Genius/Chapter Three

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The characters you play in Genius: the Transgression are, on the surface, quite human. They tend to have many of the same drives and emotions, albeit twisted by Inspiration. The rules that follow explain how to created your Inspired character, and the differences between them and the rest of humanity.

Character Creation[edit]

The basics of a Genius are similar to those of a normal person, mechanically, using most of the same mechanics in the Storyteller system. While there are some differences, it follows the same basic principles.

Step One: Character Concept[edit]

Seemingly barebone, the concept of the character is quite appropriately the skeleton of your character. Describe your character in a few brief words or phrases, describing their persona in a dramatic sense. Perhaps your character is an Adventuring Archaeologist, or a Grizzled Time Cop, or a Wide-Eyed Dimension-Hopper.

Next, you'll need three Aspirations. Technically, you need four, but the fourth is special, and is specifically tied to the Inspired condition. When choosing your character's aspirations, two of them should be short-term in nature, being something you could reasonably accomplish in one game session, while the third should be a long-term aspiration that requires a more concerted, extended effort. They should be expressed concisely in a few words, and should be kept open-ended to prevent them becoming too hard to complete.

Step Two: Select Attributes[edit]

Attributes are the basic, unspecified capabilities of the character. There are nine attributes, divided into three groups of Mental, Social and Phsyical, and divided along the other direction into Power, Finess and Resistance. Seeing as this is a fan game, I will assume for the time being that you understand how Attributes work. Prioritize Mental, Social and Physical attributes in any order. Assign 5 dots across the Attributes of your first priority, 4 across the group in second priority, and 3 across the third group. Each Attribute has one free dot before assigning dots.

Step Three: Select Skills[edit]

If Attributes represent your natural capacity, Skills more closely represent your training and experience in a field. An unusually intelligent man with no training in computers will be easily outstripped by a dullards with a cursory amount of training in all but the most extreme situations. Like Attributes, Skills are split into Mental, Social and Physical. Prioritize these three sets, similarly to how you prioritized Attributes. Your Attribute priorities don't have to affect how you prioritize your Skills at all. Assign 11 dots in your primary group, 7 in your secondary group, and 4 in the last. Skills do not get a free dot before dots are assigned.

Step Four: Determine Skill Specialties[edit]

Skill Specialties are arguably the most personal part of skills for a character. They are a specific subset of a skill that the character has put particular effort into refining. It can be a master of a field being particularly expert in one subject, it can be a novice who has taken a specific interest in one discipline, or anything in between. You get three Specialties, which you can use to specify an area in a skill which your character particularly excels in. The specialty should be narrow enough that it's not constantly useful, but it should be broad enough to be relevant. First Aid is a valid specialty for Medicine, and Grappling is a valid specialty for Brawl. Pediatric opthalmology is too narrow a specialty for Medicine (although you could have specialties in pediatrics, and in opthalmology, they don't stack), and "punching" is far too broad a specialty for Brawl.

You can only assign specialties to skills you have dots in, but within that, you can place them however you please.

Sidebar: "False" vs. "false"[edit]

This talk of false beliefs might call to mind the "Truth" so frequently dealt with in Mage: the Awakening. This can seem especially relevant when it comes to whether a Genius's Wonders show up in a Mage's Sight, and if so, then how? Well, the "falsehood" of a Genius's Paradigm isn't necessarily False in the sense that Mage's metaphysics care about (i.e. Platonically false). A Genius's Paradigm can reflect a Supernal Truth, as can their Wonders, even if it may do so in a way that seems clearly out of place. To an Obrimos, for example, an Orgone Laser produced by an orgone-manipulating Genius would have an immediate effect on the world that reflects Forces, but the means by which it produces those effects more lines up with Spirit or Life. The short answer is not to sweat it too much. In a crossover game, I recommend you play up the weird incrongruency. It's inconsistent, but it's consistently inconsistent, unlike the Abyss.

And let's make this clear, Inspiration is not Abyssal. Unless it is. In which case it might still not be, which could just be a sign that it definitely is. So in short, the textual version of a shrug.

Step Five: Add Genius Template[edit]

Here is where the Inspired diverge from humanity. In order to make a Genius, you must apply the Genius template, which leaves the Genius with various statistical and mechanical difference from human beings.

Catalyst[edit]

The force that brought a Genius in contact with Inspiration, a Catalyst is what helps determine the path a Genius is first set upon. Whatever it was, the Catalyst and the breakthrough it inpired leaves an indelible mark on the Genius, on what some might call their soul. Take note of the Favored Axiomata for your character's Catalyst. The main Catalysts are Grimm, Hoffnung, Klagen, Neid and Staunen, but others are thought to exist. You can find more details on the Catalysts here.

Foundation[edit]

A Foundation is a loose confederation of Genii who share a fundamental underlying philosophy of how they should work their Wonders. While the Foundations were once indistinguishable from large Fellowships, being based as much on discipline as philosophy, but over time, they grew to a point where they transcended a single subject to cover a world view. Foundations don't have as much direct effect as the Catalyst, but they do offer an avenue for finding like-minded Genii to collaborate, receive tutelage from or otherwise interact with. You can find more details on the Foundations here.

Paradigm[edit]

The Paradigm is the single, core conceit around which their Wonders are built. At first glance, it seems to mostly be an aesthetic choice, but it runs uch deeper than that. It's the singular lie, the one big departure the Genius takes from the accepted norms, the one that determines the Wonders they will make and how they work. A Paradigm is an idea, one that's intended to explain a phenomenon in a way that can be applied to a Wonder. It can be a pseudoscience, like the idea of morphic fields determining our physiology, it can be an occult belief, like the redemptive power of alchemy, or it can simply be a philosophy that transgresses against what the world agrees to be "true." When a Genius makes a Wonder that directly ties into their Paradigm, it comes much more easily to them, and is less prone to failure, and a Genius is simply not capable of producing a Wonder that defies her paradigm.

Moreover, the Paradigm can leave a palpable sense of the presence of a Genius, subtly distorting the laws of the universe around them. At low levels, it's only aesthetic. A Genius who believes in the power of pyramids will seem to accrue pyramidal objects, and trangular shapes will seem to follow them around. As it becomes more potent, it can create tangible effects. Conseration of energy gently bends and breaks, the mind begins to exceed the bond of the body, and the line between idea and reality begins to slightly blur.

At extreme levels, the Paradigm field can become an Unmada Field, tearing wholes in the laws of nature through which Manes, hungry to feed of the stray Inspiration may creep through.

Axiomata[edit]

The Axiom is at once a concrete part of the lives of Genii, and also the most abstract, nebulous part of the Genius's work. An Axiom (plural Axioms or Axiomata) is a mental framework that guide a Genius in contructing a Wonder. It is the lens through which a Genius focuses their Inspiration, allowing them to project it into the world and create a useful effect. Every Wonder needs an Axiom to work, and without one, a Genius is unfocused and can't cobble together even the most basic Wonder.

Each Catalyst has two favored Axiomata, two ways of interpreting Inspiration that come most naaturally to the kinds of Genii that Break Through into that Catalyst. Finally, the Genius may choose a third Axiom to have as their Favored axiom out of any of the others. When creating you character, the character has four dots to place among Axiomata. You must put at least one dot in at least two of your Favored Axiomata.

Inspiration[edit]

Inspiration in Genius has two meanings: It is both the raw, motive force of creativity in the world, most powerfully manifested in the aptly-named Inspired; It is also the fire of impossible brilliance that burns within a singular Genius. In this case, we are talking about the latter. A Genius starts with 1 dot of Inspiration. You may spend five of your starting Merit dots for an additional Inspiration dot, representing a person who may be more defined by their Inspiration.

Impetus[edit]

The "fuel" of Genii, Impetus works rather differently than the fuels of other paranormal beings. Instead of being tracked as discreet amounts of points, it's measured in rough, approximate "sinks" of Impetus. A Genius produces enough Impetus to support Impetus Sinks up to her the greater of her Resolve, Composure or Stamina without issue, and can handle additional number of Sinks up to her Inspiration with some level of stress. It's not a good idea to surpass this limit. You don't want to allow the raw force of Inspiration to run free inside you.

Mental Attribute[edit]

Inspiration may be a dangerous force, but it also opens the mind and steels the will, advancing the mental capacities of those it touches. All Genii begin play with an additional dot of Intelligence, Wits or Resolve, still subject to the normal 5-dot limit.

Step Six: Choose Merits[edit]

Like with normal people, Genii have merits. Unlike most, Genii tend to be just slightly exceptional in some way, shown by the fact that they start with 10 Merit dots rather than the normal 7. Your character must meet all Merit prerequisites, and may choose from the general merits from the Chronicles of Darkness core rulebook, not reprinted here for copyright reasons, although difference in how a Genius uses a Merit found in that book may be noted. The Genius template, being a major template, locks the character out of supernatural merits unless otherwise noted.

Step Seven: Determine Advantages[edit]

Advantages are a catch-all for various different statistics and derived traits common to all characters, dependent upon Attributes, Skills and Merits.

  • Size: Characters start at 5.
  • Health: Characters start with Health dots equal to Size + Stamina.
  • Speed: 5 + Strength + Dexterity
  • Willpower: Resolve + Composure
  • Restraint: 7
  • Initiative: Dexterity + Composure
  • Defense: Athletics + (Lower of Wits or Dexterity)

Step Eight: The First Wonder[edit]

At the core of what a Genius does is the concept of Wonders, and by the time Catalyzation is complete, every Genius will have completed their first Wonder. Create your Wonder based on the steps in Chapter Four. If your character has already built their Wonder before play has started, they don't need to take the time to collect the components, as it's assumed they did that before the game began. Your Storyteller may have you still roll to incorporate components, but it's not strictly necessary to do unless your Storyteller asks you to.

The Wonder your character creates should fit into your Paradigm as well as possible, as it's the Wonder they created when Inspiration first washed over them. While you can make literally any Wonder, provided it fits in the Axiomata you have, but it's recommended to keep your first Wonder relatively modest as you don't have a lot of ranks in any Axiomata to offset possible Havoc. Or you can act like a true Genius and make an insanely powerful and dangerous contraption out of the gate, all up to you.

Catalyzation[edit]

This section explains rules that apply specifically to the Inspired, as opposed to the normal people. Despite their incredible gifts, the Genius iis not significantly different from other humans (barring trans-human modifications), and so use the same rules as normal people where not otherwise noted.

Character Advancement[edit]

Trait Experiences per Dot
Attribute 4
Skill 2
Skill Specialty 1
Merit 1
Inspiration 5 and a thesis
Non-favored Axiom 4 and a thesis
Favored Axiom 3
Foundation/Fellowship Field 3
Other Fields 4 and a thesis
Additional Postulate 2

Like in other Chronicles of Darkness games, characters in Genius: the Transgression advance by accruing and spending Experiences, which are themselves gained by building up Beats, at a conversion rate of 5 Beats to make 1 Experience (except for Inspired Experiences, see below.). Beats can be gained by fulfilling Aspirations and Resolving Conditions.

Beats[edit]

  • When you resolve or significantly advance an Aspiration, take a Beat.
  • At the end of each Chapter, take a Beat.
  • Each time you Resolve a Condition, or fulfill the "Beat" clause of a Persistent Condition, take a Beat
  • When you fail a roll, you can opt to make it a Dramatic Failure and take a Beat.
  • When a major dramatic moment happens, the Storyteller can opts to reward a Beat.

As noted already, Beats are the "experience points" of Genius, and represent a moment of change or drama for a character.

You can only get 1 Beat per category per Scene, unless the moment is dramatic enough that the Storyteller deems it worth breaking that limit.

Inspired Beats[edit]

Inspired Beats are somewhat different than regular Beats, in that they are explicitly about a Genius's growth as a Genius. Inspired Beats are gained from doing "Genius things" and can really only be spent on "Genius Things."

Inspired Experiences also differ from regular ones, in that it only takes 4 Inspired Beats to create an Inspired Experience. Here are the main ways a genius accrues Inspired Beats:

  • Any time you encounter a new paranormal phenomenon, gain an Inspired Beat.
  • Any time you analyze a new Wonder or paranormal phenomenon, gain an Inspired Beat.
  • Any time you progress your Magnum Opus, gain an Inspired Beat.
  • Any time you resolve a Havoc Condition, gain an Inspired Beat instead of a normal one.
  • When you fail a Havoc roll, you can elect to make it a Dramatic Failure and take an Inspired Beat.

You can't spend Inspired Experiences on just anything, though. You can spend them on the following:

  • Inspiration
  • Axiom dots
  • Dots in Status for a Foundation, Baramin or Fellowship
  • Fields and Postulates

The Magnum Opus[edit]

Some people are obsessed with things, but for a Genius, there is only one true obsession: The Opus. This is a singular vision, the one, great thing that the Genius wants to see made manifest in the world. While they may have other Aspirations, this is the ultimate one. Every Genius has a Magnum Opus, and many will defend it like a religious zealot defending their faith, sometimes literally.

Mechanically, a Magnum Opus is like an Aspiration. It's a goal, a tremendous, sweeping goal that, quite simply, should be impossible for any human to see through. You gain an Inspired Beat when you advance the Opus toward completion, and the Opus exists as a source of dramatic tension.

Unlike Aspirations, however, advancing the Opus also grants a point of Willlpower, galvanizing the Genius and giving them strength to keep pushing forward. Pursuing the Opus at the expense of others can cause a Genius to break toward Renegade, and pushing your Opus to the side for the sake of society can cause you to break toward Paragon.

It's a bad idea to make a Genius's Magnum Opus fail. It's been known to cause, among other things, psychotic breaks, flares of Unmadaism, and outbursts of extreme violence.

Inspiration[edit]

Have you ever had an idea? Not just a thought or inkling, but a big, huge, important idea, thhe kind you feel you need to screm at everyone you meet, the kind that demands your attention, and demands that you get everyone else's attention? Do you know that feeling when you have that incredible idea in your head, but when you try to articulate it, it starts to fall apart, words failing in the face of its brilliance? That feeling of frustration and drive that builds like a wildfire inside your mind as you keep feeling the push to prove your idea?

That's what a second of being a Genius feels like. In a mere instant, the fire of Inspiration inflicts a lifetime of intellectual frustration on the people it touches. It's the fire that drives a Genius to create Wonders, and is the fuel that powers them. It's an abstract force, but it's one that even Genii all agree exists.

Inspiration by Catalyst[edit]

While every Genius feels the pull of Inspiration on their soul, how they Broke Through can have tangible effects on how they feel it.

Grimms feel combative. Every disagreement is a debate, and every fight has a philosophical undercurrent. Inspiration elevates every disagreement into its own little culture war, with a hero (usually the Grimm) and a villain (usually anyone who disagrees).

Hoffnung feel superior. They see anything they don't agree with as simply wrong. If a fact doesn't fit their personal bias, they have to fight back the instinct to ignore it, even if the information itself is absolutely vital.

Klagen feel paranoid. Everything they see is a danger, especially other people's ideas. They are fatalists who see the possible catastrophes in everything around them. They see the weaknesses in democracy, the ways their medicine could contort their bodies, the many unfortunate implications and subtle dangers of the things people say.

Neid feel like they need to prove something. Their ideas are right, and it's the Genius's job to prove it at any cost. The ideas around them only have worth if they can be used to further the Neid's goals, and if not, are either ignored or discredited. Neids don't like ideas they can't discredit.

Staunen feel a sense of fascination. Some have even likened it to a trance, as the Staunen Genii see the amazing, wondrous things in everything. They even see the wonder in the hideous things, often to the dismay of more sane people around them.

Increasing Inspiration[edit]

Inspiration can, in purely mechanical terms, be raised by simply spending 5 Experiences and resolving an appropriate Thesis condition. In the context of the game's world and narrative, there's a little more to it. Inspiration is a wild force of change, innovation and curiosity, and so to draw more of it into yourself, you need to expend the limits of your knowledge through innovation, change and curiosity. While Inspiration may seem uncontrollable, it is something the Genius must consciously work to expand by completing a Thesis related to their Paradigm (See "Theses" below) in addition to simply acquiring the Experiences, Inspired or otherwise. This work must, by definition, redefine some aspect of the Genius or the world around them, and so a player who is increasing their character's Inspiration is encouraged to re-examine the character's Virtue, Vice, Aspirations, and even possibly the Magnum Opus.

Effects of Inspiration[edit]

Inspiration affects the Genius in many ways ranging from the subtle to the obvious:

  • When determining the amount of Impetus the Genius can occupy before reaching Deep Inspiration, the Genius first goes through their Resolve, and then any Impetus on top of that is limited by Inspiration.
  • Inspiration acts as a limiting factor on certain Wonders, as well as being used in the dice pool to incorporate components into Wonders.
  • Inspiration determines the maximum traits of a Genius. As Inspiration advances, the Genius begins to transcend the limits of humanity in mind, body and spirit, allowing their maximum ratings in skills and attributes to exceed 5 as their Inspiration does. If a Genius has Inspiration greater than 5, their Inspiration rating becomes their new maximum. If their Inspiration falls, any dots beyond their newly-lowered limit are suppressed, but not lost.
  • Inspiration acts as the "power trait" of a Genius, and is added as their Supernatural Tolerance where relevant, such as when they must reseist paranormal effects.
  • Inspiration also determines how much of an imprint the Genius's Paradigm leaves in their wake. At high levels, the presence of a Genius becomes unmistakable, and leaves a palpable effect on the world around them.
  • Theses[edit]

    A Genius doesn't just pick up experiences and plop them into a trait. In order to advance their Inspired knowledge, they must perform concerted study. This takes the form of a Thesis, a path of exploration of study that opens new avenues of growth. Once you resolve a Thesis condition, you are then allowed to purchase the Inspiration or Axiom dot or Field it was keyed to. You don't have to purchase it immediately, but you can't until after you've completed the appropriate Thesis. The exception to this rule is Favored Axiomata and Fields from your Fellowship or Foundation. Favored Axiomata are easy enough for a Genius that they can pick up the finer points at work, and their Fellowships and Foundations are usually able to provide a tutor for Fields they offer.

    Condition: Thesis[edit]

    You are working to better understand some part of your Inspiration or the paranormal world, in order to open the door to greater understanding.

    Acquiring the Condition: You can choose to gain this condition at will. You can have three versions of this condition at once: One keyed to your Paradigm (for an Inspiration Dot), one keyed to an Axiom, and one keyed to a new Field.

    Beat: Upon gaining this Condition, you gain four conditions that you can satisfy once each, providing an Inspired Beat for each one satisfied. These conditions must all directly relate to the subject matter.

    Resolution: Once you have satisfied all the conditions for Inspired Beats, the Condition resolves (without providing an additional Beat). You can also choose to act out a hideous act in order to quickly gain a great deal of information about the topic, effectively creating a Larva that skips over all unsatisfied parts of this Condition and provides their Beats. This act must also directly tie into the subject matter.

    Restraint[edit]

    Restraint is a representation of the internal conflict between a Genius's human need to fit into society and the innate desire to meet society's expectations, usually by following social mores, against the push that Inspiration places to break rules, change the world, and create your own paradigm. At first glance, it seems like a "morality meter" with "good guy" at one end, and "bad guy" at the other, but like with everything a Genius deals with, there's more to it. Restraint is the Genius's willingness (or lack thereof) to place the wishes of others, and society at large, orver their own work, up to and including their Magnum Opus. At high levels, a Genius becomes a Paragon, a naturally magnetic champion of progress, and at lower levels, a Genius becomes a Renegade, an unstoppable force of change and possibility.

    Gaining and Losing Restraint[edit]

    While Restraint replaces Integrity for Genii, it doesn't work in quite the same ways. With Intergrity, one can only suffer Breaking Points downward, and must work their way back up to a better state with Experiences.

    To contrast, a Genius can much more readily slide in either direction, being able to "Break down", or "Break up" depending on the circumstances. While some might view a loss of Restraint as a sort of moral decay, other view it as a form of liberation, as you free yourself from the fear of what society thinks, and in turn view breaking upward to higher Restraint as a display or moral and intellectual weakness, placing what is accepted over what is right.

    While a Genius's current place on the scale of Restraint has less immediate effects on how likely they are to move in one direction than it would with Integrity, it can still affect it. A normally very restrained Paragon that breaks with expectation is more likely to suffer a Breaking Point toward Renegade than a mad scientist knocking over the third bank this week, while a hardened Renegade might start to soften up if they decide to hold back, while a Paragon wouldn't notice it among the sea of charitable actions they take.

    In "Breaking Up" and "Breaking Down," We'll explain the factors that determine how many dice you roll to avoid breaking toward Paragon and Renegade, respectively. You can Break due to your own actions, or more rarely, due to things you witness that inspire an extreme reaction toward that direction. It should be noted that actions carried out on your behalf by a proxy such as a Wonder or a Beholden do still count as Breaking Points for you, albeit with a more advantageous dice pool.

    Breaking Up[edit]

    Breaking up, or Breaking Toward Paragon, usually comes with actions of humiliation, submission to societal norms, and actions that turn away from your Inspired endeavors.

    Dramatic Failure: In spite of how frustrating it was to keep to the rules, it feels good not to be chased out of town, or even be lauded, for your hard work. You gain a dot of Restraint, and the Steadfast condition. If you had the Unmada condition, it is immediately resolved, as the scales fall from your eyes.

    Dice Pool: Resolve + Composure + Modifiers

    Failure: You feel more in control of yourself, and more aware that your actions have consequence. It’s uncomfortable, but sometimes clarity is worth the discomfort. You gain a dot of Restraint, and the Lucid condition.

    Success: Your moment of mercy and weakness was just that, a moment. You won’t bow to the morals of others any more than before. You gain the Steadfast condition.

    Exceptional Success: You aren’t impressed by the displays of adulation coming from those around you. In fact, they frustrate and confuse you. Why would they reward conformity over greatness? You gain the Paranoid condition.

    A Genius can Break toward Paragon by doing or witnessing the following:

    Breaking Point Modifier
    Sticking to mundane solutions to your own detriment
    Following an inconvenient social more -1
    Following a social rule that would put you in material danger -2 to -3
    Disabling a Wonder to prevent Havoc
    Acting against your Opus -3
    Actively preventing normal people from suffering Breaking Points -2
    Preventing a crime or social breach that would personally benefit you -1
    Skipping a Wonder component due to moral or social implications -1 to -2
    Catalyst-specific triggers

    Breaking Down[edit]

    Breaking "downward" toward Renegade requires, generally speaking, acts of transgression. Actions that defy what society deems acceptable, or ignoring the norms and mores of those around you in favor of embracing Inspiration will push you further toward Renegade.

    A Genius can Break toward Renegade by doing or witnessing the following:

    Breaking Point Modifier
    Sticking to mundane solutions to your own detriment
    Ignoring an inconvenient social more -1
    Breaking a social norm in a way that puts yourself or others in material danger -2 to -3
    Allowing your Wonders to suffer Havoc unnecessarily
    Committing a grave crime on behalf of your Opus -3
    Knowingly inflicting a Breaking Point to another character's Integrity -2
    Encouraging crime or the breaking of social mores -1
    Use of a Larva -2 to -3
    Catalyst-specific triggers