Janelle Monáe has created a compelling --if lightly-defined-- science fiction future setting:

In the dystopian world of The Metropolis Suite, an android is condemned to death for falling in love with a human and flees to the underground, where she becomes a prophet and heroine to the oppressed masses. While organizing a rebellion, she sends a duplicate, the Janelle Monáe we know, back in time to the 21st century to inflame the people of the past with Rock. With the power of such singles as "Cold War" and "Tightrope," she will inspire us to fight the Man in the past while her duplicate fights the Man in the future. (source)

The Metropolis concept series is so far described mostly through the songs and music videos of three albums: Metropolis: Suite I (The Chase), The ArchAndroid, and The Electric Lady.

Since concept albums have never been famous for their detailed and internally-consistent renderings of fictional worlds, the setting is pretty fast and loose. Monáe's music videos for Many Moons and Tightrope depict the albums' bizarre future in which a diverse and improbable decadent elite suppresses creative expression (such as dancing, which can be literally magical) and treats living, loving androids as property (hunting them down like foxes if they dare to act too human). It is a world where science fiction staples like time travel, androids, and clones exist alongside the fantastic such as mirror-faced asylum wardens and dandy vampires; where humans forbid music and love while machines fight this oppression with the magical power of dance.

I want to play a game in this world.

Has any content been created for running a Metropolis RPG? I seriously doubt it's been done officially, but fan content might exist.

Since even fan content might be sparse-to-non-existent, what existing systems/settings would be an easy fit for running such a game?

  • The system should focus on non-combat drama: social and political action are the name of the game, though the occasional car chase wouldn't be out of place. Characters are probably rebels working against The Man in the cracks of society.
  • It should be able to accommodate low-to-moderate magic and advanced technology.
  • I want to explore themes like love, oppression, fear, and courage.
  • I should be able to easily create custom creatures like vampire mafioso and robot assassins.

Worldbuilding systems which don't put much emphasis on running in the setting aren't what I'm looking for: I want to prioritize playing a game in the world, not playing with the world.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Sure, but you must know from hanging around this site how great a variety of games there are out there. For instance, if you wanted to actually play a consistent character, I don't think Microscope would be a good fit. \$\endgroup\$
    – starwed
    Oct 2, 2013 at 23:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ @starwed Yeah, Microscope looks entertaining but it's a good answer to any "I want to play an as-yet-unsupported setting" question. \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Oct 3, 2013 at 0:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ What do you envision the PCs doing in this game? Who are they? What are their goals? \$\endgroup\$
    – Tritium21
    Oct 15, 2014 at 10:54

2 Answers 2


My recommendation is Misspent Youth. From the webpage:

In the game, you play 12- to 17-year-old kids in a future world [screwed] up beyond recognition by The Authority. The Authority is a force that you create together at the start of the series and played by one person.

As you play the game, you're encouraged to test your principles and see how far you're willing to go to change the world. It's pretty neat, and would easily accommodate Ms. Monae's science fiction world.

If you're looking for something more traditional, I'd go with R.Talsorian's CyberGeneration, a youth-centered and anime-influenced (well, moreso) implementation of Cyberpunk.

I'd avoid Starchildren: Velvet Generation, though. Although it's explicitly about musicians sent from the stars to change the world and has a fun, glam feel against its dystopian aesthetic, it's not all that well put together and it's poorly edited.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I've tried to clarify my question a bit; could you take a look and see if there's anything you'd like to modify about your answer in response? \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Nov 14, 2014 at 22:32
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @BESW The funny thing is that I playtested a game last weekend that will be ideal once it comes out for real. Cindi Mayweather was one of the sample characters, even. I'll take a look when I have the chance. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jadasc
    Nov 15, 2014 at 1:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ [bounces excitedly] \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Nov 15, 2014 at 1:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ @jadasc: as one of the authors of Starchildren, I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I kind of agree with you on that point (and yes, I found this post doing a vanity search) \$\endgroup\$ Mar 4, 2015 at 21:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ Since this answer was written we've gotten a fancy game-rec banner highlighting the requirement for experience with any recommendations given. Could you edit this to suit? \$\endgroup\$ Mar 4, 2015 at 21:50

If I understand this correctly, Metropolis is really a collection of ideas and concepts rather than a formal setting. In that case, I'll suggest a system that might just be perfect for your game: Microscope.

Microscope is a GM-less game where all players collaborate to create and flesh out the history of a fictional setting. The game switches from very high-level perspectives (millennia and centuries) to very detailed views (minute-by-minute reenactments of key moments in the setting's history).

Microscope can be used for any type of setting. In order to play in the Metropolis setting, simply discuss the big picture with the other players in advance, then put important concepts on the "Add" list. You might also want to put out-of-place concepts on the "Ban" list, so that they cannot show up in the game.

It's important to note that Microscope is based entirely on the idea that players can create and destroy elements of the setting at any point, so if there is a lot of existing continuity, it might not be a good fit. If my understanding of the Metropolis setting is correct, that shouldn't be a problem.

Finally, the Microscope rules advise against including time travel in settings, even though it's not explicitly forbidden. This might be a problem for a setting like Metropolis (but it's arguably just as problematic in other systems).

Update: If you are interested in Microscope but also in some of the other systems recommended here, a good compromise would be to first run a session of Microscope in order to flesh out the setting, then choose an event in that setting to explore further within another system. This is actually one of the recommended ways of using Microscope.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Huge +1 for define via microscope then play with another system; it's a fantastic world generator. \$\endgroup\$
    – Rob
    Oct 4, 2013 at 15:44
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Through my experience playing Microscope, I've come to the conclusion that playing with an already-decided-upon setting is not a good idea. It practically says so in the rulebook, too, with that players shouldn't share ideas. \$\endgroup\$
    – user8248
    Jun 25, 2014 at 8:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree that Microscope shouldn't be used with existing settings. I'd say that the crucial question here is whether the description of Metropolis constitutes a setting or simply amounts to what the players would have otherwise set up as a premise. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jakob
    Jun 25, 2014 at 11:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ Since this answer was written we've gotten a fancy game-rec banner highlighting the requirement for experience with any recommendations given. Could you edit this to suit? \$\endgroup\$ Mar 4, 2015 at 21:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ I could, but the question has also been updated to make this answer off-topic. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jakob
    Mar 5, 2015 at 2:52

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