Sunday, March 18, 2018

Omegakron (spoilers)

A post-apocalyptic Mod Squad

Art by Dave Billman



Have you ever wanted to use the history of your home town as the basis of a rollicking RPG adventure?  Neither have I.  Yet Tom Moldvay, not being me or you, took the idea and ran with it until he couldn't run any further.  Had Moldvay come from Chicago or San Antonio, this probably would not merit mention; however, he hailed from the Buckeye State... specifically Akron.  Lacking the élan of Cincinnati or the gravitas of Cleveland or even the je ne sais quoi of Toledo, Akron might not be the most marketable of Ohio's cities.  Maybe it was home town pride, maybe it came about because of a dare; regardless, the third (and last) of the Lords of Creation adventures features the (former) Rubber Capital of the World.  Toss in a dead abolitionist and – in Moldvay's estimation – you have suitable components for a commercially successful role-playing romp.

“Omegakron” refers to the greater Akron area two centuries after a world war using nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons.  The result is a combination of science and savagery populated by intelligent animals, street gangs, mutants, cyborgs, and androids.  The player characters can arrive at this future setting via the dimensional gate from the conclusion of The Yeti Sanction, but “the Game Master can choose any means he wishes...”  On page 3 we read, “The simplest method is to have the characters mysteriously appear in the city.”  The setting of Omegakron was “an obscure probability branch diverted from the main time-flow.”  Instead of leading to the Imperial Terra setting, the main-time flow 'now' leads to Omegakron due to a temporal shift.  “The characters entrance into Omegakron was a way of nature seeking to restore the proper time-flow.”  Of course, the player characters don't realize this at the start of the adventure; they just “mysteriously appear.”  However, before arriving, the player characters “see a vision of Prometheus” and receive a 31-line poetic message.  “Even if the characters have never before seen Prometheus, they will recognize him as friendly.”  Naturally, the “cryptic message...holds the key to the success of the adventure.”  The adventure consists of several missions.  “Each time the characters succeed at one of their ten missions, the old town bell will mysteriously ring.”

Omegakron is dedicated to three TSR alumni:  Mark Acres, Jim Ward, and Steve Sullivan.  Given the time travel aspects of Omegakron, Acres makes sense due to his association with TIMEMASTER.  Given the gonzo post-apocalyptic nature of Omegakron, Ward makes sense due to his association with Gamma World.

Various factions exist in the Omegakron area, some of which are races of intelligent, mutated animals.  There are anthropomorphic raccoons who ride semi-intelligent buffalo, anthropomorphic woodchucks who ride semi-intelligent wolves, and anthropomorphic squirrels who ride mutant rhinoceri.  Although not anthropomorphic, there are also intelligent tigers and bears.

Player's Aid #1 is “A Short History of Akron,” a pamphlet with eight pulse-pounding pages of canal building and rubber litigation.  This pamphlet “contains clues woven into the manuscript which will help the characters solve most of the mysteries in the vision of Prometheus.”  The player characters are meant to find this pamphlet early in the adventure; however, the location of the pamphlet is considered sacred to the intelligent animals.  When the intelligent animals catch the player characters violating their shrine, they give the characters three options.  The first option is to fight against a hundred animal warriors and undoubtedly die.  The second option is to submit to a trial in which “one character chosen at random will be killed.”  The third option is to endure an ordeal that will allow the characters to become tribal members, thereby absolving them of their trespass.

The ordeal consists of running along a path to the Cuyahoga River while avoiding booby-traps and fending off animal warriors.  In game terms, the ordeal “has been designed abstractly.”  This means the characters will have 41 - 60 chances for encounters in the course of the ordeal.  For each chance, 1d10 is rolled; a result of '1' indicates an encounter and a table is then consulted.  So, 1d10 is rolled up to sixty times.  The adventure even acknowledges that “it can become boring for the players to watch the GM roll dice.”  Why not just have 4 - 6 encounters?

One of the factions in Omegakron is Novos Akros.  It has a high level of technology, including longevity treatments and “a small intergalactic spaceport.”  Novos Akros has a small 'Manager' class that exerts Orwellian control over the 'Worker' class.
A 12-hour work day is still common in Novos Akros.  Education stops at age 12, when the youths join the labor pool. Workers are kept hopelessly in debt. Any rebellious attitude is immediately crushed.  Offenders are kept in a state of drugged obedience.
To maintain the sophisticated technology of Novos Akros, there are “about 1500 technicians on loan from Old Akron,” a democratically ruled faction established at the University of Akron.  Old Akron has a level of technology roughly equal to the late twentieth century.  For reasons not explained, Old Akron helps a tyrannical regime maintain a technology superior to that which Old Akron enjoys.

The Akros Rangers are the police force for Novos Akros.  Rangers are recruited from personnel not native to Novos Akros.  The player characters are enticed into Novos Akros so they can be drafted into the Rangers.
While drafting the characters might appear to be an underhanded trick at the time, it is actually a way of helping them succeed in their ultimate mission.  As Akros Rangers, they can go anywhere in Omegakron with reasonable safety.  Even the street gangs and intelligent animals hesitate to attack Akros Rangers...
Noted radical John Brown was once a resident of Akron.  This association is all Moldvay needs to bring John Brown's ghost into the adventure.  We learn from Moldvay's pamphlet that “John Brown was one of the world's foremost experts in appraising wool.”  However, he was financially ruined when people refused to buy his overpriced wool.  (If people don't pay the price you set, can you really be considered an expert at appraisal?)

Anyway, the player characters encounter the ghost of John Brown who wants to liberate the “wage slaves” of Novos Akros.  (“For the adventure to work best, it is suggested that the GM make sure the characters join the Akros Rangers before meeting John Brown.”)  The player characters can successfully foment a worker revolt in Novos Akros only if they steal a copy of the Bill of Rights from Old Akron.

By completing all of their missions, the player characters “opened the way” for the Time Adjustors, “a mysterious group of individuals who strive to maximize the time flow.”  (Maximizing the time flow entails the preservation of the branches of time “which lead to the most successful of all possible futures.”)  The Time Adjustors explain to the player characters about such concepts as time flow, temporal shift, and probability branches.  The Temporal Adjustors can recruit the player characters to seek out the reason for the temporal shift that redirected the main time flow toward Omegakron.  This would have lead to the fourth, unpublished Lords of Creation adventure, The Towers of Ilium.  Moldvay claims “the GM should be free to use his impression of the Time Adjustors” and thus provides little detail about them.

Art by Dave Billman

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