Thursday, February 25, 2010

Stonehell Dungeon - the deep levels - a spaceship?

[Edit] Michael Curtis dropped in on the comments below and disabused me of my fantasy.  No spaceship in Stonehell for me!  I am sure I will still love the deep levels anyway.[/Edit]

I recently interviewed Michael Curtis, outstanding member of the blog-o-sphere over at the Society of Torch, Pole and Rope, as well as the author of Stonehell Dungeon - Down Night Haunted Halls and the amazing Dungeon Alphabet.  I wrote a review of Stonehell Dungeon and the review and interview were published today at the Eye of the Vortex.

In the interview I asked Michael about the upcoming publication that will detail the deep levels of Stonehell.

In his answer, Michael let this delicious hint drop,

"... a section that I’m tentatively calling the Astronaut’s Tomb. It’s been on the list since the early days of the dungeon’s construction and I hope that people either absolutely love it or completely hate it once they see it for themselves.

I am a huge fan of mixing my genres.  Sci-Fi and Fantasy tend to blur together in my games, and I get the feeling that this level is going to really tickle my fancy.  I hope this is an entombed spaceship, deep beneath the earth.  I have my fingers crossed, and Michael, if you are reading this, keep me in mind as an illustrator because I love this idea.  

Having already horked an entire sublevel of Stonehell Dungeon for use in my Mutant Future game (the greenhouse level full of plant monsters) I am pretty sure I could plop the Astronaut's Tomb into my game with minimal alterations.  

Of course, my first thought when thinking spaceships and D&D is Expedition to the Barrier Peaks and the great booklet of art that came with the module.  To be sure, I could be reading too much into Michael's level title, but I hope that the Astronaut's Tomb is an homage of sorts to that classic module.

Sci-Fi and high tech are a lot of fun on their own rights, but they are even better when you get to experience players blundering towards an understanding of them while they try to apply their regular fantasy/D&D metagame knowledge to the situation at hand.  One of my favorite early D&D memories was getting to run through the Temple of the Swamp as a player and slowly figuring out that there were robots and aliens running around.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

2e Tuesday - Centisteeds (Fast Trotters)

That's right, Gamma World 2nd edition... what 2e did you think I meant?  Every Tuesday I will pick one of my favorite monsters from the fully illustrated bestiary included in the 2d edition Gamma World Basic Rules Booklet and convert it to Mutant Future.  Today's monster is...

Centisteeds (Fast Trotters)

No. Enc: 1d4
Alignment:  Neutral
Movement: 240' (80)  
Armor Class: 3
Hit Dice: 8
Attacks: 4 (4 hooves)
Damage:  1d6/1d6/1d6/1d6
Save:  L4
Morale: 3
Hoard Class: none

Why ride a horse when you can ride an 18-heeler?  Centisteeds resemble horses with insectoid eyes and 10 + 2d4 legs.  Two medium sized creatures can ride a centisteed, but one of them must maintain full concentration on the mount to control it.  A centisteed that throws a rider will not hesitate to trample her!  Despite their temperament and prodigious appetite, centisteeds are greatly sought after because they can emit a force field to protect themselves and their riders. 

Mutations:  Aberrant Form; Force Screen, Greater; Increased Caloric Needs

Knights on Centisteeds have a certain charm for me.  I like these guys. 

A Night of Terror, Confusion and Love in an Elven Castle

(also known as Mutant Future sessions 30&31 Recap)

Yes, this is what it has come to in my Mutant Future campaign.  My group of lecherous characters (lecherous players?), upon finding themselves invited to stay the night with a bunch of beautiful, tall elven folk in a castle on a lake, immediately set about none-too-delicately feeling out the likelihood of a midnight rendezvous with one of the Queen's three lovely daughters.  Or one of the daughters of the Elven Nobility who joined them at dinner.  Or one of the mothers of one of the daughters of the Elven Nobility!  Of course, this last proposition was broached by the mother in question, one Yarro, to James Bomb (self appointed "faceman" of the party and ladies' man of interdimensional repute), while she responded to the latter's questions about the sexual practices of her people.  Yarro explained that according to the laws of her people, both sexes had to remain chaste until marriage, but once married sexual dalliances were permitted and common.

While this was not originally what Mr. Bomb had been hoping for, he is ever one to adjust to a new scenario on the fly and he smoothly segued into making an appointment with Yarro for the wee hours of the morning.  She was to come to his room, as the party had been rather strongly "asked" to remain in their chambers after nightfall while staying as guests in the castle.

Some backstory may be in order (and a fair warning may be in order as well - I feel a long post coming on...) before I proceed with relating the events of the evening (which occurred during Sunday's Mutant Future session).

You may recall that the party was contemplating travelling through a dimensional portal to a land covered in purple goo where elves fight dragons.  Apparently, catching a glimpse of a possible future that included swords emitting beams of light and dragon loot was enough to persuade our stalwart band of mutant heroes (troublemakers?) to abandon their swampy home for some new digs.  While the party currently has two members who possess the Plane Shift mutation, one of them had already used their mutation this game week so the party was guaranteed a stay of at least five days in the other dimension until he could open another portal back to the Mutant Future we all know and love.

So off they go.  The party that stepped through the portal consisted of James Bomb, Bozko (giant shapeshifting nettle plant; possesses an "iron man" suit), Stang (21' long Wasp with four extra malfunctioning brains exhibiting the personalities of the Beetles), Bob (the mutant human incapable of feeling pain), Dr. Hops (the "were-rabbit" as his player likes to call him; capable of teleportation),  Rok (mutant human apparently made out of obsidian; one of the plane-shifters), Shazaam Alottapus (precog and the other plane-shifter), Pliskins (the man who can turn himself into a sugar glider - the myth, the truth, the legend!; precog with gamma-ray eyes), and Saurus (the empath who can turn himself into a velociraptor.  A Jurassic Park velociraptor, thank you for much, and keep the turkey-sized dinosaurs for yourselves).

Pliskins in Sugar Glider form

This is a pretty normal amount of players for one of my Mutant Future sessions.  Seven to nine is the norm, more than the three or four that I often hear bandied about as the "ideal" size of group for D&D.

When the party first entered the strange land, events proceeded more or less how Shazaam had foreseen them.  They found a tall elf clad in shining platemail, wielding a glowing sword that shot beams of light at a great green-scaled dragon.  With one well placed shot, Shazaam distracted the dragon and the elf lopped its head off in one clean motion.  Despite the language barrier, the party and the elf made their introductions.  When some party members began trying to remove scales from the downed dragon, the elf vigorously stopped them, gesturing at a castle that gleamed in the middle of a lake.  A large raft bearing two sturdy wagons was making its way across the lake to the near shore of a thickly wooded forest.  The forest ran up almost to where the party and elf stood, and beyond this point the world appeared to be covered in a fleshy purple substance that formed faces in the hills and seemed to slowly stretch and breath.

Not wanting to offend the knight (and possibly more than a little bit afraid of the lethal sword that hung casually in his hand), the party waited calmly while the wagons trundled through the woods up to them.  A crew of hairy, 3 1/2' tall beings quickly and silently dismounted from the wagons and began efficiently dissecting the dragon.  They unfurled coils of a nearly invisible wire fitted with handles on either end.  These they used to slice the dragon into rounds as easily as you might push a butter knife through warm water.  When the wagons were loaded with the remains of the dragon, the elf gestured for the party to climb aboard and they all retired to the castle.

Along the way, they noticed that the trees ran in perfectly straight rows, as if they had been planted.  When they crossed the lake on their way to the castle, they saw a huge, serpent like form swimming deep in the lakes depths.

Stang, who had been acting like an unintelligent beast, had chosen not to accompany the party and started to fly around the area.  She saw that the purple mass covered everywhere she could see except the small one mile radius patch of forest surrounding the lake and castle.  She tried to fly higher to get a better idea of exactly how far this purple substance extended, but her terrible eyesight and the quarreling voices of the Beetles in her head made this mission impossible and she rejoined her companions.  As she was flying toward the castle she did see something the rest of the party had missed - on top of one of the two highest towers in the castle was a rooftop garden that appeared to be constructed in concentric circles around a tree on a pedestal.

In the meantime, the elf had taken the rest of the party through the gates of the castle, across a courtyard and into a large hall where they were introduced to a regal elf wearing an ornate dress and a crown of silver.  She appeared to understand the party when they spoke, and responded in their own tongue.  When the party inquired if there was any way for them to communicate with the other elves, the queen apologized for her rudeness and procured a set of necklaces from an extra-dimensional place.  Placing a necklace over the neck of each character, she told them that as long as they wore the necklaces, they would be be understood and would understand any spoken language.

The queen then introduced her three daughters, pale skinned and black-haired like their mother (and in marked contrast to the blonde haired gent with the platemale and light-sword), who showed the party to their guest chambers and told them that a dinner would be held in their honor in one hours time.  Mr. Bomb, Shazaam and Pliskins were all trying to make a move on one princess or another, but none seemed affected by the strangers' charms.  Around this point is when Stang returned, still pretending to be a dumb beast of burden for the party, and Dr. Hops "put her" in the stable for the night.

At dinner, much was learned about the elven people.  Apparently, this little patch of forest was the last bit of this world not covered by the purple blight, which spawned the dragons and other monsters that sought to destroy the elves.  Only the bravery of the three Champions, each wielding a mythic weapon and wearing plate-mail handed down through generations of Champions, prevented this last bastion from succumbing.  The party seemed to buy this explanation, but some members asked probing questions about how this came to be, and what happened to all the rest of the elves people.  These and all other questions about the past were met with a smile from the queen, a slight tilt of her head, and the sudden loss of the train of thought in the questioner's mind.

The dinner was attended by a number of couples identified as "nobles", who shared the generally tall, lanky and blonde haired appearance of the champions.  Indeed, only the queen and her three daughters had black hair and dark eyes.  The guards stationed through the castle grounds ate separately.  Acting as waiters during the meal were more of the short, hairy individuals who had butchered the dragon.  They moved just as silently and efficiently in the delicate ballet of table service as they had while field dressing a dragon.  In fact, only one of these creatures was heard to talk all night, an individual who self-identified as "Grosso", who got into a conversation with Dr. Hops about a servant's role.  Grosso did not appear to be unhappy with his lot as a servant to the elves, and Dr. Hops pretended to be the party's servant in a plan to possibly gain access to the servants' quarters of the castle later on.  One highlight of the meal was Pliskins' ill-advised use of his precog ability.  He decided to foresee the consequences of asking the queen f he could "hook-up" with her daughters (or some such crude and not very courtly at all language).  He died too quickly in his precog to be able to tell what happened, which meant that in real life his body slumped unconscious over the table for ten minutes!

As the last courses were being served, a petulant elven youth strode down the main stairs into the dining hall and took his seat at the end of the table opposite the queen.  She introduced him to the party as Prince Coriander, and he immediately started grilling the party about their presence in his castle.  Sensing a bit of hostility from the prince, James Bomb attempted to smooth things over but ended up saying exactly the wrong thing and really setting Prince Coriander on edge.  Soon, Coriander challenged Mr. Bomb to a friendly duel after dinner, a practice fencing match "to first blood".

(read this blog post to find out what mechanics I use to simulate a master fencer)

Rok, Shazaam and Pliskins all instantly volunteered to take Mr. Bomb's place in the practice ring against the prince, and it was agreed that they should all retire to the practice chamber after dinner.  The rest of the guests socialized while the servants cleared the hall in preparation for a dance.  An orchestra of the hairy shortlings assembled and began to play otherworldly waltzes.

Meanwhile, Prince Coriander had handily defeated Rok, who is easily the parties most impressive physical combatant.  The Prince's triumph was short-lived, however.  Amazingly, Shazaam managed to score a hit and win his match (I had some epically bad rolls for the prince), and the Prince seemed to warm up to them after that.  More importantly (in Shazaam's mind), the princess that he had is eye on seemed quite impressed with his swordsmanship.

The evening concluded with a tour of the castle grounds and an admonition to be back in their rooms before dark.  They were warned that once the two moons came out, terrible creatures would emerge from the night. The characters learned that the elven guards had orders to kill anything that moved inside or outside the castle at night, as the monsters could take many forms.  Basically, the PCs were told to remain in their rooms OR ELSE...

So of course a good portion of the party decides to go exploring around the castle in the middle of the night.  A new character suddenly materialized in Dr. Hops bedroom (IG-88, the Haiku Magician robot) and it took a little while for the tensions to simmer down and the party to accept that IG-88 meant them no harm and was merely an interdimensional traveler like themselves who had become stranded at this particular spot and moment through sheer happenstance.

Bob opened his shuttered windows and began surveying the night landscape.  He noticed that in the reddish light of the first moon, the forest around the castle had assumed a radically different appearance.  What he had seen as trees in the daylight now appeared to be machinery of some sort, injecting a needle-like device into the ground and plunging it in and out repeatedly.  He notified the rest of the party of this over their com-links.

Pliskins used his precog ability to imagine assuming sugar glider form, gliding down and around the castle to the boats, and attempting to take a boat across the lake.  Just as the raft had done when the laden wagons had pulled onto it earlier in the day, the boat took off apparently under its own propulsion as soon as Pliskins turned back to his normal form and sat in the boat.  Pliskins ended the precog when he foresaw the large serpent-like creature in the lake rear up and reveal itself to be Zombie Nessie!

Stang discovered a secret passageway in the wall of the stable, and after determining that she would have a difficult time navigating the corridor beyond it, she asked if anyone else in the party would like to come down and explore it.  Bozko had opted to stay the night outside in the castles courtyard, hidden in tree form among the trees of the garden.  He reported that all seemed clear.  The only life to be seen was the castle guards at their posts.  Pliskins glided down to join Stang and ventured down the hallway beyond the secret door.  Sliding open the panel at the end of the hall, he found himself peering into a workshop filled with what appeared to be the servants busily splitting beams of wood off of strangely uniform, 12' blocks of perfectly straight grained wood.  The servants seemed to have undergone some kind of transformation and were now completely covered in long black hair, to the point that no skin was visible at all and their suddenly red, glowing eyes gleamed from the backs of hairy pits.  

Despite their spooky appearance, the servants did not seem to notice as Pliskins cautiously entered the room in sugar glider form.  Nor did they notice when he hurled a small chip of wood at one of them.  Looking around for some place to hide, he scurried over to a large pile of wood chips that a small robotic bulldozer seemed to be forming as it traversed the room, pushing the debris created by the busy servants in front of it.

Pliskins buried himself in the pile of wood chips and used his precognition mutation to see what would happen if he just walked up to the large double doors that seemed to be the only exit from the room and pushed them open.  Just as he opened the doors, something jarred his body in the present and he came out of his precog to find himself enclosed in some kind of box, jammed tightly in with all the woodchips.  Unable to escape, he asked for help over the com-link then foresaw what would happen if he simply assumed his human form while trapped in what seemed to be a 2' cube.  He died instantly in his vision of the future, again causing him to pass out in real life for 10 minutes.

Some pretty good hilarity ensued when Pliskins' player realized what he had done.  "I think I just put myself in a wood chipper!"  he announced to the group at large.  Everyone laughed when they realized he had hidden himself in the waste pile which was probably bound for a compressor, or furnace, or chipper, or any number of other horrible places which everyone was bandying about.

Stang, realizing she was the only one near enough to be able to help Pliskins if he were to be in immediate danger, squeezed her bulk through the hallway and calmly entered the room of woodworking servants as if she belonged to be there.  They payed her no attention at all, silently sidestepping to avoid her 21' long body as it filled the side of the chamber, then resuming their work.  She surveyed the room and saw the little bulldozer robot carrying a 2' metal box in its scoop.  It set the box on top of a stack of 7 other boxes so that it now formed a cubic load, and the wagon began trundling itself toward the double door.  Stang swiftly reached out and grabbed the last box from the top of the wagon, hoping that it contained Pliskins.  The wagon proceeded through the doors which quietly opened in front of it.  A gruff voice in the hall commented on the missing box,

"Oi.  Looks like the line is messing up again.  Short one box."

Stang did not wait around, clutching her purloined box to her abdomen as she rapidly made her way back through the secret passageway to the stable.  She was completely unable to open the box, which was made of an unidentifiable metal and had no obvious seams.  In the end, Dr. Hops had to borrow Saurus' vibro-knife (in my campaign a vibro-knife or sword is basically a light saber) and teleport down to the stable to cut Pliskins free.

Meanwhile, Bozko had grown weary of waiting to see if anything happened in the courtyard.  He turned himself into root form and began traveling through the dirt toward the wall underneath the window in his room.  He learned two things during this journey: the dirt in the courtyard was synthetic in origin, completely lacking the normal compounds that he associated with the breakdown of organic matter into dirt; and there was a rhythmic pulsing noise coming from deep underneath the castle.  He decided to investigate the noise and ended up breaking into a natural cave with a steel door set in one wall and a ladder down a chute in the floor.  Hiding on the ceiling, he knocked on the door and observed the first Champion they had met come out and survey the cave.  Bozko's camoflage worked, as the champion did not notice him even when the champion held up his sword and illuminated the cavern with a blinding light.  Bozko noticed that the features of the champion seemed more bestial than he had remembered, even through the obstructions of his ornate helmet.

After trying and failing to sneak into the hallway beyond and nearly getting killed when a guard saw a strange moving patch of fungus on the ceiling and slashed it with his energy sword, Bozko beat a hasty retreat for the surface and returned to his room.  Before this occurred, he saw the Champion return with a hideous figure wearing the clothing of the queen; this figure was green skinned and totally bald, with desiccated facial features and bright yellow eyes.

After Bozko got back to his chambers only Pliskins was not in his designated room, as he had decided that he was not finished exploring the room full of hairy servants.  He once again used his precognition ability to foresee re-entering the woodshop, and saw that a figure wearing the robes of one of the elf nobles was working on the bulldozer robot with his back to the secret panel.  Pliskins (in his vision of the future) walked boldly into the room and strode up far enough to get a good look at the noble.  He saw a werewolf in elvish clothing.

 Pliskins instantly blasted the werewolf in the face with his gamma eyes, rolling a natural 20 and doing a ton of damage.  The werewolf responded by biting his head off, killing him for the third time this session in a precog and yes, causing him to pass out in real life for 10 minutes.  This time, he was also near death from the accumulated damage he had taken in his precogs (every time you die in a precog, you take 2d6 HP real damage).

Two more notable things happened this session.

When Stang finally fell asleep, she had a vivid dream.  She saw the planet from above, completely covered with the purple substance.  Then she saw an egg-shaped spaceship descend from above and land in one of the many small lakes that dotted the surface of the purple expanse.  Soon, elves emerged from the lake and began destroying the purple substance, laying out strange oil-derrick like structures where they had cleared the purple flesh from the ground.  She awoke with the profound conviction that the elves were invaders on this planet, intruders set on destroying the natural life of the world.

And James Bomb slept with a werewolf.

Yarro showed up at his room just as they had planned, and Mr. Bomb decided that while he had not expected such a rough and furry lover, it was in his own best interests to get as close to this valuable informant as he could...

Monday, February 22, 2010

Mutant Houserules

I think it is about time for a little spring cleaning roundup of house rules that I use in my ongoing Mutant Future campaign.  Some of these have already been posted, while some have never seen the light of blog.

Character Creation:

Stats are rolled 3d6 down the line, but any one set of stats may be switched.

If a player feels that the stat rolls are "hopeless", all rolls may be rerolled (but the player is more than welcome to keep the stats as is, and I would look kindly upon such an endeavor).

Androids, Synthetics and any other Robotic characters have a base AC of 7

If a player rolls more negative than beneficial mutations, the player can choose to reroll all mutations.


Initiative is rolled once per combat.  All participants in the combat roll d20 + Dex modifier to determine their place in the combat order.

Mutants that are more than double man sized (roughly) have natural weapons that do double the amount listed under natural weapons (2d4, 2d6 or 2d8 depending on the d6 roll at character creation).

Called shots to the head are at a -4 penalty to hit but do double damage if the target has a brain.  The called shot penalty will increase to a minimum of -6 if the target is wearing a helmet or other device that protects the head.

Any single attack that does 50% or more of the target's total HP requires a save vs. Death or the target dies from system shock.

A natural 20 (or higher, see the Order of the d30 below) on any attack roll is an automatic hit and results in the attack doing double damage.  This means that twice the normal amount of damage dice are thrown, then the regular modifiers from strength or mutations are added.

A natural 1 on any attack roll is an automatic miss and may result (at the Mutant Lord's discretion) in Bad Things happening...


Planeshift:  The portal opens perpendicular to the ground.

Teleport:  Teleporting is strenuous activity akin to sprinting and can be engaged in for a number of rounds equal to Constitution before the mutant must stop to catch her breath (Teleport cannot be used again until 2d4 rounds have passed).

Precognition:  This has been the trickiest mutation to rule on during play.  Seeing the future is, of course, always a little problematic.  During a precog, the mutant can consult with other characters that will be present in the future; the players of those characters can answer as if they were being asked that question in the future.  The mutant must state what action(s) will be attempted, then start the precog - the mutant may not modify his course of action during the precog based on the knowledge that it is a precog.  For all intents and purposes, the mutant is watching a video feed of his future actions, not actually acting in the future with the knowledge that it is only a precog.  If something happens to the body of the mutant in the present during the precog, the precog ends and the mutant can respond normally to the stimulus. 

Order of the d30:

As a proud member of the Order of the d30, each of my players gets to roll the d30 once per session in place of any other single die roll.  For this use, a percentile throw counts as a single die (d100) rather than two d10, so a d30 may be thrown to generate a result of 1% - 30% (great for those roll-low tech throws!).  An attack roll made with the d30 that results in a number between 20 and 29 does double damage as explained above in the combat houserules.  An attack roll that results in a natural 30 does triple normal damage!

In the spirit of fair play, the Mutant Lord gets one roll of the d30 for every whole increment of 3 players present at the session (e.g. two d30 rolls per session if there are eight players present, but three d30 rolls if there are nine players present).

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Mutant Future as a multi-genre game

The players in my Mutant Future campaign have recently traveled through a portal opened with the Plane Shift mutation and are currently adventuring in what appears to be a "fantasy" world, complete with elves and dragons.  I can't say too much about the specifics of that until after tonight's session because there is a lot going on that the players have not figured out yet.

Still, this development has really gotten me thinking about Mutant Future's ability to be a multi-genre game.  Plane Shift leaves it wide open, completely up to the Mutant Lord, as to what is on the other side of the portals that are opened up.  Want to have a session or two of WWII gameplay?  Throw in an NPC mutant that the players are after who has the Plane Shift mutation - things get hairy and the mutant has no choice but to open a portal to escape... straight into the middle of war torn Europe!  Of course, a party that does not have the Plane Shift mutation themselves would be at the mercy of the NPC to get back to their regular place in the space/time/dimensional continuum... unless some sort of epic quest could be performed to open a portal? 

Mechanically, Mutant Future uses the Labyrinth Lord ruleset as its backbone.  This means that the entire wealth of pre-3e D&D material ever published can be used with minimal adjustments.  Take a look at that RPG bookshelf and imagine a portal opening into any of those great old adventures or supplements.  Mutants Against the Giants.  Mutants in the Underdark.  

I had a brain flash while thinking about this sort of multi-genre gameplay; imagine an interdimensional A-Team of sorts (the players) who go on missions that their employer sends them on (the employer has Plane Shift as well as a unique mutation that allows his Mental Telepathy to extend across gulfs of time and space to discuss terms of service with clients in all the possible dimensions).  As the party is hustling through the portal, their employer gives them the stern warning,
"Be back to this same place in one week exactly, as the return portal will be open for only five minutes."

This would be the perfect picaresque set-up, episodic by nature, confined to no genre.  The characters would get to experience everything the wide world of D&D has ever offered.  The many worlds are their oysters...

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

2e Tuesday - Gators (Green Hissers)

 That's right, Gamma World 2nd edition... what 2e did you think I meant?  Every Tuesday I will pick one of my favorite monsters from the fully illustrated bestiary included in the 2d edition Gamma World Basic Rules Booklet and convert it to Mutant Future.  Today's monster is...

Gators (Green Hissers)

No. Enc: 1-2
Alignment:  Neutral
Movement:            40' (10')
                  Swim: 120' (30')
Armor Class: 3
Hit Dice: 5
Attacks: 2 (bite and tailslap) 
Damage:  1d6/1d8
Save:  L3
Morale: 7
Hoard Class: VI (usually buried in the swamp near the Gators feeding grounds)

Were it not for the 3' long tentacles emerging from their foreheads, these creatures would appear to be normal alligators.  Unfortunately for explorers of the swamps of the Mutant Future, the tentacles paralyze any prey hit by a mental attack roll (treat the Gators as Willpower 16 for purposes of determining the success of this attack).  As usual, victims get a saving thow vs. stun attacks to avoid this effect and the paralysis lasts 2d4 turns.  Gators normally swim below the surface of the water with only their nostrils and tentacles protruding, making it very difficult to notice them before a paralyzing attack is launched on an unsuspecting lunch date.  While it is rare to see more than one or two of these creatures under normal circumstances, each spring large groups (1d6x10) congregate to mate and spawn.

Mutations:  Reflective Epidermis (radiation), Special (Paralyzing Tentacle)

I like the simplicity of this creature, just one mutation removed from a regular crocodile.  I also have a soft spot for swamps (come to think of it, both games that I am currently running in two different systems feature swamps prominently) and the critters to be found in them.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Mutant Experience - Leveling Up between Sessions

I have always been a bit of a rebel when it comes to awarding experience.  My normal method is to just pick a number that seems right, based on how much I feel the party accomplished.  I keep a log tracking how much experience I have given for past sessions, along with a one or two sentence reminder of what the party was up to.  I compare what just happened with previous sessions and look at what I awarded in the past, and this normally makes it easy to tell how much XP to award.  Part of the reason I have been doing this in my Mutant Future campaign is that I rarely give out "treasure" of the normal gold piece, silver piece, etc. variety.  I don't really see there being any sort of money economy in my world, barter being the rule of thumb, but this lack of gold means that if I gave out experience by the book, the players would advance at a glacial rate (because Mutant Future uses the GP for XP rule).

As I mentioned in my post about hit points in the Mutant Future, what level a character is does not make as much difference in this game as in regular D&D.  A character's HP are always going to be more or less the same, and what mutations a character has is arguably more important than the level attained.  In this respect, I guess it really wouldn't matter if the characters took forever to level up.  But on the other hand, this also means that there is no reason NOT to level up characters fast.

I recently started a campaign wiki of sorts (actually just a blog that I have given the players administrator privileges to).  I have been awarding experience to players who post on the blog between sessions, at the rate of 100 XP per comment and 500 XP per new blog post.  This means that a character could level up between sessions if the player posts enough!

So far, this idea has been working well.  Players have posted everything from new Mutant Monsters to wishlists for the Mech suits that they want the Mice of the Round Table to build for them.  One benefit to me as a DM is that the players have taken to discussing strategy and plans for the next session.  This means that I can do prep work with greater certainty that I am not wasting my time readying something only to have the players do something entirely different.

Questions for my readers -  How do you award experience?  Have you ever given experience for something that occurred outside of play?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

2e Tuesday - Yexils (Orange Scarfers)

That's right, Gamma World 2nd edition... what 2e did you think I meant?  Every Tuesday I will pick one of my favorite monsters from the fully illustrated bestiary included in the 2d edition Gamma World Basic Rules Booklet and convert it to Mutant Future.  Today's monster is...
Yexils (Orange Scarfers)

No. Enc: 1d4
Alignment:  Lawful
                  Fly: 240' (60')
Armor Class: 5
Hit Dice: 15
Attacks: 1 (bite)
Damage:  3d6 
Save:  L12
Morale: 3
Hoard Class: VIII + Unique (Yexils horde clothing and their "treasure" will also consist of various synthetic fabrics)

Yexils bring a smile to the face of any entrepreneurial residents of the Mutant Future.  These flying leonine creatures have a ravenous appetite for manufactured fabrics (the only thing they eat) and will trade "worthless" artifacts that they have found as they fly over the wastelands for particularly tasty synthetics.  Yexils have few natural enemies due to their size, deadly bite and the laser beams they shoot from their eyes!

Mutations:  Reflective Epidermis (cold), Unique (Laser Eyes, 80' range, 5d6 damage)

This really is a great illustration.  Honestly, this might be Gamma World in a nutshell - a lion-bat that shoots lasers from its eyes and eats synthetic clothing.  Take that, all you overly serious post-apocalyptic sci-fi games!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Hope you can read binary...

01010100 01101000 01101001 01110011 00100000 01101001 01110011 00100000 01100001 00100000 01110101 01110011 01100101 01100110 01110101 01101100 00100000 01110100 01101111 01101111 01101100 00100000 01100110 01101111 01110010 00100000 01110100 01101000 01100101 00100000 01101101 01110101 01110100 01100001 01101110 01110100 00100000 01100110 01110101 01110100 01110101 01110010 01100101 00100001 00100000 00100000 01000011 01101111 01101110 01110110 01100101 01110010 01110100 00100000 01110100 01100101 01111000 01110100 00100000 01110100 01101111 00100000 01100010 01101001 01101110 01100001 01110010 01111001 00100000 01100001 01101110 01100100 00100000 01100010 01100001 01100011 01101011 00101110 00100000 00100000 01000111 01110010 01100101 01100001 01110100 00100000 01100110 01101111 01110010 00100000 01100001 01101100 01101100 00100000 01110100 01101000 01101111 01110011 01100101 00100000 01100001 01101110 01100100 01110010 01101111 01101001 01100100 00100000 01100011 01101000 01100001 01110010 01100001 01100011 01110100 01100101 01110010 01110011 00100001 00001101 00001010 00001101 00001010 01101000 01110100 01110100 01110000 00111010 00101111 00101111 01101000 01101111 01101101 01100101 00110010 00101110 01110000 01100001 01110101 01101100 01110011 01100011 01101000 01101111 01110101 00101110 01101110 01100101 01110100 00101111 01110100 01101111 01101111 01101100 01110011 00101111 01111000 01101100 01100001 01110100 01100101 00101111

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Party Plans a Planeshift (Possibly)

Last Sunday's session included two firsts:  it was the first time we gamed with a player who was not present (via the PS3 Eye, a hi-def TV, a sound system and an online dice roller), and it marked the first use of the Precognition mutation to imagine using the Plane Shift mutation.  I have had mixed feelings about this combination of mutations, as part of the joy of Plane Shift is that it opens a portal to a random place (unless you are using it to travel someplace that you have already visited with the mutation).  Using Precognition to circumvent this at first had me considering simply saying that it did not work.

Then I thought about it, and I decided that there were really two options if I allowed it to happen.  I could either have the player foresee a place so terrible that the party would never willingly go there, or reveal an intriguing location that would strongly tempt the party to open a portal and travel there. 

 As for option 1, I want to keep all the truly horrifying locations (we have arrived at the 666th layer of the Abyss, local time is 6:66, temperature outside the portal is 451 degrees Fahrenheit, thanks for flying Plane Shift...) in reserve for the time the party decides that whatever lies on the other side of a random portal has to be better than the current situation they are in.  So that is a no go.  What good does describing a wicked awesome and dangerous place do if the party would never, ever, willingly go there?

As for option 2, this sounded good to me.  As it is, the Plane Shift mutation has only been used once in play and the party has never actually gone through a portal.  So why not encourage a little planar hopping with a tempting vision of the future? 

This is exactly what happened last session.  This is what awaited on the other side of the precogged planeshift:
As I mentioned in a post over at my other blog, this is a crappy, low-res pic I took with my old cell phone of one of my drawings.

I described the ground and landscape as some kind of fleshy purple substance, I told the group that the eyes of the faces in the hillsides were slowly blinking, and I described the fight between the shiny knight and the dragon.  After assisting the knight defeat the dragon (in the vision of the future), the knight lifted his visor and revealed himself to be some sort of faerie or elf.  He spoke in a melodic and silvery tongue that was, of course, incomprensible, but then he pointed behind him to a castle in the middle of a lake, surrounded by a normal forest.  

The party is very excited to go on a dragon slaying expedition and are dreaming big about bringing back piles of dragon parts to assist the Mice of Camelot in making some mech suits for the party.  Dragon-scale mechs, anyone?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

2e Tuesday - Zarns

That's right, Gamma World 2d edition... what 2e did you think I meant?  Every Tuesday I will pick one of my favorite monsters from the fully illustrated bestiary included in the 2d edition Gamma World Basic Rules Booklet and convert it to Mutant Future.  Today's monster is...

Zarns (Borer Beetles)

No. Enc: 1d4-2
Alignment:  Neutral
Movement: 60' (20')
Armor Class: 6
Hit Dice: 2
Attacks: 1 (spit)
Damage:  Paralysis (2d4 turns)
Save:  L1
Morale: 8
Hoard Class: none (Zarns move around constantly, and their victims often travel for days before dying, so the characteristic pile of loot accumulated from victim after victim is not found with the Zarns)

Despite barely reaching one foot in length, these bright orange beetles terrify all who cross their path.  They attack anything that moves, spitting gobs of paralytic venom up to 20' then teleporting to a new position to renew their onslaught.  Due to the intensity of the venom, the save vs. poison is made at a -2 penalty, and the venom remains active for 1d4 hours; until it is washed off, a new save is required every turn it remains active.  If a Zarn succeeds in paralyzing a victim, it will bore into its skull (doing 2d6 damage in the process) and lay 1d12+4 eggs inside which hatch within 48 hours unless removed (a difficult procedure without surgical equipment).  Newly hatched Zarns consume their host from the brain down to the toes, leaving an empty bag of skin behind when they emerge fully grown.

Mutations:  Special: Minor Teleport (identical in all respects to the Teleport mutation except it has a range of 200')

You better hope you spot this one before it spots you (unless you like the idea of being beetle brain food...)!  I love this illustration as well, the eyes on that thing are pure evil.  


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