Sunday, January 22, 2012

Intelligent (Non-Human Type) Races in Metamophosis Alpha

Before engaging upon today's topic, your humble host would like to inform (or remind) his esteemed audience that the 1976 edition of Metamorphosis Alpha is currently available as a print-on-demand product from Lulu.

Gamma World enthralled me as a young lad for various reasons; more for what it didn't say than for what it did – the unaddressed details. This, of course, spurred my imagination to “fill in” those details (which, I suppose, was the intent of Ward and Jaquet). The most obvious example was the map that came in the boxed set. It had just enough details to be recognizable as a post-apocalyptic United States, but mostly it was a blank canvas onto which we could project a personalized Gamma World. Civilization had collapsed, but there were efforts to rise up once again, including a minimal number of cities. What was society like in those cities? That's what I wanted to know. Of course, there were the cryptic alliances, but there were also races of intelligent beings – the two-headed Orlens, the reptilian Sleeth, the translucent Fens, etc. I thought it was a shame that these couldn't be player character races, but they would likely be unbalancing.

Similarly, there are intelligent races on the starship Warden and with intelligence comes some form of society. No provision is given in the rules for allowing player characters to be members of such races; however, there is no rule expressly forbidding such. Within the “Mutated Animals” section starting on page 17, there are six intelligent races of mutated animals proper, two races of intelligent “flying types,” no intelligent insect races, at least two (and perhaps as many as four) intelligent races of plants.

The following are the intelligent mutated animal races: metaled ones, cougaroids, bearoids, jegets, thief beasts, and wolfoids. Metaled ones have “a high order of intelligence” so I suspect that they have the intellectual capacity for communication and they possess telekinesis which suggests some level of manipulatory ability. Regardless, there is no indication of a society of metaled ones. Cougaroids have “the intelligence of a human” and “manipulative paws.” The illustration page 11 shows a quartet of weapon wielding cougaroids, so they definitely have a society. Per their description, they have “an attraction odor that prevents [them] from congregating in any number.” According to page 14, attraction odor “makes the mutant smell very edible to any meat eating creature.” (emphasis from original) I'm guessing this means that cougaroids will resort to cannibalism. Bearoids have “intelligence” and “manipulative paws.” They have telepathy to facilitate communication as well as several other formidable mental mutations. Jegets are “very intelligent” and have telepathy; they also have “manipulative paws” and telekinesis. Perhaps their size (2 feet) prevents effective tool use or perhaps they have no need for tools. Like their cougaroid cousins, jegets have the attraction odor mutational defect. Wolfoids are “fully intelligent” and have “manipulative paws.” They wear clothes, use swords, and they “have been able to master many of the mutated beasts and use them as guards and protectors.” Thief beasts seek out, study, and use technological devices more than any other mutant animal race on the ship. Like some of the other races described above, thief beasts are “highly intelligent” and have “manipulative paws,” telepathy, and telekinesis (as well as other mutations). Unlike the other intelligent mutant animal races, thief beasts lack any defects and do not seem to have any drawbacks. By all rights, these guys should be the dominant race on the Warden.

There are two intelligent “flying type” races, hawkoids and imitators. Hawkoids are “fully intelligent” and have “appendages...ending in hands” which make them capable of using bows and throwing rocks. Their capacity for communication is not mentioned. Through the vagaries of fate, these birds have the levitation mutation; I guess its useful if they get tired of flapping their wings. The description for the imitator says “it is fully intelligent but does not have the manipulative appendages to take advantage of it.” However, once a month, the imitator is able to “completely shapechange into any creature within 25 feet of it” which makes the imitator “resistant to the powers of that creature.” The shapechange lasts as long as desired, so I don't see the problem. Shapechange into something with manipulatory appendages and stay that way. In the “Example of Ship's Level 11” on page 26, there is an imitator that will assume the form of a party member and attempt to covertly replace that person, doppelganger-like. It uses a blowgun, so I assume that, before changing into the form of a party member, it maintained a form that could use (or at least carry) a blowgun.

There are two plant races that are obviously intelligent, singing vines and sword bushes. Also, there are two plant races that are arguably intelligent, dark fungus and death growth. The singing vine is a “fully intelligent plant [that] is able to move and converse with any creature, as it is telepathic.” It has “an unusually large amount of knowledge” as well as “the best set of manipulatory vines.” Somehow, “it is able to use sonics to cancel all violent action on the part of any possible [intelligent] enemy.” The sword bush is mobile,“fully intelligent,” and “has 3 manipulative tentacles.” It uses devices, including color bands. In the “Example of Ship's Level 11” on page 26, specifically keyed encounter M, a sword bush responds to every command of the “lone human female.” This strongly suggests a capability for communication. Although the dark fungus has an “intelligent state” (a concentration of at least ten pounds) with telepathy, “its only concern is increasing its mass” so a sophisticated conversation seems to be out of the question. The death growth “forms a symbiotic attachment to any warm blooded creature.” Presumably it is intelligent because it can “command” the host creature.

In the course of preparing this post, I came across a reference to “artificial sun” (not necessarily an artificial sun). Accordingly, I have updated my prior post that discusses sunlight in Metamorphosis Alpha.

Oh, by the way, where's Dave?


  1. Cool. MA is so open-ended it's kind of insane. You can pretty much do what you want because there aren't many boundaries. But with a creative Ref it's probably tons of fun. Still trying to get my shit together to run something.

    (today's word was "geneway." Somehow that sounds close to "genetic" and reminds me a little of the subject matter).

    1. perdustin - no offense, but I'm totally mystified as to why you replied to my MA comment with a link for the reissued AD&D 1e books. There's probably a connection that I'm being dense about! :)

      Are you saying that if I'm looking for a good game to run, I should run D&D 1e?

    2. Sorry, that was my mistake. I was just testing something and ought to have used a 'fresh' comment rather than a reply.