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Saturday 15 February 2020

Mutant Magic Eight Ball?

Mutant Crawl Classics #8: The Data Orb of Metakind is the eighth 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 also radically different to all of the previous releases for Mutant Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game. The previous seven releases for the post-apocalyptic roleplaying game have all been scenarios. These have either been standard scenarios like Mutant Crawl Classics #6: The Apocalypse Ark or Mutant Crawl Classics #4: Warlords of ATOZ, or scenarios designed for use with player characters who are Zero Level. Such scenarios, like Mutant Crawl Classics #1: Hive of the Overmind and Mutant Crawl Classics #7: Reliquary of the Ancient Ones are known as Character Funnels, 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. Mutant Crawl Classics #8: The Data Orb of Metakind is not a scenario, but a supplement—and a supplement dedicated to just the one artefact.

That artefact is the most holy of ancient relics, the Data Orb of Metakind, a device which has been handed down from shaman to shaman, from mystic mutant to mystic mutant for generations. Only Shamans, Mutants, Manimals, and Plantients can use the hand-sized golden orb—Purse Strain Humans cannot—and they need to be intelligent to do so. Once the user has understood and bonded with the device, what he gains access to accumulated knowledge of everyone who has ever handled and used it. So thousands of memories and experiences, knowledges, skills, and more. Though usually only a few times a day. Each time the character interfaces with the Data Orb, it is usually to extract a specific piece of information or answer to a particular question, but every time the character does so, his player has to make a roll to determine the character’s success. Now the likelihood of a player character extracting the information he is after is quite low, but it is possible.

Now the fun of the Data Orb and Mutant Crawl Classics #8: The Data Orb of Metakind is when the player fails the roll. Then the player character’s request might be misinterpreted, partially interpreted, or simply ignored, but if misinterpreted or partially interpreted , then the Game Master gets to roll on the indicated table. Most of the supplement is dedicated to the various tables representing the various categories of information contained within the data matrices of the Data Orb. Five of these deal with various types of technology to be found in Terra A.D.—including power sources, medical, arms and armour, and artificial intelligences. This grants a player character a bit of new information, generally helpful, for example, on the Weapons & Armour Technology Table, if the player rolls Dazer Pistol, the player character learns a new setting for the weapon.

The other tables send the player character off in another direction, all of them providing them a benefit in some way, either permanent or temporary. So from ‘Voices of the Past’, accessing Bulbar the Odd’s “When confronted by an unknown creature, it is far better that you assume that it is poisonous, blindingly fast and utterly ferocious. This attitude does not condone mindless extinction of the new and the novel, but it does lessen the chance of your corpse looking surprised.” will grant the user a temporary bonus to his attack rolls. Whereas accessing the Thought Records of the Ancients, “It is by will alone I set my mind in motion. It is by the juice of Sapho that thoughts acquire speed, the lips acquire stains, stains become a warning. It is by will alone I set my mind in motion.” grants the character a permanent bonus to his Personality attribute. Mutant Crawl Classics #8: The Data Orb of Metakind includes lots of fun quotes like this and back them up with juicy benefits.

On the one hand, the Data Orb of Metakind essentially acts as a Patron AI, the means by which a Shaman gains his Patron AI Bond wetware programs—the nearest thing that the Mutant Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game has to spells. It does not though, actually grant wetware programs as having a Shaman praying to his Patron AI would. On the other hand, it grants access to knowledge, typically random knowledge (because the player character has failed to access the specified information he was looking for), and that is where the fun comes in. When that happens, the Data Orb becomes a source of random knowledge and benefits—tables and tables of them—much like the famed Deck of Many Things of Dungeons & Dragons. In comparison though, a Shaman can access the Data Orb again and again, several times a day.

Of course, none of this is without its dangers. Roll poorly and the user may simply get an electric shock from attempting to use the Data Orb. Roll really poorly and—well, why spoil it for the user? The Data Orb of Metakind is brimming over with secrets and dangers, all of which are best learned through play and discovery. If there is an issue with the supplement, it is that there is no scenario detailing where it might be found, but the Game Master will have to write one.

Physically, Mutant Crawl Classics #8: The Data Orb of Metakind is somewhat unprepossessing. It is fundamentally, one big set of tables, but they are all neatly laid out, well written, and easy to use. The supplement uses a range of artwork, including a fun one of the publisher himself on the back page.

The Data Orb of Metakind is the equivalent of a Magic Eight Ball in the post-apocalyptic world of Terra A.D. Think of a question, shake the Data Orb of Metakind, and see what answers, secrets, or dangers it gives. Mutant Crawl Classics #8: The Data Orb of Metakind provides a big artefact with plenty of potential for fun and failure, plus there is lots of gaming life to it, for once found, a Shaman is going to consult this again and again, making this a supplement for the whole of a Mutant Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game campaign.

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