s take a look at the Cults of Degenesis:
- Spitalians – A curious organization of trained warrior-medics who know a lot more about the Foulness and the spores than anyone else. Armed with flamethrowers and superior medical knowledge, they travel the world, healing the sick and burning away the Foulness where they can find it.
- Chroniclers – As masters of lost and forgotten technology, the Chroniclers turn their attentions to the recovery and preservation of technology to hopefully uplift themselves (and the rest of humanity) out of this age of ignorance and barbarism.
- Scrappers – Whereas the Chroniclers are busy with tinkering with technology, it’s the Scrappers that are out there in the ruins digging for it. Scrappers are often, cold, hungry and desperate, but few can doubt the fact that they are determined and very dangerous.
- Anabaptists – A strange gnostic offshoot of pre-Eschaton religion, the Anabaptists vow to purify the earth of all evil and herald the coming paradise with fire and faith. While they are merciless to their enemies, the Anabaptists have had surprising luck in coaxing food from barren land, and gaining the faith of many farmers who have joined their ranks to spread the word.
- Anubians – This group takes upon itself the mantle of the seer, the oracle and the shaman. Born of Egypt, this African Cult is one of the most occult-oriented, with a strong affinity for death, and a whole lot of secrets.
- Apocalyptiks – This nomadic cult involves themselves in the tradecraft of vice: drugs, prostitution, gambling, nothing is sacred. Their determination to live large among the ruins of civilization and willingness to do anything for their benefit has made them equally admired and despised.
- The Ashen – Hidden away in enclaves deep under the earth, this cult is a community in itself. Having adapted for centuries to living in darkness, the Ashen are a freakish but intriguing group with its own designs for the surface world.
- Hellvetics – Descended from the swiss military, this cult operates with a strict code of honor. Acting more like Knights of old, the Hellvetics are a largely neutral faction with an unassailable fortress in the Alps.
- Jehammedans – The other strongly religious group of the post-apocalypse are an equally fanatical group dedicated to fulfilling the words of their last prophet to subjugate the world for the Chosen of God.
- Neolibyans – This rich faction of Africans are the beating heart of trade in the affluent African nation. They control trade and handle the administration of the wealthy superpower. Their influence reaches far and wide, though it is no surprise that they are largely seen as gaudy and pampered.
- Marshals – These grim dispensers of instant justice make their home in Borca where they are respected and feared. Cloaked behind a strange code of law and indecipherable legalese, they are feared by the general populace for their methods, but they certainly know how to enforce control.
- Scourgers – An organization of African slavers, the Scourgers see themselves as avengers of the African people who have long suffered from the Europeans even before the Eschaton. They are a proud group of warriors who tame large hyenas to serve as allies in their raids for new slaves.
- Tribals – Not exactly an organization as a demographic, the Tribals represent those who have returned to the purest form of barbarism, starting over in the state where only the strongest have any right to rule.
It’s not difficult to see that the Cults don’t play well with each other most of the time. This means that GMs really have to start working on ways to set up the game in such a way that the players don’t automatically start killing each other on sight.
The best way is to start clumping them into interesting combinations:
- Lions Ascendant – Neolibyans, Scourgers and Anubians
- Here and Now – Spitalians, Chronicler, Apocalyptiks and Scrappers
- Expedition – Spitalian, Tribal, Chronicler, Scrapper
Most of the others strike me as better for a single-cult game. A Dogs in the Vineyard-style game of traveling Anabaptist Inquisitors for example, or a Jehammedan Rebel squad stuck fighting the Africans in Hybrispania.
Degenesis feels more like a well thought out sandbox game, where your character has all sorts of openings to get into different kinds of adventures and even more kinds of trouble.
Tomorrow we’ll be taking a look at the CatharSys system that Degenesis operates on. Everything looks good Fluff-wise, but will the crunch hold up?