Esper Genesis Interview
Let’s be honest; we’re all nerds here. And as nerds, we love more than medieval fantasy. We love steampunk, Lovecraft, gothic horror, and we really love sci-fi. So how about we talk about a sci-fi 5E compatible setting inspired by Mass Effect, Phantasy Star, Ghost in the Shell, and more. Chris Negelein, one of the project’s story writers and project managers, sat down to answer a few questions about Esper Genesis.
One of the first things that struck me about Esper Genesis was the fantastic art. What might a typical art order look like, and how closely do you work with artists on fine-tuning to what you had in mind?
We are very proud of our artists and feel lucky to have them help make our vision a reality, like Santi Casas, did with our race portraits. Our team tries to match up an artist’s talents with subject matter that plays to their strengths. After that, they often turn in art that surpasses our expectations and blows us away.
Our art orders also try to be specific while we also provide reference material for inspiration. The more you provide in the beginning, the more it smooths the process in the long run.
We pay special attention to our covers, it’s the first impression you’re making with a player. So we work closely with our artist to get the look just right. I think when you see our covers you can tell the effort pays off.
But it might surprise people on how easily great art can be buried on page with poor presentation. So our awesome graphic designer, Brian Dalrymple, makes that awesome art really pop with great backgrounds and layout.
Aside from its popularity, why did you decide to base Esper Genesis on 5E instead of another system that already caters to science fiction, such as Starfinder, Cortex, or What’s OLD is NEW?
Well, it breaks down into two parts. The first is that we were simply working and playtesting Esper Genesis long before most of these games were even announced.
For a time, Esper Genesis was going to be its own rule set, but then the flexibility and compatibility of 5E changed our minds. It’s much more flexible than many people give it credit for and it invites lots tinkering for fun. Lots of GMs already do that with 5E but only for their fantasy games. We had a blast taking it one step further!
Our main game designer, Rich Lescouflair, is also a Guild Adept for the DM’s Guild. He understands the mechanics and philosophies behind 5e. He’s also our world architect. So if you love the rules and the world, he’s the mastermind behind both.
Everything in the galaxy revolves around massive structures called Crucibles, which power spaceships and heroes, and have mysterious origins. Are you willing to give up any secrets about the Crucibles? Do you have any plans to publish adventures in which heroes can explore the nature of them?
We have some deep lore about the Crucibles, but right now there’s so much more going on in the Silrayne Arc that needs the immediate attention of the PCs, the heroes, of the setting.
Though, that doesn’t stop a GM from doing his own thing with the Crucibles in the meantime.
It seems as if the act of using Crucibles to power individuals (esper genesis) is new to the galaxy. What ripple effects is this discovery having on the galaxy?
The tragedy that ravaged Eldor when a nearby Crucible was activated happened in our Middle Ages and it spawned two different species, the noble PC race of Eldori and the imperial Lorendi.
For humans, the technology and powers of the Crucible gave us FTL, but also sparked a horrible war.
So it seems the pattern is that while the Crucibles give sentinent species the power to reshape the galaxy, the end results -- whether wonderful or terrifying -- are the consequences of their (and the PCs) actions.
Space combat can be tricky to pull off in an RPG. What was your main objective when designing space combat, and can you name some key decisions that helped you accomplish that objective?
Our three main goals were: fun, getting the whole party involved, letting the crew’s performance enhance a ship’s overall performance. Funny enough, the turning points in development that really helped get us there also came in a set of three.
One concept was the idea of finding ways to link a ship’s station (Pilot, Gunner, and Engineering) to Attributes, Backgrounds and Skills, but not necessarily classes. This means that while one PC might be a better fit in a certain chair on the bridge, your second choice in a pinch won’t be so bad.
Just yesterday I was watching an old sci-fi show and nearly every character jumped into the pilot seat at one point or another. You could do that in Esper Genesis right out of the box.
The other is to have a PC version of a ship that is modified by which PCs are in control of which combat stations. The same ship can trade off maneuverability with durability depending on who is doing what behind the controls.
There’s also a lot of tactical tradeoffs in Crew Maneuvers, where PCs have to work as a team to make sure they can keep the bad guys off balance. My personal favorite is Feinted Stunt, which is a maneuver you see in every cool space opera dogfight.
Check out the Esper Genesis Core Manual here.
Phil Pepin is a history-reading, science-loving, head-banging, river-running nerd, who would like nothing more than to cuddle with his pups and wife.
Picture Reference: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/113664363/esper-genesis-heroic-sci-fi-role-playing-for-5e
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