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Tabletop Game / SLA Industries

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SLA Industries (pronounced "SLAY Industries") is a Tabletop RPG originally published in the early 1990s by Glaswegian studio Nightfall Games. It's set in the World of Progress, a horrific Dystopia governed by Corrupt Corporate Executives (the eponymous SLA Industries) under the control of Mr. Slayer, an immortal plutocrat with a grand plan.

The game follows the exploits of SLA Operatives, highly-trained corporate troubleshooters that the company uses for everything from quashing internal subversion to clearing mutant pigs out of the sewers. Their principal area of operation is the company's capital of Mort Central, an urban jungle the size of Eurasia, rain-soaked home to a churning mass of serial killers, terrorists, human traffickers, psychotic war veterans, killer cyborgs, cannibals, mutants, cannibal mutants, and the aforementioned pigs.


The game has had a difficult upbringing, and been subject to a sporadic release schedule on its journey through the hands of various publishers. Originally published by Nightfall themselves, it was taken up by Wizards of the Coast during the mid-1990s before being dropped in favour of something Lighter and Softer. It then survived a couple of releases at Hogshead, and before being published by Cubicle 7. Now Nightfall Games is back, and a second edition of the game is in the works, with a backer beta currently out and the full release scheduled for November 2020.

In tone, SLA Industries lies somewhere between Paranoia and Kult. Satirical treatment of consumerism, media glamorization of violence, and corporate bureaucracy coexists with brooding horror of various kinds, and the complex production history of the game has given it a variety of conflicting styles. A SLA Game Master will typically mash these together with enthusiasm, creating a unique variation of the game world.


This tabletop RPG provides examples of:

  • Absurdly Spacious Sewer: So absurdly spacious (or perhaps just covering so vast an area), in fact, that low-level Operatives are assigned to patrol it for mutant pigs, serial killers, and other vermin.
  • Adult Fear: The Skin Trade is the epitome of this, snatching 50-70 children daily.
  • All Just a Dream: Played with. According to the SLA Industries Writers' Bible (also known as "The Truth" document), the World of Progress began within the mind of a mentally-ill British man named Brent Walker. Key characters in the setting represent facets of his personality, and certain events correspond to major points in his life. Mr. Slayer himself is the personification of the voice that was in Walker's head, while Bitterness is the godlike remnants of Walker's soul after Slayer "betrayed" him. The trope is subverted, however, in that the World of Progress — through events that occurred near the end of Walker's earthly life — became Another Dimension independent of Earth.
  • And I Must Scream: How many Manchines feel about their existence, as their brains are generally looted from human victims and then "wiped" before being placed in a Manchine chassis. Sometimes the wiping is imperfect, and the Manchine ends up begging its former squad to kill it (even as it tries to rend them limb from limb). Sometimes the wiping is botched so badly that Manchine forgets that it is no longer human.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: SLA Industries' new "Virtue squads" are made up of either these or profane thugs in angelically styled armor.
  • Armor Points: Every armor has not only a protective value that blocks damage, but hit points of its own (measuring how much punishment the armor can take before it falls apart). Similarly, every weapon has an "armor damage" value (measuring how much a hit from the weapon tears up a target's armor). As a result, having your armor disintegrate is one threat in a particularly long mission.
  • Armour Is Useless: Notably defied. The best armors can stop anti-vehicle rounds dead, whereas the most common pistol on Mort is essentially a BB Gun with great marketing, meaning that even weak armor can defeat it.This goes doubly in the game's second edition, with the addition of randomized instead of fixed damage and removal of Penetration values, so even the oft-loathed "Blocker" Body armor can stop a decent amount.
  • Artificial Human: Angel, and the original intent behind Stormers in general.
  • Ax-Crazy: Too many examples to count, but the award for most Ax-Crazy arguably goes to the Ex-War Criminals, who return from tours of duty on a War World with several fewer marbles than they arrived with. Upon arrival, the Ex-War Criminals' preferred MO is to abscond into the Cannibal Sectors, still in possession of their battlefield equipment, and begin a leisurely campaign of murderous terror.
  • BFS: And Axe, and Club, and Scythe, and Chainsaw....
  • Bio-Augmentation: While cybernetics were once fashionable on Mort, the new and better technology are vat-grown limbs and organs for medical, practical and aesthetic purposes.
  • Bio Punk: As above. Some Operatives can take this to extreme levels, and Stormers in particular thrive on it.
  • Bland-Name Product: On Mort you can buy a Klippo lighter (Zippo lighters) and go to Dunkem Donuts (Dunkin Donuts).
  • Blood Sport: The premier sporting league in the World of Progress is the Contract Circuit: televised gladiatorial violence between contestants who, in their day jobs, work as hired killers.
  • Came Back Wrong: Delia the Destroyer and anyone else who undergoes the L.A.D. process. Also, according to The Truth, Stormers
  • Chainsaw Good: Including the Chainaxe, a weapon much beloved among Mort's various psychopaths.
  • City Planet: All Industrial Worlds have their land surface (and most of their seas) completely covered with industrial production facilities and cities.
  • Clones Are People, Too: A small percentage of Stormers. The remaining majority are Expendable Clones used as shock troops on War Worlds.
  • Cloning Blues: Simultaneously played straight and averted with Intruder on two separate occasions; once with Angel (who looks just like Intruder, yet is pure evil) and later with Taarnish (who is the monstrous prototype for the modern Malice stormers, yet is much kinder than Angel).
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: SLA Industries has this trope written all over it.
  • Cosmic Horror Story: Rarely seen in most games, originally intended to be revealed in a long-running Metaplot that fell victim to the game's infrequent releases and Executive Meddling from Wizards of the Coast.
  • Crapsack World: Mostly driven by the Rule of Scary and black comedy.
  • Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: The Manchines, human brains in mechanical bodies who went Ax-Crazy shortly after SLA stopped maintaining them.
  • Cyberpunk with a Chance of Rain: The setting undoubtably took inspiration from Blade Runner. It never stops raining on planet Mort.
  • Death Is a Slap on the Wrist: Sort of. Operatives who are concerned about their prospects for posthumous career advancement can invest in a 'Life After Death' account, which entitles them to be picked up and resurrected via cutting-edge medical techniques in the event that they should die on the job. There are caveats, however: aside from the expense, a successful LAD operation allows a four-minute window between cessation of brain activity and arrival on the operating table, after which revival is impossible. Although a really fast evac helicopter is dispatched at the moment an Operative is critically injured, a customer who is unlucky enough to die in Lower Downtown, the Cannibal Sectors, or any similarly inaccessible or dangerous area cannot rely on timely evacuation. Refunds are not given in such cases. Additionally, Karma Division does not accept liability for any side-effects experienced as a result of the LAD process.
  • Death World: The planet Mort is almost completely uninhabitable, and requires 'Atmosphere Generators' — each the size of a city — in order to maintain some semblance of a biosphere (and, coincidentally, keep the gravity in check). Huge swathes of Mort Central itself are abandoned by civilized society, and have evolved a thriving ecosphere of giant insects, cannibals, mutants, and raw malevolence.
    • Though Operatives don't usually go there, the War Worlds are even worse. Once there, SLA Industries' soldiers have an average lifespan of a day. On the worst War Worlds, this can drop to just twenty minutes.
  • Do Not Adjust Your Set: A preferred tactic of SLA's rival company DarkNight.
  • Drugs Are Bad: There are plenty of combat drugs available to Operatives (and anyone else who can get their hands on them). Most, of course, are highly addictive.
  • Dystopia: Even on Mort (the capital planet of SLA Industries and thus the one world that you could expect to be a prosperous, secure stronghold), there are all kinds of rival company terrorists, gangs, drugs, environmental degradation, serial killers, unethical experiments going wrong in the worst ways, no less than three divisions of brutal secret police, and massive regions of urban blight which have been abandoned to barbarism. Oh, and 85% of the population is on welfare.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: Existence in the Cannibal Sectors is basically this. Every form of life there is cannibalistic, psychotic, hostile to SLA on principle, super-poisonous, or otherwise naturally inclined to prey upon anything and everything but its own kind (and in the Cannibals' case, even their own kind). And if the carnivorous pigs, Carrien packs, Cannibal clans, Ex-War Criminals, Scavs, DarkNight operatives, Manchines, Dream entities, or sector mutants don't kill you, then the radiation, toxic rain, rampant disease, flash floods, bullet-like killing hail, industrial chemical hazards, or crumbling infrastructure might.
  • Fantastic Racism: Often arises as a low-level political issue. Humans are the dominant species. The psionic Ebon, reptilian Shaktar, and feline Wraith Raiders constitute racial minorities outside their respective homeworlds. Ebon, in particular, are loathed and feared for their reality-warping abilities.
  • Gaia's Lament: Mort was reduced centuries ago to a barren, polluted wasteland with only sporadic islands of civilization outside the capital city of Mort Central. The Cannibal Sectors around Mort Central are even worse.
  • Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke: Used by SLA Industries with Stormers, on their rivals. Scavs and Carrien (currently), Domino Dogs (in the near future) and virtually all of the horrible mutants in the Cannibal Sectors are the result of SLA Industries' attempts to build new and impressive weaponry.
  • Good Thing You Can Heal: Stormers, although most races get access to this if they use a particular medical drug from one of the supplements.
  • Hand Cannon, BFG: Few firearms in the game do not fall into either of these categories, although fashions change rapidly; guns on Mort are aspirational items in the way that cars are in Real Time. Ironically, although only Operatives are licensed to use 'serious' firearms, their use by same is frowned upon (and taxed) by the company, since exotic melee weapons look better on TV.
  • Heavily Armored Mook: Thresher's terrorists, who are known for their armored powersuits.
  • Honour Before Reason: A common perception of Shaktar.
  • Hopeless War: SLA Industries has been at war with Dark Night and Thresher for centuries with no end in sight, and the War Worlds are whole planets that have been consumed by conflict between two (or all three) of the powers. It's explicitly mentioned that whenever one War World is finally conquered (or abandoned), you can rest assured that another will fall into the spotlight.
  • Human Aliens: The Ebon, and their malevolent siblings, the Brain Wasters. Externally, they look almost human if you ignore the glowing eyes. Biologically, they're distinct from humanity, and only Ebon/Brain Wasters are able to use the Ebb, which grants them Ultimate Cosmic Power at the expense of emotional instability and eventual transformation into a Necanthrope.
  • Humans Are Bastards: So is almost everyone else, admittedly, but humans are by far the most successful at it.
  • Immune to Drugs: The Frothers, a subspecies of humanity who become addicted to combat drugs in the womb, to the extent that they are considered a separate race. They regard pharmacological excess as a cultural right, and regularly consume doses of recreational and combat drugs that would kill an ordinary human.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Many of the inhabitants/vermin of Mort's Cannibal Sectors.
  • Industrial World: Industrial Worlds, such as Mort, have their land surface (and most of their seas) completely covered with industrial production facilities and cities.
  • Initiation Ceremony: The Ebons and Brain Wasters get the "disturbingly horrific" version when they grow powerful enough to evolve into Necanthropes. The first step is to be taken by the Necanthrope society to an isolated area and killed. The prospective Necanthrope then has to face the challenge of the White in order to be reborn as a Necanthrope.
  • Interservice Rivalry: A common occurrence among many of SLA Industries' divisions, and exactly the way Mr. Slayer likes it.
  • Just Like Making Love: How one contract killer (think the Hunters from The Running Man) describes his work:
    Glenn "Carnage" Berry: "It's like sex. The first few times are the biggest thrill in the world, then you stop for some reason and you miss it a hundred times worse than when you never did it. Then you start doing it regularly, and it becomes and part of your everyday life... I mean, you look forward to it, and it's good, but it's not the same as when you first started. Then you find you are doing it less and less until one day it's really good because you did something different. Then for a few years you look for the different thing. Then you look at yourself one day and you're wearing a strange costume and a weird mask and chains and things..."
  • Layered Metropolis: Mort Central, the setting of most campaigns, actually manages to hold three varieties. First, the city is built on top of the ruins of a previous city that is now mostly underground, which the citizens of Mort don't like to talk about. Understandable, given that it's full of decaying infrastructure, carnivorous pigs, carriens, human psychopaths, and horrifying monsters, men in Powered Armor, terrorists, and things that the standard police rifle is less effective against than a BB gun... because, ironically enough, it IS a gauss BB gun. Second, there's Downtown, a warren of walkways, streets, and buildings extending deep underground that's similar to the Kowloon Walled City. Third, there's also several skyways full of shops high above the urban sprawl of the city.
  • Living Weapon: Though not weapons, the deathsuits of Ebons and Brainwasters are alive and eventually gain sentience (of a sort). The gore cannons of Necanthropes are a more literal example of this trope.
  • Magitek: Ebon powers are augmented by "Science Friction" devices, made from raw Ebb energy coerced into a material form.
  • Made of Plasticine: Vevaphons, in a literal sense.
  • Mega City: Mort City is the biggest, though planet Mort's atmosphere breeds them out of necessity.
  • Mega-Corp: The three interstellar "Suppressor Powers" of the galaxy: SLA Industries, DarkNight, and Thresher. SLA Industries has controlled most of the galaxy for centuries, but DarkNight and Thresher both are large enough to threaten SLA, even to the point of conducting terrorist operations on SLA's capital world, Mort.
  • Mind Rape: Involved in several of the Ebons' abilities, heavily implied in a description of the implantation process for Finance Chips, the implied M.O. few a number of the NPCs on Players and each other, and just one of the tools used to create Halloween Jack.
  • Mind Screw: Arguably the intended way to run the game.
  • Mix and Match: One RPG-reviewing site said about the game tha, "Everyone who attempts to describe SLA Industries ends up comparing it to something else." For example, one fan artist called it "The best scottish dystopian cyberpunk blade runner urban horror trainspotting homage ever," while also claiming it reminded him of Veniss Underground.
  • Moral Dissonance: Operatives — the group to which the player characters belong — are generally depicted as arrogant bullies or worse. For that matter, SLA Industries themselves are depicted as sinister, domineering, and just plain irresponsible to a degree that would do any Mega-Corp proud. (To be fair, though, SLA's -- and the players' -- enemies are even worse.)
  • No One Could Survive That!: Mr. Slayer, Intruder, Senti, Halloween Jack, and Digger have all been depicted surviving attacks that would kill mortal humans countless times over. Stigmartyr agents also approach this trope's level.
  • One-Winged Angel: Necanthropes, who are powerful and range from "inhumanly beautiful" to "inhumanly grotesque". Few have any respect for humans (or any other mortal, for that matter).
  • Powered Armor: Plenty of these.
  • Power Fist: More than one example, including the "Mutilator Fist".
  • Private Military Contractor: SLA Industries began as one of these, until most of the previous races of the galaxy became so dependent on SLA's weaponry and mercenaries that Mr. Slayer was able to overthrow them practically overnight.
  • Prophet Eyes: The eyes of Ebons and Brain Wasters are this.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: The Shaktar, eight-foot dreadlocked lizards who adhere to a samurai-esque code of honour.
  • Reincarnate in Another World: Mr. Slayer/Intruder/Bitterness (who were all aspects of an Earth human named Brent Walker)... and Senti.
  • Retcon: Over the years, SLA Industries has seen a bit more than its share of retconning.
    • The "Truth" document - the original explanation behind the origin and various mysteries of the World of Progress - was declared non-canon by the developers before the first Cannibal Sector 1 sourcebook.
    • Speaking of Cannibal Sector 1, that part of the setting (and its related factions) was also massively revamped with the CS1 miniatures game (which threw out the earlier CS1 sourcebook and presented a new take on the region). The area of Cannibal Sector 1 went from twice the size of the continental US to roughly the size of New Jersey, the Carriens went from a secret SLA experiment that Went Horribly Right to the remnants of Mort's native race that SLA wrecked shortly after colonizing the planet, the Shivers have a much larger presence in the sector, the Cannibals are now a stronger/tougher mutant subspecies of humanity (and have a new religion), the Scavs went from a secret SLA experiment that Went Horribly Right to a renegade SLA geneticist's experiment that Went Horribly Right, "Dream" supernatural entities are now a common threat in many parts of the sector, and there is no longer a prominent super-polluted river.
    • Mort City itself got reduced in size, and is merely the largest settlement among several on the planet.
    • As of 2e, certain aspects of "The Truth" seem to have been added back to the continuity.
  • Serial Killer: And how! This may be the only setting where the phrase "serial killer epidemic" could be (and has been) used with a straight face.
  • Shapeshifter Baggage: Averted. Vevaphons cannot gain or lose mass through shape shifting, and even altering their form in extreme ways can lead to permanent injury.
  • Shout Out: The Shaktar race are honorable, bipedal humanoid warriors with dreadlocks and bizarre mandible-like lips. In other words, they're Predators with tails.
  • Single-Biome Planet: The home planet of the Wraith Raiders is an Ice Planet. Other Wraith Raider-controlled planets are Ice Planets as well.
  • Sinister Scythe: DPB manufactures the Flick-Scythe, a staff with an extendable scythe blade that oscillates for extra damage.
  • Snuff TV: The public's main source of entertainment, with several shows and channels dedicated to all sorts of uncensored gore, and possibly a quite lucrative income source for Operatives.
  • Supersoldier: A variety of vat-grown 'Stormers' are the SLA's foremost contribution to the science of warfare; later models have also been pressed into service in heavy industry, popular entertainment, and prostitution. The original '313' model, as well as some later combat variations and a newer, shapeshifting design, are available as player characters.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill : Several applicants, among them Slayer and Bitterness (obviously), Sigmartyr, Thresher, Halloween Jack, Intruder and the Kilneck...
  • These Are Things Man Was Not Meant to Know: "The Truth", which is the code-name for SLA's long-running metaplot that ultimately explains everything that has (and occasionally has not...) happened in the World of Progress. For bonus points, characters who learned the Truth without proper training could accidentally erase themselves from reality.
    • Arguably subverted, in that The Truth has been revealed to the playing public after Nightfall Games admitted that they would never get around to publishing SLA Industries as they would have liked. It's complicated, to say the least, and no longer canon under the new developers, but it still applies to characters and settings in the older books.
      • Basically, it revolves around a [[Gnosticism Gnostic]] view of the setting, ten years before The Matrix popularized the topic. (But then, Science Fiction has dabbled in Gnosticism before.)
  • Turned Against Their Masters: Carriens, Manchines, Scavs, Domino Dogs... if there's anything SLA Industries is good at, it's creating things that go horribly, psychopathically against them.
  • Used Future: From the guns to the architecture, the art style has a lot of grit to it.
  • Vehicle Vanish: When an Ebon reaches Formulae Rank 10 he starts seeing Necanthropes watching him from a distance. After a vehicle passes between the Ebon and the Necanthrope watcher and blocks the Ebon's view, the Necanthrope will have disappeared.
  • Vibroweapon: Of course.
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: The Ebon, an alien race who use arcane mathematics to set fire to things and make people's heads explode, eventually get called to shed their material bodies and undertake a mysterious spiritual journey, after which they go One-Winged Angel, becoming prey to their darkest hidden urges and turning into horrible monsters. With living shoulder-guns. That shoot Mind Rape.
  • Wham Line: From the very end of the 2e Core Rulebook, which doubles as an in-universe example.
Five words is all it takes. Five words that will shatter any illusions you harbor about our existance. Five words that, once heard, change the universe forever. [...] We are all Dream Entities.


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