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Saturday, 3 December 2022

Maritime Mutant Mystery

Mutant Crawl Classics #13: Into The Glowing Depths is the thirteenth release for Mutant Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game – Triumph & Technology Won by Mutants & Magic, the spiritual successor to Gamma World published by Goodman GamesDesigned for Second Level player characters, what this means is that Mutant Crawl Classics #13: Into The Glowing Depths is not a Character Funnel, one of the signature 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. By the time the Player Characters in Mutant Crawl Classics #13: Into The Glowing Depths have reached Second Level, they will have had numerous adventures, should have understanding as to how both their mutant powers and how at least some of the various weapons, devices, and artefacts of the Ancients they have found work and can use on their future adventures.

Mutant Crawl Classics 
 #13: Into The Glowing Depths takes the Player Characters in a totally unexpected direction—under the sea—but begins in assuming fashion with the party travelling somewhere. The where is not important, but it means that the scenario is easy to set up or add to a campaign, because essentially, it is a side trek adventure. An interesting and engaging side trek adventure, but a side trek adventure nevertheless. On the journey, the Player Characters come across a small tubular building in a clearing which is clearly built by the Ancients and is being ransacked for artefacts by a band of the mutated humanoids known as Tri-eyes. After persuading the Tri-eyes to leave, whether through force or bribery, the Player Characters have  the opportunity to investigate themselves and hopefully find some useful devices left over from the Great Disaster which befell the Ancients. Unfortunately, their curiosity and their greed first gets them trapped, and then flings them into great danger.

Mutant Crawl Classics #13: Into The Glowing Depths will pull the Player Characters out of their comfort zone, because it takes place entirely under the sea and on the ocean floor. This is an environment which the Mutant Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game has not yet explored, so no one has any idea idea of what the undersea world of Terra A.D. is like—both in-game and out of game—until now. What is revealed is the undersea world was only beginning to be explored and inhabited before the Great Disaster, and much like the world above, the seas of Terra were affected by the nuclear, biological, chemical, nanotech, and other weapons of mass destruction used in the Great Disaster. However, it took a lot longer, being protected initially by the oceans. Like the world above though, there remains pockets and outposts of civilisation from before the Great Disaster, and it is to one of these that the Player Characters find themselves in what should be an epic opening scene.

Many of the adventures for the Mutant Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game combine a mix of exploration and combat, often in what are the isolated remains of buildings, facilities, outposts, stations, bunkers, museums, and the like of the future, now long in the past of Terra A.D. Mutant Crawl Classics #13: Into The Glowing Depths does this too, but it differs because it involves a plot and a number of tasks which the Player Characters must complete in order to finish the scenario, survive, and save the world. Consequently, the scenario feels more proactive, providing the Player Character with objectives and things to do, rather than just exploration and extermination.

The Player Characters find themselves  in an undersea outpost, partially flooded and only partially operational. They will find themselves sloshing through half-lit and darkened rooms, in a series of mini-quests. The first of which is restoring power, the second holding off an attack against invading forces, and the third preventing a further invasion—not just of the undersea outpost, but the whole of the surface world of Terra A.D.! Throughout, the Player Characters are guided by the A.I. which runs the outpost, a surprisingly benign presence in comparison to other computer intelligences found in the world of Terra A.D. (Or Science Fiction in general, especially post apocalyptic Science Fiction.) She—and it is a a she—impresses upon the Player Characters that time is short and invasion from the depths below is imminent.

Thus Mutant Crawl Classics #13: Into The Glowing Depths is played out in several steps, beginning with what is effecting the abduction of the Player Characters by the A.I. of the outpost. Then following an explanation, exploration of the outpost’s various levels to find the means to restore power—the latter involving an excursion along the seabed, followed by the defence of the outpost and then the attack on the invaders. Consequently, the scenario is really written in two halves. The first details the outpost itself, whilst the second the events which propel the scenario’s plot forward, culminating hopefully in the successful defeat of the invasion and saving of both outpost and life on Terra A.D. itself!

Both the outpost and the A.I. itself are described in some detail, the latter important because she is a major NPC in the scenario. The outpost is mapped out in pleasing detail, including wavy grid lines rather than straight to indicate locations which are under several feet of water. It is a lovely touch. If perhaps there is an issue with the scenario, it is that the outpost A.I. advises the Player Characters on much of what works and how, aboard the outpost, replacing the usual artifact checks of the Mutant Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game. In some ways, this unavoidable, since there is so much in the outpost that the Player Characters have to know how to work in order to complete the scenario and if the players have to roll, there is a chance of failure.  Another issue of course, is that the scenario opens a whole new world in the form of the subsea environment, but never goes beyond the outpost. Hopefully this world will further detailed in a future supplement or sequel scenario.

Physically, behind a suitably briny cover, Mutant Crawl Classics #13: Into The Glowing Depths is cleanly and tidily laid out, clearly written, and decently illustrated. As already mentioned, the maps are really nicely done.

Mutant Crawl Classics #13: Into The Glowing Depths is a real change of pace and environment for the Mutant Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game. As a side trek scenario, it is really easy to add to a campaign, but it is also a thoroughly engaging scenario for both player and Judge, opening up a whole new world in Terra A.D., one which will hopefully be revisited again in Mutant Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game, as there really is a lot to explore.

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