Tabletop Game: SLA Industries
(pronounced "SLAY Industries") is a Tabletop RPG
originally published in the early 1990s by Glaswegian studio Nightfall Games. It's set in the World of Progress, a horrific Dystopia
governed by Corrupt Corporate Executives
(the eponymous SLA Industries) under the control of Mr. Slayer, an immortal plutocrat with a grand plan.
The game follows the exploits of SLA Operatives, highly-trained corporate troubleshooters that the company uses for everything from quashing internal subversion to clearing mutant pigs out of the sewers. Their principal area of operation is the company's capital of Mort City, an urban jungle the size of Eurasia, rain-soaked home to a churning mass of serial killers, terrorists, human traffickers, psychotic war veterans, killer cyborgs, cannibals, mutants, cannibal mutants
, and the aforementioned pigs.
The game has had a difficult upbringing, and been subject to a sporadic release schedule on its journey through the hands of various publishers. Originally published by Nightfall themselves, it was taken up by Wizards of the Coast
during the mid-1990s before being dropped in favour of something Lighter and Softer
. It then survived a couple of releases at Hogshead, and is now published by Cubicle 7 Entertainment
In tone, it lies somewhere between Paranoia
. Satirical treatment of consumerism, media glamorization of violence, and corporate bureaucracy coexists with brooding horror of various kinds, and the complex production history of the game has given it a variety of conflicting styles. A SLA Game Master
will typically mash these together with enthusiasm, creating a unique variation of the game world.
provides examples of:
- Absurdly Spacious Sewer: So absurdly spacious (or perhaps just covering so vast an area), in fact, that low-level Operatives are assigned to patrol it for mutant pigs, serial killers, and other vermin.
- Armour Is Useless: Subverted. The bigger varieties can stop anti-vehicle rounds dead, whereas the most common pistol on Mort is essentially a BB Gun with great marketing, meaning that even weak armour can ignore it.
- Artificial Human: Angel, and the original intent behind Stormers in general.
- Ax-Crazy: Too many to count, but the award for most Ax-Crazy probably goes to the War Criminals, who return from tours of duty in the Company Militia with several fewer marbles than they arrived with. Upon arrival, the War Criminals' preferred MO is to abscond into the stygian slums that make up the bulk of Mort City, still in possession of their battlefield equipment, and begin a leisurely campaign of murderous terror.
- BFS: And Axe, and Club, and Scythe, and Chainsaw....
- Bio-Augmentation: While cybernetics were once fashionable on Mort, the new and better technology are vat-grown limbs and organs for medical, practical and aesthetic purposes.
- Bio Punk: As above. Some Operatives can take this to extreme levels, and Stormers in particular thrive on it.
- Bland-Name Product: On Mort you can buy a Klippo lighter (Zippo lighters) and go to Dunkem Donuts (Dunkin Donuts).
- Blood Sport: The premier sporting league in the World of Progress is the Contract Circuit: televised gladiatorial violence between contestants who, in their day jobs, work as hired killers.
- Came Back Wrong: Delia the Destroyer and anyone else who undergoes the L.A.D. process. And, according to The Truth, Stormers
- Chainsaw Good: Including the Chainaxe, a weapon much beloved among Mort's various psychopaths.
- City Planet: All Industrial Worlds, including Mort, have their land surface (and most of their seas) completely covered with industrial production facilities and cities.
- Clones Are People Too: A small percentage of Stormers. The remaining majority are Expendable Clones used as shock troops on War Worlds.
- Cloning Blues: Simultaneously played straight and averted with Intruder on two seperate occasions; Once with Angel and later with Taarnish.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: SLA Industries has this trope written all over it.
- Cosmic Horror Story: Rarely seen in most games, originally intended to be revealed in a long-running Metaplot that fell victim to the game's infrequent releases and Executive Meddling from Wizards.
- Crapsack World: Mostly driven by the Rule of Scary, with touches of black comedy.
- Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: The Manchines, human brains in mechanical bodies who went Ax-Crazy shortly after SLA stopped maintaining them.
- Cyberpunk with a Chance of Rain: Undoubtedly inspired by Blade Runner; it NEVER stops raining on planet Mort.
- Death Is a Slap on the Wrist: Sort of. Operatives who are concerned about their prospects for posthumous career advancement can invest in a 'Life After Death' account, which entitles them to be picked up and resurrected via cutting-edge medical techniques in the event that they should die on the job. There are caveats, however: aside from the expense, a successful LAD operation allows a four-minute window between cessation of brain activity and arrival on the operating table, after which revival is impossible. Although a really fast evac helicopter is dispatched at the moment an Operative is critically injured, a customer who is unlucky enough to die in Lower Downtown, the Cannibal Sectors, or any similarly inaccessible or dangerous area cannot rely on timely evacuation. Refunds are not given in such cases. Additionally, Karma Division does not accept liability for any side-effects experienced as a result of the LAD process.
- Death World: The planet Mort is almost completely uninhabitable, and requires 'Atmosphere Generators' - each the size of a city - in order to maintain some semblance of a biosphere (and, coincidentally, keep the gravity in check). Huge swathes of Mort City itself are abandoned by civilised society, and have evolved a thriving ecosphere of giant insects, cannibals, mutants, and raw malevolence.
- Though operatives don't usually go there, the War Worlds are even worse. Once there, SLA Industries' soldiers have an average lifespan of a day. On the really scary War Worlds, this can drop to just 20 minutes.
- Drugs Are Bad: There are plenty of combat drugs available to Operatives (and anyone else who can get their hands on them). Most, of course, are highly addictive.
- Dystopia: Even on Mort (the capital planet of SLA Industries and thus the one world that you could expect to be a prosperous, secure stronghold), there are all kinds of rival company terrorists, gangs, drugs, environmental degredation, serial killers, unethical experiments going wrong in the worst ways, no less than three divisions of brutal secret police, and massive regions of urban blight which have been abandoned to barbarism. Oh, and 85% of the population is on welfare.
- Fantastic Racism: Often arises as a low-level political issue. Humans are the dominant species, with the psionic Ebon, reptilian Shaktar and feline Wraith Raiders constituting racial minorities outside their respective homeworlds. Ebon, in particular, are loathed and feared due to their reality-warping abilities.
- Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke: Used by SLA Industries with Stormers, on their rivals. Scavs and Carrien (currently), Domino Dogs (in the near future) and virtually all of the horrible mutants in the Cannibal Sectors are the result of SLA Industries' attempts to build new and impressive weaponry.
- Good Thing You Can Heal: Stormers, although most races get access to this if they use a particular medical drug from one of the supplements.
- Green-Skinned Space Babe: Ebons are universally considered to be gentle and youthful looking with oddly coloured hair and eyes. Anyone taking the drug Lumo can apply to this trope also.
- Hand Cannon, BFG: Few firearms in the game do not fall into either of these categories, although fashions change rapidly; guns on Mort are aspirational items in the way that cars are in Real Time. Ironically, although only Operatives are licensed to use 'serious' firearms, their use by same is frowned upon (and taxed) by the company, since exotic melee weapons look better on TV.
- Heavily Armored Mook: Thresher's terrorists, who are known for their armored powersuits.
- Honour Before Reason: A common perception of Shaktar.
- Hopeless War: SLA Industries has been at war with Dark Night and Thresher for centuries with no end in sight, and the War Worlds are whole planets that have been consumed by conflict between two (or all three) of the powers. It's explicitly mentioned that whenever one War World is finally abandoned, you can rest assured that another will fall into the spotlight.
- Human Aliens: The Ebon, and their evil siblings, the Brain Wasters. Externally, they look mostly-human if you ignore the glowing eyes. Biologically, however, they're distinct from humanity - and only Ebon/Brain Wasters are able to use the Ebb, which grants them Ultimate Cosmic Power at the expense of emotional instability and eventual transformation into a Necanthrope.
- Humans Are Bastards: So is almost everyone else, admittedly, but humans are by far the most successful at it.
- Immune to Drugs: The Frothers, a subspecies of humanity who become addicted to combat drugs in the womb, to the extent that they are considered a separate race. They regard pharmacological excess as a cultural right, and regularly consume doses of recreational and combat drugs that would kill an ordinary human twice.
- I'm a Humanitarian: Many of the inhabitants / vermin of Mort's Cannibal Sectors.
- Initiation Ceremony: The Ebons and Brain Wasters get the "disturbingly horrific" version when they grow powerful enough to evolve into Necanthropes. The first step is to be taken by the Necanthrope society to an isolated area and killed. The prospective Necanthrope then has to face the challenge of the White in order to be reborn as a Necanthrope.
- Interservice Rivalry: A common occurrence among many of SLA Industries' divisions, and exactly the way Mr. Slayer likes it.
- Just Like Making Love: How one Contract Killer (Think the Hunters from The Running Man) describes his job of killing people for money:
Glenn "Carnage" Berry
: "It's like sex. The first few times are the biggest thrill in the world, then you stop for some reason and you miss it a hundred times worse than when you never did it. Then you start doing it regularly, and it becomes and part of your everyday life... I mean, you look forward to it, and it's good, but it's not the same as when you first started. Then you find you are doing it less and less until one day it's really good because you did something different. Then for a few years you look for the different thing. Then you look at yourself one day and you're wearing a strange costume and a weird mask and chains and things...
- Layered Metropolis: Mort Central, the setting of most campaigns, actually manages to hold three varieties. First, the city is built on top of the ruins of a previous city that is now mostly underground, which the citizens of Mort don't like to talk about. Understandable, given that it's full of decaying infrastructure, carnivorous pigs, carriens, human psychopaths, and horrifying monsters, men in Powered Armor, terrorists, and things that the standard police rifle is less effective against than a BB gun... because, ironically enough, it IS a gauss BB gun. Second, there's Downtown, a warren of walkways, streets, and buildings extending deep underground that's similar to the Kowloon Walled City. Third, there's also several skyways full of shops high above the urban sprawl of the city.
- Living Weapon: Though not weapons, the deathsuits of Ebons and Brainwasters are alive and eventually gain sentience (of a sort). The gore cannons of Necanthropes are a more overt example of this trope.
- Magitek: Ebon powers are augmented by 'Science Friction' devices, made from raw Ebb energy coerced into a material form.
- Made of Plasticine: Vevaphons, in a literal sense.
- Mega City: Mort City is the biggest, though planet Mort's atmosphere breeds them out of necessity.
- Mega Corp.: SLA Industries is a interstellar company that controls all of the planets in the "World of Progress".
- Mind Rape: Involved in several of the Ebons' abilities, heavily implied in a description of the implantation process for Finance Chips, the implied M.O. few a number of the NPCs on Players and each other, and just one of the tools used to create Halloween Jack.
- Mind Screw: Arguably the intended way to run the game.
- Mix and Match: One RPG-reviewing site said about the game that "Everyone who attempts to describe SLA Industries ends up comparing it to something else."
- Moral Dissonance: Operatives - the group to which the player characters belong - are generally depicted as arrogant bullies or worse. For that matter, SLA Industries themselves are depicted as sinister, domineering, and just plain irresponsible to a degree that would do any Mega Corp. proud. (To be fair, though, SLA's - and the players' - enemies are even worse.)
- No One Could Survive That: Mister Slayer, Intruder, Senti, Halloween Jack and Digger in particular, though also attributed to the faceless agents throughout the Internal Affairs Departments.
- One-Winged Angel: Necanthropes, who are powerful and range from "inhumanly beautiful" to "inhumanly grotesque". Few have any respect for humans (or any other mortal, for that matter).
- Powered Armor: Plenty of these.
- Power Fist: More than one example, including the "Mutilator Fist".
- Private Military Contractor: SLA Industries began as one of these, until most of the previous races of the galaxy became so dependent on SLA's weaponry and mercenaries that Mr. Slayer was able to overthrow them practically overnight.
- Proud Warrior Race Guy: The Shaktar, eight-foot dreadlocked lizards who adhere to a samurai-esque code of honour.
- Serial Killer: And how! This may be the only setting where the phrase "serial killer epidemic" could be (and was) used with a straight face.
- Shapeshifter Baggage: Averted. Vevaphons cannot gain or lose mass through shape shifting, and even altering their form in extreme ways can lead to permanent injury.
- Shout Out: The Shaktar race are honorable, bipedal humanoid warriors with dreadlocks and bizarre mandible-like lips. In other words, they're Predators.
- Single-Biome Planet: The home planet of the Wraith Raiders is an Ice Planet. Other Wraith Raider-controlled planets are Ice Planets as well.
- Sinister Scythe: DPB manufactures the 'Flick-Scythe', a staff with an extendable scythe blade that oscillates for extra damage.
- Super Soldier: A variety of vat-grown 'Stormers' are the SLA's foremost contribution to the science of warfare; later models have also been pressed into service in heavy industry, popular entertainment, and prostitution. The original '313' model, as well as some later combat variations and a newer, shapeshifting design, are available as player characters.
- There Is No Kill Like Overkill : Several applicants, among them Slayer and Bitterness (obviously), Sigmartyr, Trasher, Halloween Jack, Intruder and the Kilneck...
- These Are Things Man Was Not Meant to Know: 'The Truth', which is the code-name for SLA's long-running metaplot that ultimately explains everything that has (and occasionally has not...) happened in the World of Progress. For bonus points, characters who learned the Truth without proper training could accidentally erase themselves from reality.
- Arguably subverted, in that The Truth HAS been revealed to the playing public after Nightfall Games admitted that they would never get around to publishing SLA Industries as they would have liked. It's.... complicated, and no longer canon under the new developers, but it still applies to characters and settings in the older books.
- Basically, it revolves around a [[Gnosticism Gnostic]] view of the reality. Ten years before The Matrix popularized the topic.
- Turned Against Their Masters: Carriens, Manchines, Scavs, Domino Dogs... if there's anything SLA Industries is good at, it's creating things that go horribly, psychopathically against them.
- Vehicle Vanish: When an Ebon reaches Formulae Rank 10 he starts seeing Necanthropes watching him from a distance. After a vehicle passes between the Ebon and the Necanthrope watcher and blocks the Ebon's view, the Necanthrope will have disappeared.
- Vibroweapon: Of course.
- With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: The Ebon, an alien race who use arcane mathematics to set fire to things and make people's heads explode, eventually get called to shed their material bodies and undertake a mysterious spiritual journey, after which they go One-Winged Angel, becoming prey to their darkest hidden urges and turning into horrible monsters. With living shoulder-guns. That shoot Mind Rape.