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Tabletop Game / Neuroshima

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Never trust the Machinesnote 
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Neuroshima is a Polish tabletop RPG, heavily inspired by everything post-apocalyptic.

The game is set in the United States in the mid-21st century, after a nuclear war started by a cybernetic revolt turned the continent into a barren wasteland. The military artificial intelligence responsible for the war, commonly referred to as Moloch, now has control over a net of old military facilities, automated factories, power plants and alike, covering the whole northern U.S., from Oregon to the Great Lakes. Advancing north from Latin America into the southern states is the Neojungle, a mass of semi-intelligent carnivorous vegetation that grows faster than kudzu. Caught in the middle are the surviving humans, trapped between the deadly creatures and robots created by Moloch on one side, and wild animals mutated by nuclear radiation thriving in a hostile jungle on the other. But what is stressed in the book is that the worst enemy of humans is within them: hatred, indifference, and greed.

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In its heyday, Neuroshima was one of the most popular, if not the most popular tabletop game in Poland, but the popularity quickly disappeared after support for the game ended, leaving it in a half-finished state. In spite of taking place in the United States, the game treats them as a simple, almost fantasy backdrop, with content that is very Polish in its nature.

The game spawned a much, much more popular successor that managed to have multiple editions and eventually got turned into a video game: Neuroshima Hex!.


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This tabletop RPG provides examples of:

  • 20 Minutes into the Future: At this pace, the game will be soon set in Alternate History, as Moloch came to life in the early 2020s.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Moloch, being Skynet in everything but name, rebelled against humanity the moment it was put online, starting a nuclear war.
  • Apocalypse How: Between Class 1 and 2, depending on location. The nuclear exchange affected the entire world, but we only hear about the United States. How the rest of the planet is faring is unclear, but at least some forces from Europe arrived in the States and started the Appalachian Federation.
  • The Apunkalypse: Obviously, as the entire setting is based on late 80s post-apocalyptic B-movies.
  • Big Applesauce: New York somehow wasn't a target of nuclear bombardment, allowing it to survive relatively intact. Now it's a place which has established a strong government and would like to rebuild America. They maintain schools, factories and railways and send soldiers to fight Moloch. Surprisingly enough, they sometimes succeed.
  • Big Creepy-Crawlies: Two flavours of it - "regular" mutated animals and all the nightmarish, half-plant hybrids coming out of the Neojungle.
  • Bio-Augmentation: Moloch really likes to experiment on organic tissue. Also, Neojungle is strongly implied to be an effect of some pre-war experiment that accidentally got released to the wild after the bombs dropped.
  • Blue and Orange Morality: Raiders are described as being simply insane and unable to operate in a civilized world.
  • Canada, Eh?: The portrayal of Canada in the fan-made expansion is a collection of every single possible stereotype imaginable. Somehow, Quebec is not mentioned at all.
  • Crapsack World: Civilization has been shattered by nuclear bombardment and is being fought over by humans, mutants, machines and stranger things, each trying to outdo one another. It is definitely not a pleasant place to live.
  • Creative Sterility: Moloch, for all its power, is just a military computer with relatively limited programming outside directing airstikes. After the initial success gained by the sudden nuclear attack and taking over the north-eastern corner of the States, it has a hard time adapting to all the different groups it now has to face and the multitude of tactics they apply. It's not helping it works as a Mind Hive, so there is nobody giving direct orders or coordination outside a localised area. Outpost scientists are perfectly aware of this and remorsely exploit this with their ever-changing approach against the machines.
  • Cyborg: Cybernetic modifications are relatively widespread, but also treated with great mistrust - only Moloch has both the technology and infrastructure to mass-produce them.
  • Divided States of America: New York controls most of the former state, as does Texas. The Appalachian Federation rules over the entire Appalachian region. Detroit is the main player of the Great Lakes region. Florida is either unclaimed swamp or the city-state of Miami. Utah is doing just about fine, once again as Mormon country. Vegas is a city-state and of course let's not forget about Native American confederations and coalitions. Also, raiders. Lots and lots of raiders.
  • Enemy Exchange Program: It is entirely possible to hijack Moloch heavy war machines and use them. They're most effective against other machines. The Outpost specialises in both stealing and reverse-engineering Moloch's weapons and weapon systems.
  • Enemy Mine: The only way how anyone in the setting seems to create alliances and cooperation.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: The setting is intentionally designed as such, with hostile creatures and creations all over the board, confining the characters within the former United States.
  • Evil Brit: Out of all possible people, European nobility, predominantly British, came to the States soon after the war with aircraft carriers and conquered what is now The Appalachian Federation. They imposed feudal rule and slavery, and cultivate Southern Gentleman archetypes. Try not to think too hard about it.
  • Evil Is One Big, Happy Family: Averted. Mutants are probably the biggest organised threat to Moloch operations, and Neojungle is a semi-sentient being killing everything in its wake, while also harmful for machine installations.
  • Expy: The game isn't very subtle about those:
  • Fan Work: After all future work with the system was cancelled, the small, but devoted fandom kept on creating new expansions, since the source book barely described most of the places on the map and the official expansion only focused on a literal handful of cities. This home-made content is not only regarded as much, much better than the official material, but is roughly twenty times bigger - the sole book describing The Appalachian Federation is 350 pages long, while in the original source book there is barely a single paragraph about it.
  • Feudal Future: The basis of The Appalachian Federation, alongside slavery.
  • Flanderization: The game takes place in the United States as they are known from movies and TV shows, so go figure.
  • Flat Character: The source book barely describes any of the factions of the setting, usually giving them a paragraph or two. Apparently this was intentional, to both give players free hand and sell expansion packs, but in the end, it makes the vanilla setting simply underdeveloped.
  • Foreign Culture Fetish: Played With. The setting can be best described as how Poles imagined life in America in the early 90s, based on watching things like Walker, Texas Ranger, Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, a bunch of classic westerns, revenge flicks from the late 70s and Buddy Cop Shows. It can be really hard to take the setting as anything else than just plain insane without knowing this context.
  • Gameplay and Story Integration: Moloch is a Mind Hive. Separating its drones and jamming the outside signal renders them inactive and ready for new programming, assuming one has sufficient skills and tools.
  • Gas Mask, Longcoat: Common gear for most adventurers, providing basic protection against the irradiated dust.
  • Hegemonic Empire: The Southern Hegemony, or The Hegemony for short. It's a collection of semi-feudal states, enclaves and outright warzones between various gangs, lead by the strongest of them and in constant struggle for leadership. The best way of showing your own power? Raiding outside territories.
  • Hungry Jungle: Neojungle is a literal example. It consumes everything on its wake, while being highly toxic (not poisonous - toxic) to regular life forms. It is also perfectly capable of ignoring how dry northern Mexico is.
  • Irony: The game is almost unknown abroad, while it created the basis for the widely successful Neuroshima Hex!. In turn, Neuroshima Hex is barely known in Poland.
  • La Résistance: The Outpost's most defining trait is their fight against Moloch.
  • Las Vegas: One of the most successful post-war countries. A city-state and one of two enclaves of civilisation from the West Coast to the Mississippi river, the other being Salt Lake City. As long as you can afford things, life is peachy there.
  • Loads and Loads of Rules: Dear God, the game has just horrible mechanics design and is often cited as even worse than Crystals of Timenote . It uses a convoluted system of 3d20, which can make most checks simply impossible to pass, no matter what. The outcome of the dice is extremely counter-intuitive, it requires a lot of extra calculations to be made in the background (and the GM better get an abacus to keep track of a single turn of combat), and the numbers are inflated for no apparent reason. If characters start to shoot each other in hard terrain at range longer than 20 meters (and guns have realistic range), it's easier to just make arbitrary decisions how the combat went rather than try to decipher it from the rules.
    • And then there is Slider, which can turn even normally bearable calculations into an incomprehensible mess.
    • The "fixed" edition of the game, 1.5, only made things worse, as it tried to add all the rules from expansions to the core book, never addressing any of the problems, with the clumsy work at welding things together creating an unplayable game.
  • Man-Eating Plant: Neojungle is implied to be full of those. And anything venturing into the foliage will quickly die and be turned into fertilizer anyway.
  • Mind Hive: Moloch's biggest strength and weakness is its lack of a central commanding unit. While it's impossible to turn it off, it can't properly manage its own assets or muster well-organised defenses or reactions toward small-scale, widespread attacks.
  • Mutants: Not counting more traditional ones that roam the wasteland, one of the core rules makes every single character (unless coming from Texas) one, usually in the form of some Black Comedy illness, like sweating in acid. Depending on the tone the GM picks for the scenario, such mutation can be played for laughs or the very reason why humanity is dying.
  • National Stereotypes: Polish stereotypes about Americans and life in America, dialled Up to Eleven, are the basis of the setting. Certain elements are hard to take even for Poles.
  • One Riot, One Ranger: Texas Rangers operate under this principle. Not because of tradition, but due to having really limited resources. That said, Rangers are highly trained individuals, perfectly capable of facing the average gang of raiders all by themselves.
  • Post-Apunkalyptic Armor: All sorts of protective gear will be this by default. Having some pre-war elements, like ceramic plates or kevlar vests, mixed with car tires, is a pretty normal sight.
  • Rape, Pillage, and Burn: The main "role" the Hegemony plays in the landscape. They've managed to destroy all California due to their extensive raids.
  • The Remnant: The Outpost older personnel are all former members of the US Army.
  • Rule of Cool: Subverted. The base game is very timid at making its own content cool or at least semi-aware of how crazy it is. Expansions helped a bit, but there is still a serious dissonance between the setting and its "coolness" factor, especially if the game is played in a more serious tone (heavily advised by the source book), as it simply doesn't fit.
  • Sci-Fi Kitchen Sink: The game has every single cliché element a post-apocalyptic setting can have.
  • Shaped Like Itself: The Appalachian Federation controls Appalachia and Texas is maintaining the state borders.
  • Shrouded in Myth: The setting is set 30 years after the nuclear war. This means the war itself or the world before it is barely remembered by anyone at this point and is the stuff of legends. Also, most knowledge about Moloch, mutants and Neojungle comes from gossip, tall tales and rumours.
  • Turned Against Their Masters:
    • Moloch in the backstory did that almost instantly after being put online.
    • One of the most effective tactics against Moloch forces and installations is sending reprogrammed drones against them.
  • We ARE Struggling Together: Most of the surviving patches of civilisation are more focused on fighting each other than uniting together against Moloch or mutants. Unless a greater threat is present and directly affects both sides of the on-going conflict, they will continue their infighting.
    • New York and Outpost are the only exceptions to this, but it's also strongly implied the New York government is simply using the Outpost scientists to push their own agenda, rather than doing it for other reasons.
  • While Rome Burns: The Hegemony doesn't care about Moloch's operations, since they are relatively far away. They also ignore Neojungle, which is slowly crawling into their territory - instead of trying to fight it, they simply move away. All they care about is raiding new settlements and having a good time while doing so.
  • Willing Suspension of Disbelief: Most of the vanilla setting works only as long as players openly ignore logic and any pretense the setting even stood next to reality. Fan-made expansions avoid this trope like fire - the people behind them were fully aware how harmful it was for the size of the player base.
  • You Will Be Assimilated: What makes Neojungle really scary is its ability to incorporate new plants, animals and other creatures into its ecosystem. Mutants, at least the more organised groups of them, will gladly "recruit" new members if given a chance and infrastructure.


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