Sunday 10 February 2019

Why the Genesys system is a great storytelling tool

Image: Fantasy Flight Games
Around three months ago my group decided to kick off a game of Edge of the Empire, with myself at the GM helm. For those unfamiliar, Edge of the Empire is a Star Wars roleplaying game from Fantasy Flight, now one of three variations that focus on a specific Star Wars theme, albeit with the same core system called Genesys. EotE is all about smuggling, roguery and netting a big payday even if you have to break the law.

Regular readers will know that our game for the past four or so years has been Pathfinder. We love Pathfinder for its tactical combat and granular character creation, but we decided that, after a stint with PF2, we should try something else. Being big Star Wars fans, we wanted to give Fantasy Flight a shot to wow us with their system. We knew we weren't going to get the crunch of PF (fine by me) but with the vast array of races and character types in the galaxy the players should still get a good character creation experience.

We're now three sessions into our second adventure, Beyond the Rim, and I'm happy to report that we're having a great ride. The system is built from the ground up for cinematic gameplay, which took us a bit to get used to at first. It's full on theater of the mind, rather than the prolonged miniatures combat we're used to. The dice are configured in a way that outcomes are never binary, but have degrees of success and failure, with even big wins having the potential to carry what the game calls 'threats' - which is where things can go wrong. Ultimately the system aids am emergent storytelling experience. Because outcomes can swing in so many directions, the GM or group can determine how the story is affected. Couple this with light side and dark side points, which can be used by the players and GM to add new elements to the game, what you have is a rich system that facilitates cooperation between players and GM in coming up with all kinds of story curve balls and plot points. Take a short encounter from last week's game. The players were being stalked in the jungle by a ferocious nexu (think a four-eyed tiger with a massive mouth). The nexu pounced on one of the PCs, rolling a success to hit, but a couple of threats. This meant something was going to go a tad wrong for the beast. We all decided that the PC had managed to grab it and hold it towards another PC, who would gain a bonus die in order to help him try shoot the nexu. It worked - the nexu's brains went everywhere. Afterwards, the players realised that it was getting dark and they were in a jungle without supplies. They had previously tried and failed to make torches from rags and tree sap, leaving them vulnerable to night prowlers. One of the players spent a light side point to basically change the game world by saying that nexu blood is known to be a tad flammable. They soaked some rags, wrapped them around some branches and created a couple of torches.

This is a really small example, but it illustrates how the Genesys system operates. It facilitates a story that can unfold in multiple directions. Sure, the strange dice take some getting used to and fans of crunch may be left wanting, but for that cinematic feel Genesys is a great choice of game.

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