Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Mutant Lord's Impressions: Episode One

Episode One was the first experience I had in running Mutant Future and the first time any of my players ever played in a Mutant Future game, so this essentially was a learning experience for all of us.

The rules were pretty straightforward and being from a Basic D&D background a long, long time ago in my distant childhood, every thing came back to me smoothly. I liken this to not riding a bicycle for the longest time and just hopping on one and taking off down the street. Analogy-wise, running Mutant Future as a game system was a smooth ride.

The addition of variable damage rules and variable hit points from Carcosa (what my players now term as the ‘Carcosa Variable Damage Rules’ or CVDR) provided an additional level of uncertainty and tension during combat. Overall, that translated into a whole lot of fun, particularly when a player would satisfyingly roll high on the variable damage table and throw a whopping d12 when stabbing a critter with a “puny” dagger.

Checking under the hood - Sanly Bowitts and its environs

As soon as I made up my mind to run a Mutant Future game, I knew I’d have to make a few departures from my default settings for my other games. Science would have to be ‘softened up’ from the normal Traveller-Twilight 2000-Gurps Ultratech background in my usual game to a more rubber-science feel. Hence, the giant insects, lizards, vermin and glowing green mutants (not that the ladz have ever come up against a glowing green humanoid yet…). The point is, I relaxed quite a bit on my usual hard-science SF aspects of my game and threw the players into a real science fantasy universe that almost makes the Known Worlds of Fading Suns seem like hard science SF.

Also, with the drastic reduction in my overall game prep time brought about by an ever-increasing work at the office as well as the usual demands of bringing up two little kids, I was forced to take a more “laid back” approach in campaign development and world building. When I say “laid back” I refer to adopting a “kitchen sink” approach. I took what I wanted and what I could from existing post-apocalyptic sources and inspirational material, tossed them into my collective pot, stirred the mess around a bit, and fed them at will to my players.

Yes, the result was stew but so far, my players have yet to complain of the taste.

I know some of my players could be reading this, but what the heck, they’ll find out anyway. Some of a few odds and ends related to the setting at the start of my Mutant Future include the following:

Sanly Bowitts is a respelled name of a village at the edge of the desert in the post-nuclear war America of Walter M. Miller Jr.’s ‘A Canticle for Leibowitz’, if memory serves me right. I always felt that the first part of his work captured the feel of a world emerging from the destruction of the War to End All Wars, into the Shadow Years that follow.

Being my default start location for the ongoing game, Sanly Bowitts had to be fleshed out to a more organized degree as I expect my players to be spending some time meandering around town, hatching plots and raising their usual brand of mayhem. Hence I took the town of Horn from the excellent 1981 Gamma World adventure module Legion of Gold and plunked it right into the Cygnet Delta of my Gamma World. Gary Gygax, et al really did great on that module and I’m unabashedly ripping off bits here and there for use in our game.

The Hub is a larger, ostensibly more powerful city-state north west of Sanly Bowitts. I named it after a town in another post-nuclear America wherein the Normals war with the Mutants. This is in Michael Resnick’s 1969 novel ‘Redbeard’. I regret losing my copy of this book but I always considered Redbeard to be one of those stories that go so far in capturing that Gamma World-Mutant Future feel.

The musicians from the Strontium Ninety who were seen to have rendered a performance of a ditty with a chorus which goes somewhat like “Whip it Good!”, I’ll leave to my readers to figure out themselves. If you don’t get it, don’t feel too bad- I’ll attribute this, amongst others, to generation gap. I’m pretty old and my music tends to show this.

In relation to the musicians in the Strontium Ninety, I’d say the bar fight involving a stunningly beautiful, scantily clad, platinum blonde swordswoman and the three hulking verdure brutes should be another giveaway for those who’ve seen the animated Heavy Metal Movie. This, and the great white bird should bring the name “Taarna” in mind, if it hasn’t done so yet.

So far, this is it for Episode One. As I write this, I remember a recent post in James Maliszewski’s Grognardia wherein he did a review of the old SFRGP Space Opera. Having never played Space Op myself, I was intrigued (as most old style-SF rpgs tend to do so to me). One thing that struck me was the impression that FGU’s Space Op was essentially a happy mish-mash of different SF themes, tropes and icons all unabashedly placed in one game. Hence the cover of the gamebook as appearing in James’ blog had something that looked like a Wookie mixed in along with some other character types.

I couldn’t help say “Yeah, I can relate to that.” It dawned upon me that my Mutant Future is shaping up to be a mish-mash of post-apocalypse themes. A mixed stew. I hope it retains its flavor without going stale on me.


  1. Mish-Mash Mutie Madness!
    Good Stuff!

  2. Yes, it's not what I usually did in the past but heck, I'm discovering how much fun it can be!