RPG Review – Metropolis Rho

Metropolis Rho – hereafter shortened to Met Rho – is a 2005 supplement by RPGObjects for Darwin’s World describing a degenerate society confined within a domed mega-city.

Here is an excerpt from the Introduction:

Met Rho

The world is a desolate wasteland.

In this dark future only one last enclave of life remains, the ruins of a once-great domed city sitting in the middle of the wastes. One of many domed cities constructed during the time of the Ancients to house the world’s ever-increasing population, it is a true metropolis. Here the last holdouts of the human race cling to survival within the boundaries of the city, protected from the mindless mutated creatures that are said to dwell beyond the walls by the “Barrier”, a great killing zone erected long ago by the ancestors of your people to keep the city isolated from the rest of the world. As the last remnants of humanity died out, the Barrier’s minefields, automated turrets, and other devious traps kept desperate killers and mutants from destroying what your ancestors had so carefully preserved:

Civilization. The seed of humanity.

The campaign presented therein – entitled Humanity in a Bottle – presents the PCs as “Enforcers”, members of the city’s police force. The story starts with the ascension of a new mayor from among the city’s warring gangs, and describes the collapse of Met Rho over several adventures. It’s got a very “Judge Dredd” feel to it, and would make a good adventure path for Darwin’s World.

Personally, there’s a lot of things in the adventure that I find distasteful. Police atrocities? Fixation on drugs and prostitution? A gang called to Sodomites? I understand that this is a degenerate community, but I think it’s too explicit for a game. Let’s just say that there are ‘mature themes’, and that YMMV.

Also, I hate the midriff-bearing Bloodsport.

Those caveats aside, I like the overall package. The campaign setup is excellent, with the history and background of the city provided. A strong focus is provided by the PCs acting as Enforcers, and it’s got good mix of combat and detective sleuthing. It’s short enough to pull off in a reasonable length of time, but epic enough to provide a real sense of development.

Overall, I’d give it 3 radioactive trefoils out of 5. It’s got a lot of cool crunch, but there are flaws.

Metropolis Rho: ☢☢☢◯◯ (3/5)

I don’t like the edgy stuff and if I ran this campaign, I’d probaly give it the “PG-13” treatment. (What can I say – having kids changes your perception of things.)

I’m very likely, however, to swipe stuff from Met Rho for my own game…

Met Rho in Tempora Mutantur

For Tempora Mutantur, I don’t want to have an intact city populated by pure-strain humans. One of the elements of the setting that I want to emphasize is loneliness – Tau may truly represent the last enclave of humanity remaining in the world. But I don’t want to go too grimdark with this – it ain’t The Road.

There’s a lot of material in Met Rho that I’d like to swipe for Tempora Mutantur, so here’s how I think I’ll adapt it… shift the timeline by fifty years.

There was indeed an intact arcology / dome city which supported a population of about 10,000 pure-strain humans for well over a century after the Fall. However, the city degenerated and society completely collapsed after the events from the Humanity in a Bottle campaign. It is now fifty years after Met Rho’s fall, and less than a thousand survivors inhabit the ruins.

So what happened to everyone? The death of the mayor triggered a violent gang war, which further destabilized civil society and destroyed much of Met Rho’s recycling and manufacturing capabilities. The food supply dwindled. Once the people discovered that life was possible outside the city, there was a surge of citizens fleeing Met Rho – mostly Undesirables. Several gangs left the city – either because they were forced out by rivals, or in an attempt to extend their reach and power – and formed marauder gangs on the outside.

Decay of the city’s structure also led to increased Creep contamination. Without the strict eugenic polices previously enforced, mutations became prevalent in subsequent generations. Today, only a fraction of the ruin’s inhabitants are pure-strain; near-humans are the norm, and significant number are mutants. Gangs still rule individual districts, but there is no city-wide government. Each gang is isolated, more-or-less self-sufficient, and typically xenophobic.

Game Rule Information

Player Map

If the referee desires, Metropolis Rho can represent an alternate starting point for a Tempora Mutantur campaign. PCs from Met Rho can be humans, near-humans, or mutants. (If random determination is desired, roll 1d6; 1 = human, 2-4 = near-human, 5-6 = mutant.) Use the guidelines from the Character Genotypes supplement.

Most Met Rho gangs are considered Retro-Tech, but their technical mastery is rapidly diminishing. Several groups have already slipped to Primitive status, and in another generation there will be very few throwbacks to the old days. To preserve game balance, the referee may decide that Retro-Tech PCs lack the Creep-Resistant trait, while Primitive characters have adapted to increased contamination.

Enforcers are common in Met Rho, as are survivalists. Violent gangers can be considered marauders, while scouts and stalkers can represent characters who have been beyond the Barrier. Thinkers are uncommon; the Techno-Union disbanded during the collapse, and only a few individuals remain who understand Advanced technology. A few psions may lurk in the city, but would be rare.

Of course, Met Rho can also be an adventure location in a ‘standard’ Tempora Mutantur campaign. Characters from Tau may learn rumours of the city from raider gangs in the waste. To enter the dome, PCs will have to deal with the remaining defenses in the Barrier. Once inside, the group will will encounter the degenerate survivors of the city. How the characters deal with the gangs will be important – other than Tau, Met Rho is probably the closest thing to a true enclave of humans in Tempora Mutantur.

The raiders and gangers will also be very interested to learn of an intact vault… Would they consider Tau an ally? A competitor? Prey?

(If I were to use Met Rho in my own game, I would probably adapt the rules from Lesserton & Mor for exploration within the city itself. I’ve already used this product in a different campaign – see here for my review and game posts.)

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