Degenesis is up front and center about being a Primal post apocalyptic setting, and I have to admit that I’m very impressed with what I’ve seen so far. The art and layout are superb, and I’m getting a really interesting Post-Apocalypse meets Sword & Sorcery vibe. Despite the bleak nature and barbaric trappings of the setting, I’m impressed by how hope tends to come back now and then as a recurring theme.
It’s a pretty crappy world to live in, but it doesn’t have to stay that way.
Rocks fall, Everyone Dies.
Degenesis begins the setting chapters with a recap of the final moments of civilization as we know it. I found it rather disturbing that mankind knew about the coming of the asteroids, but I’m assuming that they were powerless to stop it. It is in those final days before impact that civilization ended, where man discarded all pretense of morals and law and began to turn on itself in a desperate, maddened attempt to find meaning before the end. Suicide and doomsday cults, a resurgence of old religions and mass looting occurred all over the world.
Then the asteroids hit.
The resulting devastation changed the face of the world, and over the next hundreds of years, earth was plunged into a new ice age caused by the choking dust that covered most of the earth, sparing only the regions closest to the Equator, including Africa.
The climate changed, leaving Africa exposed to weather closer to the Mediterranean climate, allowing plants and vegetation to take root. Meanwhile, Europe froze over, and the water levels receded, changing the face of both continents.
When the ice and bitter cold receded, mankind clawed its way back out of their hiding places and found a world changed. People were forced to start over from scratch, eking out an existence from what they could discover and understand, while picking at the remains of the fallen civilizations, hoping to find anything that could help them.
But the strangest, weirdest phenomenon that greeted humanity in this new dark age would be the existence of bizarre alien spores that dotted the land in five giant impact craters where the asteroids fell. These spores are living, possibly sentient things, and have the disturbing effect of mutating life forms on earth, from plants, to insects and even humans, a phenomenon that is now known as The Foulness.
These mutated humans are known as Psychonauts, whose mutations have unlocked strange and disturbing psychic powers. They are almost all insane, and seem to be subject to the orders of the alien will of the spores.
While Europe is subject to these Psychonauts, Africa has to contend with the presence of Psychovors, mutated plant life that is inhospitable and poisonous to human life.
Seven Infant Civilizations
Degenesis focuses on seven different cultures in this ravaged world. Each one has more than a few powerful plot hooks that make the setting quite the sandbox to play in, but I’ll get to that later when we start examining the game for campaign ideas. The seven civilizations are:
- Africa – The resplendent home of the Neolibyans merchant cult, Africa has become perhaps the most powerful civilization in the known world. Though threatened by the Psychovor threat, Africa is hungry for dominance, and extends it’s will through trade and steel.
- Balkhan (the Balkans) – The Balkhani are wild and untamed and the Balkhan lands are a strange network of alliances (and betrayals) of the Balkhani nobility. Their home is threatened by the insidious Psychonauts known as the Dushani, masters of manipulation who sneak into thoughts and twist them from within.
- Borca (Germany) – Enduring and determined, the Borcan people struggle to survive in the harshest of conditions. Home to a massive fault that split their homeland in two, the western Borcans search the ruins of their once glorious past, looking to find anything that could help them rise above their status, while the eastern Borcans are more of herdsmen and survivors adapting to the world as it is rather than looking to the past for answers.
- Franka (France) – Almost lost to the domain of Pheromancer Psychonauts, Franka is a civilization that has all but succumbed to the power of corruption. Still, its proud people cling to the symbols of hope and idealism of their past.
- Hybrispania (Spain) – The proud people of Hybrispania find themselves in a constant state of war. They are rebels in their own home fighting off the African occupiers in a constant cycle of blood and violence.
- Pollen (Poland) – The devastated wasteland of Pollen is home to the Pandora crater, and is one of the epicenters of the disturbing and alien mutations that plague Europe. The Polleners are hardy survivors that eke out an existence even against the strange creatures born of the Foulness.
- Purgare (Italy) – The Purgar civilization forges iron bonds of family and faith. Twelve major families rule the land, and their people fight against the Psychokinetic Psychonauts.
Definitely a strong start for a post-apocalyptic game. Degenesis presents a unique and interesting vision of the far flung future. Even after the madness of an extinction-level event mankind rises to the challenge of surviving. The only question that remains now is, will it be strong enough to claw its way up from mere survival to taming this new world, and bringing back the light and hope of true civilization when faced with threats both alien and from their fellow man?
On Monday, we take a look at the other defining facet of characters in the Degenesis setting: The Thirteen Cults, organizations that vie for control and dominance in whatever is left of civilization.