Every Week It's Wibbley-Wobbley Timey-Wimey Pookie-Reviewery...

Saturday 3 November 2018

Overmind, Undermind, Mutating Free...

Mutant Crawl Classics #1: Hive of the Overmind is the first release for Mutant Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game – Triumph & Technology Won by Mutants & Magic, the spirutual successor to Gamma World published by Goodman Games. Like ‘Assault on the Sky-High Tower’ to be found in the back of the Mutant Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game, it is a Level 0 MCC RPG Adventure which provides a Rite of Passage for many Zero Level characters or a suitable encounter for Level One characters. One of the features of the Mutant Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game–and the Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game it is mechanically based upon–is that initially, a player is expected to roll up three or four Level Zero characters and have them play through a Character Funnel. This is a generally nasty, deadly adventure, which surviving will prove a challenge. Those that do survive receive enough Experience Points to advance to First Level and gain all of the advantages of their Class. In terms of the setting, this is a’ Rite of Passage’ and in Mutants, Manimals, and Plantients, the stress of it will trigger ‘Metagenesis’, their DNA expressing itself and their mutations blossoming forth.

Originally released as a Stretch Goal for the Kickstarter campaign for the Mutant Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game, opens with a cliché, one that echoes A4: In the Dungeons of the Slave Lords. The player characters are underground, in the near dark, do not know where they are, and do not have any equipment. What they do know is that they are on their ‘Rite of Passage’, sent out from the tribe to recover and return with artefacts of the Ancients and so prove their adulthood. Unfortunately, something has happened in the meantime and they find themselves amidst a battle between a troop of Devils and a Buzzer (or rather, a troop of Ant Men and a Giant Bee!).

The oddness of the battle and its set-up continue in the aftermath, the Devils returning to their duties and letting the player characters begin to investigate their surroundings and situation. They find themselves in the hive, looking for a way out as well as their equipment, but there are deeper mysteries beyond the hive itself. Mutant Crawl Classics #1: Hive of the Overmind is combination of insect hive and strange complex across two levels, with less than ten locations on each level. The two levels are very different, the upper hive level earthy and organic, the lower complex artificial and clinical.

In general, the lower level is far more interesting than the upper level. There are more things to be found and interact with, more exploring to be done, and whilst there are combat encounters to be had, there are fewer of them and they are slightly tougher than those on the upper level. That is in addition to the dangers of interacting with the complex’s environment, with there being a chance that the player characters might make things worse or get themselves killed, but that is part and parcel of the danger in Terra A.D., the setting for the Mutant Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game.

There are a number of issues with the design of the adventure, especially the upper level. One is that the design of the upper level is linear in nature, counter to its description as being mazelike. The Game Master may want to alter the plans of the hive to make them more maze-like. Another is that the design includes a chokepoint –a bridge over a lava filled chasm–which may prove to be something of a challenge for the player characters as it relies too much on their Strength. Once past that, the adventure can continue unabated, though another issue is that the plot needs a bit of work if it is to be a bit more apparent to the players and their characters. This would help the Game Master better roleplay the few NPCs there are for the player characters to interact with.

Nevertheless, there are plenty of artefacts for the player characters to find and interact with, many of them much more useful in terms of adventuring and exploring the world of Terra A.D. than those found  in ‘Assault on the Sky-High Tower’ to be found in the back of the Mutant Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game. The number present more than makes up for the loss of items at the start of the scenario. There are also several opportunities for mutagenesis, the chance for Mutants, Manimals, and Plantients to evolve and devolve, as well as change into species from wholly different genre! There are also links to be found to future scenarios for Mutant Crawl Classics if the player characters go looking for them and the possibility that any of the Pure Strain Humans present might come to the attention of a Patron AIs in the Terra A.D. setting which the Shaman Class serves. Lastly, the scenario includes several options for how the player characters might escape from both the hive above and the complex below.

Physically, Mutant Crawl Classics #1: Hive of the Overmind is just sixteen pages in length. The writing is generally good, whilst the artwork has the weird and wacky feel that the mixed up world of Terra A.D. needs to have. The map at the centre of the booklet is a lovely piece of cartography, given lots of space and is very easy to read.

Mutant Crawl Classics #1: Hive of the Overmind can be used in several ways. The first is of course, as a Character Funnel for Level Zero characters. For that, it is deadly enough and dangerous enough, but with the capacity for the player characters to offset this lethality with handy artefacts. The second is as an adventure for First Level characters. It is not specifically written for characters of this Level, but it is possible that it could be run as such, the Player Characters having an edge in terms of their powers and abilities. The third is as a sequel to ‘Assault on the Sky-High Tower’, the surviving Player Characters ending up in the hive following their encounters in the strange building during their Rite of Passage. Certainly returning home with the artefacts and items from both locations would mark them as worthy members of the tribe.

However it is run, Mutant Crawl Classics #1: Hive of the Overmind should provide at least a session or two’s worth of exploration and combat, with a modicum of roleplaying on the side. It needs a little effort upon the part of the Game Master to bring out that roleplaying and its associated plot, but there is a solid, entertaining adventure to be had in the pages of Mutant Crawl Classics #1: Hive of the Overmind.

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