"It should not be destroyed. It is an incredible invention. Its power must be carefully controlled, but its power guarantees that Shapers will ever hold dominion over the lesser people of this world."
-Danette's Shade, Holding Cells.
The Geneforge is an immensely powerful device that rewrites the genetic code of the user. It is designed to confer magical and physical power upon the user, but usually results in irreversible insanity as well.
The Geneforge was originally created on Sucia Island by a Shaper named Danette and her research team. As with any location for potentially dangerous Shaper experiments, the island was chosen for its distance from populated areas and to make it easy to seal off in the event of a disaster.
She and her colleagues discovered, among other things, that all living organisms were made of tiny "scrolls," which they called genes. On these scrolls was written the design for the whole organism. Danette, after much study, decoded these scrolls and figured out how to alter them reliably using magic--a significant advance over current Shaper techniques, which modified organisms using extensive periods of trial and error. Using modified essence placed in glass and puresteel vessels, Danette and her researchers created the canisters, allowing any human to be modified to increase their physical, or even magical abilities. Upon using these canisters, she discovered that she could give herself great power very quickly.
Danette, through her research with the canisters, discovered a way to completely rewrite the genome. Using this knowledge, she created the Geneforge, a 6-foot diameter pool filled with essence, crystals, and various other magically charged substances designed to rewrite a Shaper's genes.
The Geneforge purportedly contains the genetic code for a "new type of being" able to "rewrite" the world into a "paradise." According to Danette's shade, her intention was to provide Shapers with the power to dominate all non-Shapers, creations and outsiders alike for all time. The Geneforge was thus the furthest extension of the Shapers' imperialistic ideology; it would make them akin to gods.
The Shaper Council saw quite a different possibility. Danette had developed the means for any individual, regardless of training, vetting, or control of any kind, to acquire godlike power in instants. Shaper power would no longer come from masters who themselves had to learn proper use of that power. If even a few canisters, let alone the entire Geneforge, fell into outside hands, there was a very real possibility that the Shaper Empire would collapse. Fearing just such a disaster, the Council Barred Sucia Isle, the Geneforge device, and all research associated with it.
To use the original version of the Geneforge, one must wear specially designed Shaping gloves that incorporated capillaries that slowed the contact of essence with the skin when the user's fingertips were skated over the surface of the pool. Without these gloves, the changes would come too fast, and lead to an agonizing death. Later versions of the Geneforge, however, were designed to give significantly less power, removing the need to wear the gloves.
In addition, the original versions of canisters and the Geneforge were designed specifically for human physiology. Serviles or creations that attempted to use them would die, since their genes were incompatible. Later iterations would either be designed specifically for drakons, with humans undergoing the same painful demise, or made to modify either humans or serviles.
Effects and Death
In Geneforge 1, using the Geneforge correctly will increase the user's Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence, and Endurance by 10 points, heal them, and cause them to go power-mad (leading to a different ending and some peaceful characters turning hostile). Misuse of the Geneforge, either by not wearing the gloves or dunking one's hands under the surface of the pool entirely, causes the player to die a painful death, slowly dissolving in agony into a fleshy goo. Attempting to use the Geneforge a second time has no effect, since the user has already undergone all necessary changes. Rather than using it, it is entirely possible to simply destroy the Geneforge, and allow no one to use its power.
In Geneforge 2 and 3, the Geneforges are for Drakon use only, and attempting to use them leads only to death. The goal is instead to destroy them, assuming one does not join with the Takers. In Geneforge 2, however, there is a similar process without the danger of death, devised by the Barzites and adopted by the Awakened, that has the same effects of the original powerful Geneforge.
In Geneforge 4, using the lesser Geneforge will grant the user a point in Create Fyora, War Blessing, Minor Heal and Firebolt--the basic tools of any lifecrafter. The player is forced to use it during the game's tutorial phase. As with any instance of self-Shaping, they will also have a problems controlling their anger throughout the game, but this cannot be avoided. Using 15 or more canisters in addition to that will have intense mental effects on the player, causing certain fights to become unavoidable. This Geneforge is significantly weaker than the first Geneforge created, both for balance concerns and due to its status as an initiation rather than the pinnacle of the Shaping arts. A second Geneforge is present in Northforge Citadel, although use of it will kill the player instantly.
In Geneforge 5, using the Geneforge only raises the player's intelligence by 1, but allows the player to defeat The Presence. The player does not become arrogant, the typical signs of a Shaper having used the canisters. The necessity of using this Geneforge makes abstaining from canister use almost unnecessary.