Monday, October 27, 2008

Mutant Future, Randomness, and Old School Games

For those of you who enjoy listening to gaming-related podcasts, Midnight's Lair recently released a special about old school gaming, with particular attention devoted to Goblinoid Games' Mutant Future.

Check it out!


  1. Well now. That is simply chock-full of awesome!

  2. One of the participants seemed better informed than the others, but I thought it was broadly fair and certainly interesting.

  3. Thanks for the link.

    They seem more informed about old-school gaming then other young-blood gamers that I have encountered. The funny thing about classic Gamma World, is how you dont need solid rules to make the game play good - The game is still awesome even with with hodge-podge rules.

    At least the review was fair, if it was a bit rambling on. They said the artwork was awesome and true to the 'feel' of the game, so I'm happy, really happy! =D

  4. Thanks for taking the time to listen! I appreciate your comments. Listening back to the conversation myself I wish it had been more organized and there was probably a lot more to say. Still, I was fairly pleased with the result.

    Doc Holaday

  5. Yes, thanks for listening and for your kind feedback. I'm pretty sure I'm not in the "better informed" camp. :) I myself started with red box D&D in grade 7 (1980ish) and went on to play a bunch of TSR games, but then stopped entirely for almost two decades and got sucked back in by 3.5. So I'm kind of a new school gamer, with old school roots but a terrible memory!


  6. I was struck more by how a bunch of apparently veteran game players apparently had no concept of the basic principles of traditional scenario design: It's neither random nor story based, it's site/environment based.

  7. Hmm, interesting point. I really don't know what is the definition of "traditional scenario design" or if we can even have such a thing.

    I grew up with the module as the biggest influence of scenario design and they ranged from being very open-ended site/environment (Keep on the Borderlands) to being organized by an over-arching narrative (the first two Gamma World modules come to mind). It was the latter principle that influenced me more as an adolescent.

    I think even back then things were pretty fluid and different groups approached things differently, so it is pretty difficult to accurately determine what was "traditional scenario design".

    If you want to get into this a little more deeply, because it sounds like you have some more actual knowledge about it than I do, feel free to start up a conversation over on The Lair.

  8. Disclaimer: I haven't played Gamma World, so I'm thinking of all the old D&D scenarios from TSR, Judges Guild etc I have. Mutant Future's GMing advice is based on that in Labyrinth Lord, which uses the basic ideas on GMing style from Moldvay Basic D&D, so it's very much in that tradition - you map out ruins/wilderness etc, seed it with monsters and treasure, and possibly provide some plot hooks to go adventuring. I'm currently running a campaign based on those old Basic D&D modules - Keep on the Borderlands, The Lost City, Horror on the Hill, Rahasia - and all work like this. There's a site, you explore it, that's what produces the story. Expert and AD&D modules of this period are the same. Heck, _Call of Cthulu_ modules from this era are the same! - look at The Haunted House, Mystery of Loch Fein, et al.

    I possess a few examples of story-based scenarios from the '90s, they don't hold much appeal to me as they tend to what Ron Edwards calls 'illusionism' - usually the illusion of protagonist power, but really running on rails. Most of the modern (3e) D&D scenarios I possess are still site-based, though.

  9. Anyway, you might be interested in a reasonably successful Mutant Future PBEM I ran a while ago -

    (warning - 1 R-rated scene)

    I had a wilderness and underground-labyrinth map, random and planned encounters, plot hooks that would tend to draw the PCs together (unlike tabletop, in PBEM it works ok to have the PCs be apart at least initially. If anything I think I had a bit too much plot -although the basic plot was just a twisted version of The Magnificent 7 - Genetically Engineered Baywatch Babes Seek Help From PCs to save Malibu - I think it suffered a bit the way your game appeared to, from being too tied to a specific scenario.

    I think with old school "You meet in a bar, there are these ruins over there - they say there's treasure" is probably the ideal way to start.

  10. I thought the podcast displayed a gradual "discovery" of what traditional adventure games are all about through the discourse between the participants. As the converstaion progressed there seemed to be an increasing realisation of the strengths and weaknesses of such games.

    The discussion as to whether Mutant Future could be run without a game master was of particular interest as was the understanding that "roleplaying" for the most part happens outside the actual rule structure of the game.

    If I recall correctly, there was also some recognition that the story was revealed through play, and that a pre contrived "scene by scene" storyline was unnecessary, and perhaps even a hindrance to traditional play.

    To clarify my earlier comment, I forget the name, but one of the guys mentioned that he had read some old school/new school online debates, and it seemed to me that he was the better informed of the group, occasionally spurring the conversation in the "right" direction and framing some of the points that were made.

  11. Thanks a lot for your input everybody. Personally speaking, I've learned a lot in this whole process. I'm still thinking about your feedback and what my impression of "old-school gaming" is, but more than that it all just makes me want to sit down at the table and just play.

    I think one of the factors of old school vs. new school is our lifestyle. If you have a regular group with fairly open-ended time blocks to play, you can take your time with exploring and letting story come out of play, letting the campaign wander where it will go. Furthermore, there are just so many games out there now, most of which I want to at least try and several that I would like to get deep with. My gaming schedule is pretty good these days, but I'm barely scratching the surface of what I'd like to be playing and running.

    These practical factors, I believe, have an influence on playstyle and perhaps drive us post-old school players towards more focused gaming goals.

    A lot of you committed old schoolers seem to be fortunate enough to know very clearly what you like and not have much of a desire to do anything different. I'm psyched for you, especially as your preferred mode is having such a resurgence, both with players and gaming material.

    Thanks again for the interesting conversation everybody. It's enjoyable in and of itself for me, but it also helps what I do around the table.

    Good gaming!

  12. One thing that kept popping into my head while listening to the podcast (which was very entertaining on a morning commute) was that these "old School" guys that started it all were for the most part Wargamers. TSR started as a basement publisher of Wargame rules. And the first "Classic" Modules were written by guys who had a long history of Wargaming. So there is where much of the charts and randomness comes from. I played Micro armor once, and I had a German armored car filled with Ukrainian Combat Engineers, as a roleplayer I was writing down names for the five engineers and I wanted to know what kind of equipment they had. My buddy who was a Wargamer just laughed and told me all i had to worry about was how fast i moved and how good my armor was. That was kind of the thought path of the guys who put out the early games and modules. How fast can you move, how good is your armor, and how much damage can you do?