Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Gorgon Archer - Genesys - Character Creation Analysis

I had been tempted to do create a character in the new Star Wars system that was put out by Fantasy Flight Games in the last five years, but upon remembering that they were producing a generic version of the system I decided to hold off. That system is Genesys.

Genesys is a narrative heavy system that makes use of specialty dice. This can be a downside for many people as it requires the purchase of new dice, or using a chart to convert a roll on a normal die to something else. This is rather easy for games that use FUDGE dice as all you have to do is portion off the faces of a d6 in the same way you do for rolling a d3. It is also easy for the specialty dice of One Ring because all you have to do is remember that the 11 and 12 on a d12 have special functions and that the 6 on a d6 does as well. The dice in Genesys are substantially more complicated, however, in the end they are rather easy to figure out.

There are six sorts of dice in Genesys, three positive and three negative.

The positive dice are d6 Boost dice, d8 Ability dice, and d12 Proficiency dice. These produce three types of resources. Successes, which determine whether or not you succeed in what you set out to do; Advantages, which create side benefits to your action; and Triumph, which only appears on a Proficiency die and counts as both a Success and also provides a potent side benefit.

The negative dice are d6 Setback dice, d8 Difficulty dice, and d12 Challenge dice. These produce another three resources. Failures, which cancel out successes; Threat, which represent unwanted collateral effects to an action; and Despair, which only appears on a Challenge die and counts as both a Failure and also an extremely bad unwanted side-effect.

As a note, Threat and Advantage cancel each other out, so at the end of a result you will only have one of the two, not both. Despair and Triumph, however, do not cancel each other out and if you roll both you can have some rather strange results.

When you roll an action in Genesys you determine what Skill is being used. Each Skill is linked to a particular Characteristic. The higher of the two numbers is the number of dice that are being rolled with the lower of the two numbers being how many of those dice are upgraded from d8 Ability dice to d12 Proficiency dice. So someone with Agility 3 and Ranged Weapons 2 would roll one Ability die and two Proficiency dice. If you were to reverse that to Agility 2 and Ranged Weapons 3 the dice pool would be the same. Boost dice are added based on equipment, Talents, status effects, and environmental circumstances.

You will also roll a number of negative dice based on the difficulty of the task: Simple (0 dice), Easy (1 Difficulty die), Average (2 dice), Hard (3 dice), Daunting (4 dice), Formidable (5 dice), Impossible (require a Story point to even attempt and then add 5 Difficulty dice). Some rolls will be opposed in which case the negative pool will be built based on the Skills and Characteristics similar to above. Similarly situations may add Setback dice, especially if you're in combat and the target has levels of Defense.

Certain effects can cause dice to be upgraded or downgraded, but we won't get into that for now. Once you have your dice pool, you roll it and tally the results to see if you succeeded or failed in your action.

For example, if our Agility 3, Ranged Weapons 2 character is trying to take a shot at long range against a target with Defense 2, then they roll 2 Proficiency dice, 1 Ability die, 3 Difficulty dice, and 2 Setback dice. They roll a total of 2 Successes and 1 Failure, which net a total of 1 Success; 4 Advantages and 5 Threats, which net a total of 1 Threat. This means that the shot hits, but some relatively bad thing happens as well. Perhaps the attack causes the enemy to learn where the character is shooting from and thus draws attention. Alternately, if they had rolled a Failure and an Advantage, the attack would have missed, but the sound of the clattering arrow might have lured the enemy to turn away from the character.

It sounds more complicated than it is in practice. It is simply necessary to remember that Success and Failure refer to the completion of the stated task while Advantage and Threat refer to the occurrence of side benefits or problems. It is very possible to have successful rolls that cause more problems than they solve such as successfully negotiating a low price for some supplies but insulting the merchant as you do so, possibly causing him to hire bandits or assassins to attack you later down the line. Likewise, you might find a failed roll grants you more benefit than you initially hoped to achieve. For example, you might fail to negotiate a price you can afford but still impress the merchant enough that they might give you some very useful advice.

As to character creation, there are seven steps in Genesys. Choose a concept, choose an archetype/species, choose a career, invest experience points, determine derived abilities, determine character motivation, and then determine gear, appearance, and personality.

Choosing a concept requires no mechanics though may be limited by the setting you are playing in. You are not going to be playing a computer hacker in most games set in twelfth century England, for example. For this case, we are, of course, doing the gorgon archer. So we're going to assume a fantasy setting.

The next step is choosing archetype or species. The base book has four archetypes for campaigns that are human only: the Average Human, the Laborer, The Intellectual, and the Aristocrat. It also has species archetypes for Elf, Dwarf, Orc, Mongrel, Revenant, Bioroid, Clone, Animalistic Alien, Psionic, Robot, and the Vanguard Alien. It predictably does not have rules for gorgons. However, there are rules for creating custom species and I won't get into them but will break down what each species profile has.

Each species profile gives the starting values for the character's six Characteristics: Brawn, Agility, Intellect, Cunning, Willpower, and Presence. Most of these will be 2 but there will be one at 1 and one at 3 in most species profiles. The average human and a few others has all stats start at 2. In addition to this, there will be starting formula for determining Wound Threshold and Strain Threshold. Each species also comes with two special abilities and some starting Experience usually ranging from 90 to 110 points. The special abilities usually include one free rank of a skill and a separate ability indicating some benefit of physiology or upbringing. These are usually about as powerful as a very minor talent, but some can be a bit stronger at the cost of lower starting XP.

After choosing your species, you choose a Career. Each career names eight Skills which will be considered Career skills and thus be cheaper to upgrade in the future. In addition, your character will gain one rank in each of four different Career skills. You can't apply ranks to the same skill twice at this step although you can add a rank to the Skill or Skills you gained from your species profile so that you start with a skill at rank 2.

As a note, in the FFG Star Wars game, Career was a bit more complicated. The Career level provided four Skills, two of which you could place a rank in, and then you chose a Specialization which provided four more Skills and a Talent tree. Genesys does not use specific Talent trees or Specializations. This does make things a bit more simple in comparison and also makes for customizing new careers much more simple.

Once you have chosen a career, you invest your starting experience points. You can use these points to raise Skills and Characteristics or to purchase Talents. There are some things to note.
  1. You cannot start the game with any Skill at a higher rank than 2.
  2. Characteristics cannot be higher than 5 save through temporary improvements.
  3. You cannot improve Characteristics with experience once character creation is over.
There is a fifth tier Talent that can improve characteristics, but, for the most part, character creation is the last chance you have to improve your base Characteristics. As such, the game advises that you focus most of your spending on improving Characteristics rather than Skills or Talents.

To improve a characteristic, you spend a number of experience points equal to the desired rank times 10. These must be increase sequentially. As such, to increase a Characteristic from 3 to 5, you need to spend 90 points. You spend 40 to increase from 3 to 4 and 50 to increase from 4 to 5.

To improve a career skill, you spend a number of experience points equal to the desired rank times 5. As with characteristics, these must also be bought sequentially. So buying a skill up to 1 from 0 costs 5 experience while buying a skill from 0 to 2 costs 15. 5 for increasing 0 to 1, 10 for increasing from 1 to 2.

For non-career Skills, simply add 5 to the cost of a career skill. This would make rank 1 cost 10 and rank 2 cost 15. For going straight from rank 0 to rank 2 would cost 25 because you still have purchase them sequentially and the 5 point non-career cost is added to each sequential purchase.

Talents cost a number of experience points based on their tier. Tier 1 Talents cost 5 points, Tier 2 Talents cost 10 points, Tier 3 cost 15 points, Tier 4 cost 20 points, and Tier 5 cost 25 points. In Star Wars there were Talent trees that had specific starting points which were usually Tier 1 or Tier 2 equivalent Talents. However, in Genesys, there are no Talent trees and you simply have to unlock the higher Tiers by purchasing the lower Tiers. You have to have more Talents of the next lower tier than you will have of the Tier you wish to purchase. In other words, you cannot purchase a Tier 2 Talent until you have at least two Tier 1 Talents.

The character sheet format includes a Tier pyramid showing how many of each tier a character is able to have. The game does not explicitly state that this is a hard limit and may simply be based on the space available to the sheet. In any regard, the pyramid has slots for 7 Tier 1 Talents, 6 Tier 2 Talents, 5 Tier 3 Talents, 4 Tier 4 Talents, and 3 Tier 5 Talents. It would likely take a very long time to fill up this pyramid even if it is intended as a hard and fast limit.

Some Talents can be purchased multiple times and rank up as you do. Each additionally rank is treated as the next higher Tier. For example, Tier 1 of Durable will cost 5 xp, Tier 2 of Durable will cost 10 xp (15 total), and so on. The lower tiers continue to fill up places on the Tier pyramid. Tier 5 is the highest Tier so a ranked Talent that already fills a Tier 5 slot may be improved by filling further Tier 5 slots.

There is a section on creating your Talents and we may be doing that as a way of duplicating the character's gorgon abilities.

Once you have spent your experience points, you set your derived attributes. Your starting Wound and Strain Thresholds are based on your species or archetype. Starting Defense is usually going to be 0 unless you purchase some gear that increases that in the last step. Starting Soak is your Brawl rating. Encumbrance is not mentioned with the derived attributes but is instead discussed in the section on equipment. Your base Encumbrance Threshold is your Brawn + 5 though gear and other elements may increase that.

After derived attributes, you choose your motivation. In the three main Star Wars games, each setting had its own version of Motivation. Age of Rebellion had Duty and Edge of the Empire had Obligation. I do not own Force and Destiny so I cannot say what its version of Motivation was. Both Duty and Obligation had interesting impact on the gameplay and were tracked with numerical values that affected the character's reputation. Genesys simplifies this substantially. The Motivation has four parts: Desire, Fear, Strength, Flaw. The game book provides some charts you can roll on that include ten samples of each of these, but specifically states that these are simply samples and encourages you to create your own if it fits your character.

Motivations come into play during the game when an action works for against them. If an action aligns with your character's Strength or Flaw then 1 Boost die is added to the action. If the action aligns against these, then 1 Setback die is added. Working with or against Desire or Fear is the same but more severe, adding 2 of the appropriate dice.

In the book, the example of this is an someone trying to appeal to a character with a Strength of Independence. If he were to approach her while complimenting her wealth and discipline, this appeals to her Strength and gives him a Boost die. However, if he were to approach her and suggest that she needs his help and her efforts would be useless without him, then he would be working against the Strength and thus gain a Setback die to his efforts.

The last step is to purchase gear, each character starts with 500 currency units to do so, and describe their appearance and personality. These generally have no mechanical effect and this is basically where you flush out the character beyond the basic numbers and abilities that you have been working with to this point.

Gorgon Species Profile
Brawn: 1
Agility: 2
Intellect: 2
Cunning: 3
Willpower: 2
Presence: 2

Starting Wound Threshold: 10 + Brawn
Starting Strain Threshold: 11 + Brawn

Many Eyes: Gorgons start with 1 free rank of the Perception skill due to their serpentine hair giving them lots of extra sensory input. You still may not start with higher than Rank 2 in the Perception Skill.

Stone Gaze: A gorgon may spend Strain up to their Willpower in order to attempt a Coercion test opposed by the target's Discipline. A success means the target will lose their next action unless they spend Strain equal to the number of Successes generated, to a maximum equal to how much Strain was spent by the gorgon initially. They may still make maneuvers. (This is a fairly potent, if exhausting, ability, so I'm going to say it costs 10 XP)

Fearsome: This species is feared in common society. Add 1 Setback die to Charm, Deception, Leadership, and Negotiation tests. Add 1 Boost die to Coercion tests they make. (This is straight from the book and adds 5 XP. It does work well with the Stone Gaze though)

Starting Experience: 90

Gorgon Archer - Gorgon Explorer

Melusine the Gorgon
Brawn: 1
Agility: 4
Intellect: 2
Cunning: 3
Willpower: 2
Presence: 2

Wound Threshold: 11
Strain Threshold: 14
Encumbrance Threshold: 6 (10 with backpack)
Encumbrance: 9 (Armor 2 + Bow 2 + Clothing 4 + Dagger 1)
Melee Defense: 0
Ranged Defense: 0
Soak: 1 (2 with Leather Armor)

Many Eyes, Stone Gaze, Fearsome

Career Skills: Athletics, Brawl, Coordination, Deception, Perception, Ranged, Stealth, Survival

Skills: Coordination 1, Perception 1, Ranged 2, Stealth 1, Survival 1

  • Forager - Your character removes up to 2 Setback dice for any checks they make to find food, water, or shelter. Checks to forage or search the area that your character makes take half the time that they would normally.
  • Knack for it (Stealth) - When you purchase this Talent select 1 Skill. Remove up to 2 Setback dice from any checks made with that Skill. (Future ranks of this Talent each add 2 Skills that gain this benefit)

  • Desire - Belonging
  • Fear - Humiliation
  • Strength - Courageous
  • Flaw - Anger
Winter Clothing (Encumbrance 4, Rarity 3)
Bow (Ranged, Damage 7, Crit 3, Range Medium, Encumbrance 2, Rarity 2, Unwieldy 2)
Dagger (Melee, Damage Brawn+1, Crit 3, Range Engaged, Encumbrance 1, Rarity 1)
Leather Armor (Soak +1, Encumbrance 2, Rarity 3)
Backpack (Encumbrance +4, Rarity 3)

The character is Melusine, a gorgon who dwells in the dark woods on the boarder of the kingdom. She is a prickly sort with brown skin touched with greenish scales. Her serpentine hair is dark green with touches of golden patterns.

Experience Point Spending:
Agility 3 - 30 pts
Agility 4 - 40 pts
Ranged 2 - 10 pts
Tier 1 Talent: Knack for It - 5 pts
Tier 1 Talent: Forager - 5 pts

Character Advancement
Character Creation and the Gorgon Archer

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