Review: Genesys – Expanded Players' Guide
It may not be the most instantly gripping book on your gaming shelf, but what the Expanded Players’ Guide might lack in pyrotechnics it makes up in substance and flexibility. Honestly, in that way it’s probably an appropriate metaphor for Genesys as a whole.
First impressions aren’t really helped by the fact that the entire guide is a little on the skinny side, with a pagecount that only just squeaks its way into triple digits. However, in that scant slice of paper it manages to squeeze in three new setting guides – complete with plenty of character options – a handful of alternate rules and some elegant new GM tools.
If that seems like a lot of disparate topics to touch on you’d be right. When taken in isolation the EPG can seem a little fuzzy, but things begin to slide into place if you view it as a tool for rounding out the Core Rulebook rather than a book that’s bringing its own ideas to the table. Where the other Genesys sourcebooks have tried to add depth in specific areas of the game, this one looks to go even wider.
The three new settings, for example, don’t share any hint of a common theme or approach, but rather fall into the category of “cool ideas we haven’t touched yet.”
First of these is the ‘Age of Myth’, where the players take the role of heroes in tales inspired by everything from Disney’s take on Hercules to The Epic of Gilgamesh. In many ways this plays like the nerdy cousin of a regular fantasy game, though the character options do a great job of capturing a touch of epic storytelling. Playing as a demigod, for example, offers great stats at the cost of a Tragic Fate that helps the GM to twist the knife.
This classical slab of heroics stands in contrast to the doom, gloom and death of the post-apocalyptic setting. This one offers an experience that could vary from the tongue-in-cheek nonsense of the Fallout videogames – including an archetype that’s pretty much a Vault Dweller with the serial numbers filed off – to the over-the-top grittiness of Mad Max. However, the rules are careful to note that Genesys isn’t really made for bleak, simulationist adventures and I’m certainly inclined to agree. More mutants and flame-guitars, less starving in a filthy bunker.
The final setting in the EPG is perhaps the most interesting of the three. Officially labelled as ‘Monster World’, it’s a lump of rules for mashing together all your gothic tropes into a glorious mess of goggles and crossbows. With a bit of fiddling you could use it to play a wonderfully silly campaign where you duel Frankenstien’s Monster on board a zeppelin, or a darker, deadlier hunt for vampires in the streets of Victorian London.
It’s probably just a burst of personal preference that makes me so excited about this setting, but that’s the beauty of the book as a whole. The EPG is so stuffed with ideas that you’d be hard-pressed to leaf through it and not come away with at least a couple of ideas for new campaigns.
New Rules, New You
This doesn’t just apply to the setting guides, either. One of the toolsets buried later in the book is all about bodging together stat blocks for vehicles, which it turns out is a rather general term that can encompass everything from a dog sled to an aircraft carrier.
The rules aren’t incredibly precise, with a lot of the details boiling down to whatever the GM feels is about right, but they make it pretty easy to throw together some pretty cool bits of kit.
By which I mean giant mechs.
The same ability to realise the mechanics of cool ideas is found in the very next section of the EPG, which is all about quickly throwing together adversaries for your players to butt heads with. Making NPCs from scratch is already covered in the Core Rulebook, but this new approach uses templates and toolkits to quickly toss a bad guy or two together.
Again, it’s not particularly precise, but the system of blending some base stats with a couple of abilities and some gear flows rather neatly. It isn’t quite slick enough to roll up opponents on the fly, but you can certainly get a detailed stat block up and running in a couple of minutes.
The final section of the book is all about alternate rules that you can choose to drop into your game. This is where the EPG is probably at its most practical, but perhaps also its least exciting.
There are a handful of extra magic spells, some suggestions about modifying social encounter rules so that the PCs don’t always walk in with a huge numbers advantage and ideas for replacing some of the regular rules for levelling up with a talent tree. They all seem to work fine, none of them set the world on fire.
I won’t lie to you. Unless you’re desperate to run one of the three new settings, Genesys EPG isn’t a must-buy. You could happily run your fantasy or cyberpunk game without knowing it existed and get along just fine.
However, if you’ve been playing the game for a while now and want more Genesys goodness in your life it is a delight to read. Every other page brings new ideas for games, worlds and characters to dream up and bring to the table, and this breadth of possibilities is what makes the game so damn enjoyable in the first place.
Want more Genesys? This is for you
Publisher: Fantasy Flight
Price: Print $29.99