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Saturday, 23 March 2019

A Weird Day at Someone Else's Office

Mutant Crawl Classics #3: Incursion of the Ultradimension is the third release for Mutant Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game – Triumph & Technology Won by Mutants & Magic, the spiritual successor to Gamma World published by Goodman Games. It is the second adventure to be designed for use with player characters who are not Zero Level, being instead designed for player characters of Second Level. What this means is that it is not a Character Funnel, one of the features of both the Mutant Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game and the Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game it is mechanically based upon–in which initially, a player is expected to roll up three or four Level Zero characters and have them play through 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, known as Terra A.D., or ‘Terra After Disaster’, 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. Rather Incursion of the Ultradimension is designed for characters of Second Level, so each of the player characters will have a range of powers and abilities as equipment and artefacts scavenged after two or three adventures out in Terra A.D.

Written by Michael Curtis–the author of Stonehell Dungeon: Down Night-Haunted Halls and The Dungeon AlphabetIncursion of the Ultradimension begins with the player characters on their way somewhere when they have stopped overnight at the jungle village of Glazhaus. This makes it easy for the Judge to slot the scenario into an existing or ongoing campaign. Yet during their stay, disaster strikes and everyone, including the player characters, have to scramble to safety. In the wake of the disaster an old horror appears, one that has not been seen for generations and one that the villagers are ill-equipped to deal with given the all too recent disaster, but guess who is?

Going out to the starkly empty island off the coast and the adventurers find a strange building and inside that, an even stranger complex. This is a scientific research facility which has been invaded by, guess what, an Incursion of the Ultradimension. It has a highly regular design, an industrial design, with a high degree of interconnectivity, it being essentially an unfolded tesseract rendered into two dimensions rather than multiple dimensions. What this highlights is a feature crucial to Mutant Crawl Classics and to its genre in general, its adaptation of contemporary or near-future facilities into dungeons that the characters of Mutant Crawl Classics can then explore. This brings in a certain ‘blue-collar’ feel to the Sci-Fi of Incursion of the Ultradimension which is further increased by the nature of the threat that echoes that of the 1979 movie, Alien.

The complex is full of strange creatures and weird growths, most of which are either dangerous or inimical to the player characters. The scenario does include opportunities for roleplaying though. Initially in the village following the disaster, but also inside the complex itself. As expected, some of this is with the complex itself. After all, no self-respecting Sci-Fi scientific research facility would be complete without an intelligent computer to talk to, but not all of the inhabitants of the complex are necessarily hostile towards the player characters. In fact, some of them will probably be happy to see them and given how cute they are, the player characters will doubtless be pleased to see them.

In general, Mutant Crawl Classics #3: Incursion of the Ultradimension is well-written and easy to grasp. Its tone is weird rather than wacky or gonzo, but that should not be held against the scenario. It very much needs another edit and to fair, whilst the artwork is really good, it good have been better used. In particular, it would have been nice if the images of monsters had been matched with the monster stats. This would have made them easier to vizualise by the Judge and thus easier for her to describe them to her players.

If there is an issue with Incursion of the Ultradimension, it is really how it deals with any aftermath. In the long term, it has the potential to link to further sequels based at other research sites and to that end describes a map that the player characters might see, although it does not actually provide such a map as a handout. This is not necessarily a bad thing as it allows the Judge to place any such sequels anywhere in her own campaign world, and anyway, Mutant Crawl Classics is not a roleplaying game with a tightly defined setting. Yet in the short term, the scenario could have explored the possible outcomes in more depth, in particular what might happen to the potentially non-hostile race to be found in the complex, because as with other aspects of the scenario, they have the potential to change the Judge’s campaign world. It would have been nice if guidelines had been included for members of this race had replacement player characters been needed. The likelihood is that any player will enjoy roleplaying one of these creatures with cute, twitchy noses.

In comparison to previous scenarios, Mutant Crawl Classics #3: Incursion of the Ultradimension feels nicely compact rather than sprawling. Like previous entries in the series, this is only twenty pages long, which together with its set-up, makes it easy to bring to a campaign. Mutant Crawl Classics #3: Incursion of the Ultradimension should provide two or three good sessions’ worth of play with a strong emphasis on claustrophobic horror and weirdness.

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