Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Review: MCC #2: A Fallen Star for All (Mutant Crawl Classics)

Find it at the Goodman Games store!

Moving onward from our opening "funnel" (I use quotes there because it kinda was a funnel and kinda wasn't) I sent my players out to investigate the impact site of a fallen star that burned in the jungle miles from their home...

The Setup

A star fell from the sky and set the jungle alight. That was days ago, and scouts have reported back the the fire is dying down and the fallen star has revealed a lost city of the ancient ones. Your tribe has sent you and your seeker team to investigate and return with all the artifacts you can, but be wary, there are other tribes who desire those same artifacts and they may be willing to fight for them.

The Good

It took us four sessions to complete this adventure. We play weeknights and usually get about 2-2.5 hours of game in per session so this is easily enough material for 8-10 hours of gaming. Probably a little less if you don't have to recap prior sessions as heavily. For a $10 module I look at this as a very good return on investment.

The initial advance up to the crater and into the complex are very good with a lot of chances for combat, exploration, and role play. There's also some interesting new creatures and artifacts before you even get inside.

Once inside the facility there's a lot to do and even if the group moves quick there's plenty of options as the Judge to run encounters.

The Bad

Unfortunately there;s also so much going on inside the complex that at times it's hard to keep everything straight. There's also so much packed in that some of it isn't as well developed as I would have liked to have seen. There's an AI who could have used a little more meat to aid in roleplay, and part of the final portion is explained to the Judge but not really easy to get across to the characters. Still these are fairly minor complaints overall, and may be less of concern to other Judges.

The Ugly

In my review of Assault on the Sky High Tower I lamented some Tech Levels that were high enough to maybe be impossible to interact with using the rules as written. I don't mind this for optional or non-critical portions of the module, but I take issue when they become impediments to progress. In this instance there was a TL 6 object that required at least an Intelligence of 18 (as written). I ruled it down some, because I didn't see the point, but again it seemed weird.

However I started to think that maybe there was a change in the Tech Level rules during the development process and during the time this module was written when I found that there were some Tech Level 8 items at the end of the adventure. According to the rule book the highest TL is 7 which needs an Int of 24 and represents alien tech (where this is meant to be ancient technology). I believe now it is likely that there was a change and this module wasn't updated accordingly.

Also ugly was the let down of finding out that the fallen star was just a McGuffin to expose the complex to the world and didn't factor into the adventure thereafter. If I run this again in the future I'll make a change in that respect.

Final Thoughts

I enjoyed A Fallen Star for All and I think my group did too. There were some sticky bits but nothing is perfect (or some I'm told). The adventure provided a "dungeon" to delve that was full of interesting encounters and artifacts. The bang for the buck I got out of this module was impressive given that I got around 12 hours of play out of this module (4 sessions of around 3 hours each). I'm going to rate this 3.5 rads out of 4.

Monday, March 5, 2018

MCC Recap - Hot hot hot!

This week I ran the fourth and final session of A Fallen Star for All with a ragtag band of seekers trying to uncover the secrets of an ancient stronghold.
  • +Craig McCullough as Tarn the Rover
    • Thorn the zero level Plantient
  • +Alex Perucchini  as Flik-flak the Sentinel
    • Porky the zero level pig-manimal
  • +andrew lyon  as Sinclair the Mutant (Chitinous armor)
    • Morrey the zero level Plantient
  • +Paul Go  Agutter the Healer
    • Stryder the zero level mutant
  • NPC'd for the evening
Spoilers for the end of A Fallen Star for All ahead...

In some sort of entertainment room of this strange ancient cave the seekers took stock of their options: backtrack, continue farther, or open the door in the wall. Porky strode forward and after examining the door in the wall pressed a small round spot beside it, which lit up green. After a moment the doors parted revealing a shaft like the one they had found earlier and the very same lift platform. Opposite them another opening led away from the shaft to a stair leading downward.

The group debated this new path but ultimately chose the old. Downward they proceeded. A jaunt down a curving stair emptied out into a strange laboratory of some kind, but more relevantly they stumbled into a combat between mutant beast things and some kind of ooze creature that spewed corrosive orange goo.

Momentarily forgoing their enmity with the beast things the seekers attacked the ooze creature and the two groups quickly destroyed it, rendering the monster into so much sludge. Agutter wasn't ready to consider parlay with the beast things however and threw a poisoned dart at their champion. Though the damage was negligible, the paralytic poison instantly rendered the him immobile. The beast things took this as a sign of hostility and the combat was quickly rejoined. The seekers, both outnumbering and bearing better equipment, quickly dispatched the beast things in a pitch battle.

The lab had little of value to the seekers save a strange tube set into the wall. Large enough for a man to enter the group persuaded Porky to step inside and see what would happen. The tube closed behind the pig manimal and the tube began to fill with strange green-white gas. In a mere moment the gas crystallized entrapping Porky in stasis. the group tried to smash the tube to release him but when cracked the gas escaped the pod crystallizing on the spear and almost entrapping another of their number. For safety they decided to leave Porky to his fate.

Moving onward the group found a control chamber where Tarn interfaced with the A.I. of the complex and gained limited control for a short time. He was able to display a map of the complex, view the rooms yet explored, and determine that there was some object lowered into the liquid rock of the earth below. He also brought more ire from the MATRON AI who yelled that "children should not be playing in the control center."

Confident now that there were no enemies ahead the group descended into the deepest chamber where they found a scorching hot pool of liquid rock and something submerged within. While scavenging items from some nearby storage the mechanism in the room raised a large sphere from the pool. This sphere disgorged a pair of man-shaped things with skull heads who immediately attacked. Though they outnumbered the new enemies by 4 to 1 they found these creatures unusually tough. The fought hard but were met with merciless attacks. Flic-flak was nearly killed by a thrown glob of lava, and Stryder was pulled into the lava where he quickly burned to death.

Once the creatures were destroyed and Flic-flak restored to health by Agutter they began to explore the area once more. Flic-flak entered the sphere and found a strange spiked staff, and a vial of glowing golden liquid. He open the vial and the strange fluid began to evaporate. Reacting quickly Flic-flak drank down the liquid before it could disappear. The strange fluid burned a little but prove to be a powerful elixir benefiting the sentinel with more hit points, improved personality, and even a touch of Luck.

Meanwhile Sinclair and Morrey were poking at a strange piece of equipment. It resisted their attempts to understand, and, after taking some joking advice, they began to pummel it. The damage inflicted set the unstable power generator to a quick degrading cycle. MATRON attempted to stop the seekers but only spurred them on. After dispatching some of the remaining robots within the complex in her command to stop them the seekers made their escape. Most of them climbing up to the next level to flee.

Confused and left behind Sinclair and Morrey instead entered the sphere and closed it. As their fellows continued to make their escape by climbing up and out of the complex Sinclair and Morrey dove the sphere into the lava trying to find another route out. Unable to find an outlet within the range of the tether and unwilling to sever the tether and continue without it Sinclair piloted the sphere back where he and Morrey made a hasty retreat just beyond the gasp of the MATRON's robots.

At the shaft Sinclair was forced to burn they very last of his luck to avoid breaking the lifting machine, and Morrey was similarly forced to burn his luck down to get the lift working and take them to the surface. Once there they found the others gone with only three strange symbols scratched into the dirt. A bird. A shelter. And a strange symbol neither had seen before. At this point the ground was shaking and things were looking bad.

Unsure of the meaning they decided to run in the direction the bird's beak was pointing. As they fled the others swooped down from the sky in a flying machine of the ancients and picked them up. Together the party fled before the MATRON and her complex erupted like a volcano.

Most interesting behavioral change:
  • Luck got burned hardcore this session, like way more than I've seen in other games I've run or played in that weren't convention one-shots. Up to and including Andy burning not one, but TWO characters down to 1 Luck ... yes, 1 Luck
Thing that my players did that I didn't see coming:
  • 3/4 of the group were climbing their way out of the lava chamber when some robots controlled by MATRON arrived. For some reason Sinclair and M-- climbed into the bathysphere and ... were utterly abandoned by the rest of the party. I think it was justifiable but I sure didn't expect it. 
In Memoriam: 
  • Porky the pig manimal - in stasis for 415 years (assuming the stasis chamber survived the explosion/eruption)
  • Stryder the mutant - burned alive in a pool of lava