Sunday, April 19, 2015

Convention Play: Metamorphosis Alpha

I spent a good part of the past week updating my adventure, now titled "Rites of Passage," for Philly GamesCon. Unlike my G+ Hangout game, the con game stayed entirely on my 10th deck of the Starship Warden, a pleasant pastoral area with two villages and a handful of strange areas.

The first area visited was a Round House Modular Dwelling Unit, populated per Jim Ward's tables in The House on the Hill. Until the power suddenly kicked out, this was a fun game of MA's typical "identify this weird technological thing," with PCs figuring out soft drink dispensers and discovering a jar of peanut butter and jelly (one of those mixed types). The insane engineering robot activated, but the PCs had just found a robot maintenance device and used it to reboot it (it discovered a firmware corruption) and open the access panel. They left after the power outage with several good technological artifacts, and some magazines and cups.

After this they decided to go to the "Forbidden Zone," a massive high-radiation area. One of the PCs went in but his Radiation Resistance was good enough that it just did damage to him. After this, the mutant with several heightened senses figured out that they were being followed by a mutant bobcat, which did some fancy tunneling and chased them back to the river that runs through the level. It was an interesting encounter, because the bobcat had tunneling claws that let it burst out of the ground. One of the PCs had an Apathy Field that helped them get away.

The PCs took a rest and then went north to a small grove, where they had spotted a dug-up area that hides a laser pistol, a brown color band, and a cougaroid skin. Unfortunately there were squirrels. The PC with Apathy Field tried using it but one o the squirrels had terrific Mental Resistance and resisted. The squirrel then used its trump card – Molecular Disruption. That PC was gone, poof. Quite dramatic. The others used Heat Breath to kill both squirrels and the vines on the trees.

After that, the remaining three PCs tried heading fore (north), and found the field of weird flowers. They were going to skirt it (not a terrible idea), but one of the PCs went to pick a flower to bring home. This happened to be a rose with poison thorns, and I had him roll a Dexterity check to avoid getting pricked. He failed and that was another PC. The last two PCs called it an adventure and went home with substantial gear.

It was an enjoyable game, although I do want to tweak the level a bit more - there needs to be an encounter near the RHMDU aside from the robot to keep it from being a cakewalk. A PC with holographic skin was able to trick the house's access panel into letting him in by imitating a color band, a neat trick but one I probably wouldn't let work with a robot or more sophisticated tech. The fact of "here's a house, try to get in" is a fun challenge. I am thinking it could use some mutant birds nesting nearby to make it more of a challenge.

The grove with the molecular-disruptor squirrels is, I think, a very Metamorphosis Alpha encounter. The squirrels don't have a lot of hit points, but they can straight-out kill PCs if they try fighting. And the trees will try to grab PCs who dig up the goods, but the PCs observed the vines moving and used Heat Breath to fry everything in sight.

In practice, the Mutation Manual is awesome, the best of the Goodman supplements. It has some great new powers that add a whole lot to making mutants, both PC and not, more interesting. I think humans need a bit more edge to make them competitive, which I'll probably work on by tweaking the pregens. I would also recommend reprinting all the powers that PC mutants have for reference if you're running the game. Also, the Referee's Screen is terrific; it essentially has the whole system aside from the mutations on it. Easily worth ten bucks.

MA is a terrific game. It's probably, for my money, the best pure exploration game out there in RPGs. Combat is extremely variable because of the mutations, and the artifacts just make discovering things a pure joy. The level I've designed would probably take three or four sessions to explore thoroughly; I think that's a good length for a very full MA mini-campaign. At some point, I may see about putting it out in the wild, because I think more good MA sandbox adventures are really needed out there.


  1. Great to hear, Wayne! I've been thinking about picking up some of Ward's supplemental MA booklets, but haven't pulled the trigger yet. If you have thoughts/ recommendations on the others, I'd be happy to hear more!

    Any other highlights from the con you'll be sharing? :D


    1. I played Dungeon Crawl Classics in a funnel, which helped me grok more of the game's appeal. I'll be writing more about that separately.

      Of the Goodman MA books, I love The Captain's Table and Warden Adventures. Level of the Lost and Android Underlords both have something to recommend them, but aren't the heavily sandbox modules I prefer to see for the game.


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