'Barbarism is the natural state of mankind,' the borderer said, still staring somberly at the Cimmerian. 'Civilization is unnatural. It is a whim of circumstance. And barbarism must always ultimately triumph.'

-Robert E. Howard
Beyond The Black River

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Monday, February 4, 2019

Genesys in the Primeval Thule Setting

When I GMed a game of Conan for a group of complete strangers late last year, I was unsure of what I was getting myself into. Having recently returned to RPGs and GMing combined with my own fears about not doing a good enough job had definitely given me pause. In the end it was a very positive experience for me and I met some new people. Many of those people I met further this past weekend as we sat down to play a game of Genesys.

I have kept in touch with one of those players and have continued to discuss various RPG ideas. One of the systems he has really grown to like is, of course, Genesys. I was familiar with it as the game with the weird dice. When he said he felt it shared similar game DNA with Conan I was a little dubious, but he explained it all. After reading some more I came to a conclusion? I agree. So he went forward and set up a game of Genesys set in Primeval Thule to introduce a bunch of us who had been at "RPG ALLIANCE CON" in Calgary to the system.

Before I go on any further I have a couple of shutouts to people and I encourage you to all check out their various endeavors.
  • Rpg Alliance - Without this I wouldn't have met these people and I wouldn't have tried something new. Hope we see it become a yearly thing. Blog, Facebook.
  • Galaxy Gaming Gear- Thanks for the use of your figures and terrain as well as a little insight into your company and your goals. Website, Facebook.
  • Titan's Vault Games- Thanks to the use of the space in the store. It is great to have a place to play that we all had fairly easy access to. Website, Facebook.

OK. So lets talk basic mechanics. Like Conan 2d20, everything is based on skill rolls, and like Conan 2d20 we essentially have 5 classifications of difficulty: Easy, Average, Hard, Daunting and Formidable. It also includes 0 difficulty and an impossible difficulty. Mechanically the two systems diverge here, but maintain the same idea in terms of gaining success to completed tasks, it just handles this and what would be Momentum/doom in Conan 2d20 differently.

Celina darts down a dark side alley and pauses, the sounds of pursuit echoing down the street. Her hand grasps a small leather bag containing the goal of the evening. It had all been going so well, in and out and away into the night! Suddenly the alarm was raised and she found her self running for her life trying to escape the city guard. In an instant she decides to climb the wall next to her in an attempt to evade her pursuers.

At it's simplest Celina might have a rating of 2 for climbing the wall, granting her two dice to roll on a skill check. In Genesys you would pick up two custom eight sided dice. If her task was average difficulty you would pick up another set of custom 2d8, however they are a different color. Basically you are rolling your 2d8 vs the tasks 2d8. (Quick note: there is a d12 you get to roll on trained skills as well, but I chose to go with a super simple example).

The skill dice in Genesys show the following icons: Success, Advantage and Triumph(which does not appear on the d8).
The difficulty dice show: Failure, Threat and Despair.

Back to our example skill test, rolling the dice you come up with a total of 3 successes and 1 advantage on your skill dice. The difficulty dice come up with 0 failure and 2 threats.

I used this roller to generate my results.

To resolve the roll we cancel skill vs difficulty. Threat removes advantage and failure removes success. Doing so we see that Celina's roll is 2 successes + 1 threat, and this is where the system is really interesting in my mind. We do see this possibility in 2d20, but way way less often in the form of succeeding while rolling a complication. In Genesys it is pretty common to gain advantage or threat independently of succeeding or failing.

Celina succeeds in climbing the wall but in doing so manages to confer and advantage to her pursuers. There is a list of things advantage and disadvantage can do, including giving extra dice to your allies in the form of a custom d6. But my point isn't to give you an entire breakdown of the system, just to illustrate the basic idea.

With effort Celina scales the wall onto the roof of the building next to her and pauses in the dark as a squad of five men at arms come into the alley and look around trying to find signs of their quarry.

The guards may normally roll 2d8 as well for their skill check, but because Celina rolled that threat the GM has decided to give them an advantage die, so they roll 2d8+1d6 vs their difficulty roll.

As the guards look about the alley, Celina shifts in her hiding spot causing a small pebble to knock loose from the wall, alerting the guards to the direction she is in


The guards gain 2 successes and 1 threat as well!

The GM decides the guards see Celina as she turns to flee and begin to climb up the wall. The guards build their dice pool again, this time with an addition difficulty d6 to make their climb up the wall that much more difficult. The GM will narrate how that advantage is gained: loose walls, guards getting in each other's way or any number of other things.

Even with that level of inexperience with the system at the table I think we all had fun and enjoyed the whole system from combat to social and other tests. It is definitely a system I will look to add to my library.

The single largest entry point to this system is learning what the icons mean and how they cancel each other out, but once you are past that, the mechanic is simple and the dice do guide the narrative much as we would see in a system like Conan 2d20. The group I played with this weekend included an experienced GM, one experienced player and three people who had never played the system before. One of us had even tried the Star Wars version and had not liked it.

Having an experience GM makes things way simpler and overall I enjoyed the session and the system. It was narrative and fit decently well into the Sword & Sorcery setting that is Primeval Thule. Even if you don't have an experienced GM and the system has piqued your interested I recommend checking it out! You can get a copy at your local FLGS or at DrivethruRPG!

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  1. Was glad to have the opportunity to run this for ya!

  2. Thanks Keith, that's a great introduction to the system. As the aforementioned person who tried the Star Wars game and didn't like it, playing it with a couple people that were more familiar with the system certainly made a big difference and I'm much more likely to give it another try in the future.

    1. Thanks for chiming in on this! I was pretty sure that was the end result of your game, but great to hear it from you!