Ambition seems to be one of the few things to survive any societal apocalypse in pop culture. Whether it’s the warboys in Mad Max, the drug runners in Judge Dredd or the raider/super mutant/ghoul/etc. tribes in Fallout, humanity sure wants to coalesce around those with determination and big dreams. Upcoming tabletop RPG Gangs of Titan City understands that impetus all too well and makes it the core of its radioactive, smog-choked urban dystopia.
Gangs of Titan City is the creation of designer trio Nick Spence, Ben Brown and Zachary Cox, in collaboration with Soulmuppet Publishing (Orbital Blues) and smashes together all of those references in the previous paragraph along with a healthy dose of organised crime drama, from classics such as Scarface to the more contemporary Peaky Blinders. Players will create members of a group vying for an ever larger slice of the ruinous remains of human society within the colossal Titan City. Whatever their methods, the goal is to become large enough that other predators don’t eat the players whole.
Plutogia, as it’s called by the wealthy Empyreals who perch themselves above the pollution and ruin, is a megacity surrounded by bombed-out desert. Anything worth having is within the city, which houses billions of people who refer to themselves as Gutters. Players will first choose the shape of their gang, which informs how they interact with the city - are they amoral Mercenaries, an opportunistic Consortium or an angry Enclave of the dispossessed seeking vengeance? Regardless, campaigns will feel similar to Rowan, Rook and Decard’s Spire as the players fight, swindle or blackmail their way from the literal guts of the city to its upper echelons.
This choice is more than just a collection of aesthetic roleplay markers, as each gang has different ways of earning experience, abilities and rivals to encounter on their way up the ladder. Gangs of Titan City cleaves to Blades in the Dark's tightly interwoven fabric of factions, creating interesting ripples for every action the gang takes. Everything you steal once belonged to someone else, and you can’t earn one friend without making two enemies in the process.
Player-controlled Gutters can choose among eight playbooks, which also have unique XP prompts and advancement markers. Some of them, such as the Dealer or Marksman, bestow mastery over a certain combat approach, while Aberration or Technomancer leans hard into body modification and straight-up body horror, begging hard questions about the definition of humanity in its description.
Playing Gangs of Titan City requires two six-sided dice that are rolled for most every challenge and threat. The designers say the system should feel reminiscent of Powered by the Apocalypse in that it gets out of the players’ way as soon as possible and lets their choices drive the fiction - and the friction - forward. It should feel as if you are pushing your Gutter towards their breaking point at every moment because life in Titan City is desperate and cruel but not without joy for those who can pay the price.
In another nod towards John Harper’s influential game system, Gangs of Titan City divides sessions into three phases: Escalation, Operation and Fallout. Gangs will first need to plan their jobs, identifying who to hit, how hard to hit them and what they’ll swipe while the suckers are wiping blood from their eyes. Operation sees that plan go into action and lets the players take full reins, improvising whenever things inevitably jump the rails. Fallout is a bit like downtime - the gang’s members will either count their winnings or lick their wounds as the city roils around the shifting status quo.
Soulmuppet plans to produce a single core rulebook that will contain everything players and a facilitator need to run the game, including rules for creating their own magic and technology that lies somewhere between Cronenberg, Warhammer 40,000's Necromunda and the 2000 AD comics. It will also detail hex-map generation guidelines and full folios on the 36 factions that carve up their own pieces of the towering, rusted metropolis.
Gangs of Titan City is currently crowdfunding a 6"x9" hardcover book and accompanying digital PDF version. Backers can secure a copy of either for £40 ($50) and £20 ($25), respectively. The team expects the book and all extras to begin shipping in November of this year.