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Tabletop Game / Unhallowed Metropolis

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A rather bleak Tabletop Roleplaying Game set in a dystopian future, Unhallowed Metropolis presents a world where history departed from ours in a rather dramatic fashion. In December of 1905, human civilisation almost ended. Across the world, the dead began to rise and feast upon the flesh of the living. A years-long war followed, in which survivors desperately fought at first for mere survival, and later to reclaim the zombie-infested cities. Eventually, the more powerful nations of the time managed to return to something resembling a stable society, with large numbers of humans crammed into fortified cities while Animates (the 'scientific' term for zombies) prowled the Blighted countryside.

Skip forward two centuries to the year 2105 and things aren't much better. The game focuses primarily on what's going on in London, and portrays an exceptionally grim view of life in a post-apocalyptic metropolis. The Plague which gave rise to the animate hordes has mutated, producing various undead monstrosities. Bloodthirsty vampires and human psychopaths have come crawling out of the woodwork to prey upon the faceless masses. Many of mankind's attempts to fight or harness the Plague have backfired spectacularly, though they have also resulted in some unexpected and rather awesome advances in the fields of medicine, alchemy and galvanics.

This role-playing game provides examples of:

  • Armor Is Useless: Averted, while no armor can stop an attack flat, it can make the difference between death and a lengthy hospital stay.
  • Bedlam House: If you're poor, you don't want to get sent to a sanatorium. Alienists there will try just about anything to take your mind apart and see how it ticks, often trying to see if they can awaken Psychic Powers in you.
  • Blessed with Suck: Being a dhampir comes with a number of nice bonuses... and a few really terrible downsides.
  • Bomb-Throwing Anarchists: By now, socialism and the labour movement are dead letters in politics, but there are still plenty of disenfranchised people who want to bring down the system. Their degree of influence and bomb-throwing is stated to be dependent on GM's discretion.
  • Brain in a Jar: A requirement for certain forms of reanimation
  • Came Back Wrong: An inviolable rule of the setting. Anyone who comes back from the dead is, at best, no longer truly the person they were in life... and is more often a savage, ravening beast.
    • Mercurial animates, raised by alchemy through vitalist principles, are another form of zombie that feeds on the flesh of the living. If the reanimation works at all, you nearly always get a monstrous killer, and many such animates carry the Plague. In the best possible case (requiring a practically miraculous roll under ideal conditions), you get a person who's slightly less intelligent than before, retains all of their memories and skills, can control their humanitarian instincts and subsist on lesser flesh, and feels an instinctive melancholy that may drive them to suicide.
    • Prometheans, or galvanic reanimates, have it somewhat better. A rimmon (the highest form of Promethean) is a half-lifer, neither truly alive nor undead. They have no memory of their previous life and no skills as of their reanimation, they look like stitched-together monsters unless care was taken to keep them beautiful, and they suffer from a reduced version of the melancholy suffered by the best of mercurials. In other words, they're only very likely to Go Horribly Wrong, instead of absolutely certain.
  • Chainmail Bikini: Combat corsets. More practical than they sound — Corsets actually cover a decent portion of the vitals, and they mesh better with ordinary clothing, such as the mourning that serves as a uniform for the Mourners, than standard armor.
  • City Noir: The Metropolis.
  • Coat, Hat, Mask: The Deathwatch have bowlers, gas masks and trenchcoats as their standard uniform.
  • Combat Sadomasochist: The local flavor of vampires.
  • Contractual Purity: Pretty much expected of everyone in the middle or upper classes. Getting caught having sex with the wrong people, marrying below your station, becoming addicted to some drug or another, or having your dabbling in resurrection exposed is a good way to turn you into a lifelong pariah throughout society. invoked
  • Controversy-Proof Image: Available as a skill perk for Aristocrats. Whether by being a Black Sheep with a lot of chutzpah, being plain lucky, or having agents who can deal with or buy off witnesses, scandal slides off of some aristocrats like water off a duck's back.
  • The Corruption: Every Player Character starts with a touch of it — because people who don't have at least a touch of it invariably die, becoming the victim of supernormal or mundane horrors.
  • Crapsack World: Really, just saying it's a Crapsack World doesn't do it justice. There's been 200 years of zombies, 196 years of restless ghosts, 177 years of flesh-eating ghouls, 161 years of Thropes, and 152 years of vampires. Entire countries and regions no longer exist in any meaningful sense of the word. Bizarre blighted wastelands are expanding throughout the world. The dominant power of the world is a new Victorian Britain with its social inequities and depravities turned up to 11. France is ruled by a mysterious king who is almost certainly not human, and what little information on its state escapes its borders suggests that terms like "unholy" and "unnatural" barely suffice to describe what's going on there. The air in London is so foul that going out without a gas mask or at least a damp cloth can lead to unconsciousness and death. Anarchists plague London, failing to realize that although there are very real social ills, dealing with them by dismantling the government entirely will just end up killing everyone still living in the UK. On top of all this, it's hinted that the Zombie Apocalypse is actually the least of the world's problems — that the world has become wrong on some deep, fundamental level, and the rise of the undead is just the most obvious symptom. And the heroes? The only people who can make a difference, make things better? They're suffering from physical, mental, or moral corruption — as is anyone who isn't doomed to inevitable death — and they're likely to just get worse as they fight for humanity's future.
  • Cyberpunk with a Chance of Rain: Acid rain, most likely.
  • Days of Future Past: Victorian London in 2100.
  • Designer Babies: Anathema are humans created in artificial wombs. They're nearly always well-tinkered-with and more than human in some ways, but invariably are at least partly mentally unstable, and usually have a few mutations and physical defects along with the benefits.
  • Dhampyr: A Player Character option.
    • And they're Different. In addition to offspring of vampires, Dhampiri also include people who survive vampiric infection without proper medical care — only someone who's dead can be a vampire, but unless you receive a complete blood transfusion within a week of infection, you can't just shake it off and return to normal, either.
  • Doomed Protagonist: Downplayed but present. Every character is at least a little corrupted, but if The Corruption gets too strong, you'll go beyond the pale and be destroyed by your flaws. That said, doom is not guaranteed; it's just possible to avoid embracing corruption and thus succumbing to it.
  • The Edwardian Era: Aborted by a Zombie Apocalypse, which threw society back fifty years and froze it there. Now seen as something of a heroic age.
  • Fire-Breathing Weapon: Flamethrowers are present.
  • Fog of Doom: The smog of London is nasty, nasty stuff.
  • For Science!: The motivation that led to, among other things, creating Mercurial Animates.
  • Frankenstein's Monster: Prometheans. They're put-together corpse automata brought to life by lightning.
  • Gas Mask, Longcoat: See Coat, Hat, Mask above.
  • Gas Mask Mooks: Almost everyone wears a gas mask due to the smog.
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: All attempts at curing The Plague, Creating Life or attaining immortality have done this.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Dr. Merrifield's Pandemonious Timidifier was intended to harmlessly incapacitate rioters with paralyzing fear. Side effects include seizures, permanent brain damage and heart failure.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: At best.
  • The Grotesque: Common enough, in various flavors.
  • Hunter of Monsters: Undertakers hunt supernatural creatures for fun and profit.
  • Hunter of His Own Kind: Dhamphiri, due to their Undead Sense, are notoriously good at this.
  • I Hate You, Vampire Dad: All dhamphiri rather dislike vampires in general.
  • Lightning Can Do Anything: The basis of the science of Galvanics.
  • Lightning Gun: Literal examples.
  • Mad Scientist
  • Mystical Plague: People can reanimate as zombies by dying in places of horror and evil. That's the entire world — but London's wealthy West End is far less tainted by obvious misery than its slums.
  • Not That Kind of Doctor: Averted, every Player Character Doctor is at least that kind of doctor.
  • Not Using the "Z" Word: Partially, anyway. Most people use the Z-word, but the technical term is "animate".
    • Played straighter with werewolves, who are universally called "thropes".
      • Oddly, the actual depictions and descriptions of Thropes in the core materials describes them less as Werewolves and more as Mr. Hyde(s)
    • On a related note, the material for the game avoids the terms "supernatural" or "paranormal", instead favoring archaic or disused terms like "preternatural", "supernormal", and "extramundane."
  • Of Corset Hurts: Sometimes consciously averted; corsets are now designed to be something you can move and breathe in, and aren't tightened to impossible degrees, because you never know when you might have to fight for your life. While there are people who wear overlaced and inflexible corsets, they're not mandatory anymore.
  • Of Corsets Sexy: Naturally, considering the setting.
  • Our Ghouls Are Creepier: While technically undeadnote  and deformed, the strain of the Plague they're infected with leaves them with some of their humanity; those who can curb their violent impulses are more or less tolerated. And by tolerated we mean being treated as an inferior minority to be exploited at leisure as long as they don't get uppity.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Vampirism can be passed as an STD. Just for a start.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: 'Thropes' are created by a Jekyll & Hyde-style serum that turns them into hulking, feral beasts. They're also half-lifers, a setting-specific form of undead — the setting uses the term "undead" strictly for things that are actually dead but still animate, such as vampires and animates, while half-lifers are things that aren't actually dead, but are no longer fully living in the conventional sense. Ghouls and dhampiri are also half-lifers.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: Between animates, zombie lords, Mercurials, the witch-doctor-controlled zombies rumored to exist in Central Africa and the bizarre rule-breaking animates of Hong Kong, nearly every major type is represented in some form.
  • Post Apocalyptic Gasmask: The game has a fondness for gasmasks for its Zombie Apocalypse setting, particularly since it is part of the uniform for the Deathwatch. It even describes itself as "the gas-mask chic role-playing game of Neo-Victorian horror."
  • Improperly Placed Firearms: One revolver shown in the "Sanctuary" introductory adventure is clearly a cap and ball LeMat Revolver. The Metropolis (While backward in many respects) has probably gotten rid of cap and ball by now.
  • Romantic Vampire Boy: Dhampiri are stereotyped this way.
  • Sliding Scale of Gender Inequality: Men Are More Equal. In Neo-Victorian society, the idea that women are naturally more fragile or less intelligent than men was thoroughly busted during the Reclamation, and women have nearly the same opportunities as men; in addition, the highly-honored position of Mourner is mainly held by women. With that said, a lot of Victorian hangups about sexuality are still there, and women's private lives are judged by far more narrow standards than men's.
  • This Is a Work of Fiction: "THIS IS JUST A GAME. Keep in mind that if you play with THINGS MAN WAS NOT MEANT TO KNOW, the authors claim no responsibility, including, but not limited to breaking any law, tenet or tradition, temporal or divine, implied or in print. Galvanic reanimation may work in the movies, but in practice... It's really tough."
  • Transhuman Treachery: Vampirism turns people into monsters. Feral vampires exist to feed on whatever they can. Sentient vampires retain their intellect, but are inherently sadistic, masochistic predators. While they can be functioning members of aristocratic Neo-Victorian society, that says more about the society than the vampire.
  • To Serve Man: Animates need to eat living human flesh to avoid dessicating and decaying — they actually stop eating the moment their target dies. Meanwhile, ghouls must eat human or ghoul flesh, and although they prefer it fresh, any age or quality of meat is fine.
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: Anyone who isn't at least a bit tainted will come to a bad end, likely sooner rather than later.
  • Vetinari Job Security: The game tries to shut down player support for the Bomb-Throwing Anarchists by making the point that, while they're completely right that the Victorian government is tyrannical at best, it can't be overthrown without letting the zombies in and dooming humanity.
  • Victorian London: The Metropolis
  • The Virus: The Plague, in many different variants.
  • Vow of Celibacy: Mourners are required to be chaste and celibate, due to the clash between being a highly-respected, exclusively female profession and general Victorian attitudes on female sexuality.
  • Widow's Weeds: Members of the Mourner's Guild, who are usually women, wear (modified) full mourning attire at all times.