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Crapsack World / Tabletop Games

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  • As you'll probably notice, this is something of a staple for most non-historical war games. Beyond the inevitable creative effects of Games Workshop's many years of market domination, there's a fairly simple reason — your armies need a reason to be fighting, and any setting with that much war is probably going to suck to live in.
  • All Flesh Must Be Eaten: Pretty much any of the settings in any of the books. You can't expect any sweetness and light in a gameline where a Zombie Apocalypse goes off within ten minutes after the game starts. Particularly bad: "Rebirth Into Death", where The Lifestream is starting to collapse on itself, and the players are zombies.
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  • In Anathema the world is overpopulated to the point where humanity will destroy itself unless an aggressive culling program is put in place. The players have to murder millions of people or risk annihilation, but may suffer annihilation anyway, and have almost no memories of their life. Meanwhile, humans are being stalked and murdered by supernatural beings, from which there is no escape. Not that they know this, at least until they're face to face with one.
  • BattleTech: Leaders generally come in three flavors: insane, corrupt, and evil, with those who are none of the above and are actually good at their jobs generally having their work undone within a decade or two after their deaths. The Church Militant manipulates governments into bombing each other into the Stone Age to strengthen their monopoly on technology. The Proud Warrior Race Guys of the Clans, despite being obsessed with fighting and military prowess and having an average life expectancy of around 50, are less evil than the Inner Sphere governments much of the time (at least as long as nobody pays attention to how awful they treat anyone who isn't a warrior). Everyday technology has scarcely advanced beyond the 20th century because technological research and development has been entirely focused into making new and better war machines. The international treaties against indiscriminate nuclear bombardment often weaken into optional international suggestions. "Cold wars" aren't. The known galaxy has been in a state of virtually constant war for almost a thousand years. The End of the World as We Know It has happened at least four times in the setting's history and will likely happen many more times in the future. And if anything changes for the better the premise of the universe will end, so nothing ever will.

    However, the BattleTech universe could only truly be considered a Crapsack World during 2 time periods- the Succession Wars (when the game originally started), and the Jihad (storyline set to end in 2011). At no point did average technology levels fall below 23rd Century levels according to Word of God, and at present they're higher than they've ever been. Indiscriminate use of WMDs has been unheard of for more than 2 centuries, which was why most people were shocked when the Word Of Blake began tossing them around during the Jihad, and while incursions and the occasional full blown war still happen in the story line, most factions go out of their way to avoid attacking civilians— when a planet is conquered, the typical effect is that there's a new flag flying in the town square and the taxes go to a different planet. Oppressive governments are actually the exception, not the rule. Then came the Dark Age, the HPG network is suddenly sabotaged, and off world communications have been crippled, now everyone is attacking everyone within reach. Some factions are on the offensive, and others are forced on the defensive.
  • Call of Cthulhu: Depending on your personality, the game may be even darker than KULT: in CoC the various monsters and evil gods mostly regard humanity as a minor nuisance, if they notice us at all. Which doesn't stop them from trying to conquer and/or destroy the world, of course.
    • CoC even has Cthulhu Mythos, a statistic for how much the character knows about the way the world really works. Learning more about the Mythos automatically and permanently drives a character just a little bit more insane, every time.
    • The Delta Green setting is basically what happens when you mix the Mythos with a modern Conspiracy Kitchen Sink. It itself comes off as even bleaker than vanilla CoC.
  • Crimson Skies has the place once called the United States of America now divided in separate nations inhabited by sky pirates, corrupt politicians, xenophobic Indian tribes and Knight Templar sky militias. Goes From Bad to Worse as most crapsack worlds do since World War II is approaching and the European powers are encroaching into the Western hemisphere in search for allies. Or so they say...
  • CthulhuTech is a shiny happy anime-esque future that suddenly gets interrupted by Cthulhu. A battlefleet of the inscrutable Mi-Go is invading. The Deep Ones are rising up from the seas. Most of Asia has been eaten by a horde of madmen and unspeakable things. Evil cultists are infiltrating the government. And those giant robots we're saving the world with? The science they're based on drives people insane, and half of them are actually made out of eldritch abominations.
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  • Cyberpunk 2020 shares the same description of Shadowrun above minus the fantasy part, with the world heading to an ecological meltdown and the stock market being described as walking in the razor's edge between prosperity —for some, that is and another meltdown this one economical. The worst places to live there include the Middle East —a nuked wasteland with the winds carrying rumors of Jihad, and South America —broken between military juntas, drug dealers, and the like.
  • Dungeons & Dragons is usually less severe than some of the examples above, but by definition, all its worlds in all its editions are Crapsack enough that they constantly need professional heroes maintaining constant vigilance just to keep a series of psychopaths, demons, or evil gods from annihilating that world in favor of something even worse.
    • In the Dungeons & Dragons setting Eberron, the world known by the humans has just got out from a hundred year war, the biggest and richest nation was vaporized, and several different types of Eldritch Abomination are trying to rule everything. Did we mention the newly-forged peace is really, really fragile?
      • And that's not all! An entire continent is ruled by one flavor of Eldritch Abomination. That country that got wiped is not only destroyed, but home to twisted monsters, living spells, and a Warforged terrorist army in the making. The only high-level good NPC is a twelve-year-old-girl who's nearly powerless outside of her temple.
      • Oh, and about that twelve-year-old? While she may be good, the church she heads is... not so much.
    • Dark Sun is a Dungeons & Dragons take on a Death World. Once a beautiful world brimming with life, centuries of genocidal war backed by power-crazed sorcerer-kings (whose particular brand of magic functioned by sucking the life out of the land and creatures around them) have reduced it to a scorched desert. Not only is most of the land rocky badlands and sandy wastes, but the sea itself has been dried up and reduced to a monstrously huge canyon filled with fine silt. Only the toughest lifeforms have survived, which means that even the few herbivores (to say nothing of the plants themselves) are quite capable of killing people, and just about every living thing, from people to animals to plants to vermin, has at least one psionic power. Part of the reason Dark Sun exists, in a meta-sense, is to showcase the depths to which people will sink when the choice is between honor or survival.
    • Ravenloft: The Demiplane of Dread often depicted as being a Crapsack World in early 2E products. This was back when it was meant for a "Weekend in Hell" campaign in which the PCs would be brought to the Demiplane by the Mists and their main goal was to escape. Later 2E products like the Domains of Dread, and the 3E product line eased off of this and also went with the assumption that the players would be playing native heroes. So, to them the world would not seem so bad because it is all they know. It was outright a World Half Full. You aren't going to stop the bigger evils unless the GM completely missed the point of Gothic Horror and the setting, but you could make some lasting contributions and changes to local events, Hope Spots did occasionally turn into chances to Earn Your Happy Ending, and... oh, wait, 4th Edition. Nevermind.
    • Planescape is a dimension-hopping setting which features angelic beings who sell arms to demons and devils to prolong a genocidal war, seven distinct infinite hells, seven heavens that consist of friendly fascism, an adaptation of the tests and suffering of Dante's Purgatorio, a Death World of nature where sapient animals eat each other and you, the not-really-that-nice Norse mythology (complete with rampaging giants and einherar who forget that you don't get to come back for fighting for no reason), and a couple of decent places. The central city might as well be Charles Dickens meets Uptown Sinclair recycled in Dungeon Punk. It is a mutable Crapsack World, however, and some of the bigger adventures featured an Earn Your Happy Ending or five and the chance to make it a World Half Full.
    • Nentir Vale, 4th Edition's default setting: an Adventure-Friendly World needs to be epically broken to work, as this setting spares no pains in illustrating.
      • The Heavens were literally broken during the Dawn War, and rebuilding the Lattice of Heaven would require destroying the world and rebuilding it. The most obvious side effect of this? Some souls who should be brought to their patron god's heaven to spend their afterlife there are instead cursed to become Outsiders, who are physically incapable of entering their god's domain.
      • Pretty much all of the bog-standard Demon Lords and Archdevils are present, but the most active one of all? Orcus, whose huge Apocalypse Cult works to help him achieve his goal of slaying the goddess of the dead and taking her position, so that he may go on to kill every living thing in The Multiverse and replace them all with undead slaves.
      • The last major empire in the world, Nerath, was destroyed by invading hordes of demon-worshiping gnolls. This was a hundred years ago and people still haven't begun picking up the pieces.
      • Earlier than that, the empires of Arkhosia and Baal-Turath destroyed each other. This left the formerly dragon-ruled dragonborn of Arkhosia as scattered clans without any land of their own, and came too late to stop the humans of Baal-Turath from being corrupted by diabolic pacts and turned into the Big Red Devil-like tieflings.
      • In this setting, most of the stars in the night sky are actually giant, incredibly powerful aberrations, and they seriously hate the world and all that live in it.
    • Forgotten Realms largely subverts this, since Toril is generally pretty decent for a world in Medieval Stasis. Priests can cure your diseases and even bring you back from death, bards travel around to entertain, there's even a bit of Magitek. Life ain't so bad. Life, that is. When you die, you are either claimed by one of the gods, claimed by one of the fiends, or thrown in the Wall of the Faithless. If the gods get you, you are stripped of your individuality and sent to serve them for eternity. If the fiends get you, you are either stripped by your personality and sent to be front line fodder in the Blood War, or tortured for a few centuries and then sent to be front line fodder in the Blood War, depending on who gets you, the demons or devils. If you were dumb enough to not believe in anything, you get to spend eternity slowly dissolving into nothing in said wall. A winner is you.
  • Exalted: Life sucks for everyone. Exalts are lucky in that they can't be killed by most of the maimings and diseases that would take down mortals, but still have their very own problems.
    • Solars: Half the world, including about half its secret masters, wants you dead. The rest doesn't trust you. You have episodes of terrible impulse control whenever under stress, thanks to a past life's role in killing and/or imprisoning many of the creators of the world. The "secret masters" that are on your side see you mainly as a powerful but manipulable dupe to show up the secret masters that aren't. At least two different packs of Eldritch Abominations would gladly see you corrupted into serving their goals and/or horribly dead. And you have a fair chance that someone with unfinished business regarding a previous life is out to get you.
    • Lunars: Many of your most powerful potential allies are completely out of their minds. With around 300 members, you have to keep safe an area totalling approximately the entire surface area of planet Earth from form-hating raksha, and this area is spread around the borders of Creation. Just as many people are out to get you as are after the Solars, only they think you're a barbarian monster possessed by evil spirits. And you have a mark that will clue people in to what you are if they are able to see through its rather mild enchantment. And if you want to oppose or restrain the Solars, there's one you have some profound difficulties attacking, or generally not feeling a strong sense of instinctual loyalty to, because of decisions made on your behalf 5000 years ago. It may be that that specific Solar is an Infernal or Abyssal now. The feelings very much remain.
    • Terrestrials: Your empire is crumbling, and the Great Houses would rather bicker amongst themselves and play politics than do something about it. The only reason your society worked at all has disappeared and is in league with the personification of bastardry himself. Most of the Lunars and many of the Solars know that your Sidereal-aided betrayal ended the First Age, and have not taken this information at all well, and those that don't tend to come from areas under the heel of your empire and hate you for that anyway. And you're the bottom rung on the Power Levels ladder.
    • Sidereals: Half the problems you're trying to deal with are immune to your powers, thanks to being outside Fate. The other half were caused by Sidereal politicking that went pear-shaped. The oldest and, theoretically, wisest member of your dominant faction is going to die quite soon. You have to police thousands of Jerkass Gods who don't particularly want to follow the rules. Mortal contacts find it very hard to remember you. You're also supposed to do all this, and keep a world larger than Earth safe and running, with exactly 100 members.
    • Abyssals: The ultimate reason for your creation was to destroy the entire world, which could be seen as a favour. If you try to protect people, you'll unleash massive blasts of necrotic power that wipe out entire villages. If you directly oppose your masters, you'll burst into flames and be slaughtered while unconscious. And everyone is afraid of you and worried about why you bleed from the forehead even through a helmet. Oh, and the guys who are after the Solars? They see you as vindication.
    • Infernals: If you piss off your patrons, you'll be possessed by one unless you reingratiate yourself with them by acting like a B-movie supervillain. You're slowly turning into a monster. And there are way less of you than anyone else, which means you can pretty much write off support unless what you're doing is incredibly important. And your ultimate goal is quite likely to be a deranged pipe dream hatched by a group of profoundly broken eldritch abominations who think it's possible to weasel-word your way into reality. And the best/worst part? It's quite possible to punch said plans in the face, unlike Abyssals. Yes, that's right — the people who are enslaved to demons have it better than their cousins. One of the foremost plots for a remotely heroic Abyssal is to "not be an Abyssal anymore".
    • Alchemicals: Your homeland and creator (who happens to be a semi-benevolent Eldritch Abomination) is dying of metaphysical cancer, which can infect people, spirits and Alchemicals and corrupt them to its will. You've spent the past several centuries fighting this cancer; you are losing. You can't reach your higher power levels without becoming a thirty-foot giant robot or a city. You're less powerful than anyone except the Dragon-Bloods. Most of your powers drain your central Essence reserve. You're a Hollywood Cyborg, making you rather obvious in Creation unless you invest in specific charms. And your society has taken notes from 1984 out of sheer necessity, thanks to said creator's terminal illness taking the form of The Corruption.
    • Mortals: Unlike the rest, you can be permanently crippled, succumb to diseases, you don't have any fancy magic powers, everyone else sees you as cannon fodder, your life is almost certainly going to be nasty, brutish and short, your species was explicitly created to be as weak and pathetic as possible in order to supply ancient god-monsters with endless streams of terrified prayer, and the nicest place for you to live is an authoritarian dictatorship in which your choices are "obey all the rules or die in hideous agony". That's assuming "good guys" are going to win. And to put a cherry on the cake, it's not like you actually have choices. Your destiny is predetermined and can be rewritten for reasons beyond your understanding (or on a whim) by celestial functionaries.
    • Raksha: Creation quite literally hates you, trying to solidify your chaos into its own order — a process that is almost invariably fatal unless you can find a wyld zone to hide in. As if that wasn't bad enough, ever since the Balorian Crusade, the raksha homeland in the Wyld has also hated you, spawning a horde of cannibalistic predator Unshaped (known as hannya) that exist only to prey on weaker raksha. And just for fun, while amongst themselves in the Bordermarches of the Wyld raksha can't really imperil each other too badly because they can just shape themselves back to life, the Creation-Born are able to create permanent consequences, which is most unfair and means they're probably cheating.
    • God: You pretty much have the choice between being just another of the myriad Jerkass Gods jockeying for power and influence in the Celestial Bureaucracy through graft, blackmail and other unsavory means while a legion of your peers are doing the same and are willing to screw you over to get ahead in the rat race, wallowing in self-pity over the shit state of things and shirking your duties to indulge in hedonistic escapism while you fade away because your neglect is slowly unraveling your sphere of influence/power source, or being one of the few who try to still accomplish your duties properly, which will see you swamped in so much work because nobody else is doing it that even a raging workaholic is going to start pining for the other two choices more and more every day. Oh, and your big bosses, those highest gods who rule the whole enchilada and have the power and authority to fix the problems? They're too busy getting high on the Magical Crack XBox to actually do anything about it
    • Yozi: You are locked away in the mutilated carcass of your own king, left to wallow in your hatred of everything, including yourself, while being tortured in indescribably horrific ways. Forever.
    • Neverborn: You are trapped in a constant state of not-being-alive-but-also-not-being-dead, in a empty non-world populated by ghosts, and the only way to finally die and be at peace is to destroy the universe.
    • It also sucks being a Mountain Folk or a Dragon King. For starters, you're one of the two most powerful mortal races, which means that you're less powerful than just about anything with a supernatural pedigree that's not a mook.
    • Almost nothing is known about the Liminals, but things probably suck for them too.
  • In Fate of the Norns: Ragnarok, Fimbulvinter (the eternal winter) has fallen on Midgard, on top of the Sun and Moon having been devoured by celestial wolves. Crops are not growing anymore, tempers flare, wars break out, and the armies of the Gods and Giants are ready to wreak havoc on Midgard and every other realm of Yggdrasil. Once that is done, the world will be bathed in fire and destroyed. Fun times!
  • In the world of FATAL at least 50% of the male population partake in at least one rape (and the victim is generally considered to bear the moral stigma). On top of this, most of the generic fantasy races hate one another with a passion. The bright side? Unless you're particularly masochistic, you'll never have to play it.
  • GURPS has oh-so-many of these, thanks to the Infinite Worlds setting. Some of note include Gotha (a series of worlds that have a plague in common, one which turns victims into nearly mindless marauders), Lenin-2 (the environment is almost all but doomed), and Nergal (the world is in the infancy of an Ice Age, and Assyrian priests sacrifice people from all across the planet).
  • Parody RPG Hol, aka Human Occupied Landfill, is a dystopian far future world played for all the cheap laughs it can get. Characters are (often "erroneously") deposited on the planet HOL, which serves a triple purpose as a penal colony, galactic garbage dump, and reality television program. The largest organization is the Church & Munch corporation, a combination religious organization and fast food chain. The entire game consists of trying to survive on a world where everything is trying to kill and/or eat you; and nearly everything is a lot bigger, stronger, and meaner than you are. Skills include "Making Sharp Things Go Through Soft Things That Scream and Bleed", "Whining Until You Get What You Want", "Withstand/Enjoy Hellish Agony", and "Organize Fundraiser". The expansion book, BUTTery wHOLEsomeness includes the ever-useful "Cornholed by God" chart.
  • The incredibly terrible and thankfully unfinished game Racial Holy War is a Crapsack World on a meta level. From the point of view of the protagonists and the intended audience, it's a Crapsack since the dark races at the behest of their Jewish masters have essentially taken over the world. From the point of view of anyone else, it's a Crapsack in that it's a game where the inane views of white supremacists are true, in universe.
  • KULT, maybe one of the darkest Role Playing Games out there. Everywhere are monsters, but most humans can't even see them (and they are the lucky ones), the Demiurge (Creator) cursed us humans (once-immortal demigods) with death and amnesia and took away most of our powers, and then there are demons too... and this isn't a world where Satan is Good. Get too much violence or insanity in one place and you open rifts straight to Hell or, worse, Metropolis, the city that is everywhere.
    "Reality is a lie." — "Death is only the beginning."
    • Metropolis is a great place which everybody should aspire towards, as it's the true reality beyond all others — however, it's only great if you're a truly awakened human, essentially a god. Otherwise it's pure terror, if for no other reason than that the enemies of humanity are much more at home there than unawakened humans, and are quick to deal with any who find their way there.
    • Heaven is mostly empty and littered with suicidally depressed angels wandering around and crying blood.
  • Magic: The Gathering has a hell of a lot: Rath, Old Phyrexia and New Phyrexia (AKA Mirrodin), Shadowmoor, Innistrad, and most of the Shards of Alara, especially Grixis in particular (with the possible exceptions of Bant and possibly Naya, if you can avoid getting squashed by the behemoths). (Although the Phyrexians are quite nice if you can overlook the whole "Yawgmoth"/"Praetors" thing.)
  • Make You Kingdom!, a Japanese TRPG about the players making and maintaining their own kingdom, is set this kind of world. Humanity, along with other species, have been living in an endless underground maze for millennia, if not longer, and has absolutely no chance of escaping it. The life of commoners is constantly plagued by the ever-changing structure of the maze, the numerous monsters that inhabits the same maze as theirs, oppressive taxation or outright pillage by monsters and humans alike, and the non-existence of personal space as every inch of developed land is too precious to be given to non-important individuals, or even the nobles of petty kingdoms.
    • As a reference, the four main factions provided in the GM handbook are: A Decadent Court focused solely on discovery and perseverance of knowledge and the survival of the learnt Blue Blood class, and not much on the peons and peasants that supported their living; a totalitarian empire founded by a Well-Intentioned Extremist, who hopes to liberate humanity from the jail of the boundless maze by blowing it up (up and including the maze walls, grounds and ceilings) regardless of the will of safety of the inhabitants; a Hordes from the East-like nomadic empire (using trains as their cities and settlements) that strengthen itself by Rape, Pillage, and Burn; and a Totalitarian Utilitarian hyper-capitalist republic that cares about nothing but wealth and money. It is stated that all four factions are either out to exterminate others, or merely using them to further their own goal. The lesser kingdoms that happened to be caught in between tend to suffer only more.
    • If that is not enough, the "celestials" are bird people or biblical Eldritch Abominations living in Alien Geometries and apparently have the ability to fuse with the maze itself; while the "demons" are not unlike the Deep Ones from the Cthulhu Mythos. Both are equally deep in their Blue-and-Orange Morality, making decisions and demands that are either incomprehensible, impossible to comply, horrendous, or all of the above. There are kingdoms and entire settlements that vanished overnight because the inhabitants failed to follow the orders from these beings despite it being impossible to do so, or just happen to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, as neither supernatural beings are too concerned with the villages that happen to be on their way of moving around the maze.
  • Malifaux mainly deals with a world connected to Earth in Victorian era via a kind of dimensional breach (the creation of which killed a crud load of people). Many aggressive and downright evil creatures inhabit that world, and if that is not enough, the majority of human population sent there are "convict labor"; basically crooks and criminals forced to mine for objects called Soulstones which has magical, healing, and energetic properties. These soulstones run out of power eventually, but its power is replenished if placed near a dying person. It has been implied that the person's essence (if not downright his/her soul) seem to be sucked into the soulstones. Soulstones are, of course, extremely valuable. An organization established by the government, called the Guild, regulates the soulstones (read: monopolize soulstone tradings), as well as capture and execute criminals, rogue witches, and fledgling resurrectionists who have learned the dark arts of necromancy through ancient ruins in Malifaux. The "good" characters in the fluff are zealous witch-hunters, power-hungry wizards, a crimeboss-like Union leader, among others.
  • Mechanical Dream: Kaïnas is not a very pleasant place to live. Society is rife with economic oppression and inequality, most people live in sprawling slums or isolated medieval villages, and everyone except the very richest leads a desperate hand-to-mouth existence in a constant struggle to secure the orpee they need to survive from day to day, performing constant backbreaking work to earn never quite enough to feel safe. This need is strong enough that anyone may be driven to murder their neighbor to take their orpee, and anyone who somehow manages to stockpile enough to know where their lifeline is coming from for the next few months will be in constant danger of theft and attack. Nobody trusts each other, even if they ever have the time to socialize. Orpee, to make things more difficult, is only found in certain remote caves thousands of miles underground. That's, of course, without considering the dinosaur-sized and larger monsters that roam the wilderness that covers most of the world and periodically attack the cities, or the nightly period of warped, altered reality where your fears could literally manifest as a living thing and try to kill you.
  • Midnight: The premise is essentially "What if Sauron won?" It's not pretty.
  • In Misspent Youth by Robert Bohl, a game where you play a group of teenage anarchists out to change the world, the world is crapsack by design. There's a whole stage of the game where each Youthful Offender empowers The Authority with one way to mess with the world and their lives.
  • Monastyr (Monastery, sometimes called Warhammer Fantasy's Little Brother): Humanity was once the chosen race of their local Crystal Dragon Jesus, but got tricked by other races, that are evil by default, to pay tribute to a God of Evil (local equivalent of Satan), for which their jealous god condemned them to thousands of years of being enslaved by other races and only relatively recently sent the Prophet, who set them free. Since then, humanity has at endless war with the primitive evil races, everything is controlled by the Church and Inquisition, who are also very militaristic and merciless and yet are the only thing saving people from magic, which in this world is a soul-stealing demonic force.
  • Earth in Monsterpocalypse is under attack by virtually every form of giant whatever at the same time. To list them all we have:
    • The Terrasaurs, giant dinosaurs that attack cities and feed on radioactive waste.
    • The Empire of Apes, giant apes who have a problem with humanity forcing nature to its needs and want to pummel us back to, if not the stone age, at least something pre-Industrial Revolution. The upside to this being that they don't want to completely wipe us out.
    • The Shadow Sun Syndicate and UberCorp International, possess giant cyborg ninja Ultraman expies and robot versions of other monsters, respective, and are just as likely to level a city for their own interests as they are to protect it.
    • The Martian Menace, aliens from Mars, are desperate for resources, and actually invading out of necessity, and are attacking with giant war of worlds tripods and flying saucers.
    • The Planet Eaters and Savage Swarm, giant alien monsters and giant insects, respectively, are attacking and devouring everything they see.
    • The Lords of Cthul are attacking For the Evulz and turn people into Body Horror unless they kneel and worship them, if they're lucky.
    • The Subterran Uprising, giant moles that rule and underground evil empire, their rulers aren't content with their oppression of their own kind and want to also rule the surface, and in addition to forcing all humanity in a cruel existence as their slaves also want to block out the sun because their eyes are sensitive to light.
    • The Tritons are invading for the ocean and sinking parts of the coast to expand their empire.
    • The only upside is the GUARD and Elemental Champions that are protecting humanity with their Humongous Mecha and giant elemental warriors, though they still can't kill opposing monsters without some collateral damage.
  • The Dawnworld of Mutant: Year Zero qualifies as this, unlike most post-apocalyptic settings that are set long after the end of the world. Mutant: Year Zero only takes place a few decades after the end of the world. Meaning that there's no luxury of finding a stable settlement that's not struggling or falling apart at the seems. The world is covered in lethal background radiation that has mutated into a miasma simply called The Rot; a poison that literally eats away at the PCs until it eventually kills them. Then there's The Zone, a horrible and deadly environment of The Dawnworld which filled with Rot wrapped creatures and feral mutant freaks.
  • Both Old World of Darkness and New World of Darkness are premised on this; they're worlds populated by various supernatural creepy crawlies who prey on humanity. The original setting even had these vastly powerful supernaturals as helpless to affect their various millennial Enforced Cold Wars, while the new has the world filled with such mystery and decentralized supernaturals that extermination or redemption is hard to imagine. Being supernatural doesn't help, either; White Wolf likes to see if it can redefine Blessed with Suck with every new installment.
    • In the Old World of Darkness it's gotten so bad that one of the most powerful beings in the setting, who incidentally is mostly responsible for the world's sad state since he "fathered" the entire vampire race in the first place, has all but given up on changing the world.
    • The explanation given in Demon: The Fallen is that God deliberately broke His own creation at the beginning of the War of Wrath, robbing it of perfection (which included the ability to perfectly regenerate). Hence, the world has deteriorated to its current state over the millenia. This is one of the reasons most Fallen hate Him so much.
    • Over in the New, the God-Machine Chronicles establish that the world is run by a defective god-computer that is clumsily flailing at keeping the status quo, but isn't all that good at it.
    • Also in the New, the magical conspiracy that controls large parts of the mortal world is run by literal living symbols of tyranny and oppression. And it's not like its members are fooling themselves about it either. At least the old Technocracy had plenty of Well Intentioned Extremists; here, it's stated that being a well-intentioned Seer of the Throne is all but impossible.
  • Paranoia is a Dystopian setting. The players are low-level troubleshooters trapped in the post-apocalyptic Alpha Complex, whose job it is to seek out and destroy mutants and members of traitorous secret societies for the dictatorial Friend Computer. Every PC has a mutant power and is a member of a secret society, and is therefore a traitor just like the ones they're hunting. The experimental weapons they are assigned constantly backfire and explode. Alpha Complex itself is a crumbling deathtrap. The game provides everyone with several backup clone bodies because it has to, just to keep the players in the game; both terminations and accidental deaths are inevitable and frequent. The whole thing is Played for Laughs in "Classic" and "Zap" mode, though there's also a "Straight" mode that plays the whole thing for all the drama a dystopian world can offer.
  • Polish RPG Neuroshima introduces a postapocalyptic USA in which most of cities are destroyed, the earth, air and water are polluted, the north has been taken over by Moloch (a gigantic intelligent machine that is slowly expanding and turns humans into mad cyborgs or mutants), the south was taken over by Neojungle full of monstrous beasts, there are bands of humans rampaging through the world as well as strange tornadoes that are sources of strong narcotics, and the economy has returned to pre-money times. There are four "colors" on which you can play that mostly determine which way of dying is dominant among people. At "Steel" most of them are obsessed with defending themselves from all threats no matter the cost. At "Rust" they are nihilistic and see life after the end as nothing but prolonged dying. At "Mercury" humans have completely lost control of the situation and hide in fear of all rampant monstrosities, desperately trying to survive. Only "Chrome" is somehow optimistic, because people decided that since they're doomed anyway, they would rather spend the rest of their life at endless hedonistic party than die crying.
  • Rifts takes place roughly 300 years after a minor nuclear exchange jump-started a chain reaction that resulted in the Earth becoming a magical nexus point for the Megaverse. Tears in time and space (the eponymous Rifts) open randomly across the globe, dropping willing and unwilling being onto various parts of the globe, from fantasy creatures to weird aliens to literal demons and worse. Atlantis has reappeared from a dimensional limbo (altering coastlines to the point that Australia is half underwater) and is inhabited by an Eldritch Abomination and its legions of slaves and servant races. Humanity has just finally clawed itself out from barbarism and is starting to reclaim portions of the world. Unfortunately, the ones who seem best able to do it are the Coalition States, who have a huge hate-on toward anyone and anything nonhuman, magical or both; and who consider literacy and reading to be dangerous.
    • It was even worse during the 300 year Dark Age that predated the beginning of the P.A. (Post Apocalypse) Calendar. note  During the Dark Age, and especially in the beginning, Rifts opened pretty much on an hourly basis, Ley Line Storms (overflows of magic energy that cause all sorts of mystical mayhem) were more or less constant, and the fracturing of dimensional energies wreaked havoc on the weather, and caused other disasters like the eruption of the Yellowstone Park supervolcano, covering North America in ash. Russia experienced 80 years of perpetual winter, and pretty much everywhere else on Earth fared just as badly. Among the lucky ones were people who were Rifted into the future, such as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Tundra Rangers and two cities in Japan, who only had to deal with the aftermath of the destruction. A lot of this is covered in the sourcebook/standalone RPG Chaos Earth takes place roughly two weeks after the Coming of the Rifts.
  • RATS! concerns a Wainscot Society of sapient rats living alongside humanity. It is not happy and it is not cute. Rat society is heavily divided into separate cultures, most of which are at each others' throats, with all of them policed brutally by a ratty Inquisition and manipulated by a sect of black rat supremacists. The nicest characters in the setting are probably the necromancers. While the goal of ratkind is supposedly to make war on humans, the greatest dangers by far come from your fellow rat.
  • The Savage Worlds setting of Winterweir is set in a world where Demons routinely enter the world to eat people and steal souls, the angels are manipulative bastards who engage in mind control, the gods are aloof and amoral entities with only two that genuinely give a crap about anyone, and nearly every nation in the game is at each other's throat. This doesn't even bring up the class, racial, and religious conflicts that define the setting's politics.
  • Shadowrun is essentially what would happen if you mixed Cyberpunk with High Fantasy, and the Cyberpunk won; the Mega Corps are deeply entrenched, completely amoral super-states who would happily kill the world for the bottom line, the lassiez-faire capitalism has resulted in a fundamentally rigid and ruthless social structure, and that's before you get into the fact that the return of magic has also led to things like toxic magicians, insect spirits, and what happens when you give evil, greedy humans access to them. The only people who can make a difference are shadowrunners, and they fundamentally depend on mercenary work from the megas to keep food on the table.
  • Spears of the Dawn: The first words of the rulebook are "It is a time of suffering." The Five Kingdoms are in constant danger of a border conflict or an intrigue breaking out into war. The Night Men are getting ready to march on the Three Lands, and can probably only be repelled by Human Sacrifice. The Eternal are also getting ready to march, and as their name implies they can't be put down permanently by any means short of complete incineration. The various heroes will, at best, bring strange new ideas like "gender equality"; at worst, they'll become roving bands of brigands. All of the Kingdoms have a tradition of "remarkable people" that amounts to either Hero Insurance, "Screw the Rules, I Have a Nuke!", or "Might Makes Right".
  • Traveller in its second edition MegaTraveller had as its Meta Plot an ongoing civil war called "the Rebellion" that was slowly destroying the setting's Third Imperium. The Hard Times source book late in the line had rules for declining technology levels, with some entire worlds dying off when they could no longer fix the machines producing their breathable air, when a nuclear plant could no longer be serviced, or by no-longer-curable disease. Large areas of space were declared unsafe for any civilized traffic because they were either war zones in the ongoing "Rebellion" or infested with Space Pirates. It also featured stories of the "Doom Trade" - unscrupulous types who owned starships and charged entire life savings to get refugees to safer planets, and then often didn't bother to take them anywhere once they had their money. By the next edition interstellar civilization had completely collapsed except in a few small enclaves and the new setting was After the End.
  • Twilight: 2000, which is set in Europe after a limited nuclear war. If the players make it home to America they find that things aren't much better there, with the government split into "civgov" and "milgov", and both factions fighting a civil war against the "New America" religious survivalist nutcases. 2300 AD, set in the same universe three centuries later, reveals that the world eventually recovered.
  • The West End Games RPG TORG was set on our own Earth immediately after multiple hostile universes invaded in rapid succession. As if that wasn't enough, these universes brought their own physical and narrative laws with them and transformed the areas their invasions hit into a miniature version of their home. If you aren't lucky enough to find yourself someplace relatively safe, like a slightly-higher-tech Japan or pulp fiction, you could find yourself catapulted back into a Stone Age ruled by lizard-men, a fascist theocratic France ruled by a Cyber-Pope, a Gothic Horror world where the closest thing to good guys are screaming racists, or — worst of all — Tharkold, basically a high-tech (and equal-opportunity) version of Gor.
  • The term "Crapsack World" barely does justice to the setting of Unhallowed Metropolis. There's been 200 years of zombies, 196 years of restless ghosts, 177 years of flesh-eating ghouls, 161 years of Thropes, and 152 years of vampires. Entire countries and regions no longer exist in any meaningful sense of the word. Bizarre blighted wastelands are expanding throughout the world. The dominant power of the world is a new Victorian Britain with its social inequities and depravities turned up to 11. France is ruled by a mysterious king who is almost certainly not human, and what little information on its state escapes its borders suggests that terms like "unholy" and "unnatural" barely suffice to describe what's going on there. The air in London is so foul that going out without a gas mask or at least a damp cloth can lead to unconsciousness and death. Anarchists plague London, failing to realize that although there are very real social ills, dealing with them by dismantling the government entirely will just end up killing everyone still living in the UK. On top of all this, it's hinted that the Zombie Apocalypse is actually the least of the world's problems — that the world has become wrong on some deep, fundamental level, and the rise of the undead is just the most obvious symptom. And the heroes? The only people who can make a difference, make things better? They're suffering from physical, mental, or moral corruption — as is anyone who isn't is doomed to inevitable death — and they're likely to just get worse as they fight for humanity's future. This is not a nice setting. If this sounds a bit much, you may want to head for something happier and more optimistic, like Warhammer 40,000 or the New World of Darkness.
  • Between the eternally warmongering, xenophobic and corrupt factions fighting for the remains of the galaxy (one of which literally exists for the sole purpose of killing and looting), the poverty-ridden heresy-crushing Imperium of Man (whose bureaucracies and feudal orders do spend a lot of their time figuratively and literally fighting each other), and the infernal nightmare of the Warp infested by the Ruinous Powers of Chaos and their ravenous insane Daemonic apostles, life in the universe of Warhammer 40,000 really, really, really, really, really, REALLY fucking sucks HARDCORE. Seriously, it's to the point the universe of 40K seems to be exclusively designed to invoke as much misery and suffering as humanly possible out of the universe's myriad denizens, and bad enough that a brand new word was invented to describe the sheer hopelessness of the setting, aptly named "Grimdark", and it just might be the bleakest setting ever put in fiction, period. Let's count the ways, shall we?:
    • To emphasize how shitty life is in this universe, let's cover some of the biggest Wide Eyed Idealists of the entire setting: The Emperor of Mankind, the Salamanders, Ultramarines, Space Wolves and the Tau and what happened to them.
      • While undeniably heroic by 40K standards, the former four are still xenophobic, totalitarian, ruthless fundamentalists who, despite their noble qualities of not casually sacrificing civilians, are still the atypical Space Nazis that the Imperium is infamous for. They launched a galaxy-wide military campaign to reunite humanity by force and exterminate any aliens they found. The Space Marines, humanity's greatest warriors, are inventions by the Emperor, using children that get stuffed with new organs and brainwashed into Undying Loyalty, and if that's they survive the grueling training and transformations. The Space Marines precursors, Thunder Warriors? Wiped to the last men once they were no longer needed. One of the Horus Heresy novels even comments that the corrupt Horus guides the Great Crusade less ruthlessly than his father did. The aforementioned God-Emperor originally wanted to create a Human-ruled superpower centered around science and progress, but his idealism backfired upon him when he was betrayed by half of his own sons and now his soul is used as a living psychic beacon to navigate through Hell while witnessing his Imperium degenerate into totalitarian ignorance and superstition where existing technology is considered almost magical, and where his own philosophy of scientific enlightenment is condemned as Heresy in his own name.
      • The Tau are fundamentally Dirty Commies - they will accept all cultures and races into their federation, but to spread their ideal of the Greater Good they will absorb and conquer any rival states through complete military force, and others who don't consent to their Greater Good are immediately subjected to genocide, slavery, concentration camps, death camps or brainwashing facilities straight out of 1984.
      • And the worst part of it all? Most of this behavior is necessary in this universe. Yes, if you truly want to make the world a better place then "already totally destroyed", you have to become a fanatical extremist that would be a Byronic Hero/Dark Messiah at best or a Knight Templar at worst in any other setting, but here, it's the heroic way of doing things. Yep, it's that kind of universe, folks.
    • Really, you can't expect much else in a world where Faster Than Light Travel means literally going through Hell infested by Chaos Daemons willing to rape your mind and soul in countless different painful ways if you dare go in without protection, sanity checks, close-minded religious dogmatism and the use of said Emperor's living soul (powered by the agonizing deaths of psykers sacrificed for his life support) as a galaxy-spanning psychic lighthouse. And said Chaos Gods are the twisted excessive manifestations of our very own emotions. That Hell where all daemons are born? The souls of every human in the universe pass through there. Faith and the Emperor protects human souls passing through to prevent daemons from eating them. The god of Hope? A Manipulative Bastard even by 40k standards. If you're a good curious person? You get sent there sooner with the next pirate or bandit raid, rampaging monster or invading army. That said, the collective misery of the inhabitants of the real world manifests in the Warp as Gods, who then scheme to cause more chaos in the Real World, resulting in a vicious cycle of neverending melancholy both in and out.
    • And thanks to an accident by the Eldar Space Elves, that Hell has broken loose. The only reason why said Space Elves have it worse than humans is that the few remnants of them still living need to stave off their inevitable extinction for a bit longer, since for them dying instantly means absorption into a disgusting vortex of eternal torture, humiliation and rape by what is the living manifestation of every soul's suffering and sensation. It is completely necessary for them to make gut-wrenching sacrifices, including manipulating other civilizations into destroying each other (and in one case torturing other species' constantly as sacrifice to appease said god of pain), just so that they can save one of their own from their perpetual fate.
    • On top of that, the Chaos Gods themselves? They're dwarfed in scale completely by even Greater Older Ones that make Chaos shit themselves in terror, such as an ancient race of overpowered robotic zombie Omnicidal Maniacs created to harvest tasty souls to appease the addiction of their Star-Gods, and an intergalactic Hive Mind of a constantly-evolving constantly-hungry Horde of Alien Locusts that adapt to anything used against it and devour all biomass in its path to convert it into ever more of themselves. The only ones who have anything closest to happiness is a race of green psychic savages who kill and pillage everybody else and each other because it's built into their genetic code... and because it's fun. In this universe, being a kind, compassionate, and curious person will result in you getting Mind Raped or literally tentacle-raped by a daemon, and tearing open a portal to hell roughly the size of your planet. "An open mind is like a fortress, with its gates unbarred and unguarded."
    • The introduction at the start of all the Warhammer 40,000 novels is a pretty good summary of how crapsack the setting is:
      "It is the 41st Millennium. For more than a hundred centuries the Emperor has sat immobile on the Golden Throne of Earth. He is the master of mankind by the will of the gods, and master of a million worlds by the might of his inexhaustible armies. He is a rotting carcass writhing invisibly with power from the Dark Age of Technology. He is the Carrion Lord of the Imperium for whom a thousand souls are sacrificed every day, so that he may never truly die. Yet Even in his deathless state, the Emperor continues his eternal vigilance. Mighty battlefleets cross the daemon-infested miasma of the warp, the only route between distant stars, their way lit by the Astronomican, the psychic manifestation of the Emperor's will. Vast armies give battle in his name on uncounted worlds. Greatest amongst his warriors are the Adeptus Astartes, the Space Marines, bioengineered super-warriors. Their comrade in arms are legion: the Imperial Guard and countless planetary defence forces, the ever-vigilant Inquisition and the tech priests of the Adeptus Mechanicus to name only a few. But for all their multitudes, they are barely enough to hold the ever-present threat from aliens, heretics, mutants - and worse. To be a man in such times is to be one amongst untold billions. It is to live in the cruelest and most bloody regime imaginable. These are the tales of those times. Forget the power of technology and science, for so much has been forgotten, never to be relearned. Forget the promise of progress and understanding, for in the grim dark future there is only war. There is no peace amongst the stars, only an eternity of carnage and slaughter, and the laughter of thirsting gods."
    • How crapsack is 40K? Tzeentch, the utterly amoral Eldritch Abomination who plots countless schemes to bring endless misery to the universe For the Evulz, and is basically Nyarlathotep turned Up to Eleven, is the resident God of Hope of all things. While the God of Disease and Decay, Nurgle, comes off as Affably Evil by comparison. The revelation that Nurgle is actually an agent of the Eternal Recurrence who is acting out only because it's way past time that this galaxy died out and gave new civilizations a chance to rise from the ruins not only makes him more sympathetic, it's hard not to see his point that it's time to wipe the slate clean. Except the only reason for his reason to exist is because he's acting out in the first place.
    • Rather ironically, despite being the Ur-Example as far as Tabletop Crapsack Worlds go, it isn't all horrible. While totalitarian planets ruled by the Imperium are undoubtedly the norm, there are a decent amount of planets that are not only completely peaceful, but actually have a reasonably fair democracy in place: as long as you don't do anything that'll be considered heretical by the government, and as long as your planet doesn't become subject to a massive earth-shattering battle, the odds are very likely you'll live a happy, contented life. No, really; the very setting that's Crapsacky enough to create the term "grimdark" actually warrants the possibility of living a perfectly normal and happy life. For all the sheer hopelessness of the 410th century, it's actually not too bad at some points.
      • The extreme majority of the Imperium's worlds, aptly named Imperial Worlds or Civilized Worlds, are basically utopian and those are the planets nearly all humans live on. The grimdark stuff happens in the underhives of Hive Worlds (which is the low/bottom levels of the arcologies) or on battlefields or on the generally rare tyrannies on a few Imperial Worlds (each world is nearly entirely self-governed). So, the odds of any human born into 40k actually experiencing anything remotely grimdark are actually extremely low. Far lower than on Earth, even, considering outside of the few First World countries you're probably going to wonder how anyone can live the way they do.
      • Even more interestingly, despite having the greatest deal of problems as far as species go, Humans actually got the long end of the stick regarding the afterlife. Yes, the souls of every human in the universe go to the Warp, and the only protection would be to worship the Emperor blindly, but even those who don't will only be present for a short period of time thanks to the middling warp presence humans have before dissipating completely, finally free of the suffering of the universe. Compared to what the Eldar have to deal with post-mortem for all eternity, that actually isn't that bad of a deal.
  • Warhammer is an archetypal Crapsack World — a world doomed to be destroyed by Chaos and its minions, themselves Eldritch Abominations. The world is grim and dark, inhabited by uncaring Lizardmen, haughty and snobbish High Elves, insanely bloodlusty Dark Elves, sullen and xenophobic Wood Elves; nasty, brutish and violent humans who come in a variety of flavours: Bretonnians, Empire or just about any other kind of evil Human you can imagine; cannibal Halflings; grudgy, implacable and fatalistic Dwarves, boorish Goblins, bullyish Orcs, amoral and gluttonous Ogres, treacherous and wildly breeding Skaven ratmen, two types of Undead —Tomb Kings (mummies, skeletons and zombies) and Vampire Counts (your local Draculas) — and, of course, the insane Chaos. Of course, a Crapsack World requires to be ruled by Jerkass Gods — all the deities of the Warhammer world reflect the half-emptiness of the world itself. The End Times supplement takes this trope Up to Eleven, culminating in a third Warp Rift opening and the subsequent annihilation of the entire world by the Chaos Gods.
    • Even by Warhammer standards, Sylvania is described as a nasty place to be. The woods are haunted by ghouls, spectres and bloodthirsty monsters. The vampire nobility lord over (and prey on) a helpless populace who constantly live in fear, tending skinny pigs and meagre crops by day and hiding behind heavy oak doors with multiple bolts and incantations to all manner of gods by night. Being outside on a winter's night is said to be almost certain death, and summer is only a little safer.
    • At which point, somewhat surprisingly, it gets better. In Age of Sigmar, virtually every faction finally puts aside its squabbles to form a (still very uneasy, and very short-lived in the case of Undead) alliance against Chaos, which, for the first time, they stand a chance at defeating. If you find yourself not believing it's Warhammer, you're not alone.
    • Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay is the same, but the players are in it.
    • The spin-off Blood Bowl is set in an Alternate Universe of Warhammer where an American football-esque Blood Sport called Blood Bowl became Serious Business enough to make war obsolete because everyone just wants to play the game instead. The rulebooks lampshades just how terrible life must be in that universe for a game like Blood Bowl (where deaths on the pitch are common, rampant hooliganism causes hundreds of injuries each game and chainsaws, pit traps and high explosives are a common feature in the game) to become popular. On the plus side, all that terrible stuff from the original Warhammer present is mostly Played for Laughs.
    • Mordheim. It's a Crapsack World by Warhammer standards. Basically, Mordheim was once the Empire's top Wretched Hive until a wyrdstone comet smashed into it and obliterated it. The people who weren't killed by the blast went insane and murdered each other in a colossal psychotic orgy of violence. The whole place is seeped by dark energy and it might possibly be alive... and very malicious. You'll see all kinds of terrifying, weird, mind-bending shit there: blood, dismembered limbs, faeces, fleshy outgrowths coming out of the walls, giant glowing maggots crawling on the rooftops, carriages with the skinned bodies of the horses riding atop while the dead bodies of the previous human occupants kneel in the bridles at the front, and bodies hanging from the windows and rooftops with little indication as to whether they were alive or dead when they were put up there. Ghastly spirits haunt the abandoned houses and daemons and Chaos ogres roam the streets, killing everyone and everything they cross. Few survivors still live in the city and all of them are forever scarred both physically and mentally, and some of these wretches are so insane that they offer assistance to the vampires who come to the city in search of the comet's fragments for their foul necromantic designs, just to survive. And the undead are not all you have to deal with: the fabled Skaven are said to lurk in the shadows, picking wyrdstone and bones to gnaw on, then there's the religious fanatics flocking to the city to "purge" it (which means killing everything within miles of the place and smashing the city down to the last brick), and last but certainly not least is the cult who operate from the pit in the centre of the city where the comet struck and worship some entity of horrific evil the impact has woken up. You even have to compete with your fellow lowlife mercenaries in cloak-and-dagger street combat to capture the wyrdstone for unscrupulous Imperial nobles because they offer you a quick buck in exchange for the stuff, for Sigmar only knows what reason. The city's only possible salvation lies in a handful of completely beleaguered and outnumbered women warrior monks operating out of their fortress over the river Stirn, trying to rescue whoever they can and keeping the wyrdstone out of the wrong hands. Welcome to the city of the damned, enjoy your stay.


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