Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Radioactive Review — 'Wisdom From The Wastelands' #2: Monsters That Improve With Age

Full disclosure:  At Houston's OwlCon a few weeks back, I ran into Michael O. Varhola, the delightful Editor-In-Chief of Skirmisher Publishing.  You know Skirmisher.  They put out neat Mutant Future-compatible products like the Creatures Of The Wastelands series of books, and D-∞ Magazine...and the new Wisdom From The Wastelands weekly.

We got to chatting, and I told him how much I enjoyed his material, and how I owned almost all of it...and he kindly put me on the reviewer comp list for upcoming material.

So...issue #2 of the Wasteland Weekly publication is the first of my comps.  There's no funny business going on here.

Now on to the review!

Like Issue #1, Wisdom From The Wastelands #2:  Monsters That Improve With Age is a five page PDF (six, with OGL; I gander this is going to be the standard format).  The layout is also identical, with clean formatting and plenty of evocative pictures.  Same price point, too:  99¢.

Per author Derek Holland, the purpose of this supplement is to provide "age chart[s] scale monster encounters so that they are commensurate with the powers and artifacts possessed by the player characters."  

Several chart types are included, such as the Standard (the older the monster, the higher its number of Hit Dice and Mutations), the Variant (the older the monster, the higher its Hit corresponding changes in Movement, Damage, AC, etc.), the Multiple (breaks down monsters into distinct "classes" like Workers, Soldiers, Warriors, etc., with age-based abilities), and the Metamorphic (with creatures that change into "new" forms as they age, also with age-based abilities).

Examples of these charts tie into four new Monsters:  the Grape Mass (strangling plants), Lazra ("asymmetrical mutant moles"), Giant Green Crayfish (hive-based crustaceans), and Dekodecs (nasty ants that far surpass the standard Giant ones in the Mutant Future Core Rules).

The new monsters are really well done, with lengthy descriptions, and detailed charts.  And I'm a known sucker for mutant moles and crawdads.  This product is pretty much right up my alley.


...well, the material provides just "too much" for my own sensibilities.  Too much detail.  Too much elaboration.  Too much work.

Lemme 'splain.

Part of what got me into Mutant Future in the first place (and the whole OSR thing by default) is that I wanted a return of some simplicity in my RPGs.  I'd both GMed and played Champions for the better part of a decade, and that game makes you detail everything...and when HERO System 6th Edition came out, I recoiled at having to re-learn some rules I never thought needed changing in the first place.  (Not that there was THAT much difference between HERO 5th and 6th; it's just that the changes were significant enough to vex me.)

And I've tried to maintain that "OSR vibe" simplicity in my own blog here, by keeping my monster descriptions brief, and with plenty of wiggle-room for other GMs to customize them as they see fit.  (As to whether I've succeeded is up to you readers.)

What these Age Charts do is essentially turn each monster into a Dragon from the classic Monster Manual, with every variance in age corresponding to new "stuff".  And the charts are thorough, with some including not only months and years of the monsters' lives, but weeks and hours.  That's not really something I need.  (I confess to having one monster—my Armigo—that corresponded thematically to the Age Chart concept, but  that write-up irritated me halfway through typing it out.)

I guess what I'm saying is that I like the minimalistic elegance of the Monsters in the Mutant Future core book.  And if I need to toughen them up for players?  I'll just add more Hit Dice and Mutations and such as appropriate.


I guess that means that, yes, I'd end up in the same place as if I'd used the Age Charts, after all.  


In conclusion:

If you like more detail in your Mutant Future critters, pick it up.
If you like neat ideas to spice up your own beasties, pick it up.
If you like mutant crawdads, or moles, or both...DEFINITELY pick it up.