Sunday, June 14, 2015

What is (and isn't) a mutant?

As I flesh out ideas for my own race categories in GWW, I thought I'd capture some quick thoughts about how mutants are presented in other settings.

With so many sources from which to field for inspiration, it's sometimes hard to pin down exactly what qualifies as "mutant" in a post-apocalyptic setting. In Marvel's universe--as with the X-men and other X-groups--the term "mutant" applies to a new class of human being called "homo superior," or a human who's genetic code is in someway altered to acquire any sort of superhuman (and I'll throw in here "non-human") abilities.

In the Marvel universe, Iceman with his power to create ice constructs, Jean Grey and her ability to read minds/use telekinesis, and Wolverine with his incredible healing ability are considered, mutants.

Switch to something like Total Recal where the mutants are more of a traditionally "deformed" depiction. Kuato, Benny, and a host of other melted-face Martians fill that role.

In GWW, I'm using it in a much broader sense--to mean an individual or group, who's appearance and makeup deviates from an ancestral species of origin. This includes hybrid types (e.g., any sort of were-creature), to the Cyborna races, which are at least partially robotic. There are enough of them that have, in some way, deviated from their collective original forms that they qualify as a new species or subspecies. I guess Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: After the Bomb would be a good example of this style.

It doesn't really matter how they became a mutant--they didn't need to be the result of some sort of evolutionary process. A mutant could be an individual who came in contact with some foreign, mutanagenic substance that caused them to change. In GWW, Spider-man would easily be considered to be a mutant, even though his classification as one is oft debated.

It might be easier to state what mutants aren't. They aren't pure strain humans, called Valids-- or flora or fauna, for that matter. They aren't purely robots, created for some specific task. They aren't unmended (reanimated dead). They aren't extraterrestrials. At least--in all of the above cases--they aren't until they begin to deviate from those baseline origins.

More later...

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Gamma World War timeline of events, Part I


22nd Century Earth
Advanced technologies in just about every discipline have brought prosperity to the world. Most of these miraculous breakthroughs have afforded humanity the promise of off-world colonies to ensure the survival of the species.


The disaster to end all disasters happens. All civilizations perish from the surface of the Earth. No one quite remembers what triggered it. Whatever caused it has passed from the collective consciousness, but it left the world in physical ruins.


Earth is in ruins. Anyone on the surface of the Earth who wasn't killed in the Great Cataclysm, either survived in underground strongholds or remained topside but mutated away from their genome of origin.

100 A.C. 
Some subterra bunkers begin to form city-states deep under the Earth, through totalitarian rule. Meanwhile, the surface-dwellers are left to fight over scraps. Evolution has accelerated, and the first cross-fauna mutants emerge.

150 A.C. 
Subterrans return to the surface with small, short-trip scouting parties. Due in part to encounters with brutal Mechlok gangs and frightening Inhuma tribes, news spreads of the devastation and the "horror" of the mutated "monsters" above.

360 A.C. 
Several pure-strain cities join to form a new government based on their un-mutated purity, calling themselves the "Valids," which is shorthand for the only acceptable form of humanity. Raiding parties have ventured topside in regular raiding parties. Mutants are feared and hated by Valids. Strange lights in the sky have been reported.

520 A.C.
Though skirmishes had occurred in the intervening years, the first real full-scale battle between Valids and several bands of roving mutants takes place near the Michigan Wastes. There's no clear victor, but the conflict fuels anti-Valid sentiment above ground.The first New Evolutionaries are spotted.

1015 A.C.
After centuries of hard fought war, a league made up of Valid city-states has committed to retaking the surface in order to win back the Earth. Several mutant groups have been hunted to extinction, but many more have forged alliances in order to keep the human threat at bay. Dysponia, the first all-mutant government is established.

More to come...

Note: All years are approximate. I may totally mess with this timeline and revise as needed!

Monday, November 24, 2014

VIDEO: Mad Max has nothin' on these "New Barbarians"

This trailer for The New Barbarians, a.k.a. Warriors of the Wasteland (1983) sold me when they showed a motorcycle bandit take an exploding arrow to the neck (hilarity ensues thereafter). This is Italian-made Saturday afternoon, eighties Gamma-cheese at it's finest.

It looks like the prequel to my favorite Spaghetti-pocalypse film, 2019: The Fall of New York. (Somehow I missed doing a recap on that one, I'll have to correct that soon.)

It stars exploitation film staple Fred Williamson (Black Caesar, the Black Cobra series) as said, explosive archer. Really, what more can you ask for?

Anyway, check out the awesome trailer for Barbarians:

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

RANDOM ENCOUNTER: Tasty mutagen comes with side effects...

Here's a random table and some GM notes to help fashion a nice little complication for your next gamma adventure. The PCs stumble upon a canister of mutagen tablets. The tablets themselves appear like large, chewable multivitamins (and should be introduced as such) and smell like delicious, sugary confections.

Once ingested, the tablet goes to work mutating its prey...

1d20 of icky random mutations:

  1. Eye tendrils, flailing all the time
  2. Back scales (2"-3"), itchy and molting
  3. Constant, loud wheezing from your new, tiny "throat mouth"
  4. Sideburns, running down neck, shoulders, ending at wrists (hopefully)
  5. A slippery ooze between extremities that won't go away, even with washing
  6. Extra teeth! Pop out of jaw line, hairline, and along knuckles of hands and feet
  7. Shoulders begin to bubble and swell into large sacks of leaky, too-sweet smelling fluid
  8. "Everything is normal!" say the tiny faces that appear where your kneecaps used to be
  9. Iguanna tail sprouts, greens up nicely, turns brown and dies and falls off...on an endless cycle
  10. Roll twice on this table, if you get #20 both times, you lucked out--no mutation!
  11. Knees now bend the other direction, walk like a chicken (add +2 to your move if you roleplay a headbob for the rest of the session)
  12. The person on your left gets to pick any two from this list for you
  13. Heel hooves! Which are hooves. On your heels.
  14. Fancy colored fish fins line your cranium and spine; also, constant dry mouth for some reason
  15. Polydactyly protrusions overcome hands, constantly wiggling
  16. Gurgling a pungent slime when attempting to make persuasive arguments
  17. Narwhal tusk! You know that's a tooth that protrudes through your face, right? 
  18. An ankylosaurus tail bursts out the back of your pants---pray you have the abs, back, and calf muscles to counter the added mass
  19. Pheromone firestorm gives you a massive +5 Charisma bonus, any NPCs you encounter follow you around for 1d10 rounds
  20. All of the above (you poor bastard!)
Optional GM imposed fun!
Apply as desired...

  • PCs with one mutation from the above list suffer -2 on any rolls involving NPC interactions (interviewing, negotiating, bluffing) but gain +2 to intimidate
  • PCs with two or more mutations will be considered "monstrous" and hunted on sight by any armed NPCs
  • Bounty is equal to Hit Points times 10 credits
  • If PC rolled any of the following mutations: 2,3,5,7, 9, 16, 19, it's nearly impossible to cover her/his tracks as she/he flees (pursuers gain +2 to track you)
  • If PC evades capture for longer than 1d10 rounds, the bounty on his/her head triples
  • If PC evades capture the entire game session, the PC becomes a local legend and the bounty now equals HP times 100 credits
  • If PC becomes a local legend, a squad of killer androids (8) with cyborg hounds (4) is unleashed to hunt he/she down; androids are equipped with infravision, +1 laser-eye sights (to hit bonus) and a 2d4+1 sub-machine gun; hounds have olfactory and audio sensors (+2 tracking) and armed with 1d8 robo-bite and 1d6+1 cyber-claw
  • If adventuring party finds a science or medical lab, a cure can be reverse-engineered from mutated PC's blood; at least one member of the party must have relatable skill (science, medicine, genetics, etc.), or find an NPC who can concoct antidote in 1d10 rounds -1 round for each level of experience in that skill; cure takes effect immediately
  • If more than one PC consumed mutagen tablet, the cure works for all affected and they return to their "normal" selves

A previous version of this table was posted on Exonauts.