21 November 2017 | Genesys

Finding the Tone

Preview the Tones Found in the Genesys Roleplaying System


A group of medieval adventures discover a town that cowers in terror with the rise of every full moon. High school students begin to realize their latent superpowers. A detective investigates an abandoned starship to discover the location of its missing crew.

Not only does the Genesys Roleplaying System allow you to craft an adventure in a variety of settings, the Core Rulebook introduces a variety of tones to augment these settings. Your adventures don’t just take place in a Fantasy setting, but Fantasy Horror, or a Sci-Fi Superhero Adventure. Focusing in on a specific tone can be a daunting task, but the Genesys Core Rulebook includes sections to help Game Masters out with rules and advice.

Today, Genesys Lead Designer Sam Stewart previews some of these tones and their unique rules found in the book to immerse your players in all kinds of adventures.

The Personal Touch

Sam Stewart: This week, I’d like to spend a little time talking about tones in Genesys

Tones are pretty much exactly what the name would suggest. They are another element that you can add to your campaigns to create a particular attitude and play style amongst you and your players. We separated tones from settings, however, because in theory, a particular tone can be applied to any setting (although admittedly, some fit better than others). 

So for example, horror is a tone. You can have a horror-toned game that is set in a fantasy setting, a modern setting, or even a futuristic setting (and I’m guessing that as you read this, you can think of plenty of examples of fantasy horror, modern horror, and sci-fi horror in a wide variety of media). A horror game can take place in pretty much any setting. However, no matter what the setting is, some of the core themes of the game are going to be the same.

In the horror section of the Genesys Core Rulebook, we discuss some of the different themes that come into play in a horror game, such as supernatural elements, psychological horror, and the fear of the unknown. We also spend some time talking about how to implement horror into your own game. That takes up about half of the section. 

The other half of the section we devote to two new rules that you can add to your game. Those rules are fear and sanity. These rules can be used to determine how your character reacts to any of the horrifying things they may encounter. Generally, we determine this by having your character make a Discipline check, with the difficulty set by how utterly horrifying their opponents are (we have a chart to help you figure this out). Then, we provide a list of ways to interpret the results of that check. Failing with a small amount of Threat or a Despair, for example, might lead your character to flee in terror. 

However, passing a fear check may result in something beneficial for your character. After all, standing up to something fearsome is a brave act, and generally we like to reward bravery in the stories we tell. So while a straight success just means your character doesn’t break down or flee screaming, success with Advantage may result in emboldening your allies as well. 

The sanity rules work hand-in-hand with the fear rules (although the fear rules are designed to work independently if you’d prefer), and represent long-term damage to a character's psyche. Traumas result from failing a fear check with lots of Threat or a Despair, or when you decide that a character underwent something so awful that they couldn’t emerge from it mentally unscathed. The trauma that is applied depends on how difficult the fear check was in the first place, and can have some pretty powerful long-term effects on a character. The worst, broken mind, halves your character’s strain threshold. Permanently. 

(Well, not entirely permanently. There are ways to get rid of mental traumas. But they’re not easy, and may involve your character having to put themselves into more dangerous situations!) 

So that’s the horror tone. I’m guessing that’s something everyone expected to see. So before we wrap things up, let’s talk about another tone that may be less expected: superheroes

The superhero tone was the brainchild of lead producer Tim Huckelbery. A longtime fan of all the classic superheroes, he rightly pointed out that although superheroes could be part of their own setting, we really could have a superhero game set anywhere. Modern day superheroes, futuristic superheroes, historical superheroes—all of these have been done in some form or another already! So it made the most sense to make superheroes a tone. 

As with horror, we spend some time discussing the themes you may want to employ in a superhero game, and we give you some advice on how to run them. We also touch on supervillains, because a hero is only as good as their nemesis after all! We also introduce a few new rules that can help you create that superhero feel in your game. The first is higher starting XP for characters, so that they can feel better than average right out of the gate. We also recommend that superheroes and villains double the base damage of their unarmed Brawl attacks, since superheroes often fight with their fists! 

The next rule is designed to make minions feel appropriately… minionish. This rule states that when attacking superheroes and supervillains, minion attacks can only do a maximum of one wound or strain. In the game, this really emulates the feel of a horde of heavies pulling out their Uzis and spraying an area, only to watch as the superhero dances through the fire unharmed (or the bullets just bounce off their chest). We highly recommend it unless you want to have a grittier superhero game. 

But the third, and we think most interesting, rule is for Super-Characteristics. 

As you can see, super-characteristics can make game sessions really interesting, really fast. Exploding dice isn’t something we’ve played with a lot before, but we think it really fits the feel of superheroes. Not only does it increase the odds of success on your character’s “super-powered” checks, the chance for multiple Triumphs means that you can get some incredibly thrilling and cinematic moments. Maybe your super-strong character punches a house off its foundations. Maybe your super-smart character breaks down a villain’s plan while they are busy monologuing and figures out the exact way to counter it using only the materials in their cell. Maybe your super-fast character runs so fast that they travel through time. 

So that’s all for this week. We hope you enjoyed the look at tones, and we also hope that they inspire you to develop something new for your group! 

One Book. Unlimited Adventure

Tones allow you to tailor your gameplay experiences in any direction you want. Whether you intend to frighten your players or gift them with super powers, Genesys gives you plenty of ways to customize your settings to create unlimited adventure. 

Prepare your campaign and pre-order the Genesys Core Rulebook (GNS01) from your local retailer or from our website!

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