Thursday, September 10, 2009

Mutant Future session #5

Wow! Last night's Mutant Future run turned out to be a real humdinger! You ever had a night where one PC idea or one crazy die roll spins the whole session wildly out of control? It was one of those nights and it was beautiful. A couple days ago I shared with all y'all the map of Slimy Lake. The adventure I proposed last night was an exploration the ruins of Crusty Island, just south of the Fishing Village where the current PCs are based.

A key concept here is that Crusty Island is not a natural island. Most of the ruined pre-apocalyptic city is 30' or more under the surface of Slimy Lake. The tallest buildings poke out of the water and over the centuries fallen vegetation has gotten logjammed between these taller edifices and coated over with the mysterious oozy crud that periodically flows down the Sludge River. Crusty Island is literally a booger-like crust a few feet thick floating on top of the lake but anchored to the taller buildings.

After explaining these facts I threw in the requisite "oh, yeah. rumors of ancient artifacts, yadda, yadda". Dane really latched on to the prospect that vast parts of the city were underwater and asked if the party had access to scuba gear. At first I wanted to outright reject this request. After all, it's a post-apoc setting where flushing toilets are beyond the ken of normal men, I have no maps of the underside prepped, and he was only kidding anyway. But then I thought to myself, what the hell? I gave him a one in a twenty chance.

Whaddyaknow? The little so-and-so made it. Rolled right out in the open and everything. For extra fun I decided that what he actually had access to was a single old fashion diving suit, the kind with the big brass helmet and long hose to the surface. The pump is a manual jobbie, requiring two people to keep the oxygen supply good. Actual scuba gear wouldn't be nearly as amusing.

The PCs get a lift to the island from local fisherman Swampy Joe. After avoiding a huge giant bee lair and dispatching a few wandering giant centipedes, they establish a base camp in a small building. The rest of the night turns into Aquanaut Adventures in the Mutant Future, as the entire session ends up revolving around a series of dives into the flooded levels of the ruined city.
The ruined building next door is venting some sort of poisonous gas, which our heroes discover is bubbling up from the water below. Dane wants to discover the source of these strange orange vapors, so he suits up and heads towards the stairwell leading down. This is when I tell him all about the Mutant Future equipment condition and malfunction rules. I sling some dice, he rolls a save versus poison, and runs back to the group as fast as he can without ever reaching the water. His PC is coughing and hacking, his lungs feel like they're burning, but he'll live.

Dane: Aargh! Why don't people in the future test their equipment before using it?
Me: You're the player. You tell me.

After testing the suit in some non-poisonous water, the group does their best to plug some leaks. Dane suits up and heads back for the poisonous stairs o' death. Once he hits the water a successful Dex check insures that he doesn't slip on the slime-covered surfaces. He makes it down two flights of stairs to the level that seems to be the source of the deadly vapors. He ducks under the bubbles of gas and enters a strange bluelit world. It seems the underside of the Crust is home to a phosphorescent fungus and it's lighting the level through some large holes in the walls as well as the windows. This allows Dane to see some sort of huge wormlike leviathan swim past the outside of the building.

But he doesn't have a lot of time to take this all in or ascertain the source of the lethal orange bubbles, as a four foot long mutant leech attacks him! Piercing right through the suit and into his flesh, the leech starts to drain Dane's vital fluids at an alarming rate as Dane attempts to shoot him with mutant-powered gamma ray blasts. Two rounds into the combat Dane remembers that his plant mutant has Poisonous Sap and asks if the leech should be taking poison damage. I agree that makes sense and start rolling saving throws each round. Eventually the leech succumbs to a combination of gamma radiation and sap. Dane immediately announces that he is firmly holding the dead leech to his wound so as to not break the watertight seal the leech-mouth had on the suit. He slowly walks back up to the surface without further incident. The party dine on roast leech after draining the poison and thoroughly cooking it out.

Man, that encounter was rad to the max.

With Dane badly wounded other players step up to plate and take their chances with the diving suit. After getting the suit repaired in the Fishing Village and testing it, the party returns to the island and Wheelz suits up. He takes a shot at exploring the flooded level immediately below the ruined cubicle farm that's serving as their base camp. He ends up exploring an old dentist's office. Being a backwards future guy, he misidentifies a dental X-ray device for a laser cannon, which then becomes the object of the party's avarice. Somewhere along the way he also snags his suit and starts taking on water. What can I say? If these guys are going to bet their lives on a poorly-maintained centuries-old piece of equipment, I am going to run that plot point into the ground.

On his way out of the office and back up the stairs Wheelz makes a critical discovery. He spots some sort of underwater creature on the level before the bogey spots him. Wheelz does the smart thing and gets the hell out of Dodge, but he does notice that the finny creep down the hall is wearing some sort of belt full of gadgetry. There are intelligent mutants under Crusty Island!

But in their greedy little hearts they still lusted after that laser cannon. So they sold their most prized possessions (a wind-up Barky Dog™ toy and a baseball autographed by the World Series winning Chicago Cubs) to finance the purches of some mining equipment, more rope, a block and tackle, a bigass iron hook, etc. Pure hardcore dungeoneering gear.

They return to the island and try to guess approximately where on the dry level of the building they should dig to directly access the room with the laser cannon. A quick die roll suggests Wheelz does a good job of picking the spot. As they dig they open up a dry crawlspace between the levels, which they promptly strip of cabling and such to sell to the junk merchant. Once they have access to the floor below Carl suits up and is lowered into the dentist's office. He crowbars the X-ray machine and its armature from the wall, ripping out the cables with his sheer manly strength. The device is hoisted up via pulleys and ropes. Back at the junk merchant's they sell the cable from the access level for 25 poker chips and the laser cannon for 150, which I'm pretty sure is more money than they've seen the whole campaign. I started the PCs out dirt poor.

All in all, it was one of the best damn sessions I've played in a long time, owing a lot to player ingenuity and a little bit to my ability to roll with the punches. I had brief notes prepped for over twenty floors of adventure, but all of them were above the water line. So I spent all night ad libbing for dear life. When I got home I slept like the dead.


  1. Brilliant, sounds like loads of fun. Some of my favorite games have been purely improv'ed and "on the spot" moments (both as a DM and as a player). Nothing like getting off of the beaten path and throwing caution to the wind.

  2. If I lived in your area, I would absolutely be a part of this campaign. Very cool write-up. Nothing like PCs putting their faith in shoddy untested equipment. Reminds me of my old Paranoia days.

    "R&D would like you to fieldtest this tacnuke grenade."

  3. Awesome. Mutant Future sounds like loads of fun. Good thing your player made his lucky roll!

  4. This us awesome! Yay players & referee!

  5. It sounds hilarious! It sounds like a new game altogether: Survival & Salvage in the Post Apocalypse!

  6. Too true, Jay. In fact (no joke) the community theatre I work with is doing Macbeth this fall and we're setting it after a future ecological holocaust. The most honored profession (apart from warriors of course) are the members of the Scavenger's Guild ("reuse recycle repair!")

    This article was a nice bit of serendipity, and your comment made me realize how fricking gameable our production here is...

  7. I am going to have to nick the old-tyme diving suit idea...and make the gear weight 200-400 lbs.

  8. One of the guys in my local gaming club is pure chaos in games and I discovered in the Dark Heresy game I ran that it made my life as a DM much much easier. YOu see all I did was come up with a one sentence plot idea to offer the characters and then just improv the results of what he talked everyone into try. It was great when the new, younger, gamers started taking his lead and acting rather then scanning the character sheets for "solutions"

  9. Great report. Yeah I reckon the seat-of-the-pants sessions are the best: less looking up notes etc for one.

  10. That has got to be one of the most creative games / sessions that I've heard about in ages! You are one creative dude.

    Wish I lived a LOT closer...