Follow TV Tropes


Tabletop Game / SenZar

Go To
Break through the dream barrier if you dare.

SenZar is a very high-powered and Heavy Metal influenced tabletop RPG which first appeared in the mid-1990s, during the 2nd Edition AD&D era. It immediately met with controversy due to a botched Usenet advertising effort by the developers and was for a time considered one of the unholy trinity of RPGs along with World of Synnibarr and Spawn of Fashan. (Nowadays, however, games like F.A.T.A.L. and Wraeththu have eclipsed all three as the "worst game EVER".)

Aside from the Usenet incident, SenZar's main claim to fame is its wholehearted embrace of shameless power-gaming. From the first page of the main rulebook, player are openly encouraged to make their characters as ludicrously powerful as the rules will allow, kick ass and hoard loot at every possible opportunity, and ultimately ascend to godhood.

The actual rule system uses d20 rolls over a target number (with the roll increasing to d100 for stats of 20+, which are typically reserved for gods). Characters have a race, a class, and a level like in most D&D clones, but unlike most D&D clones, the power of spells reaches city-leveling heights (even before godhood), warrior types can be lovingly fleshed out with enough martial arts powers to give most superheroes a run for their money, dozens of exotic materials are available to artifice super-powerful equipment with, players get 'Fate Points' allowing them to edit poor die rolls, and even a first-level character can start with magic items that wouldn't be permitted as major artifacts in a more sane setting.

Naturally, the artwork is also high in cheesecake.

The setting itself is a fantasy world with hints of a Space Opera background. The planet SenZar was settled in ancient times as a slave world by the intergalactic Death Horde, only for the Dragon — the Life Stream of SenZar — to inspire the slaves to overthrow their Death Horde masters and begin an unending Cosmic Chess Game between good and evil. Playable races include typical (but 'metalled up') fantasy fare like Starin and Khazak, as well as various Beast Men, Plant People, demonic humanoids, a Captain Ersatz race or two, and a host of others.

This tabletop RPG provides examples of:

  • The Ageless: The Nazar Ethan race, who were a botched attempt by a mad Eternal to make a new race of gods. He failed — the Nazar Ethans must work to ascend from mortality to godhood like everyone else — but they remain immune to all forms of aging.
  • A God Is You: The point of the game. Roleplaying and storytelling are all well and good, but the focus is on becoming badass enough to ascend to godhood and play the Dragon's Game.
  • Aliens Are Bastards: Especially if they're associated with the Death Horde.
  • The Anti-God: Chthon, the Dark Earth Mother. She isn't merely yet another of the evil or jerkass gods running amok on SenZar, she's the Evil Counterpart of the Dragon itself.
  • The Archmage: A specific special power that spellcaster characters can take, allowing them to learn spells outside their class's school of magic. If they go far enough in this direction, they can indeed end up as something not unlike this trope.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: This is how Deific Gods ascend, as they get a plane of their own. This is both a blessing and a curse — on one hand, the only way to permanently kill a Deific God is to beat them on their own plane, where they will have their full power, the home ground advantage, and any help their pantheon wants to lend them. On the other hand, they can only affect the mortal world with 1 primal point avatars which are much more fragile than a Material God or an Eternal.
  • Attack Reflector: One of the many, many properties that you can give to a magic item.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Many of the highest-level attack spells can fall into this category. Being able to blast everything in a 1,000 foot radius is indeed awesome... and potentially suicidal in a tight dungeon space.
  • Back from the Dead: The Seven Stars, who perished at Lord Valthrustra's hands at the end of the Seventh Age, only to be reborn on Earth, where they regained their memories of godhood. (Then they returned to SenZar to put Valthrustra in his place and usher in the Eighth Age.)
  • Balance Between Good and Evil: A prominent feature of the Dragon's Game. Every other age or so, the forces of either good or evil will manage to almost utterly dominate SenZar, but it never lasts — and the conflict between them will never end.
  • Because Destiny Says So: If you're a VoidSpawn who survives to godhood, then this is the suit you'll wear.
  • Believing Their Own Lies: The Rellians clearly do not follow the righteous Cause that they pretend to, but the average Rellian does not seem to be aware of their own hypocrisy at all.
  • Beyond the Impossible: The game encourages this approach for when a PC ascends as a Material God, dying or exploding in a godlike conflagration that no one could conceivably survive — only for the omnipotent Dragon to remake the PC as a new Material God.
  • BFS: Take a closer look at the cover above. We'll wait.
  • Black-and-Grey Morality: SenZar has no shortage of Always Chaotic Evil monsters, races, societies, and gods... and it can sometimes be hard to tell them apart from the forces of "good".
  • Black Magic: Necromancy.
  • Blessed with Suck: To a certain extent, the game paints all three paths of godhood with this brush. Hooray, you're a god and you have more power than you ever dreamed as a mere mortal! But...
    • Eternal: Imagine the dregs of 4chan, but with god powers and a universe that rewards them for trolling everyone. Congratulations, you're now one of them.
    • Deific God: The good news is that you're part of a pantheon, and you can expect their support and guidance. The bad news is that you get dragged into all their problems and their god wars, too. Oh, and your big plan to skyrocket to supreme godhood by amassing hordes of followers? Pretty much everyone on SenZar who wants to worship a god already does, and poaching another Deific God's followers is a great way to start yet another god war.
    • Material God: Good or evil, you are now a playing piece in the Dragon's Game, warring with opposing Material Gods forever. If you do well and things get too unbalanced in your side's favor? You can expect the VoidSpawn to come restore the balance (at the Dragon's request, no less) by snuffing you out. Oh, and if you are the VoidSpawn? Then the entire point of your existence is to preserve the universe's status quo by killing whichever gods the Dragon wants you to — and you have absolutely no say in the matter.
  • Bounty Hunter: The Stalker class.
  • Cat Folk: The Tygor race.
  • Chainsaw Good: Right there on the "improvised weapons" list.
  • Church Militant: The Rellians and the worshipers of the Dark Earth both qualify.
  • Combat Medic: The Priest class functions as this. Interestingly, this is true whether the character in question is good or evil.
  • Cool Sword: Most of the "aggressive" races have one of these as a signature weapon.
  • Cosmic Chess Game: The Dragon's Game, played between the forces of good and evil — and with the Dragon moving things around as needed to keep the "game" going.
  • Crystal Dragon Jesus: The Rellians, whose founder preached a code of brotherhood for all the free races, yet spawned a religion that became just another force of oppression and Fantastic Racism.
  • Defector from Decadence: Player Dragon Slayers are explicitly not the hypocrites that other Rellians are, but their desire to actually live by the Cause means they have little place among their fellow believers.
  • Deity of Human Origin: Rel, the first Human to ascend as a Deific God. But this screwed him up badly, as he started a brand new pantheon, and thus didn't have the support he needed to deal with all the energy from the masses of Humans who worshiped him. Rel's original mindset of tolerance and unity for all the free races was thus replaced by the xenophobia and bigotry of his Human followers, and the religion Rel started became yet another of SenZar's destructive hordes — with Rel himself backing them up.
  • Depraved Dwarf: The Khobold race may not be full Dark Earth worshipers, but they will do almost anything to hoard magical power, and hold in high regard the Mokarr race (who are servants of the Dark Earth).
  • Designer Babies: The Mokarr race are spawned in vats, but they are too busy worshiping both the Dark Earth and the evil Shadar Lords — and plotting to dominate the surface world — to fall prey to Clone Angst.
  • Diminishing Returns for Balance: A feature of the XP system, as the gamemaster is encouraged to cut XP awards for encounters that are too "easy" for a party's current power level.
  • Draconic Humanoid: The Drakkan race.
  • Elemental Crafting: Taken to an extreme, as with most other things in this game.
  • Elite Mooks: The Black Dragon guard, Mokarr death squads, the Demonian race as a whole.
  • Evil Is Not a Toy: The Necromancy school of magic centers around summoning and binding increasingly powerful demonic (or undead) entities. Woe unto the Necromancer who blows their roll for the second part of that.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Often a precursor to getting one-shotted by an Assassin, Mystic Assassin, Harlequin, or Witch Hunter.
  • The Fair Folk: The Sidhe race has a touch of this trope.
  • Fantastic Fighting Style: More than any other D&D clone, SenZar emphasized Supernatural Martial Arts, with the "noble" Shy'r and "evil" Black Wyrm styles (and all their respective moves) occupying a prominent place in the rules. The third edition would have added the Human-centric Way of the Wolf, the Gladiator-only style Way of the Ring, and the Gargoyle race's White Raven style.
  • Fantastic Nuke: High-level magic in general, and the Black Hole spell from Astromancy in particular.
  • Fantastic Racism: A common theme in the game, particularly concerning races aligned with the Dark Earth — and the (Human supremacist) Rellians.
  • General Failure: Rel. Just... Rel. Probably no one in the entire history of this whole testosterone-drenched setting has pulled a worse boner than saving the world from the least subtle Jerkass Gods of all time and ascending as a god himself in the process, only to get turned into a rabid avatar of judgement and human supremacy by the sheer will of his own idiot followers, thus empowering his now-psychotic priests for even worse genocides than the world-wrecking Religion of Evil that he saved everyone from in the first place.
  • Gods Need Prayer Badly: Deific Gods do not actually need the prayers of mortals to exist, but they are the only type of god who gain anything from it.
  • Healing Factor: Aside from healing magic, several of the non-Human races have a healing factor in the form of "basal" (slow) regeneration.
  • Hell: Generally known as "the Pit". It's the domain of Chthon and the Demon Lords who serve her.
  • Horned Humanoid: Demonians and Taurans.
  • Horny Vikings: The Akir race are an entire species of this.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: More than once, Humans — both mortal and immortal — have caused more harm to SenZar than all the soul-eating forces of the Dark Earth.
  • Humans by Any Other Name: Oddly averted here, as almost all the standard Tolkien races but humans got renamed.
  • Human Sacrifice: And not just Humans, too. All Deific Gods gain power from the prayers and consecrated altars of their worshipers, but evil Deific Gods can (and will) also accept the sacrifice of sentient beings, absorbing the victim's Power Points.
  • I Know Your True Name: One perk of Necromancy is the power to extract a victim's true name and use it to make them do absolutely whatever you want (if only once).
  • Interspecies Romance:
    • The Tauran race has this as an inborn feature, as they can only reproduce by mating with Humans — much to the unspeakable disgust of the Rellians. In fairness to the Taurans, both male and female Taurans are fiercely protective of their Human mates, and treat them with the utmost care.
    • The Akir race have their origin in frost giants who mated with pre-First Age Humans. Modern Akir also have no qualms about populating their harems by abducting women from other races (particularly the Azaar), although that is anything but "romantic".
  • Jerkass Gods: SenZar offers too many examples of this trope to count (potentially including jerkass PCs who ascend to godhood), but the prize for most jerkassness goes to the Eternals, the only type of gods who actually gain (even more) power for being jerkasses — pranking, manipulating, tasteless, holy war-starting jerkasses.
  • Karma Meter: Your score in whatever codes you've burdened your character with.
  • Knight Templar: The Rellians and their crusading Dragon Slayers, particularly in the Fifth and Sixth Ages.
  • Kung-Fu Wizard: The Harlequin, Mystic Warrior, Mystic Assassin, and Witch Hunter classes all have access to both a Supernatural Martial Arts package and a school of magic. And if none of those options are attractive, any player can also dual-class and take any martial arts class with any spellcasting class.
  • Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards: SenZar arguably features this trope twice over: Linear Warriors against Quadratic Martial Artists, and then either of the former are linear against Quadratic Spellcasters. Plain warriors are outclassed by the bonuses that martial artist classes get (particularly involving the Focus discipline), and the gap only increases as they go up in level. Most spellcasters, on the other hand, will ultimately learn spells that can annihilate an entire city in one combat round... and that's before they ascend as a god.
  • The Loonie: The flaw "Total Stupidity" not only turns your character into The Loonie, it gives you bonus Fate Points for it.
  • Magic Knight: The Avenger, Battlemage, Dragon Slayer, Moon Knight, Outlander, and Sentinel classes all combine primary combat skills with a school of magic.
  • Magikarp Power: Spellcasters are like this at the start. At level 1, unless you exploit the Status power to start with magic items that increase your Power Point total, you'll be out of mojo after casting one spell that whacks one target. At level 20, you can annihilate a city block every combat round without breaking a sweat.
  • Massive Race Selection: The main rulebook offers almost two dozen playable races.
  • Medieval Stasis: SenZar has been inhabited by the civilized races for untold thousands of years, but is still mostly a fantasy world.
  • Mighty Glacier: The bovine Tauran race defaults to this. Their starting Strength can be one point shy of the maximum Strength allowed for mortals, but their Speed and Dexterity are nothing to write home about.
  • Monster Clown: The Harlequin class is a Magical Clown version of this — lunatic assassins who are trained in enchantment magic and performance art, and who specialize in breaking their targets before killing them.
  • Munchkin: Unlike nearly all other tabletop RPGs, SenZar openly encourages players to make their characters as powerful as the rules will allow.
  • Mutants: Whenever SenZar mentions "mutants", it means mutants in purely the Super Hero comic book sense.
  • Necromancer: The Necromancer class, here and accounted for.
  • No Campaign for the Wicked: Averted, as players have the option to start with the evil Dark Earth and/or Anti-Life codes — and without the usual "only for advanced players" disclaimers that high fantasy games often have for playing evil alignments.
  • No Points for Neutrality: Played brutally straight. Committing to "good" codes (Good Earth/The Cause) or "evil" codes (Dark Earth/Anti-Life) can award players up to 40 more Fate Points to build their characters — but there are no neutral codes.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: The Dragon is really not a dragon in either the eastern or western sense. (Although more familiar dragons also exist on SenZar.)
  • Our Dwarves Are All the Same: SenZar's dwarves may be called the Khazak, but they're stout, they're short, they live deep underground, they're great engineers and weaponsmiths, and they generally care little about the politics of the surface world.
  • Our Elves Are Different: Starin (SenZar elves) are smarter, more perceptive, more magically talented, and more inclined to goodness than Humans.
  • Our Gargoyles Rock: Gargoyles are yet another of SenZar's many races. Interestingly, they adhere to the traditional Dark Is Not Evil depiction of gargoyles, being mostly benevolent and pacifistic.
  • Our Minotaurs Are Different: The Tauran race, who are Mighty Glaciers and require human mates in order to reproduce.
  • The Paladin: The Dragon Slayer class, who combine combat skills with divine magic, are the holy knights of the Rellian faith.
  • Person of Mass Destruction: The average spellcaster, by roughly 10th level or so.
  • Physical God: Material Gods, Eternals, and — to a lesser extent — the avatars of Deific Gods.
  • Plant Person: The K'ryl race. Technically, given their origin (like most of the playable races) as former slaves of the Death Horde who were brought to SenZar from elsewhere, these guys are Plant Aliens, too.
  • Point Build System: SenZar characters are built by spending Fate Points rather than rolling dice; one feature that helped the game stand out from D&D and most other class/level games.
  • Power Nullifier: Known as "pulsing" effects.
  • Power of Rock: Spellsingers, who are spellcasters as well as the ultimate musicians.
  • Powers That Be: The Dragon, which is the Life Stream of SenZar, is about as mysterious and abstract as it gets. However, the Dragon's Evil Counterpart — Chthon, the Dark Earth Mother — does not qualify for this trope. (She is only too happy to meddle in the affairs of gods and even mortals who give her an opening.)
  • Predator Pastiche: The Golgothan race, who are Predators with the serial numbers filed off.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: The Silestion race embodies this trope more than any other race.
  • Quirky Bard: The Spellsinger class, who in this game are actually full spellcasters with their own school of magic.
  • Rated M for Manly: If you're not interested in becoming a god and kicking as much ass as possible along the way, this isn't the game for you.
  • Religion is Magic: Divine magic, and to a slightly lesser extent Necromancy and Witchcraft.
  • Religion of Evil: Anything to do with the Dark Earth. At least the Rellians pretend to be the good guys.
  • Roof Hopping: How the "Thieves' Highway" in Zengara works. In certain areas, the city streets are so crowded (or so well-guarded) that it's faster (and safer) to hop across the rooftops.
  • Science Fantasy: With more emphasis on the "fantasy" side of the scale (at least at mortal levels).
  • Shout-Out: The list of pop culture and heavy metal references in this game (particularly among the spell list) is too vast to catalog here.
  • Soul-Cutting Blade: Any blade forged from Shadar Steel can destroy souls as a default property.
  • Squishy Wizard: Averted. No school of magic is hindered by even the heaviest armor, and Hit Points are based solely on your character's Constitution stat and Character Level.
  • Stripperific: If the main rulebook's illustrations are anything to judge by, lady adventurers on SenZar are almost universally buxom and scantily-clad. (Though, in fairness, there's a good share of beefcake on display, too.)
  • Take That!: Though it didn't name names, the foreword of SenZar's first edition was not very subtle about the developers' disdain for D&D.
  • Talking Is a Free Action: The game both averts and lampshades this. You can yell at your enemies for free (albeit possibly causing them to make a Karma roll to resist going aggro on you), but you can also spend an action to attempt an intimidating Presence attack (debuffing your target if it works).
  • Talking Weapon: Skurge, the supreme artifact sword. It has unique powers for killing gods and can only be wielded by a VoidSpawn. It's also the physical manifestation of Lord Valthrustra's son, so it constantly talks to its wielder in a hateful (and crassly immature) manner in order to drive them insane.
  • Techno Wizard: The Alchemist and Sorcerer classes both flirt with this trope to varying extents.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: When it comes to going below 0 HP in SenZar, there is "down but not dead", there is "dead but resurrection is still on the table", and then there is "pulped beyond any hope of revival". (There's also getting soul-snuffed, which kills you beyond resurrection no matter how much HP you have left, but that's a different matter.)
  • Too Dumb to Live: If you take the Total Stupidity karmic manifestation, you are obligated to play this way in the most obnoxious manner possible.
  • Winged Humanoid: Drakkan, Gargoyles, and Solarr.
  • Wizard Classic: The Wizard class, of course. Although you can still wear armor and even dual-class with a more physical combat-oriented class if you want.
  • Wolf Man: The G'rru race, although they are not actually werewolves.
  • World of Badass: After reading through the game's monster manual, one reviewer jokingly wondered if every living thing on SenZar was, by sheer coincidence, an ultimate killing machine. (It was funny because it's almost true.)
  • Wreathed in Flames: One of the higher-level disciplines of the Shy'R fighting style results in this — to the woe of anyone who hits you.