Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Mutant Trolls

So a space jockey and a barbarian go into a bar...

The golden crown of Random Character Generation is the Random Mutation Chart. You can end up with awesome mental powers to fry your enemies or somehow you can find yourself allergic to oxygen. You never know how a mutant will turn out. You can end up with an übermensch, a gimp or something in-between. So I've been knocking around some way to integrate random mutations into my D&D campaigns. Here are my thoughts so far.

Mutant as Class – This how the appendix in the back of Mutant Future suggests mashing up your science fantasy and vanilla fantasy. Mutant Humanoid, Mutant Animal and such are classes just like Elf and Halfling. Key parameters (damage, duration, etc) in several mutations are changed to per level variables. For example, something that does a flat 10d6 damage in Mutant Future is now rated 1d6 per level instead.

I’m not keen on Mutant as Class as presented in MF for two reasons. 1) You can’t play a Llama that is also a Lama. 2) Attempting to balance Random Mutations strikes me as just plain wrong. The balance, if any, enters into the picture because you have a chance of rolling Gamma Death Eyebeams but you also have a chance of rolling up Born Without A Face.

Mutant as Race – This is basically how AD&D would do it. I pick Avocado as my race and Ninja has my class and get on with my life. Fairly simple but sometimes I feel pretty strongly that Elf is a Class. Still, I’ve got to admit that at this point if a player told me “I want to run an Elf Thief” I would relent. I’d prefer if the player asked me to run an Octopus or a Balrog or something crazy like that, but I’d let an Elf Thief slide. The platonic ideal of the Elf class may appeal to me, but players ought to get a say in what they run as well. Unless I were to start using a table like this when I DMed:

1) Fighter
2) Magic-User
3) Cleric
4) Thief
5) If Con > 8 then Dwarf, otherwise roll d4.
6) If Int > 8 then Elf, otherwise roll d4.
7) If Con > 8 and Dex > 8 then Halfling, otherwise roll d4.
8) Roll d100 and ask DM to look up result on his Secret Bonus Class Chart.

I haven’t yet figured out whether I really want to do that or not, so I’m going to continue operating under the assumption that the players should get to some choice in PC type. Still I’d prefer not to add one more list of things players have to pick from at chargen. I like chargen as speedy as possible so someone with a dead PC can get right back into the thick of it as fast as dice and pencils allow.

Mutant as Template – This is the approach of Encounter Critical. In EC you pick (or roll) your race and your class and then you may optionally select one or more templates like Cave Primitive or Mutated. Selecting the latter indicates that you will be rolling 1-3 times on the random mutations chart and taking whatever the dice give you. That seems fair. A part of me wants to dictate that all PCs have a flat 1 in 6 chance of starting out mutated, but for some unfathomable reason not everyone likes to roll on those kind of charts. The other issue is that unless you build a Gnu or Aardvark class no one can play a Mutant Gnu or Mutant Aardvark. Or maybe general Anthropomorphic Animal and Ambulatory Plant classes are needed, on top of which you could layer the funky mutations given by the mutant template.