Bad Mutations - Opt-In system

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Since I’ve had three weeks after picking up GammaWorld 4e without a chance to play, I’ve had a lot of time on my hands.  I’ve make huge versions of the mutation and tech and origin powers/abilities for instance to help a blind friend out.  I’ve crafted a longish module in MasterPlan and created custom creatures for it (I just have something about using stock monsters).  And now I’m coming up with flavor tweaks for the system while I wait for the planets to align so that I can GM this thing.

As I read through my old GammaWorld resources it hit me there aren’t really any ‘bad mutations’.  Oh there are some worthless ones, the fish telepathy is still the shining example of that, but none that really mess with a player.  I know it’s all old school to pile up penalties on a player, big suck factors in a game system just aren’t fun. But what if… the player had the choice to take a potential negative in return for gaining something positive?  An opt-in suck factor so to speak, completely voluntary with some in game reward for doing it?

With that in thought, I’m going to introduce a Bad Mutations deck that the players will have the option of drawing from.  This will be an additional draw on top of the normal Mutation draw at the start of an encounter.  They don’t get screwed out of getting a typically purely beneficial mutation.

If a player elects to opt-in and take a Bad Mutation they will receive a TOF or toffee.  A toffie is short for a Twist of Fate.   Yes for the gaming system advanced this is a direct rip off of the Bennie system from Savage Worlds. A system I highly recommend if you need a system that doesn’t take the GM time that something like 4E takes.  Seriously I can GM a Savage Worlds campaign with almost no prep other than a general idea of story line.  That can’t be said for 4E.  Although I do miss the tactical combat of 4E when playing SW’s so like all things it’s a trade off.

A player starts a session with 2 toffees and can earn additional ones with humor, awesome or major suck play, descriptions of their actions that transcend the mere, “I hit him with my hammer.” or at GM whim.

What can you do with a toffee you ask?  Simple, quite a lot. You can eat it if you like as I think I’m going to use Werther’s Toffees for the physical token. You can spend one to re-roll any d20 roll.  You can spend one to get a second Standard Action in a turn (yes it’s bringing back the Action Points).  You can spend one to introduce a minor quirk in the fabric of reality of the current encounter, perhaps your life would be a lot better if there was a hammer nearby or if the building your running behind had a fire escape on it.  Spend a toffee and rewrite reality and bam there’s a hammer or fire escape.

They also earn a toffee by volunteering to take a Bad Mutation.

But how bad are the Bad Mutations?  Honestly they’re not that bad.  Each will have some beneficial effect, the Yin and each will have some detrimental effect, the Yang.  Sometimes they will actually be valuable depending on the character, the situation and the hostiles, other times it might be nothing but suck and of course there will be situations where neither applies and you just earned a free toffee.

It’s a gamble but for pure humor value they should be entertaining.   Once I get the lot of them done and pdf’d I’ll post them here as usual.  Stay tuned.

Some first draft examples –

Twin Headed - 
“In at least one reality the egg split and there were two of you.  That twin shows up for a time, or at least their head does, attached to you at the shoulder.”
Yin: Gain +5 to Perception rolls, +2 to Reflex defense.
Yang: Gain vulnerable 10 to psychic damage.

Energy Leech -
“Like a swamp leech, only instead of blood you suck life force from those around and spew it into the air with a veritable disco worthy light show.”
Yin: Drain 3 health from all non-minion creatures within 3 squares of you on your turn and create a cosmetic light show of your choice of shapes and colors in your square.
Yang: Take 5 psychic damage on any turn you drain 9 or more health.

Dumbo Ears -
“The famous pachyderm has nothing on you, your ears have mutated to the size of small boat sails.”
Yin: Gain +10 on Perception rolls based on hearing.
Yang: -1 Speed due to wind resistance, gain vulnerable 5 to sonic attacks.

As you said, '... they’re not that bad ...', and infact I can see alot of fun coming from some of the ones already presented. Brings back memories of GW 1st Ed ... some fond ... some not :P

Given time, players may use this thread to print their own to add to those you already have.

Let the database begin
GMT +10 (Aussie, Aussie, Aussie ....)
Defects aren't a bad idea.

With the Overcharge mechanic available, you could even have Defects that are bad while readied, but let you make an overcharge roll to squeeze some use out of them (or make them worse if you fail).

For those not adding a reward-point mechanic like the OP, another option could be to make up Defect cards and require that a player deck include some.  1 Defect per 8 Alpha cards in your deck or 1 for each Rare or 2 uncommons in your deck (so players could avoid defects by taking mostly common Alpha mutations).  You'd have to be pretty crafty to make cards that weren't really obviously homade from the back, though - yet another reason that blank cards would be /really/ nice. 



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I'm toying around with an idea like this. I'm not quite sure what the final form will be. I'm not using bennies (Savage Worlds is a solid system) but I do make some other changes to GW in the interest of letting players make the character they want, and taking out some of the randomness. Like the OP, I am trying to make these changes voluntary, so if a player wants to roll randomly, he can. But if he wants to build a deck of specific mutations rather than drawing random ones all the time, he can do that too.

These are my ideas on Drawbacks, in no particular order.

For each Drawback you put in your Alpha Mutation deck, you can put one additional card in your deck. For this to work, Drawbacks are "ranked" as Common, Uncommon, and Rare, and the card you can add to your Alpha deck would be the same rank as the Drawback. So if you have a 7 card Alpha Deck with 4 commons, 2 uncommons, and 1 rare (the smallest possible deck), if you add 1 rare drawbacik to the deck, you can add 1 more rare. I'd make up Drawback cards based on previous editions, and assign them a rank based on how much they suck.

For a simpler system, and one in which Drawbacks are more visible, allow a player to take a Drawback in order to gain either a) an additional Alpha Mutation power every encounter, so a 1st level player would start with 2+Drawback, or b) the ability to re-ready a tapped Alpha Mutation once per encounter.

d20 Modern and d20 Apocalypse both have Drawbacks based on previous editions of GW, and they assign those Drawbacks a value from 1-4, which I would use as a guide when making up the game effect and how bad the suck factor would be. I like the GW2010 idea of making Drawbacks useful in very specific and rare circumstances, but I am not sure if I would implement this or just make the Drawback "pure bad" to varying degrees. I suppose I am worried a little about game balance, which I know is a silly thing to worry about in GW, where everything is so crazy.
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I'm going to allow for full opt-in. they can go full-tilt RAW and go random or they can choose their own stuff.

Since it's a campaign where some people might not be there all the time, I'm thinking about doing mutation and tech packs along with having them do a quick-roll character. This is for those who can only show up every once in a while. I might go so far as to tie a primary origin and mutation pack together and allow them to choose or roll their secondary.

But I'm going to allow for full-on choose-your-own-adventurer (heh) with a standard array/point buy if they want.

In addition to these, alpha mutations can be rolled from a table like in original D&D. If you're a doppleganger, you roll twice and choose one.

For the bad mutations, I was thinking about giving "build points" for taking detrimental mutations. If you take something that causes issues, depending on the severity, you might get some points to put in other areas such as a stat, skill, or maybe an action point that you can use once every so-many sessions.

I'm still playing with these ideas though.

One thing I want to set up: Roll up a 4e D&D character, roll up a GW character, fight. Who wins? Mutations/origins or powers/classes?
Now with PDF, a 36 card deck of the bad and the ugly to go with the good. 
4-up like that makes pretty big cards. 



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