Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Animals, Mutations and What's in Between

For some reason, kids hate animal mutations in Gamma World.

In fact, one kid threatened to leave the game if he wasn't allowed to re-roll his flaming bird swarm character (which I personally thought was very rad). On the other hand, kids are jubilant whenever they roll a mutation with any mind-effecting capabilities. It seems that them and I somewhat diverge on our aesthetics of mutation -- their mutations are basically the X-men with a touch of the grotesque, while my mutations are the sort of thing created when you take a boxful of body parts and pour out a dozen random parts and no, I'm not making this analogy out of personal experience.

Full spectrum of the mutant experience, from handsome women to killer bunnies.

I find the above discrepancy strange, because, as a rule, kids love animals and, in normal fantasy, go out of their way to play talking animals or animal-people. Among the most popular races are dragonborn (whose name in Hebrew sounds much cooler), minotaurs, gnolls and shifters (whom I describe as cat people and dog people, respectively). When kids do make up races, they usually describe them as part X, part Y, part Z plus an almost humorlessly overpowered special ability which has nothing to do with any of the above...

Lion paw, doppelganger foot, devil tail, squid arm, bat ear...
and an impenetrable energy field.

One of the most popular games I ever ran was an all animal adventure I ran in a convention once (described in this article, along with some more of my best kids games). And yet, as far as mutations go, animals are a big no-no.Coincidentally, this Choose Your Own Adventure game is the only article of mine that survived the great Wizards purge of '11 and if you fancy taking on the role of a young leopard leading a gang of ever-bickering wildebeests against a poacher with a surprising leader, you are more than welcome to do so here...

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