Yes, you do. If you want to play Genesys
Unless Fantasy Flight decides to go with some kind of Open Game License (or you decide to pirate the game). The game is very similar with their star wars line, which is similar to their warhammer fantasy 3th edition system. The symbols on the dice are different, but mean pretty much the same thing: success, failure, advantage, threats, etc.
The system itself is generic though, that means that it has a few examples on how certain things work, and a bunch of guidelines on how to make your own things, from weapons to armors to spells. Of course, you could always homebrew all of this, but if that was your intent you wouldn't be considering buying the book.
Character creation is very simple, you pick a background, which is mostly a questionary of things that could fit into any setting, then pick your archetype, which works similarly to species and the book offers four examples:
- Laborer, which is our standard strong and tough character;
- Intellectual, who focuses on being smart and solving issues, sacrificing his toughness for it;
- Aristocrat, which is a social operator who focus on solving conflicts;
- Average Human, which has few strong points but is very customizable.
Then it describes how different settings could use these archetypes differently or how species could be used instead of archetypes. But so you have an idea:
The average human has Ready For Anything. Once per session, they can take a Story Point from the game master’s pool and add it to the player’s pool. Though this seems like a pretty minor ability, Genesys has a lot of powerful abilities fueled by Story Points. This ability ensures the character can always use them at the critical moment.
The laborer has Tough As Nails. Once per session, they can spend a Story Point immediately after suffering a Critical Injury, see the result, and then count the result as the weakest Critical Injury instead. Since Critical Injuries are what kills, maims, or hampers your characters, this ability ensures that the laborer keeps going when everyone else gives up.
Then you pick your career, which also shows some generic examples, like Soldier, or Ship Captain, and describes how they can be customized to be either role-based or setting-based careers.
Then you invest the starting experience points, calculate his secondary attributes (wounds, strain, soak), pick a motivation and spend his initial money on gear. Pretty much like star wars here, even the amount of money is the same (500), but the currency has no name.
Motivations deserve some note, as each character has to pick four motivations, separated in four types: Desire, Fear, Strength, and Flaw. You can and should make your own motivations, which don't have to be complex, but help roleplaying your character.
Your character may fear commitment and have a bad habit of lying to people. However, they can rely on their strongly idealistic nature to help them find their true desire, a sense of belonging with others.
Magic and spells
Fantasy Flight authors were nice enough to preview us about their new magic system in Genesys, which offers a less restrictive spellcasting gameplay (from say, D&D, shadowrun, or even warhammer fantasy), and offers a more open-ended experience (similar to games like ars magicka, in a way).
So we went to work, and early on we came up with an idea that would shape our development. Instead of creating a list of specific spells such as “fireball” and “ice wall” and “greater poison cure," we decided to invent a list of broad magic actions. These actions would govern most of what people wanted to do with a magic system. For example, the “attack” magic action could represent your character flinging fireballs at foes or trying to spear them with shards of ice.
If you want your character to cast a spell that you call “fireball,” for example, you start with the basic magic attack action. This allows you to target an enemy at short range. You’ll make an Easy combat check using a magic skill, and deal damage equal to the characteristic linked to that skill, plus one additional damage per success. So far, very similar to making a ranged attack with a throwing knife.
Where things get interesting is what happens next. Right now, your fireball spell doesn’t have anything fiery about it. However, you can choose to add the Fire effect to your spell, increasing the difficulty of your check by one and giving it the Burn quality. Do you want your fireball to explode and hit groups? Give it the Blast effect for another difficulty increase. Now your character is casting something that feels much more like a fireball!
Of course, the check to cast the spell is Hard. While even a novice spellcaster can attempt a complex and powerful spell, only a trained and skilled wizard has a reasonable chance of success. Generally, the more skilled a spellcaster is, the more complex spells they can attempt.
As for who can be a spellcaster, the game offers two options:
- Spellcasting is tied to a career talent, or;
- Spellcasting is tied to a skill;
Regardless of the option the GM picks, the characters who invest on those options can now cast spells. If you pick the career option, only characters who buy the required talent can invest points on that skill. As an alternative, you can also have those who invest on that talent to reduce the experience cost to increase their skill ranks. It's really up to the GM to decide how easy and common magic should be in his game.
Weapons, Armor and Equipment
Genesys gives you a bunch of examples, and dozens of pages with guidelines to create your own equipment, mostly using what was already tried and tested on their previous games. Many qualities will be familiar and usually do exactly the same mechanical effect.
Weapons also have a list of qualities and what kind of weapon you should expect to have each quality, it has a bunch of damage examples based on weapon size and how they are commonly viewed in fantasy games (greataxes are stronger than swords, for example).
Armors has a list of things that you could add to armors, from qualities to actual defense and soak values, and how to add their price together to come up with your list of armors on the local blacksmith.
Most general equipment can be described as "If the gear makes something possible, just come up with a name, encumbrance value, price and rarity. No mechanical bits needed. If it makes something easier, do the above but add as few mechanical bits as you can.", which in essence is similar to what we got in Special Modifications for Edge of Empire. Equipment either allow you to do something that was impossible before, or add bonus dice (boosts) to whoever uses it.
Rarity and encumbrance is up to the GM. But it explains what those numbers should mean.
Of course, being fantasy flight, they would never release a new book without additional rules so we feel compelled to buy it, and this is no exception.
The book gives us rules for horror-themed games, with sanity and fear rules, and effects that could happen on failed checks. Such as fleeing in terror or having a setback on your checks while you are in presence of your phobia. But not everything is negative (and this is something I like), when a successful fear check could result in your character being resilient and bolstering the morale of your allies, granting them a boon on their own fear checks (which sounds like Darkest Dungeon and I love it). Fear is temporary, sanity is permanent until cured.
Another rule worth noting is the super-characteristic* rule, which can be given to supervillains or even be widespread on a supers-themed setting. And basically works like this, every time you roll a triumph (critical success) you may roll an additional proficiency die (yellow) to that check, and add the result to your check, repeating if another triumph is rolled. That's it, it's a really simple mechanic for exploding dice, and can lead to amazing results during the game.
Finally, a lot of pages are focused on social conflict, with examples of what to do with all those advantages when trying to obtain information about the local crime lord. Motivations are worth mentioning again, because a character flaw or desire can be revealed during social conflicts. This is part of the system that was fairly weak before, even considering the additional sourcebooks.
Creating your own setting
Take any of the star wars books, and replace that last third of the book that is dedicated to the setting, enemies and how to GM in a star wars game, and replace all of that with several settings, from fantasy to steampunk to scifi. They didn't go into detail, but show how the rules could be adapted to each of those settings.
This works as a worldbuilding guide using the Genesys system. Which is probably the strongest selling point to new tabletop role players.