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A critical look at Genius: the Transgression

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  • A critical look at Genius: the Transgression

    This turned out to be more of an opinion piece, if you have any thoughts on the points brought up please post them below.


    I like Genius: the Transgression, never though I'd be saying that but I do none the less. It shows what creativity a fan game can bring to the table, and it's ideas can inspire stories that wouldn't normally come up in a Chronicle of Darkness.

    This is what make me so disappointed in Genius' failings though. For all it's themes of inspiration, potential, and creativity the game itself is one of the most stifling gamelines of the fan-made series. And here's why, my own thesis if you will: Geniuses must be scientists.

    Sure, this might be the obvious point of the game. Play as a mad scientists, create impossible inventions, explore infinite dimensions, Ect. But not all geniuses are scientists, but in Genius the Inspired must become scientist or inventors in order to do anything involving Wonders. There are no artists who seek to create masterpieces in mediums never before attempted, no athlete so dedicated to the craft that their mind masters the physics of the game to elevate it to new dimensions, no musician who writes a song so inspiring that it births a sentient thought form in the depths of the human subconsciousness. If any of those examples became Inspired, their only hope to be playable is to don the white lab coat, strap on goggles, or take oration lessons because there is no way their Wonders will ever see the light of gameplay the way the rules are now. And that is the very opposite of inspiring.

    Again, this might just be the point of the game though. Being a mad scientist. But consider this: having the option to be a Genius from any background and profession opens up unlimited possibilities for character creation. Having the option to only play a Genius who's from a scientific field limits players options at character creation. Playing a mad scientist is achievable in both of the above options, while any other option is only available in one.

  • #2
    I believe that's called the dark hero template.

    I actually spent a few days thinking about how one would make genius and have it cover things like athlete's and artists, but in the end it just diluted the themes and ended up looking like dark heroes+ a lot more work.
    Last edited by milo v3; 11-03-2016, 09:30 AM.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Dusksage View Post
      There are no artists who seek to create masterpieces in mediums never before attempted
      Their artwork are Wonders built using Expression. Probably a fair degree of Epikrato, since most "magical artwork" affects others via observation mediated mental influence. Alternatively, if you just want far out there artwork, Metatropi has you covered for shifting artwork, impossible engineering, and other material manipulations.

      Originally posted by Dusksage View Post
      no athlete so dedicated to the craft that their mind masters the physics of the game to elevate it to new dimensions
      Internalized Wonders representing their new inhuman feats. Probably best to be Navigators for their Grant ability.

      Originally posted by Dusksage View Post
      no musician who writes a song so inspiring that it births a sentient thought form in the depths of the human subconsciousness.
      See above for artists, but add in some automata for new beings.

      Originally posted by Dusksage View Post
      Again, this might just be the point of the game though. Being a mad scientist. But consider this: having the option to be a Genius from any background and profession opens up unlimited possibilities for character creation. Having the option to only play a Genius who's from a scientific field limits players options at character creation. Playing a mad scientist is achievable in both of the above options, while any other option is only available in one.
      See above regarding options. While the material casts it as "scientists and academics only", that's more because the source material lends itself directly there. The actual rule set allows for a staggering degree of flexibility.


      Malkydel: "And the Machine dictated; let there be adequate illumination."
      Yossarian: "And lo, it was optimal."

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Dusksage View Post
        This turned out to be more of an opinion piece, if you have any thoughts on the points brought up please post them below.


        I like Genius: the Transgression, never though I'd be saying that but I do none the less. It shows what creativity a fan game can bring to the table, and it's ideas can inspire stories that wouldn't normally come up in a Chronicle of Darkness.

        This is what make me so disappointed in Genius' failings though. For all it's themes of inspiration, potential, and creativity the game itself is one of the most stifling gamelines of the fan-made series. And here's why, my own thesis if you will: Geniuses must be scientists.

        Sure, this might be the obvious point of the game. Play as a mad scientists, create impossible inventions, explore infinite dimensions, Ect. But not all geniuses are scientists, but in Genius the Inspired must become scientist or inventors in order to do anything involving Wonders. There are no artists who seek to create masterpieces in mediums never before attempted, no athlete so dedicated to the craft that their mind masters the physics of the game to elevate it to new dimensions, no musician who writes a song so inspiring that it births a sentient thought form in the depths of the human subconsciousness. If any of those examples became Inspired, their only hope to be playable is to don the white lab coat, strap on goggles, or take oration lessons because there is no way their Wonders will ever see the light of gameplay the way the rules are now. And that is the very opposite of inspiring.

        Again, this might just be the point of the game though. Being a mad scientist. But consider this: having the option to be a Genius from any background and profession opens up unlimited possibilities for character creation. Having the option to only play a Genius who's from a scientific field limits players options at character creation. Playing a mad scientist is achievable in both of the above options, while any other option is only available in one.
        Concise. Infinitely more than ArcaneArts post. Thanks.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Malus View Post

          Concise. Infinitely more than ArcaneArts post. Thanks.
          I wasn't aiming for concise. I was aiming for thorough and clarifying. I was aiming for evisceration.

          That aside, I agree with Dusk.


          Sean K.I.W. Steele, Freelance Writer
          Work Blog Coming Soon
          The world is not beautiful, therefore it is.-Keiichi Sigsawa, Kino's Journey

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          • #6
            Wow, I'm now really glad I posted this. Thank you all so much for sharing your opinions on this matter.


            milo v3 I'm still a little confused about what you mean by the Dark Hero template, but I believe I understand the point your trying to make. While I still believe Genius has everything to benefit from non-scientist Geniuses, I can see how certain players might see an opportunity to make PCs that ruin the tone of the game.

            Vent0 You knowI was afraid I might have overlooked something like those. It warms my heart tremendously to see that there are options for Wonders beyond scientific inventions. Thank you so much for pointing those out.

            Malus *bows* thank you for the complement. I was afraid my critique was a bit too biased, I'm very glad you found it even handed. This is the first real Critique post I've ever done.

            ArcaneArts Very glad to see I'm not the only one with those critiques about Genius. Would you mind posting a link to that critique you wrote about Genius, I'm a long time fan of your posts.

            If there is still an interest I could continue this Critical Evaluation of Genius, my biggest point was it's scientist-centrism but there are a few nitpicks I have that might make interesting topics for discussion. Like how the Baramin of Lemuria are fantastic antagonists but have no real playability (which really sucks because they're so cool), or how the Peerage's decisive victory in the Invisible War has actually weakened the story potential for the game over all (seriously without the Lemurians I have no idea why the Peerage hasn't fallen to infighting yet), or how Catalysts could really use a reinventing since they really seem out of place amongst all of the other X Splats (seriously your supposed to become the Hulk because the experiment goes wrong, not because your mind expands to new unfathomable dimensions...ok that was a pot shot at the Grimm but come on!)

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Dusksage View Post
              ArcaneArts Very glad to see I'm not the only one with those critiques about Genius. Would you mind posting a link to that critique you wrote about Genius, I'm a long time fan of your posts.
              Sure. Here's what's up (namely an intro and a lot of talking about Genius up to the Catalysts). I've actually been getting a lot of requests to continue, and a recent conversation has me wanting to compare the science fetishism of Genius versus Mage and Demon, so some conversations should be starting soon.


              Sean K.I.W. Steele, Freelance Writer
              Work Blog Coming Soon
              The world is not beautiful, therefore it is.-Keiichi Sigsawa, Kino's Journey

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              • #8
                Originally posted by ArcaneArts View Post
                Sure. Here's what's up (namely an intro and a lot of talking about Genius up to the Catalysts). I've actually been getting a lot of requests to continue, and a recent conversation has me wanting to compare the science fetishism of Genius versus Mage and Demon, so some conversations should be starting soon.
                YAAAAAAAASSSSSSS.

                Ahem. I mean, "Yes, please". Your critique wasn't concise, but it was sure as hell as thorough as it was entertaining.


                "Nihhina kalekal-zidu kal masun, kal manudanadu. Nihhina kalekal-zidu nukal shaghu-desasudu — nihhina kalekal-zidu kal innu-desasudu udhkal samm." Arthur Ashe
                Check out my tumblr for Chronicles of Darkness-related musings
                He/him pronouns, please

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Dusksage View Post
                  Wow, I'm now really glad I posted this. Thank you all so much for sharing your opinions on this matter.


                  milo v3 I'm still a little confused about what you mean by the Dark Hero template, but I believe I understand the point your trying to make. While I still believe Genius has everything to benefit from non-scientist Geniuses, I can see how certain players might see an opportunity to make PCs that ruin the tone of the game.
                  Mirrors has a supernatural template that represents the person being supernaturally good at what they're good at. A craftsman could create amazing devices with little materials, an athlete could run as fast as a car, etc.

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                  • #10
                    Aaaah, ok. It did sound like something out of Mirrors.

                    I guess my beef was mostly that Genius seems to have such a narrow focus. If a Genius is a Genius because their minds can process chaos fueled Mania into Inspiration and Wonders then why does it matter what form those wonders take. So much delicious weirdness has already come out of bleeding edge Chroncles of Darkness supplements like Demon: the Descent and especially the upcoming Deviant: the Renegades, why not explore all conceivable iterations of creativity and mad inspiration?

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Dusksage View Post
                      So much delicious weirdness has already come out of bleeding edge Chroncles of Darkness supplements like Demon: the Descent and especially the upcoming Deviant: the Renegades, why not explore all conceivable iterations of creativity and mad inspiration?
                      Mainly just making sure it says with the theme of mad science. Tends to be difficult unless you're either a mad scientist or a mad scientist's experiment (or both in the case of some self-afflicted Remade). It's not really mad science if a guy is just a ridiculously good painter or sculpter, it just ends up being that they're supernaturally good at art.
                      Last edited by milo v3; 11-04-2016, 12:55 AM.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Dusksage View Post
                        Aaaah, ok. It did sound like something out of Mirrors.

                        I guess my beef was mostly that Genius seems to have such a narrow focus. If a Genius is a Genius because their minds can process chaos fueled Mania into Inspiration and Wonders then why does it matter what form those wonders take. So much delicious weirdness has already come out of bleeding edge Chroncles of Darkness supplements like Demon: the Descent and especially the upcoming Deviant: the Renegades, why not explore all conceivable iterations of creativity and mad inspiration?
                        One of the big things overlooked with Genius was why mad scientists were folded in with Mages to begin with-that it's a surprisingly limited view that really just echoes the larger realm that mages were for a much longer period of time. It needed fleshing out and expanding, and Genius really didn't do that in any sense of the concept. Mad scientists was already a narrower niche than a whole splat needed to be (and that's keeping in mind that in fan-splats we're talking about contenders that includes just dragons, magical girls, and things of the like), but then it goes on to shoot itself in the foot over and over again by refusing to deepen itself out. Whether the answer was applying artistry and other things into it or branching outward with it's theme of mad science to make it so it could apply to any character concept, Genius just didn't care and opted for this half-assed middle ground that doesn't amount to anything.

                        Again, if you asked me to sum up the main problem of Genius, it's that it spends a whole lot time proving that it is nothing. It obstinately refuses to be anything.


                        Sean K.I.W. Steele, Freelance Writer
                        Work Blog Coming Soon
                        The world is not beautiful, therefore it is.-Keiichi Sigsawa, Kino's Journey

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                        • #13
                          milo v3 Well this is sort of the root of my critique though. Genius' theme isn't Mad Science, it's Transgression. It's theme is about breaking an accepted law, be it mundane or cosmic, and having to live with the consequences of such an action. Hell, one could say that the process of becoming inspired is the First Transgression. The metaphorical fruit of knowledge that will forever take away the paradise of innocence and rationality. Mad Science is the trappings of Genius, just like Magic is the trappings of both Mage the Awakening and Ascension. Both games were never about magic. Their trappings gave framework for how to begin exploring the game world. Genius' trappings don't do that. Instead it suffocates creativity like Manes doubt to an Unmada's obsession. Genius could be great! But instead it's simply decent. (My major nitpick that keeps it from being good will be addressed in the paragraph below.)


                          ArcaneArts I've been reading the post you linked earlier and am impressed with your review. It's given me a little more insight into the history of Genius and is entertaining to boot. In regards to your critique in the post above though, I would postulate that it's problem isn't so much refusing to be anything (After everything I've read I believe it's definitely trying to be something), but rather it's refusing to be a Chronicles of Darkness game. And by that, and I mean this truly, it's refusing to be a horror game. (At the end of the day, Genius is a game about power fantasy rather than horror. One of the many vestiges of it's One World of Darkness heritage.)
                          Last edited by Dusksage; 11-04-2016, 03:44 AM. Reason: Polish

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Dusksage View Post
                            milo v3 Well this is sort of the root of my critique though. Genius' theme isn't Mad Science, it's Transgression.
                            Doesn't mean that it shouldn't be Mad Science. People who are just really good painters aren't exactly known as horror archetypes are they? If you take away the mad science, it is Just mage or Just Dark Heroes. In my opinion, the focus on mad science should be increased, so that it does it's own thing with it rather than just being "Mage + that hack from Chronicler's Guide".

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                            • #15
                              milo v3 I've given Genius a lot of the benefit of the doubt, but if you're going to purpose that the game's core theme become Mad Science then let's take a critical look at exactly what mad science is getting done in Genius: the Transgression.

                              In Genius, a Wonder is an invention that's powered by a supernatural power source called Mania. A Wonder works because the Genius believes it does, and will either go haywire or self destruct if a regular mortal, supernatural creature, or just another Genius with a different set of beliefs examines it or sees it function. And the Lemurians, Geniuses who believe their delusions are real, use Wonders that are already scientifically impossible and only work because of the Mania powering it and because they truly believe it works. And Wonders are able to alter the very fabric of space and time to a degree that could spell the end of the entire world should one powerful enough get out of hand.

                              That isn't science. That isn't even mad science. That's magic. Specifically, that is Mage: the Ascension Magik.

                              If one was to center the core theme around a supernatural power source that alters the fabric of space and time when given a physical medium in reality, the only real themes that could be explored with any real depth would be themes of choice and consequences. Of exploration and transgression. If it doesn't freak'n matter what medium the Mana...I mean Mania takes then why shackle the entire game to one single trope?
                              Last edited by Dusksage; 11-04-2016, 05:01 AM. Reason: Polish

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