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Tabletop Game / After the Bomb

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After the Bomb is a Role-Playing Game by Palladium Books set in the post-apocalyptic future of Earth that started out as a supplement published by Palladium Press in 1986 for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness. A second edition was published in 2001 as a stand-alone product and, like the first edition, is considered part of the Palladium Books Megaverse that includes Rifts. Both editions of the game were written by Erick Wujcik, with the second edition having Kevin Siembieda credited with "additional text and ideas."


The main storyline is centered on the Eastern United States now mostly inhabited by mutant animals and a few human survivors of a worldwide nuclear war that killed nearly 99% of humanity. Though the second edition of After the Bomb has gone through a rules change and entirely updated the back-story, it remains compatible with the following previously released expansions:

  • Road Hogs (October 1986) – Expands the setting to cover the west coast of the United States.
  • Mutants Down Under (June 1988) – Expands the setting to cover Australia.
  • Mutants of the Yucatan (July 1990) – Expands the setting to cover Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula.
  • Mutants in Avalon (January 1991) – Expands the setting to cover Great Britain.
  • Mutants in Orbit (March 1992) – A dual Rifts/After the Bomb title, it covers colonies in orbiting space stations, the moon and Mars.

Tropes in this game:

  • 20 Minutes into the Future: The setting takes place a few decades after the 21st century.
  • Achilles' Heel: Players can take on various disadvantages (such as restrictive diets, colorblindness or detrimental personality quirks) to refund themselves some Bio-E points to spend on advantages, crippling themselves in one area to allow themselves to gain a boost in another.
  • After the End: The setting is post-apocalyptic, as you might assume from the name.
  • Alternative Calendar: Most dates are given as After the Crash.
  • Animal Is the New Man: With the total human population sinking into the lower millions various animal nations have risen up and taken over most of the known world. Human controlled territories still exist in a couple places, but they are generally few and far between.
  • Animal Superheroes: Depending on the rolls and point-buy, you can end up with such a character.
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  • Apocalypse How: The Crash is a Class 3a, while the current setting is mostly in Class 2.
  • Base on Wheels: The Empire of Humanity has one called the M.E.B. (Mobile Exploration Base) that serves as a fairly small version of this particular trope
  • Beast Man: Characters with "Partial Human Looks" tend to be this.
  • Big Creepy-Crawlies: There are enough giant mutant insects in this game to make the Fallout series jealous. This includes:
  • But What About the Astronauts?: Mutants In Orbit. Earth had several populated satellites and even colonies on the Moon and Mars at the time of the Big Death. They survived, and are trying to cope with the fact the only really habitable planet in the Solar System has turned into a house of freaks. Mars was marginally terraformed, but thanks to a Mad Scientist, it's now overrun with mutant Bee People.
  • Camp: Given randomization in the character creation rules, you can end up with some very interesting results. One reviewer notes, "The players in my group ended up a tiny psionic bat, a huge kung-fu kicking frog and a four-feet tall elephant powerhouse."
  • Carnivore Confusion: Semi-Averted in the second edition rules as it's possible to take a disadvantage that limits your character to being exclusively a carnivore, herbivore, insectivore, or a ruminant. Handwaved in the original with modified meat-equivalent vegetables that carnivores could eat.
  • Creator Provincialism: The main setting is the East Coast of America. Later supplements expand the game to other parts of world.
  • Closed Circle: The oceans of post-Crash Earth are extremely dangerous, making cross Atlantic and cross Pacific travel effectively impossible.
  • Depopulation Bomb: In the backstory, around 74% of all humans on Earth are killed off by a man-made super virus.
  • The Empire: It's even called “The Empire of Humanity”, which bear some similarities to the Coalition from Rifts, with a militantly pro-human/anti-mutant stance, mutant dog soldier, and being one of the more technological advanced civilization still around. Unlike the Coalition, however, the Empire has been much less successful in their campaigns, up to being called the political “Sick Man” of post-Bomb North America in the second edition's fluff.
  • Fantastic Racism: The Empire of Humanity and Jakarta have being militant anti-animal/anti-mutant human supremacists as their Hat. There are also groups who are anti-human and some Purebreeds are described as being biased against those who aren't members of their group.
  • Funny Animal: Most characters are either these or Civilized Animal.
  • Game-Favored Gender: Combined with "Game Favored Species" as well. Characters get bonuses based on animal type and sometimes gender which occasionally skews in favor of one sex or the other. Take Cattle for example, male Bulls get a bigger physical attribute and horn damage bonus than the Cows do, with the Cows only getting a plus one to their M.A. stat to compensate.
  • Game of Nerds: The skill description for "Baseball" reveals that not only is the game still popular, it's practically a religion.
  • Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke: Gene manipulation and experimentation is what led to most of the human population dying off and resulted in mutant animals taking over the world in their place. Unlike most examples of this trope Palladium decided to toss in some actual nukes anyway to further kill off what was left of the human race after various nations with a nuclear arsenal mistook the disease as a targeted biological attack. When all the dust finally settled only about 5% of the humans were left alive and the mutant animals now controlled everything in the ruined earth they left in their wake.
  • Grim Up North: The northern arctic circle is described as a vast frozen wasteland filled with icy mountains and valleys, a place where chaotic magical forces manipulated by strange shamans are locked in a chaotic fight for supremacy. It's hard to know exactly what is true or just a rumor about this isolated place but most sources confirm that the ice shelves are actually expanding down towards the rest of the world and are forcing various barbarian tribes to move further south as well. Interestingly, the southern pole and Antarctica are implied to have been converted into a lush green grasslands somehow, leaving the frozen north as the only major tundra spot left on the entire planet.
  • Happiness in Slavery: There's a character trait available to formerly domesticated animals that causes them to feel this way towards humans or human-looking mutants.
  • Interspecies Friendship: While most of the various animal nations and territories tend to heavily focus on one species or another many are reasonably open and welcoming to other types of animals and even humans on occasion. This trope is also practically unavoidable for the main player group given the sheer volume of animal races available in the game.
  • Interspecies Romance: Mentioned in both editions, with some rather interesting points being brought up by the second.
  • Language Barrier: Done in a fairly interesting way. While most mutant animals can normally understand each other just fine they can't communicate very well with more feral members of their own species without a special psychic ability. It's also possible for characters to acquire the ability to communicate with the various giant bugs infesting the land, but that power is a bit more limited.
  • Little Bit Beastly: Possible when combining "Full Human Looks" with various animal abilities such as claws or fangs, though not as pronounced as with most uses of this trope.
  • Mad Scientist: Professor Sybeck, Emperor Christian's second-in-command.
  • Massive Race Selection: Taking into account all sourcebooks there are well over a hundred different playable animal species available as player characters, all with some pretty unique stats and abilities. Character creation is definitely one area where this game really shines.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters:
    • Spider Goats, based on Real Life transgenic goats [1], along with other Chimera animals.
    • Literal Flying Pigs... from Cincinnati, apparently.
    • Averted in the first edition, which points out that while Interspecies Romance happens, offspring are only possible between animals of similar species (such as dogs and wolves). It's also emphasized that humans cannot interbreed with other animals, thereby preventing Half-Human Hybrid. Second Edition does away with this last part, at least as far as mutant pigs and primates are concerned...
  • Noble Demon: General Mike Ulster is given a Character Alignment of Scrupulous, as opposed to the Diabolic Emperor Christain and the Miscreant Professor Sybek. He's pro-human, but not anti-mutant, and regrets every man lost under his command.
  • Non-Mammal Mammaries: Shows up in the artwork, up to and including what look like nipples on a (presumably) male bird.
  • Nuke 'em: What kills off the remainder of humanity after the virus.
  • Point Buy System: Part of the character creation involves using Biological Engery (BIO-E) Points to purchase features for your character, such as claws, flight, more humanoid features, and even psychic powers.
  • Poisonous Person: A few player species can have abilities that let them use various poison attacks on their foes. For example, a snake character can get a venomous bite attack and a platypus character has the option of using poisonous spurs on their feet.
  • Proud Peacock: Peacocks were added as a playable animal race in Mutants in Avalon and are known to be physically beautiful and having an air of "insufferable arrogance" according to their species profile. Mechanics wise they get a very large boost to both their P.B. and M.A. stats, making them great for charisma builds.
  • Psychic Powers: Not quite as many as certain other Palladium games like Rifts or Heroes Unlimited but there a few special psionic abilities that mutant animals can get access to.
  • Putting on the Reich: The Empire of Humanity, to the point that it can come across as a poor man's version of the Coalition from Rifts. (Though, amusingly, After The Bomb predates Rifts by 4 1/2 years.)
  • Retcon: The second edition backstory elaborates on the original by having the nuclear war that destroyed the world set off due to a high-school prank gone wrong.
  • Robot Maid: Humans had several variants of small household robots designed to perform simple tasks such as lawn care or pool cleaning. They can occasionally be found when out searching and ones that are still operational serve as valuable loot items.
  • Sapient Eat Sapient: The world has quite literally become much more "dog eat dog" since the fall of humanity. Exactly how willing any given animal is to consume another for food usually comes down to their alignment. Most good characters will refuse to eat any sentient creatures under any circumstances, selfish characters may eat others on a whim and evil characters generally don't care and may even enjoy hunting prey that can think and fight back.
  • Secret Police: The Empire of Humanity has a variant of this made up of animals that primarily serve as spies and keep an eye out for signs of rebellion or revolts among the slaves.
  • Seldom-Seen Species: This game features quite a few animal species not normally seen in modern media, much less a post-apocalyptic tabletop RPG. The various sourcebooks add several more rare animals from exotic places such as Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula or Australia.
  • Sexy Cat Person: Whenever any sort of feline appears in the artwork there is a good chance that they're either this or a more cartoonishly drawn male.
  • Sex Slave: The bio on Pleasure Bunnies stops just short of outright calling them this but the text makes it abundantly clear what primarily uses the humans had in mind for them.
  • Shout-Out: The "Full" Looks description of a Mutant Wolverine sounds a lot like like... Well, Wolverine.
  • Synthetic Plague: As gene modification science became commonplace more and more humans began experimenting with creating "prankster diseases" from the comfort of their own homes. Since medical science had also advanced so greatly their arrogance made them believe they could handle anything... until one junior mad scientist accidentally created something so potent it wiped out three quarters of humanity before they got it under control. This alone wouldn't have been enough on its own to kick humanity off the top of the food chain but when several countries mistook the plague for a biological assault... well, let's just say things ended poorly for them.
  • There Is No Cure: The Synthetic Plague which led to the apocalypse in the game's backstory. By the time it was created, advancements in genetics and medical technology had gotten to such a point that viral disease was no longer seen as a major problem in any form, but the disease was designed with a copy of the human genome which ensured any cure that targeted the disease would also target the host.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The genetic hackers prior to the Big Death created “prankster diseases”, potentially lethal viruses, as an extreme sport. Somewhat justified, in that humanity had developed cures for all existing diseases and could handle the average "prankster disease" within minutes. Unfortunately, some prankster (whose name would be cursed were it known) managed to create something so virulent that not even that level of medical science could handle it.
  • Trick Arrow: Various types of special arrows are available to purchase in most locations, including classic incendiary arrows, armor-piercing arrows and explosive arrows.
  • Unskilled, but Strong: Several animal species such as Bears and Elephants skew heavily towards this. They have little to no starting Bio-E points but have such high physical attributes and bonuses that they more than make up for it in sheer raw power and size advantage.
  • Uplifted Animal: Most of the characters are this.
  • Weak, but Skilled: In contrast to the above there are also many species that skew towards this instead. Frogs and Bats for example, are generally physically weak but have access to a much higher starting Bio-E score than most other animals do, which makes it easier for them to purchase special abilities and powers without needing to take on disadvantages.
  • Weaponized Car: Road Hogs adds in some modified weapons options for vehicles such as mounted turrets or oil slicks and includes rules for vehicular combat.
  • Winged Humanoid: A lot of flying species such as birds can end up looking like this depending on how the character is built. In fact, about half of the various avians that show up in the artwork are depicted this way.
  • You Are What You Hate:
    • Emperor Daniel Christian, leader of the anti-mutant Empire of Humanity, is secretly a mutant as well.
    • Between mutation and interbreeding, it's an open question whether any of the current generation's "humans" are actually human. Even in the Empire of Humanity, many of their human aristocracy are either mutated, or are secretly mutant animals passing as human.
  • Zeppelins from Another World: Various primitive balloon style airships have become the primary form of long distance travel in Australia as described in the Mutants Down Under sourcebook.