Thursday, April 12, 2012

Radioactive Review — 'Wisdom From The Wastelands' #6: Factions'

You couldn't have vintage Gamma World without cryptic alliances—essentially, post-apocalyptic Illuminati groups that served as antagonists and allies for the PCs—and issue #6 of Wisdom From The Wasteland introduces four analogous "factions" for your Mutant Future campaigns.  I could be wrong, but I believe this supplement marks the first official appearance of cryptic alliances in the Mutant Future canon.

Included are...

) The Gaians:  Aggressive plantlife.

) The Legion:  The Black Company gone atomic.

) The Uplifted:  Pre-apocalyptic intelligent animals, trapped in a world they never made.

) The Xenophobes:  High-tech exterminators of all things "alien".

Man.  This is a rough one.  

On top of the plentiful spelling and grammar mistakes, the material is just kinda...there.  And there's a lot of "there" there.

Take the Gaians section.  Two dense pages about militant plants bent on conquest (except the ones that aren't...sigh) and their crazy-go-nuts powers:  genetic manipulation, bio-technological mimicry ("I shot a plant with a laser...and a few months later, it shoots lasers!!!"), insect control and mutation, and human-into-plant-monster infections.   It reads like someone put every mouldering comic featuring Poison Ivy and/or The Floronic Man, some original 1962 Mars Attacks trading cards, and John Carpenter's The Thing in a blender...and while that reads like The Greatest Thing Ever, it's somehow not.

Then come the sub-factions:  Overlords (love technology, destroy other intelligent life), Returners (hate techonology, destroy other intelligent life...including the Overlords), and Changers (love technology, want to turn other life into plants).  And they collectively have very few members, because most non-affiliated plants want nothing to do with them...meaning the Gaians want to destroy them, too.

So, what do we have?  The first faction mentioned is essentially three separate groups, with divergent agendas and every superpower ever, united under a banner of self-directed racism and infighting.  It's a mess.

The Legion and The Xenophobes are harmless, although the latter really crank up in-game access to spaceships and the like.  That could be problematic in campaigns geared more towards the "stop signs as shields" aesthetic.

The Uplifted made my eyes glaze over, as like the Gaians, this section includes four dull sub-groups (Orwellians, Apes, Truebloods, Anthromorphs) with some permutation of "seeks domination / doesn't seek domination / seeks to live in Nature / seeks to live in society (and maybe mate with Humans)".  And all are wholly unnecessary because Gamma World already gave us The Ranks Of The Fit and The Zoopremists.

The authors specifically leave out any and all "crunch" for these organizations, so there's nothing on membership rites, key NPCs, benefits to joining, etc.  There aren't even any iconic symbols to identify the groups, as were seen in Gamma World:

I like that kind of stuff.  The little details jazz up the material.  And this supplement needs all the jazzing it can get...

...because even the few clipart stills managed to grate.

What good can I say about the supplement?

I like the the Gaians inspire plants as recurring NPC antagonists, and not just stationary hazards that try to eat your PCs with explosive seeds and tendril-vines and whatnot.  Plants are actualized as major threats.

The [Foreign] Legion is a campaign in and of itself.  Having your PCs start off as "lost souls in search of themselves" adds a certain mystique lacking in the typical "you are mutant teens who go on a rite of passage to Quests Mountain" scenarios.

The Xenophobes could make for an interesting Ghostbusters-esque / anti-Men In Black campaign.

How's this for a blurb:  "Too much muchness, and not enough razzamatazz."