I write in gratitude to Marko, Erwan, SMV, and the lads of Liqua.
Back in 2017, while attending PAX Unplugged in Philadelphia, I learned about a new tabletop RPG called Degenesis: Rebirth. I noticed it because of the huge banners displaying the most polished artwork for any tabletop game that I had ever seen. The books for sale were massive hardcover texts chock full of high quality art and fascinating lore. But I have a policy. I do not buy books for tabletop RPGs before I get the chance to play them. I don’t want to spend money first and find out later that I dislike the game. These books in particular had a high price tag, so despite their temptation, I walked away.
Later, I told my friend Doug about Degenesis. Doug helped me fall in love with tabletop games in the first place, so we talk a lot about them. At the time, I lamented how I was always the Game Master and never a player. I wanted to play Degenesis, not run a campaign for it, but I couldn’t imagine that kind of future. He commiserated with me, we accepted our fates, and moved on.
And then, months later, Doug reached out to me with the most unexpected news. He said he’d been reading the Degenesis ruleset, that it is brilliant, and that he would be more than willing to run a campaign so I could play in it. It’s not enough to say that I was ecstatic. I immediately purchased the PDFs of the two core books. We picked two friends to join us, and in March 2018, we started our first session of the first prewritten adventure, “In Thy Blood.”
It’s 2021 now. We’ve been playing Degenesis: Rebirth for almost three years. Once again, I find myself grateful to Doug for giving me the opportunity to fall in love with something.
Before Degenesis, the only tabletop RPG I had played was Dungeons & Dragons (and its variant, Pathfinder). D&D is a great game and caters to a lot of different people, hence its popularity. Immediately, I knew that Degenesis would be different — everything from the art style to the genre is everything D&D is not. But I was not prepared for Degenesis to blow my mind. It’s not enough for me to say they are different games. If someone wants to play Degenesis, they need to completely let go of tabletop RPG staples. Things like classes, min-maxing, and heroism.
Everything about Degenesis centers on the story that its developer SIXMOREVODKA — and in particular, its creator, Marko Djurdjević — wants to tell. It’s a dark, harsh setting. Humanity is barely surviving a world ravaged by an apocalyptic event. An alien seed has crashed into the Earth, causing horrible illness and horrific mutations. Anyone with a gun has a massive advantage, but knives are plentiful. A single, well placed stab wound will fell even the boldest man.
I am no stranger to dark, terrible futures. I revel in these stories. And so I devoured every scrap of lore, every beautiful and haunting artwork. The deeper I dug, the more the world unfolded for me, like an intricate puzzle. After my friends and I finished “In Thy Blood,” I joined the game’s official Discord server and lurked for a time. I wanted to learn from other fans, hoping to grasp the extent of the game world’s complexity. But I am shy in new communities. At the time, I was content enough to read without joining the conversation, all while expanding my knowledge.
And then 2020 happened.
Death is the road to awe
As with many little things in 2020, I can’t remember when and how things changed. They just did. One moment, I was a quiet fan; the next moment, I was giving advice to newer players. I mostly explained lore and how to let go of their expectations. Eventually, I wrote a new player’s guide for Unpossible Journeys. None of it went unnoticed. I became a “regular” in the fan community. Things picked up from there at a wildly unexpected pace: I read the other prewritten campaigns, befriended the junior producer Erwan Roudaut, made a companion video to my article, and started a podcast with Erwan called The Cluster Speaks. Marko and Erwan even asked me, along with some other fans, to preview their latest and greatest masterpiece, “Justitian.”
Looking back, I wonder about it all. How did a tabletop RPG captivate me so much? How is it possible for a story to be so nuanced and so compelling? And how did a bunch of random, faceless strangers on the Internet become a source of friendship and support during a global pandemic? As a game, Degenesis: Rebirth is nothing short of genius. My friends and I have enjoyed every single moment in all the adventures we have played thus far. We are wrapping up one campaign now and looking forward to more. And as a community — well, I cannot speak for the wider community. But there isn’t a more passionately loyal and sincerely encouraging group in it as the guys I have come to know.
Last night, Erwan passed on a message for me from Marko. He complimented not only my deep understanding of Degenesis‘ world and story, but also my skill at explaining even complex concepts in an easy way for new players. I do not boast much, but that ability is a point of pride for me. Being recognized for it is such high praise. And the thing is, Degenesis: Rebirth has given me so much: new friends, countless hours of entertainment, a rich world to explore, and inspiration for my own creative endeavors. It even helped me become a better storyteller and Game Master. If I can continue to give back by buying the merchandise, creating fan work, and helping new players love the game as much as I do, then I absolutely will.
This is only the beginning.
All artwork on this post is by SIXMOREVODKA.