Let me start with some words about my background: I started P&P-Roleplaying games over 20 years ago. As a kid I played the German P&P "Das Schwarze Auge", then some Shadowrun, Earthdawn, several D&D settings, some Cthulhu and World of Darkness, especially Vampire: The Requiem.
A few years ago I stumbled upon a P&P setting called Degenesis. The artwork and the setting were intriguing, the rules not so much. Last year a company called Sixmorevodka brought out a new edition of this system called "Degenesis: Rebirth". In my eyes the new edition is a true piece of art and corrects the flaws of its predecessor. I am not connected to the company that released it, but since I fell in love with Degenesis: Rebirth I would like to introduce it to you. Sine the English version of Degenesis: Rebirth was released just now you might be interested.
Sixmorevodka seems to be a detail-loving, in-a-good-way-nerdy bunch of people who are far from doing this halfheartedly, so they produced two trailers for Degenesis:
For an impression of how amazing the artwork looks, just visit the homepage:
I have to admit that I have never seen a Pen&Paper-RPG into which presentation has been put that much effort.
Degenesis plays some 500 years from now in Europe and Africa.
Apocalyptic events shook the world in its foundations: Asteroids crashed into it, the climate changed and a deadly plague killed a large part of the world's population. Humanity was driven into hiding. It took quite some time but eventually humanity dared to stick it's head out of its hiding holes. In most places the once omnipresent technology had been lost, the world-spanning network (called "the stream") was gone and wild tribes roamed the bleak landscape. Survival wasn't easy but step by step the struggle for survival became a struggle for civilization. Communities were formed and cities (re)built.
Still civilization is like a delicate flower in danger of dying in the harsh reality but as of yet it clings to life.
But there is something definitely strange out there. Where the asteroids crashed into the earth the brought the "Primer" with it. As a result long forgotten species like trilobites crawl out of the craters. Humanoid creatures, called Psychonauts, appear. They command unearthly powers and seem to be part of a hive mind. Will humanity prevail against this new threat? Is it even a threat or just the next evolutionary step?
And why did the asteroids hit the earth despite its state of the art defense system, which did not even react when the asteroid swarm flew by?
What is the agenda of the "Sleepers" who are leaving hidden bunkers filled with long forgotten technology?
Who are the seemingly immortal "Marauders", who seem to have no love left for those Sleepers?
The setting offers plentiful mysteries for the players. Reading the rulebook made my mind spinning wild with ideas from cmapigns about a centuries old conspiracy to horror-themed plots to the struggle of civilization faced with a threat of unknown proportions.
The Rulebook is made up of two books actually:
The first book (178 pages) gives an overview of the world including a detailled timetable, the cultures and the cults.
The cultures are like races in other roleplaying settings. Players can choose Borca (mainly Germany), Franka (France), Pollen (Poland), Balkhan (Balkan), Purgare (Italy), Hybrispania (Spain) and Africa. Each culture is vividly described and gives the reader a good impression of what it is like to grow up in the respective region.
Cults on the other hand are what other games would call character classes. All in all there are 13 cults to choose from, each having a distinct theme, some cult-specific equipment and abilities, and different ranks a character can rise through to become an important figure in the cult:
Anabaptists ("Torchbearers in Paradise") – A religious cult of warriors and farmers fighting against the hordes of the Demiurge
Anubians ("Keepers of the Prophecy") – African Mystics, Keepers of Secrets
Apocalyptics ("The Lords of Desire") – Often shady characters living in the here and now, dealing with anything others desire
Chroniclers ("The Omniscient") – Hunting for lost technology and trying to revive the stream
Clanners ("Rulers of the Wasteland") – Some are nomadic, others live in small settlements. Some are savages, others are pretty civilized. They all have one thing in common: They found out that groups offer better chances of survival.
Hellvetics ("Brotherhood of Arms") – Well-armed Soldiers and engineers inhabiting an Alpine Fortress and controlling the passages through the Alps
Jehammedans ("Carrier's of God's Countenance") – Religious people living a simple life with strong family ties
Judges ("Hammer of Justice") – Giving their best to maintain law and order, smashing in some heads if necessary
Neolibyans ("Conquerors of the World") – African Merchants, whose goals are profit, influence and wealth
Scourgers ("Avengers of the Dark Continent") – Members of an African warrior caste, despising any weakness and living for a good challenge of their skills
Scrappers (The Dirt Diggers") – Searching ancient ruins to unearth long lost artifacts and selling them to make a living
Spitalians ("The Last Bastion") – Doctors following the self-given task to heal humanity – not always giving their patient a choice in the matter
The second book presents the rule system. While the rules of the first edition of Degenesis were sketchy at best, Degenesis: Rebirth has vastly improved them. It uses a D6 system. Most often you roll a number of D6 equal to the pool of the applying attribute and skill. Rolling a "4", "5" or "6" is a success. Each "6" is called a trigger, often giving additional benefits (for example: When rolling initiative triggers can grant the character additional actions in the combat round).
Six attributes and 36 skills are available so there is plenty room to personalize a character. Another way is to choose one of many character concepts, defining the characters view of the world and his or her role in it.
Combat is not overly complex but deadly. Player characters will most likely not run guns blazing into any encounter they can find but prepare and look for a tactical advantage to improve the odds in their favor.
Additionally Katharsys includes a large list of items, a description of the six different tech levels, a chapter about Burn (a drug made from strange plants that infest the earth since the asteroids came down), a chapter about the opposition the characters may encounter in their travels, the obligatory how-to-roleplay chapter and finally a starting adventure to get used to the system.
Some rules could use a little polishing or a more detailed description but my overall impression is that the rules are well suited for a fluent, story-driven gameplay.
As of now the English version of the rulebooks is available. A translation of the first campaign supplement playing in Purgare ("In thy blood") has been announced to follow before christmas.
Sixmorevodka seems to have ambitious plans with Degenesis: Rebirth, having already announced a Degenesis comic, maybe miniatures, talking about movie rights etc. But as eager as I am about such stuff, my main focus lies on the Pen&Paper RPG which has literally blown me off my feet. The last time I was so hyped about a Pen&Paper RPG was when the connection between Earthdawn and Shadowrun came up and I was reading every tidbit I could find about it.
If you want a world where every corner is described and every metaplot is revealed for the gamemaster, then this game will not appeal to you. If you are interested in a rather unique setting with high quality artwork and a dense atmosphere however, then Degenesis: Rebirth might just be your thing.
It definitely is mine