There once was a GM named Odin Papsmear. Yea, and he went to the Giant in the Playground forums and put out a call: Freeform nation players were needed. A few answered the call.
Thus began an epic freeform game of intrigue, technology, and war. The resurrected Roman Empire fought against a militaristic EU, while Russia restored its Tsar and scientists in the frozen lands of Siberia unlocked the full potential of the human mind. The Holy See moved to the moon, and built up a massive robotic fleet. A dictatorship claiming dominion over both North and South America declared war on the entire planet. In the middle of it all a shadowy oligarchy fought, very unsuccessfully, to prevent Africa from becoming the world's proxy battlefield. All this and more happened. The battles raged on page after page under Odin's all-seeing eye, until 20 turns later, it ended.
Then there were sequels.
Total War, not to be confused with the similarly named game series, is a loose freeform 'system' dominated by GM fiat and PvP conflict. Players gather, write up a background for their nations, generally set 20 Minutes into the Future, the GM then hands them their stats based on their fluff, and the games begin. The first game alone saw the discovery of physic power, the destruction of a revived Roman Empire, the creation of the Four Horsemen, the psychically-enforced suicide of Switzerland, the failed murder of the Pope by laser-cannon, and the massive rebellion of a mad cult, amongst other strange events.
The medium continued in several sequels, with multiple alternate timelines and time periods, from the direct 2260 sequel(s) to the numerous 2125 alternates.
Read the original here.
Tropes in Total War include:
- 0% Approval Rating: The more militaristic factions are like this. Also, has an actually crippling negative effect in the later games.
- Arson Murderand Admiration: A common phenomenon, because really, murdering all those people by disease was despicable, but creating one of the Four Horsemen to do so? Impressive.
- Artificial Limbs: And organs, and occasionally, minds.
- Atomic Hate: The various forms usually happen to India and Pakistan in the Back Story.
- Authority Equals Asskicking: Many of the faction leaders have enhanced themselves to be the strongest in the world.
- Awesome Moment of Crowning: In one of the games, the notorious Will Rowe crowned himself, just to prove how awesome he was.
- The Bad Guy Wins: Mostly because the relatively good factions get steamrolled by the worst of the lot.
- Batman Gambit: A needed tool to survive the backstabbing politics of Total War.
- Better the Devil You Know: Half of the alliances in Total War are formed from this.
- Beware the Nice Ones: If you don't fear the UNE, there is something very, very wrong with you.
- Big Bad: For the first half or so of the game, New Roman Emperor Umberto I. For the second half, President Shona Han of the UAL.
- Black and Gray Morality: Most of the wars with the NRE and the Dagwoods are this, due to the utter vileness of both.
- The Chessmaster: A distinct characteristic of most faction leaders, and of some of the players themselves.
- The Chew Toy: India and Pakistan. EVERY TIME. Most of the time, Switzerland as well.
- A Child Shall Lead Them: Isabella, the biological daughter (and possible psychic vessel) of Shona Han, was named Tsarina of Russia, after Han married into the re-titled Romanov family.
- Corrupt Church: Not exactly Corrupt, but very, very amoral and almost mercenary.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Much like the Corrupt Church, most factions act a lot more like businesses than legitimate nations.
- Crapsack World: Usually seen as a direct result of factions attempting to one-up each other in horribleness and brutality. Occasionally done  deliberately, in an attempt to make oneself look better than the other guy.
- Crazy-Prepared: If you play Total War, you better be prepared to be this.
- Dark Messiah: Borghese, the former leader of the Church of the Sun God in 2260, is a particularly vicious version of this. Emperor Umberto, in all his forms, is this, especially with his cult. Shona Han is also one of these.
- Deader Than Dead: Almost no one, and if they are, it's part of their plan. Cloning, mind-transfers into robots, and cyborgization really take the edge off death.
- Death Is Cheap: Similarly, major characters find that this trope is thankfully true.
- Diabolical Mastermind: Each faction leader thinks that his/her nation's enemies are this, but Grandmaster Borghese from the 2260 game is a definite example.
- Dirty Communists: In the form of LUSA, a South American communist federation. Surprisingly, had one of the most morally decent leaders.
- Doomed Moral Victor: Solaris, while one of the most moral of any nations in the first game, was crushed by the machinations of the other, more corrupt factions.
- Doomsday Device: Found by the dozen in Total War, especially around the more tech-focused nations.
- Expy: In Total War 2260, the Scandinavian nation of Midgard is one of these for the Imperium of Man from Warhammer 40,000
- Frickin' Laser Beams: A common sight in the first Total War game, but largely abandoned by the newer ones.
- Gambit Roulette: Even more often used than The Plan, if only because each new turn offers new plots.
- A God Am I: Invoked to a lesser extent by most forms of Pandora, but embraced wholeheartedly by the NRE Emperor Umberto.
- Gray and Grey Morality: Most of the conflicts are like this, because of the morality of most of the factions.
- Humongous Mecha: The shock troops of the UNE in the first game were mainly giant robots piloted by the best of the best (aka, brainwashed commanders of a different faction.)
- Lady of War: The Hat of the major characters in the UAL.
- Large Ham: A prerequisite to being a Total War politician. More low-key than most versions of this trope, though.
- Light Is Not Good: The leaders claiming to be "saviors" are rarely better than those they fight. This trope is the definition of SEATS and Han's UAL.
- Mad Scientist: The Hat of the super-science nation Pandora.
- Mecha-Mook: A mainstay of the Papal forces. Surprisingly resilient for this trope.
- A Million Is a Statistic: The outlook of most of the major factions.
- Million Mook March:
- More Dakka: If you can't kill it, you need to shoot it with more superweapons, soldiers or both.
- Our Orcs Are Different: They're called Dagwoods, and are the creation of the Papacy, even if they were presented as bonafide aliens. In 2260, they invaded Siberia and Mars.
- Peace Conference: Usually the site of murders and attempted wars. Always predicted to be abysmal failures.
- The Plan: An often-used tool of most of the major players.
- Plaguemaster: In the form of the Horseman of Plague, artificially created by the UAL.
- Powered Armor: Frequently worn by the most elite (and sometimes psychic) soldiers in a faction.
- Screaming Warrior: Is a result of the armor's protection combined with fanatical morale, usually.
- Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: If you have a good economy, you can do whatever you want. Mainly because the players are so mercenary...
- Secret Police: Present in nearly every faction, in psychic, anti-psychic, and normal flavors.
- Shiny New Australia: Frequently, a plan to take over the world hinges on the approval of one faction. And when that faction decides to take the world for themselves...
- Space Marine: With the above two tropes, how could we not have this one?
- Springtime for Hitler: Some plans are meant to fail, but still work out for the best.
- There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Nobody important will die in this game, so you have to ensure that those who are semi-important perma-die.
- Villainous Breakdown: Shona Han's breakdown is either this or a Heroic BSoD, depending on whom you're asking.
- Villainous Valour: Even though he was a mass-murdering dictator, you couldn't help but feel sorry for Emperor Umberto
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: What most of the faction leaders THINK they are.
- Les Yay: President Shona Han, leader of the United American League, and her second-in-command, Kim Finate have a.. intense relationship.
- Zerg Rush: Russia. Also, the zombies and Dagwoods, in most cases.
- Zombie Apocalypse: What is usually intended by all the plagues flying around in the games.