Friday, December 4, 2009

Episode Four - Buggems!

Game session on 27 November 2009

Mutant Lord’s note: This is the beginning of another “packaged” adventure I am running for my players. This time, it is the first short ‘dungeon’ found in the old Gamma World module Legion of Gold. As the default starting location in my Mutant Future games is set in my reality’s incarnation of the fortress of Horn (Sanly Bowitts), I find it quite apropos to continue on with a short sharp dungeon crawl-type scenario found in Legion of Gold.

Mutant Lord’s note to players: I know that some you guys are reading this, so I’d appreciate it if you didn’t read through Legion of Gold while we are on our present involuntary gaming hiatus. If, for some reason you managed to get your hands on Legion (through fair means or foul), then please be fair enough not to read beyond the description of Horn. Stay away from the maps too!

We’ve been playing together for quite some time so you know I’ll know if you’ve all been going over the parts of the module you should not be reading, eh?

With that out of the way, I present the following account of our last Mutant Future game. It’s a bit short as our game started late, what with everyone’s schedules getting in the way. Doc Ben-g (Zed) rolled up another mutant (name escapes me now as my notebook is not here) as we thought Nikos (Max) could not make it. As it turned out Max was able to make it after all a little later that night!

Dramatis Personae:

Clyde - A dual-brained Mutie who secretes an intensity 7 level poison

Clem - A twin-headed Mutie with the Damage Turning mutation

Zed - A scaled Mutie with Thermal Vision and Quick Mind mutations

Marcus Truman – A Normal warrior who fights with longsword and dagger. Think Grey Mouser.

Max - A Normal armed with a Mark II Laser Pistol and a bad attitude

? - Another Mutie

Our Story:

Our characters begin the day early as the blood red sun rises in the east and have a hearty breakfast at the Strontium Ninety. Provisions are re-checked and the party is fully stocked after our adventurers spent the balance of the previous day’s afternoon going through the town market, replenishing supplies- particularly stocking up on their depleted amount of crossbow bolts. Clem and Zed also decided to put much of the money they earned to good use by paying a visit to the armorers and trading in their respective combat-worn suits of leather armor for spanking new hauberks of mail.

ML’s note: I was hinting that my players could hire henchmen or mercenaries but they refused to do so, reasoning that they did not want to share xps or loot with non-party PCs. Oh well, I guess time will tell if this is a good decision…

Amongst the items our group received as pay included a sturdy farmer’s wagon and two tame draft lizards hitched to it. Without further ado, our characters climb aboard their new ride and, with two of the farmers in their company leading the saurian beasts, plod off away from the town’s gates. Their destination is the village of Jeffton, in the northeast.

Their trek through the wilderness is unremarkable and without incident.

ML’s note: I rolled repeatedly on the encounter table but fate would appear to have the story move swiftly on, and no combat with critters or other such eventrs occurred. So the party found itself in Jeffton in a short while.

By mid-afternoon, they find themselves on a dirt trail leading up to a smallish village near a lush, verdant expanse of forest. The village is surrounded by a sturdy palisade around which are cultivated fields. Almost at once, our group notices the presence of armed folk on the palisades as well as a few groups patrolling the fields. As they come closer, Max confirms from their farmer companions that these are merely armed villagers, not true professional fighting men, evidently from their mien and bearing.

Having peacefully announced their presence (with the introductions of their farmer companions), the group finds themselves surrounded by simple but hardy folk dressed in homespun and buckskins. The crowd seems peaceable enough if not curious. It parts as a tall, shaven-headed man in his thirties strides forward. Although he is garbed as a farmer, he also speaks with authority and carries himself with an air of leadership. The villagers appear to treat him with a friendly sort of respect.

He is introduced as Wilber Frump, mayor of Jeffton. He invites the characters to the hospitality of his home and bids them to rest after their journey through the wilds. As always, Max accepts gracefully on behalf of all.

In Mayor Frump’s cabin, his wife serves our group a plain but refreshing meal. The rest of the family is promptly shooed away and three other grave-looking men are admitted. These turn out to be members of the village council, and with them in attendance, talk turns to the urgent matters at hand.

Frump tells the group of recent complaints from trappers and hunters about slowly diminishing prey in the forests beyond Jeffton. This is rather unusual considering that this should be the season of the year when game is aplenty. This was followed by complaints from troubled farmers who spoke of livestock that went missing and whose gruesome remains were later found nearby. The corpses of such cows, sheep or goats were almost often found bloated and dismembered, as if something had eaten them from the inside resulting in the animals’ horribly painful demise.

Worse was yet to follow. A few days back, three villagers’ children were playing in the wooded are south of the fields near Jeffton when they were reported to have been set-upon by ferociously wild insect men. Of these children, only one, named Petey, returned to the village. The others were, to the best of everyone’s knowledge, abducted by these insect men and dragged off to the woods. Worse still, the parents of these children, most certainly distraught by these events, marched off into the woods in the company of four other adults, in an attempt to bring them back. They had not returned since and the village council fears the worst.

Frump now earnestly solicits the party’s help in stopping this menace to Jeffton.

The group now throws questions at the village council. It is learned that the surviving child from the attack is Peter (Petey) Humfriis, son of Thammas Humfriis, a dour-faced member of the council. Although reluctant at first, Humfriis is finally prevailed upon to allow the group to speak to Petey.

At Humfriis’ cabin, his family is at first, surprised to a see a band of warriors enter with Thammas.

“Is that ugly one a Mutie, mommy?” asks Thammas’ youngest son, pointing at Clem.

“What what yer sayin ya blasted whelp,” growls Clem’s left head, causing the boy to hide in fear behind his mother’s skirt.

Everyone else in our group then finds themselves desperately trying to calm the family’s fears as it seems that the stories about these Muties’ ferocious habits are true. It isn’t easy at first, but cooler heads prevail and Thammas is reluctantly prevailed upon to allow Max and Zed (who is adjudged to be the least malformed looking of the Muties) to see Petey who is resting in the next room.

Max finds Petey in a sad, shocked state. The boy’s right arm is wrapped in bandages and appears to have been slashed and then broken. At first he does not respond Max’s gentle coaxing, even with his father around. He even looks askance at the scaled features of Zed.

Max changes tack and gingerly draws his laser pistol. He begins to display it like a trinket and speaks animatedly of its powerful lore, telling of a thousand and one encounters with death in the wasteland. This appears to capture the boy’s attention. After all, boys much like men, are ever attracted to stories of adventure and derring-do as well as shiny bright toys. Very soon, Max is sitting beside Petey and even Zed has joined the circle of stories and tales of the World Outside the Village.

ML’s note: this took quite a bit of roleplaying but it was great fun! As a result, the players managed to get first hand info from the NPC. I also loved how Henry played the part of a grumpy mutant carrying on a conversation with himself in two voices!

Petey recounts that they played in the woods that afternoon. He was with Miko and Nica when what appeared to be black shiny ant-like mutants suddenly tunneled up from below the ground and grabbed them. These mutants were tall – almost man-sized, with sharp mandibles and equally sharp protuberances from what passed as their fingers. Petey recalls pulling away desperately, breaking his arm in the process and later suffering a wicked gash as the mutant swiped him with his claw-like appendage. As he ran off, he heard Miko and Nica screaming desperately and then nothing else as they were dragged off into the woods.

He says he was later found by Kharl Genser, a prosperous farmer whose family settled the land near the woods. His Uncle Kharl took him back to Jeffton and safety. Thammas then begs the group to stop for now as the boy, obviously still weak from his ordeal visibly needed rest.

Later, they returned to Mayor Frump, and talk turns to compensation for the group’s almost certain coming efforts in harm’s way. The Mayor opens a locked chest and pulls out what appears to be a near kin to Zed’s jezail. This, he claims is powered by small reddish thick cylinders rather than the thin brass tubes of Zed’s weapon. Beside it is a laser pistol which all recognize, though seemingly of a smaller type and make than that of Max’s. Frump agrees to pay them with these Ancient relics if they perform their part of the deal and rid Jeffton of the insectoid menace. They agree and a deal is sealed.

Knowing how this endeavor could be more dangerous than anyone realizes, Frump turns over to the group two greenish cylinders of worn metal, each sporting a ring-pull and lever extending down one side. He claims that these were bequeathed to the village council in the past and are expected to be efficacious against insect life. The group gratefully accepts.

They decide to pay a visit to Kharl Genser to learn more about the insect men. Although it is late afternoon, they agree to push on and arrive a the Genser farm before sunset.

It is a short and peaceful walk in the wilds outside Jeffton when, cresting a rise, our adventurers are greeted by an alarming spectacle. In the light of the setting bloody sun, what appears to be a much roughed-up pure human is being dragged off into the treeline a few hundred feet away.

“No! Buggems!!!”, they hear a wailing despairing cry from the human as he disappears into the woods.

This galvanizes the party into instant action! With a cry Max draws sword and pistol leading the group into the woods. The party draws steel and nocks bolts as they speed off into the trees. Bursting into the woods, they see tracks and trampled foliage leading into a clearing. In the midst of this is the human, prone and bloody, and standing over him is a man-like insect covered in black, shiny chitin. It resembles a monstrous intelligent termite, with antennae waving and sharp claw-like appendages waving menacingly. Unsettling clicks and hisses fill the air from the monster.

“So this is a Buggem,” spits Marcus Truman with sword and dagger at the ready.

ML’s note: Max’s player wanted to finish off the Buggem fast and kept worrying about pheromones being excreted by the critter. Little did he know that the worst was yet to come…

As they close with the Buggem, Zed and Clyde stand off, firing bolts at the monster. The bolts are envenomed as Clyde rubs each off his poisonous skin before shooting them off.

ML’s note: My players came up with a cheesy tactic by smearing crossbow bolts on Clyde’s poisonous skin-gunk. I allowed this but they had to roll a d4 first to see if the quarrel got poisoned enough. I should expand this as there should be a built in chance Clyde punctures himself during the heat of combat!

Surrounded, vents on the Buggem’s shell now excrete a nauseous, thick, whitish gas that fills much of the clearing and impairs its’ attackers’ vision. Worse, our adventurers hear the soil about them cracking and moving. They can’t see them, but they sense the earth shifting and creatures digging themselves up from the loose soil and begin to attack in the misty gas. All of a sudden, the group’s fire support is well nigh neutralized for lack of targets to see. Fighting becomes desperate and confused.

Max now pulls out one of the metal cylinders given by Mayor Frump. He pulls the pin but continues to hold on to it. There is a muffled burst of heat and fire, burning Max who drops the object. Now, a thick odorless current of gas streams out of the relic, mingling with the fumes of the Buggem. As the relic’s own gas spreads, one of the Buggems drops dead, much to the adventurers’ collective relief. They redouble their attacks and down another one which generates the blinding fumes.

As the Buggem’s fumes thin out, the others break and run, having lost stomach for fighting. They are ran down and speared in the back.

Taking quick stock of the clearing, they find the man on the ground dying. He manages to whisper softly before expiring.

“Help Genser…”, he mutters before death finally silences him.

The tunnel holes dug by the Buggems are too unstable to follow. The party elects to head towards the Genser farm as night is fast approaching.

ML’s note: Apparently, I really snared the group successfully this time as they opted not to wait for the next day to visit Genser. Not bad for a sense of urgency.

Returning from the woods they find the Genser farm. It is a large compound, about a hundred feet to each side, fenced in by sturdy wooden stakes and planks. A thick, well made gate of lumber bars the entrance. There appears to be no other means of ingress visible from the ground. They can just make out the tops of a barn, a tool shed and the second-storey of a well made house.

Marcus Truman tests the gate which is barred from within. They all decide to climb the palisade and successfully find themselves inside the premises. All seems peaceful – too peaceful. The forest sounds are dead. Even the insects and little animals are silent. Only the creaking of window shutters moving in the late afternoon breeze amidst the fading light of a dying sun is heard.

Before them is a cone of earth thirty feet high and just as wide. It reminds all of a monstrous termite mound. The cone tapers slightly to the top and flattens. After a brief discussion, they decide the scale the cone – but not until weapons and drawn and held at the ready.

This holds them in good stead as halfway up their ascent, a monstrous, disgusting sight meets them. Over the top of the cone climbs out a giant grey insect topped with hideously long antennae waving forth in a menacing manner. The grey bug is longer than a man and whips its antennae like impossibly long blades slicing again and again into Clyde. It flutters its fibrous grey wings and sharp quill-like spines shoot off again and again like arrows. As one, the group rains blows and missiles at the creature and a well-placed shot from Zed’s jezail finally kills it, sending it reeling and shuddering down the lip and out of the cone.

“At least we now know this weapon really works”, Quips Zed to his grinning comrades.

ML’s notes: It’s a good thing my players took the time to ready weapons. Maybe its just me or I’m getting predictable but they really seemed to be expecting trouble when they climbed the earth mound. Also, the Parn (that’s what the bug was under Gamma World rules) was very easy to convert on the fly to Mutant Future stats. I guess this shows how versatile rules Mutant Future can be as it lends itself to quick conversion of stats from monsters found in its earlier game ‘progenitors’. Finally, Doc Ben-g (Zed’s player) and I completely forgot about Zed’s Insect Phobia which he diced up during character generation!!! It only occurred to us at the end of the night’s adventure.

They peer down the open top of the earthen cone and see it is hollow. Down, at the limits of the dying daylight, they find a circular tunnel about five feet wide branch off into the ground. They decide not to climb down that way, and instead, check out the house.

The house is empty, with everything where it should be. It’s almost as if its occupants just got up and left. They search the second storey but find nothing else. All they help themselves to are two sturdy looking oil lamps which they proceed to light as twilight now falls in earnest.

“Could it be that this Genser fellow has questionable dealings with these mutants?” muses Max aloud.

They see dirt scattered throughout the common room of the house which lead to a trapdoor in one corner. Zed notices that the dirt is of the same color as that of the layers of earth inside the hollow cone outside.

Readying weapons once more, they gingerly lift the creaking trapdoor and carefully – oh most carefully, shine a light inside. They find a rough wooden stair frame leading about eight feet down into a cellar. Descending carefully, they find the cool damp of the cellar slightly unsettling. The floor is packed earth and the cellar appears empty. Glancing around they discover that they are wrong.

There is a hole dug along the southern face of the cellar’s earthen wall. It is five feet wide and tunnels off into the earth. Something has already been inside the Genser house.

Now, they know they will have to follow it into the hole it made.

ML’s note: I had to stop the game at this time as I had to take my kids to the pedia the next morning. Nonetheless we were all happy to end it at this point and such a cliffhanger ending could not have been more appropriate at this stage of the game. As we ended, my players were already fixing up their ‘marching order.’ It was shaping up to be a Mutant Future dungeon crawl.

ML’s note to players: I’ll be posting your xps asap on this blog. Please stay tuned guys. Sorry we couldn’t continue our game this Friday night.


  1. Zed would probably be schizoid about going down the tunnels. He might end up as the lone anchorman located topside while the rest of the party goes down into the tunnels. His fear of insects will keep him from entering any further though. The only way I can see to mitigate the fear is an additional condition to his insect fear to that of small regular bugs only. He is affected by monster sized bugs half the time because they don't register as insects but as monsters. One lone monster bug is a monster but a swarm though is another thing.

  2. Yeah, chances are he'll be pulling anchorman duty...I'm not inclined to distinguish between small and giant insects. In fact, I'd rule that giant ones are even scarier in terms of phobias.

  3. Well I would not want to entirely pull him out of the fight entirely. Come to think of it he would still need to roll a saving throw to prevent him from becoming a gibbering wreck when he encounters a giant bug. This mechanic would allow for the previous bug encounter. Small bugs automatic phobia though. With the small bugs which should be much more common I would expect him to beat his beddings thoroughly before he went to sleep. Heck just drop a spider on him at the right moment and he should go berserk. Remember the scene in Home Alone with the spider? If he sees an insect on a party mate's back would he smash it out of fear with whatever instrument he has in hand or will he simply start screaming like a little girl?

    Just tossing a few ideas for the game.

  4. Great ideas Doc! I'll certainly consider this. My take on this is it's really up to Doc Ben-g whether he wants to take Zed deep into the dungeon or stay up on the surface. Sort of like weigh the attendant risks and benefits overall. Insect encounters though will entail a lot of fear checks, panic and morale for Zed, amongst others.