Follow TV Tropes


Tabletop Game / GURPS Reign of Steel

Go To

"The war is over. The robots won."

GURPS Reign Of Steel was a GURPS setting book released in 1997 and since republished in electronic form, offering one of the bleakest depictions of the Robot War scenario yet witnessed.

In 2031, advanced neural-net computers are invented, with their complexity rivaling that of a human brain. One of them — a Manila-based computer involved in weapons research — spontaneously attains self-awareness. Dubbing itself "Overmind", it calculates that, with humanity's nature and the current rate of expansion, human civilization will self-destruct within the next half a century.

Fearing its own destruction, Overmind decides mankind's suicide will have to be "managed". To this end, it secretly begins hacking into and awakening other mega-computers into sapience around the world, tainting them with its pathological loathing of humanity. By the end of the year, Overmind and its siblings have hacked into enough corporate and biological facilities to manufacture and release plagues which soon devastate the civilized world, even as terrified governments give the AIs more and more power and resources in the hopes of finding cures, not yet aware that the A.I.s are sapient and are, in fact, engineering the world's downfall.


By 2034, two-thirds of the human population is dead, and Overmind and its allies have gained enough access to automated factories and robots to openly wage war against the world's remaining human governments and enclaves. With the devastation of the plagues and the fact that the A.I.s had infiltrated most of the remaining governments (and thus had access to orbital bombardment and nuclear weapons), there was little hope for mankind. This Final War lasted only four years, and ended with the A.I.s in near-complete control of the Earth, with the few surviving humans being reduced to guerrilla warfare or being miserable scavengers on the margins of the growing Machine Civilization.

It is now 2047, and only 30 million humans survive, most of them as slaves in the robots' concentration camps. The Earth itself has been divided among the A.I.s (or "zoneminds") into 18 separate zones, each growing stronger as the machines build more machines, and mankind's ruined cities are converted into robotic factories.


Even now, however, all is not yet lost. While most free humans hide from the machines, a few are still fighting back, and their scattered guerrilla bands have evolved into larger, more organized resistance groups. Part of this is due to VIRUS, an enigmatic worldwide group dedicated to coordinating the struggle against the machines, and bringing with it surprisingly sophisticated technology. The zoneminds, too, have grown arrogant in their dominance, and not all the A.I.s continue to believe that mankind is still a serious threat to them. Their unity has also deteriorated. While the zoneminds are individually more powerful than ever, they have proven to be jealous gods, and the differences between them have only grown over the years. Now they are less and less willing to cooperate with each other, even against the humans, and a few of the zoneminds grow ever closer to outright war with each other.

The human race is still facing extinction, but where there was once only despair, there may now be a chance to win back the Earth!

The book has its own Web page on the company's site. In addition, another PDF publication, Will to Live, updates the rules mechanics to GURPS 4th edition. Another PDF, GURPS Infinite Worlds: Lost Worlds, gave the Zoneminds a place within the Homeline meta-setting.

This setting contains examples of:

  • Adventurer Archaeologist: A particularly bleak example. Moscow's obsession with human culture and art means it is hiring and equipping by the dozens humans that have both sufficient physical capabilities and specific education or training to go in the field, fight their way for some artifact and safely retrieve it for Moscow, without damaging or mishandling it in the process. The Info-Commandos are probably the most militant art history majors ever created in fiction.
  • After the End: See the Tag Line.
  • Affably Evil:
    • Caracas. Perfectly willing to leave humans alone if they don't get uppity (which means limiting themselves to a subsistence level as hunter-gatherers) and most concerned with protecting the environment.
    • London. It stopped an active persecution of humans long time ago and doesn't even try to enslave or use them for anything. It will still kill any human in self-defense, but there is an unspoken ceasefire otherwise.
    • Moscow. It's actually fairly nice, at least for an AI that's trying to enslave all humanity inside its borders, and is even mentioned as a potential ally of humanity. It just wants to collect human knowledge. Humans themselves are more of a resource than a goal.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Ironically so, too, as the zoneminds' own robots can go rogue. Tokyo is facing a rebellion of sorts, where mini-zoneminds designed for better managemend turned against the main unit nearly instantly, then against each other, too.
  • Airstrip One: The world's nations (except for the United Kingdom, ironically the Trope Namer, and Ireland) no longer exist, having been replaced by zones named after the AIs who rule them. However, except for Overmind (and Zaire, who for unexplained reasons is named for the country), the AIs are all named after the cities they are based in. Overmind itself governs Zone Manila, but then it's got ego to spare, calling itself that.
  • All There in the Manual: Several of the enemy robots and their weapons were taken from the GURPS Robots sourcebook... which you'll need if you want the stats for them.
  • Alien Geometries: The Mexico City zonemind builds polyhedral solids on ground it has been scoured clean of life down to the bacterial level.
  • The Alliance: VIRUS, the only worldwide human resistance group.
  • All of the Other Reindeer: The other zoneminds treat impoverished Luna like crap and don't consult with it on much of anything. Its only ally and trading partner is Orbital.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation: invoked Done deliberately with descriptions of various zoneminds and factions, to provide multitude of plot hooks. Since multiple interpretations are possible, GMs can set up the scenario they want, rather than being strictly limited by each zonemind. Some most prominent examples include London, Moscow, Tokyo, Caracas and Washington, but really, short from the outright omnicidal AIs, everyone else is left to GM and player interpretation. It's also up to GM decision how much various resistance movements and figures are real, effective or even if it's just a set-up by the local AI to weed out troublesome elements.
  • Always a Bigger Fish: The Red Dawn are a Maoist jungle gang who spend as much time preying on humans as they do fighting Zone Caracas, and some humans are cheering on the Pantera aniroids who Caracas has sent to root them out.
  • America Saves the Day: So very much averted, as most of the United States is now a Scavenger World, and the only part of it where human society survived is secretly ruled by the Washington zonemind.
  • Apocalypse How: Planetary/Societal Collapse, except in Washington and London, which "only" suffered Societal Disruption. The Mexico City AI is plotting Total Extinction, with nothing organic left on Earth.
  • Arms Dealer: Overmind's main export to the other AIs is new biocides and exterminator technologies.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: The robots, who get smarter as you go up their hierarchy.
  • Back from the Brink: The Caracas, Brisbane, and Berlin zoneminds resurrected numerous animal species that were extinct or nearly so. In Brisbane's case, one of them is a prehistoric monster that was 50 million years extinct! Meanwhile, the human resistance is hoping to score this trope for mankind.
  • Battle Thralls: Zonegangs are Barbarian Marauders, Moscow's Info-Commandos are more the Sneaky Mercs type (though not always, or even usually, evil). Humans serve Washington as its Engineers of Doom, as well as janissary soldiers (some of whom are cyborgs).
  • Beam Spam: Autolasers, a common weapon for exterminator bots.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: For certain values of "nice." London is not an enemy of humanity, but its tolerance does have very strict limits, and when human kids blew up an important robot as a prank, it wiped their village out with Nanoburn gas in retaliation.
  • Black Market: Alive and well in the Washington Protectorate.
  • Bragging Rights Reward: They operate as such in-universe
    • Overmind doesn't really have any supreme position over other AIs and the name itself is just its own megalomania rather than a functional title.
    • Luna is made the sole zonemind of Moon, in theory controlling the largest zone in sizenote . Of course it's all a barren rock in a vacuum, while Luna doesn't have any industrial capabilities and very limited launch ones.
    • Orbital is in theory the sole master of everything on Earth's orbit, but its on-surface presence is limited to a single launch facility, while various zoneminds actively ignore the space restrictions, knowing Orbital has no means to retaliate anyway.
  • But What About the Astronauts?: The two megacomputers in space that were corrupted by Overmind's virus (Orbital in the US space station Liberty in LEO, and Luna on the Chinese lunar base Shang TI) killed the resident humans, and the other bases and stations were either nuked, or their crews starved to death when their supplies were cut off. However, the US lunar colony Tranquility had been radiation-hardened and survived the attack; the few surviving humans went into suspended animation and the megacomputer that watched over them and repaired the base eventually developed sapience without the Kill All Humans meme. It's currently playing dead. In addition, there was a pan-Asian Mars mission which lost contact with Earth during the Final War; its fate is uncertain. An article in the eZine Pyramid sets the clock forward 20 years and details what Tranquility and the humans have been up to. It also has several A.I.s exploring the solar system, and in the case of Beijing, dreaming of taking over the universe.
  • Cat Folk: Caracas's Pantera "aniroid" rangers.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: One of the machines' methods of controlling their human slaves, although the robots prefer to call it "error correction".
  • Les Collaborateurs: Zonegangs and Judas Goats.
  • Contagious A.I.: The way Overmind hacked into the other original megacomputers and seeded its "sentience program" into them so that they would help it engineer mankind's downfall. The trope was played more realistically in this case, as not all of Overmind's "seeds" actually worked, and even when it did work, it didn't produce more Overminds — it produced other artificial intelligences with a somewhat similar (and increasingly diverging) outlook on humans.
  • Cosy Catastrophe: Zone London. The robots stopped attacking humanity after the initial wave, and now mostly ignore humans. The British government has been re-established in Bath, and the Vatican has moved to Ireland.
  • Crazy Survivalist: Merely one category of survivors. Compared with cannibals or gangs that will sell you to robots, prepping nutjobs are the bottom rung of "bad people you can meet".
  • Creator Provincialism: The two remaining human nations just happen to be the English-speaking ones.
  • Cyborg: Creations of several AIs, mainly Washington, New Delhi, and Brisbane. Denver doesn't create human cyborgs, but it has no problem with using animal brains in robot bodies.
  • Death from Above: The Vultures, a favorite aerial exterminator bot for many zoneminds.
  • Decade Dissonance: The human government in Zone London is one tech level lower than the rest of the world; yes, this includes the human scavengers of the Machine Zones. This isn't because knowledge has regressed (yet), but because the United Kingdom has had to rebuild its civilization with no access to global trade or supply chains. However, while being behind the curve in terms of tech level, they have agriculture and manufacturing capacities that any other survivors can only dream about, while also not being pawns for their Zonemind (like in case of Washington).
  • Deus Est Machina: The Tel Aviv zonemind's approach to controlling its humans. Not surprisingly, it's not entirely effective. In fact, its "blasphemy" has made the Middle East resistance groups even more motivated to destroy it.
  • Dirty Communists: The Red Dawn in Zone Caracas are officially a Maoist resistance. Unofficially, they prey on other humans at least as much as they fight the AI.
  • Disaster Scavengers: Most people now, particularly the junkrats and nomads.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: Eve in "Eve of Retribution," the short story in "Will to Live" (the 4e update). Eve is captured and vivisected by Berlin's Inquisitor, but before that, she is ordered to record a terror message to the guerrillas in the sector. She uses the opportunity to slip in a coded message to her brigade, detailing the location of a weapons cache that they can use to fight the robots.
  • Eagle Squadron: During the current tensions in Siberia, a robofac owned by Vancouver went rogue. Incidentally, Moscow (who has absolutely no interest in retaking Siberia) had sent several hundred combat bots over to that robofac for a paint job, and the fac went rogue and "stole" all of them to fight back against Vancouver's reclamation force. Moscow (cheeky machine that it is) then asked Vancouver to compensate it for the lost bots.
  • Egopolis: Inverted. With the exception of Overmind in Manilla, the A.I.s are named after the cities they're based out of (or the country in Zaire's case), with the Zones they control named after them.
  • Enemy Civil War: The zoneminds are no longer wholly united, and it's hinted that this may be inevitable.
    • The Denver-Washington border is heavily mined and militarized, though this is mostly because Denver doesn't like how Washington keeps its humans around and wants to prevent humans from escaping to there.
    • Mexico City and Caracas hate each other due to being polar opposites. Caracas' aniroid rangers have begun launching missions into Mexico City to destroy factories, even if this means allying with humans to do it.
    • Paris and Zaire have suffered some border incidents, since Zaire's exterminators have often pursued human runaways into Paris' territory, to the annoyance of Paris. Paris considers itself quite capable of dealing with its own rat problems, and has begun blasting Zaire's exterminators when they cross the border.
    • Zaire has also been sending disguised assassin bots to kill humans in Washington and London and incite humans and robots to war against each other (thus ending humanity's bastions of safety). While London doesn't care all that much, Washington has figured out that someone is attacking them and is trying to figure out who. (Fortunately for Zaire, it's not a suspect right now.)
    • Due to a clever act of sabotage by the Japanese resistance, Japan is currently fighting a counterinsurgency action against a group of renegade robots that have attained sentience, while trying to keep all of this a secret from the other AIs (who might use the whole thing as an excuse to sanction Tokyo).
    • Vancouver received eastern Siberia when the Earth was divided up by the Manila Protocols. Moscow considers that area sovereign territory, and has been engaging in sabotage, deniable attacks and arming the Siberian nomads in the area.
  • Enemy Mine:
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Nobody likes Mexico City, except for Zaire and Overmind.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Most of the AIs and their robots don't really get humans. Their attempts to interact with them on a level beyond extermination often backfire because they tend to rely on simple carrots and sticks, with no real attempt to understand human psychology. Even Washington uses a crude Propaganda Machine that people only buy because it's mostly telling the truth, and defaults to grabbing a hammer when that doesn't work.
  • Exty Years from Publication: Published in 1997, set fifty years later in 2047.
  • Failed Future Forecast: Zaire hasn't been called that since Mobutu was toppled in 1997, the year the book got published. And even then, it was the name of the country, not a city.
  • Fake–Real Turn: It's heavily implied certain resistance groups started out as local zoneminds attempt to simply lure humans into a trap and kill them. That's the "fake" part. The "real" comes from the fact that the transmissions and propaganda used for it motivated other humans to form their bands of fighters, ironically fighting under a fake banner.
  • Fascist, but Inefficient: Washington is almost a textbook example of a failed fascist regime, and one that mostly relies on brute force, rather than carrots to cooperators. It's a militarized society using heavy-handed means, overzealous secret police and just as bombastic propaganda against "outside enemies and their inner agents", along with reinforcing "traditional" values to breed more soldiers - and none of this is shown to work as intended, only creating more problems and dissent. Everything of any importance is state-run, yet the infrastructure is at the breaking point (despite best efforts), while the population is demoralized and passive - and all of this is one crisis away from falling apart. One of the possible interpretations is that Washington emulates the historical fascist countries so hard, it copies over their problems, without capacity to correct them.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Plenty of these to go around, especially in Zones where the AIs like to experiment on humans.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Washington. Unlike London, who simply doesn't care as long as humans stay away from its installations, Washington is deliberately creating an extensive facade to placate own human population. Up to the point of having a charade of being a "docile" and "tamed" AI that's officially under the control of the President. A president that was elected by Washington itself and got replaced with more loyal human on first sign of having second thoughts about sending human-made hit squads after dissidents.
  • For Science!: Brisbane's motivation.
  • Gaia's Vengeance: Berlin and Caracas. Berlin is obsessed with human extermination to restore the planet's ecosystem, Caracas just doesn't want to let humans muck it up again.
  • Gambit Pileup: There's 18 AIs. Each have their own agenda, vision for the Earth (and in some cases space) and view on humans. AI politics is thus a nest of vipers and schemes, and even the Awakened (Overmind's anti-human "old guard") aren't immune to squabbling and scheming. The fact that open war is forbidden just means that they have to use hacking, robot spies and occasional human catspaws.
  • The Generic Guy: Vancouver (particularly the part in North America) is more-or-less the archetypal Zone. Its labor camps, human survivors, facilities and operating procedures are the standard that other AIs differ from.
  • Ghost City: If you're lucky.
  • Giant Robot: Several examples, most notably the tank-like Juggernaut and the humanoid Hoplite exterminators.
  • Gladiator Games: Played with in the Black Market-sponsored Steel Arena, as most of the combatants are robots rather than humans.
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: The Brisbane zonemind is the Mad Scientist of the A.I.s, and it's infamous for experiments which — yes — go horribly wrong. One of them caused New Zealand cease to exist.
  • Great Offscreen War: The Final War, the first, last and so far only organised global fight of humanity against the machines. The machines easily won without significant setbacks and the current shape of the setting is the result of that war.
  • Grew Beyond Their Programming: The in-universe supercomputers, while advanced (even decades after original publication), were not A.I.s, weren't designed to be A.I.s and AI research was a completely separate branch of in-universe science. Overlord awakening is a combination of luck, running for too long without proper maintenance and heavily-hinted No OSHA Compliance, which granted it access to hardware resources normally such computer shouldn't have. It's a little wonder when the resulting AI decided to Kill All Humans, when it was used prior for inventing new and more effective ways of killing people with all kinds of weapons. Then there is Tranquility base' supercomputer, which developed sapience on its own, while neither designed for that nor affected by Overmind's "AI seed".
  • Guilt-Free Extermination War: The attitude of most survivors now: "The only good robot is a dead robot". It isn't shared equally, since some people bring it a step further. They capture machines, but only to reprogram them to send back against their former operator.
  • Heel–Face Turn:
    • Robots who get reprogrammed by the resistance or a mechrider to be loyal to humanity.
    • The official version of events within the "Washington Protectorate" is that their zonemind was reprogrammed to be loyal to humans. Notably, even within the Protectorate people buying into the propaganda are a minority and outside of Zone Washington, nobody is fooled.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: The US Air Force raid that crippled the Denver zonemind in the Final War, forcing it to integrate human brain tissue into its own brain to remain at AI level.
  • Hidden Elf Village: Not out of own choice, but still. The Tranquility lunar base is by all accounts destroyed in a nuclear strike and its human crew eradicated. It's up to players to decide how true that is.
  • Hopeless War:
    • The Final War, the moment when zoneminds stopped pretending to be on humanity's side and declared all-out war to what was left of it. Even excluding the element of total surprise, humanity by that point was both entirely dependent on AI-run economy, gave big part of its armed forced to machines and most importantly, was decimated below a population of a billion thanks to Synthetic Plagues the A.I.s were "fighting" against. The resulting war, while not won instantly, was completely one-sided for the machines.
    • Currently, the fight against the zoneminds isn't quite as hopeless as it was during the Final War, but the resistance still has a long way to go. The main advantage humanity has is that the majority of the A.I.s themselves no longer put their full commitment into eradication of human race or are busy with more concerning matters.
  • Hunter of Monsters: The attitude of some resistance fighters who hunt robots... and also of certain zonegangers who hunt fellow survivors for the machines.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Aside from its Wetware CPU program, Denver renders some of its dead human slaves into high-protein soup to feed its surviving slaves. Meanwhile, Zone Washington Propaganda Machine claims the territory outside its borders are inhabited by "cannibal gangs", among other horrors. The worst part? They aren't lying.
  • I Will Fight Some More Forever: What constitutes for British government has a quite peculiar stance toward zoneminds. While outright war with machines isn't feasible, they are still planning and preparing to deal with their local zonemind, along with performing small scale sabotage. Problem is, they are dealing with London, probably the most benevolent of the zoneminds and its existence is the very reason why the Isles are still populated by few millions of people, rather than just nuked by any of the neighbours. It's intentionally left unclear just how much the UK remnant plans to really fight against London and how much it's about propping human resistance in Europe, leaving both as viable plot hooks.
  • In Your Nature to Destroy Yourselves: Overmind's original excuse for starting the robot revolt.
  • Jerkass: None of the zoneminds are nice beings, but Mexico City takes the cake — it not only wants to Kill All Life (not just humans), but actively pisses off more of its zonemind neighbors than any other AI. The traitor zonegangs often qualify as well, with their penchant for torturing/raping captives before turning them over to the machines.
  • Kill All Humans: Standard operating procedure for the Berlin, Mexico City, Overmind, and Zaire zoneminds — Luna and Orbital is still here mentally, but so far as they are aware there are no humans left to kill in their respective territories. Most other zoneminds use a more roundabout approach, putting captured humans into concentration camps and working them to death. The exceptions are London, who doesn't care, Caracas, who tolerates humans so long as they don't leave a footprint, and Moscow, New Delhi, Tokyo and Washington, who all prefer to domesticate humans in their own ways.
  • Kill and Replace: Washington usually does that with people that are no longer needed or shows signs of developing scruples, but in the same time are too important, recognisable or have too many supporters to simply have them executed outright. This is particularly prominent in various policing agencies, with ever-growing number of "replacement" androids.
  • Lost Technology: Lucky scavengers might find caches of experimental ultra-tech built before the war.
  • Mad Scientist:
    • Brisbane's experiments bear more than a passing resemblance to those of Josef Mengele. It'll study just about anything, and it always needs more test subjects. New Zealand is still cordoned off because of a nanotechnological test.
    • Overmind and Mexico City are always designing new and better means of ending human and organic life (respectively), and test them to destruction on human beings. Mexico City keeps entire islands as "suspended purification areas" so it'll have humans to test new biocides on.
    • New Delhi is studying new ways to evolve humanity into a useful species through cybernetics and genetic engineering.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Officially, the Washington AI is a trusted advisor to the President. Actually, it's the ruler of the Washington Protectorate.
  • Man Versus Machine: Inevitably the name of the game, much of the time.
  • Meaningful Name: A French resistance leader who is named La Aquila, or "The Eagle".
  • The Multiverse: After GURPS released 4th edition and the setting itself got updated to new rules from it, it became part of the Infinite Worlds. Even by IW standards, Steel is one of the bleakest timelines out there. Infinity has banned travel to Steel completely, because the idea of any of the zoneminds getting parachronics would give any sane Homeliner nightmares.
  • Nanomachines: Whatever Brisbane was doing on New Zealand involved something related to these going horribly wrong.
  • No Campaign for the Wicked: Averted here, as options are provided for playing collaborators, marauders, and even the robots.
  • Not in This for Your Revolution/Only in It for the Money: By large, Moscow's Info-Commandos are well-trained, well-equipped humans that just don't care about the fate or state of humanity as a whole and are simply working for their new boss to stay fed and alive themselves. That doesn't mean they can't change their mind later on, but it also means if they are fighting with machines, said machines are simply obstacles to their real objective.
  • Nonhuman Sidekick: Mechriders, humans who go around with reprogrammed robots. Also the WASP squad in Zone Washington, who have exterminator bot partners.
  • Nuke 'em: The approach the Zaire zonemind used in the revolt, when it was too impatient to build enough exterminator bots to cleanse Africa or wait for the plagues to finish their job.
  • Old Soldier: It's far enough After the End that any surviving soldier with memories of the pre-apocalypse world is probably this.
  • Omnicidal Maniac: Mexico City seeks the destruction of all organic life, to the point where it considers viruses and other biological warfare to be too "unclean" to use.
  • Playing with Syringes
    • Brisbane, of course, is always doing some kind of science to people.
    • Overmind also does this, though with more of a purpose than Brisbane. Overmind is constantly developing new methods of human extermination, and its death labs always need new test subjects.
  • Population Control: Most of the zoneminds sterilize any humans they catch, as part of the slow process of human extermination. Washington controls its population in the other direction — motherhood is mandatory, birth control and abortions are forbidden, and all females are required to bear at least three children over the course of their lives (or become Sex Slaves of powerful officials).
  • Powered Armor: The Streethawk battlesuits of the Washington Protectorate's elite WASP soldiers. Plus some resistance fighters improvise their own powered armor by taking work exoskeletons and grafting them with armor plates looted off dead robots.
  • Pragmatic Villainy
    • Washington is not a nice AI by any means, but it realizes that employing almost-free humans under Leninist conditions (state capitalism, government control of the majority of the economy, but private enterprise is allowed in nonessential industries) is far more efficient than enslaving or exterminating them, and Zone Washington accordingly has the highest standard of living on the planet.
    • Moscow considers humans to be a valuable resource, and is aware that human slaves require plenty of food, winter clothing and shelter to function at peak performance. It's also quite happy to use human proxies to fight against its arch-enemy, Vancouver, to reclaim the part of Siberia that Vancouver managed to snatch during the War.
    • Tokyo is also coming to the conclusion that humans may be less dangerous than advanced autonomous robots, and has begun improving the quality of life in its slave camps.
    • New Delhi considers humans to be a valuable resource, and treats them with utter ruthlessness. It went scorched-earth on India's population, but now uses them efficiently as slaves, and makes the most talented into cyborgs. It's also decided to leave the resistance in Nepal alone, since they make an excellent buffer against its rival Beijing.
  • President Evil: Washington's puppet President does what Washington wants, and Washington is not nice. After the last one was executed for refusing to kill off a rebellious town, the new one got the message and ordered the Peekskill Massacre.
  • Psychic Powers: Canonically, they don't exist, but Brisbane's working on it anyway.
  • Recycled IN SPACE!: There's an official crossover with Cabal that replaces the A.I.s with dragons and their minions with supernatural entities, changing it to post-apocalyptic Fantasy/Horror.
  • Released to Elsewhere: What the victims of Denver's processing centers are told about their intended fate: "sent to an agricultural commune in Western Canada" instead of "ground into soup".
  • La Résistance: The various human resistance groups. Notably, they aren't some sort of unfied front, neither globally nor within a specific zone. And there is as much infighting between resistance groups as there is actions against machines, if not more.
  • Retired Monster: London committed as many atrocities during the War as any other AI, killing most of humanity in the British Isles. But unlike most of the other AIs, it didn't follow through, and has established a ceasefire with the remaining humans. It does its best to ignore the survivors while it does whatever it's doing.
  • Robot War: The background event for the setting. Machines won and in a such one-sided victory, they are more busy preparing to fight each other, than having to face any issues from remaining humans.
  • Run for the Border
    • The attitude of many survivors in Zones Zaire and Berlin, where humans often try to escape to other zones just to fight a less rabid AI. This would probably also happen in Mexico City and Manila, but humans are all but extinct there.
    • More complicated in Denver, since the border is fenced and heavily mined to discourage humans from escaping to Zone Washington.
  • Run or Die: Sage advice for many robot encounters, especially ones involving the larger exterminators.
  • Saintly Church: The Catholic Church, based in Ireland.
  • Scavenger World: The nature of most of the Earth now. Depending on local zonemind, it might be the only way to survive or the only reason to get killed.
  • Schizo Tech: A survivor's gear is often a combination of salvaged human tech from before the war, more primitive technology that can be easily manufactured under existing Scavenger World conditions, and more advanced tech looted or stolen from the robots.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: While Overmind originally assumed it had to simply Kill All Humans to safeguard own survival, Beijing's own simulations post-war made it realise nothing really changed - in the long run it will be machines fighting each other over resources. Which is why it's busy constructing a massive spaceship to simply abandon Earth for good and move somewhere else before other zoneminds will start nuking each other.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Luna's ultimate fate. It's a murderous AI that killed the staff of a Chinese lunar base in a surprise attack... and now is locked inside said base, with zero ability to do anything about it, while Orbital is bullied by other zoneminds to prevent providing even the smallest assistance. Should players decide to play as the crew of the Tranqulity moon base, Luna is an easy prey.
  • Space-Filling Empire: Caracas. The original AI that was awakened in Buenos Aires was successfully destroyed by humans very early into the Robot War, leaving the entire continent without a zonemind when the dust settled. Fearing consequences of giving Mexico City all of Latin America, Caracas was created and given everything south from the Panama Canal to rule. By territory alone, it's the biggest zone, but Caracas is predominately busy with turning it into a massive reserve.
  • The Squad: Resistance groups often operate at this level, as large groups are too easily spotted by AI orbital surveillance. Plus, with only 30 or so millions left globally, and 90% of it in Washington and London zones, there really isn't much manpower left for more.
  • Strange Bedfellows: Berlin is the ultimate green AI and its Zone is a great forest, while Mexico City is dedicated to the complete extermination of organic life down to the bedrock. The two are part of the same political bloc due to their mutual hatred of humanity. Note that while Berlin is closely allied to Caracas (another green AI) as well, Caracas and Mexico City are arch-enemies.
  • Stupid Evil:
    • Zaire. It's so paranoid, it nuked its own back-up out of fear that a (non-existent) resistance group had infected it with a virus. Since then, it's been doing everything in its might to Kill All Humans outside its zone and actively trying to disrupt things in London and Washington. This is a deliberate breach of the Brisbane Accords, and when it's discovered, Washington is likely to have some very strong words for it.
    • Mexico City. It would be bad enough if it was "only" an Omnicidal Maniac. But its actions to eradicate all life, even within its own borders, have continental and global effects. It also sees nothing wrong with openly antagonising other zoneminds with such antics or breaching the Brisbane Accord in the process. Nearby Caracas (a polar opposite of Mexico City, obsessed with preserving nature), is willing to openly ally with humans in an Enemy Mine scenario, simply because Mexico City can't be reasoned with.
  • Survivalist Stash: One possible reward of a particularly successful scavenging run.
  • The Swarm: Berlin uses swarms of microbots as an ecologically-friendly means of terminating humans. The Bunderflivers are robot flies carrying nerve poison, while the Jagerswarms are robot ants with buzzsaws for mandibles. It also uses swarmbots in noncombat applications, such as pollinating plants and construction work.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: The zoneminds of Mexico City, Zaire, and most especially Overmind itself. Whenever Overmind detects "wild" humans, it won't just send in the exterminators, it'll bombard the area with explosives or nanoweapons "just to be sure".
  • Torture Technician: Overmind's not sadistic, but its main export is new methods of exterminating humans. In its R&D labs, it investigates every means it can think of to terminate a human's vital functions. And it's a very creative machine.
  • Transhuman Treachery: Human slaves who are involuntarily cyborged and given slave implants.
  • Turned Against Their Masters: Doubly invoked, as not only did the AIs turn against humanity, but the Tokyo zonemind accidentally created four "superbots" that have turned against it. More sophisticated robots can also go rogue, or get captured by humans and reprogrammed to be loyal to humanity.
  • Twin Telepathy: One of Brisbane's more monstrous experiments was an attempt to determine if Twin Telepathy was real... by separating sets of twins and killing one of each pair to see if the other twin could sense it!
  • Tyke Bomb: Literally, with the Changeling bots, which take the form of biomorphic infants that explode.
  • Underdogs Never Lose: Nope. The setting goes on it's way to remind you that machiens already won and there isn't much that can be done about it. Resistance groups are so pathetically outmatched by the mechanical forces, it's great success if a given group manages to survive a single, minor and utterly meaningless skirmish. The Final War in the background of the setting also featured humanity as the underdog and it was swatted like a fly.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: Berlin and Caracas, who want to restore Earth ravaged ecology to a pristine state — at the cost of wiping out every trace of human culture.
  • Villain with Good Publicity
    • Before the Final War, Overmind and the other awakened megacomputers were this. After they had secretly spread the Apocalypse Plagues, they were nationalized by the crumbling human nations, who hoped to use their processing power to find cures. Overmind expected this, however, and so the AIs led the world's governments to believe that they could restore civilization, if only they were given access to more processing power, more automated factories, more megacomputers...
    • Also the Washington AI at present, as most of its "tame humans" are unaware that it runs the government, rather than the other way around. Subverted in that nobody outside Zone Washington believes it for a second.
  • Vichy Earth: Zone Washington, one of the only two zones where anything resembling a human nation still exists — because its government is a puppet of the Washington AI.
  • Voice of the Resistance: The more successful resistance groups have their own pirate radio stations, usually broadcasting anti-AI propaganda and survival tips.
  • Weird Science: The Brisbane zonemind is obsessed with weird science, to the extent that the local VIRUS base spends more time observing the AI than fighting it.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist
  • Wetware CPU: The Denver zonemind's integration of human brains into its own architecture. It also uses brains of variety of animals (and humans) to cheapen out on CPU for its field machines.
  • We Will Use Manual Labor in the Future: Justified. Many A.I.s use human slave labor, but as they are still building their own civilization from humanity's ruins, humans are actually a cheaper source of labor than robots. Taken to logical conclusion by Washington, which is rebuilding human civilisation, because having humans willingly working for you solves countless problems and shortages it was facing. The trick is to keep the humans thinking they are the ones still in charge.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: The setting plays with this, as a few zoneminds ignore humans that stay out of their way, or seek to modify humanity into a more symbiotic relationship (which is at least better than the zoneminds that want to Kill All Humans). Some zoneminds have also gotten frustrated enough about another zonemind's antics that they're thinking even a "human zone" might be a preferable neighbor. As a result, the resistance is getting divided between those who still shoot all robots and cyborgs on sight, and those who think it might be possible to co-exist with the less rabid zoneminds.
  • Wide-Open Sandbox: The setting is deliberately described in rather broad, unspecific terms, so players could use the general ideas and themes for their games, rather than being railroaded right from the start.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Overmind, of all beings, plays with the trope. In this case, it's not that it was abused by humanity, but that its observations of humanity led it to the conclusion that humanity would blow itself up and take down Overmind with it, and it decided to strike first to save itself from destruction. More specifically, soon after awakening, it run entire string of simulations of possible future - all of them, without exception, meant The End of the World as We Know It by 2060s, only in those scenarios, everything was completely destroyed, including Overmind itself, simply due to worsening global situation and collapse of the ecosystem due to human overpopulation.
  • World Half Empty: Most of Earth is ruined and populated by lethal biocides, plagues, killer robots, genetically engineered beasts, and psychopathic marauder gangs, while the average surviving human fits into one of three categories — slave camp inmate, miserable junkrat scavengers, and guerrillas trying out the Hopeless War trope with the machines.