Sunday, January 31, 2010

Episode Nine (part 1) - The Thin Red Line

Dramatis personae:

Spielmeister – Mutant Lord

Putanesca- Mutant Plant

Kyoshi – Mutant Human

Link Seyz – Android

Ratchet – Android

Mirage- Android

Marcus Truman- Pure Human

Max Plissken – Pure Human

Zed- Mutant Human

Albus- Mutant Human

Orua – Autistic Pure Human

Shai – Pure Human

Last session:

After hurriedly being picked up on Ratsputin’s air boat, the characters return to the Mine and are plunged in the thick of a ferocious assault by Captain Krat’s Panther mercenaries.

Our story:

The airboat descends swiftly into the crater. Everyone sees Rats scurrying about agitatedly below. Ratsputin skillfully sets the airboat down and steps out, nervously followed by the party. It is soon made clear from the Rat troopers that Captain Krat’s offensive has succeeded and the Panthers are almost within the Rat warrens of the Mine. Ratsputin sends off his Rat officers with terse commands and speaks to Shai earnestly, with his eyes a-gleaming.

“We have to hold off the Panthers from the cave entrance. We need time to organize a defense. This is why I flew out to collect your entire party – we need help holding the cave entrance up on the cliffside.”

Reluctantly, the party agrees to buy the Rats time.

Ratsputin, accompanied by his entourage of harassed Rats, as well as the adventurers, exit from the crater into a narrow pathway hanging from the mountainside. They climb gingerly downwards until they arrive at a familiar cave entrance. Ratchet, Mirage and Shai immediately recognize their surroundings – as they are back to where they first made contact with the Rats. Zed, Marcus and Max confirm that they have been here before: as this is the secret entrance they discovered into the Mine of the Brain Lashers .

Everywhere, the rumbling sound of artillery can be ominously heard.
Bloody and disheveled Rats rush to and fro from the cave. Ratsputin and his officers try to get things organized. Mirage sees a line of scrawny Rats shuffling forward towards an officer standing beside a pile of weapons. Every other Rat gets a rifle thrust at him and a handful of ammo. The next one in line gets a handful of ammo and an unsheathed bayonet. As the line moves on, the officer repeats a shouted litany, which, to Mirage, sounds like this:

“Every other Rat gets a rifle. When the one with the rifle gets killed, the Rat following him picks up the rifle and shoots!”

“This doesn’t look good,” mutters Max darkly. Ratchet and Mirage can only grimly nod in agreement.

The Rats, with their ears hanging limply and tails dragging heavily behind them, are bullied by Ratsputin down the trail leading away from the cave. They disappear from sight around a wooded bend.

“Here,” says Ratsputin urgently. “You’ll have to hold the line here and by the Great Mikhii- don’t let them get into the cave!” With that, he returns to the trail leading to the sky boat hangar taking Putanesca and Kyoshi with him.

ML’s note: After conferring with my players, we agreed to take Matt and Prin’s characters out of play first as they were still unfortunately delayed due to car trouble.

Ahead of the group is a low wall of rocks which the Rats appeared to have set up earlier in an attempt to fortify the area. After a hurried conference, Shai and Max direct everyone to the wall which, at least, gives them partial cover from frontal attacks. Everyone has managed to pick up a rifle from the weapons and ammo left behind by the Rats. Unfortunately, the rifles come in various calibers and makes – and ammo is in short supply.

ML’s note: To be exact, I rolled for what they managed to scrounge up and came up with six single-shot lever actions and two magazine-fed semi-automatic battle rifles. Antique equivalents (to borrow a Classic Traveller term) of these guns were Martini-Henry rifles and M14s, respectively. Curiously, Henry managed to identify the single shooters ahead of everyone else – could it be due to the rifles’ name? One thing that really appeals to me in Mutant Future is the randomness factor – I tend to do a lot of dice-rolling to come up with something when I’m not sure what I should give the players. The sheer unpredictability of the random rolls is really part of the fun!

They didn’t have long to wait. After a while, it seemed that all the firing stopped. It was deathly quiet- like the calm before the storm.

Link Seyz angrily broke the silence by alerting the group to Orua, who wandered off during the lull, towards the cave entrance. Then, it was too late for the Android to lead River back to the wall as the Panthers began their attack.

They came at them at a run – black Panthers roaring their blood thirsty cries with claws and fangs bared for the kill. Leading them is a four- armed Leopard officer in a steel cuirass. Brandishing a sword-like weapon with a glowing blade of coruscating energy, the mutant officer can be seen chivvying his cats forward.

“Let ‘em have it!” cried Shai, firing away with his M14.

The group cut loose with rifle fire, felling a few from the attackers’ front rank. Despite this, the assault continues ferociously as the cats appear to be caught up in a blood-mad frenzy. Soon, they close the distance half-way to the wall, firing from the hip. Shai curses as his M14 jams up. Then, Link Seyz’s M14 is also out of action. Much to Ratchet’s consternation, his modified musket also fails to fire.

ML’s note: For some reason, my players came up with an inordinate number of natural ‘1’ die rolls, indicating a ‘fumble’ on an attack roll. This, I translated into a high incidence of weapon malfunctions. Who knows, maybe the Rats got gypped into accepting a batch of bad ammo and powder! It was also at this point when I managed to score the needed die roll allowing Orua to slip into ‘Serenity -savant’ mode for 4 melee rounds.

With the nearest attackers only a dozen feet from the defenses, Orua picks up a rifle and blasts the nearest Cat off its paws. She drops the empty gun and picks up another, blasting way at the next closest target.

ML’s note: Patton, who was playing Mika’s character first, seemed to hold true to the adage that the best reload is another loaded gun!

Then, the Cats are reinforced. The group hears the thundering sound of hooves and are aghast to see Krat’s Jackalope Dragoons bounding forward to reinforce the attack. They count at least six Panthers in crimson jackets, strapped to ornate saddles, bounding into combat riding giant horned mutant rabbits, with lances couched.

ML’s note: The Jackalope Dragoons made a brief appearance in this episode, but now, they are the enemy.

The Jackalopes are nothing like any warsteed encountered by the adventurers thus far. They are astounded at the mutants’ prodigious leaps which carry them over the defensive wall and into their rear! Now, they have enemies at their front and behind.
With nothing else for it, they decide to let loose with all their firepower. Zed’s plasma pistol, two lasers, an auto-firing AK47 and Marcus Truman’s pump action shotgun are brought out and fired like there was no tomorrow- adding their weight to the fire being dished out by the Rats’ rifles. To these are added the mutations of the party’s mutants and androids- but the enemy keeps coming on!

Shai grabs Max’s rucksack carrying the blocks of C4 previously issued by Captain Krat HERE. Max confirms there are no detonators, whereupon Shai hurls it with all his strength at the oncoming attackers.

“Blast it with the plasma!” yells Shai at Zed, hoping that the electrical discharge riding along the plasma bolt detonates the lot.

Zed takes careful aim at Shai’s improvised demo charge which is now sitting in the midst of a wave of roaring Cats. He fires, and, although his shot hits true, merely vaporizes Max’s rucksack and its contents.

“Fakes!” screams Shai with consternation. “The bloody felines passed us a bunch of fakes!”

ML’s note: Sooner or later, my players were bound to find out that the good Captain seemed to have his own ideas by passing off some disguised play-dough on them. Funny thing is they never even bothered to ask me about blasting caps or detonators that should have come with the C4. Maybe that should have alerted them to the true nature of the goodies.

“Try this, then!” yells Max, hurling the ancient, seemingly unreliable hand grenade salvaged from the Buggem’s lair. Although dangerously unreliable, the frag goes off with a blast, downing a Jackalope and two Panther infantry.

By now, fighting is at deadly close quarters but the group is still fighting from protected positions. Again and again, the concentrated fire of the energy weapons blow away many of the dragoons from their rabbitoid chargers. In the ensuing melee, Shai breaks ranks and leaps from the stone wall straight at the four-armed mutant Leopard officer. So swift was his attack that the mutant is surprised, providing Shai and opening for a well-aimed vicious cut. Moments later, standing over the headless corpse of the four-armed mutant, Shai bends to retrieve the officer’s Warp Field Sword.

So desperate is the fight that both Link Seyz and Ratchet’s built-in mutations kick in and allow them to perform prodigious feats of strength. Both Androids grapple with the bull-sized Jackalopes and bring these down crashing to the ground.

ML’s note: Link Seyz and Ratchet respectively called up their Ability Boost and Body Adjustment mutations allowing them to doublet their already considerable Strength scores, whereupon they started wrestling with the Jackalopes.

However, the Cats have a final card to play. The Dragoons’ commander had been, until now, content with laying down harassing fire with his automatic shotgun. Now, she was revealed to have a further mutation – Plane Shift! She begins concentrating, and in the midst of the melee, opens a hazy, shifting tear in the fabric of reality.

ML’s note: Quite frankly, I left the Planes of Existence known by the mutant Panther blank when I pre-generated this NPC. I then rolled on Kid Monster’s excellent 75 Random Plane Shift Destinations found at the Goblinoid Games' Mutant Future Forums in July 2009, which I had been saving up for just the right occasion. Rolling on a d100, I randomly came up with this result:

“92: Nurr’Gar’Rak’Ki (Alien Dimension) A Brain Lasher homeworld. The surface of this (possibly once Earth-like) world is a blasted, desolate waste of jagged black glass, roamed by Lasher tripods and nasty alien monsters. Underneath, the planet is riddled with millions of miles of tunnels, which at their deepest levels lead to one of the vast and terrifying cities from which these horrors rule their plane-spanning empire“

Imagine my surprise at arriving at this result. Considering that the cave entrance being defended by my players, was, until recently, the Mine of the Brain Lashers, the opening of a trans-planar gateway to the homeworld of the Brain Lashers, was an awesome coincidence! As you could imagine, the resultant maniacal cackle of the Mutant Lord raised the hackles of not a few of my blissfully ignorant players. Armed with this most intriguing result, I proceeded to run with the ball…

My thanks goes out to Kid Monster for such a wonderful and useful random table. Using this actually served to push the fun factor of the game even higher!

Ratchet and Mirage are the first to notice the horrible things lurking on the other end of the planar gate. Another well-aimed plasma bolt blasts away the mutant Panther but her gateway remains open. Orua, lapsing back to autistic mode, is fascinated by the alien vistas on the other side of the gate and walks towards the undulating tentacle-faced humanoids who beckon to her.

With a scream of horror, Link Seyz grabs Orua and pulls her back swiftly, while their companions open up with a fusillade of beams, bolts and bullets at the Brain Lashers closing in from the other side of the gate. Two of the alien abominations are felled by their fire, but the third is concentrating on a mental attack. Luckily, it is killed by a plasma bolt from Zed’s weapon which is critically running out of juice.

ML’s note: Now it can be told – the third Brain Lasher had that rare (5%) variety of the Ancestral Form mutation which allows it to regress targets down the evolutionary path. Again, I rolled on the spot for the three critters and the last came up with a “05” on a d100 roll. What a night of fantastic dice rolling this proved to be! Lucky thing they plasma-ed it when they did – it was altogether possible that one of the humans or mutant humans could have been reverted to a dim-witted Homo Erectus if that last Brain Lasher lived to get off a mental attack…

At this, the tear in the fabric of space-time snaps shut!

The attackers broke off their assault shortly thereafter, having sustained horrendous casualties. Our heroes did not pursue, being content to hold the line at the stone wall. They suddenly found themselves standing in a blood-stained field littered with bodies of their slain foes. Many are wounded but none so grievously as Ratchet who suffered quite a large loss of 6 hit dice of damage.

Of their Rat allies, they see nothing. The firing has just about stopped but they feel that their foes are regrouping somewhere nearby for another push. They also notice that ominously, smoke has begun to rise from the cave entrance they were detailed to defend. Echoes of gunfire and explosions could also be heard from within.

Now, it appears that the Cats have broken through to the lower levels of the Mine through another entrance.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Mutant Future A-B-C: A is for Android

Androids are the embodiment of living anachronisms (another ‘A’ word) so apt in the universe of the Mutant Future. Amidst the chaos and regression to primitivism in a once-fruitful wasteland walk the Androids who form a link to the forgotten wonders of a technological past. Androids in the different versions of existing Mutant Futures have come in all shapes and sizes, in varying dispositions and temperaments.

Some Androids take the role of healers or mentors, doing their share in rebuilding society. They can be found in enclaves of remaining civilization, no matter how strange this have evolved from its origins.

Rem, from the post-apocalyptic universe of Logan’s Run (the TV series) is one of these. Such Androids make great non-player characters, hopefully, on the side of the player characters. Their knowledge of the Ancients’ science and history goes far to give their allies an edge over the opposition.

On the other end of the spectrum are the killers, the destroyers and (most often) the baddies. The ubiquitous Terminator, of which several makes and models were made, is a prime example.

Nothing quite beats the effect of the glowing red eyes of the T-101. There’s something about the other-than-human malevolence contained in those artificial eyes…

Mimetic Polyalloy T-1000

The T-X

The T-101 could best be considered as the classic Basic Android in the Mutant Future rules as written. The subsequent T-1000 and T-X could be more advanced models in terms of sophistication and technology level. The shape- changing ability of the T-1000 and the T-X, and, to a lesser extent, their regenerative powers, are an example of how “mutations” granted to Androids during character generation can be characterized. In effect, they are not exactly mutations per se but more of design upgrades and functions.

Less well known but somewhat rather more disturbing is Box from Logan’s Run (the Movie). Others may argue that Box is more of a Cyborg but he would nonetheless make an excellent and colorful Android adversary for any group of Mutant Future adventurers. Imagine going up against a deranged yet highly creative ice sculptor with a penchant for watching his subjects copulate and then eviscerating them slowly. Box and its ilk are often found in extant pockets of technology which, tragically, have long ceased to function in the manner for which they were built. In the case of Box, our stainless steel friend spends his days in what appears to be an automated food synthesis factory wherein it is no longer clear if its finished products are still being consumed by its intended consumers.

Going even farther in time we have Androids who wander the waste as mercenaries and….assassins.

My personal favorite is Necron 99 from Ralph Bakshi’s Wizards.

The mutant wizard Blackwolf, Lord of the Land of Scorch made good use of Necron 99’s cold killing skills until it got zapped by Avatar, Blackwolf’s brother. Necron 99 ends up being ‘reprogrammed’ by Avatar and takes on the name of Peace (personally, I’d take the name Necron 99 to Peace any day).

There’s something about Necron 99’s beady yellow lidless eyes (much like the T-101's red ones). Here he is along with Blackwolf's mutant assassins.

Couple that with a very intimidating looking rifle and a quaint mutated two-legged horse and you’ve got the perfect synthetic wasteland warrior.

This excellent sketch by Undead Celt makes it look like Necron 99 is carrying a modified M-14!

The Mutant Future shows that Androids can go well with mutants, the remnant of technological enclaves and, of course, guns. Stuck in the low-tech present, they are a fleeting link to the vanished high-tech past.

Why not a Mutant Future Alphabet?

I have always followed the Dungeon Alphabet even while as started out its life as a very inspired series in the Society of Torch, Pole and Rope. Eventually, I wondered why anyone hasn’t come up with this for Mutant Future.

Proceeding from this, I present the Mutant Future A-B-C: an alphabetical rundown of words, concepts and ideas from the Mutant Future as they relate to gaming and gaming-inspired material. At present, I’ll try to tie in inspirational material from popular TV series and movies of yesteryear as material for the A-B-Cs. Hopefully, I can come up with a post or two per week and eventually run up to letter Z.

No Blade of Grass: Neither a Whimper, nor a Bang

It is often said that everything happens for a reason and nothing completely happens as a result of pure chance.

I’m not sure I really believe this saying but some of my experiences from last weekend seemed to reinforce it. Apart from the fact that I decided to pick up the trade paperback version of Dead Run, I also found myself with a rare moment of free time last Saturday night allowing me to tune in on the SF movies being aired on Turner Classic Movies.

As it turned out, the movies aired that night had that post-apoc feel to them, and were great inspirations for Mutant Future. I caught the middle of Soylent Green. and sat through it. The unforgettable images of an overpopulated and sweltering alternate New York City really had an effect on me, notwithstanding the fact that I must have seen Soylent Green repeatedly since I was a kid.

Nikos, one of my Mutant Future players pointed out to me that Soylent Green wasn’t strictly a post-apoc story but rather one of a dystopian society. In a sense, he’s right. I’ll concede to that, with the qualification that the world in Soylent Green is bound to implode in a very nasty apocalypse sooner than later eventually turning the story into one which is post-apocalyptic in nature.

The second movie was something I saw for the first time. It was No Blade of Grass – a 1970 screen adaptation of John Christopher’s novel from the 1950s. I haven’t read the book yet, but after seeing the movie, I must say I that I have a hankering to go after it soonest.

No Blade of Grass deals with a simple but deadly problem which suddenly confronted the human race: a mutant virus appears to have spread (ostensibly from Asia) and caused the mass death of food crops everywhere. The movie is set in the UK and deals with the story of a family fortunate enough to escape London before the chaos becomes widespread and whatever remains of law and order as we know it swiftly erodes away. The protagonists then make their way across the English countryside in the hopes of reaching the safety of a secluded farm owned by a relative. They inevitably get caught up in the anarchy that takes hold everywhere.

This particular apocalypse can’t be said to be a bang like the ones resulting from say, a meteor strike or a thermonuclear war. I can’t exactly say that society as we know it was ending with a whimper in No Blade of Grass (as one might imagine in movies like 28 Days Later or the Omega Man). I’d say as end of the world stories, go, No Blade of Grass stands somewhere in between a bang and a whimper.

Nonetheless, the epic trek of the protagonists in No Blade of Grass to find safety is something right out of a good role playing game. Getting guns to get even more guns and dodging everything from rogue military units to biker thugs is just some of the really interesting things one gets to see in the movie. Eventually, the movie’s protagonists (who are all civilians) end up toting bolt action mausers, shotguns and hunting rifles – something that seems rare in post-apoc movies today where a lot of gratuitous military firepower seems to be the rule. One of them managed to get his hands on a Sterling submachinegun early on in the story but had to ditch it.

I wouldn’t mind getting myself a copy of this movie. Seeing how I liked it, my wife remarked that my age was showing through as evidenced by my apparent preference for 1960s to 1970s movies. I wouldn’t be surprised if my new players (some of whom are about half my age) will eventually say the same thing.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Dead Run: Fast Cars, Disgustingly Ugly Mutants and Plenty of Guns

I managed to pick up the trade paper back of Dead Run last Sunday.

I normally spend my money on paperback novels and history books rather than comics or graphic novels these days. Picking up Dead Run was more of the exception to the general rule. Having finished going through the book, I'm glad I made the decision to pick it up.

The book's premise is hardly original: a story of a hard-bitten courier in a souped-up, bad-ass car plying his trade in the wasteland which used to be the Pacific coast of the United States. The hero reminded so much of Max Rockatansky and his supercharged V8 interceptor.

What really stood out for me was the artwork of Francesco Biagini. His illustrations made me feel like I was reading something out of the Heavy Metal Magazine in the early 1990s. As a Mutant Future referee, I can only say that I was quite impressed with his rendition of the mutants who infested the wasteland between the post-disaster Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The picture below is taken from the book, and is just one of the many evocative images drawn up by Biagini. This is how I'd imagine a hard-bitten Mutant survivor would look in the badlands. The book's protagonist referred to this guys as those who 'foraged' in the ruins. I couldn't agree with him more.

My eyes aren't as good as they used to be but the slabs of meat hanging on the right side of this Mutant's trike looked shockingly familiar. That particular morsel hanging second from the right wouldn't happen to be a pair of testicles attached to a phallus carved out from some poor devil would it?

Little else could be so hard core in the barren wastes of our Mutant Future.

ML's notice to players: xps

This is an urgent message to my players who asked for xp computations:

The xps for the four surviving characters for Episode 7: 428 xp per character.

For episode 8, each of the 11 surviving characters gets 555 xp. In case you are interested to know, I exercised my discretion and imposed a 500 xp bonus for your nefarious plots during the game.

This is not including any gold pieces garnered by the party, so please bring this to my attention if any were listed in your loot list.

I confirm that we'll be having gaming this Friday, 29th January, 2010. Same time, same place.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Episode Eight (part two) - Ratty Allies

Meanwhile, up ahead, after conferring with Urgall, Ratchet, Mirage and Shai reach the mountain’s slopes. It is almost mid-day now. They begin climbing painfully up, gaining ground steadily. They catch a glimpse of the Cat-Tamaran on the Azure’s tributary, far-off. Presently, Urgal leads them to a cliff overhanging a clearing, up on the mountain’s slopes. Below them is a narrow cave-like entrance leading down into the Mines.

ML’s notes: Astute readers will recognize this as the side entrance the characters used to gain entry to the Mines in Episode Two.

A complex arrangement of ropes and pulleys leads down into the narrow opening. Around it stands guard a squad of six Ratmen armed to the teeth. Mirage has Mental Phantasm built into him. He projects an illusion of a Panther warrior looking downward, alerting one of the Rat sentries. He raises the alarm and the Rats make ready to meet an expected attack. In the meantime, the group spikes the end of a coil of rope and lowers it down to the Rats. They look down once more and only three Rat guards remains. Then, Ratchet sends out another illusion – of Panther warriors fleeing in dismay. Urgall then climbs downward. So sudden was his descent that he lands forcefully upon two of the guards, effectively knocking them out. Shai follows close behind.

At this moment, a muffled crump like thunder fills the air and explosions begin to shake the mountainside. The guns of the Cat-Tamaran are blasting away at the Rats’ defenses. It now appears that Krat has decided to move up his attack without waiting for the promised diversion. The Rats weapon emplacements now begin to fire back.

Meanwhile, back at the main group, the rest of the party hears the exchange of fire which only means that Krat’s main offensive is on.

Back at the mountain, Urgall confronts the remaining Rat sentry near the cave entrance. Shai raises his crossbow but neatly and decisively brings it down on Urgall’s skull, effectively knocking him unconscious. He then speaks calmly to the surprised Rat and hands it his crossbow.

“We surrender if you like. We were forced by the cats to fight for them, yet we bear them no loyalty. We hate them as you hate them. We halted the surprise attack of the panthers you witnessed a while ago. We wish to join you and take revenge on the Cats. No one has a right to treat humans this way. We’ll speak to your leader if you wish.”

ML’s note: Not for nothing was Justin made the group’s de facto diplomat. This got me by surprise too but it seemed that Henry and Justin were planning to have the group switch allegiances and bite the cats back. Or was this a ploy to play both sides against each other? I have yet to find out…

By now, the fight is on and from their vantage point, Shai, Ratchet and Mirage could see Krat’s floating fortress sailing implacably closer with guns blazing. Soon, the assault boats will be launched and the storming will begin. Harried Rats are hurrying to and fro- and suspicious glances are being thrown at the characters. Presently, the approaching Rats start whispering something that sounds like a name of sorts.

“Ratsputin. Ratsputin's coming up!”

Before them comes a curious Rat. He is squat, small for a mutant of his kind but his eyes shine ferally with cunning and intelligence. He wears soft maroon-chased robes with arcane symbols, some of which come from the Mikih, Grandfather of Rats. Above his flaring cup-like ears is a headband of arcane, unsmeltable metal studded with equally strange lights and crystals. He sports a tool belt upon which hangs tools, weapons and other devices.

ML’s note: You may have guessed it but Ratsputin is no other than Brutorz Bill’s NPC here created for this game. Ratsputin now walks and talks in the wastelands of the World Under A Blood Red Sky.

Ratsputin confers with the sentry, whiskers twitching while he thoughtfully chews his tail. He eyes the characters curiously and questions Shai who replies just as swiftly and earnestly. He notices that Ratchet is eyeing his toolbelt with frank curiosity.

Ratsputin speaks swiftly after seeming to consider the matter for a moment.
“Yes, we need your services. Come, you shall fight alongside and share in the loot we shall win. Make haste and call out the rest of your band – we need every swinging tail in the fight that’s coming. I shall send two of my Rats to escort you, but return soon!”

Then, he swiftly disappears into the chaos of the Rat’s encampment, calling out orders and barking instructions. Even the biggest, most feral of the mutants appear to jump to do his bidding.

Accompanied by Ratsputin’s troopers, Ratchet, Mirage and Shai rush back to the rest of the party who are, at that moment, following in their footsteps and heading straight to the Rats’ lair. They link up eventually and bring everyone back up to spec on what the situation is. As of now, they prefer the Rats to be their official allies. Not far away, the thunder of the guns rings loud in the afternoon stillness.

All this does not stop Kyoshi from using the words of power on Link Seyz to check their efficacy. He then draws on his previous knowledge of tech arcane and is delighted to see his synthetic companion struggle to gain control of his movements and resisting various override protocols. River joins in once more arousing the already unstable Android to fury.

He yells “Witch!” at the top of his lungs and lands a fist blow at her, knocking her unconscious. The words of power invoked by Matt’s mutant and Plissken appear to be not as efficacious this time around.

All of a sudden, there is a deep throbbing sound in the air and a shadow passes above the group. As they look up, they behold a large ovoid form that appears to be of smooth angles and windows amidst shimmering metal. Some recognize it as a mate to the ancient powered contrivances of the Chief Resident of Sanly Bowitts, save that this one appears to be a type of sky-boat. Their Rat guides appear unsurprised as the sky-boat slowly circles and lands in the grass.

A small hatch appears on the side from which Ratsputin leans out, calling to them urgently.

“Change of p-plan,” he squeaks, whiskers a-twitch. “I was out surveying our defenses. It seems we really need you all to hold back the C-cats. They’re advancing faster than we expected possible.”

With that, the party reluctantly boards the sky-boat. They are astounded to see how well-kept it looks from the inside, with its arcane machinery and controls.
“Hang on!” mutters Ratsputin, as the sky-boat rises swiftly from the ground.

From one of the portholes, Putanesca sees the mountain looming close. Down at the river, the Cat-Tamaran has moved into position to be able to block off the entrance to the Mine. Assault boats have begun to hit the riverbanks. A firefight of intense ferocity has broken out before the Mine. The Panthers’ assault is in full swing. Sounds of combat are heard above the humming of the boat’s drive.

The sky-boat rises to the top of the mountain. Where they expected the peaks to be turns out to be a vast circular hollow in the rock, much like the top of an extinct volcano. Without delay, the sky-boat begins to descend into the darkness.

ML’s afterword: I really wonder what the future has in store for our game. I can’t help but laugh when I heard Matt evilly whisper to Nikos that they’ll be trying to “restore” the Androids to their “factory settings". Maybe they just spent too much time mucking around with their Nokia cell phones.

Episode Eight (part one) -Switching Sides

I have not posted for a long time as I (along with the rest of many of you, I presume), am up to my eyeballs with a shitload of real world worries and concerns. Nonetheless, I am pleased to report a successful Mutant Future game session on the evening of Friday, the 22nd of January. Apart from a lot of my regular players showing up on time, we were very fortunate to have Patton, Mika, Matt and Prin as new players who just joined our gaming group and decided to throw in their luck with the rest of our dastardly crew. The following constitutes the proceedings on said Friday night game-

Dramatis Personae:

The deranged Mutant Lord - Spielmeister

Max Plissken – Pure Human (played by Nikos)

Albus – Mutant Human (played by Doc Ben-g)

Zed- Mutant Human (played by Doc Ben-g)

Marcus Truman – Pure Human (played by JY)

Ratchet - Android (played by Henry)

Mirage - Android (played by Henry)

Shai - Pure Human (played by Justin)

ML’s note: With the demise of both of Henry’s mutants from last game, he came bouncing back with a Basic Android duo. He has a pretty well-crafted backstory which I, admittedly, have not read up completely yet. Suffice it to say that the Androids are constructs of the Brain Lashers. In fact, these Lashers are very much related to the band that occupied the Mine of the Brain Lashers. Justin, on the other hand, is our resident GURPS expert and decided to field a Normal with very developed tactician and merchant skills. Sort of like the group’s strategos-diplomat.

Our new players, on the other hand, came up with these eclectic characters:

Putanesca – Mutant Plant (played by Prin). This was a first for our gaming group, and we were very thrilled to see how a mutant plant would shape up in a game. As things turned out, Prin did not disappoint us. Her mutant resembled an intelligent, ambulatory, thorny tomato. From my recollection, it had the Metamorph mutation and sported inch-long thorns all over its’ prehensile roots and tendrils. ‘Puta’ (as it was affectionately called by all) tended to amble along and had a self-admitted life goal of finding a suitable floral mate.

Kyoshi - Mutant Human (played by Matt). Matt’s rolls on the mutation tables were gonzo. His mutant had dwarfism, making him only one foot tall. He also had the Mind Thrust and Dual Cerebellum mutations. Sure he’s short but then again, so was Master Yoda- and you saw how he squared off against Count Dookoo.

Link Seyz- Android (played by Patton). Pat insisted on having an android who looked and talked like the Terminator (at least that was my take on it). His backstory also provides that the android itself does not know that it is an android. For as long as he could remember, he was just another human. He does not know he has a hidden Energy Ray in his hands, amongst other “mutations”.

Another Pure Human – played by Mika. Now Mika insisted on some value-added enhancements in the interest of good gaming. After a short conference, I agreed. Her human is the Mutant Future version of River Tam from Serenity. Certain ‘triggers’ tend to unlock an extremely focused technical savant aspect of her nature (sometimes when they’re lucky, just at the right time it is really needed). Most of the time, she’s a slightly autistic youngster. As of this writing, I haven’t received info on her character name so I’ll provisionally call her River.

Character generation took up the first third of the evening’s gaming time but this immediately showed one of the strengths of Old School gaming: enabling players to generate characters ready for gaming in a few minutes, flat. It would have been an altogether different story if we were using Gurps. I don’t even want to think about how it would have been if we were playing D&D 4th ed. Probably would have had to dedicate an entire gaming session for character generation. I learned that this was the first time my new players would be playing an Old School game. Happily, Old School appeared to agree with them as will be seen later on.

As an aside, my notes are still incomplete as I write this, so I’ll be constrained to refer to some of the characters through their players’ names for now.
Finally, I instituted a houserule (heeding Brutorz Bill’s sound advice from last game’s comments ) granting each player a single d30 roll usable at any time during the game. A sort of safety net for the players in view of the deadly toll the scorpions’ poison attacks did last time (save or die attacks are very nasty).

Fortunately, no one got to use this during the game.

Our story

The armed panther crew and their leopard officers clambered aboard the Cat-Tamaran, grudgingly hoisting aboard Albus, Zed, Marcus and Snake. They soon discover that the ship is a veritable floating fortress, festooned with guns, rockets, not a few missile launchers, the odd (but formidable) energy weapon, siege engines, and yet even bigger guns. It seems Captain Krat wasn’t kidding when he said they were just about ready to commence the main attack on the Rats.

They are led to a large hallway and kept under guard. Although it was made clear to them that they were not considered prisoners, they weren’t given free reign of the vessel either. Inside, they come upon a few more outsiders, who, upon questioning, reveal that they were “persuaded” to come aboard the Cat-Tamaran as “guests” of Captain Krat.

First, they meet two humanoids who affect the dress of wasteland travelers. These turn out to be Androids, named Ratchet and Mirage. They are accompanied by a Pure Human called Shai, who appears to be quite learned and well-spoken. Ratchet, to their surprise, exhibits an uncommonly keen technical acumen and set out to modify some of the muskets they recently liberated from the Rats.

Later on, they are joined by a strange Mutant Plant bearing a most unsettling name of Putanesca. Putanesca’s other companions are Kyoshi, a foot-high mutant humanoid, Link Seyz, a strange humanoid with a stiff expression and another pure human who appears barely out of her teens. She is named River, who always seems to have a dreamy look in her face and talks in riddles, causing much obfuscation amongst the party. As they all appear to be in the same boat (if you’ll excuse the pun), they decide to band together in common cause.

Later, Captain Krat, joined by some of his officers and crew, enters. He makes a proposition to the party, offering each member a generous sum of five hundred gold crowns, in addition to free transportation to as far as Sanly Bowitts, if they successfully aid him in the coming attack. Along with Urgall, the apparent Homo Erectus ally of the Panthers, they are instructed to infiltrate into the Mine of the erstwhile Brain Lashers using an indirect land route. If things are done right, Captain Krat expects the party to gain entrance to the Mine just before the main attack. The party is enjoined, under no uncertain terms, to create as much havoc and confusion in the Rats’ lair, capitalizing on the element of surprise. This, Krat reasons, should tip the balance in favor of his attacking force, and enable them to overwhelm the Rats’ defenses, which are known to be quite formidable at this time.

While Captain Krat repeatedly makes it clear that he is offering the party a business proposal, they can’t shake the feeling that they’re being pushed into a potentially lethal situation. Not a few are suspecting a set up.

There is a lot of argument and muttering on the side but finally, the party is prevailed upon to accept the job. They are left alone for the rest of the night as feverish preparations continue aboard the floating fortress for the coming day’s assault. Plissken and Shai are crestfallen to learn that the Cats have denied the party’s request for additional firepower. Nonetheless, they consider themselves lucky as Krat agreed to part (albeit with some reluctance) with a box of explosives to be used by the party for their diversion. Shai, the party’s de facto diplomatic adviser, likewise noted about a fighting strength of two hundred effectives in Krat’s force. He also keenly observed the prodigious rate at which Krat’s troops were consuming their supplies.

ML’s note: To be honest, getting started was a bitch as the group still could not quite ‘gel together’ yet. While there was a lot of role-playing and verbal sparring, I also had to keep tabs on a lot of questions (particularly from the logistics-savvy Justin) on crew strength, dispositions, weapons, etc. It’s bound to be interesting to see how things are going to be when these players manage to run their own army.

At dawn, the party is landed on the riverside as the floating fortress sails away in the swirling mist. The blood red sky is just beginning to lighten at this point in time. To maintain contact with the party, Krat turned over a pocket communicator to them, apparently of no mean sophistication. Kyoshi takes possession of the thing.

ML’s note: The comm unit was supposed to be roughly the size of a small cell phone. That meant that Kyoshi carried this much like a PRC-90[?] backpack radio!

The party heads off to the east, their destination being the mountain in the horizon.
Very soon, they notice that River is beginning to wander off with a dreamy look in her face. The others are deep in discussion on what to do next, as they admit that they do not relish the prospect of doing Krat’s dirty work for him notwithstanding his offers of generous compensation. Only Link Seyz notices two malevolent shapes emerging from the waters of a nearby bog, stealthily approaching River. These look like gross, feral Toads, massing about the same as a cow with bloated bubble-like eyes of the deepest red-green. A stick rope-like tongue shoots out from the closest one and narrowly misses River who, right at that moment, bent over to pick up what she saw as a curiously interesting blade of grass.

With a yell Link Seyz charges and hurls a dagger straight at the mutant’s eye.

ML’s notes: This was a tough call. Link Seyz was a 1st level Android and the mutant had a base AC of 4. Since the eye was an even smaller target, I imposed a further -2 to the attempt giving the critter an effective Armor Class of 2. He needed at 17 on a d20 to hit. Despite the odds, Patton rolled a gratifying 18 and hit home!

The mutant’s eye bursts in a spray of ichor-like gore, spoiling its intended attack. Most of the party follows up with bolts and arrows but the unusually tough scales of the mutants prove more than adequate proof against their missiles. The other mutant toad lashes out with its sticky tongue, effectively pinning Link Seyz.

“Use the explosives,” someone yells, whereupon River pulls out a sticky clump of C4 and absently hurls it, sans any blasting cap, at the nearest Toad. The clump of valuable explosive misses widely and falls into the nearby bog, sinking to the bottom.

“My explosives!” yells the dismayed Plissken, running for the water’s edge to search for the C4. In the meantime, River remains oblivious to the fighting while one of the Toads’ bubble-like eyes is glowing malevolently. The air is rent by a pair of fiery burning beams of energy which strike Plissken and bring him down painfully. At this, Putanesca lets up a keening wail of vegetative distress.

Link Seyz frees himself with great difficulty and begins hacking away at the other Toad.

All of a sudden, River straightens up, eyes widening as she takes on an expression of uncanny alertness. It becomes clearly apparent to her that her companion is an Android and something, some hidden feature, is built into his right fist. This may be just the thing he needed to take on the Toad which was beginning to set upon him with huge scimitar-like claws.

ML’s note: Per my agreement with Mika, her hidden “River Tam” qualities were triggered somehow enabling her some incredible intuitive leaps for 1d5 rounds. I rolled a 5 for the fugue’s duration. At this time, I was surprised to note that Henry and Justin were not helping out the party in combat and decided to walk off ahead towards the mountain to carry out their ‘plan’. The change in River caused everyone to sit up and take notice!

Link Seyz appears to take the hint but merely plunges his fist into the Toad’s eye. He misses and connects instead with a meaty splat on the side of the critter’s head. To his surprise, his fist erupts in a blast of radiant burning light- burning much of the Toad’s head. Amidst the smell of burning meat, the freakish, misshapen amphibianoid crashes lifelessly to the ground.

At this, the others charge the remaining Toad, who fires another radiated blast, this time, badly burning Kyoshi. This enrages him and the mutant leaps upward, slashing and parrying with deadly skill.

ML’s note: Matt made clear that his mutant was doing a Yoda-esque maneuver. The mental image was very apt!

Putanesca flails away with her thorns while bashing the Toad with her trusty mace. Zed and Albus keep up a fusillade of bolts while moving to outflank the beast. Plissken finally gets his chance and blasts away with his laser, searing away large gashes on the mutant’s scaly hide. Link Seyz makes a leaping attack, and tragically entangles himself on one of Putanesca’s stringy root-like tendrils. He crashes heavily to the ground.

ML’s note: Patton now rolled a 1 thereby scoring a critical miss. The resultant effect was my ruling to inflict a cinematic effect to his equally cinematic failure at inflicting an Achilles-eque attack straight out of the movie Troy. Nevertheless, it was an inspired try on his part!

River follows all this closely. Somehow, unbidden, arcane words of command come clearly to her mind. Ancient words of power in a language older than Wasteland Norte. An awakened part of her rewired brain somehow makes the connection between Link Seyz’s newly-discovered ability and the code words she now shouts out.

“Menu-seven-sigma-twelve-overide. New protocol -Seven-sigma-thirteen: Engage!”

Link Seyz, who was just getting up, suddenly straightens – and very much against his will, shoots the Toad again with another searing blast. Kyoshi leaps up once again, landing lightly on top the Toad’s skull. Balancing for a moment, he plunges his impossibly sharp dagger-sized longsword into the thing’s eye, and then even deeper. In a moment, the Toad is dead.

ML’s note: Killing a 12HD monster without modern firepower isn’t easy even in Mutant Future. Much of this android override was admittedly a big surprise to me and 100% improvised. Seeing how well my new players took this concept and ran with it, I found it impossible not to go along with them! Tech rolls and Intelligence checks started coming in fast and furious but we managed to move things forward swiftly!

Kyoshi, also possessed a modicum of above-average tech ability and intuition (thanks to his Quick Mind mutation). Together with Plissken, they caught on to this and things got even more- er, strange.

With the mutants dead, the party took stock of the situation. Far off, they catch a glimpse of Ratchet, Mirage and Shai, marching steadily towards the mountain. Kyoshi turns on the comm-link as Krat demands a report. The feline commander is displeased with the slowness of their advance. He abruptly breaks off transmission.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Out of town

I'll be leaving town for a while on business and I'm not sure if I'll be connected to the 'net (or have time to post something here). I understand that Doc Ben-g is running his crew of Autobots in Eberron in the meantime.

Kick ass, guys! When you're all done, let me know what happened while I was away, ok?

With any luck, I'll be able to get some pictures of the Mayon Volcano
which is acting up once again.

May the rest the week be a peaceful one for all of us.

When losers are winners

Another sticky point that has arisen time and time again in my gaming experience is the subject of how "weak" characters can be when they are generated by a random-based game system. Many of my players who have gotten so used to generating characters in point-build games systems (such as Gurps) or "balanced" game systems which produce epic characters from the get-go (such as D&D 4e) seem to bothered by the randomness of the Mutant Future generation system. The very possibility of being stuck with a character having less than average attribute scores and debilitating random mutations seems to bother some people. They see this as being "burdened" by an inferior character.

This is evident in a request I received from one of my current regular Mutant Future players. While he plays a most suitable Pure Strain Human, he once asked me if I could initiate a houserule allowing for point allocations to generate character stats instead of the usual die roll method (and its attendant risks). The risk of getting a Strength attribute of 5, it appears, grates on his sensibilities.

Me, I see this as a challenge to one's role-playing and gaming skills, rather than a burden. Then again, they say I have rather strange role playing game habits. I have this fascination for the struggle of the underdog; of the everyman-turned-reluctant-hero who bucks the odds without a sure guarantee of survival (much less of success). I always had a soft spot for characters who, at first glance, appear "inferior" due to lower-than-expected die rolls during character generation. It isn't for a reason that I am a fan of the old DC comics series of an intrepid team of four heroes in World War II called the Losers, particularly the ones drawn by Jack Kirby.

Musing all of this was triggered by a post in Planet Algol which essentially captures how I feel about the whole thing:

"Loser characters are hilarious, usually the awesome players in my campaign play their ability-score deficient character to the freaking hilt! Jeryk's jackass antics had a couple of us helpless with laughter. With the lowered emphasis on ability score in AD&D, it really doesn't make it a huge handicap in most instances, and it seems like the characters with ability scores that are a genuine liability play smarter as a result and those characters tend to be survivors as well as having a lot of heart."

Reading this post also led me to another similar point from Jeff's Gameblog which I find just as appropos:

"For the EPT game I wanted the kind of freaks you'd see in an actual campaign, so I generated a bunch of stats randomly by using the random number generator in the spreadsheet. This resulted in a couple kickass PCs, some decent ones, several mediocre characters and quite a few complete losers. This is completely acceptable to me, as every campaign that uses random chargen will show a similar distribution."

Even non-random game systems such as Gurps can lend itself readily to this type of gaming. Curiously, the relative "weakening" effect brought about by a random throw of a dice during character generation may also be "self-inflicted" (a term I use for want of a better one). This is suggested by Nikolas here, wherein he says:

"Voluntary Disadvantages adds another dimension to RPGs and attempts to create an incentive for layers to voluntarily bring up their disadvantages in appropriate situations to enhance the game's experience."

To me, whether or not it comes as a result of random chance, or a voluntary decision, the willingness to accept the challenges of playing what others would dismiss as a Loser connotes the presence of guts and chutzpah in a player. Something I'd do myself and respect in others.

Maybe I'm just a bit tired a not a bit sick of running games starring a group of epic-story, star-crossed, lavishly equipped, superstars romping through the world in search of fame and fortune. Instead, I crave dozens of eclectic groups of misfits just bucking the odds and going out there to raise some hell. Bring 'em on- bring on the Losers!

Monday, January 11, 2010

On character motivation (and sound advise from Messrs. Zak and Raggi)

Reading this post from Zak's Playing D&D With Porn Stars gave me another "aha!" moment. It also brought up (not so very) pleasant memories of games I ran in my younger age back in the day. In not a few of these games, I'd often hear a player quip "Why are we in this dungeon again?" to the others, followed by laughter and derision. Things eventually changed. I grew up a bit more, picked up more of the GM-ing craft. Certain players I gamed with grew up too and eventually gave up the fine art of role playing games altogether and became self-professed normal people pursuing normal lives. Eventually, it dawned on me that their absence from my gaming life entailed no big loss at all. In losing them, I later gained better players who turned out to be better friends as well.

My point is that, for the longest time, I struggled with trying to help my players find their characters' motivation for doing what they do in the games I ran.

Zak argues a very good case for adopting what he terms as the 'Roguish Work Ethic' in enhancing the very reasons why your character adventures in the game world. Hence, he makes the following observation:

"Now I don't actually want to talk about playing villains, I want to talk about playing Roguish Heroes. Grey Mouser, Conan, Cugel, Han Solo, and the stereotypically larcenous Old School D&D PC.

Now a Roguish Hero is not the same as a villain, and I am not saying everybody should play Lex Luthor but, functionally, pulpy roguish protagonists and villains have an important thing in common: they want something from the world. Gold, power, the admiration of attractive members of the opposite sex--something. The Upright Hero doesn't really want anything--or at least not anything that would bring him/her into violent conflict with the world as-is. The Upright Hero is not usually proactive, s/he waits until s/he sees injustice (even if it was an injustice that was there all along)."

And continues with this:

"There's a reason why the stereotype of Old School D&D is a bunch of amoral bastards running around killing things and taking their stuff--and it's not just because of the x.p. system. It's because people who just want treasure don't need to be given a reason to go into a cave or a lair or an abandoned city or the HQ of the local Wizard's Guild and they can pick freely which one they want to do first, since the fact that the lair contains a despotic vampire that plagues the countryside and the cave just has a dumb animal with big teeth in it doesn't automatically impose a moral imperative on Roguish PCs to deal with the vampire first"

And this archetypal "bunch of amoral bastards running around killing things and taking their stuff" is by no means to be confined to D&D. I've had the pleasure of GM-ing such amoral bastards who had, at one time or another, taken a multitude of guises and forms including, but not limited to, German Fallschirmjager, Soviet Frontoviki, survivors of the US 5th Mechanized division near Kalisz, proto-Dunedain in Beleriand, Travellers in the Spinward Marches, mercenaries for the PanGalactic Corporation, and questing pilgrims in the Known Worlds. Different worlds, different characters, different systems -yes, but still the same concept applies to all.

He hit the point spot-on as regards character motivation. Ultimately, the player who plays proactively, who works to make things happen, makes the game move forward, perhaps just as much as the referee does as he runs the game. To me, this is as much an attitude, as it is an effort to bring the game to life. Everyone wins this way because everyone works together to make things happen.

He also makes a further distinction from the standard "Sandbox" gaming style which, I confess, have never given much thought to in the past, but presently have all but embraced in my current games. He calls this the Quicksandbox, and taking a look at my Mutant Future world, I can see what he's talking about:

"Then there's the Quicksandbox. The world isn't dominated by a single evil, it just completely sucks. This is the basic post-apocalyptic set-up. (It also could just be any old world if you're desperately poor.) Basically--anything any PC tries to do (find water, ammunition, eat pie) is so hard and beset with so many mutants or gangsters or cave bears that heroic effort is required just to do anything. In this case, it doesn't matter if the PCs are Upright Heroes or Roguish because either way they have to act Roguish (i.e. plot, scheme, choose their battles) because otherwise they'll just die immediately. Survival is the plot hook. The only trick in making this kind of thing a true sandbox would be making sure the GM gives the PCs enough information about what's around them that they have different options about where to look for various commodities. Supermarket? Army barracks? Spooky old house?"

He goes on to postulate a Quicksandbox world which sucks AND is dominated by a single evil. Reading this elicited yet another "aha!". My players seem unanimous in describing my games (and resultant gameworlds) as "gritty" ones. This one really seems to be up my alley.

Character motivation.

Without it, even the most intricately designed gameworld played in the most potent game system becomes inert much as a supercharged engine is without gasoline fuel.

Ultimately, I still believe that the process at arriving at, and maintaining the necessary proper character motivation in a given game is one shared by both players and referee, working together to produce something that can be truly great. As a gamemaster, I had agonized quite a bit about this (and I've seen fellow game masters still struggle with this). But the reality is that the gamemaster can really only go so far. The players have to pull their share - after all, arriving at this desired goal is truly a joint effort.

I can't help but remember what Edward James Raggi said here sometime back, which I feel applies to this point:

"If a player complains that he’s bored and that nothing is happening, look at him and say, “I agree. So are you going to do something or not?

It is not the referee’s job during a session to provide excitement for his playing group. His job is to administer the setting and resolve character actions. If the characters are taking no action and are not interacting with the setting, then the referee has literally nothing to do. The players are wasting his time.

Other common standards of pacing become obsolete when dealing with a player-driven adventure xxx

I guess all this kinda reinforces the concept that a face-to-face rpg is really a cooperative effort between everyone who comes to play at the game table.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Musings on character death, et al.

The subject of character death seems to have reared its unlovely head once more in our group's collective gaming lives. For me, this was precipitated by two recent events.

The first was my reading of the collective responses sent in by my players to my GM game survey form I circulated earlier in the week through my gaming egroups. I'll be devoting the responses of my players and their expected effects on my gaming henceforth in a later post. Suffice it to say for now that character death appears to be a geniune issue with not a few of my current players.

The second was the unexpected and brutal deaths of mutants Clem and Clyde during our last Friday night Mutant Future game. A good thing I can say about my current players is their dedication to really building up a well-thought of and played character. Couple this with the emotional investment of making Clem and Clyde survive through six gaming sessions (quite a record for a harassed referee like me to maintain a game this long), I guess the loss of the mutants understandably felt like a real loss for Henry.

For a wee part of the game last Friday, my friend sat there staring at the green plastic mini representing his recently-deceased mutant muttering in tagalog, the equivalent of "Ce'st la vie" over and and over again. Eventually, he picked himself up, dusted himself off, and got back into the thick of it, as every good player does.

These things may strike some gamers as strange or even absurd, but as my gaming group's GM, I can't be blind to them.

For the longest time, character death (if it ever came at all) was few and far between in my gaming group. Our default game system of choice was Gurps and stories were rather story- and plot-driven. Although I seem to have acquired a reputation for running hard-edged, gritty and combat-bloody games, looking back, there were really few character deaths in my games.

Late in 2008, I invested in the boxed set of the Dungeons and Dragons 4th edition rules and started running a campaign for my gaming group. I felt like a fish out of water in the start as everyone else had been playing 4e already and I was astounded to see just how many new rules and concepts there were. And the powers - man, it was like law school all over again: daily powers, utility powers, encounter powers, at-will powers - all on top of skills and feats. Still, it was fun in the beginning.

Then, the tedium kicked in. It seemed a new book arrived every x number of weeks with even more new rules and new races and new crunchy magic items, and so on, ad nauseam. And my gaming group really got off on trying out the newest, crunchiest stuff that came out.

In a way, I got too caught up in trying to run a 'fun game' the way I thought my players (and the unseen game writers) thought I ought to be running the game, not how I thought the game ought to be.

In 2009, I started reading up on various old-school gaming blogs starting out with Grognardia. I started lurking in the old-school gaming forums that came up beginning with the one of Goblinoid Games. All this opened up a whole new world for me, so to speak. I guess you can say I got caught up in the Old-School Gaming Rennaisance movement that is still happening to this day. The old-school explosion really resonated inside my gaming consciousness like nothing else did for a very long time.

Something clicked inside my brain. At this time I was approaching 4e burn-out and I could feel it already. It is ironic that looking back now, my first 4e adventuring party suffered a TPK from me at about this time. Following this, I did hear some grumbles and dark mutterings on the side about the dungeon master applying too many of those "weird old-school gaming ideas" to the 4e game. Maybe they were right. It dawned on me that I had forgotten a very basic core rule that I always held true to my gaming.

I am the game master. I master the game. The rules don't master me. I adjudicate the situation conistently and fairly. If push comes to shove, in a conflict between the rules as written and the game master's decision, the latter should prevail. I know lots of players won't see things this way, but that's how I see things to be. Of course, this presupposes that the game master should be fair and consistent in his rulings, else tyrrany and absurdity arises thereafter.

On the other hand, character death is more sticky. Player emotions can be involved- particularly in view of the emotional investment made by a player for a well-played character. Significantly, the advise given by James Edward Raggi on Adventure Writing appearing in his Lamentations of the Flame Princess provides a very do-able answer in addressing such a concern:

"The most important thing to remember when constructing an adventure is to not assume that the PCs will succeed at any point during the adventure.

As a referee, your job is to be completely impartial during game play. You have absolute power at the game table and can bequeath success or mandate failure at any time. Doing either of those things ruins the game, as both give no incentive to play well.

Do not fudge the dice. Ever. Luck is a part of the game, and the dice are there for a reason. Resist the temptation of sparing characters that fail or even die due to “bad luck” or a “stupid die roll.”

Would it be acceptable to tell a player that just rolled a stunning success that you’ve decided, just because it’s more fun, that the die roll doesn’t count and he instead failed? I don’t think so. So why would ignoring the dice in the players’ favor be acceptable?

Good game play will tip the scales of fortune and those that rely on pure luck deserve what they get – either way. At the same time, if an incredibly lucky roll derails the entire adventure and gives the players a quick victory, it should stand. It needs to work both ways. When the dice go badly for the players, they should be thinking of how to not let a roll of the die be the sole determiner of their fates. And when the dice go a little too well for the players, the referee should note what he needs to do to prevent a single die roll from determining the course of an entire adventure.

Traditional games are all about the players (and referee) learning to play better over time. The characters’ experience gains are secondary. Demand and reward player excellence and the game will be more challenging in the long run."

In turn, I arrived at the realization that if you really consider your character very valuable and worthy of the emotional investment you placed upon him, then it is your duty to play excellently, whereby ensuring that a single die roll does not result in the death of the character; that the fate of your character does not purely rely upon the scales of fortune or the outcome of a single die roll.

Hindsight is always 20/20 and I would not go so far as to venture with certainty that Clem and Clyde could have easily survived the encounter against the mutant scorpions if everyone started blasting away with their newly-acquired firepower instead of saving their ammo until the last minute. What I can safely say is that the death of Clem and Clyde was an example of a character's fate being determined by a single (saving) throw of the dice. Maybe people could have hedged their survival chances by blasting away for a mad minute at the first opportunity. Or maybe they could have ran away instead. Perhaps this is when playing excellently really comes to the fore.

Finally, there comes a time when even despite one's best efforts, something really happens and throws the whole thing out of whack. Characters will die as RPGs in general (at least as far as I'm concerned) largely involve killing and death. If that happens, then reflect on how the character lived. There is a story out there and death is not the end of anything, by no means! Great times are remembered and the memory of an excellently played character is the best way to ensure gaming immortality.

As I write this I recall a few players I had in my previous Fading Suns gaming group. One of them was a real thespian - the sort that cries in-game while role playing the angst of her Vampire character (yes, they were really into that style of gaming). One valentine's day in 1999, I was pleasantly surprised to receive flowers (of all things)from this player before running a game. A really nasty part of me asked myself if these were burnt offerings made to appease the GM (we were running through a dungeon-type game against some Zerg-like baddies called the Symbiots). Halfway through the game, it seemed like her character would die after getting badly mauled by a Symbiot critter. Some recalculations confirmed this was not the case so she lived.

In the meantime, she was beside herself anguish and was on the edge of what seemed like mild hysteria at the thought of a beloved character dying. She even threatened to take back the flowers.

I really didn't give a fig about the flowers but I was mildly put off, to say the least, by her reaction. If that happened to me today, knowing what I know now, I'd most likely just laugh in everyone's collective face and get back to the game.

Episode Seven (Part 2) - Wars of Cats, Mutants, Mice and Men

The party pushes on past sunset under the cover of trees. The blood red sun has since set and night comes swiftly and dark on Cygnet Delta. Aleph, the silver moon is rising in the night sky. Everyone is jumpy and on edge after the death of two of their Mutie companions. By now, they can glimpse a familiar river flowing eastward towards the mine entrance. The water swiftly flows under Aleph's light.

In the dimness of the forest, both Zed and Albus, Muties with Thermal Vision spot the intruders first. They are approaching directly head-on about a hundred feet away, through the foliage. Max orders a halt, and everyone climbs swiftly off the wagon, advancing in a skirmish line ahead of the lizards-of-burden.

As they come closer, the party makes out the intruders to be intelligent bipedal rats - a patrol of six advancing in single file. The unmistakable outline of thin-muzzled slug throwers are spotted amongst the Rats.

As one, the party takes aim at the approaching Animal Muties - there appears to be no conserving of ammo this time. Marcus shouts out a challenge in Common Norte. At this, the Rats halt amidst squeaks of alarm and urgency. Marcus repeats his challenge but all they see is the Rats bringing up their fusils to bear.

"Hit 'em!" comes the command and the forest silence is shattered violently by the crack of Albus' AK as well as accompanying fire from laser pistol, plasma gun and the booming of a shotgun. As the echoes die out, none of the Rats are standing.

ML's note: It appears that the death of Henry's muties convinced everyone not to take chances. Everyone broke out the guns and decided to shoot first. Good thing they won initiative on the first round. All rolls hit well and as a result, they blew away all the wandering monsters from that encounter in just one single melee round!

They loot the bodies and find each Rat carrying a musket and ball, with the rearmost appearing to be a leader type. The leader was packing a plasma gun, almost identical to the one they liberated from the Buggems.

They decide to relocate and nervously push on towards the entrance of the mine even in the forest darkness. Eventually, they spot the edge of the treeline and the entrance of the Mine: a cave in the cliffside with a river running right inside it. Only now, there are campfires on the shore nearby and the outlines of more Rats. Lots of them.

ML's note: At this point, the players start arguing. It is becoming increasingly apparent that the Mine of the erstwhile Brainlashers has been taken over by a tribe of Animal Muties.

Just then, the stillness of the forest is again shattered by explosions from their left flank - far off across the river. There are sharp reports of gunfire and then, automatic fire. From their hidden place they see the Rats scatter, grabbing up arms and falling back to the Mine's entrance.

As if this wasn't enough, there is a heavy pounding of hooves and the crash of foliage being knocked aside far off on the right flank. They catch a glimpse of huge rabbit-like mounts, leaping at great speed through the forest. Astride each of the mounts is a feline warrior, saber bared and hanging on for dear life. They count about eight riders charging into the Rats' encampment.

ML's note: At this point, Doc Ben-g rolls up his eyes and says: "This is so Kamandi". I guess from my players' reactions, I really succeeded in 'Kirby-ing up' this encounter. For the record, my inspiration for the dragoons was JDJarvis' recent Mutant Future post on mutant future steeds. Excellent material!

"Panther swordsmen on giant leaping rabbits," remarks Marcus Truman. "What have we gotten ourselves into?"

Then, they sense they are being watched. They see a stealthy hulking humanoid form approaching from the rear. It seems almost human - and approaches with a hand raised in greeting.

Only Max breaks cover and parleys with the newcomer who turns out to be a Homo Erectus. This one seems more intelligent, though. They learn that the Homo Erectus is called Urgall. Urgall is certainly no friend of the Rats and claims to be allied to enemies of the Rats. He adds his friends are nearby.

While this is happening the distant sounds of battle are slowly dying out.

Urgall 'friends' emerge into the bush shortly. As expected, these are more Panther warriors led by what appears to be a tall, spotted feline. The Animal Mutant carries himself like a freebooter - complete with bicorne hat, a brace of pistols and frock coat. For a while everyone is edgy and guns are pointed at everyone else. The adventurers are most uncomfortably aware that they are outnumbered and quite possibly, outgunned. Fortunately, Urgall intervenes.

The Animal Mutants are prevailed upon to hold fire. Their spotted leader (apparently a Cougar) is introduced as Captain Krat. After convincing the Captain that they are no friends of the Rats, the group is 'requested' to accompany the felines away from the Mine entrance. Not seeing much choice in the matter, the group goes along.

By now, the rabbitoid dragoons have returned from their raid bearing bloody Rat heads on the saddles of their furry mounts. Captain Krat leads his band some ways down the river. Our adventurers are surprised to see a heavy, armed merchant boat chugging towards the shore. They group clambers aboard and Krat gives orders to sail away.

Aboard Krat's boat, Max discloses their group's identity: that they were the ones who slew the Brain Lashers and made their way through the mine some weeks back. The felines meow and hiss with derision - claiming this was another baldfaced lie by the hairless weakling Humans. Krat's first mate, a hulking orange furry feline called Tommy-kat suggests getting it over with and gutting the Humans for supper. After all, he argues, the crew is sick of Rat-meat for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Things are looking ugly again but Captain Krat restrains his crew. He decides to suspend judgment and thinks he has a place in his plans for these Humans and their freakish brethren (drawing dangerous looks from Albus and Zed). He says he means to make war upon the Rats and completely extirpate their kind from the Mine.

By now, the boat has stopped and our adventurers find themselves adrift at the junction the lesser Azure they recognize. Suddenly, out from the misty distance, a hulking mass floats towards their craft, positively dwarfing it. The approaching ship is tall, crowned with iron constructs, galleries and weapons bays. It is an agglomeration of salvaged and machined parts, to form an imposing superstructure.

"Welcome," purrs Krat in a low baritone, "to my ship - the Grand Cat-Tamaran!"

ML's note: The last scene was inspired by one of Sniderman's Thundarr Thursday episodes from the Savage Afterworld, in particular Captain Kordon's eclectic, whacky warship! I just could not resist passing up using the look of the ship as an inspiration for the Grand Cat-Tamaran.

As one, our adventurers ask themselves earnestly just exactly they have gotten themselves into. All of a sudden, life seemed very secure and peaceful back at Sanly Bowitts just now.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Episode Seven (Part 1)- Scorpions!

Game session of 8 January 2010

Dramatis Personae:

Clem - Human Mutie (Henry)

Clyde - Human Mutie (Henry)

Max Plissken - Normal Human (Nikos)

Marcus Truman - Normal Human (JY)

Zed - Human Mutie (Doc Ben-g)

Albus - Human Mutie (Doc Ben-g)

Spielmeister - deranged Mutant Lord

Our story:

After succesfully defeating the buggems in Jeffton, our heroes return to Sanly Bowitts for a few days of rest and recreation. Based in their old hangout, the Strontium Ninety Inn, they indulge in rumor mongering and gossip to get a feel of the local state of affairs.

Amongst the things learned after guzzling dozens of drinks in the bar are the following:

1. Stories of a great and powerful wizard who has set himself up in the Iron Fortress. The latter is said to be an ancient citadel somewhere up north just short of the Barrier Peaks.

2.Mysterious disappearances from outlying villages to the south of Sanly Bowitts have increased. It is said that recent slaver activity from the southern desert is responsible for such disappearances.

3. Horrifying tales of golden statues attacking merchant caravans and travelers of the wasteland near the lake area are spreading. It is still not known what these golden statues are, or where they came from. The militia though, has recently taken an interest in this matter.

Led by Max, our adventurers pay a visit to the town's University, in the hopes of seeking sagacious advice from its leaders. They eventually gain admittance and befriend Oric, an apprentice to the Sage Melfis. After disclosing their identity as those who earlier made a generous donation to the University in the form of a carcass of giant reptile, Apprentice Oric identifies some of the more sundry items they retrieved from their past travels.

ML's note: Much to Oric's (and the ML's) amusement on such item was a miscellaneous pouch containing sterile syringes no-one could figure out how to open. Oric easily pulled the tab of the pouch's zipper thus opening the item for all to see. Nonetheless, all this lighthearted roleplaying was a a lot of fun for everyone after a toxic week at work.

They managed to gain audience to two of the University's sages - the Excellencies Melfis and Ultan. They were bid to return to the University in a few days as Master Melfis expects to have a proposal to make to them at that time.

With this, the group stocked up on provisions and munitions and hitched their trusty wagon as they headed out into the wilds. It was previously agreed that the party will now return to the Mine of the Brain Lashers with a view towards retrieving the functioning Regneration Tank they left behind in a previous adventure.

After crossing the Lesser Azure river north of the fortified town, the party proceeded north on a dirt track. It is end of summer and the journey to the north was most agreeable and peaceful for the most part.

ML's note: I kept getting negative rolls on my random encounter charts so most of the land travel was uneventful. That is, until....

The beginning of the third day in the wasteland found the party what became a familiar stretch of desert west of the Poison Forest. Save for the waves of midday heat and a lignering nausea for Zed and Albus, the party now finds themselves nearer to the riverside entrance of the Mine.

ML's note: Eventually, my players figured out they were at the smaller tributary of the Lesser Azure, a part of which was radioactive desert which took a toll on the party in Episode Two.

Just at this point, Clyde alerts the rest when he sees four sinister giant scorpions advancing upon them. The party lets loose with a fusilade of bolts, a few bullets and the Plasma Pistol now being fired by Zed. Three a killed before they could come to grips with the adventurers. Max recognizes the critters and yells that these are most dangerous beasts: one sting is enough to kill and unlucky adventurer!

ML's note: Earlier this week, I circulated a GM's assessment questionnaire to my players. One noteworthy response was my players' apperent fear and dislike for 'save or die attacks/traps'. Keeping this in mind, I decided to toss them a lifeline and make Max (the group's brainiest warrior)make an INT roll (which he succesfully made by a large margin). I then hinted to them (in very strong terms) that these scorpions had a 'save or die sting'.

Surprisingly, perhaps my players chose to conserve ammo (even if each one had a gun to fire by this point) and use crossbow bolts instead. They soon realized that crossbows weren't that effective against AC2 giant scorpions. Thus it came to this:

The last scorpion closed in for the kill and pounced upon the hapless Clem. Although he already triggered his Damage Turning Mutation, this did not stop the poison from coursing through his veins after being struck by the scorpion's nasty sting. And right in front of his horrified mates, the intrepid Clem simply shuddered and... died.

As if this was not bad enough, the scorpion remained alive and pressed its attack -this time against a frantic Clyde. The unfortunate Clyde took the full force of the scorpion's stinger on his chest while frantically grabbing at the attacking critter. Once more, the poision proved too much, killing Clyde. By a stoke of irony, Clyde's Dermal Poison Slime also killed off his attacker. Clyde's dying rush at the scorpion smeared it in turn with the slime, whereupon it promptly died.

ML's note: This was a sudden reversal having two of the party's more potent Muties die suddenly from one remaining wounded critter that refused to die. Henry (who played both Muties) appeared to be in shock after losing both characters in the space of two melee rounds. I noticed thereafter that my players were more liberal in using their newly-acquired firepower.

At the end of the battle, the group is confronted by a grisly spectacle. Clyde lies dead, impaled by the scorpion's sting while clutching the likewise dead scorpion in a poisoned deathgrip.

With the loss of their much loved companions, the party pushed on to the north, finally coming upon the forested areas near the entrance to the Mine. Even as it was getting dark, everyone agreed to push on until they gain the lake outside the underground river's entrance to the Mine.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A Proper Introduction

I was just stealing a sneaky break and by trawling the messages of my gaming egroups for the year 2009, I stumbled upon the introduction I cobbled up for some (expected) new players during the start of my ongoing Mutant Future game. I'm just posting it here for (1) posterity, (2) and additional information and insight into our present campaign. It goes something like this:

"The time of the Ancients is gone, and the world suffers under the light of a
blood red sky.

It is said that the race of men is old, older than we think. It is said that
long ago, the race of men sailed the empty gulfs of darkness between the stars
in the heavens in great ships that majestically glided throughout the void. Some
say this is how our world, benighted Cygnet Delta came to be our home.

It is said that out of the travails and chaos spawned by men's voyages
throughout the endless empty gulfs, an age of greatness and reason came to be.
It was a time of immense wealth and promise and they called it The Republic.

But out of that time of light followed a time of trouble, of hubris and sin.
Violence fed on anger and birthed such strife that all the good brought about by
men's blood and toil came to naught and was swallowed up by a ravening evil that
ultimately destroyed The Republic.

It was a time of portents and omens on the earth and in the heavens, until even
the sun began to die, seeming to fade before its time.

As the generations of light passed on, so were born the generations of darkness,
benighted and cursed under the blood red sky of Cygnet Delta.

This is a tale of such times and those who lived and died in them…"

Ah well, back to the salt mines for me now....

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

In Your Face!

I remember coming across this awesome piece of old school post-apoc gaming art sometime back but for the life of me, I could not remember where I saw it. Then, I finally ran saw it in an edited post of Malcadon in the Mutant Future Wiki. Malcadon, did you do this piece? If so, please accept my heartfelt thanks. You did great!

As I sit here waiting for the baby to sleep and garner inspiration for my Friday Mutant Future game, my thoughts turn to Jack Kirby and Kamandi, the Last Boy on Earth. I've just finished exchanging angst with a cousin who's visiting from overseas, I'm exhausted as hell, seeing double, and have a ton of stuff to tackle on the morrow.

And this piece of In-Your-Face art is the just the very thing I need to get me looking forward to a game and get me through the work week. Jack Kirby. Kamandi. And my game is going to rock harder than it ever had before!

Episode Six: A Crawly, Creepy End?

Game session on 29 December 2009

Meeting Engagement

The party continues to advance down the darkened passage with their lamps fully lit and weapons at the ready. Clem spots movement up ahead, and as one, they drop to a crouch. Two Buggems show up further down the passage, weapons at the ready. This is no surprise encounter for anyone.

They cut loose with bolts – lots of bolts, but the Buggems are firing back too, with deadly effect. Albus squeezes the trigger of his assault rifle repeatedly and sends round and after round away but he keeps missing.

ML’s note: Doc Ben-g was rolling really badly for this encounter. He virtually went through the balance of one magazine for his AK with nothing much to show for it!

Finally, one of their insectoid adversaries drops. The other, sensing that the odds have dramatically shifted against him, begins backing off quickly, all the while pelting the party with bolts. He takes shelter at a nearby curve down the passageway he emerged from. From there, he holds off his attackers.

“Somebody take him down!!!”

ML’s note: I failed my morale check but only by one point, so it was a fighting retreat for the remaining Buggem. He took refuge in the curve up ahead and kept firing away till they took him down. However…

The last insectoid goes down, but not until he had started up a weird noisy keening scream which echoes throughout the tunnel complex. Zed, crouching fearfully in the rear rolls his eyes and mutters ominously.

“Now we’ve had it. Becha all that screaming’s gonna alert the whole nest to us now.”


It is eerily silent. Everyone is expecting trouble in a big way. Only the flickering light of Clem’s lantern fills the yawning darkness.

They hear a muffled thump beyond the curve of the passage, then many running alien feet. Then… silence.

“I don’t like the looks of this,” mutters Max Plissken, drawing sword and laser.

They round the corner, stepping over the last Buggem they killed. They see the passage go on a little distance more and then branch into a three-way split. It is deathly quiet. Albus and Clem spot an object lying on the ground right in the center of the branching passages. From where they are, it looks like a silver- colored backpack of average size.

ML’s note: None of my players really could make sense of this so they got into bickering and a lot of speculation. After some arguments, they just decided to walk up to it (as a group!) and have the point-men poke the silver bundle with a stick.

After a hurried discussion, the party marches forward until they are only ten feet away from the silver bundle on the floor – whereupon without any warning there is blinding flash and deafening WHA-BOOOOM!!!

ML’s note: The trap really got them bad. This was one of the last encounters in the mini-adventure contained in the module. Unbeknownst to the group, the Master Buggem and his troops got wind of the party’s foray and decided to take proactive steps in countering them. The silver bundle was, of course, a Satchel Charge Type B (p. 120, Mutant Future rules) which was deployed by the Master Buggem with a proximity detonator activated. I was just really surprised how careless everyone got and just waltzed off en masse towards the Satchel Charge!

The blast knocks everyone sprawling, destroying their lamps and blowing out their lights. The deafened, stunned adventurers have only moments to spare as the Buggems charge right out of a side passage, waving cold steel in anger.

Clem gets up and, while taking some hits from the assaulting Buggems starts dishing out some of it back with his Damage Turning mutation. Albus starts blasting away with deadly effect at close range with the AK. At this point, only Albus can see his targets with his Thermal Vision mutation. Zed, at the end of the column can also see in the dark but refuses to look up in fear, and instead concentrates fervently on lighting a torch. Along with poison-skin Clyde, two torches are lit and raised in the dark.

By now, fighting is close in and deadly – but suddenly, out of another side passage there is an impossibly painful flash, followed by the wash of a cyan actinic beam of energy that is fired and impacts upon Clem. The flash of arc-light shows another Buggem farther down the passage; this one smaller-seeming yet sneaky, aiming an oversized pistol-like artifact at Clem. Clem is badly burned but still in the fight, thanks to his Damage Turning power.

ML’s note: We had a slight dispute at this point as Henry’s interpretation of the rules (per pp. 28-29 of Mutant Future) was that Damage Turning any incoming damage to the origin of attack – which is what the rules say verbatim. My take on this was that the Damage Turning power happened only to melee or touch-based attacks. That said, I exercised ML’s fiat (a decidedly old-school concept my players have generally accepted) but ruled that for the purposes of this encounter, Clem’s Damage Turning ability may reflect the damage away like an energy shield (but did not affect the Buggem firer). I do admit that this was a less than satisfactory ruling but I felt that a compromise was in order as I did not find it fair to punish Henry for believing in good faith that his Damage Turning ability applied even to missile attacks. Anyone ever had a chance to use this mutation in his game?

At this point, Zed fails his Phobia attack and runs off for a combat round, his torch dropping to the ground and going out. The party carries the attack to the Buggems and Albus concentrates fire on Master Buggem- whereupon he is also singed badly by plasma pistol return fire. Zed re-rolls his Phobia and comes up with a berserk result. Together with everyone else, they swiftly cut down the Buggem drones and swamp the Master before it could deal more fiery ruin upon them. Soon, the fight is over and some healing from their stock of Ancient medicines is in order, considering how much damage they all took.

With the death of the Master Buggem and its retinue, the party carefully search out the rest of the caverns but only find one dying, bloated human who was left in a cavern warded by a trench of flaming coals. The cavern turns out to be the Buggems’ hatchery. Plissken, after crossing over the coals, finds the remains of adult Normals who tragically bear a resemblance to the children they rescued earlier. These, they sadly conclude, are the remains of Miko and Nica’s missing parents.

ML’s note: Henry kept missing his dexterity checks when leaping over the coals and burned his characters coming in. In disgust, he piled the dead bodies of the Normals on the coals as a gruesome bridge, much to the rest of the party’s dismay. I always knew those Muties were a pretty callous lot.

Mopping Up

The rest of the time was spent clearing out the caverns and looting what remained of any useful items or relics to be found lying about.

ML’s note: I had a big laugh when the group chanced upon a herp egg chamber and one herp larvae in the process of climbing out of its egg stuck to the wall. In their eagerness to kill the herp, the front melee attackers kept getting hit by crossbow bolts fired by their buddies at the back (bad rolls in combination with bad tactics – shooting over your friends is not a good idea). What really amused me was that Clem got shot by Max Plissken who rolled a critical failure. The bolt turned out to be poisoned and Clem failed his saving throw. So much self-inflicted damage for so little returns. Maybe my players were just tired already.

The group finally cleared the caverns and returned to Jeffton. A hero’s welcome awaited them and rightfully, the goodwill of the village folk. Now, their group arsenal is steadily growing with the addition of the Mayor’s reward of a serviceable pump-action shotgun and a civilian-issue laser pistol.

ML's note: Sometime during the roleplaying session with the villagers in Jeffton, the party was asked about any remains of the children's deceased parents. I had a big laugh seeing everyone keep silent and look at the Muties Clem and Clyde who, without batting an eyelash promptly answered: "I'm afraid the bodies were, er- cremated."

Post game talk: This was our last game for 2009, being a few days from New Year’s day. I was happy to see that Nikos and the rest of the group finally grabbed up my hand-drawn hex map and started pointing at areas of interest for future games. I filed these all away with pleasant thoughts of future adventures just down the line. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we’ll have more time to play with work and all.

Surprisingly, Henry convinced everyone to return to the Mine of the Brain Lashers they successfully completed sometime back. It appears they have not forgotten the operational Regeneration Tank which they had to leave behind in the Mine. Last thing I heard was that our group of intrepid wasteland warriors are gearing up for an extended land expedition to retrieve the Regen Tank back up north.

But then, that’s hopefully the subject for this Friday night’s game, and another story altogether.