Tuesday, April 17, 2012
To say that I adored the "Mutant Manual" is a bit of an understatement. Along with only a handful of other articles, it became a permanent addition to my "referee's binder" in which I kept maps, notes, and photocopies of useful articles from Dragon, White Dwarf, and elsewhere. In the case of the "Mutant Manual," though, it wasn't a photocopy, but the original itself, which I carefully removed from the center of my copy of issue #98. Since I generally preferred to keep my copies of Dragon "pristine" -- a shock, I know -- the fact that I removed the "Mutant Manual" was a high tribute.
I'm not sure I can really convey why I liked it so much. Were I to describe any of its constituent mutants, like the flying squids, armor-plated rhinos, or post-apocalyptic sasquatches, I doubt most readers would find them particularly interesting and perhaps rightly so. Back in '85, though, I appreciated having a source of new mutants to throw at my players when we played Gamma World. Creating good monsters takes time and imagination, as many entries in the Monster Manual prove. You need more than a name and some game statistics to create a worthy monster -- an indescribable something that makes it more than the sum of its parts.
In my opinion, this is particularly the case with regards to Gamma World, where it's all too easy to take some normal animal, roll a few times on the mutations tables, and think you're done. More often than not, this led to some utterly ridiculous creatures that I could barely take seriously myself, let alone my players. So, having some ready-made mutants that weren't immediately laughable was invaluable to me. Whether others might deem the "Mutant Manual" a success in this regard is a matter of opinion, of course, but I loved it and still strongly associate it with the my fondest memories of Gamma World.