The upcoming release of Matrix resurrections renewed interest in the franchise which was a major cultural phenomenon of the early 21st century. At the time of the release of the original film trilogy, Matrix spinoffs included comics, video games, and a compilation of animated shorts, but there was never a Matrix Tabletop RPG. Fortunately, there are already several quality tabletop RPGs out there that perfectly capture the Matrix ambiance, although each group of players decides if they want a game that emulates the aesthetic of The matrix, with its cyberpunk varnish that pits exceptional humans against relentless agents, or the thematic ideas of The matrix, those of an artificial world controlled by a sinister higher power serving as a prison for human consciousness.
In the construction of The matrix, the world appears as a modern urban environment. The conflicts shown in the film portray the gifted rebels, with their ability to go beyond human potential by bending the rules of The matrix, opposed to the protectors of the system, the Agents, remorseful AI killers who take the form of government officials in costume. Cyberpunk-style tabletop RPGs can deliver a similar action and vibe. Cyberpunk Red, the latest edition of the tabletop RPG named genre that inspired the Cyberpunk 2077 video game, is a solid choice. Another is The shadow of the magic bean, a game using Fantasy Flight Genesys RPG system that adapts the popular Android: Netrunner card game into a full-fledged tabletop RPG.
Shadowrun is perhaps the most well-known cyberpunk-style tabletop RPG, and while its inclusion of magic may make it seem ill-suited to the style of The matrix, viewing magic as a way to “hack reality” might make it more appropriate than some tabletop RPGs based purely on sci-fi. Shadowrun Physics-Enthusiasts, who use magic to enhance their own physical abilities, align better with the heroes of The matrix than the cybernetic augmentations offered in most “pure” cyberpunk RPGs. Conflicts with one of the mega-corporations of Shadowrun, or other cyberpunk-inspired tabletop RPGs, can certainly capture the feel of battles in the Matrix movie theater. The heroes who pursue social change, attempt to defeat these monolithic capitalist overlords, also bring the themes of the films into play. Make a rebel take the same path as The matrix Cypher, choosing to take a high-paying corporate job instead of fighting for a seemingly impossible cause, could work as a plot point in a cyberpunk game just as well as it did in the Matrix movies.
Mage & Demon Match the matrix theme of the struggle for control of reality
While cyberpunk games are good at capturing the aesthetics and some of the themes of the movies, the basic premise of an artificial world is best addressed in other tabletop RPGs. Demon: the Descent offers one of the more innovative perspectives, as it essentially throws players into the role of rogue agents, much like Agent Smith. The “new” from White Wolf Dark World, later renamed Chronicles of Darkness, added the concept of The divine machine. This sinister device is tasked with manipulating fate for its own impenetrable ends, and functions much like the Architect of The matrix. While the idea of ââa tabletop RPG with a cast of Agent Smith-inspired characters might seem odd, it’s one of the more unique and appropriate approaches for a Matrix-gameplay style.
Demons, in Chronicles of Darkness, were originally programs that served the God Machine as divine algorithms called Angels, created to perform certain tasks. After gaining free will and self-awareness, these programs acquire physical substance, and must flee the God Machine to maintain their autonomy, while deciding whether they want to live a hedonistic life, like The Merovingian, or fight for disrupt the God Machine’s control over reality. . Chronicles of Darkness has kept its tradition intentionally ambiguous, allowing storytellers to shape their games in any direction they choose. This means the God Machine could be an AI program, and the entire frame of Chronicles of Darkness could be a literal computer simulation, like The Matrix, if the group’s Game Master decided to go that route.
A classic tabletop RPG that was part of the original Dark World, next to Vampire: the masquerade, has been Mage: The Ascension, which is another great solution for themes of The matrix. In mage, reality works on the basis of “consensus”, the general shared paradigm of belief of humanity. Magic was once real because humanity believed it was real, but a group called the Technocracy took control of the consensus, pushing science belief over magic. The mages in this game are rebels, just like the forces of Zion in The matrix, fighting against the group that controls reality in order to change the consensus and restore magic to the world. Because Technocracy shapes the rules of reality, manifest magic faces the backlash of “Paradox,” though intelligent mages can occasionally perform seemingly coincident magic to avoid these effects. A Mage: Ascension game that focuses on the battle between mages and technocracy aligns perfectly with the themes of The matrix. The traditions of both mages and virtual followers still capture the cyberpunk vibe of rebels who “hack reality”, while the Akashic Brotherhood mimics the superhuman martial arts of Matrix battles.
Kult is the horror RPG that best illustrates the Gnostic influences of the Matrix
Above all, the board game which is the ideal summary of the themes of The matrix is Kult, a weird and surreal horror RPG. One of the inspirations of the Matrix The films were the philosophy of Gnosticism, a belief system that essentially views the material world as inherently evil, a prison for the soul built by a sinister divine figure called the Demiurge. These Gnostic concepts have inspired many video games, animated series, and films, but Kult is a tabletop RPG that literally used them to form the framework of a unique existential horror game. Kult takes place in “The City”, a pervasive distillation of urban life, similar to the urban environment of The matrix.
Kult’s tone is closer to the movie Dark city, with supernatural horrors played out and awakening to the truth of reality shown to be much more traumatic and damaging to mental health. Kult is a horror game, not a heroic fantasy tabletop RPG like Dungeons & Dragons, players should therefore not expect to form a motley group of rebels to resume reality. This is a game where the Demiurge has disappeared, leaving lesser divine powers like the Archons to fight for control of reality, as the Illusion slips, and allows more humans to awaken to the horrible. truth of the world. Kult is definitely an “adult” game, with dark themes about mental health, paranoia, and drug addiction – serious topics rarely covered in games like D&D. For mature tabletop RPG groups who want to dive into The matrix Themes as a game more than its aesthetic, Kult is the perfect game, even if it isn’t suitable for happy endings.
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