Degenesis

[Campaign Design] Planning the Apocalypse

After giving it some thought over the weekend and talking it over with Silver Countess and Hikkikomori, I’ve been looking at the idea of running a post-apocalypse game as an option.

I’ve mentioned earlier that I’ve been on a Fallout binge, so the idea of Post-Apocalypse gaming is on top of mind as of late. However, this is a fairly new genre for me to actually run, and there’s a lot of thinking required in terms of running a game set in this genre.

I need to start hammering out the specifics of the setting if I want to come up with a campaign starting with the basics:

What was the Apocalypse?

Seems like a fairly simple question. There’s a whole lot of different Post-Apocalypse scenarios out there: Disease, Nuclear War, zombies, Economic Collapse, Climate Change, solar Flares. The big problem is picking one and extrapolating from there.

I’m a fan of Fallout, but I’m not sure I want to use that setting. For one thing, it’s easy enough to metagame for those familiar with the setting, and those who don’t are left in the dark.

That leaves us with having to put a setting together from scratch. Thankfully other movies and games have given their ideas for the apocalypse, and I’m honestly tempted to take a page from Tom Clancy’s: The Division and go for a Disease that leads to societal collapse without leaving too many ruins. The downside to that is that it’s technically a “soft” apocalypse, and given enough years after, mankind will right itself again.

The advantage of doomsday scenarios like Climate Change and Nuclear Wasteland on the other hand has long-lasting effects that could very well do a harsher reboot on society, leaving mankind to work his way up the Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs again.

Tech Levels

Some post-apocalypse settings assume that the apocalypse happened when humanity was a little more technologically advanced. This means that the technology that could be salvaged in the post-apocalypse was somewhat more futuristic than what we have right now. From power armor to lasers, these could be barely functioning to brand new and hidden away in caches around the world.

How has the world changed?

Aside from the human factor, which we’ll get to later, the other question is to work with what else has changed given the shift in the environment. Darwin’s theory of evolution would imply that only those best suited for, or able to adapt to the new harsh conditions would thrive, leaving strange new creatures, or evolved forms of wildlife that could do well in the wasteland. Mankind could be affected as well. Mild to moderate mutations could be a normal state for humanity.

Where does this take place?

This is the tough part for me. I’m not that keen on locations so I’m bound to make a lot of mistakes here. That said I could just cheat and run it set in a post-apocalypse Manila.

How far has society recovered?

This is the fun part. With the loss of modern society, the world is now goverened in smaller groups of humanity. Raiders, cities, towns and farming commmunities come out of nowhere. I’ll have to work on it, but I think there’s something there.

Where do the characters come in?

Unlike most settings the player characters in Post Apocalypse games tend to not be movers and shakers. With everyone focused on surviving from day to day, it’s good enough to live long enough to have a roof over your head and food to last you till tomorrow. I’m hoping to change that though as I’ve always been a little more optimistic than I give myself credit for.

So what now?

Now I have to start making decisions and lock down on the setting. I normally go for more social games, so having a post-apocalypse game will be challenging as we’re going back to basics. Hopefully it won’t devolve to a re-skinned D&D with guns and dirt.

Research Material

Right now I’m going through all the post apocalypse settings I’ve got in my library including:

  • Degenesis
  • Wreck Age
  • Atomic Highway
  • Other Dust
  • Hell on Earth Reloaded!

Any other recommendations?

[Let’s Study: Degenesis] Part 6 – Conclusions & Review

Once in a while you run into a game that has teeth. Degenesis is one of those games.

Everything about Degenesis communicates a single vision. The artwork and layout work seamlessly with the bleak nature of the setting and the deadly nature of the combat system to create a consistent whole. Degenesis is not a game for kids, and while it is well suited to stories about hope in the midst of the apocalypse, many people who want to go around playing superheroes that kick ass and take names right off the bat might not enjoy this as much.

I feel that the CatharSys system that powers Degenesis is a fairly robust set of mechanics. While I still have issues of the moving target numbers slowing down the game somewhat, it isn’t a deal breaker by any stretch. The Vitality mechanic in particular is a great way to stress the desperation of combat, and how people can’t just give 110% all the time without needing to catch their breath. I’ve yet to see the whole thing come together for larger combats, but what I’ve seen so far is pretty good.

The setting has a lot of potential, and with strange villains like the Psychonauts and the struggles between the Thirteen Cults, there’s plenty to see and do. People who despise metaplot will be happy, I believe, as the game presents its setting as more of a sandbox, where GMs can start shaping their campaigns around what they feel they can work with best. There are some big names mentioned, but few have been given formal stats giving the GM leeway with regards to just how important (or insignificant) these NPCs are.

I can’t help but feel that we need more games like Degenesis. Ones who aren’t afraid to give a dark setting that doesn’t pull punches. Delving into the nature of human depravity (and the horrors of alien entities corrupting human minds and bodies) is something that most games shy away from. Perhaps a lot of other companies shy away from the idea of limiting their audience, but there’s certainly something to be said about games that take this risk. I’d also like to add, that nothing in the book feels like a cheap way to get a reaction. The violence and nudity is treated in a mature manner that speaks well for the designers and authors who took the risk without it being the central come-on of the book.

I would definitely recommend Degenesis to those who are looking for a different sort of post-apocalypse game. With a well rounded setting, and a host of opportunities for getting into conflict (whether against Nature, or mutants or their fellow man) Degenesis offers a unique take on the often cookie-cutter post-apocalypse genre.

If you’re interested in picking up a copy, Degenesis is available via DriveThruRPG in PDF format for  $15.00 or roughly Php 645.00, those interested in a hardcopy can also order one via DriveThruRPG’s Print On Demand option as well.

[Let’s Study: Degenesis] Part 5 – Sample Combat, Kristof’s First Bar Brawl

Now that we’ve had a bit of time to build a character of our own, let’s put Kristof (and the CatharSys system) to the test by having him get into his first bar brawl as a Marshal.

For the sake of this playtest, I’ll be pitting Kristof up against the sample character from the Degenesis corebook, a Hybrispanian Apocalyptik by the name of Salender.

Kristof has working as one of the deputies of a senior Marshal for a few months now. While occasionally too enthusiastic in his duties in roughing up rowdy townsfolk, Kristof has shown significant promise as a Marshal. When an angry (and naked) individual storms into the Marshal’s office asking for them to arrest an Hybrispanian woman in the local bar for cheating at cards, the Marshal sends Kristof to look into the matter.

Kristof shrugged, slipping on his claw gloves. This shouldn’t take a minute.

He crossed the busy streets towards the bar, a ramshackle structure built against the ruins of a pre-Eschaton building whose original purpose was lost to time. He pulled aside the ratty canvas cloth curtain that served as a door to the place and looked around.

It wasn’t difficult to find Salender. Her appearance and fashion was provocative even in this day and age. Still, it would be a mistake to underestimate her for a pushover as he recognized the markings of her Cult. An Apocalyptik, the traveling thieves and vagabonds, bane of any civilized society.

“You there.” Kristof placed a hand on her shoulder, “The Marshal wants to have words with you.”

“Sorry.” she replied, her Hybrispanian accent thick, “But I can’t let that happen.” Kristof didn’t know where the knife in her hand came from, but the message was clear, she wasn’t about to just come peacefully.

Just as well, Kristof felt like breaking a few bones today.

We’ll start off with Initiative. Salender has 8 AGI, and no points in Quickness. Kristof has 7 AGI, and likewise has no points in Quickness.

During this phase, both players may choose to wager Vitality in order to boost their Initiative for that round. Salender is not willing to lose her edge to Kristof and secretly wagers 2 of her 6 points of vitality to gain a +2 to her initiative score. Kristof decides to wager nothing, hoping that he can force her to run out of Vitality here, and rely on his toughness to carry the day.

Both reveal their  bids, and Salender’s Initiative is now 10, while Kristof stays at 7. Salender acts first.

Salender’s speed was that of a viper, swinging her knife at Kristof’s abdomen in hopes of ending the fight quickly and cleanly.

Salender’s AGI of 8 and Armed Combat skill of 2 giving her an AV of 10.

Her Battle Knife has a damage rating of 4. and an Inertia of 6.

The difficulty of the attack is 0 given that she’s aiming for Kristof’s torso.

Seeing that she has fairly decent chances, Salender also opts to attack twice, adding the Battle Knife’s Inertia to the difficulty roll of both attacks.

In summary, Salender makes two attack rolls, aiming to roll a 7, 8, 9 or 10.

Salender’s player rolls 2d10 twice: 2+3= 5, a miss and 6+7= 13, another miss.

At this point Salender can opt to spend another 2 points of vitality to increase her roll of 5 by 2 points to score a 7, but given that she only has 4 Vitality left, she decides to hold off on that for now.

Kristof lets go of her shoulder, jumping back just slightly out of reach as the blade swung past his abdomen. “I’m going to enjoy this.” he muttered as he decided to take a swing at Salender’s face.

Kristof is a Sadistic sort hence his choice of hit location. Looking at his stats from yesterday’s article, his AV for the Unarmed Attack is a 9.

The Difficulty of the attack is 4 (head hit location).

In summary, Kristof needs to roll his attack and score a 5, 6, 7, 8 or 9 to hit.

Kristof’s player rolls a 3+1= 4, a Miss.

Kristof’s player on the other hand is still fresh, with all of his 8 Vitality still available. He spends one Vitality to bump his attack roll to a 5, and scores a hit.

Salender isn’t wearing any armor covering her face, and therefore the damage roll starts off with Difficulty 0. The AV of the attack is determined by Kristof’s Power rating (BOD+Strength)/2, rounded down. Kristof has a BOD of 7, and no points in Strength, resulting in a Power of 3.

Kristof rolls 4 dice, hoping to score a 1, 2 or 3 to do damage.

Mirculously, he rolls a 1, 2, 2 and 2! Crappy rolling on any other day, but in this case it means that Kristof’s fist does 4 points of damage to Salender’s face.

Salender realized that she’d overextended herself in her attack as Kristof’s clawed fist smashed into her face, slashing parallel cuts across her once flawless cheek, sending blood splattering onto his clothing.

Damage-wise, Kristof deals 4 points of damage, Tearing through Salender’s 2 Flesh Wounds for her head, and dealing 2 Trauma Wounds.

Salender must now make a Trauma Roll with an AV of 6 (Her BOD + Toughness) and a difficulty equal to the Trauma Wounds received.

Salender rolls an 11, failing her Trauma Roll. She falls unconscious and her Vitality drops to 0.

Salender’s vision blacks out and she crashes into a heap on the filthy floor of the tavern. Kristof picks up her knife, inspects it a moment and slips it into his own belongings.

He grabs her by the arm and drags her unconscious form out of the bar, whistling all the way.

Well, that was decidedly ugly.

I’m not sure why it happens during my combat system playtests, but I tend to get freaky rolling half the time. In this case Kristof’s damage roll carried the day. A claw glove to the face of a poor girl wasn’t pleasant, and having it do full damage in one hit was a sure way to knock her out.

So far combat feels gritty, with enough tactical options to give interesting variations. This was a melee example, so I imagine that ranged combat will be equally interesting (and perhaps equally brutal.)

The combat system takes a little bit of getting used to, but so far it doesn’t feel particularly broken in any way. Overall I think it’s pretty solid, but perhaps further play will show any particular quirks and failures in the system.

Tomorrow I’ll post a summary of this series of Let’s Study articles on Degenesis, and maybe a few thoughts towards how I’d run this game. See you then!

[Let’s Study: Degenesis] Part 4 – Character Creation & Sample Character

Degenesis’ character creation system is fairly straightforward, and has about the same level of complexity as Legend of the Five Rings 4e. There’s a little bit of flipping back and forth between pages, but nothing quite as migraine inducing as the old 3rd Edition L5R.

Degenesis includes a summary of character creation, something that I feel is a definite Best Practice for any RPG of almost any complexity nowadays. The steps are fairly easy to follow:

  1. Establish Attribute Values
  2. Choose a Culture
  3. Choose a Concept
  4. Choose a Cult
  5. Calculate Derived Statistics
  6. Determine Starting Rank and Equipment

There are five attributes in Degenesis: Agility, Body, Charism, Intelligence and Psyche. Starting characters have 5 points in each and can shift points between attributes to their satisfaction. Raising an attribute beyond 7 points is costlier however, requiring two attribute points for each step beyond 7. This sort of balances things off and encourages characters to have a more even spread of attribute values.

Cultures bestow a mini-template to the character, contributing attribute bonuses, as well as access to cultural skills and a handful of skill points. Cultures also require the player to pick a Principle, which is sort of a defining trait of the character which the players are encouraged to roleplay, as the GM can reward experience points for players who play up their Principles.

The Concept and Cult selection phases mirror the Culture phase, bestowing more attributes bonuses (in the Concept Phase), skills and skill points and a Principle for each step. By the end of these, the character should have three Principles that give an idea of what kind of person they are.

Derived statistics include Flesh Wounds, Trauma Wounds, Vitality and Maximum Spore Points.

Finally the character compares their stats to the requirements of their Cult to determine their status. Each cult has their own Rank table showing the Rank title, Requirements per rank, Equipment bestowed and funds given by their Cult. Some characters might start off as nothing but raw recruits, but other might be made of the right stuff to be higher up on the food chain.

Sample Character:

Kristof, Aspiring Marshal

Culture: Borca
Concept: Decay
Cult: Marshal

AGI 6
BOD 7
CHA 4
INT 4
PSY 7

Culture Skills:
Perception 1 (PSY) AV: 8
Survival 1 (INT) AV: 5
Toughness 3 (BOD) AV: 10

Concept Skills:
Armed Combat 3 (AGI) AV: 9
Firearms 2 (AGI) AV: 8
Unarmed Combat 3 (AGI) AV: 9

Cult Skills:
Domination 1 (CHA) AV: 5
Leadership 2 (CHA) AV: 6
Self Mastery 2 (PSY) AV: 9
Stamina 1 (BOD) AV: 8
Law 2 (INT) AV: 6
Writing 1 (INT) AV: 5

Principle:
Loner
Sadistic
Elitist

Flesh Wounds:
Head: 3
Torso: 5
Legs: 4

Trauma Wounds: 10
Vitality: 8
Max Spore Points: 9
Rank: Vagabond

Equipment:
Claw Glove, DAM 4
30 Chronicreds

Overall Character creation took no longer than 15 minutes or so, with a little bit of flipping back and forth to check on the Principles more than anything else. An odd thing I noticed here is that a starting marshal has only 50 Chronicreds to his name, which is surprisingly little compared to the atrocious prices in the equipment list in the book. I decided to give him a Claw Glove to start off with and not much else. I suppose that’s to be expected given that Degenesis is a post-apocalyptic setting, so I’m assuming that Kristof will have to work on picking up his equipment from the bodies of his enemies.

Speaking of dead bodies, tomorrow we’ll take a look at a quick sample combat where we pit good old Kristof against an opponent and see how well he does in a fight

[Let’s Study: Degenesis] Part 3 – The CatharSys Ruleset

Now that we’ve had a look at the factions and history of Degenesis, let’s go ahead and pop open the hood of this thing and see what makes it tick.

Degenesis has its own proprietary system called CatharSys. It’s an interesting system and I’ll try to give a general overview of how things work. At its heart, the basic task resolution for Degenesis involves rolling 2d10 and aiming for a value that is both ABOVE the Difficulty value of the action, while still being BELOW or EQUAL to the task’s Action Value. The Action Value is determined by adding a character’s Attribute rating (which ranges from 1-10) to their Skill Rating (which ranges from 0-10.)

What this means is that you’re actually aiming to hit any one result among a range of values that counts as a success. So, for example, if you’re attempting an action, and your AV is 12 and the task difficulty is 6, then you roll 2d10 and hope for a result of 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 Or 12 in order to succeed.

The first question that popped into my head was, “What if the Difficulty exceeds the character’s AV? Then what?” Well, the answer apparently is that the character has no chance to actually succeed in that action. Plain and simple and reassuring in some way. Degenesis doesn’t believe in giving you a remote chance.

There are critical success and critical failure rules in CatharSys as well, with roling doubles as the indicator. If a player rolls doubles and the value is a success, it’s a critical success, likewise, if the resulting value is a failure, it’s a critical failure.

Standard variants for rolling are included, such as contested rolls and teamwork, giving CatharSys a fairly robust mechanic to work with.

To those worried about difficulties, there are some means to lower the difficulty of a task. The first is if the character has a Specialization in the task being tested. Specializations lower the Difficulty of a task by 1.

A Character may also decide to spend Vitality, a special character resource that represents sheer effort. Vitality has multiple uses, but one of them is to lower the difficulty of a task by 1 point per point of Vitality spent. Characters may also increase a Die roll’s result during Combat after a skill roll, also by spending 1 Vitality per point increase in the skill roll total.

Combat

Now that we’ve taken a general review of the mechanics, let’s take a look at combat. Initiative starts off according to a character’s Initiative score, which is a static value that can be modified by having the players spend Vitality to temporarily add to their Initiative score for the round.

Attack rolls are resolved as skill rolls, with the target character’s Hit Location (among Head, Torso or Legs) and other modifiers as the Difficulty, and the attacking character’s Attribute+Skill as the AV.

Determine damage by rolling the weapons damage potential, with an AV equal to the attack’s penetration stat. Damage is handled somewhat differently as each die is compared individually to the AV and Difficulty set by the target’s armor. All those that succeed do a single point of damage.

Hit points are handled differently here as each character has a number of Flesh Wounds per Hit Location, once these Flesh Wounds are eliminated by taking damage, then the player starts taking Trauma wounds. Trauma wounds are dangerous as each time a character takes a Trauma wound, they will have to make a roll to remain conscious, or else otherwise go down and out of the fight.

There’s more to it than this admittedly, but CatharSys seems to be a fairly decent, if not entirely super-innovative system. I like how the Vitality attribute works, and how it serves as a pool of points that can refresh itself in a fight, simulating how combat is actually a burst of activity punctuated by moments when one or both parties try to catch their breath.

The rules themselves are easy enough to pick up and learn, though I’m slightly worried that the two condition check in reading a roll might slow things down in play. That could just be me though, and I’ll not be certain until such time that I actually see it in play. The idea of a moving sweet spot for success is neat on paper though.

Tomorrow we’ll be looking at Character Creation in Degenesis, and well try to whip up a character on the fly.

[Let’s Study: Degenesis] Part 2 – The Thirteen Cults

Artwork of the Marshals by Wesley Burt: http://www.wesleyburt.com/

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?

[Let’s Study: Degenesis] Part 1 – The Setting & History of the Apocalypse

Artwork by Wesley Burt: http://www.wesleyburt.com/

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.

Alien Spores

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.

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