"There must be something. Some purpose. Some meaning. Oh God, there must be some point to all this. I watched my friends die, watched the rockets we made fall from the sky to rot in fields in Ohio or Ukraine. What was this for?"
— Doctor Jonas Cliver, Genius
Genius: The Transgression is a fan Gameline for the New World of Darkness setting created by the author/artist of webcomic The Water Phoenix King, Kyle Marquis (better known on RPG.Net as Moochava), detailing the adventures of Geniuses, Mad Scientists who can build impossible machines (called Wonders) thanks to their connection to the mysterious light of Inspiration. Drawing on every sci-fi and horror cliché out there, Genius justifies the setting, expands the tropes along their logical progression and links its themes to the real world. It will be instantly familiar to any fan of the genre.As with any tabletop RPG, Genius is defined by its characters. Each character is a mad scientist of some stripe, with a Catalyst, which determines their overall archetype, and a Foundation, which determines their overall approach to mad science. Each of the five Catalysts is defined by certain emotions and mindsets, which in turn cause them to act out various mad scientist stereotypes that can be summed up in one of the stock mad scientist quotes.
The five Foundations, the organisations of non-Lemurian Geniuses, represent various branches and kinds of mad science.
The International Union of Artifice: Known mainly for their Mad Engineering program. The Artificers are the poorest Foundation, with everyone from crazy old tinkerers to creative punk kids, and malcontents in the middle who've started unionising to try and make things easier.
The Fellowship for Manifest Direction: Known mainly for their Mad Psychology program. The Directors are the folks who get together in dark halls and plot how they're going to Take Over the World. They're mostly talk, though they are the most socially capable geniuses, and often assume leadership.
The Center for Circumferential Navigation: Known mainly for their Mad Physics program. The Navigators are fearless daredevils who travel far horizons, fight crime and test the experimental devices. The most recent group to join the Peers, originally the underclass of Lemuria but they've since earned their respect.
The College of Scholastic Theory: Known mainly for their Mad Philosophy program. The Scholastics are the oldest Foundation and the most introspective; they're more interested in figuring out the nature of Mania and other mysteries of the world. They range from librarians and archivists to Adventurer Archaeologists seeking ancient secrets of mad science.
There's also unaffiliated Rogues, Programs that act as minor Foundations (the most prominent being the Asia-based Ten Thousand Fans), and of course, Lemuria.Lemuria's Baramins are, by default, the antagonist faction. They haven't got the memo that yes, they're MAD, and their theories and inventions only work by cheating reality. They believe that something went wrong with the human race's scientific and technological development, and they are hellbent on correcting the problem. Each Baramin is defined by where they think humanity went wrong and what must be done to correct the issue. This doesn't alwayswork out so well.
Etherites believe in a grand unified theory of science, one that neatly explains all phenomena and anomalies. Y'know, the sorts of theories scientists had before all that confusing "relativity" and "quantum mechanics." They ignore, explain away, or destroy contradictory evidence, and tend to get a bittwitchy if someone argues against their theories. They're also the ones with the Ray Guns.
Mechanists believe in a "clockwork universe", one that is not greater than the sum of its parts and can be reduced to a few simple natural laws. They also take fatalism to its logical conclusion, refusing to take responsibility for their actions; it's the fault of Their Upbringing. Or The Genetic Lottery. Or The Times. It's no wonder so many of them end up schizophrenic.
The original human leaders of Lemuria were the Dharmists, who only answered to their Ophidian overlords. They despised innovation, and had an uncanny talent for manipulating other Inspired. They got wiped out in the Invisible Wars.
Of course many Lemurians and most Peers think this trope is just a trick.
The Hermetic Order of the 28 Spheres especially focuses on the fact that All Theories Are False, since Geniuses don't do real science, and all their theories (as long as they're self-consistent) work equally well as frameworks for Maniacal devices. Therefore, it honesstly doesn't matter what theory you base your Wonders on, because everything works. They have a lot of fun with this (while simultaneously trolling more serious-minded Geniuses. Most of their raison d'etre focuses around subverting expecctations and testing the limits of what Mania considers a "workable theory".
Always Chaotic Evil: While the snake-men of Lemuria are (currently) extinct, and while their evil conspiracy was... well, evil, one possible future the players can travel to sees them more-or-less peacefully integrated among modern humanity. Even in the bad old days, part of their motivation was a simple desire to return to their non-existant home.
The Foundations each represent one cool thing mad scientists do, and one reason sane people fear mad scientists. The Artificers for example are the guys who build awesome stuff and the people who force everyone else to adapt to new technology. Whether they like it or not.
The Baramins each represent one common way intellectual thought goes horribly wrong. The Atomists for example are people who try and force technological solutions to social or political issues.
Applied Phlebotinum: Lots of it, some of which you make. This is a game about mad scientists after all.
Aristocrats Are Evil: Lemurians like to invoke this trope when dealing with the Peerage, calling it The Invisible Empire (it's worth noting that the later uses "peerage" in reference to the academic sense* Which uses the broader definition of the word "someone's equals", as in "peer review", rather than in the sense of "hereditary title"..
Awesome McCoolname: Some Geniuses take on new names. After all, if you can build a weather-control machine out of an air conditioner and an ipod, don't you have the right to call yourself Professor Atmospherium?
Like all Ubermenschen who are not exterminated before adulthood, Ilsa Hauser is an excellent physical specimen in the narrow mold of the Nazi ideal: tall, blond, athletic, and pale.
Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: Nikola Tesla, Robert Hooke and Leonardo da Vinci were Geniuses, but otherwise this is mostly averted: mad scientists often lack the inclination (and often the ability, being insane) to express their ideas to the world, both of which are important traits for a good sane scientist.
Then again, those three were the only ones known to be Inspired. There could be lonesomes who managed to work in mundane science.
Doctor Vienna even makes his money from his mundane patents.
Big Applesauce: One fan made Bardo takes place in an After the End New York. To be specific the last After the End scenario that turns out to be total Bumpkis. So right now it's chest deep in Ancient Mayans, but a few years ago it was full of Y2K robots, and if you dig you can find artifcats from the Rapture, to Three Mile Island.
Black and Gray Morality: The struggle between Lemuria and the Peerage, with both sides arguably becoming grayer over the years from opposite directions. Old Lemuria was an evil organization ruled by xenophobic snake-people dedicated to enslaving the human race, and the Peerage was a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits sworn to oppose them. However, even the Peerage was not all sweetness and light; plenty of Peers fell (and still fall) into the worst stereotype of the callous, arrogant Mad Scientist primarily concerned with self-glorification and breaking the rules just because they can. New Lemuria has somewhat more noble ideals, and a genuine desire to see humanity "set on the right track". The problem with that is that all Lemurians are totally crazy. The modern Peerage has a much more humanistic approach to mad science, but some Peers still show a worrying lack of concern for mere mortals.
Interestingly, Grey morality was a deliberate choice for the Peerage. Partly to avoid the risk of going too far and partly to keep membership open to everyone. As far as the Peerage is concerned, it's better that the morally grey end up Peers where everyone's watching out for everyone's mental health than to end up in Lemuria or isolated and begin descending into madness.
Black Box: Wonders to anyone not a Genius, and Inspiration itself. Centuries of research, and Geniuses still don't know much at all about what makes them the way they are.
Blessed with Suck: Not as overt as the rest of the nWoD, but still prevalent. Yes, Geniuses can create miraculous gadgets, but they are mad, and nothing they make is completely real. Inspiration is arguably the worst thing that could happen to a dedicated scientist.
That, and there's the possibility of being eaten by monsters born of insanity, being back-stabbed by psychotic rivals, being driven from civilization by quasi-Luddite fanatics, becomingmonstersborn of insanity...
Blue and Orange Morality: The Illuminated are hopelessly insane, and their motives are incomprehensible. Many of them don't even remember how morality works.
Boring, but Practical: Prostasia, Axiom of Protection. Sounds simplistic and uninteresting? When the horrible tentacle monsters try to bite your face off, you will be glad you spent the dots here. When your malevolent rivals try to Mind Rape you, you will be glad you spent the dots here. When the feds try to hack into your Kill Sat, you will be glad you spent the dots here. Trust us.
Can be subverted with a little creativity on the player's part. Nothing prevents you from saying your Prostasia body armor uses ancient Egyptian laser beams to shoot down incoming bullets.
Worth mention is that being Beholden is a lot like being a Ghoul, complete with attendant psychological problems — you literally no longer have a worldview of your own. Failing to find a master means a Beholden could go catatonic and die within weeks.
Came Back Wrong: Unless you are very, very lucky, any attempt raising the dead brings them back evil and insane. If you really screw up you might get a batch of Pandorans. On the other hand, you can deliberately attempt to bring a corpse back as a Promethean or a vampire.
'Course, you still run the risk of really pissing off whoever you brought back. Fun Fact: They might not be HAPPY that they are a walking wasteland, and depending on how you did it, it may be impossible for them to interact with normal humans due to the possibility of Havoc (if they are being kept alive by Wonders, at least)
Central Theme: the nature of futility (especially the inability for anyone to control or direct culture/humanity).
Character Development: Integrated into the game in a very interesting way. In order to increase their Inspiration, a Genius must undertake a Thesis, a deeply personal analysis of their thoughts, their actions, and their character in general, combined with a personal mission that defines their goals and personality. In this way, the personality of a PC Genius develops (or is at least defined) as they increase in power.
Also subverted, in that "more defined" often means "more streamlined" for a Genius. A high-Inspiration Genius becomes enormously powerful, but plenty fall into archetypes and rote behaviour.
Clap Your Hands If You Believe: Inverted. A sudden paradigm shift in the Consensus causes a Maniac Storm, usually enough to spawn a Bardo or at least a new type of Mane or three, but straightforward belief doesn't do anything in and of itself. Sometimes the Geniuses can see them coming; the Martian Empire, for example, despite causing massive Inspired casualties in their initial invasion, was something many Geniuses had been preparing for for years, which is why we're not all speaking... whatever language it is Martians speak. This same bizarre existence-due-to-not-being-able-to-exist also means that Manes are subject to Havoc just like Wonders, and are affected in verysimilar ways.
Also averted with how wonders work. Ultimately it doesn't matter at all if a Genius believes his own theories or not.
Clarke's Third Law: Defied by the Science is Science law; Wonders function according to some kind of laws of physics, and can't be just magicked into being. That said, the Hermetic Order of the 28 Spheres goes out of its way to abuse this rule in its own postmodern way, by creating theories based on the principles of hermetic magic as a method of playing with the entire idea of mad science.
Consummate Liar: Phenomenologists. Of the "Just Too Alien" sort. No matter how obviously false, a Phenomenologist genuinely believes whatever he's saying. Until he decides that's boring and decides to rewrite his entire philosophy.
Creating Life Is Awesome: Creating life is considered perfectly acceptable. Creating intelligent life is considered a modest Transgression more because it's socially frowned upon than because it's automatically unethical. Mad Scientists tend to do both anyway.
Critical Psychoanalysis Failure: What can happen if a mortal tries to analyze a Genius. In the opening fiction, a psychoanalyst working with a Genius actually becomes a Genius from contact with him. She later becomes an Illuminated and ends up starving to death as she tries to unravel the secret to immortality. It should be mentioned that said psychoanalyst apparently received Inspired-like thoughts before pushing them away, so she arguably had one foot in the door already.
Cut Lex Luthor a Check: Pretty hard, partly due to the inherently magical nature of Inspired technology, which results in massive and horrible failure whenever Muggles so much as handle them. Mostly because a lot of geniuses are too insane to have a rational business plan.
The easiest way to do it would be launching satellites into orbit. And that's not even counting the kind of shenanigans someone with rank-5 Apokalypsi can do.
Da Chief: Mister Shark is this trope, despite being a Maori navigator from the 17th century. He runs the Time Police responsible for the 16th through 21st centuries mostly on force of personality and is an extremely powerful Genius in his own right.
To a lesser extent diatribes (expounding on your worldview to a prisoner, which can lead to you forgetting that it's untrue and insane) and "editing" (destroying evidence that contradicts your untrue and insane worldview).
The Dragon: Name-checked in the storytelling section, which uses the term to describe the villain's "large, dangerous, entirely physical adversary that may or may not be a giant fire-breathing lizard".
Dystopia: Tsoska, every socialist and Communist dystopian idea rolled into one grey uninspiringdoubleplusungood empire. Ironically, it's one of the safer Bardos to visit; if one's papers are in order and they act right, the government treats a visiting Genius like a foreign dignitary. Its capitalist counterpart, Voltt City, is mentioned in passing.
Also the Seattle Of Tomorrow, a fascist police state governed by all seeing technology. The Atomists loved it.
Eagle Land: One fan-made Bardos is an incredbly over the top Type 1. It gets stronger every time an instance of a Type 2 happens.
Eldritch Abomination: The Old Cold Ones that exist after the heat death of the universe, who would really like to get back into time to experience things like "energy" and "movement".
Eldritch Location: Bardos, places that it has been shown don't/can't exist. You can visit them.
Empty Shell: Clockstoppers, empty beings that run on spite and lash out at anything born of intelligence or creativity.
Everything Is An I Pod In The Future: The "Pod People" aesthetic, which is currently quite the "in" thing with Directors. According to an editorial cartoon drawn by a critic of the style, a "Standard Pod People Death Ray" is an iPod with its controls replaced by a single large button marked "KILL."
Evil Luddite: The Clockstoppers, some of them can also brainwash normal humans into acting this way.
Furthermore, if a mortal isn't turned to a rival or thrall, they cannot help but cause wonders to break down or run amok merely by touching them. Especially if a real scientist gets ahold of them; nothing destroys Wonders like having someone that can understand precisely why it can't possibly work witness it.
Most important of all: A typical Genius theory will sound, to any non-Genius, like the ravings of a delusional madman. You end up looking like the guy behind Time Cube or magnetic Immortality Rings, so you can't just show your stuff on Youtube where nobody will dick with it. You'll still look like a lunatic.
Time Cube is In-Universe a Genius written Thesis on how to exploit time zones for use of Time Travel. Problem is that to us it's the ravings of a mad man.
Genre Blindness: Part of the problem with Unmada in general is that they refuse to believe they're mad, or that their Wonders aren't proper technology.
Genre Savvy: The Peerage, on the other hand, know they're mad scientists and, despite their madness, have managed to get a reasonably solid understanding of how Inspiration "works." It helps that unlike most supernatural communities in the New World of Darkness, Geniuses are making full use of the internet to talk to (or at least at) each other.
Gentleman and a Scholar: Jabir makes playing this kind of character slightly difficult, but some social skills (particularly expression) are extremely useful for a Genius to have.
Gratuitous German: The German terminology is largely correct, with only 3-4 minor mistakes and typos. ("Klagen" and "Archweltanschaaung" are supposed to be "Klage", "lament" and "Erzweltanschauung", "arch-world-view"; also, "Grimm" sound somewhat archaic and hammy to modern german speakers, unlike "Zorn".
Hitler's Time Travel Exemption Act: Played With. You can kill Hitler, but it won't do anything (except get the Time Cops mad at you.) Hitler has been killed six times over, so the setting's Time Cops started cloning him. If you head back to 1921 Hamburg, you can get a tour of the cloning facility.
Hollywood Science: Giving Mania to a wonder requires "Doing Science To It," characterized by knob flipping, switch turning, bolt tightening, and other methods of "Science." Transferring Mania from a wonder to a character requires "Doing Analysis," which involves staring at readouts from a machine whilst muttering to yourself, measuring with slide rules or calipers whilst muttering to yourself, or writing down data you've apparently gathered whilst muttering to yourself.
I Did What I Had to Do: It's implicit that great atrocities were committed by both sides during the Invisible Wars. Nevertheless, most Peers believe they acted out of necessity.
Those peers old enough to remember those days...whose memories still echo with the phantasms of a forgotten timeline...often have not forgiven themselves for what they did in those bloody weeks that marked the end of Lemuria. But few have apologized.
The Igor: Beholden, otherwise ordinary people who see they world exactly as the Genius sees it and thus can handle Wonders without wrecking them, fill this role. In fact, "Igor" is a slang term for a Beholden.
I Hate You, Vampire Dad: Not unheard of. The Peerage (and Lemuria, for that matter) encourages Geniuses to take responsibility for the education of anyone who became Inspired as a result of seeing their Wonders. But not everyone wants to be a Genius, particularly if they had aspirations to an actual career in science. Argentine St. Croix, for example, killed the man responsible for her Breakthrough almost immediately after going mad.
Zig-zagged with Doctor Ibanez. At first she's excited by the new ideas, and then she's afraid of letting some alien intelligence implant insane thoughts in her head. But when the time comes she says "I want this." Later her mentor reveals he created her solely to betray her and use her inventions to become immortal. She doesn't seem that angry about this, and they have a pleasant conversation until he starves to death and she cuts open his head to put his brain in a machine. Eventually, she becomes an Illuminated and starves to death so arguably becoming a mad scientist was bad for her.
Insufferable Genius: Probably a solid majority of Inspired. A large part of Genius culture is a way for insufferable geniuses to fulfill their human need for socialization.
I Want My Jetpack: We were promised a future of wonderful technology that would end all suffering. The Atomists are pissed off about not getting it.
Then there's the sample city of Seattle, where the Lemurians tried to bring a Bardo based on The World of Tomorrow! into reality. It ended in rust, explosions, and tears, while the Muggles didn't notice- having too much fun at the World's Fair.
For a location, the simplest thing to do is to imagine a fun place to have a fight[...] If there's not enough excitement inherent in the location, light the whole thing on fire. Or drop it from a great height. Something that is on fire and falling is more or less ideal.
Invisible to Normals: Averted. Ordinary people can see a Wonder just fine. This is a law of mad science commonly referred to as "Mulder's Lament." On the other hand, everything goes to hell when they start touching it.
A subtler aspect of this requires comparison between the Karma Meter for Genius and any other line: normally, once you hit Morality 3, the dice pool to avoid degeneration can't get any smaller. For Geniuses, meanwhile, it most certainly can.
It's almost expected that a new Genius will try to break it at least once, maybe a few more times. But it usually doesn't really do anything but make them look like an idiot, at which point they usually start turning into the wider Genius community since the other Geniuses actually know what they do is real...For looser terms of the word "Real" that is.
Les Collaborateurs: The human Geniuses who swore fealty to the Ophidian masters of Lemuria.
Life Drinker: All "manes" (creatures created in realities produced by the excess mental energy of dis proven theories), orphans (Mad Scientist inventions that have broken loose and gone mad) and any Genius who takes it have the "Calculus Vampire" merit which allows them to drain Mania (essentially mad science/brainpower as a sort of energy), which the first two groups must feed on.
The Oracles tend to use a quasi-religious, New Age-y aesthetic that makes them look like benevolent philosophers and holy men. While they certainly believe they're personifying a different trope, the truth is rather more sinister.
Loners Are Freaks: "Actions that physically or psychologically distance the Genius from humanity" are about mid-level Transgressions; at higher Obligation, going without human contact for a day is a Transgression.
It's no accident that staying at the top of the Obligation meter requires more than normal sociability. When you're on solid ground, you can relax; when you're on the Slippery Slope, you need to keep trudging upward.
MacGyvering: A Genius can "kitbash" a Wonder together in hours, minutes, or even seconds if they're powerful or have bought the right merit.
Mad Artist: The Domitions mentioned in Moochava's emails are a Mediterranean group of Inspired artists, architects, and sculptors who specialize in the as yet unrevealed Pseudo-Axioms.
The Mad Hatter: The Peerage takes pains to remind its members that all Geniuses are mad; it helps keep them from going too far. Lemurians think they're sane. They also have an insane worldview that's notably non human-centric. This is not a good combination.
Magic Versus Science: Geniuses and Mages just naturally don't get along most of the time, though the Free Council and the Scholastics have reached an understanding. This comes in very handy when they have to perform hasty swaps whenever a particular unusual Mage turns out to be a new catalysed Genius or vice versa. On the other hand, their respective Ancient Conspiracies seem to be incapable of noticing each other, and no-one knows why.
Mana: Mania, the pure creative energy that powers a Genius's Wonders.
Mana Burn: The Clockstopper Void "Hungry Emptiness."
And, as Moochava himself illustrates: "People ask me why geniuses in Genius: The Transgression don't just go public. Because this is how dumb you look." If you haven't completelylost it, you'll probably have tried once or twice at most and given up to focus on more important things.
The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body: Averted. Transforming a living thing has no effect on its mind; trying to turn a bloodthirsty dinosaur into a docile rabbit results in a bloodthirsty rabbit. The exception is transformation of living things to non-living things, that results in unconsciousness on the part of the victim until they're reverted.
Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: A third of Geniuses have a legitimate degree, another third just say they do or just stick Doctor or Professor in their name.
A hereditory title. This fits the way young geniuses are recruited and trained as well as their position 'above' humanity in some sense (with a lot of geniuses wanting to be the same as normal humans it could also reflect their desire to be normal humans' peers in the non-heraldic sense).
The idea of academic concept of a "peer review" (which is what they provide not by reviewing each other's work, but by reminding one another that they're insane and shouldn't go too far).
Both at once, in the way that geniuses tend to award themselves academic titles they haven't earned (the fluff texts stats that asking a "Doctor" if they actually have a docterate is as polite as asking if they have a drug addiction).
Name's the Same: In approximately ten-thousand years, the most brutal dictator ever known to mankind will seize control of civilization. What does this despotic mastermind call himself? Yao Ming.
Necessary Fail: The timeline that led to the existence of the Terminals is generally accepted to have been good for the universe as a whole, but it wasn't without its own horrors. Of note was the genocidal dictator Helmut Schenk, whom the Guardians of Forever were obliged to replace with Adolph Hitler.
Never the Selves Shall Meet: It's almost universally a bad idea to interact with your past self while on a time travel jaunt. With that in mind...
New Tech Is Not Cheap: This recommends that Geniuses are able to account for how, exactly, they pay for those wonderful toys. It stops short of having the Storyteller request an itemized budget from the players.
New Technology Is Evil: Lemuira often thinks so, with each Baramin defined by when they believe humanity's technological and cultural development took a turn in the wrong direction. Sometimes their views aren't that bizarre, the Atomists are still upset about the death of the space age dreams. However you have Oracles who are still complaining about new Aristotle's organon and want to bring back the good old ways espoused by Plato.
Although it's the robot chaffeur that is really expensive.
Nightmare Fetishist: A distinct worry shared by some of the more introspective Staunens. As the game manual puts it, some take delight in the modulation of screams of pain, or are fascinated by the effects of sickness and poison on the human body.
No OSHA Compliance: To put it very mildly. More than a few Geniuses have been killed in the midst of their work, because they were more concerned about finishing their Wonders than making sure they weren't exposed to horrific toxins, deadly radiation or other such hazards.
Gets particularly bad if a mortal gets into a Genius' workshop and starts causing Havoc.
No Trans Humanism Allowed: Averted! High-Inspiration Geniuses can become transhuman in terms of physical and mental ability even without the use of Wonders. That said, transhuman Geniuses face definite challenges when interacting with mere mortals, and their Obligation usually takes a hit as they struggle to connect to the mundane world. A certain phrase comes to mind.
Not Wearing Tights: Averted, the Iridium Sentinels are unashamedly superheroes, if more Iron Man than spandex. An entire section in the part for storytellers lists superheroes as a possible campaign, by name.
On a related note, "Genius" as used here has a suspiciously apropos double meaning — a distinctly otherworldly one, at that. Given that the term dates back to ancient Rome, this should come as no surprise.
You can use Wits instead when kitbashing, which can sort of allow you to get by on that instead, but even if you can reduce, eliminate, or afford to ignore the inherent penalties suffered for doing so, kitbashed wonders are always temporary.
Our Elves Are Mathematical Anomalies: Fractal Elves are diminutive Manes born from failed equations, and are often found in laboratories and other research facilities. They're not too bright, but most aren't truly malicious.
Our Goblins Are Different: Paper Goblins are Manes created by the desire for a truly paperless society. There are several different sub-species formed from various printed media, such as newspaper goblins, handwritten goblins, and fiction goblins. They're quite intelligent, and are willing to work with Geniuses for the right price. And for some reason, they're mostly culturally Hispanic.
Our Monsters Are Weird: Yes, yes they are. From mutant Orphans, to avatars of broken faith, to evil disembodied infectious Yetis born from the mind of a Crazy AwesomePolish sculptor, the Inspired world has no shortage of bizarre monsters lurking in the shadows. And if you have the right Axioms, you can make new ones yourself.
Perpetual Poverty: Geniuses need resources to create Wonders; mad science can make money, but only with upfront investment and business acumen, and insanity is a real disadvantage in a normal job. It's reached the point where the Artificers have literally started unionizing to provide themselves with communal workspace and accommodation.
Personality Powers: Sorta. Geniuses get a favored "Axiom" (branch of Mad Science) based on their Catalyst, which is the thing that stained their Breakthrough: Destruction for Grimms (Rage), Transformation for Hoffnungs (Vision), Improvement for Klagens (Loss), Control for Neids (Banishment) and Discovery for Staunens (Curiosity). However, Geniuses also get two other favored Axioms, so their Catalyst doesn't totally dictate their abilities.
Poisonous Friend: Unmada Manes (the Manes spawned or attracted by the fields Unmada produce) can guard areas, offer advice, or act as an information network for the Unmada in question. They also have vested interest in making sure the Genius stays crazy.
Politically Incorrect Villain: Lemuria's quaint little racial hierarchies do not endear that organization to the rest of the Inspired world.]] A number of other sample antagonists are also insanely bigoted, and, of course, we have the Nazis.
Politically Incorrect Hero: The Peerage and the Directors in particular used to be just as racist as Lemuria, but they cleaned up their act around the same time as mundane society did.
Power Born of Madness: All over the place. Geniuses are so crazy they can break bend the laws of physics.
Powered by a Forsaken Child: Larvae are components for Wonders that require moral sacrifice, such as... well, the heart of a little orphan boy.
With the Technomancer Merit, a genius can convert any sort of metanormal energy (Glamour, Mana, Vitae) into Mania. Yes, it is possible to turn blood into Science.
Or you can just Cram a fairly potent spirit into a tube and suck essence out of the thing — of course, doing so has a nasty tendency to piss off the other spirits in the area who'll then make trouble for you. And lord help you if the local Werewolves find out. Nothing quite says "Bad Day" like a pack of pissed off werewolves ripping your laboratory apart, destroying months of research, wonders, and possibly yourself if you don't either get out of there or pull out the death ray and start going to town.
Power Nullifier: At its highest level the Clockstopper Void Purify the Wounded Earth automatically disables all nearby wonders.
The Power of Friendship: Well, the power of communalism, anyway. The Foundations' Grants (special abilities) are fueled by Mania contributed by their members. It takes about one-thousand Geniuses working together to maintain a Foundation, Baramin, or independent Program.
Prestige Class: Fellowships, research groups dedicated to studying narrow fields and that grant bonuses to wonders within that field.
Professor Guinea Pig: Plenty of Geniuses experiment on themselves, and the Progenitors have a whole transhumanist philosophy that expects this. However, self-modification is a Transgression.
Dangerous experiments on other humans is a worse Transgression however (depending on how dangerous the experiment and how severe the modification), which leads to this trope.
Properly Paranoid: Particularly lucid Neids. While Neids are suspicious by nature, it's mentioned that their paranoia gets directed more often at real than imagined threats. Given the ubiquitousness of shadowy monstrosities in the New World of Darkness, this makes sense.
Psychic-Assisted Suicide: The human survival instinct is too strong to force someone to commit suicide unless you're really good. Incredibly stupid behavior, oddly enough, is a perfectly reasonable suggestion.
Reality Ensues: Havoc. All the incredible things Geniuses build just can't work in the real world, and that's a constant source of frustration.
Reality Warper: Unmada possess an uncontrolled version of this power that causes the world to fit their version of reality better. That wouldn't be so bad, except it also summons Manes. They can be helpful, generally only to the Unmada in question, and even that's a bit chancy.
One theory of Inspiration posits that all mad science is like this. The non-unmada just have a controlled version.
There is at least one small difference which completely inverts the settings from each other: Mages know the hidden truths of reality, Geniuses are madmen who usually know less than a good scientist.
It goes even deeper than that; those Geniuses who were competent scientists are painfully aware that what they do isn't, in strictest terms, "real." So while Mages get to pat themselves on the back for being oh so enlightened, the Inspired have to live with the knowledge that their perceptions are hopelessly skewed forever. Makes Illumination all the more tempting...
It is more like Technocracy Guide with better Science!!!. To elaborate all the parallels:
Lemuria is run by a "Third Race" of Snake People. Order of Hermes, the classic wizards, almost-leaders of the Traditions and the Sorcerous Overlords Order of Reason had to overthrow, spotted three snakes on their Sigil during the Dark Ages. (They only have one in the modern setting)
Ironically while the above puts the Technocrats Conventions as Peers and the Traditions in Lemuria Word of God says that the Atomists were explicitly based on the Technocracy as a whole. Along with Rand, Heinlein & Niven enthusiasts found on web forums.
While a cure for cancer or what-have-you is within the bounds of Mania, it wouldn't be applicable on a large scale; that kind of thing draws attention, and unless you'd care to try explaining to the FDA that no-one else can administer or create the cure because of Havoc, you probably want to keep things quiet. Other revolutionary inventions, like a universal translator or advanced cybernetics, would be completely unusable by the general public, again because of Havoc. And don't forget, all this tinkering is expensive.
Finally, the future timeline indicates that eventually Geniuses will find a way to make Wonders available to everyone.
Right for the Wrong Reasons: About half the answers a Genius comes up with, the other half being impossible intuition. How else could a genius start with a disproved theory, perform calculations that are wrong, and still get a working spaceship?
Scholastics do put a lot of effort into being right for the right reasons, it's why their Wonder's tend to have much more manageable flaws. It's not stated explicitly but Atomists probably do something similar, at least for their Wonders.
Science Is Wrong: Averted, and much of the conflict between Geniuses stems from a refusal to admit the aversion. The Peerage recognizes that Geniuses are insane. Lemuria, on the other hand, claims that sane science is somehow flawed, and that only their theories have any validity.
Science Marches On: When popular theories are disproved, they tend to spawn Manes and even Bardos in their image. Nobody has figured out what happens when people decide that a true thing is true, then decide that the true thing is false. Probably something very bad.
Science-Related Memetic Disorder: Geniuses are literally no longer exactly human. Their minds and personalities have been transformed by their connection to Inspiration.
The Obvious Truth Law - Mortals can see Wonders just fine - is called Mulder's Lament.
Smug Super: If the Peerage's stereotypes sections are anything to go by, the default attitude of Geniuses toward mere mortals is mild contempt. The Peerage does try to combat this way of thinking, though, which is more than can be said of Lemuria.
The Soulless: One of the more popular interpretations of the Illuminated.
Steam Punk: The latest fad among mad scientists. Actual Victorian Geniuses looked nothing like this, though many adopted a Baroque look; a retro style based on the 17th century which looked nothing like actual 17th century mad science.
Just as amusingly: The actual Victorian Geniuses mostly used standard contemporary aesthetics instead of brass goggles, but some went for elegant baroque styles that also reflects an stylised past that also never actually existed.
Sufficiently Analyzed Super-Science: Played straight and averted. Being scientists, the Geniuses have attempted to study the nature of Inspiration, Mania and Wonders to see how they all work. Being mad, they haven't managed to figure out much more than a few common themes and guidelines.
Superhero Speciation: Averted. If you have another Genius' notes, you get a bonus to duplicate their Wonders. Or you can just borrow them. You still need the right Axioms to build the Wonder, and you take penalties for using one without the right Axioms.
Suspended Animation: Orphan Wonders can go into stasis, which dramatically reduces their Mania requirements; normally they require one point per day to sustain themselves. In stasis, this stretches to one point per year.
The Syndicate: The Pacific Gauntlet is a particularly nasty one. Originally an offshoot of Lemuria, the Gauntlet was formed after the Boxer Rebellion, to protect China from the depredations of the colonial powers (or at least secure Lemuria’s ideological hegemony in Asia). However, once the fighting was over, the Gauntlet discovered several powerful Bardos created by the despair and disillusionment of the Chinese people. The Gauntlet proceeded to plunder and enslave China’s broken dreams, establishing an international Maniacal crime ring.
Take Over the World: Successfully done by Lemuria (or so they claim), and a common goal of Overlords and Hoffnungs.
Techno Babble: Jabir. It's involuntary, and makes talking shop with the mundanes a real chore.
Those Wacky Nazis: When the true horrors of Nazi Germany were exposed to the world and nearly all remaining faith in their ideology crumbled, Ubermensch Nazi Manes came into existence and took over the Hollow Earth.
Look at how many tropes are on the page and then realize we still have more to go. That about sums it up.
This probably explains why it's so popular on TVTropes.
Two-Fisted Tales: The corebook encourages Storytellers to construct adventures patterned on these, if not outright lifted from them.
Übermensch: Nazis notwithstanding, the idea of the actual Ubermensch is a strong undercurrent of the game. The Inspired don't think like normal people, break rules and in doing so create wonders, and the Foundations' stereotypical conceptions of mere mortals sound much like the description of Nietzsche's "Last Man". The only way to keep your character playable is to avoid thinking like an Ubermensch.
Unfazed Everyman: Fortunate Beholden can turn out like this. For example, Erwin Tycho's Beholden are two guys from Central District who think exploring underground ruins with a crazy mad scientist cowboy is way cooler than fixing cars and playing X-Box.
In all cases except the Illuminated, though, this results in a Karma Meter hit. The Illuminated only don't take hits because they no longer have a Karma Meter.
Villain with Good Publicity: Both played straight and Inverted. When you hit Obligation-0, you stop taking the Social penalties associate with low Obligation. However, Paragons (Geniuses who keep their Obligation high) are naturally seen as trustworthy authority figures, and any attempts to tar their reputation take a fairly hefty penalty.
Vision Quest: One of the many forms a Genius's Thesis can take.
Geniuses themselves have one very obvious limitation: a powerful Genius can build doomsday devices, resurrection machines, or a suit of Powered Armour that reaches godlike levels of power out of components whose total cost is very high in the long run.
Havoc can fall into this. Muggles touching Wonders can make them go crazy. Also: Don't forget a potential fault is 'must be plugged into electrical outlet'. Okay for a computer. Less so for a submarine.
We Are Struggling Together: A villainous example would be Lemuria itself; all Lemurians agree that human development needs careful guidance, and that Geniuses are the ones who must act as guides. That's all they agree on. The Baramins are prone to infighting, as is to be expected when a bunch of Insufferable Geniuses try to cooperate.
We Want Our Nefarious Madmen Back: After the last Invisible War, the Peerage actually allowed Lemuria to put itself back together. Needless to say, this wasn't done out of affection so much as the fact that the Lemurians had a better handle on managing the Inspired world. Furthermore, the Peerage defined itself almost exclusively by not being Lemuria, and the risk of instability in the absence of a common enemy frightened the Peerage bigwigs.
World Half Empty: As this is set in the New World of Darkness, this trope is present in spades. One bit that stands out is that a massive 20% of all Geniuses will eventually become Illuminated.
Half of which succumb more or less immediately after their Breakthrough.
The Guardians of Forever are in charge of making sure that our timeline isn't screwed with any more than it already has. They're also a demoralized, frequently corrupt force who are fighting a losing battle. Imagine what that means for us.
Zeerust: Most of Lemuria is guilty of this, but the worst offenders are the Atomists, with the Etherites at a close second.
This game lets you build:
The Ageless: As of version 1.1, mastery of Exelixi and the proper Syllabus allow you to live for almost 2000 years. Get extremely lucky and you can live forever. And there's always the robotic god-body plan which has no time limit.
Automated Automobiles: Self-driving cars aren't to hard to build, although they won't necessarily be very good drivers. Building sapient cars is tougher though.
Awesome, but Impractical: What happens when you something or have bad luck with your flaw. For instance, you could make a Doomsday Device that could blow up a city... but it would have to be the size of the chrystler building, take a century to build, has the internal concistancy of tissue paper, takes a month to charge, only works once, and sprouts legs and starts trying to eat you when a Mere Mortal so much as touches it (though, truth be told, they all have that last one).
Morph Weapon: Metaptropi 4 lets your sword turn into a sword.
Swiss-Army Weapon: Or you could attach a smartphone, a forcefield generator, a cure for leukemia and a corkscrew to your sword.
Big Creepy-Crawlies: The Malcolm T. Washington Fellowship, a Fellowship that accepts only Geniuses of African-American or African-Canadian heritage are specialists in this field. This might seem like a rather narrow charge, but it turns out that there are a lot of very smart, slightly crazy black people who really really want to work with giant bugs, especially when there's grant money involved.
Zerg Rush: With rank 4 Automata, your factories can create human beings. While these clones are no more powerful than a normal human, the mania you spend to make them isn't bound, allowing you to have an effectively unlimited number as long as you can pay the initial mania cost. Combine this with 5 ranks in Assembly Line (allowing you to have 32 identical cloning vats for only 4 bound mania), another rank 1 factory that builds weapons, and a few weeks to build up your army, and you can clog your enemies' barrels with dead clones.
A burgeoning mad scientist intent on creating a clone army needs to be aware that all his clones are considered manes, and thus need to spend a point of mania per day to avoid havoc. Manes have the Calculus Vampire merit by default, so they can suck mania or skill dots out of victims or donors to maintain themselves. The most effective alternatives to this strategy is to be unmada (thus generating a field which powers ideologically compatible manes), or make your clones geniuses, which is just asking for trouble.