Monday, November 30, 2009

Episode Three - Mopping up and coming back

Game session on 20 November 2009

Episode three followed on the heels of the big battle in the core of the Mine of the Brain Lashers leaving our adventurers low on crossbow bolts, hit points and juice for Max’s Laser Pistol. The unfortunate Puccini, the intrepid Animal Mutie was unlucky enough to fall to a Brain Lasher’s Possession mutation resulting in his gruesome and untimely death. We were down two players due to real-life causes but were fortunate enough to have Doctor Joseph, one of our otherwise regular players, drop in unexpectedly at 10 pm. and play the role of two missing Normals.

Our Story:

The survivors of the harrowing fight in the core of the Brain Lashers’ mine regrouped in the aliens’ central chamber. Therein, they managed to learn just enough to functionally make the devices they retrieved work properly. Apart from these choice items was a long, heavy-set, coffin-like slab of smooth, extruded matter. Successful tech rolls and some interesting role playing revealed the controls which activated this construct (which turned out to be my version of a Regeneration Tank). Getting over their surprise when the construct began to speak to them in strangely accented Norte, our lads found themselves carrying on a conversation with the processing unit of a functioning pre-disaster Mark J Cybernetic Surgery Unit. Getting over their initial fear, our lads found themselves heeding the construct’s spiritual voice and taking turns lying in its coffin-like interior and pleasantly experiencing having their hit points restored to full capacity after a brief induced dreamless sleep.

Mutant Lord’s note: My Mark J resembles an autodoc unit from Larry Niven’s Known Space novels. Essentially, all you do is step in and it does all the work restoring you back to normal status. Otherwise, it produces the same effect a Regeneration Tank of the Mutant Future rules has on a character.

Finding themselves more whole in body, our adventurers now picked up two torches from wall their sconces and proceeded to explore the rest of the caves. Carefully working their way from darkened passages to dripping caves, they find nothing more of value, save a few wandering Homo Erectus who prove to be unresponsive to their repeated attempts at communication.

Mutant Lord’s note: I decided to depart from the map provided in the Mutant Future rules and decided to use my own based on some caves I personally walked/crawled/climbed into sometime in the past. Nonetheless, the map in the Mutant Future rules is a straightforward and solidly designed one which I may yet spring on my hapless minions sometime in a future game or ten…

Presently, they come upon a roughly-fashioned gate of twine and planks closing off what appears to be an entrance to the mine. Exiting from this, they are surprised by another pair of live laser drones, emplaced by the now-departed Brain Lashers. Left with no choice, the band attacks decisively, hacking away at the nearest while pelting the farther one with missiles and the odd laser beam. Apart from a few superficial burns, our party successfully destroys the drones swiftly.

Beyond the gate is an underground lake fed by a swiftly moving-river emptying from an adjoining cave. They find a narrow stone walkway at the edges of the cave walls which they follow in the darkness. A roll at this point provides a random critter encounter but our lads successfully evade the giant leeches that unsuccessfully attempt to drop in on them. The cave branches to the left and right with the right fork emerging into the sunlight. Still beyond, they can see the green shore and their moored boats.

They decide to take the left fork first and move in single file along the river’s banks, deeper into the caverns which seem to go one considerably farther. They pace off about two hundred feet and keep going, noting how the river appears to be moving swifter now. At about five hundred feet, the cavern still goes on without any signs of ending. After a hurried discussion, they opt to turn back to the sunlight and their waiting boats.

Mutant Lord’s note: Although my players came away with a respectable haul, they could have gotten even more. They just missed or opted to by-pass the other encounters I set up for them.

The trip back

The trip back south along with Lesser Azure is largely uneventful, save for an attack by a gigantic mutant crocodile that wandered into their camp in the dark that night. Clem, in particular, appeared to be awfully relieved for not being swallowed whole by their erstwhile reptilian attacker and, with the help of Clyde spent a few hours at daybreak beheading the crocodile’s corpse and skinning it as well. The croc’s gigantic head was then affixed by the group on the boat’s sloping bow thus providing it with an obscenely gaping figurehead.

Mutant Lord's note: this time the dice were with my players. the giant croc was 15HD but I rolled the lowest result in the Carcosa variable hit dice table giving it lower-than-expected HP. As expected, this boosted player morale considerably.

A hero’s return?

By late afternoon of the second day after leaving the Mine, our group returns to Sanly Bowitts, mooring their boats at the water’s edge on the town’s southern rampart. Naturally, they draw a gaping crowd especially with the bloody gaping saurian figurehead mounted on their riverboat. They turn the boats over to the militia and make a snap decision to donate the croc’s dismembered remains to the town’s University. The militia officer of the day gladly accepts on behalf of the Surgeon General and the Chief Resident. They now hope that this gets them remembered at the right time by those whose decisions count in this town.

The merchants who own the recovered boats are an altogether different kettle of fish, so to speak. As one, they demand the immediate return of their property from these wastelanders with nothing said about compensation. This prompts the Normals to raise the issue of ‘proper salvage rights’ (with Doc Joseph being the player arguing the loudest alongside a lot of bantering and laughter). On cue, the Muties vociferously add their voices to the argument (my player Henry who portrayed the two-headed Mutie Clem, ended up role-playing in two voices- how he does this without getting schizo is truly one of his talents). Trader Myles is then called in and, along with a Captain of the Militia, attempt to arbitrate the matter. This results in a lengthy and interesting role-playing session which took a large chunk of the night’s gaming. Eventually, all were prevailed upon to settle their differences amicably in the taproom of the Strontium Ninety with a salvor’s bounty negotiated at 900 gold pieces. This is witnessed and sanctified by two notarial clerks and the Militia Captain. Along with Trader Myles’ expected payment in gold, the group now has some disposable income to play with.

By the next day, our boyz are met by Trader Myles who claims he needs additional time to call in his debts and raise the money to fully pay them. They are not pleased with this news but later are considerably heartened when Myles instead offers to part with a rare, yet functioning device of apparent arcane construction. He shows them a longish, wood-framed object resembling a crossbow, save for the fact that the bow itself is missing and it’s muzzle terminates in a curious tube-like aperture, crowned by a curious rectangular fitting of shiny steel. Myles further demonstrates how a curving box-like object fits beneath the thing which he claims is actually a weapon of not-inconsiderable power. Making their tech rolls with the aid of the trader’s instruction they learn the weapon’s secrets and readily accept it as payment and call it quits. Zed is designated by the group as the weapon’s bearer.

Myles calls it a ‘jezail’, but it means little to the lads.

‘You need protecting from what?’

Later in the day, they wander the market and are approached by four weather-beaten men who are identified as farmers from a nearby village, about a day’s march from Sanly Bowitts. Their spokesman speaks in rough curiously-accented Norte and beseeches them for aid. He claims that their village is in need of protection as it is being menaced by what he describes as insect-men from the wilderness. He adds that their Mayor is prepared to pay generously for the services of a fearless band of plucky lads whose recent exploits have just become the talk of Sanly Bowitts. After all short discussion, Max announces to the farmers that they will help their village solve this problem with the so-called ‘insect-men’.

We ended the session at this point and were able to determine that all surviving characters managed to advance a level with points to spare. Not bad for a few days of adventuring!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Mutant Lord's postscript to Episode 2

Having succesfully concluded our biggest battle yet in the Mutant Future, I was elated to say the least. Our friday night games really have a calming and recharging effect on me after a toxic week of work. Something to look forward to at the end of a work week.

With this, I shook hands with my buddies and bid them a good morning (we over-extended our curfew this time around and it was about 12.30 am when we ended). Arriving home, I did the rounds of the house as I often do before going to sleep. Imagine my surprise when I checked into my sons' 'playroom' and was confronted by a very irate and jumpy black and white tomcat!

Naturally, my first thoughts were on our baby who was sleeping in an adjoining room and had just recovered from a cold. So my mind goes into high gear and I shut the door immediately, effectively trapping Tabby in the room.

What the fuck was a neighborhood alley cat doing in a second floor room of my house?!!!

How the fuck did it get in there in the first place?!!!

By then my wife was awake and actually thought for a moment that some burglar had broken into our place (these things are known to happen where we live).

So there I go, turning all the houselights on, securing the rooms, putting my shoes back on and finally grabbing the hardwood club I keep in my car. Not that I had any intentions of fighting it out with an already shaken and unstable feline intruder who was getting all claws and hissy on me. My plan was to shoo him out and get him running out the front door which my wife already opened. She suggested stuffing it into a sack but seeing how Tabby seemed ready to take me on convinced me of the merits of Plan A instead.

I finally entered the room and looked for Tabby. I couldn't see him but I could hear him hissing under the spare bed. So I start rapping the steel frame of the bed to flush him out and zoom! He bolts out and zips across the floor. Looking back I would imagine I looked funning jumping up and down while chasing Tabby trying to steer him towards the stairs (which he luckily turned to immediately) and into the living room. Seeing the open door, Tabby ran out into the street and disappeared into the night.

By this time, my wife was perched on the coffee table 'just to get out of the way'. Come to think of this, she did this too when I went after a humungous rat in her mother's house, a few years back - but that's for another post.

As if this wasn't excitement enough, the Mutant Lord must have rolled another 1 on the encounter table and I came face to face with another alley cat in our dirty kitchen at the back of the house. This one seemed to be female and I would not be surprised if it was Tabby's mate. She also beat a quick exit after the lights came on.

I checked and all our windows were closed at the time Tabby managed to infiltrate into the house? Hence the remaining question, how the fuck did he get in? The culprit, it turns out, was the slow-closing kitchen door at the back of the house. For some reason, everyone seemed to be pre-occupied in the house at about dinner time and Tabby must have been able to sneak in as the kitchen door slowly closed shut after somebody came in.

I told my dad about Tabby during my son's birthday party next day and you can see he was a bit creeped out - and believe me, my dad doesn't get creeped out by just anything. I guess the image of a tattered dirty, cantankerous, feral-looking feline intruder unexpectedly showing up in your house at 1.30 a.m. can induce one to undergo a morale check. Good thing it failed its roll this time.

I guess it would have been worse if this happened in the Mutant Future as Tabby would have had some weird, slick and deadly mutation up his sleeve. Maybe Irradiated Eyes. Wouldn't have touched him with my three foot hardwood stick in that case....

Oh well.

The Adventuring Party

I'm certain many folks have alluded to this picture before but I just can't help but post it here. I recall going over a friend's hard copy of Metamorphosis Alpha as a high school kid, a lifetime ago. This picture screamed "Adventuring Party" to me then, and it still does now, with my return to old school gaming via Mutant Future. I always dreamed being that human leader in the picture even if I never got to play Metamorphosis Alpha back then. I guess this is the default image that comes to my mind when I try to visualize a group of intrepid adventurers about to wander off into the wasteland of my Mutant Future.

Episode Two: Mine of the Brain Lashers- part II

A Long Way Down

They lower down a rope and Puccini volunteers to rappel down. He goes down halfway without mishap but rolls a 1 (critical failure) on the second half of the descent. Up above, Max and the rest of the group manage to tighten their grip on the rope thereby ensuring that Puccini does not fall all the way down. However, the mishap causes the Animal Mutie to swing violently, causing him to strike the rock face of the chamber wall and making a ruckus in the cave.

Puccini safely hits the ground but sees two hulking primitive near-humans come into the chamber from the western exit. These are Homo Erectus guards armed with swords who burst in and attack. He successfully uses Empathy Sense on one of them and neutralizes him, but the other hacks at him savagely (dealing better than usual damage on a d12 due to my exceptionally good roll on the CVDT).

Unbeknownst to all, they had just stumbled into a stronghold of a group of Brain Lashers and their regressed Homo Erectus minions. This was then the start of the group’s first real “dungeon”-type adventure in Mutant Future as I used the sample scenario found in page 140 of the Mutant Future rulebook.

And what a fight it turned out to be.

Our first fatality

A hidden Brain Lasher lurking in an adjoining cave has been alerted to the intruders’ presence and hits Puccini with a Mental Thrust. The Mutie is stunned by the sudden mental attack and releases control of his attacker. With both Homo Erectus now hacking away at him, Max and Zed hurriedly rope to down to join the fight. They arrive too late as in the meantime, the Brain Slasher had already successfully taken mental possession of the hapless Puccini. The Mutie is then compelled to move towards the Brain Lasher’s cave. Zombie-like, Puccini shambles and then crawls into the tiny entrance of the Lasher’s cave, with Zed vainly pulling at him every step of the way. To be fair, I gave the players every chance to let Zed roll a test of strength against that of Puccini’s to restrain the Animal Mutie, but Zed kept failing his rolls spectacularly.

Now, more Homo Erectus minions flood into the chamber. Things are beginning to look grim and everyone else except Marcus Truman clambers down hurriedly to take on the onrushing savages. The cave floor becomes slick with blood and its’ stony walls echo with the sound of clashing steel. Truman keeps up a steady stream of bolts and he has no shortage of targets.

Meanwhile, the hapless Puccini remains under the Lasher’s control and inexorably moves puppet-like to his doom. The Mutie disappears into the Lasher’s cave whereupon he is promptly attacked by his tormentor. Steely claws slice into the Mutie’s temples as the alien abomination of another world efficiently siphons off his brain matter. Zed can only look on in horrified fury while Puccini breathes out his last in a strangled, final death rattle.

A desperate fight to the finish

This galvanizes Zed who puts a bolt through the gore-covered Brain Lasher doing a gratifying above-average d12 of damage on the CVDT. However, this is not enough and it is Zed who is now under the Slasher’s mental possession. Zombie-like, Zed helplessly follows in the wake of the deceased Puccini into the Slasher’s cave.

Seeing this, Max charges in with sword and laser pistol, leaving the rest to hold off the minions.

Max emerges into an eerily-lit chamber hacked out of the solid bedrock. Alien, arcane energies are alive in this place, flowing in an insane rhythm. At the far end are two alien metallic pylons standing twenty feet apart. Between these appears to be weird ultra-telluric field displaying a dark other-worldly vista: alien constellations, a disturbingly bleak skyline and the russet soil of another reality. It now appears that these abominations have succeeded in opening a gate into another world.

There are two other Brain Lashers are in the chamber.

Max fires at the nearest rolling a natural 20- a critical hit! He rolls low on the CVDT but still does a respectable 31 points of damage due to successive maximum rolls on the damage dice (my houserule allowing re-rolls of every maximum result on the damage dice from a critical hit).

Angered, the wounded Brain Lasher retaliates with Possession but fails spectacularly by rolling a natural 1! I make a snap ruling that the Lasher suffers psionic feedback and cannot attack for
the next 1d4 melee rounds. Unfortunately, Max misses his next shot and the other Slasher successfully puts him under mental possession!

At this point, my players have decided on a concerted attack on the Brain Lashers is the only way to end this and, leaving Clem to deal with the three remaining Homo Erectus, charge the Brain Lashers. In the meantime, the Homo Erectus, despite having sustained considerable damage, easily make their morale roll and continue to attack.

Marcus Truman and the poisonous Mutie Clyde arrive first, attacking the last unengaged Lasher who puts up a stiff fight. By now, most of the boyz are down on hit points, with Kendrick reduced to one single point left! The other Lashers mentally compel Max and Zed to shamble into Clyde in an attempt to get him to ‘rub off’ his poison on them. Clyde successfully dodges Max but Zed gets a dose of his intensity 7 poison.

The sorely wounded Kendrick and Marcus Truman keep up their fire at the Lashers, practically firing off all their bolts. Truman then draws sword and dagger and rushes the Lasher controlling Max. His incessant attacks succeeds in causing the alien to release his mental grip on Max. Now freed, Max aids in attacking the Lasher controlling Zed. The fight is in close quarters and now, the group’s numbers are an advantage. Zed is also freed and the Lashers are set upon by the group in deadly earnest.

This proves too much for them. One falls to combined attacks of laser, steel and poison. The other two fail their morale roll run out of the dimensional gate.

With the party looking very worse for wear, Zed and Marcus Truman begin search the rock wall behind the dimensional gateway (which eventually flickers off in a few minutes). They find a secret door built into the stone face of the chamber wall. Opening it, they enter a passage
that leads into a strangely shaped room filled with various goods and artifacts.

The characters eventually managed to find the relic healing technology provided as treasure in the sample scenario as stated in the rulebook. There was an interesting bit of role-playing as they struggled to get the relics to function. This and a series of successful tech rolls enabled our group to live to fight another day.

A little facelift

You may notice that I've given my blog a few changes here and there. I'm learning how to use the different functions available in the dashboard menu. It's still pretty early and rudimentary for me but I guess I'm learning more as I go.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Episode Two - Mine of the Brain Lashers (part 1)

Game session on 15 November 2009

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

Puccini - An Animal Mutie (or mutant animal in rules-speak). Looks like an intelligent, bipedal turtle-man with the Empathy mutation

Kendrick – Another Normal warrior.

Der Spielmeister – The deranged Mutant Lord

Mutant Lord's note: For those who follow the exploits of our ne'r do wells, it may be noticed that there are more characters this time around as compared to the previous episode. Yes, this is true. I had to bring in these newcomers as the reality of my gaming group is that I have quite a group of players who want to play but can't play due to real life concerns. It's a reality I really have to struggle with.

This adventure is my take on the sample adventure found in the Mutant Future rules. I took the core and mutated it to suit my needs.

Our Story:

The group camps out in the wilderness on the western shore of the banks of the Lesser Azure River. No wandering beasts, mutants or critters came close to the camp that night. Nonetheless, Puccini and Zed spy out some bestial, shambling humanoid figures out in the distance on the opposite bank of the river. By morning, they see nothing but glimpse some curiously shaped footprints in the mud.

They start the next day’s travels by paddling anew up north. By midmorning, they find what appears to be an abandoned riverboat drifting aimlessly near the eastern shore. Covered by the readied crossbows of his companions, Zed gingerly boards it. Upon searching he sees little signs of a struggle. Curiously, he finds no metal articles of any kind aboard. The crew is missing. Barrels of ale appear to have been broken open and their contents spilled about. Boxes of salted meat which appear to form the rest of the boat’s cargo are also scattered haphazardly about.

The boxes appear to be missing the metal nails which hold them together while the barrels’ metal hoops are also gone. The boyz decide to boards the boat tow their canoes behind. Max insists on gathering up much foliage from the woods by the shore and emplacing them on the riverboat to break up its silhouette.

Presently, they come upon a fork in the river, with a smaller tributary heading east. They decide to follow the tributary eastwards. The river here is heavily forested on both sides.

Shortly after midday, they come upon a barren stretch of shore. The remnants of ruined walls stony mounds as well as an ancient crumbling road are evident. The crew comes ashore to investigate the ruins. Finding nothing of value, they re-embark and continue eastwards.

Upon leaving the ruins Max and Puccinni begin feeling ill. Both begin to retch uncontrollably over the stern and shake all over. It is suspected that they all took a whiff of radiation while they searched the ruins.

By midafternoon, they glimpse a mountain rising in the distance. Later, the tributary gently turns left and empties into a small lake adjoining a sheer mountainside. There is a cave in the mountainside and the waters empty into it in what appears to be the entrance to an underground river. The crew disembarks on the left shore of the lake and secure their boats.

They see the overgrown remnants of another crumbling ancient roadway some ways from the shore. It is just visible enough to show that it snakes up the mountainside, continuing up the slopes into a large artificial cliffside overlooking the lake. After a hurried discussion, they decide to travel up the mountain following the ancient road.

Picking their way up the overgrown, scrub-covered slopes, they attain the artificial cliffside and find two bunker-like stone structures on the far end. They decide to by-pass them and continue up the forested slopes, sticking as much as possible to cover. Someways up the group comes upon a barely-evident footpath which goes even higher.

The footpath abruptly ends at what appears to be a jagged tear in the rock face of the
mountainside. Before them is a rough, cave-like opening more narrow at its width than it is high. Water trickles into the opening from the mountainside.

Approaching gingerly, they are greeted by a weird machine-like humming as two dome-like constructs, smooth and worn with age come to life. One is emplaced beside the opening while the other, a few feet away from the footpath. The group scatters as tiny apertures on the constructs’ faces iris open and shoot reddish-green beams of energy which are painful to the eyes. Anything the beam is struck instantly burns with bright flames.

The group retaliates with a fusillade of bolts, missiles and the occasional laser beam. They manage to destroy both but not before Zed takes a nasty burn on his side. They salvage the burnt-out shells of their erstwhile attackers for valuables, and creep up close to the opening.

The find themselves looking into a cave which opens downward into a natural chamber of stone fifty feet below. There, in the center of the stone chamber below them, is a pool of water weirdly giving off a steady flow of steam. There are three exits from the chamber – caves by their looks.

Puccini takes a deep breath and attunes his Empathy Sense. He feels what he later describes as bestial hunger pangs emanating from inside the chamber. These sensations quickly fade out, as if their source had wandered off through one of the chamber’s exists.

They look at one another and after another hurried conference, they decide:

“We’ll have to climb down.”

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.

Episode One: Beginnings

Game session on 8 November 2009

Dramatis Personae:


A twin-brained human mutant ( ‘Muties’ as they are commonly known in these parts) known for the disgusting slime he involuntarily excretes throughout his body. Of course, this slime also happens to be a potent level 7 dermal poison. He can also control the weather with a thought. Unfortunately, he was born with a reduced immune system making him more susceptible to diseases than most others of his kind.


Another Mutie. Born with two heads and the power to gradually
turn back any damage inflicted upon him during combat as well as the ability to
boost his attributes by mere concentration.


The third Mutie of this team of ne’er-do-wells. He looks normal save for a dusting of scales giving him natural body armor. He can hear better than an average human, see in the dark, and has boosted mental reactions with an
affinity for all warlike martial things giving him a plus in combat. Unfortunately, he has a phobia for insects hardwired into his nervous system.


The only Normal in our group, Max resembles a sword-swinging young George Peppard from the old movie Damnation Alley.

Our story:

It starts in the walled town of Sanly Bowitts, a fortified settlement peopled mostly by pure humans (‘Normals’ as they are known in what passes for wastelander patios) in southern parts of a larger wilderness called the Eastern Marches.

Having traveled from their respective villages in search of fame, fortune and
loot, our band of four hardy, plucky lads pass into the massively fortified gatehouse of Sanly Bowitts. There, they are challenged by the militia bearing the town’s insignia emblazoned on their wicker shields in the form of a white staff entwined with two criss-crossing serpents.

They are promptly assessed a customary the tax on mutants and an additional excise to gain the privilege of bear arms within town limits.

Upon entry to the town, our lads saunter around the market square fronting a massive tower of ancient, unsmeltable metal which flares larger at the top than it is wide at the bottom. The standard of the town’s overlord, His Excellency the Surgeon General himself, flutters in the brisk summer wind. The tower is his citadel and serves as the town hall as well.

Presently, they overhear an argument amongst some burly, beringed folk of serious calculating mien. Recognizing one of these as merchant caravan-master Darius Myles, a trader from these parts, they hear these men in heated discussion complaining about trading boats and crews that have recently turned up missing in the Lesser Azure River heading north from Sanly Bowitts.

Later on they follow Myles as he heads off towards the Strontium Ninety, a tavern fronting the market square.

Inside the Strontium Ninety, a band of musicians in garish outfits, festooned with various bizarre instruments pound away at what appear to be relic devices keeping up a loud, constant rhythm which, though unsettling, appear to capture the tavern's assembled clientelle. Their blindfolded singer shouts out the words of an unfamiliar ditty:

"When a good time turns around
you must whip it
you will never live it down
unless you whip it
no one gets away
until they whip it..."

Marcus flashes Myles his winning smile, and with the aid of a massive helping of liquor, manages to convince the merchant to hire them to undertake a trip up north near the Poison Forest to find out what is going on. As it turns out, Myles and his fellow traders are just about getting a tad upset about their missing merchandise and agree to a generous bounty if the disappearances are brought to an end.

As negotiations were going on, a fight develops between what appears to be a stunningly beautiful platinum blonde woman and three beefy men with
sickly-green tinged complexions. It appears that the woman resented the unwelcome and salacious intrusions of the trio of greenish brutes. A crash from a breaking mug brings the music to a halt, as the garishly garbed singer raises his blindfold to take in the scene that unfolds.

The woman swiftly and skillfully draws a silvered longsword and promptly beheads one attacker while fighting off another. The third sidesteps the fighters and draws a laser pistol in an attempt to shoot down the woman. On cue, Marcus steps in to intervene and succeeds in lopping off the gunman's gun hand. Clyde then steps up and promptly slimes the gunman who expires horribly after failing his save against poison. In the meantime, our swordswoman disposes of her remaining attacker.

The mysterious blonde thanks them gruffly and walks out of the bar. Before a slightly astonished crowd, she mounts up on an equally-mysterious albino bird-like steed and promptly flies off to parts unknown.

Still later that night, Marcus figures out how to use the laser pistol effectively but not first without burning a suspiciously charred smooth hole in the wall of their room at the Strontium Ninety.
they occupied for the night.

The boys leave Sanly Bowitts by daybreak and paddles up north along
the Lesser Azure on canoes loaned by trader Myles. They think they are trailed by what appear to be riverine snakes of disturbingly large size at midday but they keep going anyway.

By late afternoon, Marcus wants to set up camp on the riverside. They make
for the right bank which now turns out to be heavily obscured by reeds. Upon beaching their canoes they hear a stirring in the reeds. What follows is an attack by a pack of six, filthy, two-meter tall sickly brown-yellow hued Mutie savages. The Muties have long claws, mottled leathery skin, black eyes with no irises, long protruding noses and kinky hair with the consistency of steel wool. The action that follows is fast and furious as the boys make their stand on the riverbank, slashing away at their attackers. Marcus uses up a couple of charges and manages to down an assailant leaving it a sizzling corpse. They kill off their attackers with Clyde doing most of the killing through the liberal use of his poison slime.

The attack convinces them that it is a tad too risky in this part of the river. They then board their canoes and paddle off, heading even further north. The dying sun sets turning the endless sky of the wastes into a sanguinarious shade. They finally find a quiet bit of sandy shore on the left bank of the river. It fronts a grassy plain that stretches widely for miles around. Small copses of trees and vegetation dot the plain. They set up camp a settle in for the night. Aleph, the Elder Moon is rising in the night sky.

They have just survived a day in the wasteland.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Carcosa Rules!

Carcosa is what its author, Geoffrey McKinney describes as Supplement V of the original Dungeons and Dragons rules of 1974. It contains a lot of new material and some innovative game mechanics to enhance any enterprising GM’s ongoing swords and sorcery game. Well, as my Mutant Future has a lot of swords and sorcery feel to it, I was very intrigued when I read about Carcosa. In a way, I can confidently describe the style of gaming I have adopted for my Mutant Future as one of “Swords and Mutants”. Instead of the dreaded eldritch sorcerer muffled in black robes waving a coruscating ebony staff of power, my players are more likely than not to encounter a dreaded maddened sorcerer muffled in black robes aiming a Mark XX Blaster Rifle at them. Although I did not know it for sure then, I felt that Carcosa would contain a lot of material to support this flavor of gaming.

I eventually got a copy of Carcosa from Geoffrey sometime back and I was definitely not disappointed!

A lot of the background material contained in Carcosa now serves to enhance the weird and dangerous wastelands of Cygnet Delta of my Mutant Future. A mere perusal of its contents really shows the wonders Supplement V promises for our upcoming games. Weird technological tables –check! Weird and dangerous creatures from the Mythos – check! Variant humans – check! A homebrew style campaign hex-map to fuel inspiration for Cygnet Delta- check! Unique encounters- check! Spells and rituals –check!

The latter item actually sparked a conversation between me and my players a little while back about weaving in some magic which had managed to ‘leak’ into our Mutant Future universe and is slowly but surely beginning to make itself felt. I’m presently open to this idea and feel that eventually, we’ll be seeing this being built into our game.

One particularly significant thing which I really got to use from Carcosa is the innovative game mechanic which allows player characters to roll for variable hit points-or hit dice, in our game-from a table at the start of each combat. I was very intrigued by this rule so I took it, mutated it, and plunked it straight into our first game. While my players seemed rather shocked to see it being used at first, I was very glad to see that they took to it naturally and embraced it wholeheartedly. From our experience, having variable hit points for every character which are only determined at the start of every combat session tends lend a level of tension and randomness which makes the game even more uncertain and thus exciting.

Next, I adopted the same rule for all my monsters and critters in the wasteland. Now, the players had to contend with trying to second guess the probable results of variable hit points of not only their own characters but the monsters they faced as well! This idea came to me after reading a post by Zulgyan, in the Original D&D Discussion Boards. Zulgyan also has a blog called Zeta Orionis, which served as one of my inspirations to get serious about my Mutant Future game.

Finally, I carried over another Carcosa rule into our Mutant Future combat – that of variable damage caused by player characters and monsters. I adopted this too as another of my houserules and gave the players the option to decide to use variable damage rules when their characters scored hits on their enemies in combat. This, of course, was up to the player to decide and any player could always decide to go per the damage tables in the Mutant Future rulebook instead. This led to every combat session opening with the following challenge given by me to the players: “So are you feeling lucky today?”

I feel that it is these innovative rules which tend to enhance one’s gaming experience – allowing an enterprising and open-minded group of players to take an existing rules set and customizing it in such a way as to make it truly something unique, something they can call their own. I guess I can see that these days, when we start our game and my regular players explain to a newbie player what it means when we’re using ‘Carcosa Rules’.

As an aside, it seemed that as I was first reading Carcosa, typhoon Parma was unleashing the full force of its fury and was rampaging its way across the country. For a while there, I fretted whether this signaled the start of a real Mutant Future for me and the family. I’m just glad it passed by leaving our rented house intact and possibly postponing the apocalypse sometime in the distant future.

C’est la vie.

What's it like?

I’d said earlier that Under A Blood Red Sky is more of a rubber-science game with more of a science fantasy feel than a true science fiction post-apocalyptic one. This game then departs from my usual gritty style which was, for the longest time, my default setting in earlier games I ran in Twilight 2000 and Gurps: Fallout.

No, this time, I’m running something different. Under A Blood Red Sky goes all out with such staples including aliens and rayguns as well as giant insects and talking mutant animals. Just to give you all an idea as to where I am coming from this time, here are a few of the influences which served to shape my particular vision of the Mutant Future:

Jack Kirby’s Kamandi. I grew up reading this comic from the 70s and largely went out of my way to track down many of its issues. I recall combing the thrift shops outside Clark AFB in Angeles City just to find the next installment in the thrilling adventures of The Last Boy on Earth. The mutant animals of my Mutant Future have a lot in common with Jack Kirby’s Doctor Canus, Great Ceasar, Mylock Bloodstalker, and of course, the serpentine Mr. Sacker.

Thundarr the Barbarian. To be honest, I used to see this being flashed on TV when I was in high school but never paid it much attention. Now, I’m catching up through You-Tube and the very excellent posts from The Savage Afterworld which I follow with great interest. The image of an intrepid and eclectic band of adventurers led by a sword-swinging fighting man making their way through the ruins of our fallen civilization is just pure grist of the mill in my Mutant Future.

Gamma World. Arguably the mother of all post-apocalyptic role playing games and the linear progenitor of Mutant Future. Amongst all its incarnations, I still prefer the old first edition with all its clunkiness and rough edges.

My Mutant Future may be more ‘wonky’ than ‘gritty’, as opposed to say a campaign set in the Darwin’s World setting – a setting which I personally think looks awesome. Nonetheless, while our adventures in Cygnet Delta are described as science fantasy, I’d like to think that they are, as my games always have been, very deadly. A well-aimed shot from a Mark XX Hand Blaster will kill you just as efficiently as a well-placed sword thrust or rending strike from a mutant critter.

So what is this all about anyway?

This blog is intended to be a chronicle of my ongoing Mutant Future game. It is also intended to be an account of my return to Old School Gaming.

I called it Under A Blood Red Sky after an album of the Irish Rock Band U2 which came out sometime when I was attending undergraduate university. My game is set in a post-apocalyptic world where humanity is on the way to becoming an endangered species. The ruins of a once-powerful and thriving civilizations dot the fractured landscape of a colony planet once identified in the starmaps as Cygnet Delta. Over all of this, a fading red star shines its light much like Urth’s dying sun in Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun.

Mutant Future is published by Goblinoid Games and is available as a free pdf in that company’s website. That said, it is an excellent example of a solid game system pattered after the 1st edition Dungeons and Dragons and Gamma World rules of the late 1970s and early 80s. I’ve always wanted to run a rubber science-science fantasy game before I quit this life and finally took the plunge after happily discovering Mutant Future. So far, what purports to be my regular gaming group is on its fourth episode of Mutant Future and all indications point to a relatively long-lasting game in the coming days. Much of this comes as a relief to my most valued players who have had to suffer repeatedly from my bouts of game master- attention deficit disorder (GM-ADD).

In here, I also hope to set down the various house rules I plugged into our game. I also hope to do write-ups of the game’s background as well as a lot of Mutant Future-related material.