When Genesys was released late in 2017, it was a product with a lot of promise for fans of generic systems. As shown in our review, the core rulebook presented the Narrative Dice System from FFG’s earlier Star Wars games in a clear manner with a lot of solid design tools for aspiring hackers and designers. At the same time, the amount of supporting material in the core book was thin, especially when it came to pre-existing items and opponents. Realms of Terrinoth is the first supplement for Genesys, and gamers are expecting that this supplement and the ones that follow will fill the gaps in the core book. From my read, they won’t be disappointed. In addition to a comprehensive gazetteer of Terrinoth and other areas in the world of Mennara, Realms of Terrinoth includes all the necessary widgets to run a fantasy game in Genesys, whether you use the Runebound setting or create your own.
The book clocks in at 261 pages, which break out into three sections. The first is setting material, explaining the history of Terrinoth and the world’s main conceits. The second is rules material, providing character options in the form of races and careers, delineating which options in the core rules are used, and offering new rules as well. The third section is the world guide, including maps, location notes, and the bestiary.
Chapter I: Tales of Darkness
The first section of the book provides the history of Terrinoth, introducing the reader to the various races and the nature of magic in the setting. Starting with the world’s creation myths, the history runs through three Ages of Darkness, when various enemies like dragons and demonic forces rose up to try and destroy the world. Woven into this is the story of Timmorran Lokander, the powerful wizard who created The Orb of the Sky, an immensely powerful artifact which would eventually be shattered and create the Runebound Shards which provide potent magics throughout the world. This history is lovingly detailed and includes an interesting cast of characters, though the reliance on forces of monolithic evil make a lot of the conflicts somewhat flat.
The setting, broadly, is not particularly adventurous. The races include humans, elves, dwarves, and gnomes, and the enemies include dragons, demons, and the undead. Terrinoth could have easily been written into Dungeons and Dragons or Runequest instead of Genesys, and fits in with a whole range of Tolkien-adjacent fantasy settings in books, tabletop games, and digital games. That said, I do not begrudge Fantasy Flight for playing it safe with this setting. In addition to being internal IP for them, the world presented in Runebound and recreated here is one that provides a good scaffold for most commonly demanded fantasy gaming. Although there are likely some Runebound fans who have been waiting specifically for this setting, there are probably scores of gamers who either purchased or heard about Genesys and wanted to know how to run fantasy with it. From a setting perspective (and a rules perspective, as you’ll see later), Terrinoth provides all of the necessary setting elements to both get a GM writing stories as well as get a hacker writing new material.
Chapter II: Call to Adventure
The rules section of the book begins with character creation. The layout here should be familiar to anyone who has played one of FFG’s Star Wars games, with races listed and then careers. The starting races are humans, elves, dwarves, orcs, gnomes, and catfolk; most of the races have a few subrace options which don’t alter the base stat array but instead tweak some of the other racial abilities. There are eight careers listed, with one substitution career (for a total of nine): Disciple, Envoy, Mage, Primalist, Scholar, Scoundrel, Scout and Warrior are the primary careers, and Runemaster is offered as a variant on the Mage career. The other primary mode for differentiating characters is the Heroic Ability. Heroic Abilities are built out of several components, but the core ‘ability’ of the Heroic Ability is one of eleven “Primary Effects” which work as significant personal powers. These heroic abilities can be enhanced with Ability Points, which are earned alongside XP as the character advances. Heroic Ability Effects are similar in potency to Force Powers from Force and Destiny, though they start stronger and the advancement options are less plentiful (and more expensive). If Force Powers are like Feats in Third Edition D&D, Heroic Abilities are like Feats in Fifth Edition D&D. More powerful, fewer of them.
When getting into the rules, FFG has opted to list out the skills and talents that are used in the setting in handy tables, complete with page references back to the core rules where necessary. This format does a nice job maintaining the balance between not wasting page count on repeated rules material and minimizing flipping between books. It also reveals that my previous observations about the Genesys Talent list (a bit short) and the Genesys Skill list (just right) are agreed upon somewhere in Fantasy Flight HQ; the skill list is almost the same length, with a few magic specific skills added (Runes and Verse) and some setting-specific knowledge skills (knowledge wasn’t broken out in Genesys Core), but the talent list is heavily bulked up with scores of new talents at every tier. The table is especially helpful here: it would be easy to overlook the talents in the core book without an easily available reference.
The next set of mechanics is gear. The number of weapons and armor types available are roughly equivalent to D&D, and that quantity seems about right for providing differentiation without getting trapped in minutia. Adventuring gear is also similar to what you’d see in D&D, though there are more commonly available potions, which makes sense given the setting. One unique set of gear is magical implements, which give your spellcaster the option to use staves, wands, holy symbols, musical instruments, and others in order to cast their spells. Each of these implements is unique, and gives more flavor to your spellcaster. The implements as well as weapons and armor also have lenses that can be applied depending on the construction of the item. In other words, there are special bonuses for having Dwarven Plate or a Bone Wand. The item modification rules also come into play, with a number of magical and non-magical attachments for weapons and armor.
There is a list of about two dozen pre-written magic items; it’s not a terribly long list but provides enough of a starting point to make your own. Tied into magic items are the rules for crafting. Both crafting and alchemy are left mostly to the discretion of the GM, but the book provides a full table for spending advantage, threat, triumph, and despair on both crafting and alchemy.
The magic rules are still the same verb-based system as used in Genesys Core, but with an added twist in the form of Runebound Shards. There are 17 types of Runebound Shards, and each can either be activated for an effect or used as a magical implement by a mage with the Runes skill. The runes each affect magic differently when used as an implement, which provides a great starting point for a GM to offer their own twist on how each of the magical verbs manifest. In addition to the Shards themselves, the two new forms of magic, Runes and Verse, each are detailed in the same way the three original magic types (arcane, divine, primal) are, and there is a solid section on how several types of magic manifest towards the end of this chapter.
Chapter III: Lands of Magic
The third chapter is the gazetteer, and provides a lot of detail into the land of Terrinoth and surrounding areas. There are overland maps of each area, and a significant amount of description of key cities and points of interest. There aren’t detailed city or site maps included at any point, but given the length of the book this isn’t surprising.
The biggest mechanical component of this chapter is the bestiary. A full suite of opponents, including monsters, NPCs, and serious nemesis-level enemies, are included for each region of the world and organized in that way, spread throughout the chapter. I appreciate this mode of organization, though it is definitely aimed more at a GM working within the world as written than a hacker. Nothing wrong with that, though coming from straight toolkit systems like GURPS and Fate this is definitely different. One thing I would have liked to see was some templates; as an example there are five creatures, all ostensibly dragons, which could have been tied together. There are also a number of different NPC types with 2-3 example stat blocks of different types; this is another place where designing minion, rival, and nemesis-level templates could have provided more flexibility and options. Despite these gripes (which are more differences in design philosophy than actual shortcomings), I am overall very pleased with the section, which includes a ton of new monsters and some more flavor on important elements of the setting, like the role of the Free Cities and a discussion of necromancy. Between the level of detail and the maps a GM should have no problem running a game set in Terrinoth; it’s also entirely likely that there will be further setting material in the form of future supplements.
Realms of Terrinoth is a good start for Genesys. In addition to providing a solid (if not exactly unique) setting in which to run a fantasy game, Realms of Terrinoth is hacker-friendly, pulling out the modifications to the core rules and showing how the setting uses both new and existing mechanics. There are few heavily setting-dependent mechanics (the Runes themselves are the only one I can think of), and all of the new mechanics are easily separable for potential mix-and-match use. That all said, this book is designed as a world book first, and hackers will be on their own to reverse-engineer things like monsters and magic items.
As this is currently the only supplement for Genesys, I think the jury is still out on both the flexibility of the system as well as the expected support. As there were five different example genres/settings in the core book, the potential Genesys library is very large indeed; my hope is that Fantasy Flight goes for broad appeal by offering more of the high-level supplements like this one before going into splats or regional guides for Terrinoth specifically. I’d also hope Fantasy Flight resists the temptation to release many rules splats, though I’d think it likely that we see new runes and other magic items in future Terrinoth releases.
Realms of Terrinoth is a solid first step for support of the Genesys system. I’m looking forward to future supplements that further richen the palette of available options and expand the system’s capabilities beyond what we’ve seen in Star Wars. Though Realms of Terrinoth isn’t designed for hackers, it’s a book that a rules hacker should be able to use without difficulty. For a GM who just wants to pick up and play, Realms of Terrinoth provides everything for a fantasy game that was missing in the core book.
Realms of Terrinoth is available on DriveThruRPG. Header image is from the Realms of Terrinoth cover and is copyright Fantasy Flight Games.