Sunday, 17 March 2019

Solo-A-Module-Month : Gamma World

I don't usually write up play-throughs of published adventures, but as it's Solo-A-Module-Month in the solo community I thought I'd give it a go. At first I tried a new DSA module, but I wasn't taking notes and typing up the adventure seemed like it would just take too much time -- time 'd rather spend on my freeform campaigns. So in its stead I present a quick foray into the Gamma World.

Legion of Gold is my favourite Gamma World module ever published, containing three mini adventures, one main adventure, and a hex crawl; you could run a whole campaign with just this and the rulebook. For now, I've just gotten through the first mini-adventure. I've written up my notes in a much more cursory form than usual, so the whole adventure can be done in one post.

To start with, I rolled up 6 characters completely at random. Some turned out a lot better than others.


Type: Humanoid  Rank: 0  Status: 0
MS 16  IN 16  DX 12  PS 12  CH 13  CN 14
HP 62  AC 6 / leather
Physical Mutations: Heightened Precision, Regeneration, Duality, Skeletal Enhancement
Mental Mutations: Life Leech, Intuition, Genius Capability-Mechanical, Absorption-Electricity
Equipment: short sword, dagger, boots, large sack, bedroll, tinderbox, arrow poison, 1GP


Type: Mutated animal (civet)  Rank: 0 Status: 0
MS 10  IN 13  DX 8  PS 8  CH 11  CN 15
HP 56  AC 5
Natural weapons: claw/claw/bite/horns 1d4/1d4/1d6/2d6*
Physical Mutations: Heightened Sense-Smell, Ultravision, Modified Body Parts (vocal cords), Horns
Mental Mutations: Mental Paralysis, Devolution
Equipment: belt, 2 small sacks, 36GP


Type: Humanoid  Rank: 0 Status: 0
MS 12  IN 7  DX 12  PS 13  CH 9  CN 17
HP 56  AC 8(-1) / furs & shield
Physical Mutations: Heightened Balance, Speed Increase, Vision Defect-Colour Blind (D)
Mental Mutations: Planar Travel, Light Manipulation, Mental Blast, Mental Paralysis, Energy Sensitivity (D)
Equipment: spear, sling & 30 stones, large sack, shoes, bedroll, 5GP


Type: Pure Strain Human  Rank: 0 Status: 0
MS 13  IN 13  DX 7  PS 12  CH 13  CN 15
HP 75  AC 5(-1) / studded leather & shield
Equipment: 2 hand axes, 6 torches, tinderbox, shoes, large sack, flask of oil, 4GP


Type: Humanoid  Rank: 0 Status: 0
MS 15  IN 8  DX 13  PS 14  CH 14  CN 10
HP 40  AC 6 / fibre armour
Physical Mutations: Sonic Blast
Mental Mutations: Repulsion Field, Empathy, Mental Blast
Equipment: short bow & 20 arrows, club, shoes, 2GP


Type: Pure Strain human  Rank: 0 Status: 0
MS 10  IN 12  DX 10  PS 15  CH 12  CN 11
HP 51  AC 5(-1) / studded leather & shield
Equipment: spear, sling & 30 stones, shoes, 2GP

For those that don't know Gamma World, attributes are Mental Strength, INtelligence, DeXterity, Physical Strength, CHarisma, CoNstitution. Hit dice are equal to CN; d6 for mutants, d8 for pure strain humans. DX affects to-hit rolls, PS affects damage, but none of the PCs has scores below 6 or above 15 in these, so no bonuses/penalties.

They all began with access to Tech Level I (primitive) equipment only. But as this is a post apocalyptic game from the 80s, they have unfettered access to Tech Level II & III hair product.

Zeenat's combination of mutations is something that we never hit upon as kids, even in our worst power-gamey moments. Heightened precision add +2d6 damage per attack. Skeletal Enhancement adds +2d6 with swords, maces, spears etc. Intuition adds +3damage per die. So a 1d6 shortsword hits for 5d6+15 damage in the hands of this character, and Duality lets her attack twice per round.

Dervington's Modified Body Parts allows him to speak normally, but he still lacks hands, so he needs help to put things into his belt pouches, and can't use most artefacts or tools.

Poor Kug was the only one to roll Defect mutations. His roll for hit points (17d6) was even a bit below average.

Shields in Gamma World do not affect Armour Class, but instead apply a penalty to your opponent's attack rolls. Humans & humanoids travel at reduced speed if not wearing shoes/boots.

The Adventure Begins...

The PCs arrive in separately at the walled town of Horn, stronghold of Baron Jemmas. They gravitate towards the SE quarter, known as Mutant Town. There they meet in a saloon, and begin to hear rumours of attacks on the town of Jeffton by hideous mutant insects. They also hear rumours of a substantial reward for the destruction of this menace. As they are all are down to their last handful of gold coins (save for Dervington), they decide to head out together to destroy the mutant menace.

Dervington spends 12GP on 14 days rations (2 1/3 days each) and 2 waterskins. The rest each give him an IOU for 11 domars, payable from their first treasure.

It takes two days to walk to Jeffton, but they encounter no one (or thing) of note along the road.

Jeffton is a town of 200 souls surrounded by a wooden palisade. Enquiring about the reward leads our heroes to an audience with the mayor, a friendly pure strain human named Hubert Frump. He explains that local hunters and trappers have been reporting a steady decrease in game animals, and farmers' cattle have been going missing. Three days ago some mutant insects attacked some children playing in the woods. Two were abducted but one escaped. A rescue party was sent after them, but never returned.

The mayor promises a reward of artefact weapons for destruction of the menace, and an additional reward of ancient technology if the children are rescued. He gives the party 2 insecticide grenades [the two pure strain humans take them; the grenades 75% of killing each insect (roll separately) in a 6m radius], and suggests they begin their investigation at the Genser Goose ranch 3km to the north east. They set out immediately.

The Ambush

As they head out of town, the party is unaware they are being watched. After 2km, they crest a hill and see a strange sight. Thirty metres away, on the outskirts of a forest, and man in ragged clothing is being menaced by a 2m tall bloated termite-like creature. It pulls the man into the trees and out of sight, and all they can hear is the man's frantic screaming of "Buggems no! Buggems no!"

The cry that will haunt your dreams, O adventurer

The party give chase. Telaanah's Empathy mutation detects other buggems, and she whispers this fact to her comrades. They approach the scene cautiously, Telaanah loosing an arrow and Reebla throwing axe, but neither hits the buggem. As mêlée is joined, three more buggems burrow up from the dirt surrounding the party, but they had been forewarned. The fight is short and brutal, and the buggems are soon vanquished. One escapes through the wood, but allowed to escape.

The man is dying of his wounds, and with his dying breath he tells the party that he was part of the rescue party, the farmhouse has been taken over, and as far as he knows the rest of his companions were captured.

The Farm

They search the farmhouse from top to bottom. In the basement they discover a dirt tunnel. They light some torches and begin to explore the dun-- er, the underground tunnels. [Since I was playing analogue and could therefore see the whole map, I rolled dice to determine which direction the PCs would travel.]

7. The Embryots

The party first come to a chamber with a low ceiling from which white pulsating egg sacs are hanging. There is a large Parn (or 'Sword Beetle') which appears to be sleeping, but Telaanah's Empathy reveals it to be dead.

Oh, spellcheck, you really don't understand Gamma World

Four parn embryots break out of the sacs and attack. Telaanah and Kug weaken two with their Mental Blasts [3d6 damage] and Zeenat cuts one in half with her shortsword [5d6+15! the biggest one has 16hp]. Dervington kills one with a claw/claw/horn combination. Orbetz inflicts a single point of damage with his spear, and the embryot latches onto him, and begins to drain his vital fluids [10 damage per round!], but [Round 2] he and his friend make short work of it before it can drain him to a husk.

They destroy all the other sacs, ignorant of healing properties of fluid within [cures 3d6hp per litre consumed, which is just not the sort of thing  I could see my PCs trying on a whim].

Carefully skirting the flood chamber, they continue to...

6. The Zarn Lair

...find the missing children lying on the floor of a small chamber, alive but unresponsive. "There's something else alive here," says Telaanah.

Two 30cm long Zarns ('Borer Beetles') spray poison at Kug and Dervington. Kug is unharmed, but Dervington is paralysed by the venom. Telaanah indicates the holes where the zarns are hiding.

[Round 2]
Zeenat throws a dagger as one of the zarns pokes its head out, killing it before it can spray more poison [1d4+2d6+9=18 damage]. Telaanah and Kug destroy the other with Mental Blasts.

As they are about to check on the children, three buggems enter. One is unarmed, the other two wield battle axes (and can still bite). They attack our heroes ferociously, and after 3 rounds more buggems appear. One uses its Gas Generation mutation to create an opaque cloud [-4 attacks, +4 AC penalty for fighting blind to all within the cloud].

the battle rages...

Orbetz panics and pops his insecticide grenade, killing the buggems. A search of the room turns up a 9mm browning pistol and ammunition, which Orbetz takes. He discovers its working without incident. They decide to leave the children until the warren is clear, and continue on.

They find an exit tunnel [from 6], and backtrack. Zeenat does not notice a concealed pit, and falls in. Fortunately her Skeletal Enhancement mutation absorbs half the damage from the fall, but a toxic slime at the bottom burns her skin [3d6 x1/2 for skeletal enhancement =6 +2d6=7 toxin; she's down to 50hp]. She manages to climb out on her own [needing to roll less than the average of her PS and CN on 1d20].

They continue northwards down the tunnel to...

1. Herp Infant

...the lair of a juvenile Herp ('Tiger Beetle'). It sprays acid [6d6 damage] at Dervington, but fortunately misses.  The party easily hack apart the creature.

They proceed through twisting passages to...

3. Buggem Guard Room

...a chamber where three buggems are waiting. Everyone (save Zeenat, courtesy of her Intuition mutation) is taken by surprise. One shoots Zeenat with a poisoned crossbow bolt, but her mutant resilience makes it little more than a flesh wound [1d6/2=3 damage; with a 14 Constitution, she is immune to Intensity 9 poison]. The other two charge. Between combined force of arms and Mental Blasts, the fight does not last long.

The buggems treasure consists of a laser pistol, stage III ID, and anti-radiation serum. Zeenat examines the serum [+7 bonus to understand artefacts], and learns its use. Reebla examines the pistol, but cannot, and puts it in her sack for later.

They wander some more, discovering a very long (over 1km) tunnel leading outside. Turning back again, they eventually reach...

2. Herp Egg Chamber

...the herps' birthing place. One of the beetle is hatching as they enter, but Kug stuns it with his Mental Paralysis. It is put to the sword, and the other eggs are destroyed.

From there they walk right beneath a parn's mound. Zeenat takes the sword beetle by surprise, and skewers it with her sword before it can attack [thereby earning all 35 Status Points (=XP)].

One of the tunnels beneath the mound leads to...

8. Fungus Garden

... a chamber lit by giant phosphorescent mushrooms. The two buggems which labour here are no match for our heroes, who are not about to sample any of the fungus as this maze of terror is a bad enough trip on its own.

Next they discover...

9. Buggem Nursery Chamber

... a meter-deep trough filled with glowing coals, which blocks the entrance to a large open area. Within six bloated pure strain human men shuffle aimlessly about as if drugged through piles of mutilated corpses and bones. The men have each been implanted with a buggem embryo, and are past hope. The party put the humans out of their misery, then flee the scene of horror.

10. Guard Chamber

They go through more twisting tunnels and into an irregularly shaped room where six buggem warriors are stationed, armed with two-handed swords and crossbows. Reebla tosses her grenade into the room, but one of the buggems scoops it up and jumps into a drainage pit; its sacrifice saves rest.

The ensuing battle is swiftly over. Orbetz is let down when his new pistol artefact jams on the first shot,  and Telaanah is sorely injured by bite and sword so that she must call up her Repulsion Field (3m force field) to hide behind. But the others fight savagely, and the buggems are vanquished one by one, down to the last which Kug hold in his Mental Paralysis until its nervous system shorts out [holding a target for 4 consecutive rounds kills it from shock].

A trove of artefacts is stuffed into niches in the walls, but the party leave them for later. "All this treasure; the queen must be near," observes [1d6=] Kug.

11. The Telepath

A scuttling sound is heard as they advance down the next tunnel. The party rush forward, and come into a rubbish-strewn chamber. As they near the centre, they are caught in a large explosion [6d6 damage each].

Zeenat uses her Regeneration to heal somewhat [recovering 16hp], but by now everyone is sorely injured.

Current Hit Points
Zeenat 37/62
Dervington 26/56
Kug 17/56
Reebla 34/75
Telaanah 10/40
Orbetz 13/51

6d6 damage

Zeenat goes on ahead, the others lag well behind, waiting for her signal. She follows the tunnel as it slopes upward, and comes to a dead end where the Buggem Telepath, a hideous mutation with an overlarge head, is digging ferociously towards the surface. Sensing itself trapped here, it fills the tunnel with poison gas [Gas Generation mutation, Intensity 14]. Zeenat chokes and sputters and coughs blood [takes 5d6 damage, dropping to 23hp]. She activate her Life Leech power in retaliation, siphoning the very life energy of the buggem and infusing it in her own body [it takes 6 damage, which she gains back to her own HP].

[Round 2]
The buggem targets her with an artefact weapon (Mark V blaster) as she retreats out of the gas cloud. One of the sonic beams rips through her [7d6=23 damage] and she is nearly slain. But moments later the buggem drops dead, a withered husk drained by the Life Leech.

With the buggem leader dead, the heroes collect the missing children from the zarn lair and return to Jeffton to claim the reward.

You'll never defeat me! NOOOOoooooooo....


Thursday, 7 March 2019

omnia mutantur, nihil interit

Just thinking out loud as I grapple with a decision that's already half made...

LotFP had become one of my comfort games, in the way that Hammer Horror is comforting when I'm down and/or ill. This latest burst of real-world drama (I missed the November one) is overshadowing that now. Mr. Raggi's official statement was great -- up until the end where it went really wrong. As much as I want to support him for doing the right thing... ack.

So no LotFP for me for a while, but I'll see how things go in the future before I decide what to do with my 1601 AD campaign(s).

But this had awakened some old notions that perhaps I should change systems with my elf campaign (I still call it that, even though only 1 of the 8 is still an active PC, and the only other survivor retired from adventuring). I've mentioned more than once that as much as I love the game, it did seem a bit like the PCs' primary activities were killing things and making saving throws; this is the eternal problem with OSR games and as a solitaire player I find it especially hard to get past. The first time I thought of changing systems was right after playing through the adventure of the Château Télème. I even remember when it first crossed my mind; I was sitting outside on the terrace of a pub overlooking the river Eden (in Kent), waiting for my wife to come back from the bar with a couple pints, and speculating idly on changing over to BRP since I seemed to be veering towards CoC adventures instead of hex- and dungeon-crawling.

The pitifully small amount of BRP adventures on this blog belies my love for the system. It is not as easy to get a campaign started, though. Despite the lack of in-built setting, I can riff off D&D in my sleep, having DMed it for countless years. It always comes out as D&D, but at least there is some comfort in the familiar.

Trying to run Magic World this way made my campaign fall flat (though the amnesiac PC didn't help much either). BRP has a more intricate system, and thus demands a more thoughtful setting. I have a pretty severe aversion to too much campaign set-up, but... χαλεπὰ τὰ καλά.

I don't like changing systems mid-campaign, so I left it in the realm of speculation. It just seems weird that the PCs would wake up one day and all their powers work differently. The change from 3rd edition D&D to 3.5 was subtle enough that most of our group barely had to amend their character sheets. The only other change of rules during a campaign I've been involved in was that slow slide from Basic/Expert set over to AD&D when I was 10 (my friends and I all loved the new monsters and magic items, but we were suspicious at first of the larger hit die sizes for fighter, clerics, and thieves, as we thought they would be over-powered!).

In any case, it's going to take some time to sort the campaign out. Firstly, I need to decide which bits of BRP I'm going to use. There's a lot of options in the Big Golden Book, plus some monographs and various odds and ends I've found on the web. Then I need to convert characters. Lastly I need to decide where to start. I'll probably eliminate the rest of the dungeon crawl that immediately comes after the last post I made, since I've been dreading writing it up for a while now. It was fun to play, but it is the very one that made me decide I needed to use something more than just the DMG's Appendix A.

I'll probably find some other game to post about in the immediate future, whilst I figure this all out. I'll leave off with some more Ovid which suits my frame of mind about this now:

  nec manet ut fuerat nec formam servat eandem,
  sed tamen ipsa eadem est, animam sic semper eandem
  esse, sed in varias doceo migrare figuras.

Ov. Met. 15.170-173

(Translated poetry makes me ill, but if you need help, go here and click on either of the load buttons in the right sidebar by the English (1922 or 1957) translations. Start after the word Argos in blue.)