An RPG with not one but two high budget live-action trailers, that despite the heinous sin of referring to itself as "Primal Punk", is actually quite nice. It's currently on its second edition, DEGENESIS: Rebirth (released in 2014), and since April 2020, completely free - the business model being based on donations and selling of physical goods. Marko Djurdjević created the dominant visual style which combines comic art with dynamic anatomy inspired by the creator of Tarzan, he also made covers for Marvel.
Also called "that kraut porn RPG" by one creative anon, most likely because the rulebook features some artwork where you can see naked humans, along with that one adventure where a girl forces herself onto a PC, complete with illustration and graphic description ("Black Atlantic", pages 193 to 195).
The player characters are all humans belonging to one of 12 cults, or to a clan of survivors. These organizations include a militarized red cross who war against the sepsis, religious types who set the sepsis on fire, other religious types who aren't keen on the former religious types but are incredibly keen on goats, easily sunburnt incestuous people who survive in underground bunkers, hedonistic gypsies who are so hardcore they smoke sepsis, autistic engineers whose goal is to reboot the internet, some folks who dig through the ruins of old humanity for ancient vibrators and smartphones, angry black men, Egypt loving shaman types, an entire faction of what Nigerian prince scammers would be if they were genuine, the Swiss military turned gun fetishists, and judge dread types with the fashion sense of Solomon Kane.
The game runs on a system called the "katharSys". It's a stat + skill d6 dice pool system, and is generally quite serviceable, save a few quirks here and there. Also, quite lethal.
The current version is named Rebirth and comes in two full color hardcover books or PDFs. It fixes the near unplayable mechanics of the first version, advances the timeline, and brings the cults a little closer together to make mixing parties easier. The first version had a grittier visual style and was elaborately illustrated with black and white drawings.
- 1 History & Setting
- 2 Cults
- 3 Cultures
- 4 Threats
- 5 System
- 6 External Links
History & Setting
In 2073, a large swarm of asteroids hit Earth. The immediate consequences were nothing short of catastrophic. Tsunamis, earthquakes, and absolutely massive tectonic shifts completely overthrew the old way of life. But that was only the start of things. Most of the western nations were quite highly advanced at the time, and by and large managed to deal. The real trouble started afterwards.
Over the next several hundred years (the game is set in 2595), there was a major shift in climates. The northern and southern ice caps expanded massively, rendering much of northern Europe inhospitable. At the same time northern Africa ended up getting much more rain, transforming it into a verdant and lush tropical zone.
More importantly though is that the asteroids that caused all this brought something with them, called the Primer. Nobody exactly knows what precisely it is, but in effect the Primer is a kind of catalyst for hugely accelerated evolution. In Europe, it produced a fungal infestation called Sepsis. Sepsis (which seems at least somewhat sentient) creates great mother fields of fungi that periodically release great clouds of spores to permeate itself. These spores will infest humans and embed themselves in their system. In small doses it's not a significant problem, but the more severe the spore infestation the more the victim will lose its mind as it gets more and more in tune with the hive mind of the Sepsis. Much worse still, if humans are exposed to these spores in childhood or in utero, they will eventually undergo a violent, severe mutation later on, transforming them into a new form of life: Homo Degenesis. The effect of these mutations varies depending on the particular strain of Sepsis (there's one spreading out from each asteroid impact sites), but they're all bad news. Some of the Degenesis seek to subjugate humans, some cooperate with them, but always at a price.
With all this shit happening, it's little surprise that most of the civilisations in Europe crumbled and fell apart, in places even devolving down to essentially stone-age level. Instead of governments or nations, there were only Clans left scattered around the countryside. The force that finally brought them back into a semblance of order were the Cults: Groups of people devoted to a particular idea or way of life. There are for example the Spitalians, leftovers of a pre-apocalyptic Red Cross turned militant, with their sole aim being the eradication of the Sepsis. Or the Chroniclers, who are obsessed with gathering information and with the eventual goal of recreating what's essentially an Internet.
Down in Africa they don't have any Sepsis, but instead have to deal with Psychovores. These are incredibly fast-growing and aggressive plants that are highly poisonous and actively hostile to humans coming into their vicinity. They have formed an impenetrable belt that entirely cuts off central Africa and the Middle East. Still, it's not as actively spreading as the Sepsis, so the Africans are by and large better off and have more time focusing on internal affairs.
As if all of that wasn't enough, there are a number of other assorted dangers to be found around the world. There are Marauders, seemingly immortal and highly powerful individuals dating back to before the fall. One of them has just recently made himself leader of a number of primitive eastern clans and launched a giant invasion towards Europe's heartlands. There are also the Sleepers, cryogenically preserved gene-modified soldiers hidden in bunkers who are periodically awoken and sent out into the world to work on some impenetrable grand scheme.
All of this is really just scratching at the surface. The setting is really fucking dense with all kinds of stuff, and you can easily run campaigns focusing just on any one of them without ever really running into most of the others.
The Spital was a crisis center set up in the Ruhr region of Germany before the Eshaton. Fortified enough to survive the apocalypse, it was originally intended to treat victims of the HIV-E disease that had swept through Europe, up from Africa. Doctors treated patients and UEO (basically renamed EU) soldiers prevented riots from breaking out. When the meteorites fell, both groups barricaded the Spital and held out against the tide of refugees. Since they opened their doors a decade after Eshaton, they refused to ever again turn their backs on humanity.
Part paramilitary and part public health service, they became the Spitalians. Their methods aren't necessarily humane; they herd the sick like cattle into quarantine districts, they hid themselves behind impersonal gas masks and thick black and white membranes that protected them from contamination and they put down the unruly and the combative without mercy. They provide healthcare to any that require it but only in the most pragmatic, insensitive way possible.
It wasn't long before they discovered the Primer, Sepsis and the Psychonauts. They studied the phenomena, categorized it, devised plans against it and saw it as a disease that threatened all humanity. And so, they took action against it and became the greatest defender against the Primer that exists in the known world. They came up with methods of detecting those infected with Sepsis, methods of disinfecting and burning out its spore fields, methods of restraining and studying Psychonauts in relative safety.
They make up the third portion of the triumvirate that runs the Protectorate. The Chroniclers provide the technology and the wealth, the Judges provide the law and the enforcement of it and the Spitalians provide the healthcare and the Psychonaut expertise, while the Clans that they rule over feed the cults in exchange for the service that they provide.
The Judges started with a single man called, as you might expect, the Judge. Before his arrival, Europe was a mess, filled with criminals that did what they want and took what they want. The Judge changed that. He was first seen when he caught a Clanner that was responsible for raiding a village and took him back to his victims. In front of them, he recited the raider's crimes, borrowed a sledgehammer because the village had no axe to offer him and smashed the raider's head wide open.
He offered to return the sledgehammer but for some reason, the villagers didn't want it back.
He went from village to village, enforcing law and order where there was previously none. He drew enemies but he also drew those that sought to emulate him, wielding sledgehammers and donning his signature cowhide coat and broad-rimmed hat. It quickly became a cult of personality, with so many Judges dotting the land that the passing of the very first Judge went unnoticed.
After being given the travel log of the founder by a Chronicler, the Judges gathered and made senses of his writings together, piecing together some basic system of justice and law that would come to be known as the Codex, creating a code for all Judges to operate according to. The Chroniclers even offered the Judges a home to call their own, in the ruins that surrounded their Central Cluster, as an effort to ward away gangs and raiders.
The Judges took this idea and ran away with it. These ruins quickly became a town, which became a city, which became the hub of all civilization in Europe: Justitian, the heart of the Protectorate. In less than a century and with the aid of the Chroniclers, the Judges had successfully created the first nation-state in Europe since the apocalypse.
In short, a man in a funny coat and a silly hat who used a sledgehammer to execute a man because he had nothing else at hand was accidentally responsible for building the first post-apocalyptic nation-state in Europe.
Before the Eshaton, all media had unified into a single entity known as the Stream. Imagine that the internet had successfully swallowed up television, cinema, books, gaming and every other form of media and that's exactly what the Stream is, a global network of information that has merged with every aspect of civilized life. The hardcore nerds of the day who lived and breathed the Stream, who couldn't stand the idea of a world without it, were the Streamers. They innovated, collaborated and developed increasingly exciting ways of exploring the Stream.
Then the Eshaton came and the Stream crashed.
Many of the Streamers that survived across the world remained attached to the Stream despite the apocalypse. They had no stronger desire than to return to the days of the Stream, to reactivate it and have access to the sum of human knowledge once more. To begin with, their efforts were primitive. They hoarded all sorts of data storage devices, the sort of things that were useless without a real infrastructure. Many of them died alone among their piles of useless scrap, having never realized their dream of a reborn Stream. In Borca however, there were enough surviving Streamers that they were able to gather, pool their resources and construct a server hub and the infrastructure to power it. This became known as the Central Cluster, the place where the Stream was reborn.
But this rebooted Stream is a stunted, stillborn thing. Information that wasn't corrupted was locked away behind impassable security measures. The new goal of the Streamers was to acquire the means to unlock the full potential of this static Stream. One of their greatest finds in the pursuit of this goal was a computer museum near Cologne Cathedral, where they found a treasure trove, another extension of the Stream. They spent years sifting through the data, compiling it and learning from it.
Then the Anabaptists came. They saw Cologne Cathedral as a holy place, a fount from which one of the four rivers must surely spring. So they sent in their orgiastics, butchered the strange technology-worshiping heretics and smashed their evil machines, foul relics of the Bygone world responsible for corruption of man. The Streamers scurried back to the Central Cluster, easily defeated. After all, they were just a collection of tech-obsessed looters, they weren't fighters. To survive in the post-Eshaton world, they would need to find a way to defend themselves.
In the end, they decided that the best defense and offense was intimidation, not force. The Streamers donned inhuman masks with voice modulators that made them look and sound like strange machine-gods. When intimidation fails, these voice modulators even function as nonlethal weaponry, capable of magnifying the Streamer's voice and transforming it into a thunderous blast. In addition to this, the Streamers also developed a currency known as drafts, the first that had been seen in Europe since the Eshaton. The Streamers, who had re-imagined themselves as 'Chroniclers,' gradually manipulated cults and clans alike into becoming dependent on drafts, even in regions where the Chroniclers have no presence. They engineered Europe's economy and they had total control over it, up until this very day.
So that's what the Chroniclers are today. Mysterious masked men clothed in drab robes, with voices like thunder and a lust for technology that will allow them to rekindle the glory of the Bygone world, armed with their voice modulators and a steely grip on Europe's economy. If you deliver functional Stream technology to the Central Cluster, you will be made rich beyond your wildest dreams, but they still pay good drafts for even the simplest things, such as scrap metal and plastic.
The Chroniclers can be thought of as the first salvage collectors, but they were driven by their ideology and their love of the Stream. When the Chroniclers turned their back on the idea of doing dirty work and rewarded anyone that brought them the remnants of the old world with handfuls of drafts, they invented a whole new profession; the scrapper. The scrapper's dream is that they will find an intact piece of rare Bygone technology that will make them richer than their wildest dreams. The reality is that they usually just end up with sleighs filled with copper wiring, waste plastic and corrugated iron.
Still, the hope of a big find is enough to keep most scrappers digging through the rubble of ruined cities. These scavengers live lonely, solitary lives, as the acquisition of salvage is a rather competitive business. Still, they communicate with one another and help each other in their own way. They communicate with each other through basic symbols carved into walls of dilapidated buildings, to declare they've already been looted and that there's nothing left to be found. They have other symbols as well, for different sorts of danger, for the locations of watering holes and good foraging sites and other such things. Almost always, these runes are accompanied by the signature of the scrapper that carved them. Most of these looters never encounter each other but through this system of runes, they look out for each other and engage in competition with each other. Conversations, rivalries and even friendships can be formed this way.
The closest thing to a unified group of European scrappers is the Cartel, a 'union' led by a rather shrewd dwarf called Bosch in Western Borca. Part thugs and part appraisers, they 'offer' to negotiate the sales of finds on the behalf of scrappers, in exchange for a cut of the find's value. If a scrapper refuses, they often end up with broken ribs and worse, have their finds confiscated.
On the other hand, African scrappers do not associated with the Chroniclers, do not lead isolated lives and do not have to worry about the Cartel's influence. Instead, they work for the Neolibyans and venture into Europe in bands. They work in unison, dismantling ruins and collecting salvage far faster than any European loner could hope to. More importantly, they keep each other sane and productive; it's easy for an African to lose sight of their purpose so far away from their home and their culture, in the heart of a foreign land.
While the Chroniclers use scrappers to gather technology that will help them rebuild the Stream, the Neolibyans are much less ambitious and far more pragmatic when it comes to their intentions. Even before the Eshaton, Africa's infrastructure was woeful, even on the Northern coast. After it, it was abysmal. Yet they possessed a sense of unity that the Europeans lacked and so they streamed across the Mediterranean, looting the ruins of Franka, Purgare and Hybrispania before the Europeans were ever able to really get their claws in them. Through Bygone technology stolen from Europe, they have created an empire for themselves that spans the Northern coast of Africa, complete with an impressive infrastructure to support it. By looting more still from the corpse of Europe, they are able to expand even further.
Consider the European and African scrappers polar opposites. One does it for wealth, the other does it for the prosperity for their nature. One operates alone, the other goes in packs. The only thing that unites the two groups is that they're after the same thing, the Bygone tech hidden in ruins that were abandoned after the Eshaton. Each scrapper has their own technique. Some just haul back mountains of scrap, others use a little ingenuity to bash it all together into something that their employers might find more valuable. In the end, they're all in it for the big find.
Jehammed was a man that lived in the Bygone Era, the years before the end of the world. He declared himself a prophet and preached that there was an apocalypse coming, that the land would be purged of the faithless and left to be reclaimed by the faithful, to be prepared for the return and the forgiveness of God. This prophet had close connections with one Gerome Getrell, the founder of the Recombination Group, a pharmaceutical corporation that had (among other things) weaponized memetics. This fact may or may not be linked to Jehammed's success as a preacher.
Then the apocalypse came and went. The surviving Jehammedans flourished thanks to the teachings of their prophet. They operated like one gigantic, extended family with strict roles for each family member, living simple lives as shepherds and fighting off outsiders, who are referred to as the 'fisherman' in Jehammed's parables.
They expanded until they met the Anabaptists. Although both cults shared similar faiths and idolize simple living, they immediate foes and clashed, turning rivers red with each others' blood as they fought over the Adriatic basin. The Anabaptists were winning, before a mysterious figure showed up, a man that wore a goat's skull who called himself Aries. Now the Anabaptists occupy the West, while the Jehammedans occupy the East, each waiting for the chance to restart the war.
But Jehammedans people have started to worship Aries rather than God. Those that devote themselves from his depart from their clans to join Aries on the isle of Crete, where they declare themselves Arianoi, the savage servants of their goat god. The cult is split between these two factions, humble and traditional Jehammedans and these goat-worshiping Arianoi heretics.
The family system of Jehammedans is what defines them and it is quite Convoluted.
This system revolves around the Ismaeli. Most men are born as Ismaeli and act as the thralls of the Jehammedans, doing all of the cult's back-breaking labor. It is the price they pay for a simple and safe life. They may sacrifice this at any point to become a Sword of Jehammed and risk their life for their clan. Should they excel as Swords of Jehammed, they are allowed to become Abrami, the shepherds and leaders of the clan, and they are allowed to marry two wives, one Hagari and one Saraeli.
Most women are born as Hagari. They live simple lives, making and mending clothes, cooking meals, milking goats and give birth to their Abrami's children.
The Saraeli are chosen from birth by the clan's spiritual leaders, the Iconides, for their virginity, in the spiritual sense. They are pampered and prepared throughout their lives for their marriage to an Abrami, who they are expected to give a single son, an Isaaki.
These sacred sons, the Isaaki, are expected to be the perfect men and are raised to be such, given the finest physical and intellectual training and the best equipment the clan can provide. When they come of age, they live to fight for the Jehammedans and give their lives for the Jehammedans. They exist as sacrifices offered to God in combat, so that the clan might be spared his wrath. Should an Isaaki defy expectations and survive until the age of thirty, he is declared divine by his clan and made an Iconide, the religious leaders of the clan where the Abrami are the worldly leaders.
The core principle of the Anabaptists is Neognosis. God is good, reality is not, with humanity being the unholy fusion of divinity and sin, mind and matter. Death releases the psyche from the body, although it easily becomes bound in matter again. Only through the teachings of Rebus, the founder of the Anabaptists, could a man learn how to forsake the flesh and rejoin God in Paradise upon death.
Rebus taught his followers how to farm and work the land, a much needed skill after the apocalypse, for this honest and simple life was a part of the path to enlightenment in his eyes. The fields of wheat that they produced drew the attention of bandits, who they had to learn to ward off. This led to the duality of the Anabaptists, the two castes of farmers and fighters.
Another belief that Rebus had was that four rivers ran through Paradise, rivers that he believed to be metaphors for various aspects of a man's psyche. So he studied herbs and seeds and experimented with them, observing how they caused these rivers to swell and how they brought both euphoria and enlightenment. This knowledge was passed down to the caste of farmers, which became known as Ascetics, the mind of the Anabaptists, who were defended by the Orgiastics, the body of the Anabaptists. Yeah, they kind of have a thing for dualism.
With the passing of Rebus, the teachings of the Anabaptists became a little muddled. The four rivers are not just metaphors for a euphoric state of being, but they're actually real rivers that the Cult must seek. Paradise isn't just beyond death, it's also something that the Anabaptists are meant to turn Earth into.
Combine all of these traits and you've got an expansionist death cult that fetishizes living honest, simple living, with one half that farms wheat and psychotropic flora to feed the bodies and minds of the other half, the barbarian-paladins that seek to both reach paradise after death and conquer it in life.
Gerome Getrell had his fingers in a whole bunch of pies. Not only was he the co-founder of the Recombination Group and its biggest investor, he was also something of a televangelist, a profession which may or may not have exploited the same memes that the Recombination Group would later weaponize and equip its employs with. He preached in favor of freedom over information and passion over intelligence, of liberty in ignorance and paradise in violence. The result was something of a world-wide fatalistic gang-cult that only gained popularity after his disappearing shortly before the Eshaton.
Of course, the Apocalyptics have long since forgotten their origins but the memes have still stuck fast. They deny adherence to any order except that of Gerome Getrell's tarot and the archetypes that he designed. They infest any civilization that is formed and see it as their duty to leech wealth and prosperity out of it like a colony of demented parasites. There's no history to them, nothing like that. They're found in every corner of the world; Getrell's memes reached Africa as well as Europe, causing Apocalyptics to be common in societies in both continents. They whore, they steal, they snatch children, they smuggle the addictive spore cusps of Sepsis, they blackmail, they assassinate. They do whatever they want, for their own personal gain and benefit.
There's no much more to them than that. They're a criminal cult that puts its faith in strange, memetic mysticism, that promotes self-destructive pursuit of passion and crime, that infests every corner of the civilized world. They're not organized, with different Apocalyptic gangs remaining insular and frequently in direct competition with each other, although their slavish devotion to the Tarot unites them.
Before the Eshaton, some nations prepared for the possibility of the Silver Horde of Paladin satellites failing to stop the asteroids' descent. One of these nations was Switzerland. Thousands of men and women were herded into a megacomplex of bunkers in the Swiss Alps. They were the nation's leadership, military personnel and civilian experts, everything that was needed to restore Switzerland after a potential apocalypse. The military herded the successful applicants into the alpine fortress, reluctantly fought off angry friends and family that were denied access, and sealed the complex.
The Silver Horde failed to activate, the asteroids smashed into Europe and the Eshaton happened. Tectonic activity caused Yellowstone to erupt and choke the American supercontinent under meters of ash, and it also caused Europe to split in two, creating a gigantic volcanic gorge known as the Reaper's Blow. It even cut through the Alps, causing immense amounts of damage to the alpine fortress of the Swiss. The megacomplex had been carved up into a hellscape of dizzying falls and magma flows. The surviving military's purpose remained intact however, it existed to serve its government and its people. They had already lost their loved ones, they weren't about to abandon their leaders and their greatest minds. Donning asbestos suits, they proceeded to build bridges and excavate bunkers, gradually unearthing and repairing the alpine fortress. They went through hell every day and ended up giving themselves the name 'Hellvetics,' a dark joke that stuck.
The government and civilian population of the megacomplex was nowhere to be found. The remnants of the Swiss military were on their own, leaderless and without purpose. They were a body without a heart or a brain.
Leonhard Gboy is the one credited with the creation of a rationing plan and a system of leadership in the days that followed, creating bureaucracy, rules and goals to occupy the minds of the Hellvetics and give them new purpose. They even made their own chain of command, independent of any government or outside organization. All that mattered to them was the Doctrine, something close to a chivalric code of the knights of old. It replaced their need for a country or corporation to serve. Without it, they were nothing.
When they emerged from their alpine fortress, they did what they saw as their duty and adhered to their Doctrine. They purged the Swiss Alps of bandits and looters that took advantage of the native population. They tamed the shattered alpine landscape, transforming it into a network of bridges and tunnels, cementing the reputation of Hellvetics not only as great combatants but as excellent builders. Yet their chivalrous ways led to them being taken advantage of, with the settlements established in their shadow mocking the Hellvetics and exploiting them, while they lived under their protection. Similarly, routes through Hellvetic territory were used to wage war on other clans and villages.
So, the Hellvetics eventually decided to withdraw, hole up in their fortress and lock the doors. Lawlessness and violence gradually returned to the region and before long, the people had to beg for the Hellvetics to re-emerge. And so they did but while the Hellvetics still stick to their Doctrine, they are no longer a charity. If you wish to travel through the tunnels and across the bridges of Hellvetica, you need to pay the toll. If you wish to have the protection of the Hellvetics, your fields need to feed their soldiers.
So that's what the Hellvetics are at this point. A military for its own sake, an army of warrior-builders armed with sophisticated Bygone technology that are part knight, part mercenary, disciplined to a fault.
Clanners are unique in that they are not a part of any single organization, they belong to one of any number of clans. A clan is effectively anything that is too small and not influential to be a cult and you could argue that each of the cults started off as a clan, before it became large enough to be considered an influential faction.
One clan is the Enemoi, a rumbling convoy of Bygone military vehicles that travels the corpse of Europe. Devoted to a system of democratic values that was meant to have died with the old world, they defend other clans against any threat that they consider to be tyrannical and oppressive, whether it takes the form of bandits trying to steal food or Judges trying to impose their laws.
Another clan is the Garganti, a tribe of stern figures cloaked in heavy animal furs that tame and ride great mammoths. They are rarely seen in civilized land and are known as one of the few organizations capable of traveling across the Ice Barrier, sometimes for weeks at a time. They are quiet, somber folk that take their symbiosis with their mammoths that they ride a little too serious, shrouding themselves in mysticism.
The Romanos are another clan, that occupy what was once Italy and is now known as Purgare. Their existence is devoted to looting the ruins of Bygone cities, specifically targeting the cultural heritage of their land. Whenever they get their hands on a cultural artifact, they either sell it on to the Neolibyans who take immense interesting in foreign curiosities and ancient baubles, or they keep it for themselves and use it to feed their illusions of grandeur. It isn't rare to find a Romano that styles himself a doge and wears a dusty velvet curtain as a cloak, who spends his days trying to sell fragments of Renaissance statues to rich African men.
Clans can be just about anything you want them to be. You can even have a clanner be someone that isn't a part of a clan at all, but is simply unaffiliated with any organization.
As the Eshaton came closer, Recombination Group stepped up their survival plan a notch. In the months before the asteroids' arrival, RG's middle-class wageslave caste, imbued with memetics, was sent into the cryogenics facilities where HIV-E victims were stored and they went about emptying them. Back then, they were called 'Guardians.' They just scraped out the frozen bodies, threw them into carts without caring if they shattered or not, and sealed them away in storage units to rot. The facilities were then converted into 'dispensers,' to hold the higher caste of Sleepers who would wait out the Eshaton. The Sleepers came, climbed into their stasis chambers and were frozen.
By the time the media found out, it was too late. Sure enough, the asteroids fell, just in time for the Guardians to seal themselves away with the Sleepers.
The Guardians watched over the Sleepers, maintained the backup systems and the reactors and analyzed the information on the screens that streamed from the cryogenics pods. At least, that was where it was meant to come from. In truth, most of the information that they monitored was laced with memetics, with suggestions that the Sleepers were nothing other than divine.
Not all of them surrendered to the brainwashing. Some Guardians blew open their dispensers before their Sleepers awoke and became Clanners. Others waited and were subjected to the memes, again and again. Gradually, non-essential systems shut down once the memes were sufficiently reinforced, with light being one of these. The dispensers became pitch black except for the blinking lights of machinery. They adapted. Intercoms also died. Again, they adapted, communication by smacking on tubes that reverberated throughout the bunker. As conditions became more primitive, their faith in the divinity of the Sleepers only grew.
When the Sleepers did awaken, the Guardians blindly followed their lead, no matter how addled the minds of the Sleepers were thanks to the 2^16 virus that had infected the dispensers. Other dispensers suffered worse fates and never had their Sleepers awaken at all when they were intended to. In these bunkers, the algae became poisonous, mold grew over every surface and the dispenser became uninhabitable, forcing the Guardians to break out of their vaults and enter the surface world. The name that the surfacers gave them has stuck with them: Palers.
They still retreat to their homes, to look over their sacred charges, the divine Sleepers. However, they also send out spies to infiltrate surface society, raiders to pilfer food from surface settlements and scouts to locate other dispensers and unite with the Palers within, if they haven't broken out already. They are pallid, inbred little monsters wielding strange technology that even they treat like magic.
Much like the Judges, the Neolibyans begin their story with a single founding figure, known as the Libyan. A shrewd merchant, he was responsible for bringing great wealth and prosperity to the city of Tripoli, which was enjoying a more temperate climate thanks to the shift in temperature after Eshaton. He had gathered a horde of followers, not drawn to him by a cult of personality by the Judge but who had worked to him, who had personally selected for their love of venture and profit. Eventually he passed away and his followers swore to replicate his prosperity for themselves by following his virtues of exploration, diplomacy and trade. They became the Neolibyans.
They established the Bank of Commerce in Tripoli and united the continent through trade and they sent raiding parties into Europe to gather both old Bygone technology from its ruins and slaves from the clans that had survived. This human chattel works in the oil fields, households and mines of Africa. Thanks to its now temperate Northern region and its relative lack of threats and widespread destruction in comparison to Europe, Africa was allowed to thrive and become a single, unified people in the way that the Europeans had failed to, brought together by the wealth of the Neolibyans.
Once they have become qualified as merchants and have risen from the ranks of apprentices and scribes, Neolibyans are free to squander the immense wealth granted to them by the auctioneers of the Bank of Commerce in any fashion that they please, typically by pursuing one of the three virtues of the Libyan. Some travel the world, hunting down exotic beasts (including Psychonauts) whose carcasses would sell for fortunes or mapping out the furthest, wildest reaches of Europe. Others take pride in negotiating peace between the barbaric Europeans and the enlightened Africans that have raided them for hundreds of years, if only so they might be exploited in less violent ways. Finally, there are those who stop at nothing in their pursuit of profit, making commodities out of the most unlikely things and seeking to make fortunes for themselves through any means necessary, whether it's leading the Scourgers on a massive slaving campaign through Europe in the crawling fortresses known as surge tanks, or through manipulating their fellow Neolibyans and playing them against each other.
Take all of the money-grubbing stereotypes about Jews, put them in an African body and put fancy-looking hats on them and to complete the image, shove a fancy-looking, expensive rifle in their hands and plop them on top of a giant tank. This pompous, pampered merchant-slash-big-game-hunter-slash-diplomat is a Neolibyan.
The Anubians come across to everyone, including the lower half of their own ranks, as mystical and supernatural, their abilities founded in their bizarre religion. They believe in the Ka, the wave of life that ebbs and flows in all living things, a gift and a curse given by Anubis himself.
They poison their initiates with rotten meat and toxins, then send them to wander the catacombs of the Anubians until they see visions of Anubis himself. These initiates are brought back from the brink of death, embalmed with oils and bandages that draw out the water. After four days, the initiate returns to life, with seven white circles painted on his body.
As the new Anubian comes closer to Anubis, he will be invited to drink from canopic jars by the cult's highest ranks. The poisons contained within will kill him and grant him new visions once again, and when he awakens, the outermost circle painted on his skin will be gone. The number of missing circles represents the number of aspects of his own wave that the Anubian has overcome, and his rank in the cult.
This mastery over life and death is something that the Anubians can offer to others as well. They can seal people that are close to death in cocoons of dog skin that they fill with foul substances and after seven days, that person will claw free from the cocoon with their wave renewed, all skin and bone but living, with their wounds healed. They eat the Duat fruit, the fruit of the poisonous, alien Psychovore jungles of Africa and fall into comas, only to awake days later. Then they drain their own blood and mix it with earth and herbs to form strange medicines that they use to tend to others. Some among their ranks are even attuned to the noosphere of the Psychonauts and are able to detect the webs of Chakra that they weave, and sever them with their sickles.
With all of their mysticism and strange abilities, Anubians have cemented themselves as the spiritual heart of African culture.
Except the deeper an Anubian delves into the secrets of their cult, the more they shed this mysticism as they realize the true meanings behind the words they utter and the acts that they perform.
Oils that were once sacred tinctures blessed by Anubis become little more than catalysts. Every time the Anubian comes closer to death after ingesting something new and strange isn't a spiritual journey, it's just the bioreactor that their body has been turned into catalyzing the substances within it. The disappearing of the circles on their flesh when they drink from the canopic jars and ascend the ranks is not a spiritual journey, it is a chemical reaction. And what do all of these jars contain, what are these mysterious substances that the Anubians imbibe? Bygone technology created by a cabal of scientists that took a stand against the Recombination Group, known as the Anubis Syndicate, who sought mastery over life and death. The Anubians simply continue their work.
They still use words like 'Ka' and 'wave.' They still cast the bones, they still perform the silly displays of mysticism and fulfill their religious obligations for the African community. But the truth is that behind all of the dog skin cocoons and canopic jars, the Anubians are a cult of empirical scientists that have transformed their bodies into laboratories, that have become something other than human through endless experimentation.
So Anubians are two things. To their lower ranks and to uneducated outsiders, they are strange shaman to be respected and feared, with bizarre rituals that grant them some limited control over life and death. To those with the right knowledge and to their inner circle, the Anubians are devout scientists that have turned themselves into walking bioreactors, flipping-flopping between life and death whenever it's convenient, possessing knowledge and abilities that are quite possibly the key (or at least a part of the key) to defeating the Primer.
The Scourgers are a rather controversial cult and out of Africa's three factions, they are the one that is to blame for the reputation of Degenesis as a 'social justice' game.
Simply put, the Scourgers idolize Africa. Rather, they idolize everything that they perceive that Africa was. They see it as the land of the black man, who conquered and tamed the wildest continent through strength and might alone. They see the white man as fat and feeble, as the bringer of wealth and weakness that allowed the white man to subjugate the black man, enthralling them through promises of riches. When the Eshaton came, wealth suddenly meant nothing and all that the white man had was weakness. So the time for vengeance came and the black man used his strength to storm Europe, to kill and enslave as vengeance for everything that the white man had done. At least, this is how the Scourgers view Africa's relationship with Europe.
Yet there is more complexity to them than that. They are seen as descendants of eight ancestors, eight spirits that watch over and guide the Scourgers more than any other African. There might be some truth in this legend, as there are moments in a Scourger's life that cannot be explained. Spontaneous hysteria, sudden bursts of clarity or fey, creative moods, an unmistakable gut feeling about something that the African shouldn't know about. It's almost as though the Scourger is possessed when in this state, inhabited by the spirit of one of the eight ancestors. Perhaps this phenomena is linked to the eight scientists of the Anubis Syndicate, who inhabited Cairo before the Eshaton?
Just as strange as the Eight is the phenomena that the Scourgers call the Warui. Before the Eshaton, there were thousands of languages in Africa but now there is only one. Whenever the Psychovore encroached, it had a unique impact on the Africans, stripping away their mother tongue and replacing it with an odd, primal language that everyone in Africa has come to share.
The Scourgers call this language the Warui and consider it a gift from the ancestors, the Eight. It is responsible for the unity of the Africans. The Scourgers feel it more strongly than any other African, with their souls supposedly bound together by their common ancestry and their ties to the Eight. This is what ties together in packs and is why they operate so well as military units. However, the Warui has its limits. When they venture too far North away from the Psychovore and Africa, the Scourgers lose this intimate understanding of each other. They can no longer communicate through a few short phonemes and a little body language, they must resort to actual conversation. In order to strengthen their pack-bond while they're away from Africa, they eat Psychovore seeds in order to rekindle their connection to the Eight.
Communication and community is everything to the Scourgers. They are not just warriors, but they are hearts of community. Should they catch one of their own engaging in vice by whoring and gambling, they bind and torture him until he remembers his place in the world. Any information they share is done entirely through mouth; they are an oral cult that does not dare engage in any sort of writing outside of the wood carving that they perform as a hobby. When they are not fighting the enemy away from Africa, they pursue escaped slaves, hunt wild animals and guard caravans during the day. During the night, they tell stories and share history with African communities that love and adore them. Even the acceptance of a new Scourger requires some interaction with the African community; any new Scourger must be given to the cult by his own mother. The cult doesn't accept anyone else.
So that's what the Scourgers are. A primal cult fixated on imitating the primitive history of Africa, who are fundamentally tied to the Psychovore and eight ancestor spirits, who are adored by and bound to the African community. Your mileage may vary.
Borca is the heart of what remains of European civilization, geographically including Germany, the Low Countries, and Denmark (though the latter three have been mostly subsumed into the Stukov Desert formed by the dried English Channel). The region is split in half by the Reaper's Blow, a fracture line from the Eshaton that cracked open the crust and opened it to magma. West and East Borca stand fairly distinct as a result, despite their shared heritage.
West Borca is a scrapper's paradise; while the forests are long dead or never existed, the ruins of the Bygone are everywhere. West Borca is also home to Justitian, the center of power for the Judges, Spitalians, and Chroniclers alike and the seat of the Protectorate. The closest thing to a metropolis left in Europe after the collapse, almost all of the cults mingle in Justitian, though the Chroniclers and Judges isolate themselves above the others. The Protectorate and Justitian alike are beset by threats from inside and out; the local Clans oppose the Protectorate in skirmishes, Sepsis crept into settlements and is barely held at bay as it festers, and even Justitian's people complain of their exploitation by the Chroniclers. But for now, Justitian holds. The Anabaptists also hold power in the area in Cathedral City, while odd Clanners excavate the ruins of the Bygone in Exalt.
East Borca is less civilized. The Chroniclers hold little influence, while the natural world has taken back the earth. The Jehammedan hold power in Osman, the Eastern equivalent to Justitian; however, the city is under siege, apparently by the Corroded, a Marauder who led the Clans to conquer the advanced fortress-republic of Praha with ease. Justitian fears the same will come to them eventually.
Key to the passage between regions is Hellvetica, the fortified Alps under Hellvetic rule. Their strongholds guarantee secure passage between West and East Borca, as well as Purgare and Pollen; however, the passage does not come free of charge.
France lost to the Sepsis. The Central Massif took a direct hit that coated the land and infected insect life, pushing humanity to the brink. When the Pheromancers emerged and cleared away the insect plagues, uneasy acceptance came. By the time their powers were known, the Frankans had fallen under their spell entirely. African raiders looted Franka of all of its Bygone technology, meeting no resistance; nothing remains for the Scrappers. Franka is one of the few places in Europe where humanity and homo degenesis live alongside one another, though the humans are little but drones in the thrall of Pheromancers.
Resistance still exists, of course, with the aid of the Anubians. They alone can produce the oils that resist pheromone influences. Those who anoint themselves with it and strike into Souffrance burn out the Pheromancers' tunnels and towers. The Clans bring pesticides into the heart of Parasite (Paris). The Anabaptists and Spitalians tear down the ziggurats the Pheromancers build. The flood is unending, but a handful of sites resist; Anabaptists hold out in Brest, Rennes, St. Brieuc, and the Aquitaine region, motivated for survival by apocalyptic predictions.
Few ways in and out of Franka exist. The Passage North to Britain is lost to the swarms of Parasite. Hellvetic territory borders on Franka at Borderpost South, an outpost and decontamination center that serves as the last Borcan foothold in Franka. In the very south, free Franka resists in Toulouse and Aquitaine. Here, Europe meets its African neighbors for wary trade, and the Chroniclers pick over the wreckage that washes up from the Atlantic.
The rise of Pollen's Sepsis stemmed from the Pollner's search for the strength to survive the apocalypse. Pollners infected by the Sepsis survived more easily in the winter; their children were adapted to Pollen's frozen wastes, even as their bones deformed and their spirits were corrupted. The "leechers" were the first stage of Sepsis's hold on Pollen, and they grew into Biokinetics away from humanity. Then Discordance came; the Psychovores and the Psychonauts met one another, shattering the links that held the collective together. Artificial Discordance sown by Spitalians served to slow Sepsis even further. The war between the Psychovore and Sepsis gave rise to the "fractal forests", bizarre forests that Pollner clans rely on to exist born from Psychovore infection of Sepsis spore fields. Pollen's state as a battleground makes it surprisingly profitable to the Apocalyptics; Burn (the drug derived from Sepsis spores) grows readily in Pollen and is essentially an everyday substance, making the perfect site to start smuggling to the rest of Europe.
The Hellvetics grant access into Pollen, though much of what lies in Hellvetic reach is burnt and destroyed by the march of the Corroded. Wroclaw hosts Neolibyan envoys, but stands otherwise isolated and impenetrable to the cults; only the merchant's quarter is open to outsiders. Danzig is nearly buried beneath the ice sheets from the north but hosts a Spitalian research center that seeks to create immunity to the Primer. Far to the east, the Spore Wall creates a barrier across Poland and Ukraine, isolating Asia from the West entirely.
Balkhan is relatively independent of the cults' influence. Its society is always in flux, alliances easily broken and enemies easily reconciled. Balkhan is, in essence, unbreakable; its clans resisted the advance of the Africans and slaughtered their advance, then turned on all of the cults that failed to help them. One cult does remain, as minor as they may be; the Carpathians were home to Project Tannhauser, the Recombination Group's end-of-the-world bunker, and the Palers remain its stewards.
The Voivodes define Balkhan, local warlords who rule their respective cities without the cults' interference. Voivodate Beograd is unsteady and hostile land, while Voivodate Sofia is a paradise protected from the Eshaton yet undermined from within by a nameless stranger. Bucharest is a Jehammedan stronghold against African conquest, weakened and desperate for aid from the Voivodes. Turkey is a Psychovore hot zone, but the Turks still survive in sealed enclaves that poison the plants and draw them away.
Hybrispania was the first point of contact between post-Eshaton Europe and Africa. Spain sought to rebuild its nation, but could do no such thing without power; they sought out African oil instead, reconstructing the passage across Gibraltar into a land bridge and raiding the fields of Africa. African resistance against Spanish mercenaries sparked the war between Hybrispania and Africa, two hundred years long. Hybrispania is an entire culture of guerrillas now, constantly moving and sacrificing for the cause. Castile perseveres under the banner of la Campeadora, the figurehead of Hybrispanian resistance. Jehammedans coexist with the Guerreros and fight their war with them. More worryingly, the Guerreros deal with Pregnoctics, Psychonauts with divinatory powers in the forests. Far to the south, Gibraltar and Seville are African-dominated cities with allegedly free Hybrispanians subdued under consuls. Hybrispania is also a home to Discordance, and phenomena even worse. Between Madrid and Al-Andalus is an anomaly in time that even the Pregnoctics refuse to enter, allegedly dating back to the Bygone.
Former Italy. Clans are organized around fortified households and hilltop villages, led by a Patriarch. Apennines are the main cultural barrier. West side of mountains are populated by Burn-addicted squatters selling off the Bygone treasures to the Africans. East side is is a stronghold of the Neognostic Anabaptists, farming the land & staring off the Jehammedans to the East across the Adriatic Valley.
Great families include the Lombardi in Bergamo, the Catalanos of Veneto, the Sforza of Perugia, the Modicas of Macerata, the Capodieca of L'Aquila, the de Paulos of Campobasso, and the Romanos of (what's left of) Roma.
Sicily is now known as Bedain, and is an African stronghold, a great shipyard and launch point for expeditions into blighted Europe. Corsica and Sardinia are now known as Corpse, and is a pirate haven inaccessible to outsiders. The Reaper's blow lies submerged offshore.
Major Cults include the Anabaptists, Apocalyptics, Clanners, Hellvetics, Scrappers, & Spitalians. The Earth Chakra, East of Mt. Vesuvius, produced the deadly Psychokinetics, masters of various bloodsucking insects, razor-thin force fields, and physical distortion of space.
Got lucky in the Eschaton and subsequent climate shifts - planetary cooling has greened the Sahara, supporting many tribal villages and major cities along the Mediterranean coast. Pretty much all the different tribes and ethnic groups have agglomerated into a single culture, aided by psychic phenomena giving everyone a single language. Instead of a direct hit, the asteroid swarm gave Africa a grazing blow that dropped plant spores over Central Africa, planting the seeds of the Psychovore jungle, which is now aggressively spreading North.
African culture is based around pride, trade, and vengeance against Europe, and its native cults lead the way. The Neolibyans finance Africa, the Scourgers defend its interests, and the Anubians care for the souls and bodies of its people. Tripol is arguably the greatest city left in the world, with its massive Bank of Commerce governing Neolibyan activities throughout the known world. The underbelly of African society is built on slaving - debt slavery and (more commonly) white slaves taken from the ruin of Europe. Most Africans see this as a fit punishment and revenge against the past plundering of their land.
As mentioned above, Sepsis is the name given to the Primer-based fungal spores that infest Europe. The reason they called it Sepsis was because the spore fields drained the land so utterly that initial witnesses believed the earth itself was turning putrid. The fields themselves are hazardous because they are essentially beds of Cordyceps fungi operating under the Primer's hive mind. Anybody who accumulates too many spores will turn into Leperos: drones with minds lost to the Primer and bodies bursting with Sepsis.
That being said, Sepsis not only represents danger, but also opportunity for some people. Once mature, the fields produce buds of concentrated spore matter called Burn. Depending on its field of origin, Burn can be used either as a combat stimulant or party drug, with the more bizarre varieties even offering people brief glimpses into the future. Unfortunately, using Burn is a good way to flood the body with Sepsis, and those who use it risk becoming Leperos. The Apocalyptics, recognizing the profit potential of Burn and being crazy enough bastards to risk venturing into a spore field, maintain networks dedicated to harvesting and selling Burn.
Many of the major powers in Europe regard Sepsis as a significant threat, whether it be due to religious hatred or acknowledgement that Sepsis is a virulent pathogen. Consequently, states like the Protectorate do not fuck around when it comes to spore infestation, and if a person is deemed too infected to be treated with antimycotic drugs, the authorities will resort to flamethrowers. While it may seem harsh, the cults are especially keen on not having Homo Degenesis emerge in their territories, as once they have the time to invest in their powers and spore fields, members of Homo Degenesis can annihilate or enthrall entire armies and regions.
Homo Degenesis, also known as Psychonauts or Aberrants, are created when pregnant women are infected with Sepsis. When the children are born, people can immediately tell that something is off, as the babies not only fail to bond with their mothers, but they also exhibit unusual resistance to harsh environmental conditions. As for what variety of Homo Degenesis is born, depends on the region, but they are all alike in the fact that the spore fields strengthen their powers, and that even at their most peaceful, they are dangerous beings to deal with.
As the Sepsis is to animals and fungi, the Psychovore jungle is to plants. Spreading from the Dhoruba in Central Africa (a "glancing" blow from an asteroid), the Psychovore jungle is constantly changing and expanding. It is believed to be the source of the common language shared by Africans, and is exploited by the Anubians for some of their mysterious healing techniques.
By 2595, the Psychovore belt has overtaken Central African, the former Sahel, the Nile Valley, Cyprus, the Levant, and much of former Turkey. It meets the Spore Wall near what's left of Istanbul and creates the Dissonance, as the two alien colonial lifeforms disrupt each other. The Spitalians & Anubians are beginning to cooperate in researching this phenomena in the hopes of driving back both menaces.
The Recombination Group
The Recombination Group was a pharmaceutical corporation that was at the cutting edge of medicine before the Eshaton. Their greatest development is a form of medicinal nanotechnology capable of making any human effectively immortal, provided that their body is regularly supplied with them. These nanites combat infection, disease, old age, just about everything. Their second greatest development which they are far more secretive about is memetic technology, which grants the ability to shape minds through information. The Recombination Group is essentially the chessmaster, fractured as it may have been, behind most of what's gone wrong in the setting; they're responsible for the creation of several of the cults, the secondary existential threats (after the Primer-spawned Sepsis and Psychovore), and quite possibly the apocalypse itself.
The Recombination Group has a hierarchy that becomes rather clear after the Eshaton.
At the top, there is Gerome Getrell and his inner circle. When the Eshaton came, they were meant to ascend to the space station known as the Minerva where they would wait out the apocalypse until they were reawakened by the Sleeper caste, who would invite them back down to a world that they had turned into a paradise that worshiped the Recombination Group. After the inner circle, you have the Sleepers themselves. High-ranking executives and influential members of the Recombination Group, they number in the hundreds if not thousands and were given the task of taming the world after the Eshaton, into turning it into the Recombination's Group idea of a paradise through a combination of memetic technology and extremely advanced weaponry. Beneath them, there were the corporate wageslaves, middle-class devotees that the Recombination Group used as test subjects for its memes. They are still far from the bottom of the rung but they are not the ones who will conquer the world. Their role in all of this was to take care of the Sleepers until the moment that they awaken, and to serve them as a loyal army. Their descendants would gradually degenerate thanks to generations spent underground, living off of a slurry of algae and nutrients and breeding in increasingly incestuous conditions. They became the Palers.
The Recombination Group might have always been a conspiracy that sought some sort of world domination or global manipulation, or it might have only transitioned to that at a later stage. But when the asteroids were spotted in 2070, they diverted all of the resources to something known as 'Project Tannhäuser.' While they were meant to be developing a serum that would cure a disease raging through Africa known as HIV-E, they were secretly preparing for the incoming apocalypse. They took tens of thousands of infected men and women that had allowed themselves to be preserved using cryogenics and smashed their frozen bodies into pieces, so they could use the facilities to store their own employees, from which they would wait out the apocalypse. Never mind the fact that the Paladin satellites were going to destroy the incoming asteroids, they devoted every last penny to Project Tannhäuser, their plan to dominate the post-apocalyptic world. And sure enough, the Paladin satellites never activated, due to a virus somehow related to the value of 2^16. All evidence points to this being something that RG planned for. The Eshaton happened, and the Recombination Group is probably responsible for it.
Thing is, the same virus that infected the Paladin satellites also ended up infecting the cryogenic vaults of the Recombination Group. These 'dispensers' were meant to spit out companies of RG's finest, übermensch with nanites swarming with their blood, programmed and armed with memes that would allow them to shape post-apocalyptic society, wielding the finest technology that mankind had to offer before the Eshaton came. They are known as Sleepers. However, these vaults never really worked when they meant to. Sleepers were produced at random, with many of them missing the memories and memes that they were meant to possess. Not only that, but the Sleepers aren't the only people in the post-Eshaton world with nanite blood.
The Marauders, ancient beings that survived the Eshaton, also possess this nanotechnology. It is what has sustained them for so long, but they ran out of their supplies long ago. Each one has a story of their own but what unites them is their reliance of this technology. Every year, every wound and every illness thins out the nanites in their blood and brings them closer to death. So they go from dispenser to dispenser, hunting down Sleepers wherever they can find them, draining them of their blood and drinking the nanites from it. Ambrosia, they call it, the food of gods that renders them immortal. Outside of this hunt for Ambrosia, each Marauder has its own agenda. Some are hostile monsters that despise contact with other humans, while others are relatively benign and even aid the cults of the post-Eshaton world on occasion.
The 2^16 virus and the machinations of the Marauders are the only things that have kept the Sleepers and their Recombination Group from conquering the Earth, turning the rest of humanity into a meme-ridden slave caste and ruling over them as god-kings.
Police/Military Robots from the Bygone era, heavily armed and armored. Some lie dormant and corroding, others maintain patrols and curfews hundreds of years old. Heavily armored and often heavily armed as well, these are major threats to the PCs, although the potential rewards to a Scrapper or Chronicler are hard to pass up.
Often found in NW Africa.
The current edition base game is sold as a package of two books, totaling 700 pages: "Primal Punk", introducing the universe, and "KatharSys", presenting the game system, character creation and GM info.
The game system itself is called KatharSys, and is an additive D6 dice pool. Getting 1 to 3s count as failure, 4 to 6 count as successes. Every 6 on a successful roll also counts as a "Trigger", which adds bonuses to the attempted action. Getting more 1s than successes on a failed action leads to a "Botch", or critical failure.