Roleplaying Resources

Descent into Shadow

The City

We live in a huge megacity, which extends for hundreds of miles in every direction, as well as down below the surface, up into the sky and beyond. The rest of the world, as far as we know, is nothing but strip mines and toxic wasteland, with immense, solar-powered farming towers peppering (and polluting) the landscape.


We come from Apex, an endless, sprawling suburban utopia that floats three miles above the ground. There are places even higher up, but we don’t pay them much mind, except when their light-bending technology glitches and we lose our sunlight for ten minutes. Then you can hear the screams of outrage for miles. About ten million people live in Apex. The wealthy have large homes with yards and swimming pools or flying pools. The even wealthier live in skyscrapers with ceilings made of imported light-bending material, so that every floor feels like the penthouse. There are no poor in Apex (that we know about), and everyone takes on the profession they want.

Facts about Apex
  • The rumor mill is wild. There's strong social jockeying.
  • The music scene is about adding more and more complexity. Everyone seems to like it, but that could be because they think everyone else likes it.
The Drop

Near the center of Apex, there is an iris hatch in the ground which reveals an elevator, supported by both levitation and ropes. The ropes take over about half a mile from the ground, when Shadow interferes. It takes about an hour to descend on the Drop, and an Operator supervises the process, as well as being there to give a short lecture on Shadow, and answer questions. Criminals banished to Shadow use the Drop.

The Pen

Apex is a giant chunk of earth, rock and metal floating in the sky. The structure is maintained by those who live in the Pen, which hangs from the underside of Apex, and occupies up to a hundred stories inside. The service class is imported from the Pen. Whenever something goes wrong, they take the blame.

Apex is theoretically supposed to supply Shadow with light using the giant floodlights attached to the underside, but many of these are broken or in poor repair.


There are numerous floating communities below Apex, typically using huge dirigibles to hold themselves up rather than whatever sort of levitation supports Apex. These are collectively known as Zephyr. They get their light by interposing themselves between Apex's floodlights and the ground.


The magic-infested land on the ground is called Shadow. We don’t talk much about that, but there are rumors.


Character Creation

Genesys is as heavy-weight as D&D. Read the rules and create a character if you want, or create a partial character (this online character sheet could help), or I’ll build one for you based on what you’re interested in playing.

The usual stuff

Appearance, personality, background.

What’s your deal?

The system encourages generating new careers and archetypes (classes), so it’s pretty easy to build one around a character concept.

What are your motivations?

Include a strength, a flaw, a desire and a fear. These sometimes matter mechanically. Examples start on page 46 of the rule book.

Characteristics (like D&D attributes)

Brawn, Agility, Intellect, Cunning, Willpower and Presence.

You generally start with one at 1, one at 3 and the rest at 2. You can raise these with your starting XP (play around in the online character sheet). They’re extraordinarily difficult to raise after character creation, so the game recommends you spend most of your starting XP on these.


List 8 things things your character is good at (relevant to your career/archetype), and choose 4 out of those 8 to be a little better at. I’ll turn these into your skills (skills are cheaper to advance than non-skills). You can find a generic list in the online character sheet, but feel free to make up new ones. If you want to be really good at a skill or two, let me know that too.

Special notes:

  • If you want magic skills, I’d like to use a more specialized system than the built-in one. To keep the learning curve down, let’s say that all the D&D wizard schools and cleric types are skills.
  • There’s a skill called “Knowledge.” Instead of taking that, choose a very broad category of knowledge (for example, “science” or “the world we live on”). Each broad category is a skill.

If you want talents (kind of weak feats), you can pick them from the book. There’s no need to start with talents. They’re easy to get later.


You have a suitcase containing whatever your character thought they'd want or need during the last couple hours in Apex. List out what you have, and you can always use a Story Point to add something reasonable.

You were also given a faux leather satchel containing some basic survival equipment:

  • A 6×6 inch square of cloth, which unfolds into a tent when shaken out.
  • A thin, relatively soft foam mat. It rolls up into a 1“ cylinder, and only expands when unrolled.
  • Fifteen self-heating meals in rectangular plastic boxes. Bland and dense.
  • A plastic water bottle which opens with a fingerprint sensor.
  • A belt whose buckle is a silvery ball which contains a portable force field. It gives you +5 soak, but if anyone rolls two advantages against you on an attack, it is depleted.
  • An inaccurate laser pistol designed to only shoot forward or down. Always add one setback die to your pool, or three when shooting at any upward angle. Damage 7, crit 4. Inaccurate 1 (3 when pointed higher than level).