Core Mechanics

posted by CitizenKeen Original SA post

Genesys - Chapter 1: Core Mechanics

My first F&F write-up. Been here since 2003 and ain’t contributed shit, so fuck it, let’s do this.

Fantasy Flight Games’s Genesys is the genericized game built around the Narrative Dice System, the trademarked term for the core mechanic of the Star Wars trio of games (Edge of the Empire, Age of Rebellion, and Force and Destiny). Did you like paying for the game thrice? Well, it’s not over yet! Let’s keep paying!

The book advertises itself as One Book. Unlimited Adventures. I mean, that’s true of almost any role playing game, right? “[W]here every roll of the dice lets you tell a story!” I mean, I guess that’s true. The dice mechanic is pretty cool, if you like paying for a whole new table’s worth of dice.


Classic section headings like
Capitalization was retained. The GM gets an extra capital D because they’re the big dick.

“Playing Genesys requires very few materials.” All you need is this $40 book and a bucket of our proprietary dice! They also point out there’s an app. (I’ve used the app. It’s my favorite dice app. Rolling by shaking your phone and getting a little dice rolling noise and watching the dice bounce around on the ‘table’ before the computer just does all the math-cancellation for you is pretty nice.)

Part 1: The Rules

In this section, the following chapters…
Then we get a half page about “Narrative Play”, and how it works. Again, old hat to narrative grognards who’ve played Fate and Apocalypse World and Nobilis, but if this is new to you, it’s helpful, I guess?


"Our game focuses on your characters and the heroic actions they take rather than on measurements, statistics, or other minutiae. Instead of taking a ruler and measuring the distance between characters on a map, you simply need to state, “I’m ducking behind the helicopter to get some cover while I pull out my pistol.”

While I’m always grateful to see stuff like this in a book, I’m very curious to know who is playing Genesys who has never played a narrative game. Either you’re coming at Genesys because (a) you like Star Wars and want to play Fallout, or (b) you’ve heard good things about FFG’s Star Wars games but aren’t really in to Star Wars.

Chapter 1: Core Mechanics

As I said, Genesys uses the Narrative Dice System. It’s the same system FFG used in Star Wars, but they changed the symbols to ones owned by FFG because Fantasy Flight likes making lots of money they want to use symbols not owned by Disney.

You roll a bunch of dice. You cancel a bunch of symbols out. You interpret the results. Roll, rinse, repeat. A classic example of a ‘core mechanic’, it’s used for pretty much everything.

You grab a fistful of dice. There are six kinds, color coded for your convenience.
There’s a table with the dice/symbol breakdown, if you like calculating probabilities. The table also lets you roll regular polyhedrals and convert them in to special symbols, but then you have to first figure out why you hate yourself.

So picking a shitty lock in the middle of the night on the side of a moving helicopter in a hailstorm isn’t any more difficult than doing so in your practice room. But you’re rolling with a boatload of Setback dice. Because of undue circumstances.

The dice have special symbols on them. The symbols are:

What do these symbols mean, you ask? From left to right:
You count up your Successes, and you subtract your Failures, and if you still have one success, boom, you did what ever you said you wanted to do.

You count up your Advantages, and you subtract your Threats. More Advantage than Threat? Extra icing on cake. More Threat than Advantage? Unintended bad shit.

A description of a roll I once read was: A player tries to shoot the BBEG, rolls a Failure with Advantage. The GM interprets this as the player missing because the BBEG tripped. So, you failed in what you wanted to do (shoot the villain), but gained some particular advantage (BBEG is now prone).

Triumphs and Despairs, of note, don’t cancel out. You can get both. Wildly crazy and divergent outcomes are possible.

I’m going to fanboy for a moment (feel free to skip to the end of the paragraph). That bolded shit referenced under ‘Advantage’ is dope. It’s the entirety of the reason to play Genesys. Truly independent two-axis task resolution. The rest of the game is pretty bog standard mid-crunch generic role playing system, but having such wild interpretations of rolls is awesome. The core mechanic is pretty different from anything I’ve seen. The rest is… basic point buy goodness.

Lights, Camera, Action! So the player says what they want to do. The GM mentally builds up a pool of negative dice, and tells the player what it is, and the player builds their pool of positive dice and rolls the giant pool of positive and negative dice together.

The Basic Dice Pool / Characteristic Ratings. So the book now dives in to how to build the dice pool. Basically, any action has an associated Skill, each of which has an associated Characteristic. Skills are rated from 0 to 5, and Characteristics are rated from 1 to 5. So you grab a number of Ability Dice equal to the greater of your Characteristic or Skill, and then ‘upgrade’ a number of dice equal to the lesser value into Proficiency Dice.

So if you have a Brawn of 5 and a Melee Fight of 0, when fighting you’d roll 5 Ability Dice. If you have a Brawn of 5 and a Melee Fight of 2, you’d roll 3 Ability Dice and 2 Proficiency Dice. If you have a Melee Fight of 4 and a Brawn of 2, you’d roll 2 each of Ability and Proficiency Dice.

There’s a sidebar telling us that a player can have a Brawn of 5. A dragon also has a Brawn of 5. It only goes up to 5. And that’s mostly because easy math and buckets of dice, but also there are other things that make dragons dragon-y.

The six Characteristics are:
This makes for a nice breakdown: Physical, Mental, Social/Spiritual, with a “brute strength” value and a “artfully applied” value.

Difficulty. Then the GM adds Difficulty Dice. Tasks are:
There’s a table with examples.

Building a Basic Dice Pool. There’s four pages full of examples on checks and how the dice pools are built. Clarification on when you increase the number of dice versus “upgrading” dice versus adding new dice. (Upgrading means turning an eight-sider into a twelve-sider of the appropriate goodness, or if there are no eight-siders then adding an eight-sider.)

Interpreting the Pool. Some advice on how to interpret Advantages and Threat, though mostly it punts to later chapters. You can ‘spend’ Advantage to activate cool abilities (not described). Your GM can spend Threat to activate cool fuck-yous (not described).

Triumph and Despair. A page highlighting that these are special (not really) things that come up that offer “an unexpected boon or significantly beneficial effect” / “significant complications or dire effects” related to your roll. Some weapons and equipment trigger off of Triumph (not described). A note that while a roll may be a Despair, and a Despair counts as a Failure, you can still Succeed with Despair. Essentially, you were so successful something bad happened.

Other Types of Checks. These include:

Other Key Elements. Apparently there are Talents and they can help the roll. You’ll find out more later!

There are also Story Points. Narrative Meta Currency representing “destiny, fate, or whatever you like to call it”! These are taken from the Force Points of the original Star Wars system, as I understand it. There’s a Player Pool and a Game Master Pool. At the start of a session, there’s one for each player in the Player Pool and one for each Game Master in the Game Master Pool.

When somebody spends a Story Point, you move it from their Pool to the other Pool. You can use Story Points to do things like:
There’s a note that a “healthy Story Point economy” is important to the game - people should spend their points freely. Also, a player may only spend one Story Point on any given roll.

Experience and Development. There’s a quick note about how you spend experience. Character should get about 20 XP per session. You can spend it to:

Derived Attributes. There are four. They all seem combat oriented.

And that’s the end of Chapter 1.