A Storytelling Game of Forbidden Science
"They all laughed at my theories! They called me mad! But now I'll have my revenge!"
If only it were so simple. They laughed because you WERE mad. They laughed because your inventions crumbled when unveiled and your theories turned to gibberish. You wept when you saw your equations riddled with childish errors.
But you know what you accomplished: you broke gravity's spell; you programmed a computer to dream; you banished death! These weren't delusions or lies!
Maybe they were right.
Or maybe just one more experiment will show you the truth. You can do everything you said. There's a price to pay, but you can do it. And you're not mad. The things you do...maybe they're not right. Maybe your peers would recoil in horror. But you're not mad. And you'll show them all.
These rules, by Benjamin Confino, significantly improve the Axiom of Prostasia by spreading
Other diversions by Kyle Marquis:
Twitter. I am occasionally clever here.
Genius Images, a Soup (which is like a Tumblr for the confused) of Genius and mad science images.
Notes on Version 1.1:
After more time than I expected, partly due to technical issues--I really am remarkably technologically inept for someone who writes about mad science--version 1.1 is finally complete. This certainly isn't a new edition, and now I feel a little foolish offering what is principally a better-edited version 1.0 after so long. I decided to release the new version, mostly, because my copy of the game had been diverging more and more from the reference everyone was using to email me questions, and things were getting confusing. If I had the ability--given that every third email or so introduces a new problem that I usually fix on the spot--I would release a new version every month or so, but given the amount of line-editing it takes to format a new edition, I don't have the time. (It's the indexes and page references that kill me; it takes three or more hours to correct those after each revision, and all attempts to produce automated indexing systems--which you would think would be simple, since we live in the damn future and everything--have met with failure.)
But enough impotent fury at the state of my technical competence. Revisions in version 1.1 can be divided into three categories (other than simple spelling corrections and so on): simplifications, removal or curtailing of problematical rules, and attempts at thematic enrichment.
Genius still feels a bit rough in spots, rigid and ornery where it could be fluid and sloppy where it should be well-defined. The rules for polymorphing and advanced mind control, among others, have never felt completely satisfactory to me, the problem compounded by high-rank wonders (4-5) lacking sufficient playtesting for me to shake out the problems. However, I've tried to unify some of the game's mechanics, removing fiddly minor rules that most groups would just forget anyway. Minor Mania expenditures tied to secondary rules got mostly hammered out, as they drove me crazy. I don't like keeping track of Mania in general, and would have gotten rid of such "points" if they didn't show up in all the other major templates; I never liked tracking Willpower, mojo points, and three types of Health for everyone moving around in my games. Hopefully version 1.1 will remove some of the minor nettles of Mania expenditure, which is really all we can hope for.
Let me preface my next comment by saying that most people who email me are interesting and engaging people whose enthusiasm is, seriously, the principle fuel by which my stray creative energies are turned into new Genius stuff. I especially appreciate people who have taken a hammer or a microscope to the rules, either to see what weird non-standards constructions they can make or just out of curiosity; games are meant to be played, and good play requires good playtesting. However, creating any game means you'll attract the CHUDs and bedwetting malcontents who seem to think annoying their Storyteller is how the game is won; after receiving reports from several Genius Storytellers about their problem players--and having a few of my own--I've worked to remove the rules around which problem players tend to cluster like buzzards around a sick donkey. Some were edited and simplified, and though I've tried to keep the rules flexible and dynamic, I apologize if necessity sometimes constrains imagination. Others were excised entirely; these were mostly a combination of "too complicated" and "easily exploited," and I didn't feel bad dumping them. Maybe they'll appear again in future supplements, once they've been playtested further. Others--observe the highly optional and the despised-by-this-designer-who-is-disgusted-he-even-needed-to-include-it Encumbrance rule--are basically sticks with which Storytellers may beat recalcitrant players; I apologize if their mere inclusion insults people who already know better. I also apologize if these harder rules remove certain interesting possibilities from play, but for every Mane Train (seriously, some guy somewhere is playing a train; that's awesome) there are a dozen nuisance-players slithering around the more exploitable sub-systems trying to ruin their Storyteller's games. I bow to the law of numbers.
Finally, I've attempted to add as many ideas as possible to those parts of the game that are not simple mechanics. Here and there I've added quotes (detritus from the Old World of Darkness; the new one seems less interested in following every header and sub-header with lyrics from My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult), mini-stories, and other bits of setting ephemera. I'm still not entirely pleased, of course--the Illuminated, in particular, have yet to jump off the page and dance for me, and other areas are imperfect or thematically inconsistent--but I've tried to plump the game up with useful and interesting ideas.
So those are the three chief motivations for revisions. Of course there are some areas where version 1.0's revisions were re-revised, as I vacillate between two mutually exclusive options, neither completely satisfactory, so 1.2 may see further shifts and fluxes. And of course not every rule or paragraph is as polished as I would like, let alone as playtested as a professional product would be. While I expect people to spot errors and inconsistencies with this version as with every other, I'm pleased with where Genius stands at the moment, and think version 1.1 offers a noticeable improvement over 1.0.
April 27th, 2010
Changes from Previous Editions:
Added a Merit (Science Hero) from the inchoate Player's Guide
Added simple "cybernetic limb" rules
Removed problematic "advanced mane" rules under Mane Merit
Got rid of miscellaneous and sundry "munchkin magnet" rules
Changed the Hermetic Order's subject
Reduced number of Skills required for Apokalypsi construction
Removed Mania cost for maintaining Scholarships
Adjusted fixed automata Size modifiers
Added "immortality" options for Exelixi 5
Standardized Epikrato "crowd control" time-penalties to correspond with other penalties
Added speed-of-light limitations for remote controls
Changed certain Academics rolls to Politics
Reduced time taken for probabilistic Apokalypsi calculation
Simplified Apokalypsi communication
Universalized "modifying wonders" rules
Reduced "pocket dimension" access cost
Added a ramming note. But not full-on ramming rules. If the pros aren't going to think through their crashing rules, neither am I.
Noted when Metaptropi transformations occur
Unified Havoc rules for intelligent wonders and intelligent manes
Clarified when "In Pill Form" wonders are rolled
Attempted universal limitations for various "adjusted Mania cost" rules
Made it explicit that Mania costs higher than a genius' per-turn expenditure can be paid over multiple turns.
Increased Skafoi cost for transformed fliers from 1 to 2
Added rules for orphan internalized wonders
Added quotes and "mini-stories" to Appendices
Added a secondary roll to adjudicate the nature of failure to produce a wonder, to make missing ingredients more common
Added an active sensor variable
Removed the "no cost" benefit of Syllabus-5; replaced it with an "activation" system
Clarified integral and combined wonders for certain sample wonders
Cleaned up immobilizing attack rules. Then cleaned them up again. And again a third time.
Adjusted dimensional shifting rules to reflect other game lines' rules. Replaced "Wall" with "Gauntlet."
Changed "Geist" to "Phantom" to prevent confusion with Geist: The Sin-Eaters
Math-checked sample wonders. Did not enjoy doing so.
Added more general rules for mental shielding
Changed thought-activated wonder requirement from Apokalypsi-4 to Apokalypsi-2
Adjusted Partridge Crown's favored Axioms
Fixed Beholden Number construction time ambiguity
Removed Brawl Skill from zombie in sample wonders list
Clarified that illusions can't turn things invisible
Fixed modifiers for Knockout Gas Gun in sample wonders list
Noted that most wonders of Exelixi cannot benefit from an adjusted Mania cost
Clarified Core Modifier's interaction with mechanical and biological upgrades
Simplified Skafoi multi-mode rules
Changed the cost for long-term consciousness transfer
Expanded applicable wonders for Nine Vertex Devils
Added The Seattle of Tomorrow
Changed Clockstopper Advantage to "Acedia"
Separated mind-control wonders from general scanners in Apokalypsi
Changed "Wunder" catalyst to "Staunen"
Explosive force changed from 1/3 regular damage to 1/2
Changed Skafoi variables to default to Handling, not Speed
Adjusted autofire variable
Added "limbs" rules for Automata
Removed Big Modification Chart and replaced it with Core Modifier
Simplified unmada field rules
Added beholden advice
Made it easier to become unmada. Added rules leading from unmada to Illumination
Got rid of Grown/Made/Raw division and replaced it with simple bonus choice
Changed foundation and baramin grants
Simplified foundation Mania cost system
Added (ugh) encumbrance rules
Reduced benefit for limited-use wonders
Changed default wonder Size to 2
Rearranged order of Epikrato
Clarified "remote control" language
Added "central command core" variable of Automata
Expanded and clarified Larvae rules
Added stalling rules
Rearranged Lemurian terminology
Added Axiom rank terms
Adjusted capacitor rules
Replaced Good Location Merit with Generator Merit
Replaced rolling Axiom + Skill, in most cases, with rolling Attribute + Skill, to increase chances of success.
Cleared up Capacitor rules. Added rules for using Capacitors as regular power sources.
Replaced “Renegade” with “Orphan.” Cleared up Adoption rules.
Simplified the use of Epikrato and other Axioms against passive targets.
Fused Theorists and Scholastics.
Split Artificers into Artificers and Progenitors.
Added Phenomenologists. Fused Vitalists and Etherites.
Added rules for less intelligent versions of powerful Automata.
Changed “modifiers” to “Variables.”
Simplified kitbashing and made it easier.
Added new modifiers.
A Lemurian “Locus” is now an “Zotheca.”
Simplified research and Mania recovery.
“Endowment” replaced with “Grant.”
"Manes Realm" replaced by "Bardo."
Added "The Grid," the Bardo of Virtual Reality.
"Lemure" removed in favor of "Mane."
Cleaned up Renegade rules and Renegade development and appearance.
No more visual Havoc rules.
Added Renegade Mutations.
Added more Genius psychology notes.
Edited Skafoi rules to clarify power levels at different dot ranks.
Simplified Beholden Rules.
Added rules for Beholden “dirty work.”
Simplified Director Endowment.
Refined Apokalypsi and Epikrato to clarify different levels and to “soak up” certain Tychi powers.
Edited Orphans to simplify their Mania requirements.
Changed “Madness,” added more things that require Madness checks.
Added “Definitions” for each Axiom to make their purpose plain and clear.
Changes from 0.5:
Changed the ability of Geniuses to damage technology with Mania
Changed Katastrofi to cause a base of 5 damage
Changed Katastrofi range rules so they're now based on the Size of the weapon
Changed Katastrofi explosion and “large weapon” rules to bring them in line with WoD: Armory
Changed Katastrofi explosive range rules to allow for more easy production of “atom bomb”-style weaponry at high ranks
Cleared up certain aspects of Skafoi, including Handling and passenger storage
Added details to Apokalypsi 1 and 2 regarding what they can do
Added Aura signifiers to Apokalypsi
Added remote control rules to Apokalypsi
Increased effectiveness of Prostasia
Added new Prostasia modifiers
Added rules for applying Prostasia to Wonders of Skafoi to bring Durability rules more in line with WoD: Armory
Added life support rules to Exelixi
Rejiggered and swapped Epikrato 2, 3, and 4
Reduced cost of Epikrato
Adjusted and clarified Epikrato 5
Fleshed out rules for integral mundane technology