Friday, January 25, 2013

Mutants In The News — "The Coming Of...THE SINISTER STAR-SCARABS!!!" Edition

Ok, this is cool as hell.

The BBC reports that dung beetles use astronomy—specifically, the positions and light and reflections thereof from the Sun, Moon, and Milky Way—to navigate their little balls o' filth around the desert.

Choice quote:  "Humans, birds, and seals are all known to navigate by the stars.  But this could be the first example of an insect doing so."

Fortunately, some of us have spent a lifetime (and a fortune in quarters) preparing for this eventuality....

Radioactive Review — 'Wisdom From The Wastelands #14: Aggregates'

Boy, howdy, is this one hard to review.

The meat of Wisdom From The Wastelands #14: Aggregates provides thoughtful, scientifically-sound, well-reasoned rationale and methodology for Mutant Lords to create, and I quote, "composite creatures that result from endosymbiosis, the changes that develop from a host and a symbiont living as one."  Some infecting and some bonding and some mutating merges two separate species into one new super-beastie, with lots of stops along the way to manifest new traits.

Provided are a half-dozen combos—Brain Worms / Brain Lashers, Green Hide algae and Chicken Wolves, Shrimp / Giant Catfish, Water Mold / Glue Flowers, Water Mold / Kelpers, and Water Mold / Null Plants—and their evolutionary life cycles, all described in exquisite detail.  Each gets about a half-page of explanatory text, and a unique, elaborate timechart listing the abilities gained and lost over the generations.

It's thorough.  It's reasonable.  It's sensible.  But it does absolutely, positively nothing for me. I'm just not the audience for the material.

Why, you ask?

Because this is a chicken wolf, one of the critters from the core Mutant Future rulebook.

Just look at that thing of beauty.

Now, if I wanted to give it plant powers, I'd just roll up some additional random mutations and that'd be that.  I straight up don't need a chart—or, worse, a sound, methodical rationale—to make that ridiculously awesome mutant go all plant-y over the course of decades.  As a life-long Gamma World fan, I take alligators with taser-tentacles on their heads and buffalo that morph into big ol' bugs for granted.  I don't need to know how or why they do what they do.

Any of you remember those Dragon magazine "Ecology Of The..." articles, or the 1980s era Official Handbooks Of The Marvel Universe?  They turned over-explaining into an artform...and sucked the joy out of the wondrous, magical, and/or plum goofy in the process. But thousands of fans viewed those over-explanations as features, not flaws.

Don't get me wrong.  Some of the hybrids are awesome, like the catfish that's a living submarine housing a rampaging crustacean army (as you all know, I'm a sucker for hybridized catfish!!!).  And each and every entry inspires creative new monstrosities to bedevil your players.  I just find the chart system cumbersome and clunky and no-funs-at-all, well done as it may be.

The rest of the issue focuses on a full page of 16 all-new mutations and disabilities, and there are some snazzy ones.  Particular faves include Crawling Claws (detachable limbs rule!), Dragonfly Wings, Hidden Egg, and Strangle Twigs.

Then again, those are doable under the core mutations already listed in the main rulebook....


So...what's my final verdict?

I guess I gotta go with the old standby:  "It's the kind of thing you'll like if you like that kind of thing."

Buy it here.