Degenesis is a detailed game with a lot of source material. I started a game of this because I am amazed at its setting. My basis for this was off the core rulebooks, which an old player introduced me to. They are amazing books with an involved setting and a fantastic presentation. I knew at that point I would run this game and purchased a copy of the game myself a couple of years later. The last post shows the concern I had with getting the setting right. Well, I have read enough of the source material now and I have to say, it has made me ponder the whole game. It definitely made me go hmmmm…
When your vision and the reality of a setting collide
When I read the two main books (source and setting books respectively), I did so from a perspective that seems wrong to me now. I saw this involved setting as an apocalyptic world that offered hope. The world (as it is a future earth setting set largely in Europe and North Africa) is completely different. Society is different. The flora and fauna are almost alien to the present. But it seemed that humanity was clawing its way back in the most hostile of settings.
Then I read one of the sourcebooks and realized that a lot of what I had read about the setting was wrong. I had input my views and hopes into the source material of the main books and they were ripped away by the first additional sourcebook I read. The Justitian campaign source material, consisting of two more huge books, really spells out what the world is now like. It is not pretty. Makes you go hmmm…
Everyone in the setting is deeply flawed
The sourcebooks for Justitian cover a lot of material, not just the city of Justitian itself. What it does a very good job of is detailing how if an individual in this setting is not in it for themselves, they will not be in it for long. The setting has a number of cults that you can play as. They are not truly classes, but they give your character a guide to how they would see the world that gets combined with their culture and concept. In my eyes, when I read the descriptions in the main rules, as an example, one of the clans called the Judges were noble individuals trying to bring the law back to the land.
I thought they were doing this to bring safety and a haven into a chaotic environment. Reading the sourcebook proved how wrong I was. The Judges are spelled out to be power-mad tyrants who seek to bring obedience through force. That is just an example, there are thirteen cults to choose from, and this source material paints them all in a similar light.
I have been reeling from this revelation for a bit. I am sure that many of you that have read this game think I am an idiot. It certainly seems all of my players saw this in their understanding of the game. But do they know the extent of the darkness in this game? Would it make them go hmmmm… if they did know the material?
I liken this to the time that I ran the Skull & Shackles Pathfinder Adventure Paths first module. I was super excited to be running a pirate campaign. I built a cardboard ship for it even. But I overlooked the content of that first module and did not see it for what it was. It nearly broke the group due to the pure darkness involved in the themes that centered around enforced servitude. You know, slavery.
So where to now with the game? The Degenesis source material shows how dark the setting truly is. I did not want to proceed with the game until I got the setting right. But do I want to hammer home the reality of this world based on the official material? One of my players said, as I have mentioned this issue a bit in our chat, that perhaps they are the light in this darkness.
This is a great concept, but to me, their light is going to be truly in opposition to the rest of the environment. I have gone hmmmm… but have not come up with many answers at this point. I do still have more to read, so maybe there is a light in the darkness I can use. If not though, this game may be going down a long dark path in the very near future. Keep rolling and wish me the best!