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Wednesday 25 December 2019

Happy Holideath

Mutant Crawl Classics 2018 Holiday Module: Home for the Holideath is a scenario for Mutant Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game – Triumph & Technology Won by Mutants & Magic, the spiritual successor to Gamma World published by Goodman Games. It is designed for use with player characters of First Level, which means 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 Blessings of the Vile Brotherhood is designed for characters of Fourth 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.

As its title suggests, 
Mutant Crawl Classics 2018 Holiday Module: Home for the Holideath is something a little bit different, a festive, holiday-themed scenario suitable for playing at this time of year. It can easily be added to any Mutant Crawl Classics campaign, starting as it does with a problem that has befallen the player characters’ village. For generations, two tribes—the Mud-Walker tribe and the Violent Serpent tribe—have exchanged gifts at a given time each winter to renew the bonds of friendship and peace between their peoples. Unfortunately, before the ceremony at which this exchange takes place happens this year, it is discovered that all of the presents have been stolen! Without the gifts and the traditions of the ceremony, the acrimony between the two tribes from before the peace threatens to rear its ugly head and hostilities to break out once again. So it is up to the player characters—or Seekers—to track down the gifts and return before war breaks out!

Like many scenarios for Mutant Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game, the setting for 
Mutant Crawl Classics 2018 Holiday Module: Home for the Holideath is a dungeon of the future. In this case, it is a temple of Ancients dedicated to commerce, but also to Christmas and its cheeriness. Of course, in the time of the Ancients it was a department store, but in the centuries since the great apocalypse that brought about Terra A.D., its AI administrator, XMAS—or eXtended Mercantile Artificial Salesperson—and its facilities have degraded and been twisted by the ongoing effects of the disaster and the lack of maintenance. Thus each of the three main floors is garishly decorated in tinsel, holly wreaths, baubles, and gaudy point of sale material and all of the paraphernalia you would expect of a department store putting on a big push for Christmas sale, but now the Smartpaper wrapping station is a security station, Santa’s bio-engineered helper elves have either gone feral or woodpunk, the transport network between floors have become death traps, and what was once a winter spectacle on the top floor, is now a hardlight hell. Plus, security is provided by Miss Majorie, a grandmother robot who will not tolerate the antics of naughty boys and girls (or Manimals, Mutants, and Plantients). Which all leads to the possibility that the great disaster that struck the Ancients either took place before Christmas or that this once great temple of Christmas consumerism was actually open all year!

In amongst all of the death traps and dangerous denizens of the commercial temple of the Ancients you would expect of a module for Mutant Crawl Classics, it turns out that 
Mutant Crawl Classics 2018 Holiday Module: Home for the Holideath is really quite generous with its gifts. The ground floor consists of a number of merchandise stations where gifts for family and friends can still be found. Thees gifts though, are no mere gee gaws or bric-a-brac, but in many cases actually useful artefacts. Minor useful items, but useful, festively themed minor artefacts all the same. There are rechargeable sunglasses, fantastic fit-anyone skates, and holiday sweaters which light up, but are very warm and actually provide an Armour Class bonus. There are plenty of these minor artefacts to go around and certainly each of the Seekers should come away with something from the scenario (if they survive that is.) A nice touch is that if the Seekers look in the right places there whole, brightly coloured, heavily illustrated books dedicated to showcasing just what the temple has on sale and each will provide a bonus in trying to work out what each item does.

Mutant Crawl Classics 2018 Holiday Module: Home for the Holideath is quite short, but decently illustrated with some creepy artwork. The book is well written, although the Game Master will need to give a careful read in places to make the connections in the plot and between various locations.

As a ‘dungeon crawl’, 
Mutant Crawl Classics 2018 Holiday Module: Home for the Holideath is somewhat lacking when it comes to roleplaying and the Game Master really has the one NPC with which the player characters will interact. With her, the Game Master should really be hamming it up, as either a kindly, take-no-nonsense grandmother or school-ma’am-ish old lady to get the full weird effect. The ‘ho-ho horror’ of Mutant Crawl Classics 2018 Holiday Module: Home for the Holideath is nevertheless well done, twisting and changing the traditional elements of Christmas and its commercialism without being either too knowing or too twee in its own cleverness. Often there is a groan-inducing inevitability of a Christmas scenario and all its trappings, Mutant Crawl Classics 2018 Holiday Module: Home for the Holideath avoids much of that to provide a suitably horrifying and weird experience for the inhabitants of Terra A.D. and their players.

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