Sunday, January 8, 2012

Mutations (Part I of II)

A comparison of mutations in Metamorphosis Alpha and Gamma World

In Metamorphosis Alpha, a player with a mutated creature or humanoid character rolls 2d4 to determine the number of non-defect mutations; one die for physical and one for mental. There will then be one physical or mental defect or – if the total number of non-defect mutations is at least five – one physical and one mental defect.

Gamma World (when using the method that allows players to choose non-defect mutations) handles this process in a slightly different manner. A roll of three or four on a die indicates a defect of that type (physical or mental). If both of the dice have a result of two, then there will be one defect, either physical or mental. Otherwise, the character will have no mutational defects.

Metamorphosis Alpha is harsher; mutants will have at least one defect and a 62.5% chance of having two defects. In Gamma World, there is an 18.75% chance of having no defects, a 56.25% chance of one defect, and a 25% chance of having two defects.

Of course, in Gamma World, there is the alternate method of determining specific mutations by rolling on the appropriate mutations chart (physical or mental). With this method, a character could avoid defects regardless of the number of mutations or, potentially, be afflicted with more than two defects. For mutated humans, each roll on the physical mutations chart has a 28% chance of resulting in a defect and each roll on the mental mutations chart has a 25% chance of resulting in a defect. For mutated animals, the chance for a defect on the physical mutations chart is 17% and the chance for a defect on the mental mutations chart is 18%.

Interestingly, with regard to the choice method in Gamma World, the referee chooses defects of the appropriate type while in Metamorphosis Alpha, the judge will “roll randomly” to determine specific defects.

Physical Mutations

In Metamorphosis Alpha, Jim Ward explains how some physical mutations are incompatible with one another (at least for player character mutants). For instance, a mutant cannot have both 'taller' and 'shorter' mutations. Also, 'light generation' is incompatible with 'partial carapace' or 'total carapace.' I cannot see where conflicting mutations are addressed in 1E Gamma World. I suppose that if you've resigned yourself to gonzo, there's really no need to fret regarding logical inconsistencies.

Metamorphosis Alpha provides no instruction about determining the size of a 'taller' or 'shorter' mutant; it merely states a maximum of 25 feet for 'taller' and a minimum of one inch for 'shorter.' Gamma World, being all futuristic, restricts itself to metric measurements. A 'taller' mutant adds 1d6 meters to its height while a 'shorter' mutant rolls 2d100 to determine height in centimeters. A '00' is treated as zero, so a 'shorter' mutant has a maximum height of 198 centimeters and a minimum height I guess this means there is a one-in-ten-thousand chance of a 'shorter' mutant being two-dimensional.

Metamorphosis Alpha offers the physical mutations of 'poison claws or fangs' and 'gills.' Although not specifically listed as examples, I suppose these would count as 'new body parts' in Gamma World.  'Teeth or fangs' and 'fur change' are Metamorphosis Alpha mutations applicable only to mutated creatures.

With regard to the 'radiated eyes' mutation, Metamorphosis Alpha fixes the intensity at ten while Gamma World has the player determine the intensity by rolling 3d6.

In Metamorphosis Alpha, 'heat generation' has the same effect as 'electrical generation.' In Gamma World, 'heat generation' is a ranged attack that does an additional d6 damage but is only usable once every three melee turns.

Although each version of the 'carapace' mutation “increases the basic armor class of the mutant” in Metamorphosis Alpha, specifics are not provided. In Gamma World, 'partial' provides an armor class of 6 and 'total' gives an armor class of 4. As opposed to Gamma World, in Metamorphosis Alpha, when the shell of a 'partial carapace' mutant is cracked, it can take up to a year to heal and the mutant suffers double damage until it is healed. Also, 'total carapace' mutants in Metamorphosis Alpha take triple damage once they have lost at least half of their hit points.

The armor class of a mutant with 'heightened dexterity' in Gamma World is 4; in Metamorphosis Alpha it is 1.

Mutants with 'wings' in Gamma World fly much slower than their Starship Warden counterparts. The Gamma World speed is 12 meters (13 yards) per melee turn while the Metamorphosis Alpha speed is nearly eight times that.

'Shapechange' in Metamorphosis Alpha is the same as in Gamma World; however, Metamorphosis Alpha offers two additional options. Instead of assuming the appearance of either animal, insect, or reptile forms, a mutant with 'shapechange' can choose to be able to assume the forms of any of the three types at the cost of having no other physical mutation. Also, Metamorphosis Alpha offers the “Subclassification of Shapechange” that offers immunity to radiation. (In Gamma World, I assume this would be a 'new body part.')

In Metamorphosis Alpha, 'density control' allows a mutant to become more dense, thereby changing armor class (and becoming more difficult to damage) by one per melee turn. Increased density causes the mutant to lose mobility, becoming completely immobile at armor class 2. The power lasts for 1-10 turns and may be used once per day. In Gamma World, duration is not limited nor is there a limited number of uses per day. A change in density is accompanied by a change in size. Changes are instantaneous and the mutant still retains some mobility even at maximum density. Gamma World also allows 'density control' mutants to reduce their density beyond normal, allowing such mutants to move faster by impairing armor class and reducing strength.

The following physical mutations are found in Gamma World but not Metamorphosis Alpha: heightened constitution, photosynthetic skin, and (as distinct from 'heightened vision') infravision and ultravision.  The 'symbiotic attachment' mutation appears in both Metamorphosis Alpha and Gamma World, but in Metamorphosis Alpha it is reserved for mutated creatures only.

The 'increased speed' mutation in Gamma World allows the mutant to move at twice normal speed and to attack twice per turn.  The 'speed increase' mutation in Metamorphosis Alpha is limited to animals and lasts for five melee turns twice per day; the ability to attack twice per turn is not mentioned.

There are also differences with regard to defects. In Gamma World, the effect of 'hemophilia' is described whereas in Metamorphosis Alpha, the precise effect is left to the discretion of the referee. Fainting as a result of 'poor respiratory system' in Gamma World lasts for 1-6 minutes while in Metamorphosis Alpha, it lasts for “an hour or two.” 'Vision defect' in Gamma World causes the mutant to subtract four from their combat die rolls whereas the analogous 'near-sightedness/ or double vision' defect in Metamorphosis Alpha reduces the mutant's chances in combat by 50%. The defects of 'fat cell accumulation' and 'increased metabolism' are provided in Gamma World but not Metamorphosis Alpha; however, Gamma World lacks the bizarre 'multi-armed' defect where the unfortunate mutant has 1-10 (mostly) uncontrolled extra arms, each one reducing the mutant's ability to hit in combat by one. (The mutant can, via concentration, use any two arms.) Amputation of each extra arm means a permanent loss of 2 hit points! It might be worth it.

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