Genius: The Transgression

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"There must be something. Some purpose. Some meaning. Oh God, there must be some point to all this. I watched my friends die, watched the rockets we made fall from the sky to rot in fields in Ohio or Ukraine. What was this for?"
Doctor Jonas Cliver, Genius

Genius: The Transgression is a fan Gameline for the New World of Darkness setting created by the author/artist of webcomic The Water Phoenix King, Kyle Marquis (better known on RPG.Net as Moochava), detailing the adventures of Geniuses, Mad Scientists who can build impossible machines (called Wonders) thanks to their connection to the mysterious light of Inspiration. Drawing on every sci-fi and horror cliché out there, Genius justifies the setting, expands the tropes along their logical progression and links its themes to the real world. It will be instantly familiar to any fan of the genre.

As with any tabletop RPG, Genius is defined by its characters. Each character is a mad scientist of some stripe, with a Catalyst, which determines their overall archetype, and a Foundation, which determines their overall approach to mad science. Each of the five Catalysts is defined by certain emotions and mindsets, which in turn cause them to act out various mad scientist stereotypes that can be summed up in one of the stock mad scientist quotes.

Grimm, the Catalyst of Fury: Defined by anger and a need for vengeance, justice, and/or the need to just plain vent. Naturally, they're the best at building weapons of every kind. They're also prone to being irrational and generally flying off the handle. As one might expect, they tend to take a very... direct approach to problem-solving.

Hoffnung, the Catalyst of Vision: Defined by hope and ambition, Hoffnungs seek to change the world. While this may seem like a good thing on the surface, many of them have a definite consequentialist mentality. Good at change and transformation. They also have a marked tendency to be extremely arrogant. Since they frequently have more contact with Muggles than the other Catalysts, they know better than anyone else what effects mere mortals fiddling with their inventions can have.

Klagen, the Catalyst of Loss: Defined by sorrow, loss and regret at some personal tragedy, Klagens are often called Cassandras for their tendency to see further tragedy in the offing and seek to prevent it. Sadly, having all the credibility of MAD scientists, they often live up to the name. They make excellent doctors and repairmen, but perhaps understandably have a tendency towards depression. They also tend to be the most down to earth and sensible of the Catalysts (at least, insofar as the term "sensible" applies to mad scientists), and often serve as the voice of reason in the collaboratives they join. This makes it all the more unfortunate that they are the least common Catalyst.

Neid, the Catalyst of Banishment: Defined by jealousy and bitterness, Neids are driven by the need to "show them all!" When a developing Genius feels rejected by his peers, when he blames his failures on "the man" keeping him down, that's when a Neid is born. They're good at mind control and apparently "psychic" powers--the more "out there" fields of mad science in terms of credibility and morality, in other words—and have a frankly unsurprising tendency to be paranoid and untrusting. Not without good reason, of course; many of them seem like magnets for mockery.

Staunen, the Catalyst of Curiosity: Defined by curiosity, wonder, and awe, Staunens simply love learning about the universe. They want to know more, they NEED to know more...even about those things that no sane person wants to think about, much less meet in person. As one might expect, they are very good at building scanners and communicators, and prone to fixation and obsession. Of all the Catalysts, they're the most interested in occult matters.

The five Foundations, the organisations of non-Lemurian Geniuses, represent various branches and kinds of mad science.

The International Union of Artifice: Known mainly for their Mad Engineering program. The Artificers are the poorest Foundation, with everyone from crazy old tinkerers to creative punk kids, and malcontents in the middle who've started unionising to try and make things easier.

The Fellowship for Manifest Direction: Known mainly for their Mad Psychology program. The Directors are the folks who get together in dark halls and plot how they're going to Take Over the World. They're mostly talk, though they are the most socially capable geniuses, and often assume leadership.

The Center for Circumferential Navigation: Known mainly for their Mad Physics program. The Navigators are fearless daredevils who travel far horizons, fight crime and test the experimental devices. The most recent group to join the Peers, originally the underclass of Lemuria but they've since earned their respect.

The Reformed Society of Progenitors: Known mainly for their Mad Biology program. The Progenitors, mostly composed of transhumanists, monster-makers and "creative" surgeons, are considered a bit crazy even by other Geniuses, and they're recovering from a recent bloody purge when a lot of them turned out to have gone off the deep end. But that totally won't happen again.

The College of Scholastic Theory: Known mainly for their Mad Philosophy program. The Scholastics are the oldest Foundation and the most introspective; they're more interested in figuring out the nature of Mania and other mysteries of the world. They range from librarians and archivists to Adventurer Archaeologists seeking ancient secrets of mad science.

There's also unaffiliated Rogues, Programs that act as minor Foundations (the most prominent being the Asia-based Ten Thousand Fans), and of course, Lemuria.

Lemuria's Baramins are, by default, the antagonist faction. They haven't got the memo that yes, they're MAD, and their theories and inventions only work by cheating reality. They believe that something went wrong with the human race's scientific and technological development, and they are hellbent on correcting the problem. Each Baramin is defined by where they think humanity went wrong and what must be done to correct the issue. This doesn't always work out so well.

Atomists remember old promises of futuristic technology that would sweep away all the world's ills and they're still pissed they didn't get it. They believe that all problems are inherently solvable with technology alone; violence, poor governance, and poverty only need the right invention before they're banished from Earth forever. That some of these applications are vastly unethical or flatly impossible does not seem to deter them, and their utter lack of interest in the human element only makes matters worse.

Etherites believe in a grand unified theory of science, one that neatly explains all phenomena and anomalies. Y'know, the sorts of theories scientists had before all that confusing "relativity" and "quantum mechanics." They ignore, explain away, or destroy contradictory evidence, and tend to get a bit twitchy if someone argues against their theories. They're also the ones with the Ray Guns.

Mechanists believe in a "clockwork universe", one that is not greater than the sum of its parts and can be reduced to a few simple natural laws. They also take fatalism to its logical conclusion, refusing to take responsibility for their actions; it's the fault of Their Upbringing. Or The Genetic Lottery. Or The Times. It's no wonder so many of them end up schizophrenic.

Phenomenologists believe that reality is subjective, and constantly "redefine their reality" to suit themselves. At its worst, they could honestly believe that no one ought to mind if they rummage around the orphanage for parts. It really doesn't help matters that their Grant makes it nearly impossible to tell when they're lying.

Oracles believe they know the moral order of the world, and see everything in absolutes, with predictable results. That their morality is often so outdated as to be unrecognizable does not help. They are also the nominal leaders of Lemuria, though the Atomists are displacing them.

The original human leaders of Lemuria were the Dharmists, who only answered to their Ophidian overlords. They despised innovation, and had an uncanny talent for manipulating other Inspired. They got wiped out in the Invisible Wars.

The newest group of unmada is the Numericals, a bunch of disaffected nerds upset that the internet became overrun by... normal people. They're not a true Baramin yet, but they regularly form and fade away with the times.

Genius was made on RPG.net and has slowly grown into a setting as rich and detailed as any White Wolf has created. Accessible through this elegant and finely-crafted link..

A work-in-progress wiki can be found here. It has fan made content here


Tropes used in Genius: The Transgression include:

Like all Ubermenschen who are not exterminated before adulthood, Ilsa Hauser is an excellent physical specimen in the narrow mold of the Nazi ideal: tall, blond, athletic, and pale.

  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: Nikola Tesla, Robert Hooke and Leonardo da Vinci were Geniuses, but otherwise this is mostly averted: mad scientists often lack the inclination (and often the ability, being insane) to express their ideas to the world, both of which are important traits for a good sane scientist.
    • Then again, those three were the only ones known to be Inspired. There could be lonesomes who managed to work in mundane science.
    • Doctor Vienna even makes his money from his mundane patents.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: One of many possible explanations for Havoc; things associated with mad science typically work in ways that make very little sense to anyone who isn't insane a Genius.
  • Black and Gray Morality: The struggle between Lemuria and the Peerage, with both sides arguably becoming grayer over the years from opposite directions. Old Lemuria was an evil organization ruled by xenophobic snake-people dedicated to enslaving the human race, and the Peerage was a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits sworn to oppose them. However, even the Peerage was not all sweetness and light; plenty of Peers fell (and still fall) into the worst stereotype of the callous, arrogant Mad Scientist primarily concerned with self-glorification and breaking the rules just because they can. New Lemuria has somewhat more noble ideals, and a genuine desire to see humanity "set on the right track". The problem with that is that all Lemurians are totally crazy. The modern Peerage has a much more humanistic approach to mad science, but some Peers still show a worrying lack of concern for mere mortals.
    • Interestingly, Grey morality was a deliberate choice for the Peerage. Partly to avoid the risk of going too far and partly to keep membership open to everyone. As far as the Peerage is concerned, it's better that the morally grey end up Peers where everyone's watching out for everyone's mental health than to end up in Lemuria or isolated and begin descending into madness.
  • Black and White Insanity: The Oracles' hat.
  • Black Box: Wonders to anyone not a Genius, and Inspiration itself. Centuries of research, and Geniuses still don't know much at all about what makes them the way they are.
  • Blessed with Suck: Not as overt as the rest of the nWoD, but still prevalent. Yes, Geniuses can create miraculous gadgets, but they are mad, and nothing they make is completely real. Inspiration is arguably the worst thing that could happen to a dedicated scientist.
    • That, and there's the possibility of being eaten by monsters born of insanity, being back-stabbed by psychotic rivals, being driven from civilization by quasi-Luddite fanatics, becoming monsters born of insanity...
  • Blue and Orange Morality: The Illuminated are hopelessly insane, and their motives are incomprehensible. Many of them don't even remember morality works.
  • Boring but Practical: Prostasia, Axiom of Protection. Sounds simplistic and uninteresting? When the horrible tentacle monsters try to bite your face off, you will be glad you spent the dots here. When your malevolent rivals try to Mind Rape you, you will be glad you spent the dots here. When the feds try to hack into your Kill Sat, you will be glad you spent the dots here. Trust us.
    • Also subverted. Nothing prevents you from saying your Prostasia body armor uses ancient Egyptian laser beams to shoot down incoming bullets.
  • Brown Note: Witnessing mad science can turn a normal person into a Beholden or a full-fledged Genius. One of the reasons for The Masquerade is because, well, otherwise that's just more labs to feed.
    • Worth mention is that being Beholden is a lot like being a Ghoul, complete with attendant psychological problems—you literally no longer have a worldview of your own. Failing to find a master means a Beholden could go catatonic and die within weeks.
  • Bumbling Sidekick: A sad fact of life for some Beholden.
  • Came Back Wrong: Unless you are very, very lucky, any attempt raising the dead brings them back evil and insane. If you really screw up you might get a batch of Pandorans. On the other hand, you can deliberately attempt to bring a corpse back as a Promethean or a vampire.
    • 'Course, you still run the risk of really pissing off whoever you brought back. Fun Fact: They might not be HAPPY that they are a walking wasteland, and depending on how you did it, it may be impossible for them to interact with normal humans due to the possibility of Havoc (if they are being kept alive by Wonders, at least)
  • Canis Latinicus: Even Genii Geniuses don't always get their Latin right.
    • Altum Videtur: If a Lemurian actually uses proper Latin, run. They're either very old or very obsessive; either way, that spells trouble.
  • Can't Have Sex Ever: Manes and biological Wonders can't be fiddled with by mortals without risking Havoc. And some of those Manes look and act just like normal people...
  • Card-Carrying Villain: Some Illuminated tend to be a bit fanciful in their self-concepts—you get a fair number of them thinking they're the Devil. That is, if they haven't gone to the other extreme.
  • Character Development: Integrated into the game in a very interesting way. In order to increase their Inspiration, a Genius must undertake a Thesis, a deeply personal analysis of their thoughts, their actions, and their character in general, combined with a personal mission that defines their goals and personality. In this way, the personality of a PC Genius develops (or is at least defined) as they increase in power.
    • Also subverted, in that "more defined" often means "more streamlined" for a Genius. A high-Inspiration Genius becomes enormously powerful, but plenty fall into archetypes and rote behaviour.
  • City of Adventure: Seattle, probably because all the other big cities were claimed by the real WoD it's got a crapload of technological companies. Despite being a pretty nice place for mortals, the Inspired population of the city is rather dangerous and there're the remnants of a dangerous Bardo just beneath the surface, with Lemurians hopelessly trying to revive it.
  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe: Inverted. A sudden paradigm shift in the Consensus causes a Maniac Storm, usually enough to spawn a Bardo or at least a new type of Mane or three, but straightforward belief doesn't do anything in and of itself. Sometimes the Geniuses can see them coming; the Martian Empire, for example, despite causing massive Inspired casualties in their initial invasion, was something many Geniuses had been preparing for for years, which is why we're not all speaking... whatever language it is Martians speak. This same bizarre existence-due-to-not-being-able-to-exist also means that Manes are subject to Havoc just like Wonders, and are affected in very similar ways.
    • Also averted with how wonders work. Ultimately it doesn't matter at all if a Genius believes his own theories or not.
  • Clock Punk: The Elders of the Third Law, a fellowship tracing its roots to Leonardo Da Vinci, prefer to use clockwork wonders. They tend to be pessimistic about more newfangled contraptions, e.g. cybernetics, nanotechnology, and steam.
  • Clock Roaches: "Time-wasps" are mentioned in passing.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Staunens can be like this. As the Neids put it, "The cosmos has its boot on your throat, and you're admiring the shoelaces."
  • Comes Great Insanity: Comes with the territory.
  • Comes Great Responsibility: Your Morality stat is called Obligation. Figure it out.
  • Conspiracy Kitchen Sink: Genius adds Lemuria and the peerage to the nWoD's already overcrowded shadows.
  • Conspiracy Theorist: The Inspired are very good at seeing connections. This is equally true for connections that do not exist.
  • Consummate Liar: Phenomenologists. Of the "Just Too Alien" sort. No matter how obviously false, a Phenomenologist genuinely believes whatever he's saying.
  • Corrupt Cop: A growing problem in the Time Police.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Villanous Directors can fall into this.
  • Creating Life Is Awesome: Creating life is considered perfectly acceptable. Creating intelligent life is considered a modest Transgression more because it's socially frowned upon than because it's automatically unethical. Mad Scientists tend to do both anyway.
  • Creating Life Is Bad: Very easy to do. And very easy to get a Transgression with.
  • Creative Sterility: A Clockstopper is a mortal with no spark. They're often aggressive and their mere presence can destroy the products of creativity and intelligence. Some of them can actually render it near impossible to think. Do not expect a rational argument from them.
  • Critical Psychoanalysis Failure: What can happen if a mortal tries to analyze a Genius. In the opening fiction, a psychoanalyst working with a Genius actually becomes a Genius from contact with him. She later becomes an Illuminated and ends up starving to death as she tries to unravel the secret to immortality. It should be mentioned that said psychoanalyst apparently received Inspired-like thoughts before pushing them away, so she arguably had one foot in the door already.
  • Cryptic Background Reference: Tons of them.
  • Crystal Spires and Togas: One of the common Aesthetics Geniuses use. Plenty of them use it ironically.
  • Crystal Dragon Jesus: Professor Partridge Crown believes he's the Self-Eating Fire and that his only real enemy is the Metal Peacock God.
  • The Cuckoolander Was Right: Geniuses are insane, but they also tend to be genuinely more intelligent than mere mortals; mechanically, this translates into an extra dot in a mental attribute. Simply put, their reasoning might be incomprehensible, but they can still come up with the right answers.
  • Cut Lex Luthor a Check: Pretty hard, partly due to the inherently magical nature of Inspired technology, which results in massive and horrible failure whenever Muggles so much as handle them. Mostly because a lot of geniuses are too insane to have a rational business plan.
    • The easiest way to do it would be launching satellites into orbit. And that's not even counting the kind of shenanigans someone with rank-5 Apokalypsi can do.
  • Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: Nothing about the technology itself, but permanently altering your physical form is a Transgression that can ding your Obligation quite severely if the changes are significant enough; nothing distances you from humanity quite like turning yourself into a giant mechanical dragon.
  • Cyberpunk: An old-fashioned Aesthetic.
  • Cyberspace: The Grid exists because of this trope.
  • Da Chief: Mister Shark is this trope, despite being a Maori navigator from the 17th century. He runs the Time Police responsible for the 16th through 21st centuries mostly on force of personality and is an extremely powerful Genius in his own right.
    • And he has a time-travelling canoe.
  • Dark Messiah: Villainous Hoffnungs can be this.
  • Dangerous Forbidden Technique: Deep Inspiration allows you to use Mania that you don't have. Unfortunately, this means your Inspiration is writing checks your mind can't cash; the more Mania you spend, the greater the penalty to the resulting Unmada check. Worse still, Unmada who use Deep Inspiration risk becoming Illuminated.
    • To a lesser extent diatribes (expounding on your worldview to a prisoner, which can lead to you forgetting that it's untrue and insane) and "editing" (destroying evidence that contradicts your untrue and insane worldview).
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Crops up now and then.
  • Despair Event Horizon: A possible form of Breakthrough. It won't necessarily create a Klagen, though.
  • The Dragon: Name-checked in the storytelling section, which uses the term to describe the villain's "large, dangerous, entirely physical adversary that may or may not be a giant fire-breathing lizard".
  • Dystopia: Tsoska, every socialist and Communist dystopian idea rolled into one grey uninspiring doubleplusungood empire. Ironically, it's one of the safer Bardos to visit; if one's papers are in order and they act right, the government treats a visiting Genius like a foreign dignitary. Its capitalist counterpart, Voltt City, is mentioned in passing.
    • Also the Seattle Of Tomorrow, a fascist police state governed by all seeing technology. The Atomists loved it.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Old Cold Ones that exist after the heat death of the universe, who would really like to get back into time to experience things like "energy" and "movement".
  • Eldritch Location: Bardos, places that it has been shown don't/can't exist. You can visit them.
  • Empty Shell: Clockstoppers, empty beings that run on spite and lash out at anything born of intelligence or creativity.
  • Everything Is an iPod In The Future: The "Pod People" aesthetic, which is currently quite the "in" thing with Directors. According to an editorial cartoon drawn by a critic of the style, a "Standard Pod People Death Ray" is an iPod with its controls replaced by a single large button marked "KILL."
  • Evil Luddite: The Clockstoppers, some of them can also brainwash normal humans into acting this way.
  • Evilutionary Biologist: The reason the rest of the Peerage is leery of the Progenitors. A valid concern, considering what became of the preceding Foundation.
  • Extra-Strength Masquerade: This trope isn't here because mortals can't see mad science; they can. It's here because seeing mad science often turns mortals into more Mad Scientists or assistants thereof, who have a vested interest in not going public and creating more rivals. funding is hard to come by, after all.
    • Furthermore, if a mortal isn't turned to a rival or thrall, they cannot help but cause wonders to break down or run amok merely by touching them. Especially if a real scientist gets ahold of them; nothing destroys Wonders like having someone that can understand precisely why it can't possibly work witness it.
  • Explosive Instrumentation: A very likely possibility if you let a mere mortal start fiddling with your control panels.
  • Explosive Overclocking: A Genius can supercharge any piece of technology, Wonder or not, but doing so can result in heavy damage or even destroy it.
    • Worth noting is that the game's definition of "technology" means you can do this with a stick; everything altered by a human to serve a purpose counts as "technology".
  • Faster-Than-Light Travel: Implementors of Skafoi can build FTL starships.
  • The Fatalist: Mechanists, who accept their triumphs, defeats and atrocities as predestined.
  • The Fettered: Paragons, Geniuses with Obligation 7+. The new 1.1 Science Hero merit only improves the benefits.
  • Fictional Document: The Organons of the Foundations, the magazines (Alloy Blend, Inspiration), and FREUDIAC's A Guide to the Psychology of the Exceptionally Gifted, to name a few.
  • Fighting From the Inside: Victims of Epikrato mind control can spend Willpower to do this.
  • Five-Man Band/Five-Bad Band:
  • Flame War: Popular Genius websites have a tendency to sink to this level—just the way they like it.
  • For Science!: Oh, so much.
    • Much of the time, it's more like some sort of anti-science, largely the point of these "Geniuses".
  • The Fundamentalist: Oracles and Etherites, with morality and their pet mad-scientific theories, respectively.
    • And occasionaly Clockstoppers.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: The whole point, really.
  • Genre Blindness: Part of the problem with Unmada in general is that they refuse to believe they're mad, or that their Wonders aren't proper technology.
  • Genre Savvy: The Peerage, on the other hand, know they're mad scientists and, despite their madness, have managed to get a reasonably solid understanding of how Inspiration "works." It helps that unlike most supernatural communities in the New World of Darkness, Geniuses are making full use of the internet to talk to (or at least at) each other.
  • Gentleman and a Scholar: Jabir makes playing this kind of character slightly difficult, but some social skills (particularly expression) are extremely useful for a Genius to have.
  • Good Powers, Bad People: Thulian Revanchists favor Exelixi.
  • Go Mad From the Revelation: A commonplace form of Breakthrough.
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: All over the place. Things can (and have) Gone Horribly Wrong in more ways than can be listed.
  • Gratuitous German: The German terminology is largely correct, with only 3-4 minor mistakes and typos. ("Klagen" and "Archweltanschaaung" are supposed to be "Klage", "lament" and "Erzweltanschauung", "arch-world-view"; also, "Grimm" sound somewhat archaic and hammy to modern german speakers, unlike "Zorn".
  • Heroic BSOD/RROD: Channeling too much Mania at one time or withdrawing into yourself can overload your Inspiration, transforming you into a particularly dangerous Reality Warper called an Unmada. You're still sane playable, but your Inspiration warps reality around you to prove your worldview correct. These are mad scientists. Unmada reality warping doesn't shield them from moral arguments, but they still show a strong tendency towards "dangerous and unstable".
  • Hero with Bad Publicity: Subverted. Paragons (Geniuses with the Karma Meter at 7 or above) naturally project an aura of friendliness and hospitality, leading to an unconscious Charm Person effect.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: Leonardo da Vinci defeated his Evil Twin, and an organization was founded in his honor.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: Nikola Tesla was a member of the Evil Counterpart organization.
  • Hitler's Time Travel Exemption Act: Played With. You can kill Hitler, but it won't do anything (except get the Time Cops mad at you.) Hitler has been killed six times over, so the setting's Time Cops started cloning him. If you head back to 1921 Hamburg, you can get a tour of the cloning facility.
  • Hollow World: the Hollow Earth pocket reality.
  • Homemade Inventions: The Dumpster Diver Merit makes this very easy.
  • Human Resources: Making living things generally needs material; the sourcebook states that grinding up stray cats is one way to do it.
  • Humanoid Abomination: How Mages see Geniuses, how Geniuses see powerful Clockstoppers, and how everyone sees the Illuminated.
  • Hyperspace Arsenal: Masters of Metaptropi can make Wonders that are Bigger on the Inside.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: It's implicit that great atrocities were committed by both sides during the Invisible Wars. Nevertheless, most Peers believe they acted out of necessity.

Those peers old enough to remember those days...whose memories still echo with the phantasms of a forgotten timeline...often have not forgiven themselves for what they did in those bloody weeks that marked the end of Lemuria. But few have apologized.

  • The Igor: Beholden, otherwise ordinary people who see they world exactly as the Genius sees it and thus can handle Wonders without wrecking them, fill this role. In fact, "Igor" is a slang term for a Beholden.
  • I Hate You, Vampire Dad: Not unheard of. The Peerage (and Lemuria, for that matter) encourages Geniuses to take responsibility for the education of anyone who became Inspired as a result of seeing their Wonders. But not everyone wants to be a Genius, particularly if they had aspirations to an actual career in science. Argentine St. Croix, for example, killed the man responsible for her Breakthrough almost immediately after going mad.
    • Zig-zagged with Doctor Ibanez. At first she's excited by the new ideas, and then she's afraid of letting some alien intelligence implant insane thoughts in her head. But when the time comes she says "I want this." Later her mentor reveals he created her solely to betray her and use her inventions to become immortal. She doesn't seem that angry about this, and they have a pleasant conversation until he starves to death and she cuts open his head to put his brain in a machine. Eventually, she becomes an Illuminated and starves to death so arguably becoming a mad scientist was bad for her.
  • I Want My Jetpack: We were promised a future of wonderful technology that would end all suffering. The Atomists are pissed off about not getting it.
    • Then there's the sample city of Seattle, where the Lemurians tried to bring a Bardo based on The World of Tomorrow! into reality. It ended in rust, explosions, and tears, while the Muggles didn't notice- having too much fun at the World's Fair.
  • Instant AI, Just Add Water: Non-thinking Wonders abandoned by their Genius will quickly develop a rudimentary animal intelligence. Or explode.
  • Immortality Seeker: Dr. Jonas Cliver
    • Also, his intellectual heirs; they're looking for true immortality, not a Mania-fueled longevity, nor a Wondrous immortal body. Their quest ends horribly for all of them.
  • Implacable Man: Clockstoppers can pull a limited version of this trick with their "Natural Body" Void. Wonders and conventional technology like firearms and explosives don't do a blasted thing at higher levels, and at its strongest, any technology attempting to influence the Clockstopper fails. This includes medical technology, which is a blasted shame, because even at that rank, a right hook works just fine. And then there's the matter of magic...
  • Imported Alien Phlebotinum: You can visit places that were once widely believed to exist, then proved not to, and bring some of their technology home, including the Martian Empire. Imported super-science is explicitly equivalent to that built by a Genius.
  • Improbable Weapon User: You can make some weird stuff with Katastrofi.
  • Incendiary Exponent: Invoked in the section on Storytelling, along with High Altitude Battle.

For a location, the simplest thing to do is to imagine a fun place to have a fight[...] If there's not enough excitement inherent in the location, light the whole thing on fire. Or drop it from a great height. Something that is on fire and falling is more or less ideal.

"Of course, you could always just build giant robots and then rob banks with them. It's not like that's never occurred to mad scientists in the past."

  • Les Collaborateurs: The human Geniuses who swore fealty to the Ophidian masters of Lemuria.
  • Life Drinker: All "manes" (creatures created in realities produced by the excess mental energy of dis proven theories), orphans (Mad Scientist inventions that have broken loose and gone mad) and any Genius who takes it have the "Calculus Vampire" merit which allows them to drain Mania (essentially mad science/brainpower as a sort of energy), which the first two groups must feed on.
  • Light Is Not Good: It's mentioned several times that the Illuminated have embraced the light of Inspiration.
    • The Oracles tend to use a quasi-religious, New Age-y aesthetic that makes them look like benevolent philosophers and holy men. While they certainly believe they're personifying a different trope, the truth is rather more sinister.
  • Lizard Folk: The Lemurians (the real ones) are snake people from the now disproved continent of Lemuria, as well as the obligatory conspiracy theories about secret reptile overlords.
  • Load-Bearing Boss: God help you if you kill a Genius in his Laboratory full of Wonders. Chances are good that you'll start a chain reaction of explosions and feral Orphans.
  • Loners Are Freaks: "Actions that physically or psychologically distance the Genius from humanity" are about mid-level Transgressions; at higher Obligation, going without human contact for a day is a Transgression.
  • MacGyvering: A Genius can "kitbash" a Wonder together in hours, minutes, or even seconds if they're powerful or have bought the right merit.
  • Mad Artist: The Domitions mentioned in Moochava's emails are a Mediterranean group of Inspired artists, architects, and sculptors who specialize in the as yet unrevealed Pseudo-Axioms.
  • Mad Doctor: Quite a few Geniuses (particularly those who Catalyzed in sorrow) were or are medical doctors.
  • Mad Science Is a Monster Magnet: Maniavores called Pretas are always on the lookout for their next meal, and while they can consume mundane intelligence to an extent, the best sources of energy are the Inspired and their Wonders.
  • Mad Scientist: You play as one.
  • Mad Scientist Laboratory: Every Genius or Collaborative worth their salt has one, and they come in every style you can imagine.
  • Mad Scientist's Beautiful Daughter: Lampshaded in the sourcebook. "Do you have a beautiful daughter? If so, be careful ― if you turn evil she'll probably betray you to the hero and let the monster eat you."
  • The Mad Hatter: The Peerage takes pains to remind its members that all Geniuses are mad; it helps keep them from going too far. Lemurians think they're sane. They also have an insane worldview that's notably non human-centric. This is not a good combination.
  • Magic-Powered Pseudoscience: What a Genius and their inventions run on.
  • Magic Versus Science: Geniuses and Mages just naturally don't get along most of the time, though the Free Council and the Scholastics have reached an understanding. This comes in very handy when they have to perform hasty swaps whenever a particular unusual Mage turns out to be a new catalysed Genius or vice versa. On the other hand, their respective Ancient Conspiracies seem to be incapable of noticing each other, and no-one knows why.
  • Mana: Mania, the pure creative energy that powers a Genius's Wonders.
  • Mana Burn: The Clockstopper Void "Hungry Emptiness."
  • Mana Drain: The Calculus Vampire Merit.
  • Masquerade: As standard in the World of Darkness. The Lemurians kept it up to better stick to their plans for humanity, while Rogues kept it up to hide from Lemuria. Currently the Peerage enforces it (if barely) because public use of Wonders frequently leads to disaster. It's been slipping more and more since Lemuria fell, and the "Future Timelines" suggest in a few hundred years it'll have completely broken.
    • And, as Moochava himself illustrates: "People ask me why geniuses in Genius: The Transgression don't just go public. Because this is how dumb you look." If you haven't completely lost it, you'll probably have tried once or twice at most and given up to focus on more important things.
  • The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body: Averted. Transforming a living thing has no effect on its mind; trying to turn a bloodthirsty dinosaur into a docile rabbit results in a bloodthirsty rabbit. The exception is transformation of living things to non-living things, that results in unconsciousness on the part of the victim until they're reverted.
  • Morally-Ambiguous Doctorate: A third of Geniuses have a legitimate degree, another third just say they do or just stick Dr, Doc or Professor in their name.
  • Muggles: Termed "mere mortals" by the sourcebook.
  • Muggles Do It Better: Subverted: Geniuses do it better, muggles do it reliably. On the whole, the Inspired are pragmatic about when they want power or reliability.
  • Mundane Utility: A creative Genius has an unbelievable potential for Mundane Utility. However, using wonders in this way is a (very, very minor) ding on the Karma Meter, like in Mage.
  • Name's the Same: In approximately ten-thousand years, the most brutal dictator ever known to mankind will seize control of civilization. What does this despotic mastermind call himself? Yao Ming.
  • Necessary Fail: The timeline that led to the existence of the Terminals is generally accepted to have been good for the universe as a whole, but it wasn't without its own horrors. Of note was the genocidal dictator Helmut Schenk, whom the Guardians of Forever were obliged to replace with Adolph Hitler.
  • Never the Selves Shall Meet: It's almost universally a bad idea to interact with your past self while on a time travel jaunt. With that in mind...

"Messing about with yourself from a previous time travel jaunt is about the stupidest thing you can do without a death ray and a bottle of tequila."

  • New Tech Is Not Cheap: This game goes a little overboard in insisting that Geniuses be able to account for how, exactly, they pay for those wonderful toys. It stops short of having the Storyteller request an itemized budget from the players, but only just.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: The Peerage's defeat of Lemuria and total removal of the Nine Unknown Men means that no one is in control, no one is responsible, and no, you are not getting that rocket car with the robot chauffeur without some serious coin.
    • Although it's the robot chaffeur that is really expensive.
  • Nightmare Fetishist: A distinct worry shared by some of the more introspective Staunens. As the game manual puts it, some take delight in the modulation of screams of pain, or are fascinated by the effects of sickness and poison on the human body.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: OH SO MANY.
  • No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: Larval Wonders. Every single one is one-of-a-kind.
  • Not Using the Z Word: The Peerage averts this trope; all Peers are well aware that they're Mad Scientists, and refer to themselves as such. Conversely, Lemuria and other Unmada will be happy to tell you that they are legitimate scientists, and quite sane. Completely sane. Utterly sane. Sane. Sane. Sane. SANE, DAMN YOU!
  • No Transhumanism Allowed: Averted! High-Inspiration Geniuses can become transhuman in terms of physical and mental ability even without the use of Wonders, and self-modification often has little stigma attached to it beyond concerns about Havoc. That said, transhuman Geniuses face definite challenges when interacting with mere mortals, and their Obligation usually takes a hit as they struggle to connect to the mundane world. A certain phrase comes to mind.
  • Not Wearing Tights: Averted, the Iridium Sentinels are unashamedly superheroes, if more Iron Man than spandex. An entire section in the part for storytellers lists superheroes as a possible campaign, by name.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Lemuria's full of 'em.
  • Older Than They Think: The sourcebook reminds us that mad science is older than rayguns, robots and Frankenstein, with mention of mad alchemists, philosophers and inventors stretching back through history.
    • On a related note, "Genius" as used here has a suspiciously apropos double meaning—a distinctly otherworldly one, at that. Given that the term dates back to ancient Rome, this should come as no surprise.
  • Omnidisciplinary Scientist/Open-Heart Dentistry: Occurs in two separate ways:
  • One Stat to Rule Them All: Not coming far without Intelligence. Also, don't treat mental skills as a Dump Stat unless you are Too Dumb to Live. It is about Mad Scientists, after all.
    • You can use Wits instead when kitbashing, which can sort of allow you to get by on that instead, but even if you can reduce, eliminate, or afford to ignore the inherent penalties suffered for doing so, kitbashed wonders are always temporary.
  • Our Elves Are Mathematical Anomalies: Fractal Elves are diminutive Manes born from failed equations, and are often found in laboratories and other research facilities. They're not too bright, but most aren't truly malicious.
  • Our Goblins Are Wickeder: Paper Goblins are Manes created by the desire for a truly paperless society. There are several different sub-species formed from various printed media, such as newspaper goblins, handwritten goblins, and fiction goblins. They're quite intelligent, and are willing to work with Geniuses for the right price. And for some reason, they're mostly culturally Hispanic.
  • Our Monsters Are Weird: Yes, yes they are. From mutant Orphans, to avatars of broken faith, to evil disembodied infectious Yetis born from the mind of a Crazy Awesome Polish sculptor, the Inspired world has no shortage of bizarre monsters lurking in the shadows. And if you have the right Axioms, you can make new ones yourself.
  • Perpetual Poverty: Geniuses need resources to create Wonders; mad science can make money, but only with upfront investment and business acumen, and insanity is a real disadvantage in a normal job. It's reached the point where the Artificers have literally started unionizing to provide themselves with communal workspace and accommodation.
  • Personality Powers: Sorta. Geniuses get a favored "Axiom" (branch of Mad Science) based on their Catalyst, which is the thing that stained their Breakthrough: Destruction for Grimms (Rage), Transformation for Hoffnungs (Vision), Improvement for Klagens (Loss), Control for Neids (Banishment) and Discovery for Staunens (Curiosity). However, Geniuses also get two other favored Axioms, so their Catalyst doesn't totally dictate their abilities.
  • Phlebotinum Breakdown: This is the definition of Havoc. Most of the time things can be solved by putting Mania into the malfunctioning Wonder until it shuts down, but if you're really unlucky...
  • Placebotinum Effect: A possible explaination for a Genius' Wonders.
  • Poisonous Friend: Unmada Manes (the Manes spawned or attracted by the fields Unmada produce) can guard areas, offer advice, or act as an information network for the Unmada in question. They also have vested interest in making sure the Genius stays crazy.
  • Politically-Incorrect Villain: Lemuria's quaint little racial hierarchies do not endear that organization to the rest of the Inspired world. A number of other sample antagonists are also insanely bigoted, and, of course, we have the Nazis.
    • Politically-Incorrect Hero: The Peerage and the Directors in particular used to be just as racist as Lemuria, but they cleaned up their act around the same time as mundane society did.
  • Post Modernism: The Hermetic Order of the 28 Spheres take a distinctly postmodern approach to mad science, styling their Wonders as magic artifacts to play with concepts like Magic-Powered Pseudoscience and Clarke's Third Law.
  • Power Born of Madness: All over the place. Geniuses are so crazy they can break bend the laws of physics.
  • Powered by a Forsaken Child: Larvae are components for Wonders that require moral sacrifice, such as... well, the heart of a little orphan boy; the book even uses the Venture Brothers quote.
    • With the Technomancer Merit, a genius can convert any sort of metanormal energy (Glamour, Mana, Vitae) into Mania. Yes, it is possible to turn blood into Science.
      • Or you can just cram a fairly potent spirit into a tube and suck essence out of the thing—of course, doing so has a nasty tendency to piss off the other spirits in the area who'll then make trouble for you. And lord help you if the local Werewolves find out. Nothing quite says "Bad Day" like a pack of pissed off werewolves ripping your laboratory apart, destroying months of research, wonders, and possibly yourself if you don't either get out of there or pull out the death ray and start going to town.
    • A subtle Fridge Horror here: the stock Ophidian Infiltrator has a larval Epikrato...egg. Ophidians are Snake People. Who most certainly reproduce by oviposition. Which implies it was an Ophidian egg. And yes, the mind control is then literally Powered by a Forsaken Child.
    • Those Wacky Nazis can get extra Mania by using their Atrocity Halls.
  • Power Nullifier: At its highest level the Clockstopper Void Purify the Wounded Earth automatically disables all nearby wonders.
  • The Power of Friendship: Well, the power of communalism, anyway. The Foundations' Grants (special abilities) are fueled by Mania contributed by their members. It takes about one-thousand Geniuses working together to maintain a Foundation, Baramin, or independent Program.
  • Power Perversion Potential: Extremely high—this is a game where customized individuals, Mind Control devices and Transformation Rays are common stock inventions. A lot of these applications, though, are Transgressions of some kind. Many are relatively minor -- indulging certain odd tastes will weird out much of society, while using Wonders for fun shows a lack of respect for the dangerous power of mad science. Going too far will result in your Obligation going down, and hard. "Love potions" and other forms of sexual mind control are 100% analogous to rape and only a step above mass murder.
  • Prestige Class: Fellowships, research groups dedicated to studying narrow fields and that grant bonuses to wonders within that field.
  • Professor Guinea Pig: Plenty of Geniuses experiment on themselves, and the Progenitors have a whole transhumanist philosophy that expects this. However, self-modification is a Transgression.
    • Dangerous experiments on other humans is a worse Transgression however (depending on how dangerous the experiment and how severe the modification), which leads to this trope.
  • Properly Paranoid: Particularly lucid Neids. While Neids are suspicious by nature, it's mentioned that their paranoia gets directed more often at real than imagined threats. Given the ubiquitousness of shadowy monstrosities in the New World of Darkness, this makes sense.
  • Psychic-Assisted Suicide: The human survival instinct is too strong to force someone to commit suicide unless you're really good. Incredibly stupid behavior, oddly enough, is a perfectly reasonable suggestion.
  • Raygun Gothic: Named, even.
  • Reality Ensues: Havoc. All the incredible things Geniuses build just can't work in the real world, and that's a constant source of frustration.
  • Reality Warper: Unmada possess an uncontrolled version of this power that causes the world to fit their version of reality better. That wouldn't be so bad, except it also summons Manes. They can be helpful, generally only to the Unmada in question, and even that's a bit chancy.
    • One theory of Inspiration posits that all mad science is like this. The non-unmada just have a controlled version.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: The primary benefit of high Obligation is the trust of others when acting from a position of knowledge and authority.
  • Recycled in Space: Sometimes, Genius can look a lot like Mage: The Ascension WITH (PSEUDO)SCIENCE! Not that it detracts from the awesomeness any.
    • There is at least one small difference which completely inverts the settings from each other: Mages know the hidden truths of reality, Geniuses are madmen who usually know less than a good scientist.
      • It goes even deeper than that; those Geniuses who were competent scientists are painfully aware that what they do isn't, in strictest terms, "real." So while Mages get to pat themselves on the back for being oh so enlightened, the Inspired have to live with the knowledge that their perceptions are hopelessly skewed forever. Makes Illumination all the more tempting...
    • It is more like Technocracy Guide with better Science!!!. To elaborate all the parallels:
      • Lemuria is run by a "Third Race" of Snake People. Order of Hermes, the classic wizards, almost-leaders of the Traditions and the Sorcerous Overlords Order of Reason had to overthrow, spotted three snakes on their Sigil during the Dark Ages. (They only have one in the modern setting)
      • Etherites and Progenitors are clear.
      • Navigators and Artificers bear old names of Void Engineers and Iteration X respectively.
      • The Numericals' concept is basically Virtual Adepts in Lemuria!!
      • Scolastics and Directors seem to correspond to the NWO and the Syndicate.
      • Phenomenologists look like a Take That to the Cult of Ecstasy, Post-modernism in general or a Shout-Out to the Science Wars
      • Ironically while the above puts the Technocrats Conventions as Peers and the Traditions in Lemuria Word of God says that the Atomists were explicitly based on the Technocracy as a whole. Along with Rand, Heinlein & Niven enthusiasts found on web forums.
  • The Red Planet: The Martian Empire, heavily inspired by War of the Worlds. They're not overtly hostile at the moment, because Havoc decimated the parts of their invasion force that the Inspired didn't deal with.
  • Reed Richards Is Useless: Averted in a few ways:
    • While a cure for cancer or what-have-you is within the bounds of Mania, it wouldn't be applicable on a large scale; that kind of thing draws attention, and unless you'd care to try explaining to the FDA that no-one else can administer or create the cure because of Havoc, you probably want to keep things quiet. Other revolutionary inventions, like a universal translator or advanced cybernetics, would be completely unusable by the general public, again because of Havoc. And don't forget, all this tinkering is expensive.
    • There's already a very poorly run consortium dedicated to changing the world "for the better" and it tends to get violent with people who attempt to do the same without its approval.
    • Finally, the future timeline indicates that eventually Geniuses will find a way to make Wonders available to everyone.
  • Ret-Gone: The Terminals (Sufficiently Advanced Aliens or Gods, it's never made clear exactly which) were annihilated from the timeline. This can also happen to stupid PCs.
  • Revenge Before Reason: Both Grimms and Neids tend toward this, with Grimms content to utterly destroy their perceived enemies, and Neids demanding recognition for their "brilliance".
  • Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory: Time-travelers have it for their own jaunts, and by necessity the Guardians of Forever have it no matter what.
  • Rube Goldberg Device: An entirely feasible aesthetic choice.
  • Scale of Scientific Sins: All except number 2 are Transgressions—normal people find them unsettling.
  • Science A is Science A: This is how Wonders work.
  • Science Hero: Always popular with the players.
    • Hell, it's even a merit now.
      • In name, anyway. The function of the merit is simply to reduce Jabir and increase the character's social bonus from high Obligation (if any). None of the actual heroics in the trope are required.
  • Science Is Bad: Clockstoppers certainly think so. The extremes some of them take this to can be downright horrifying.
  • Science Is Wrong: Averted, and much of the conflict between Geniuses stems from a refusal to admit the aversion. The Peerage recognizes that Geniuses are insane. Lemuria, on the other hand, claims that sane science is somehow flawed, and that only their theories have any validity.
  • Science Marches On: When popular theories are disproved, they tend to spawn Manes and even Bardos in their image. Nobody has figured out what happens when people decide that a true thing is true, then decide that the true thing is false. Probably something very bad.
  • Science-Related Memetic Disorder: Geniuses are literally no longer exactly human. Their minds and personalities have been transformed by their connection to Inspiration.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money: Screw the laws of physics, you have Resources! Which leads to...
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Supernatural Powers: ...which has a nasty tendency to lead to irredeemable madness. Starting to see a pattern?
  • Shout-Out: Several of the terms (Void Engineers, Etherites, Hollow Ones, Progenitors, and so on) used are repurposed oMage terminology.
  • Smug Super: If the Peerage's stereotypes sections are anything to go by, the default attitude of Geniuses toward mere mortals is mild contempt. The Peerage does try to combat this way of thinking, though, which is more than can be said of Lemuria.
  • Somewhere a Palaeontologist Is Crying: In the Hollow Earth, you can find every single mistake of zoology ever made, all living side by side.
  • The Soulless: One of the more popular interpretations of the Illuminated.
  • The Spark of Genius: Inspiration.
  • Status Quo Is God: The Terminals tried to enforce this trope, and failed to do so about as badly as it's possible to fail at anything. Their servants have lightened up, but still try to keep the big things stable.
  • Steampunk: The latest fad among mad scientists.

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"Do you really want to spend the rest of the week fending off a zombie apocalypse as the Earth vomits up her dead? AGAIN?"