A series of 5 Role Playing Games for Macintosh and Windows by Spiderweb Software, which is more or less the brainchild of Seattle-area programmer Jeff Vogel.
While the games' setting starts from a fundation of Medieval European Fantasy, it has some twists of its own. Several pieces of Steampunk-esque technology are common throughout the world, but what is more important however, is magic, the study of which is the main driver of innovation, and the most prominent amongst the schools of magic is Shaping. Shaping is used to make creations that, in theory, obey their creators absolutely. The masters of Shaping — Shapers — have absolute control over the known world. Occasionally, a creation will go rogue, but the majority seem to be happy with their lot. Naturally, it all Goes Horribly Wrong.
In the first game of the series, the player is a new recruit sent away to finish their training. Instead, they wind up on Sucia Island, which was abandoned two centuries ago and declared Barred by the Shapers. The player must then decide how to respond to all the creations living outside of Shaper control and forbidden technology lying around. In the second game, the player starts out as an apprentice Shaper who discovers that the forbidden technology and independent creations have secretly found a foothold on the mainland. Each subsequent game follows the attempts of human and creation rebels to overthrow the Shapers and the attempts of the Shapers to regain their old level of control. In every game, the war and chaos escalates.
The original series can be purchased at the official website, here. The series is also available for sale on Steam and GOG. A remake of the first game, titled Geneforge 1: Mutagen, ran a successful Kickstarter campaign which managed to hit two of its stretch goals. The remake released on 24th of February 2021.
This game provides examples of:
- Action Bomb: Pyroroamers do this automatically when killed. Unstable creations, wingbolts, and rotdhizons in the later games also explode on death, though it isn't their main purpose.
- A God Am I: Abuse of canisters can trigger this in the PC. Don't ask what happens if you actually use the Geneforge.
- Ain't Too Proud to Beg: One of the subtle differences between the Shaper PCs in the first three games and the rebel PC in the fourth.
- All in a Row
- Almighty Janitor: The first two games have you fresh out of Wizarding School, the third has you still in it when almost everyone inside is massacred, and the fourth makes you a new recruit into the rebellion. In all cases, you rise in power far faster than you rise in rank.
- Always Chaotic Evil: Averted with most species, but Gazers/Eyebeasts definitely fit. They look upon other sentient beings primarily as food, and even the other rebel creations rarely like or trust them.
- Amazing Technicolor Population: A consequence of differentiating otherwise identical characters via Palette Swap. Interestingly, their appearance in-game may not match their description.
- Ambidextrous Sprite: Averted by the player character and any NPCs who use the same models; each class has sprites for every possible facing and is always right-handed. NPC-exclusive models, however, are mirrored instead of having full facings, leading to them switching hands depending on which way they face.
- Ambiguous Gender: Quite a few of the character models, allowing them to be used for both males and females. (Others are just always male or always female—only townsfolk get different models for different genders.)
- Amnesiac Hero: The hero of game 5.
- Amulet of Dependency: Canisters provide the user with a substantial power boost, writing magic and shaping abilities into the user. Side effects may include emotional dependency, cravings for more canisters, lack of empathy, uncontrollable temper, and feelings of A God Am I.
- A Nazi by Any Other Name: Taygen in the fifth game, down to the concentration camps and plan to exterminate all creations (Even serviles). The fact that some people consider his side the best should give an idea of to what degree Grey-and-Gray Morality applies in this series.
- An Economy Is You: Averted. Merchants explicitly only show you what you might be interested in and some you can't trade with at all because they only have things useless to you.
- Anti-Grinding: Once you get too powerful, you start getting very little experience from killing weaker foes.
- Armless Biped: Glaahks and podlings.
- Attack! Attack! Attack!: Default AI behaviour. Reversed while health is low.
- Art Evolution: The art in the first 4 games had monochrome illustrations for cutscenes and loading screens. 5 however switches to full colored cgi models.
- Artificial Stupidity: Deliberate; any creature without intelligence investment will behave like this. Those with intelligence will be less likely to flee, and those above 2 levels of intelligence can be fully controlled.
- Badass Bookworm: Every Shaper.
- Badass Long Robe: Shapers again. This potentially applies to serviles, though NPC serviles are rather less intimidating. Lampshaded by the description text for cloaks and robes.
- Ban on Magic: While magic in general is unrestricted, non-Shapers aren't allowed to learn Shaping and certain hard-to-control creations are illegal to make. The rebels want to end these restrictions while the Trakovites seek to expand them and ban Shaping entirely.
- Barrier Change Boss: A few minor bosses.
- Beef Gate: If you wander from the beaten path before you're powerful enough to handle the wilderness, the local monsters will come and destroy you.
- Big Bad: Ghaldring in 5: he's the Final Boss for 4 of the 5 factions, and even in his own faction the player character and allies wind up overthrowing him in the ending. Otherwise averted, since the player can side with many different factions, meaning the Big Bad of one run can be the Big Good of another, and vice versa.
- Bio Punk: The world has ubiquitous magical Organic Technology that both fuels conflict and determines the course of war, transhuman genetic engineering allows people to develop abilities far quicker than they would be able to through study (at the cost of their sanity), and the system encourages developing better technology far faster than society can comfortably absorb. However, one thing the setting generally lacks is the antiauthoritarian tone of Punk Punk settings; in most of the games, you're an insider to the Shapers' society and government, and while that society is hardly just or good, it only truly becomes a Crapsack World when that society begins to lose control of its creations.
- Bittersweet Ending:
- The first game's canonical ending. You defeat Trajkov and destroy the Geneforge, and are hailed as a hero, but your excessive use of canisters (which occurs regardless if you used any at all) causes your body to mutate into something not fully human, and while you're still considered a hero, you're forced to remain out of public eye. Also, the Shapers forcibly bring the Awakened, Obeyers and Takers back under their control, and two Shapers secretly steal the plans for the Geneforge, setting up the events of the future games.
- The Trakovite ending of the fourth game. After heightening the flow to the Unbound, you release them, the resulting creations being extremely powerful and causing catastrophic harm to Shaper lands. However, the changes you made to the power flow cause the machinery used to create them to break, leaving the Drakons unable to create more. They discover you were responsible for the sabotage, and either imprison you for life or execute you based on your reputation. In the midst of the carnage, people start to see how dangerous uncontrolled Shaping can be, and if you are spared, several people come to your jail cell to pay respects to you. The Shapers and Rebels are ultimately left in a stalemate, but the Trakovite philosophy continues to spread, leaving hope for the chaos to eventually end.
- Breaking the Bonds: Khyryk in the fourth game, when captured by Monarch.
- Breath Weapon: Fire for fyoras and drayks, electricity for drakons and kyshakks, acid for roamers and artilas . . . Really, there are quite a lot of examples.
- Body Horror: Canister addicts and Geneforge users have faintly glowing blue muscles constantly and visibly rearranging themselves, all beneath translucent parchment-like skin.
- Bonus Boss: One at the end of each Bonus Dungeon.
- If you choose to let Trajkov use the Geneforge in 1, you can still choose to fight him afterwards, and he's not easy.
- Bennhold in 5, especially considering how you have to go through a long, game-spanning sidequest chain to even fight him.
- If you kill all of the Oozebeasts (basically exploding ornks) in one of the late-game areas of Geneforge 4, you open up a secret passage containing the Uberoozebeast, a more powerful version of them that sprays out acid clouds and has just a bit too much attack power for its own good. Killing it gets you a pair of gloves that increase strength at the cost of intelligence and a canister of Create Ornk.
- Bonus Dungeon: Every game, and they're not pleasant.
- Capital Letters Are Magic: Shaping, Shapers, reShaping.
- The Chessmaster: The Drakon Ghaldring, who created Ur-Drakons to be improved versions, but knowing how they operate, established a society of byzantine customs and heirarchy, in which he consistently plays the Ur-Drakons against each other, and themselves, to maintain dominance.
- Also shows himself to be a Magnificent Bastard in using the player as a pawn.
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Phariton in 2 supposedly joined and betrayed all four of the game's factions before deciding to pursue his own research. The player can also invoke this by their own choices.
- Closed Circle: The first game. You're on an island, and you have no idea where a boat might be. Later games often limit where you can travel with impassable checkpoints and gates. Some can be passed at a certain point; some are just walls by another name.
- Color-Coded Elements: If it's red, it's probably going to spit fire at you. If an upgraded Palette Swap is blue, expect ice.
- Comes Great Responsibility: Easily the Shaper sect's most admirable quality, for all its faults, is its intimate understanding of this and the insane lengths they go to to make sure that the powers of shaping are never abused in dangerous ways. The flavor text of the various abandoned buildings in Geneforge 1 make it clear that the shapers have about as many containment protocols and backup plans as the CDC, and for good reason. They also forbid the use of canisters explicitly because of this trope, as it gives total amateurs extreme skill without any of the discipline usually gained by learning those skills naturally, and Barzahl's group of canister junkies in Geneforge 2 make it clear that they're right.
- Com Mons: Fyoras, available from the start of every game and usually the only creation an Agent will ever make. They're something of a Magikarp in that with their stats maxed out they can take down a drakon, but compared to a drakon with its stats maxed out . . .
- Contractual Boss Immunity: Enemy Shapers, drakons, and similar high-power beings are completely immune to charm and fear effects. Later games also provide an inversion by giving the Player Character the exact same immunities.
- Convection, Schmonvection: Played straight with heated floor tiles. Painfully averted (in more ways than one) with heat from machinery.
- Critical Encumbrance Failure: Played straight when not in combat, subverted when in combat; if you exceed your normal weight limit, you start losing AP in combat based on how far over-weight you are, but you aren't affected outside of combat until you hit your actual maximum limit.
- Critical Existence Failure: Pretty much played straight for the main character. Others may panic and flee from combat when badly wounded, however, and your creations may even attack you.
- Crucified Hero Shot: Alwan in 5 is crippled to the point of being permanently held on life support, he is positioned like this on said life support device.
- Cutting Off the Branches: Each game follows a particular path from the last one, though it takes some work to figure out which.
- 1 and 2 end in Shaper victories, though the victories turn out to be inherently hollow.
- 3 ends in a rebel victory, though the details of the events leading up to it are muddy; see Merging the Branches.
- 4 ends in a stalemate, with the Unbound unleashed but the equipment to make more Unbound destroyed.
- Defector from Decadence: Khyryk in the fourth game, having failed at Conspiracy Redemption. Litalia goes through this three times in the series, eventually taking up Khyryk's cause.
- Department of Redundancy Department: Apparently, the purpose of the Monastery of Tears in the third game is for acolytes to gain "pure moral purity".
- Determinator: Alwan. Granted, he begins as a Cowardly Sidekick, but he doesn't stay one. By the fifth game, he's leading his own faction despite having been rendered immobile and constantly in pain.
- Developer's Foresight: In 5, the Dark Golem is activated by Makar via dialogue, but you can just attack the latter, and if you manage to slay him without triggering the dialogue, then the former can be defeated without any reaction. Also, if you do little damage to the former after it is activated, it will aid you at the same time the latter attacks you.
- Diabolus ex Machina:
- The Taygen ending of the fifth. The Purity Agent ends up affecting not just creations, but many humans as well; including Taygen's wife, who dies from the disease.
- The Astoria ending of the fifth combines this with For Want of a Nail: sparing Greta leads to Rawal becoming High Councilor. Preventing the latter requires not doing the former, ensuring that the ending is never perfect, but nothing in the game or the ending text makes clear how these events are connected.
- Dialogue Tree
- The Dragon: Litalia for the Rebellion in Geneforge 3.
- Dual Boss: Several, typically synchronized. Some are even Creepy Twins.
- Duel Boss: Stanis in the second game—you fight him in an arena filled with devices that stun creations. You can turn those devices off, however, if you know where to look.
- Easter Egg: Having 8 of the same type of monster on the title screen of Geneforge 1 (and possibly the others as well) gives you an interesting message that is otherwise unfindable.
- Empathic Weapon: None are intelligent enough to talk, but a few are genetically engineered and crudely alive. Batons even eat and mate.
- Emperor Scientist: The Shapers are either this or The Magocracy, depending on whether they qualify as scientists or magicians.
- Enemy Summoner: Hostile Shapers in the later games can make new creations during combat. You can't.
- Spawners do nothing but make new creations. The Creators introduced in 3 work similarly, but can also use melee attacks.
- Everything Fades
- Everyone Hates Mathematics: Reading a textbook of "arcane engineering" in G4 horrifies the PC.
- Everyone Knows Morse: Subverted in G4 when Greta tries to communicate with the PC through a locked door by tapping, but the PC muses that if the tapping is code, they don't know it.
- Evolutionary Levels: Actually justified—a lot of the higher levels of creation were made by messing with the genes of lower-level creations.
- The Extremist Was Right: In the first Geneforge joining Trajkov gets you arguably one of the best endings. There is a terrible war and you and Trajkov Take Over the World, but Trajkov grants the Serviles human rights and ends many of the Shapers' more evil practices.
- Faction-Specific Endings: The second, third and fifth games' endings are defined by which faction the player ends up supporting. The second game's neutral ending isn't neutral (remaining neutral is a sign of Shaper loyalty), while the fifth game defies it; everyone involved will join together to stop you if you try. The first and fourth games avert this; instead their main ending branches revolve around how you deal with the Applied Phlebotinum of the game.
- Fantastic Racism: Humans towards serviles and drayks; drayks towards humans; drakons towards everyone.
- Fantasy Gun Control: Batons fill the niche of guns. Originally, Geneforge was intended to be far more traditional SF, but fusion cannons and the like would have been too powerful, necessitating this trope in a development sense.
- Flunky Boss: Frequently.
- Forbidden Zone: Shapers' usual means of dealing with a situation that has Gone Horribly Wrong and is beyond salvaging is to lock down and seal off the location where it happened. The first game takes place on an entire island that has been declared Barred.
- Forced Tutorial
- Forgets to Eat: Many Shapers.
- Friendly Fireproof: Downplayed; multiple-target and area attacks never hit allies by accident, but you can harm friendly creatures (including your own party members) by targeting them deliberately.
- Full-Circle Revolution: In 5, siding with Ghaldring leads to the destruction of the Shaper Council, but it doesn't actually change anything. Ghaldring is overthrown shortly afterwards by the human and servile rebels, and the new rebel nation makes peace with the remaining Shapers, destroys the Geneforges and restores the old Shaping laws.
- Full-Contact Magic: Casting attack spells uses the same animation as physically attacking.
- Functional Magic: Divided into Battle Magic (Elemental Powers), Mental Magic (Psychic Powers), Blessing Magic (non-healing White Magic), and Healing Craft (healing White Magic).
- Fungus Humongous: Spawners and turrets.
- Gameplay Ally Immortality: Alwan and Greta in Geneforge 3, along with Mehken in Geneforge 5.
- Gameplay and Story Segregation:
- No one will comment if you make illegal creations.
- You may be strong enough to wipe out every faction by the numbers. In 5, that doesn't mean you can win if you piss them all off.
- In the first game, you will get comments about what your use of canisters has done to you even if you've never touched the things.
- Also in the first game, no matter what your physical stats are, no matter what your class is, no matter how physically fit for frail you are, the desperate struggle to shore after your craft sinks is described as equally as arduous and you always just barely make it.
- In the third game, Alwan and Greta are Shaper students like you, but can't make creations. In Greta's case, it's probably because she was expelled and wouldn't have learned much Shaping as an Agent anyway.
- Get on the Boat: Geneforge 3 is horrible about this. Thankfully, no boats sink.
- Global Currency
- Godhood Seeker: This is the ideology of the Barzites: Remake yourself with canisters until you become a perfect being with unlimited power.
- Golem: Part creation, part mechanical.
- Gone Horribly Wrong: So frequently that properly designed laboratories and workshops can be sealed off instantly, even if it means killing everyone inside.
- Graying Morality: Word of God has it that this was intended to occur over the course of the first game. Arguably, it's more subtly developed over the course of the series, as the rebels got more opportunities to make their arguments (and even took the spotlight in the fourth game.)
- Grey-and-Gray Morality: Every faction has its good points. Every faction is also willing to Kick the Dog to win. Many factions are willing to go even further.
- Happy Ending Override: Each sequel opens with the war and chaos being bigger and bloodier than the previous installment.
- Harder Than Hard: The Torment Difficulty is Nintendo Hard.
- Healing Potion: Pods help the PC only. Spores help the entire party.
- Heroic Willpower: Trajkov in Geneforge 1 and Litalia in 4 and 5 manage to avert With Great Power Comes Great Insanity. The PC in the first game can keep themselves together under massive canister overuse, but the Geneforge is too much for them.
- He Who Fights Monsters:
- The Takers, as the series progresses. The narration will make sure you don't miss it.
- By Geneforge 4, the rebellion is willing to unleash highly unstable and powerful creations into Shaper territory, programmed to do nothing but seek out settlements and wreak havoc, killing Shapers and innocents alike.
- Hide Your Children: Since Geneforge is the sort of game that lets you kill innocents if you want to, you won't find any humanoid kids — aside from a couple of serviles whose descriptions indicate their youth. However, you will find packs of drayk children in some of the games (though they look the same as adults). Since they haven't learned to be civilized yet (picture an angry toddler in the body of a dragon), you may actually HAVE to kill them in order to avoid becoming their dinner. One also has to consider whether sending newly-made intelligent creations (drakes, gazers, etc.) into battle is equivalent to employing child soldiers. What Measure Is a Non-Human? is probably in play.
- Hu Mons: The biggest example, though not one usable by the player, are the Serviles, a species of creation made to do the busywork of the Shapers; to varying degrees of obedience. They are nearly identical in appearance to humans, minus the large, elephant-like trunks they have for noses. Beyond them, there are the Thahds, who in the original series were much more humanlike but in Mutagen were retconned to be cat people; the Battle Alphas, who had a similar change inbetween 3 and 4; and the Rotghroths, who are extremely tall zombie-esque creations.
- Hyperactive Metabolism
- I Didn't Mean to Kill Him: Barzahl in 2 says this in defense of Stanis after telling the PC he killed Shanti. Whether they believe them or not is, evidently, up to the player.
- Infinity +1 Sword: The Guardian Claymore in most games. It has incredibly high attack power, and increases your Strength and Quick Action. It's even useful to Agents and Shapers thanks to the strength boost positively affecting weight limits, but for Guardians it's truly powerful. It's usually only obtained in a late-game chest (usually a heavily guarded one) or gotten by killing a high level Guardian, depending on the game.
- In 5, the Puresteel Blade is even better than the Guardian Claymore, as while it doesn't have any extra stat buffs, it has an absolutely ridiculous attack stat, over twice as high as the Claymore, more than enough to make up for the lack of additional stat gains. It's only obtainable from a single merchant, who you either have to give puresteel to or kill him to obtain. He's also at the polar opposite side of the world from where the player starts.
- Inherent in the System: The consensus in-game is that now that there are Creations who can themselves Shape, it will never be possible to keep Shaping under control again like it was hundreds of years before the first game. Unless you're a member of Taygen's faction, anyway.
- Insurmountable Waist-High Fence: Over and over.
- Maybe those Shapers are too weak from lack of exercise to climb?
- In the Hood: Shapers are commonly illustrated with faces deeply shaded by their hoods, sometimes to such an extent that only their Glowing Eyes of Doom are visible.
- It Gets Easier: Shapers are usually not surprised when initiates question their wisdom (read: express empathy for creations), but they expect this phase to pass. Litalia's mentor invoked this when she was forced to destroy a group of disobedient serviles, leading to where they are in the story proper. Ironically, Litalia's journal also shows this. Each account of a kill is followed up with "It was a pity it came to that", but the narration wryly notes that it becomes less convincing after the first fifty times.
- Item Crafting: An early form appears in Geneforge 2, and the next three games feature a complete system, as well as what amounts to Socketed Equipment without the sockets.
- It's a Wonderful Failure: Geneforge 1, 2, and 5 have one for Refusal of the Call. 5 gives one if you anger every faction. Every game also has a shorter version when you die.
- Jerkass Has a Point:
- The Shapers may be arrogant, controlling, abusive toward creations, and fanatically secretive of their practices, but as the series goes on, it becomes obvious that in some ways they're right: once Shaping was available to laymen and even creations, the amount of devastation and destruction unleashed is great. When Shaping goes bad, it goes bad in a big way.
- Likewise, while the Takers and rebels arguably turned themselves into monsters as bad as, if not worse than, everything they accused the Shapers of being, the canonical fate of the Obeyers and Awakened shows that the Takers were right about the Shapers' unwillingness to accept peace with intelligent creations.
- Joke Character: There is a hard-to-get canister of create ornk (a pig-cow hybrid) in every game.
- Karma Meter: Combined with Relationship Values for factions instead of individuals.
- Kill All Humans: Unintelligent rogue creations, plus insane intelligent ones.
- Kleptomaniac Hero: The PC. Sure, there are some things that NPCs will get pissed off at you for stealing... but the game tells you which ones they are. In fact, when you open a cabinet or something, the game automatically has you take all money inside and puts it in your event log. Unless it's marked as Not Yours, in which case the money just sits there with the letters "NY" in the top right-hand corner.
- Last-Second Ending Choice: Most of the difference in the ending of Geneforge 1 is not based on which faction of serviles you back, but what you do with Trajkov and the Geneforge.
- Geneforge 4 does this quite literally, though your previous decisions still matter a lot.
- LEGO Genetics: Not horrible, and often avoided with creation research, but present.
- Lemony Narrator: Because of the snark.
- Limited Sound Effects
- Locked Door: Occasionally. Some locks won't open even when you use the max mechanics skill of 30 on them... then, if you've cheated, you will find that some of them still won't open even when you use the maximum-strength Unlock spell on them, which is the equivalent of trying to pick the locks with a mechanics skill of 210. You will wind up having to use many of the game's lockpick equivalents on these things of you don't have the keys.
- Luck Stat
- MacGuffin Title
- Made of Explodium: Just about any power spiral or complicated piece of machinery is prone to exploding. It gets several Lampshades.
- Magitek: Shaping is used to fuel most of the technology used by the Shapers. Living batons that shoot thorns (which are often poisoned or acidic) stand in for guns, automatic doors are opened and closed by plants, and living minds work as computers. The element that kicks off the plot of the first Geneforge is the rediscovery of a barred island that had discovered DNA.
- Mana: Two types, energy and essence. The former is used solely for spellcasting. The latter is also used in many spells but is mostly used to make and strengthen creations.
- Mentor Occupational Hazard: Shanti in Geneforge 2.
- Merging the Branches: Geneforge 4 has this, with shades of Third-Option Adaptation. While the game largely follows the Rebel ending of 3, Khyryk, who is killed on the fourth island following that route, is still alive. Neither Alwan nor Greta, the game's optional party members, are comfortable discussing the G3 protagonist at length either, but are confirmed to have both joined them. Either a mix of the game's different endings took place, or an entirely different version of events happened from anything present in the previous game.
- Mind Hive: Gazers and Eyebeasts tend to refer to themselves in a collective plural, as though each of their (many) eyes were its own entity.
- Missing Secret:
- The un-openable door at the end of Geneforge 2.
- The most prominent examples would be The Nodye Coast and Lethia province in Geneforge 5, everyone talks about it and describes it as a perfect, peaceful Utopia where all is well, even the map itself hammers this in by showing Nodye coast having more cities than the rest of Terrestia combined. The problem? It's impossible to get there, even with cheats.
- Mons: Creations.
- Money Spider: Thahds and battle alphas. Most other foes drop appropriate items.
- Mook Maker: Spawners, a creation that can Shape a never-ending stream of weaker creations.
- Multiple Endings: The number of endings is huge, mainly depending on which faction you helped and your hidden Karma Meter, but there are also some minor changes that depend on small plot points. Almost all are Downer Endings or Bittersweet Endings.
- Mutually Exclusive Party Members: Downplayed for Alwan and Greta in Geneforge 3, they both can join the party at the beginning of the game. However there is a point where one of them leaves depending on who you're siding with.
- Munchkin: Since the Shapers and Rebels in Geneforge 4 often force you to choose between their quests and their respective rewards, wringing the best loot out of both of them has been elevated into an art form. The PC can also discuss this trope if the player wishes."I intend to find out who has the most treasure, kill them, take it, and repeat the process."
- Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Servile cultists (with names like Unending Purging) and occasionally canister addicts (like Monarch).
- Never Split the Party: "You cannot leave the area until all your companions are near you.". Problematic with AI controlled creatures.
- News Travels Fast: If you give an opinion or do something else to change your reputation, everyone will know about it instantly.
- No Ontological Inertia: Averted to the point that the damage done by an early threat can remain a plot point and source of conflict long after it's been defeated.
- Nothing Is Scarier: The game has no soundtrack, which means that outside of towns, everything is creepily quiet.
- NPC Amnesia
- Numerical Hard: Increasing the difficulty gives enemies more health and damage, but not much else, making strategy more reliant on proper use of debuffs than straight-out hacking and slashing.
- Omnicidal Neutral: An option in the first two games. Don't try to do this in the fifth, it doesn't work.
- In the first game, most of the factional intrigue on the island is only tangentially relevant to the actual conflict of the game anyway, so simply killing off all the servile factions won't do anything except close off shops and quests and affect their particular endings.
- In the second, Unaligned isn't really "neutral" - while you're staying out of the intrigues in the valley and avoiding the temptations of the various factions, that in turn means that you're doing your job and remaining loyal to the Shaper Council. If you avoid using canisters, this leads to one of the only endings in any of the games where you actually get the respect of the Shaper Council. You also don't have to be strictly omnicidal; if you take down Barzahl and the Taker leaders, the Council will handle the mop-up.
- One Size Fits All
- One Stat to Rule Them All: Parry in the second game can make you almost indestructible
- Optional Party Member: The second game has several random creations that can be recruited to your team. Most notably, three of them have actual names and personalities (at least, before they join your team): the Servile mage Xander, the Battle Alpha Hryk, and the Servile swordsman Heust Blade. The third game steps things up with Alwan and Greta, who can be recruited right at the beginning and keep their personalities throughout the whole game.
- Organic Technology: Doors, control panels, weapons, and almost everything else.
- Our Demons Are Different: Demon summoning and binding is a banned form of magic. Since demons think the human world sucks compared to their home domains and are always looking for ways to turn against their summoners and go home, it's also not a very practical form of magic and is rarely practiced.
- Our Dragons Are Different: Drayks and drakons.
- Our Ghosts Are Different: Some are the spirits of the dead. Others are creations. Still others are spontaneously created by high concentrations of magic.
- Pamphlet Shelf
- Person of Mass Destruction: Anyone who can Shape is an army.
- Phlebotinum Overload: One way Trajkov can be killed in Geneforge 1. You can also kill yourself this way.
- The Plague: 2 introduces one that affects serviles, and one of the Awakened's sidequests revolves around finding a cure.
- Play-Along Prisoner: Khyryk in Geneforge 4.
- Player Mooks: Your creations.
- Plot Coupon That Does Something: The canisters and Geneforges that frequently drive NPCs insane also affect you.
- The Geneforge itself. In earlier games, it's the MacGuffin that impacts the story and the character who uses it, correctly or not, including the player. In later games it appears in the beginning, but there's always a more powerful Geneforge under construction somewhere, some of which your player may also attempt to use.
- Power Born of Madness: Servile cultists.
- Power Glows: Canister addicts develop Glowing Eyes of Doom and glowing skin of doom.
- Power Degeneration: Charged creations in Four & Five are significantly more powerful than regular creations costing the same amount of essence, but continuously lose health and die when leaving a zone. A rebel Shaper in Four describes them as basically being Phlebotinum Overdosed.
- Precision F-Strike: Given the use of a Narrative Profanity Filter, and the fact that the characters simply don't swear very often, finding the remark "Damn the Geneforge!" in one of the old lab books in the first game is quite jarring.
- Precursors: In Geneforge 1, the Shapers fit this role to the serviles of Sucia Island. When the Shapers were there, serviles were nothing more than livestock, but now the serviles have formed sects based on their preferred relationship to the long-gone Shapers, have to survive on a sealed-off island while fighting against other surviving creations, live in the remnants of old Shaper facilities, and adapt the Lost Technology of the Shapers for their own use (or even try to develop new versions of it). The unique play on this trope, however, is that you are a Shaper returned to Sucia Island. What form of returned Precursor you are is up to you, of course.
- Played With as well in Geneforge 1 gaining entrance to the Temple in the Spirit City confirms that the original island inhabitants thousands of years before were the first shapers.
- Properly Paranoid: Shapers know that stuff can and will Go Horribly Wrong, and their laboratories are set up with lab protocols that allow for instantaneous lockdowns, along with plenty of backup plans for dealing with out-of-control situations.
- Psycho Serum: The canisters and Geneforges.
- Pyrrhic Victory: In 5, siding with Taygen causes the Purity Agent to be released without the permission of the council; the rebels and Trakovites are slain and the Shapers maintain their hold over the land, but along with the obvious consequence of the Shapers losing all of their creations, including ones that have become near essential to society such as Ornks, the disease ends up affecting humans as well, resulting in the death of Taygen's consort. Taygen, kicked off the council for his actions, spends the remainder of his life grieving and hated by everyone, including himself.
- Quest for Identity: The PC in Geneforge 5. It turns out you are a Protagonist Without a Past.
- Reassigned to Antarctica: One possible ending in Geneforge 3 has the Shaper Council attempt to do this to Diwaniya, but failing because there is no place more miserable than his current post.
- Required Secondary Powers: Here, the ability to magically read genes is developed before the ability to store the vast quantities of information involved in a small physical space. As a result, a lot of the findings have to be discarded.
- Restraining Bolt: In Geneforge 5, you start the game with a control tool implanted in your chest by Shaper Rawal, letting him torture or kill you if you defy him. It can be removed by other factions at the cost of a point of Endurance.
- The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: The rebels are frequently as bad or worse than the Shapers, especially the drakons. If you align yourself with Ghaldring in V and help him destroy the Shaper Council, the epilogue mentions that there is subsequently another rebellion against the drakons when they immediately start oppressing the humans and lesser creations.
- Rodents of Unusual Size: Giant rats.
- Sanity Meter: An invisible mechanic in every single game; the more canisters you use, the more they weigh on your sanity. The first game doesn't use it much beyond certain characters making note of your glowing skin and one instance of special narration, but from the second game onwards heavy canister usage causes your character to lose out on potential dialogue decisions and even affects the ending you get, particularly if you align with the Shapers.
- Schizo Tech: The setting is a fairly generic fantasy world except for the huge laboratories and complicated machinery necessary for advanced Shaping.
- Scratch Damage: Averted; it's possible to resist every single point of damage from an attack, particularly when you take an overleveled character to an area full of weak monsters like fyoras.
- Sealed Evil in a Can: The point of sealing the research facilities when a crisis strikes.
- Serial Escalation: The chain of draconic beasts: Fyoras, Drayks, Drakons, Ur-Drakons, and Unbound. Each is bigger and nastier than the last in the chain, to the point where the last are completely insane and uncontrollable. The creation of these nastier dragons is symbolic of how Shaping is spiraling out of control, especially because the latter two were invented by previous links in the chain.
- Series Continuity Error: An entire continent mysteriously vanishes between the fourth and fifth game. It's barely mentioned in the fourth game, either. Jeff said on the Spiderweb forums that he forgot he wrote in a second continent, and its existence has been officially retconned.
- Servant Race: Most of the creations in the game. Most notably, the serviles.
- Sickly Green Glow: Canisters. And their users.
- Side Kick: Alwan and Greta in Geneforge 3.
- Small Role, Big Impact: Danette is only ever mentioned in the first game, yet she's one of the most important characters in the series, being the creator of the Geneforge.
- Sssssnake Talk: Drayks and drakons, though some learn how to hide it.
- Soul Jar: Spharon in Geneforge 3.
- Speaking Simlish: The background noise in towns includes people speaking random gibberish.
- Stupid Good: In Geneforge 3, Greta believes strongly in the rights of creations but seems less concerned for all the people the rebels are killing. She becomes more nuanced in the later games.
- Sufficiently Analyzed Magic: Shaping plays this trope to a T. New creations are traditionally made through experimentation, making one new creature after another with one slight modification each time and recording the results. The first game is about you being stranded on an island where you discover an abandoned research facility that had discovered DNA, and subsequently magical genetic engineering. The series as a whole delivers the message that the process of gaining knowledge gives you the wisdom to use that knowledge, and that simply being given power will lead to abuse.
- Suicidal Overconfidence
- Summon Bigger Fish: The standard answer of drayks and their "descendants" when faced with a threat they cannot defeat is to make a bigger and nastier version of themselves. This is why drakons were created and that was just the beginning.
- Take a Third Option: The Trakovites in Geneforge 4, complete with an ending that's somewhat hard to get.
- Take Over the World: What Shaper Monarch plans to do in Geneforge 4.
- Talking Your Way Out: A major use of the Leadership skill. Often by Talking the Monster to Death.
- Team Switzerland: Astoria's faction in the fifth game is a variant, trying to end the war (by any means necessary) rather than to impose their philosophy. Spiderweb itself can be considered this in due to its dedicated maintenance of Grey-and-Gray Morality in Geneforge—even Taygen is Necessarily Evil, and there's a small but dedicated group of fans who choose his faction in the fifth game because they support his philosophy.
- Tele-Frag: Khyryk in Geneforge 3. Not a canonical death.
- Third-Option Adaptation: Every sequel changes the backstory of the previous installment just enough that no ending is ever quite canonical.
- 2 reveals that the Obeyers were mostly wiped out by the Shapers who came to Sucia, who saw them as rogue despite their sworn loyalty, and destroyed them anyway. While there are several endings in the first game where the Obeyers are destroyed, all the endings which leave them at the mercy of the Council have them brought in to serve the Shapers, the Council pleased with their philosophy.
- Three Approach System: The first 3 games have a unique take with this trope with each class being strong, average and weak in three areas (later games adding classes with the same logic).
- Title Drop
- Tuckerization: See this thread for a list.
- Tyke Bomb: The smarter creations.
- Universal Poison
- Useless Useful Spell: Dramatically averted. On normal difficulty, debuffs and crowd control spells are useful but not overpowered. On higher difficulty levels, they're practically necessary. This is because while enemy damage and durability increase massively, resistance to debuffs goes up only a little, if at all.
- Utopia Justifies the Means: Every faction is willing to Kick the Dog to achieve their ends.
- Video Game Remake: Geneforge 1: Mutagen, of the original game. Plans are for the entire series to be remade over the next few years.
- We ARE Struggling Together: The humans, serviles, drayks, and drakons of the rebellion do not get along with each other.
- We Buy Anything
- We Cannot Go On Without You: Typically justified, since your party members are Monster Allies, but not so much in Geneforge 3 if you have Alwan and/or Greta with you.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Taygen in 5 is A Nazi by Any Other Name out to exterminate all creations down to the most peaceful of serviles. He's also someone who actually has a coherent roadmap to ending the conflicts caused by uncontrolled Shaping, which are destroying Terrestria's civilization.
- Wings Do Nothing: Drayks. Averted with the Awakened's ending in Two.
- What Measure Is A Nonhuman: One of the main reasons for the rebellion. Under the Shapers, creations have no rights and any overly independent creations are supposed to be killed.
- Interestingly, use of canisters and the Geneforge make the user, for all intents and purposes, less human. This can include the Player.
- With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: The nearly inevitable result of canisters and Geneforges.
- Won the War, Lost the Peace: In 5, if Ghaldring wins, the drakons lord over the rest of the world and piss everyone off. The player character decides to overthrow them before they begin enslaving everyone, which most of their former allies agree to.
- You No Take Candle: Many humanoid creations. Some intelligent serviles choose to speak this way.