Friday, June 13, 2014

Radioactive Review — 'Wisdom From The Wastelands #23: Sea Monsters'

"Like, 40% of the original Gamma World monsters were fish.  What was up with that?" — WotC's Bruce Cordell, on Gamma World 4e (7e) (at GenCon 2010)

"Despite much of the planet being covered by ocean, sea monsters have oddly been absent from all editions of the game that inspired Mutant Future." — Introduction to WFTW #23

They're both (kinda-sorta) right.

Fish play a huge role in the Gamma World bestiaries from the 2nd Edition on, but they're freshwater (one supposes, based on the brief descriptions) critters.

But Dragon Magazine's two Mutant Manual supplements (found in #98 and #108) added a handful of sea-things, like aerosquids, blade whales, crusteans [crabs], draguns [saltwater crocs], and flipps [dolphins].  Sure, they're not "official" boxed-set beasties or anything, but they're close enough.

A Swiss-army version needs to happen.

WFTW #23 brings more post-apocalyptic content of a specifically salinated spin.

First off are nine new monsters.

There's the candy cod, a "fairly common game fish" that slightly mutates those that eat it.  It also has 30 Hit Dice, which is insane.  Compatible Labyrinth Lord tyrannosaurs have 20, fer chrissakes.

Next up is the glup, a grunion-y seal-thing that offensively shifts ambient temperatures.  Most of the text is about its mating cycle, though, so the Wisdom From The Wasteland series once again makes it abundantly clear why author Derek Holland is known as Skirmisher Publishing's Official Staff Biologist.

The greater inferno whale follows, and if you remember your Thundarr, you get the gist.  I reckon the "greater" part comes from added noxious clouds of gaseous chlorine it generates. Snazzy!


Then there's the shark king, which isn't a shark proper, but a sentient bass that makes Jaws-y sand elementals.  Nifty concept.  But this line in the description tickled me silly: "They are not a good source of information and most people ignore or avoid them."  It's just so random.  And doesn't that generally apply to EVERY monster, sentient or otherwise, in any given RPG?

It takes a whoooooooooooole lotta text to describe the shellback, when "big, poisonous clam" would've sufficed.  Same goes for the slaath, "big, explosive, carnivorous seaweed."

Close to the last but certainly not anywhere near the least, the sticky tree is a 300' long, 40' wide, 30' tall, 250 ton, 60 HD sea cucumber that swallows ships whole and is consequently stuffed with 10 times worth of Mutant Future's best treasure Hoard Class.  The Kraken as piƱata!


Looks like my sentiment regarding the shellback and slaath applies to the stonegull, too. "Bird with hardened feathers."

And again, with the the striking lump, "coral that entombs you on contact".  Ugh.  Sooooo. Much.  Expository.  Text.  I know word-counts matter to reach the WFTW standard format, but sheesh.

Rounding out the issue is some crunch, with painless, down-n-dirty drowning rules (lacking from the core Mutant Future book), and three new mutations:  Animate Object, Chemical Gland, and the disadvantageous Loss Of Trait.  All of these could be covered under existing mutations like Aberrant Form, Toxic Weapon, and Frailty, respectively, but there they are.

This issue of WFTW isn't my favorite.  Fiery whales and shark-golems aside, it's dry (hyuck!) and too tame.

But no matter what I think, Holland's science bonafides are unimpeachable.  And the drowning bit is sllick.  Totally using it.

Buy it here for 99¢.  Still the best value in gaming PDFs!