Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Lances versus Lasers

In a typical game of Mutant Future, the Mutant Lord must take great pains to make sure the tech level remains balanced and fair. Why? Well, the genre cheerfully encompasses three technological eras:

  1. Primitive - The world has been torn asunder and society has only managed to scrabble back to a pre-industrial tech level on its own. Simple machines such as rope-and-pulleys and oxen-drawn carts are commonly encountered. More complex devices such as crossbows and tumbler locks are less common and represent the highest level of mechanical aptitude achieved.
  2. Modern – This is our tech level in 2009. Internal combustion engine vehicles are plentiful. Firearms are prevalent, but more esoteric weapons are rare. Consumer electronics from televisions to computers are in every home. Even simple, but incredibly useful devices like lighters and flashlights are found everywhere.
  3. Futuristic – Although this era is the Mutant Future “past,” this is the tech level of The Years To Come. Strange and powerful weapons involving lasers, soundwaves, and otherworldly energies are used. Vehicles that seem to defy gravity transport the citizenry. Intelligent robots are not only common, they can become a PC in the game!

With such a wide variety of devices, gizmos, and gadgets from across the centuries at your disposal, it’s vitally important to ensure that your campaign world doesn’t become horribly lopsided. If your PCs find and repair an intelligent battletank equipped with tacnukes, they’ve just become the most powerful force in the lands – unless you introduce an even more powerful villain in an even bigger battletank. Then you may as well start playing O.G.R.E.

Here are some suggestions I have for you to keep the tech levels balanced without completely tossing out those futuristic doo-dads the PCs love to find and tinker with:

  • Try to keep the tech level discoveries at 50% primitive; 30% modern; and 20% futuristic. Rather than rolling on a random treasure table, cherry pick those modern/futuristic items that would be of use to someone in the Mutant Future (matches and/or Rad-Purge Shots) without handing them something incredibly powerful.
  • If a powerful weapon is discovered, don’t just let them start blasting away. Have the weapon in need of repair. (Finding an experienced technician to fix it could be an adventure in itself!) Or maybe the weapon needs a power cel or ammo. Or it could fire three times before shorting out permanently.
  • On the other hand, don’t let the brigands in your game world have a lot of powerful items either. Either they’ll overpower the players or – even worse – the players will help themselves to those powerful items once the villains are overtaken.
  • Your players are primitives in a destroyed land who may never have encountered devices like these before, so play up their initial ignorance. To your 1st-level players, a hover car could be some kind of flying beast and a flashlight is a sword hilt with the blade broken off. And no matter how much they pull the trigger, a gas pump nozzle will not fire any kind of projectile.
  • If it helps, just envision MF devices and weapons as if they were magic items from That Other Fantasy RPG. You wouldn't hand a Wand of Unlimited Fireballs or Staff of Immediate and No-Save-Throw-Allowed Screaming Doom to a 1st level Fighter, would you? Use that same kind of philosophy to limit the more powerful stuff until the characters are at a level high enough to handle it.
With a little bit of creativity, the ML can gradually introduce the devices of the near-magical and fantastic without throwing off the game’s balance.

No comments:

Post a Comment