Genesys Character Creation: C0-LE

I recently signed up for a Play-By-Post game online using Genesys by Fantasy Flight Games. We are going to be playing in the Android campaign setting. FFG and WotC put out several games over the years (boardgames or card games) called either Android or Netrunner for this IP. It is meant to be a Cyberpunk world focusing on an Ecuadorian megacity called New Angeles. This is the same way more popular Cyberpunk RPG, Shadowrun, focuses on Seattle. Unlike Shadowrun, Android lacks fantasy elements. The big elements of the setting are a Space Elevator that exists in New Angeles, Robots & Clones, and colonies on the Moon and Mars.

I don’t really know that much about the setting other than “it’s cyberpunk” and all the tropes that entails. I’ve written previously about running Shadowrun in Genesys and eagerly picked up the Genesys Android book, called “Shadow of the Beanstalk.” There’s also a setting book called “Worlds of Android” that I didn’t know existed until recently. The Setting book costs too much money and has not enough value for what I see as a troperiffic cyberpunk setting. FFG released a hardcover fantasy set of rules for Genesys called “Realms of Terrinoth” that I bought immediately on release and I regret that purchase. Terrinoth was a rote kitchen sink fantasy setting and I almost never open the book. On the weakness of the Terrinoth book I opted for the DriveThru PDF of Beanstalk. Although if I did a live game of the setting I would pick up the dead tree edition because PDFs and websites are a pain in the ass at a table.

There were demo games of Gensys Android at PAX Unplugged last year but like all RPG games at PAX Unplugged they filled up instantly unless you planned like a motherfucker. I remember showing up Friday afternoon of PAXU 2018 to see if there were games and the dude behind the table was disdainful that some dumbass pleb would dare ask if there were games open at their gaming convention five hours after the doors opened and 4 Hours 55 Minutes after the slots were filled. My PAX 2018 and 2017 gripes could be a whole separate other post.

Let’s get back to the subject at hand. Genesys Android play by post. As this game is just about to start, I am left without much to work with to build a character. One player told me they were going to be some kind of genetically modified upper class person who believed in freedom and Robot/Clone Rights. Someone giving a shit about something gave me a place to stand on. I thought I might play a “Bioroid” which are the Robots of the Android setting. That is the equivalent of race in D&D. I almost never play “human” characters or whatever the human equivalent is in a game system. Genesys doesn’t have classes but it does have careers which are just collections of skills. I looked through the options listed in Beanstalk and pregens in the Shadowrun books for inspiration. I’m leaning towards some kind of cop/investigator as opposed to an academic, pilot, or solider-cyborg.

At this point I need to be careful. Fiction has no shortage of Robot Detectives or Cyberpunk Cops and I don’t want to rip off something too closely. A degree of ripoff is inevitable and fun but I don’t just want to remake a fictional character. The two most prominent examples in my mind are Kay from Blade Runner 2049 and R. Daneel Olivaw from Asimov’s Caves of Steel. Other examples include Altered Carbon which I haven’t seen, Penny Arcade’s Automata, the I, Robot movie, the original Blade Runner, and of course Robocop. I don’t have a grip on the Android setting lore, so I haven’t given too much thought to who this character is outside mechanics.

Let’s get into those mechanics. Again, this is my first time making a character for the Genesys system. I have no concept of what makes a “good” character. Your first choice is “archetype” which Genesys uses instead of Race or Species. This gives you a pool of XP that you can spend on Characteristics (These are your 5E Abilities) and on Skills. You put points into things and they go on a scale from 1-5. At character creation you are supposed to spend most of your points on Ability Scores because 1) That’s just how the game works and 2) You can’t raise them again until later and it’s very expensive to do so.

Shadow of the Beanstalk offers six archetypes. Your Natural Default Human, Clone, Cyborg, G-Mod (Genetically Modified), Loonie (People born on the Moon), and Bioroid, my choice. As I said before, Bioroids are robots. They’re not the Clones or the flesh and blood Replicants of Blade Runner but full on metal people with a few cosmetic touches. They’re strong, don’t need to breathe, eat, or sleep, and Asimov Style Three Laws Safe. They’re also not treated like people; they’re job stealing property.

Mechanically, your Brawn (Strength+Constitution in same stat) is higher than others except for Cyborgs, starting at 3. However all other stats are at 1, which is the lowest array possible. You are compensated for this by having the highest amount of XP to spend on your character compared to any other race, 170 XP. The Default Human Starts with 120 XP. I use the Human comparison because Genesys starts with Human default and then adds or subtracts points depending on the changes made. Compared to the Human you are getting 30 free XP for increased Brawn and then increasing your other stats to Human Equivalent would cost 100 XP. You get 1 extra wound than human at 11 Wounds + Brawn, but your Strain, or kind of mental fortitude is 8, two lower than human (Robots get stressed out easily). You have two special abilities that follow from being a Robot: First, you are artificial which means you don’t need food, oxygen, or sleep like the organic meatbags. You also don’t lose anything for getting cybernetics. As a Cyberpunk game, getting cybernetics is a thing. Normally the limiting factor on how many cybernetic parts you can get is your Strain, the same way Shadowrun uses Essence. The Drawback is that you can’t be “healed” with Medicine checks. You either have to wait to heal naturally or use the Mechanics skill.

What does this mean for building a Bioroid character? It means that it’s easier for a Bioroid to specialize at doing a couple things really well as opposed to the versatility you get from the Human characters. This is kind of a problem because it’s at odds with the norms of the system and there’s no guidance for building a Bioroid PC. Looking at Pregen Characters for Genesys literally none of them have a 1 in more than one attribute and none of them are Bioroids. And in Genesys you are supposed to spend on Attributes at character creation but your attributes are weaker than other characters which feels more like working at a disadvantage than the chance to specialize. I feel very compelled to spend the 80 XP to raise all but one stat to at least 2 and then another 60 XP to get two attributes to 3 which is like a kicking sand at my big pile of 170 XP. I’m opting to leave Presence at 1 since, you know, cold unfeeling robot despised by society. For now I’ve raised Cunning and Willpower to 3. Depending on the group makeup I may change that. It also might be a good idea to just leave those attributes at 2 and spend the points on skills WITHIN those stats instead. Again, don’t know how to make a good character and I’m trying to mimic the pregens which don’t include bioroids.

So let’s talk skills. Like Attributes, or Characteristics as they’re called in Genesys, you buy them with XP. While Attributes are 10 times the new level you’re buying, Skills are 5 times the level you’re buying. You pick 8 skills to be class skills and get 1 rank free in 4 of those 8 skills, equivalent to a free 20 XP. Non-Class skills cost an extra 5 XP. I have 30 XP left over from my characteristic increases, plus 50 XP the GM gave us because they’re swell, and another 10 XP from the GM in exchange owing a “small favor” to a faction in the game. 90 XP total.

The way Genesys works is that when you roll you build a dice pool. The number of dice a player adds to their dice pool equals their Attribute (I keep using that word when I should say Characteristic, Sorry!). So my character has a 2 in Intellect, when they hack a computer they add 2 green d8s to the pool. But I have 1 rank in hackzor so I replace one green d8 with one yellow d12. The D12 has a higher chance of success than the d8s. You roll the number of green d8s equal to your attribute or ranks in a skill, whichever is higher. Then you substitute the lower number in yellow d12s. The GM adds red d12s and purple d8s to your pool to represent the DC or difficulty of what you try to achieve. You roll the pool and you want to come away with a net positive amount of successes to succeed at the task.

Because I’m planning to be a cop/detective type character I decided to take a look at a pregen that’s an “investigator” for a model of the character I’d like to play. The investigator has ranks in Cool, Discipline, Perception, Stealth, Streetwise, Vigilance, Ranged Light Weapons, Coercion, Deception, and Society Knowledge. Far and away their best skill is Ranged Light Weapons with three ranks followed by Streetwise, Vigilance, and Coercion with two ranks each and 3 in those three attributes.

The pregen has a lot of class skills with no ranks in them which seems like kind of a waste so I changed the skills around for my Robot Detective. I decided to make Hacking, Cool, Perception, Streetwise, Vigilance, Ranged Weapons, Coercion, Negotiation, and Society Knowledge my class skills. The only change here is Cool instead of Skullduggery. I felt this would be more in keeping with an inexperienced Robot Person.

Like the pregen investigator I put points into Streetwise and Vigilance. I didn’t put quite as much into Ranged weapons. Those three are my highest skill with two each. I put one rank each into Coercion, Society Knowledge, Perception, Cool, and Hacking. I also put one rank each into the non-class skills Brawl for melee combat and Mechanics to fix myself. This leaves me with 20 xp left over, I’ll probably put the rest into talents.

I took the basic equipment that 1000 credits gets you: pistol, flak jacket, cellphone. I decided to “Owe a Favor” to Haas-Bioroid which is the Megacorp that makes Bioroids in the Android setting.

Genesys also has Talents which are the Feats of the system. They come in tiers with each one costing 5 XP times the level of the talent. You build a pyramid of them so you can’t just buy the expensive ones right away. I will likely take Corporate Drone as my character is a literal Corporate Drone. I was also thinking Quick Draw for Kay/Robocop style gun combat. I would like to take one of the Talents that makes you better at unarmed combat but they are both tied to skills I didn’t select. Knockout Punch deals Stun Damage depending on your Coordination skill, Street Fighter gives you extra damage based on your Skullduggery. As much as I like the idea of being a metal punching beast these are just too expensive to invest in. Coordination is like balance and acrobatics. Skullduggery is a general “Rogue” skill for lockpicking, pickpocketing, checking security systems, or distracting opponents. It doesn’t sound like something the Robot would be good at. I have 10 XP left, I might get “Years on the Force” to get police favors or “Grit” to get more health and be that much more unkillable.

I try to always put some thought into my character name. For this one I like Cole as in the Dragon Age character but spelled as an acronym “CO-LE”, or Corrections Officer/Law Enforcement. Maybe put some numbers after that.

Again, because I haven’t played Genesys yet I don’t have a feel for if this is a good character or even what I ought to do as a Bioroid. The Clone archetype gets two additional skills free to invest more broadly while the Bioroid has incentive to Specialize. More likely I need to make a CO-LE 2.0 that dials back Attributes and doubles down on a few skills. Buying an Attribute gets me a Green d8 for every skill that uses that stat, buying a skill just gets you that one skill but it works the other way around.

Building a PC or NPC is always a fun mental exercise and I look forward to actually running Genesys in the near future after having the Core Rulebook collect dust for a while now.