Before Infinity was released as a skirmish wargame in 2005, it started life as a home-brew RPG between friends. Now Modiphius with the Infinity designers Corvus Belli have taken it back to its roots with the Infinity RPG core book, including a full load-out of follow up releases planned after a successful Kickstarter campaign.
The Infinity universe is set 175-years in the future, with several factions battling for supremacy amid the stars. The Cyberpunk-esque style adventure setting is perfect for fans of Altered Carbon, Ghost in the Shell, Netrunner, Blade Runner, or games like Shadowrun and Cyberpunk.
In Infinity, mankind has reached the stars. The continents of old have merged into factions under the governance of the O-12, an intergalactic organisation similar to Earth's UN. To assist with the running of such a outspread and segregated groups, ALEPH was created, an artificial intelligence that's sole purpose is to maintain balance throughout humanities' groups. Thrown into this mix are the Combined Army, an assortment of some of the galaxy's most ruthless and dangerous aliens brought together by a powerful alien AI and the Tohaa, an alien race allied to humanity against the Combined Army.
Humanity is split between several factions:
- PanOceania - The strongest faction in the Human Sphere, it uses its advanced technology to stay ahead of the other groups.
- Yu Jing - A challenger in power to PanOceania. Yu Jing is the Far East united under one banner.
- Ariadna - A battle hardened group made up of Russian, French, Scottish and American troops from a ship thought lost, they make up for a lack of technology with skill and drive.
- HAQQISLAM - Meaning New or True Islam, made up of the Islamic nations of old and pushes humanism and the search for knowledge as its doctrine.
- Nomads - Rebels with no true home. They operate out of giant ships traversing the Sphere and fighting against oppression for their own ideals.
- Individual factions - Thrown into this mix are the mega corporations, criminal gangs, and mercenary outfits, each with their own agendas and finance behind them.
Modiphius' Infinity RPG uses the 2D20 System, and our quick fire guide to the Infinity RPG 2D20 system is this:
- To make a skill check you roll 2D20. Every dice roll under your attribute plus skill value counts as a success.
- Characters also have a focus value for some skills, and if you roll under this value, it counts as two successes.
- The amount of successes required to achieve a task depends on how difficult the task is, which ranges from 0 to 5.
- Extra successes over the amount required for an action can be added to a "momentum pool" and used for advantages later on, like extra dice for skill checks, increased damage, speeding up tasks. The momentum pool is a group pool that all players can draw from.
- The GM also has momentum, but the pool is called the "heat pool," which the GM can use for his advantage to trigger events or use NPCs special abilities.
- Heat is generated by the players, who can add up to three dice for one heat per dice to their dice pool for skill checks and also when players want to react to NPC actions.
- Reactions come at the cost of one heat (which increases by one for each reaction that turn) and can be actions like dodging, attacking an enemy doing a non-melee action within reach of your character, or returning fire.
- Players also have access to three Infinity points at the start of each game and are awarded more for being creative, interesting, or achieving great feats. They can be used to gain dice, actions, recover wounds or add to game scenes.
The Infinity RPG has one of the best social systems I’ve used in any game. The Psywar system blends seamlessly into the action alongside hacking through Infowar and combat. Have a purely social character? No problem, while the other characters are smashing down doors and taking names, you could be identifying the weakest member of the opposing team and intimidating them, or rallying your own team, or even finding out who the opposing team leader is, and arranging undercutting their contract with one of their competition. There’s a very detailed social system, but there’s also a lot of quick access social interactions that can be done in a single roll, like persuasion, negotiation, etc.
Hacking through Infowar is the same; hacking character’s actions are done simultaneously alongside the action. Bring that gun system online with different attack parameters or take it off. Shut-down the escaping ship while your teammates provide covering fire, all the options are there for you to access. The rules are extremely detailed in terms of what you can do. This isn't the roleplaying version of Netrunner, as hacking can be very focused on a single character if a roleplaying system lets it, so in the Infinity RPG they are meant to be incorporated as the action progresses. Infowar characters can be very impactful as they can shutdown systems or take control of weapons. There are a solid amount of available actions and details for hackers, and they also get a separate hacker character sheet so they can list their custom loadouts.
There are several sets of dedicated Infinity RPG dice available color for the various factions. They aren't required to play, as you can covert D6's into the Infinity Dice and the D20 are just colored for your favorite faction. The hit location dice are useful and speed up combat without having to look at tables, but the dice are quite pricey, so they might only appeal to hardcore fans of the various factions. It's useful for the GM to have one set, however, just to speed up play.
Playing the Infinity RPG 2D20 system can take some getting used to, even for experienced GMs and players, and it might not be to all players tastes. Players looking for a system less rules reliant may find the Infinity system quite restrictive, and while it doesn't have lots of cards and counters (you only need to keep track of the two pools of heat and momentum), it can be quite jumpy to start with as players get used to the flow of the system. The base rules themselves are extremely straightforward, but with the heat and momentum pools, the system might not be as open as some GMs want as players can see the heat pool building and can expect the GM to use it. Once into the system, however, it can be extremely entertaining, and both dice pools can be great prompts for roleplaying.
Here's an example from the TechRaptor playtest written up to show how we used Heat and Momentum in our game:
Severin drops from the duct behind the two guards. Passing his agility check, he lands without a sound. Spending the first of three available Infinity points for the entire session, his bow fires twice, sending two arrows into the backs of the guards and dropping them silently to the floor. The GM takes three heat from the pool. Severin's arrival didn't go as unnoticed as he'd planned. An automated threat detection system picks up on Severin's body signature and alarms burst into life, bathing the corridor in a red flashing light. A siren that sends a piercing throb through Severin's mind pulses in time to the flashing. Three guards burst out of an opening door, drawing stun batons from their belts.The above example cost Severin's player 2 Infinity points and in the end 1 heat and 1 momentum was taken from the pool. It meant that all the tokens, apart from the Infinity points that Severin used, balanced out over the short encounter. The system allowed a very dynamic scene as opposed to the I go/you go that most rpg systems run. It also ties very well into the Infinity wargame rules that are based around out of turn reactions.
Severin would only normally get one action to attack in a round, so in order to stand a chance of taking both guards out, he used one of his session limited Infinity Points to get a second action. Because the guards were unaware of him, the attacks were particularly vicious. The GM wanted to add some pressure, so taking three heat from his pool, declares that Severin has set some alarms off.
Severin's player tells the GM that he isn't phased by the guards and wants to make a show of standing, putting away his bow and drawing his spear. Rather than using the psywar rules for intimidation, the GM awards Severin a momentum to keep the pace going. Severin smiles and stands from his crouch, stowing his bow over his shoulder and drawing his spear from the back of his belt. With a flick, the spear extends to its full length and Severin takes a fighting stance, gesturing with his free hand for the guards to approach.
Severin would normally make an intimidation roll against the guards, but the GM decided that it was a great roleplaying moment, so awarded him a bonus of momentum to the players pool.
The GM spends one heat to allow the NPCs to attack first, and they charge at Severin. Severin wants to dodge the first attack and pull the guard in front as he slides past to block the other guard's attacks. The GM agrees. The reaction adds 1 heat back to the pool and Severin makes the dodge roll. The GM says that for the action it will cost 1 momentum and will give Severin cover from the subsequent guards attacks as long as he makes a face-to-face brawn/athletics check. Severin wins the face-to-face test by adding two heat back into the pool to boost his roll, and pulls the guard in front of him to be battered by the other two guards.
Usually the players act first, but Severin’s blasé reaction spurs them into motion. The GM spends another heat from his pool to get them to act first. Severin’s dodge action is a reaction to their attack and puts one heat back into the GM’s pool. Severin then makes the dodge roll. The GM says that to pull the guard in front, it will cost Severin one momentum from the players pool; he then also has to roll off against the guard. To increases his chances of winning the roll off, he adds two bonus dice to his pool and adds two heat back to the GM’s pool (one for each dice). This means that Severin is rolling more dice than normal, and has more chance of getting a greater number of successes against the guard. He wins, and he grabs the guard in a hold, using his body as a shield as the other guards damage their team member, rather than Severin.
In his own action, Severin uses his free action to drop the guard's unconscious body to the floor and then makes two attacks by using another Infinity point. As Severin pulls the spear from the body of the last guard, a door at the end of the corridor opens to show the rest of the player characters, one of them holding a hacking device attached to the door controls.
Every turn you get a number of different actions. Letting go of the guard was a free action. In order to attack twice again, Severin uses another Infinity point. This last battle actually took a couple of rounds, with some poor rolling on either side, but we shortened the description for cinematic effect.
We've missed out a lot of rules and rolls details and descriptions, including what the rest of the party were doing, as this was simply to highlight to heat/momentum system.
Creating a character is done using the Lifepath system, which is a set of nine steps that take your character through their life. The Lifepath system starts with birth and goes through faction/heritage, homeworld/homeland, status, youth event, education, adolescent event, careers, and then final customization. The Lifepath system advises random rolls on the lifepath choices, with creation points being spent to chose rather than roll. Some GMs may allow characters free reign on choices during each step, but these should be monitored as it is quite easy to make an overpowered character (Min/Max for those familiar with the concept from other roleplaying games). A balance between the completely random and free reign can be the best way to go, with each player making two or three rolls and picking between them. There are some very detailed talent trees to work through with your characters, which are a lot of fun, making some characters very unique and specialized. Character creation can take a little while, especially with a large group, so expect to spend your first session creating characters and putting the group together.
The Infinity RPG Core Book is filled with a huge amount of information. It has the background on life in the Human Sphere, an extremely detailed and full history, information on the different factions, a solid gear section, and a very comprehensive adversaries section. The source material alone makes the book worth the cost to anyone interested in Infinity. Each section is filled with detailed information and handy little sidebar tips on notes and gameplay guides. The details in the GMs section are also incredibly helpful for beginners and expert GMs alike and give solid advice on general GMing to how to handle players and running of campaigns. The Infinity RPG Core Book is full of inspiration.
A mention must be given to the artwork in the Infinity RPG Core Book, which is incredible throughout. Some of our favorite pieces are in the gallery below. The artwork is well-placed in the book and goes an extremely long way to capturing the feel of the Infinity universe.
[gallery size="large" type="slideshow" ids="236385,236383,236382"]
The Bottom Line:
The Infinity RPG Core Book is an incredible sourcebook for fans of Infinity. The detailed history, adversaries, and background information alone make it worth the cost to a fan. Infinity wargame players and Cyberpunk RPG fans will find much to love here and once you get into the 2D20 system, it is a great roleplaying experience. That said, it won't be for everyone, and it can complex in parts, especially when you are first starting. The hacking rules are run alongside the combat rules very well and can be extremely impactful on games.
Get this game if:
You have any kind fondness for Infinity. The background information and details are incredible.
You want a different way of experiencing the Infinity universe.
You love Altered-Carbon, Ghost-in-the-Shell, Netrunner or any kind of Cyberpunk theme.
Avoid this game if:
You don't like the idea of heat/momentum and want a more straight-forward rpg system.
You don't like futuristic settings.
This copy of the Infinity RPG Core Book used for this review was provided by Asmodee UK.
Have you used the 2D20 system before in any of Modiphius' other products? What do you think? Are you an Infinity wargamer player who's played the RPG or is excited to play it? Let us know in the comments below.