Mentopolis: A Unique Blend of Noir and Dystopia in Dimension 20’s Latest Season
Dimension 20’s latest actual play season, Mentopolis, brings together a heady blend of tropes from the noir genre. Set within the mind of Dr. Elias Hodge, a pharmaceutical researcher burdened by the realization of his unethical work, this 19th season delves into the consequences of his decision to follow his conscience and steal an important file. The repercussions of this act of rebellion set off a violent chain reaction, both within Hodge’s own mind and from the powers that be.
While Dimension 20 is known for its genre-focused narratives, Mentopolis takes it to a new level. Drawing inspiration from Fritz Lang’s 1927 film Metropolis and Pixar’s Inside Out, this season blends art deco aesthetics with the characterization of cognitive processes. The game is played using a modified version of the rules-light Kids on Bikes system from Hunters Entertainment.
The Intriguing Conspiracy and Complex Characters of Mentopolis
Hodge’s impulsive decision is initiated by Imelda Pulse, a wealthy heiress who hires private investigator Hunch Curio to follow newsie Conrad Schintz. As the story unfolds, a larger conspiracy is revealed, involving the mayor, a hired fixer, and a journalist investigating a mysterious murder. At its core, Mentopolis is a meta-noir that explores how systems of power coerce individuals into sacrificing their morals, happiness, and community in the pursuit of productivity.
In a recent interview with Polygon, game master Brennan Lee Mulligan stated, “I don’t exactly put the B in subtle when it comes to my work and my own political leanings.” He explained that the fusion of seemingly disparate genres is rooted in the exploration of unexamined systems, both on a personal psychological level and a larger political-economic level. The societal issues depicted in Mentopolis are intertwined with the deeply personal and individual struggles of Elias Hodge.
The Message of Individual Action and Communal Impact
Mentopolis presents a narrative that highlights how individual actions can initiate a domino effect within a community. This is exemplified through the character played by Hank Green, who refuses to fulfill the mayor’s immoral request, and Conrad’s sustained acts of moral resistance. Mulligan emphasized the importance of impulse and the need to question the puritanical notion that virtue is always conscious and deliberate. He stated, “Occasionally it’s good to have that moment where your conscience, your moral self, and your sense of impulse go, I’ve got to act.”
As viewers reflect on the internal conflicts depicted in Mentopolis, they are invited to consider their own relationship with their internal voices and who benefits from their self-suppression. Mulligan assures that more of these good impulses will be explored as the season progresses, with player contributions playing a pivotal role in the collaborative storytelling experience.
Where to Watch Mentopolis
The first episode of Mentopolis premiered on August 9 and is available on YouTube. The remaining episodes can be viewed exclusively on Dropout.tv.
Mentopolis captures the essence of noir and dystopia, offering a unique narrative experience within the world of Dimension 20. With its exploration of unexamined systems, individual action, and the power of communal impact, this season brings forth thought-provoking themes that resonate beyond the realm of tabletop gaming.