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  • It is safe enough to say for the sake of the Endless Warfare, all Tabletops have to be naturally cynical in nature to perpertuate eternal conflict.
  • BattleTech sourcebooks are usually very cynical, whereas the novels and games are a bit more idealistic. Sourcebooks talk about the huge technological disparity between worlds, where a peasant may have to slave away for years in order to buy something like a microwave oven, while a poor man on the capitals could walk into a store and buy a 10 petabyte hard drive and video player. The series started out much more cynical, during the 300 year long "Succession Wars". After the Wars ended, it became a bit more idealistic. And then slammed right back into the cynical end during the Jihad, when WMD use and total war became commonplace again.
  • Dungeons and Dragons can vary, depending on how much Gameplay and Story Segregation you use and just which parts you segregate. For instance, some people prefer to view the world of D&D in as much of a vein as the dark ages as possible, with hard lives as likely to end in disease and starvation as at the claws of a rampaging dragon. Others prefer to think that the peasants could probably just pool together to buy some potions of Remove Disease and so on. Likewise, you can play your character as righteously slaughtering anything that says it's Evil in the Monster Manual because your character is Good (it says so right on your character sheet), or you can play it as more of a moral choice based on actions taken in the game world (after all, that nest of kobolds lurking in the mountains never did anything to you). Even character death can be treated as something serious and possibly deeply traumatizing and affecting for the party... or just something that lasts until you can rustle up 5000 gold worth of diamonds.
    • And that's not going into the actual published campaign settings, from the idealistic heroism of Points of Light or the deeply cynical survivalism of Dark Sun.
    • The Book of Exalted Deeds, by the way, goes straight to the Idealistic end using that special Monk ability that lets you jump as far as you want. It has a reformed mind flayer.
    • Bear in mind, hanging out at the extreme idealistic end is the entire point of that book. At the other end, there are books like the Book Of Vile Darkness and Elder Evils.
    • Speaking of sourcebooks and cynical end, Lords of Madness is worth mentioning. To sum it up: In the past the (previous) universe was ruled by Eldritch Abomination, and in the future it will inevitably be ruled by Eldritch Abomination. Slave-taker Eldritch Abomination travel the outer space, and there is a whole dimension full of leech-like mind-controlling parasitic Eldritch Abomination.
    • The sourcebook "A Magical Medieval Society" applies someone's medieval history degree to D&D by pointing out that magic would make life more pleasant in the areas of medicine, sanitation, and construction. So D&D's magic concepts applied to reality would count as a fairly idealistic setting as medieval worlds go.
    • It might be worthwhile to remember that, per the rules, in previous editions characters motivating their slaughter with 'I'm Good, they are Evil!' are committing Fantastic Racism (a non-good thing) unless it is warranted, IE, unless the races they are killing are Always Evil. It is at this point that the DM notes that the plurality of 'evil' races in the monster manual are, in fact, not Always Evil, and that killing innocents is an evil act...
  • Exalted is an interesting case in that its position on this scale has shifted considerably within one edition. Early 2nd edition was hugely cynical; later 2nd edition is significantly less so (although the exact degree depends heavily on the writer, and frequently on the reader). This has caused the mother of all Broken Bases, as many feel that the more recent stuff has drifted too far from the original cynicism, while others maintain that the cynical stuff had too much risk of Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy. Results have been predictable, and very messy.
  • Kult is another example of a very cynical setting.
  • "Legions of Steel," relatively short-lived co-traveller to 40k, has a relatively idealistic take on Humanity who guardedly unite to fight against a world/race/galactic threat. Meanwhile, the rest of the galaxy is a mixed bag.
      • The "Sahara Incident" presents some interesting questions. The rules of engagement - in fact one of the founding premises of global co-operation - is that uplift, high-tech, powered infantry units are never to be used on Earth itself. Another (yet another?) genocide breaks out in Africa, close to a powered infantry base. A rogue lieutenant musters his troop to put at stop to it. The global president, armed only with a a copy of the global charter and a dainish (it was early in the morning) talks the lieutenant down while a multinational, conventional force can be put together and deployed to end the carnage.
    • The Fantasians are fascist, racists and all sorts of others things, but the point is made that the party and the people are not synonomous.
    • The Galactics and Black Empire are Machievallian although each has idealistic factions within it.
  • Rym leans hard to the cynical side, what with multiple apocalypses, genocidal alien necromancers, and an empire pretty much devoted to enslaving and exploiting everyone else. And in the middle of all this is a tropical island chain of Purity Sue otter-people. Author Appeal comes to mind.
  • Warhammer, at least in the RPG incarnation, is a gleeful Deconstruction of Dungeons and Dragons tropes, tending towards the cynical end without at any point taking itself seriously.
  • Warhammer 40000 sits way, way, way, way, way, way on the cynical side. Its cynicism almost (but not quite) stretches our Willing Suspension of Disbelief, considering it is a setting that features chainsaw swords, 300-meter tall walking battle cathedrals, vehicles that go faster because they are painted red, battle nuns with flamethrowers in powered armor, and aliens with guns that shoot ninja stars and cannons that rip holes straight to hell.
    • Then again this is only the impression we get from the outside looking in, where we know just how alarmingly terrible the vast majority of the galaxy is. From the inside various factions it is a different story. In no particular order:
      • For the average Imperial citizen, their experience of life can be truly anywhere on the scale. Some of them genuinely are peasants who toil away and expire completely unnoticed unless they don't pay their taxes or get drafted. On other worlds the experience of life is much more idealistic with freer access to technology and a genuine middle class. Of course they are likely to be idealistic about bringing the light of the Emperor to the whole galaxy, but they do genuinely believe that they and their government is doing the right thing by suppressing discord and killing enemies. The leaders of the Imperium are certainly very cynical, but they alone truely know the scope of the threats humanity faces and bear the weight of the terrible sacrifices needed to preserve it.
      • The Eldar are definitely cynics from a traditional point of view, who believe absolutely in putting millions of humans in between them and the bad guys. But then again this is a certain form of idealism. Many eldar characters have been self-sacrificing and are committed to their goals and philosophies.
      • The Tau by contrast are genuine idealists, and certainly in their original characterization they were doing the right thing, with hints that there was some greater purpose in their actions (forming a 'good' empire that could stand against Chaos and Tyranids), although that has been muddied a bit since then.
      • The Chaos forces again can be anywhere on the scale. Some of them are cynics who were attracted to Chaos because they wanted the power it offers, while others genuinely believe that the Chaos gods are the true gods of the universe. Anyone who begins to feel the Imperium is a bad thing invariably is said to have fallen to chaos even if they never worshiped the bad gods. All kinds of rebellions and heresies have had genuinely good motivations get portrayed as being Chaos inspired, or ends up calling on the only people in galaxy who will help a rebel in need.
      • Most of the other factions have motivations that are too weird to really put them anywhere on this scale. We Have Reserves is certainly invoked by all of them, but Orks and Tyranids just make more guys and both have a gestalt connection, while Necrons self-repair. The Necrons alone could arguably called cynical (The Deceiver anyway) but then again they also have their own motivations and they stick to them.
  • The World of Darkness series, both Old and New, sits heavily on the cynical side. Given that its premise is that it is the real world but Darker and Edgier that's not really surprising. One of the uniting themes of all of the WoD games is the grinding down of idealism into a nub of cynical apathy. Practically every idealist that the books talk about either ends up broken and empty or destroyed by their beliefs. While a lot of characters still claim a certain sense of commitment to a cause or ideological faction, the focus on violence as a means to solve problems as well as any number of forms of mind control and reality distortion means that they are going to become pragmatic if they want to keep showing up.
  • World Tree RPG manages to avoid either end, with Fantastic Racism and a Schizo-Tech level of civilization that's constantly in danger of monster attack and Eldritch Abomination invasion, yet is portrayed as fairly pleasant for the main races most of the time.
  • Pathfinder's default setting of Golarion leans towards cynicism in the current timeline -- one of the gods died a century ago (after he was about to make his big second coming), prophecy no longer properly works, the remnants of one powerful empire is now openly ruled by devils while another is on the verge of collapse. Most of the explicitly 'good' nations are either isolationist or too focused on containing/combatting a specific threat to make the world better. However, from a meta perspective, this cynicism serves a purpose: once, when someone on the Paizo message boards commented on how many of the more powerful nations are evil, one of the developers said something to the extent of "Gee, one would almost think the world might need some heroes to come save it."
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