Some Great Blogs to Visit

In case you haven’t seen them already, here’s two other great sites to visit.

A Book of Creatures (https://abookofcreatures.com/ is a wonderful collection of creatures and monsters drawn from a wide variety of folklore. Recent additions come from the Congo, the Czech Republic, and British comic books. If you are looking for new monsters, this is the place to look.

Les voyages de Deryn Naythas (https://derynnaythas.wordpress.com/) is a French gaming blog around the Spelljammer setting for AD&D. The Travels of Deryn Naythas is a multiversal journey between the Crystal Spheres and the Planes of Existence. If you can’t read French, look at this one through Google Translate at https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=fr&tl=en&u=https%3A%2F%2Fderynnaythas.wordpress.com%2F  I’m not much of a fan of Spelljammer myself, but I read this one mostly for the creatures that show up. Again, a good site to mine for monsters.

 

In Memorium: The Lost Delights BBS

I just read an article from The Atlantic that brought back some memories. This blog is named after my Bulletin Board Service (BBS) from 1989, also called Lost Delights. It hosted conversations about role-playing games, which obviously have been my obsession for a very long time. Computers have always flavored that obsession. I’ve been on the net since 1980, when I started Computer Science at Indiana University. I had been programming since 1978 on a Wang 2200 at Tippecanoe Valley High School in Indiana. The Wang was a fairly advanced computer for a High School to have, and I was the only one who was able to figure it out, besides the math teacher that is. I wrote a computer game on it (Post-apocalyptic adventurer who faces 4 challenges, including a skateboard gang if I recall correctly). I discovered later with some surprise that they were using my game at least seven years after I left. I then moved to Warsaw High School and moved way back in time to the IBM 024 & 028 keypunches, the 083 sorter, 085 collator, and the 557 Alphabetic Interpreter from the 1950s, complete with vacuum tubes! Vaults from the game Fallout 3 feel very familiar to me as a result. I think they had a PDP-11 as well, but we didn’t do much with it. In 1985, I bought a Leading Edge Model D, an IBM clone and the first microcomputer I owned. I couldn’t do a damn thing with it, so I gave it to my roommates for a year, my brother Matt and friend Rainer, with the agreement that at the end of the year they would show me how to use it. Smartest move I ever made. They were relentless and despite much annoyance with the thing, they conquered and I learned. Around 1988, I started running a BBS on gaming using a 2400 baud modem, a significant step up from the 300 baud modem I started out with. Around the same time I was running a computer dating service for Bloomington, Indiana. That didn’t last long. There were a lot more guys interested than there were women, so I made what connections I could and gave up on the business.

Computer in Tranquility Lane, Fallout 3 videogame

How Gamma World grew into Mutant World

I loved Gamma World (GW) when I was younger, but when I started digging into the rules again to prepare for a new campaign, I found both things I liked, and things I didn’t. I was delighted to find so much fan-created material available for GW. I still like the wacky mutations and the concept of a world gone wild. I liked having three types of characters (Pure Strain Human (PSH), Mutated Animal (MA), and Mutated Humanoid (MH)), but I did not like the humanoid forms that Gamma World gave MAs all the time. I preferred animals that were animals, only smarter, so I kept the actual mass and abilities of the animals but gave MA an additional physical mutation, which they could use to add hands as a new body part (so they could manipulate weapons, etc.) or just to add another physical mutation to the mix. MAs have Packs or Herds, just as humans have Settlements or Bases. Mutated Plants (MP) and Synthetic creatures (Androids, Robots, Cyborgs) were not player characters in 1st edition GW, but as players in the 1980s, we often took them anyways, so I built them in. The Synths tend to walk alone, but the MPs have Forests or Patches. I still love the idea of Cryptic Alliances as ways of describing political & cultural priorities, though the original Alliances were heavily anthropocentric. After much work than I had planned on, I revised and expanded the original Alliances until they supported humans, animals, plants, and synths more equally.

Gamma World combat was very simple; too simple for me. I didn’t initially see the choices that the designers had made, which actually were quite good. I pulled it apart, understood, then put it back together but upside down, so I could have open-sided tables. So combat is pretty much the same. I don’t like the idea of Hit Points without Hit Locations, but to change that would mean changing the feel of the combat, so I didn’t touch it.  I’ve never liked using levels, but really, that had more to do with the acquisition of hit points every level (something I’m not using here). So I adapted the skills I use in my Navah campaign and put them into a format that fits levels.

GW tech was fun, but had a bit too much whimsy for me. I wanted some straight tech to make the wacky stuff stand out, so I adapted the Traveller Classic equipment list and mapped Omega Tech to Traveller’s Tech Levels (TL). This gave me a much larger and more fluid list of equipment to both provide to players at the right time, and also to add to my treasure generator.

The original Gamma World had very specific origins of the characters and Cryptic Alliances, all tied to a national map but without a regional map. I abandoned most of the GW background and national map, and instead started building a series of Sectors (144 km on each side) that could create a regional and then national map as the characters adventured.

The final change was the cause of the mutations. GW used radiation, which evoked a 1950s idea of mutations. In Mutant World, radiation can spark a mutation, but not alone. Instead, the wild mutations of the world are caused by a bioweapon initially called Accelerated Progression & Evolution (APE). APE was originally designed to act only on certain controllable organisms, which could be easily eliminated once the enemy was overcome. Instead, APE turned out to interact with a popular herbicide in an unpredictable way, causing APE to itself transform into what became known as The Burn, an transformative virus that spread quickly and ubiquitously to most forms of life. Vast and devastating changes followed to animal and plant life, and the end of civilization as it was known. Millions died, a few successful sentient mutations survived. The PSHs of today are either the descendants of largely-immune ancestors or of Vault Dwellers who evaded the original Burn. As a result, PSHs only mutate if they fumble a roll after encountering either enough radiation to re-activate the dormant virus or when they find a rare patch of the original Burn, still active. Vault Dwellers, of course, mutate much more readily. Synths have often gained freedom in the Burn, as some of their control protocols were too specific to survive the death of their masters. Others still respect their ancient service, but only to PSHs identified as natural descendants of the original humans. Almost all Synths were reprogrammed to identify and reject control by those affected by the Burn.

And that’s where Mutant World stands right now. There may be more change coming, but probably it will come as a result of the player characters more than me. Most of my design is done (I think).

Corpseville on the Lake

Low turnout for the Mutant World game today, but we soldiered on. Lark didn’t have a working headset and dropped out, and Galzra didn’t show. Colt, a PSH from Mourne, joined the party but only after his teenage son helped him with the sound. Once we finished with the initial mess, the game went well. Colt and Rolff led the way, though Hawk was assumed to be still scouting and Galzra still translating the ancient language. Rolff also discovered that he had acquired Magnetic Control after his encounter with high radiation last session.

First, the adventurers sold last session’s treasure and used Colt to buy TL5 gear from Mourne, including more guns and ammo. They then went down to the Ancient Town near the Lake to the south, which they had previously avoided. On the way, Lark was nearly killed by a flying creature with bat wings, and the party was hard-pressed to drive off a Latterbug (giant ladybug). When they began searching the town, they fought 3 zombies, and Rolff was bitten. They were forced to chop off Rolff’s left leg at the knee. Rolff’s synthetic skin helped him recover and he was soon back exploring, albeit a crutch (they would purchase his pegleg on their next visit to Telph). They found an ATM and garnered 56 credits and several stacks of individual sheets of toilet paper. Among the treasure they found was 5 chemical energy cells, 4 Sidrian flame gems, and 1 does of G23 MI Combat Synthetic. 3 flying brown and black bugs landed and the party hid as the bugs walked upright and communicated with chitters. The bugs explored the ruins while the party watched, until one of the bugs suddenly expired near a chasm on the north end of town. The other bugs flew off and the party investigated. After spotting a number of skeletons in the area, they decided to keep their distance (for now) and explore more of the houses. They were rewarded with 2 more zombies, and this time Colt was bitten (twice). Rolff successfully stopped the infection by jamming his torch into Colt’s wounds, and Colt succeeded in his roll and did not immediately shoot Rolff in the head. They returned to Telph with their latest booty, hiding when a buzzing sounds went overhead.

Next week, they continue on the path to the southeast.

 

The Seventh Seal by Scott Walker

I stumbled onto this song during my expeditions into the depths of YouTube. An over-produced bit of weirdness from the 1960s, but for some reason it grows on me. So I’m sharing it out for you folks, who might dig it too. And if you haven’t watched the Swedish movie of the same name (1957), you should check it out.

Anybody seen a knight pass this way
I saw him playing chess with Death yesterday
His crusade was a search for God and they say
It’s been a long way to carry on

Anybody hear of plague in this town
The town I’ve left behind was burned to the ground
A young girl on a stake her face framed in flames cried
I’m not a witch God knows my name

The knight he watched with fear
He needed to know
He ran where he might feel God’s breath
And in the misty church
He knelt to confess
The face within the booth was Mr. Death

My life’s a vain pursuit of meaningless smiles
Why can’t God touch me with a sign
Perhaps there’s no one there answered the booth
And Death hid within his cloak and smiled

This morning I played chess with Death said the knight
We played that he might grant me time
My bishop and my knight will shatter his flanks
And still I might feel God’s heart in mine

And through confession’s grille Death’s laughter was heard
The knight cried No you’ve cheated me!
But still I’ll find a way
We’ll meet once again and once again
Continue to play

They met within the woods the knight his squire and friends
And Death said now the game shall end
The final move was made
The knight hung his head
And said you’ve won I’ve nothing left to play

The minstrel filled with visions sang to his love
To look against the stormy sky
The knight his squire and friends
Their hands held as one
Solemnly danced toward the dawn

His hourglass in his hand his scythe by his side
The master Death he leads them on
The rain will wash away the tears from their faces
And as the thunder cracked they were gone