For me, the one advantage to being tied up most of the weekend, running a long series of database queries, tying up multiple computers for sizable periods of time, is that you have plenty of downtime to write/type… although I find I can’t do any real development/writing of code (for that, I need to be able to concentrate more fully, I guess). As such, this weekend offered me copious amounts of time to do more design brainstorming on my dream game/Gamma World implementation, and thus…
One of the more whimsical conceits of the Gamma World setting in most of its incarnations was the range of the different player character “races” (species, really) that were allowed in play. I’d want to try to recapture as much of that same range of variants as possible, tho it would be extremely challenging with all but the most abstract of graphical presentations… for example, a 3-D implementation would require a significant scaling back of the number of options simply due to the number of different models and associated animation that would be required.
Anyway, some brief notes on the options…
Pure Strain Human
In this setting, these are humans that, for reasons to be explored as time goes by, simply do not mutate when exposed to “mutagenic” energies and substances (such things simply weaken and damage them as they accumulate instead)… outwardly, at least, they seem to be base human stock. In comparison to pre-Cataclysm humans, they have changed significantly, with multiple advantages in terms of resilience, physical strength, etc. They also have significant advantages in comparison to most others dealing with pre-Fall technology, especially technology that checks genetic information to unlock or activate.
These are humans whose bodies, for reasons to be explored as time goes by, react to accumulations of “mutagenic influences” (radiation, weird chemical compounds, etc) by undergoing a kind of “cleansing metamorphosis” which can yield certain mental and physical changes as well. The possible side effects of such metamorphoses can range from the merely cosmetic to devastatingly powerful (or detrimental), the one thing that is certain is that changes (in the form of new, muted, or utterly different mutations) will occur.
Mutated Humans can be somewhat limited in their ability to interact with Ancient technology: various types of security mechanisms (visual profile scans, biometrics, genetic testing) may or may not recognize them as actually human…
These come in two basic sub-types: Sleepers and Starborn. Sleepers were cryogenically preserved (for various reasons, from medical to punitive to mere boredom) prior to the Cataclysm, and were lucky enough to survive and be successfully re-awakened in one way or another. Starborn, by contrast, were the small groups of the Ancients spread across the Solar System in various isolated scientific and industrial installations, that both avoided the impact of the Cataclysm and found ways of sucessfully adapting to the lack of resources from Earth.
In both cases, these are basic humans with no special tolerances for most of the various deadly environments of Gamma World, but with a far better innate grasp of how to use (and potentially build/repair) Ancient technology than most other individuals. Starborn Ancients, in particular, might work best as an “unlockable” race, opened as the original player-character base finds ways to travel to Lunar bases, asteroid mining stations, etc.
There are a plethora of potential subtypes under this general category: consider mutated penguins, buffalos, mosquitos, llamas, pigeons, manatees, cockroaches, jellyfish, equines, bovines, dogs, frogs, snails, whales, cats, bats, rats, gnats… and everything in between.
In all cases, the salient characteristic assumed as part of all player-controlled mutated animals is human-level intelligence (or at least close). Characteristics which may prove helpful, but can be passed over if a more challenging experience in play was desired, could include ability to generate/mimic human speech, ability to breathe air (for fish and other aquatic lifeforms), and prehensile digits or limbs (ability to manipulate objects).
Speech would be the least challenging defect to deal with, since sign language and writing would both still be potentially available, or failing that, the ooc /tell channels… (more thoughts on communication adjustments and variants in a future post.) Depending upon the design of the setting, lack of an ability to breathe air might simply be too limiting, and need to be made a required characteristic. Lack of fine manipulation ability could be significantly devastating to a character’s potential as well, and lack of intellect is just right out… saving that for NPCs alone seems, um, prudent.
Limitations based on size need to be considered as well, and may need to be a hard limitation in terms of options for the player. Both the mutated whale and the mutated gnat would have significant difficulty driving a pickup track due to sheer size, for example, but in very different ways… restricting the list of options such that the character would be between 1 and 3 meters in length/height may be best.
Mutated animals of all species would work like mutated humans when exposed to “mutagenic influences”, going through a cleansing metamorphosis that has an impact on their specific mutations. (The question of why a vast variety of different species would all react in precisely the same way to genetic damage is another one of those topics with “reasons to be explored as time goes by.”)
Mutated animals would also have significant challenges in terms of using Ancient technology, especially anything with security mechanisms… although some species do have an edge (dogs and cats in particular, having been common pets with their own “toys”/”tools”)…
“Green Ones”/Mutated Plants
Similar in most ways to mutated animals, but even more weird. Everything from pine trees to dandelions to mushrooms to colonies of algae might be potential options.
Like mutated animals, certain characteristics are assumed in a viable mutated plant player-character. Human-level intelligence and some manner/form of mobility are the two most basic ones. Capacity for mimicking human speech, ability to manipulate objects, and ability to utilize various common senses (sight, hearing, etc) would again be suggested (but not necessarily required) options. In contrast, different methods of generating sustenance might apply naturally (photosynthesis vs. food consumption, oxygen-breather vs CO2) and be quite viable.
Mental abilities of various sorts (psionics of various origins and capabilities is assumed in my take on the setting) will require specialization to work as well on flora-based characters as they do on fauna-based ones (animals and humans), the assumption being that the mental “structures and frequencies” are _very_ different…
Mutagenic influences affect mutated plants in precisely the same way as mutated humans and animals… yep, you guessed it, “for reasons to be explored as time goes by”. Manipulation of Ancient technology can be quite challenging for the mutated flora character: even the most common of houseplants didn’t get many tech toys to play with, pre-Cataclysm, oddly enough.
“Live Metal”/Self-Aware Robots
The most divergent and weird of all the player “races” would probably be this one… playing an intelligent machine, particularly in a setting where replacement parts aren’t necessarily easily obtained. “Learning” mainly by finding new software to integrate into the AI-OS, tapping a variety of energy sources and supplies to keep basic functions operating, watching out for various types of EM jamming and manipulation… I would want playing an AI to be almost a different (or at least derivative) set of gameplay considerations entirely, just implemented within the same setting.
One question to be answered would be how attached the AI-entity should be to any one particular form. The character might start play as a lawnmower/automated gardener (“Garden-Master 2100”), to pick an example, but if it came across a derelict traffic control bot, should it be able to “switch bodies” and capabilities, maybe at a cost in performance since it has less-than-optimal drivers and software to control its new systems?
That’s as far as I got… as always, any and all feedback is welcome.