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[WIR] Metamorphosis Alpha (1976)

Strange Visitor

Grumpy Grognard
Validated User
#31
The third and fourth editions posit that the Warden was struck by a large, invisible alien asteroid ship. This asteroid released mutagenic radiation and alien invaders into the Warden. The campaign is to retake the Warden and then defeat the aliens on the asteroid. It is a major shift in background for the game. fun, but very different. The second edition maintains the premise of a lost colony ship.

The cover illustration not matching the descriptions of the starship at all is definitely weird.
And the most recent reboot is back to the more traditional long-after-the-incident play.
 

Sleeper

Red-eyed dust bunny
Validated User
#32
From the upcoming section on characters etc, concerning starting the game "The many players may be together, scattered or even lost depending on their type and the referee’s whim." Humans starting in human villages and mutants starting in forest areas. This sounds like a logistical nightmare with 24 players potentially scattered all over the Warden at the start of play. I seriously wonder if anybody actually started the player characters scattered instead of fairly close together.
The sheer number sounds like a throwback to sandbox tables, written orders, secret moves, and the Blackmoor or Braunstein days. It's not a coherent party, it's a board on which you're all vying for whatever. I could imagine it working for something like that, but even so that would a nightmare to referee, would require lot of time (and downtime as players wait for their turn), and would probably become very backstabby and bloody (as players with nothing else to do make alliances and go after each other). So probably not.
 

DavetheLost

Registered User
Validated User
#33
Earth Animals of the Ship: This is a sampling fo the animals found in the forest, mountain and tropical areas of the ship. The chart is divided into sections for mammals, birds, insects, and fish. It is noted that in addition to the normally stocked animals any horticultural crew member can request any type of creature to be introduced for their study.

Beginning the Game and Developing Characters is the next section. To begin the referee will set up parts of the starship and then work with players on developing their characters. Players are given some limited choices, but some of character creation is also left to chance.

If a character is human they will start the game in a human settlement or village, enjoying the protection and supplies such a setting offers. If the character is a mutant, whether humanoid or “monster-like” (presumably a mutant animal) they begin the game in a forested area with no material goods. This does mean the characters may not necessarily start the game together.

Characters roll 3d6 for each ability. For humans the abilities are radiation resistance, mental resistance, dexterity, constitution, strength, and leadership potential. Mutants have the first five but lack leadership potential. Mutant characters also will have 1d4 each of physical and mental mutations that the player may freely choose from the mutation lists. After the mutations have been chosen the referee will randomly roll for one physical or mental defect for the character, one of each if the character has 5 or more mutations.

Players of humanoid mutants can select only mutations that will allow them to pass as human, but will be giving up access to some powerful physical mutations if they do so. It is noted that players should be consistent in choosing mutations for their characters. A mutant cannot bot have wings allowing flight and be taller, and thus heavier.

Each character’s abilities will initially be unknown to the other players but will be learned during the game through observation, interaction, and contact.

Characters created and a portion of the starship mapped out the referee can begin the game. He “sets the stage” for the players and places them in the area where they begin their adventures. The many players may be together, scattered or even lost depending on their type and the referee’s whim. From there the referee adjudicates the results of the players’ actions as they explore the ship. Players who die may rejoin the campaign with a new character at the referee’s discretion. Hopefully this discretion is about when, where and as what type of character they rejoin the game, not whether they are allowed to rejoin at all.

Now, after all of that, come the Ability Explanations.

A. Radiation Resistance: This is the character’s ability to withstand exposure to radiation. This section is not most smoothly worded so I will translate: radiation varies in intensity level from 1 to 18, the referee should keep track of what type and level of intensity of radiation players are exposed to. (Only the intensity level has a game effect) Radiation will do damage based on its intensity and the length of exposure. There is a handy chart cross indexing radiation resistance vs radiation intensity level. This chart is consulted every melee round of exposure. A character’s radiation resistance is counted as being one lower for each subsequent round they spend exposed to a radiation source. Thus a character with an 18 radiation resistance will count as having a 17 on the second round of exposure, 16 on the third, etc. The result from the chart will be either a number or the letter D. A “D” result indicates death from radiation exposure, no matter how many hit points the player or creature has. (I love the way the rules say “player” instead of “player character”) A number indicates the number of 6 sided dice of damage the character takes for that round of exposure. The longer you spend exposed to a radiation source the lower your effective radiation resistance will be and the more damage you will take. When the chart indicates a “D” result there is a 20% chance the character will mutate instead of dying. The referee is instructed to determine if it is a physical or mental mutation, equal chance of either, and to then roll randomly on the full chart (both good and defect mutations) to determine which mutation is gained. If there is damage done there is a 1% chance per die of damage sustained that a mutation will occur. Such mutations will appear within one week. If a mutation occurs in a human character their leadership potential will be negated and their followers will become uneasy and drift away.

B. Mental Resistance: This ability deals with the player’s ability to withstand an attack on his or her mind by mental energy. This ability actually increases with use. For every 5 mental attacks that a character successfully defends against their mental resistance factor is increased by 1 up to a score of 18. It is important to keep track of the original mental resistance score as the original score is what is used to determine the character’s mental attack strength, the raised score is used only for mental defense. Every mutant that has more than one mental power must have a mental resistance of at least 12. It is not stated whether a character who rolled a mental resistance of less than 12 and then rolls 2 or more mental mutations increases their mental resistance to the minimum 12, or is only able to take one mental mutation.

Physical action prevents a being from making a mental attack. Mental activity by one being is not interrupted by a mental attack from another being. That is defense against the attack can be made while continuing the activity.

There is a chart for mental combat cross indexing the power of the being attacking with the mental resistance of the target. Three outcomes are possible, either no attack is possible, the attacker is not mentally strong enough to have an effect; the attack is automatically successful; or a number is given. The number is the score with must be beaten on 3d6 for the attack to succeed.

It is noted that the power of the being attacking is the original mental resistance score rolled before adjustments for experience or defects. Creatures given a stated mental resistance score are considered to have a mental resistance of 3. It is not stated how this interacts with the requirement that creatures with more than two mental powers have a mental resistance factor of at least 12. This is an important question as almost none of the creatures described in the game have a stated mental resistance factor.

The mental strength chart is used for any sort of mental attack in the game.

I’ll finish out the rest of the abilities tomorrow.
 
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DavetheLost

Registered User
Validated User
#34
A couple of note on radiation resistance and mental resistance:

It is important to note with radiation resistance that reducing this factor by one for each melee round of exposure to radiation does not produce the same effect as increasing the intensity of the radiation by one. This is because the lower level intensities of radiation do not produce a "D" effect, and have fewer dice of damage. This is highlighted by looking at the two extremes of the radiation chart. Intensity one radiation has an effect of 0 for every radiation resistance score except 3, then it does 1d6 damage per round. intensity 18 radiation produces a "D" result against radiation resistance of 11 or lower, and 8 dice damage to radiation resistance 10, dropping by one die for each increase in radiation resistance until it does a mere 1d6 against radiation resistance 18.

The mental resistance rules raise several issues. Discussion of these requires skipping ahead a bit in the rule book to topics we have not covered yet.

The first is the aforementioned case of the requirement for mental resistance 12 or greater with 2 or more mental mutations. Does this mean mental resistance is raised to the minimum score of 12 in such creatures when they gain that second mental mutation, or are they unable to gain more than one mental mutation?

The second issue concerns creatures lacking a stated mental resistance score being automatically rated at 3. As we will see mental resistance is the ability used when figuring out the use of items of technology. A being with mental resistance factor of 3 will be unable to understand the use of all but the simplest devices. This level of mental resistance gives a 1% chance of being able to figure out a bow & arrow or the use of radioactive material as a poison, and a 10% chance of being able to figure out the use of a sword. Yes, these are on the item complexity chart. This is not in itself a problem non-player mutated creatures, players can be assumed to be taught by their companions, except that there are several creatures described as bing "fully intelligent" or "highly intelligent" including using technology, but with no given mental resistance score. According to the rule given they should have a score of 3 in this area, which is contradiction to being fully intelligent. Some of these have two or more mental mutations thus indicating a minimum mental resistance score of 12, but some don't. For those outliers that are fully intelligent, with no mental resistance score given and one or no mental mutations I recommend rolling 3d6 to determine mental resistance factor.

The third issue that comes up is in mutated animals. When generating a mutated animal player character they automatically begin with the Heightened Intelligence mutation. This power is necessary for all mutated animals and plants if they need to communicate and react logically. This is a logical requirement, although it takes up the first of an animal character's mental mutation slots. the issue is that this mutation grants a +4 to mental resistance, with a maximum of 18, one questions whether the intent was that mutant animal characters should automatically be granted a bonus to this ability.

One last comment on mental resistance. The ability description talks of raising this factor in response to successfully resisting mental attacks. The potential point of confusion is that the defender against a mental attack does not get an active resistance. the attack success or failure is determined by the attacker. However it seems clear that the intent is that unsuccessful attacks is what is meant by successfully resisted attacks. The rules are not clear as to whether or not those mental attacks that by the chart have automatically no effect out as mental attacks successfully resisted. In my own games they do not, as the character had to expend little or no mental effort in resisting their effects.
 
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Sleeper

Red-eyed dust bunny
Validated User
#35
Thanks for the clarification on mental resistance, the 3 did seem odd.

It is noted that in addition to the normally stocked animals any horticultural crew member can request any type of creature to be introduced for their study.
Sounds like they should have used a more general term for the horticulturalists and their armbands, perhaps ecologists.

If a character is human they will start the game in a human settlement or village, enjoying the protection and supplies such a setting offers. If the character is a mutant, whether humanoid or “monster-like” (presumably a mutant animal) they begin the game in a forested area with no material goods. This does mean the characters may not necessarily start the game together.
...
Characters created and a portion of the starship mapped out the referee can begin the game. He “sets the stage” for the players and places them in the area where they begin their adventures. The many players may be together, scattered or even lost depending on their type and the referee’s whim. From there the referee adjudicates the results of the players’ actions as they explore the ship. Players who die may rejoin the campaign with a new character at the referee’s discretion. Hopefully this discretion is about when, where and as what type of character they rejoin the game, not whether they are allowed to rejoin at all.
I'm starting to wonder how the game was originally supposed to be played, because this isn't the first time MA has seemingly rejected the idea of the traditional party of adventurers, or talked about it as just one of several options. How do you run a game with a bunch of PCs scattered all over? Especially when you have 24 players, the logistics of splitting the party seem daunting, and the game's going further than that and suggesting the PCs might not even know each other. Are they supposed to just magically gravitate toward each other, or is it something more exotic? A game with various PCs moving over the starship map and pursuing their own agendas, competing, or even warring with each other would be very different from what we expect in an RPG. The hobby quickly evolved toward the idea of a coherent party of adventurers, and we expect that, but Metamorphosis Alpha seems to be based on a different set of unwritten assumptions, and I'm having a hard time piecing together what exactly they are.

Mental Resistance: This ability deals with the player’s ability to withstand an attack on his or her mind by mental energy. This ability actually increases with use. For every 5 mental attacks that a character successfully defends against their mental resistance factor is increased by 1 up to a score of 18. It is important to keep track of the original mental resistance score as the original score is what is used to determine the character’s mental attack strength, the raised score is used only for mental defense.
Interesting. Is this how MA characters level?
 

DavetheLost

Registered User
Validated User
#36
C. Dexterity: This ability is described as being the speed at which a character is able to act and their reaction time. Curiously no mention is made of it relating to manual dexterity or agility, although this may be assumed from the ability name. The primary mechanical function of dexterity is to determine the order of action in combat. Characters with higher dexterity act first. In the case of surprise a surprised character with a dexterity score 4 points or more greater than the attacker can negate the surprise and still act first. This is only mentioned here in the description of dexterity. Interestingly there are two mentions made in the combat example given here of “saving throws” against poison. As we will see the effects of poison do not have a “saving throw”, that mechanic is not found in this game, instead it is governed by a chart similar to the radiation chart.

D. Strength: this ability represents the character’s damaging power in any physical combat situation. Again no mention of lifting and carrying ability or any other uses of strength. Every point of strength over 14 increases the damage done by striking weapons only by 1 point. Similarly every point of strength below 6 reduces damage by 1 point. Strength has no effect on damage from bows, etc.

E. Leadership Potential: This ability is given to humans only because the feelings of distrust are so strongly developed in non-humans of any type that it takes a human (and a human’s inmate desire for control) to command the respect of any non-human being. Non-humans are too close to the “creature” and not close enough to the “human” because of the changes in them to have this leadership potential. This sounds awfully close to racist ideas about the inferiority of non-Whites. The idea that mutants of all sorts (animal and human stock) might well look up to humans, but the way it is expressed here is pretty uncomfortable.

There follows a chart giving the chances that any given friendly mutant being will follow the character. Different chances are given for human mutants and mutant creatures. The chances vary by leadership pintail, as would be expected. There is also a limit given to the number of human followers the character can attract. There is no percentage chance given to attract human followers, presumably this is determined through role play, payment to humans, etc.There is no limit given for the number of mutant followers a character can have. It is noted that followers will follow the character for life, players may not give up a mutant follower to recruit a better one and that if this decision is forced by the player the dismissed follower will seek revenge against its former master.

An example of a human character trying to recruit a mutant follower is given. Notable in the example is that the gift of a technological item gives a bonus to the recruitment chance Bribery works.

F. Constitution: This ability governs two things. The first is the number of hit points a character has. This is determined by rolling 1d6 for each point of constitution the character has. This number does not change or increase unless something occurs to change the character’s constitution score. Hit points indicate the number of hits of damage a player can sustain before death. Presumably death occurs at zero hit points. Whether or not the loss of hit points impedes the character is left to the referee’s discretion. At least the option of injury and less hit points slowing a character and impairing their ability to fight is given a mention.

The second use of the constitution score is in determining the effect of poisons. Another matrix is given cross indexing the intensity of the poison with the character’s constitution score. Three possible effects are given. A * indicating the poison has no effect, a 1, 2, or 3 indicating the character sustains that many dice of damage, or a “D” indicating that the poison takes full effect and the character is dead regardless of how many hit points they have. Poison takes effect in the first melee turn. It is noted that the effects of poison my be countered by administering the appropriate antidote within two melee turns, and that such antidotes are common. It is also noted that when employing poisoned weapons characters should take suitable precautions such as wearing gloves to prevent accidentally poisoning themselves.

The errata sheet further adds that a second or subsequent application of any poison will lower a being's poison resistance factor by 2 for 8 hours or until the poison is neutralized.

The poison chart is quite fearsome, with intensity 18 poison being lethal to everyone, even those with 18 constitution.
 
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DavetheLost

Registered User
Validated User
#38
Specific poison antidotes and antivenins are not given in the rulebook. However in the article 'Some Ideas Missed in Metamorphosis Alpha" from Dragon #5, James Ward clarifies that any tribal shaman from any tribe should have poison antidotes available that he or she will freely trade. The number three humanoids, who we will meet later, knowing all about poisons, naturally have antidotes that they will trade. Plants of many different types can provide partial or total negation of the effects of any given poison. And there are mutations that can provide protection against poisons. The new body parts mutation may be a gland that that negates or filters poisons and toxins entering the body, or the increased body parts mutation could include an expansion of the appendix (to stretch a point) with could given sufficient time and rest cleanse the body of poisons. I would allow an increase liver or kidneys to serve this same function of cleansing poisons.

It is interesting to note that an antidote administered within two rounds is effective, even though poison is described as taking effect in the first round.

So while poisons are deadly, it is intended that players have various means to counter them available to them. Referees could also design some slower acting poisons that might take some time to kill the victim, thus allowing for a quest in search of the proper antidote.

There were several articles in Dragon following the release of the game giving more details of what the envisioned background was and expanding some gaps in the published rules.
 

DavetheLost

Registered User
Validated User
#39
Example Beginning Player Characters:

Human Type: Scar-lock. Radiation Resistance: 16, Mental Resistance: 18, Dexterity: 7, Constitution: 9, Strength: 12, Leadership Potential: 17. I think I want this guy to roll up my next character, these are some nice ability scores. 9d6 are rolled for hit points totaling 30 accumulated hit points. Which we are reminded are the number of hits he can withstand before dying. Up to 10 human followers, and a 20% chance for attracting a mutated creature or 30% for attracting human to follow him, should he ever meet any. Yes, it actually says “should he ever meet any”.To start he has the common living materials of his tribe, clothes, weapons, etc, plus any other assorted items the referee may see fit to start him with. So not a detailed system for determining starting equipment, and door left wide open for a generous referee to provide a starting character with technological items if desired.

Following this is an illustration captioned “A human fighting cougaroids”. It depicts a human armed with sword and shield with a dagger in his belt and wearing a leather tunic facing off against four humanoid cougars. Three of these are armed with spears and shields, one with a bow and quiver of arrows slung n his back, the fourth is armed with some sort of pistol. All the weapons seem to be crafted by a medieval level of technology. Not as primitive as I might have expected.

Mutated Humanoid: Lock-scar. Radiation Resistance: 18, Mental Resistance: 6, Dexterity: 17, Constitution: 5, Strength: 18. Note because he is a mutant there is no Leadership Potential ability.
Lock-scar gets a roll of 4 on the d4 for the number of physical mutations and a 2 for the number of mental mutations. Physical and mental mutations is the next section of the rulebook, heading G, so not jumping too far ahead.
He chooses the following mutations:

Physical Mutations:
1. Poisoned Claws (intensity at judge’s option)
2. Radiated Eyes
3. Physical Reflection
4. Regeneration (because of his poor constitution)

Mental Mutations:
1. Mental Control
2. Mental Blast

The referee then rolls for Lock-scar’s defects, determining that he is “near sighted” and “epileptic” with a 5% chance of the epilepsy occurring in every combat situation.

Mutated Creature:
Racs-Kcol. Radiation Resistance: 14, Mental Resistance: 13, Dexterity: 17, Constitution: 11
The player chooses to start with a bear as the basic animal type. He rolls 4 physical and 2 mental mutations.

Physical Mutations:
1. Poisoned Claws (intensity at judge’s option)
2. New Body Parts
3. Smaller
4. Wings

Mental Mutations:
1. Teleportation
2. Telepathy (so he can communicate with others, bears can’t normally talk)

The referee then rolls for defects. “hemophilia” and ‘Fear Impulse for Humans”

The referee then places the player, and any others that might be starting with him, in some forest area.

Note: while different species may flee or fight each other on sight in given situations, it is possible for different player character mutations to play together. This is a good note to have, it makes it clear that a mutant rabbit and a mutant wolf could be adventuring companions.

A special suggestion for the judge - instead of rolling each ability in order allow the players to roll the 5 or 6 scores and assign them as they wish. This gives the players a little more flexibility in their characters. If a player is particularly unlucky with their dice rolls the referee can allow them to discard the character and roll a new one instead. Rather than being stuck with a character which would stand little chance of survival.

A couple of notes on the sample characters. First, Lock-scar the humanoid mutant violates the rule requiring a mental resistance score of at least 12 for characters with more than one mental power. I'm not quite sure what to make of this. It certainly doesn't shed any light on the question raised under the mental resistance ability.
Second, Racs-kcol, the mutant bear. He has wings, which the errata tells us will not work for any being over 125 pounds, good thing he also seated smaller. He did not select the heightened Intelligence mutation, the description of which tells us that it is required for all mutated plants and animals if the need to communicate and react logically. Perhaps player characters are an exception to this? Also what the New Body Parts given by his mutation are is not specified.

Before going on to heading G. Physical and Mental Mutations, there is an illustration at the bottom of the page. It depicts a party of 3 humans and 2 humanoid mutants, carrying swords and spears and dressed in furs and leathers looking down on two circular huts. The huts are obviously technological constructs, maybe metal or concrete with conical roofs and large windows.
 

DavetheLost

Registered User
Validated User
#40
Before getting into the mutations I will mention a few house rules I use for character generation.

For mutant animals I use the article "Metamorphosis Alpha Modifications" by Mark Ratner. This adds detail and variety to mutant animal characters. It gives varied numbers of dice to roll for ability scores, and summarizes the special abilities possessed by each species. I find that it helps differentiate animal mutants more from human mutants.
I do not require mutant animal characters to spend their first mental mutation on acquiring heightened intelligence.

For pure strain human types I also make a couple of modifications. I allow them to roll their abilities with 4d6 dropping the lowest. This gives slightly better ability scores than 3d6, an advantage that helps characters who do not get mutations to be competitive. It can be explained as humans having evolved slightly to be tougher, stronger, etc. I also allow PSH characters to roll their hit points on 8-sided dice instead of 6-sided. I borrowed this from Gamma World. Added to the leadership potential ability and human mastery of androids and robots these modifications make PSH characters a little more appealing to play.
 
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