You won’t enjoy your stay.
The first thing we actually do in Geneforge, after selecting New Game, is create our character. This game is a little different from most tactical turn-based RPGs; there’s only one player character, and their characterization is based on how you choose to interact with the various in-game factions. You have 3 classes to choose from: the Shaper, the Guardian, and the Agent. This LP will follow the Shaper character. The narratives don’t divide sharply between the 3 classes, but the story feels more intimate when it applies to someone who regularly meddles with the forces of creation itself.
The Shaper focuses on Shaping magic – the ability to create complex life out of next to nothing. This class has weak fighting skills, moderate magical skills, and strong Shaping skills. The Guardian is, as the name suggests, a bodyguard class. Intended to protect Shapers and even act as military officers, the Guardians are durable martial artists. Agents are fast-moving firepower. They focus on battle magic and, to a lesser extent, fighting skills. All three classes can actually learn Shaping skills and benefit from them, but only the Shaper can really bring out that school’s full potential.
You begin with 15 skill points to spend. I’ve named our Shaper Solution because, well, why not? We’re going to solve the hell out of some problems on Sucia Island. I increased our starting Intelligence stat to 5, our Leadership stat to 5, and our Mechanics stat to 3, which leaves us with 0 remaining points until we gain our next level. You’ve got a high degree of customization with each of the classes. The class choice primarily influences how much stats and skills cost, so you’ll want to choose one that fits your playstyle.
You stagger off of the dock, weakened to the point of collapse by your desperate swim here. After a few minutes, you manage to regain enough of your senses to look around.
You are on the south coast of the island you saw before your craft was slain. However, apart from the fact that this isle was declared Barred by your people, you know nothing about it. The structures around you are ruined and crumbling. You would guess that they have been abandoned for at least a century, probably two.
Islands are generally Barred because of a failed experiment and the presence of horrible, rogue creatures. Fortunately, except for the lapping of the waves on the base of the dock, all is quiet. If you are going to be devoured, it won’t be soon.
However, you are still stranded here, and desperately weak as well. Fortunately, the beach stretches off to the east. Maybe there is something useful there.
Your drayk craft deserved better than an ignominious, lonely death on the shore of a Barred Island. Its Shaper likely felt its death despite the long, bitter leagues between you and home. It will be days until anyone at the colony begins to worry about your lateness. When you never show up, they will wonder — but the journey between home and the colony where you were meant to serve out your apprenticeship is long, the sea is rough, and anything can happen to a new novice along the way.
You pick yourself up and gingerly leave the rotting dock. You’ve been singed, your supplies are lost, and your gear is tattered. The wind cuts through your soaked robes like a firebolt through butter. Hell, you can’t even cast a firebolt.
Fortunately, the drayk’s sacrifice means you’re only battered, not broken. You follow a crumbling road east into the ruins.
There is an office to the west. The shelves on the wall have nothing on them but dust- The box in the corner, however, might contain something useful.
The box contains a variety of papers. You rifle through them eagerly, hoping for a clue as to where you are or what might have caused this island to be Barred. It’s no use. The papers crumble at your touch.
Beneath the papers, though, you find something interesting. It’s a brass key, none the worse for wear for its long concealment. You take it.
What’s left is mostly garbage, but a dry, mostly clean tunic and a half-dozen light javelins go a little way towards restoring your composure. You pick up a sturdy-looking branch for extra measure; a cudgel is always a solid choice.
You find an automatic door nearby that still works. Miraculously, it’s not even locked.
Inside this small chamber, you find several cylindrical containers. They look like canisters, each a little over a foot high. The sides are made of thick, carefully blown glass.
Most of them have been broken, and the contents are long lost. One of them, however, is still intact. Inside, you see a glowing ﬂuid. It swirls and moves about, seemingly under its own power. It looks like it is, in its own way, alive.
It probably is. You have never seen anything exactly like this before, but you have seen similar objects. The Shapers can contain fluids, filled with life energy, which heal or energize those in need. This must be something like that.
There is a small section of fragile glass at the top. If you break it with the palm of your hand, the substance will come forth and energize you. In your weakened state, it seems hard to resist.
With that, you return to the crumbling road.
You stumble a bit. You still feel a bit woozy. It’s not caused by hunger, though, but by the effects of the strange substance in that canister.
The stuff didn’t heal or revive you like you expected. It changed you. It’s like it soaked into your skin and rewrote some of your very being, making you stronger.
You take a minute to experiment. You extend your fingers and focus- Tiny trails of flame come out of them. You can work magic! You weren’t able to before. Your training would not have reached that point for years.
It is exhilarating and, at the same time, terrifying. This is completely unknown magic, alien to you. It seems like it was made by your people, but you had no idea that they could do something so wonderful.
You feel, deep within yourself, an eagerness to find more of the canisters and see what they can do.
(The canisters are your main way to gain new abilities while on the isle- If you have at least one level of Battle Magic skill, you can now cast Firebolt.)
With that heady discovery out of the way, you head north through a narrow corridor formed by two sagging cliffs. Whatever happens now, at least you have a chance to defend yourself. Given where you are, that chance is very valuable indeed.
The brass key unlocks the chains. You pull the lever and go through the door.
This was probably the barracks for some Guardians or Agents. There isn’t much left and the beds are ruined. It’s starting to look like whoever was here left very quickly. A bunch of stuff was left behind.
You add a dagger, a healing pod, a cloak, a shield, and even some thorns to your ratty arsenal. Without a way to fire them, the thorns are useless at best, but having them still makes you feel better. The winding road leads westward now. You’re starting to understand why the Shapers chose this island, at least initially; all these ravines and canyons make forming checkpoints and bottlenecks a very simple matter. Nothing would be smuggled past alert guards and creations here.
So what happened, then? Nothing terrible has reared its head yet. Perhaps the danger has passed. In your bedraggled state, that’s the absolute best you can hope for.
Looking to the north, you can see that you are not alone on this island. Though you were worried about horrible creatures and mutations, the first life you encounter is nowhere near so terrifying. It is a flock of ornks.
The ornk is a Shaper creation. It’s a slow, clumsy livestock animal, hardy and laden with meat. Shapers created them to stock areas unfriendly to non-created animals, such as, apparently, this one.
You notice that these ornks have large tusks, probably added by the Shapers to protect them from predators. Fortunately, they are likely to leave you alone if you leave them alone.
The road curves south toward another ruin with another locked door. Fortunately, you don’t need a glowy canister to teach you how to jimmy a basic lock.
Mechanics is a very useful skill for all classes. Since we raised Solution’s Mechanics skill to 3 from the get-go, we are able to unlock and use this lever. Later, we’ll have the opportunity to learn the Unlock spell. Unlock, Intelligence, and Mechanics all have a certain level of synergy. We’ll also acquire living tools eventually — more on that when it happens.
Someone left a cache of weapons in this secured chamber. Perhaps he or she planned to return here later. For now, however, you’ve picked up a few icy crystals, an extra dagger, and a few more clips of thorns. There’s nothing left here to help you, though, so you head north.
All the walking is wearing on you. You’re still damp and now you’re hungry, but there’s nothing fit to eat on this awful island. Hopefully there’s an orchard intact somewhere. Ornk sirloin is tempting, but with the size of the tusks on those things… You’re not sure you can force one to obey you, even if it is a creation and you a Shaper. You step into another, larger ruin to escape the awful wind.
You immediately recognize where you are now. It was an inn, where visitors and travelers could stop for steaks, drinks, and sleep. The crumbling roasting pit still dominates the center of the room.
You are getting confused. Why is there so much here? Most islands are Barred because of experiments gone awry, and most such experiments are performed by very small groups, in crude quarters, far from society.
Yet you’ve seen warehouses, guardposts, and now an inn. At one point, a lot of Shapers lived here. Now they’re all gone.
Why? What could have driven so many people off? And what took their place?
But poking around here solves no mysteries. You can only continue north, feeling like the landscape is herding you as effectively as an ornk.
This is the overland map screen. The game is divided up into areas that are themselves divided up into faction-controlled regions. The area we just left, Crumbling Docks, is marked as green, but the area we’re moving to, Abandoned Vale, is red. Green areas have been cleared and can be skipped over on the map screen. Red areas haven’t been cleared. Almost all areas can be cleared by completing an objective. Sometimes that is discovering one or more exits, killing a particular foe, or fulfilling a special condition. The map system does tend to funnel you along a level-appropriate path at first, but you’ll find options quickly open up and you can wind up in over your head very easily.