Humans, Mutates, and Uplifts
So for some reason, I’m back to Earth Delta for Pathfinder. There’s a zillion other things I should be working on, but my damn muse is not shutting up about this. Stupid muse. Go back to muse land where you came from.
In any event, I have decided to use the Advanced Race Guide race builder rules as the basis for letting players design the wide range of weird-ass mutant creatures that populate a decent post apocalyptic world. To me, a huge part of the appeal of the original Metamorphosis Alpha and Gamma World games was that you weren’t just a bipedal, talking, armadillo, you were a bipedal, talking, armadillo who had telepathy, weather control, and a terrifying fear of robots. Getting that kind of flexibility to work in a game that’s highly level based, allegedly balanced, and presumes players will build their characters instead of rolling randomly is the first hurdle.
The next hurdle is providing some reason to play a normal, unmutated human. The advantages given to “pure strain humans” in the inspirational games were pretty minimal in actual play, and relied heavily on the GM deciding to create situations where the party’s lone PSH could be helpful, by being the only one the crazed warbot recognized as a legitimate authority or the like. This really doesn’t work as well within a modern gaming paradigm. A good GM always creates opportunities for a character to take the spotlight and show off their unique abilities, but a character who is only useful in such spotlight situations is a drag on the party and the game.
One solution would be to limit mutants to a tiny handful of “mutant points”, fitting them in the same range as normal humans. This didn’t give nearly the flexibility I wanted. The second option was to power up humans, so their baseline racial stats would be on-par with their mutant companions. That’s what I went with.
|Design Notes: If I wanted to completely balance mutants with humans, race-wise, esp. when you start with a mutant bear and then add the wings and lasers, there really wouldn’t be a whole lot of things to do. You can only take away so much from a starting PC, in terms of built-in features like feats and skill points, to pay for mutations. So, the obvious response was to, instead, buff humans. In effect, the “pure human” of Earth Delta is built on more racial points, reflecting their evolutionary response and the fact they’re the descendants of genetically enhanced people to begin with. The humans of Old Earth had ubiquitous germline genetic engineering to improve the species in countless ways, and their “Pure” survivors reflect this.|
Humans in Earth Delta represent the mostly-unaltered descendants of those who survived the apocalypse. Almost tautologically, their ancestors were very tough, very smart, and/or very lucky, and this is reflected in their descendants, who are capable of going toe-to-pseudopod with their rivals for what remains of the Earth.
Standard Racial Traits
Superior Stock: Human characters gain a +2 racial bonus to any two ability scores of their choice at creation to represent their varied nature and long-ago genetic manipulation to enhance various natural talents.
Size: Humans are Medium creatures and thus receive no bonuses or penalties due to their size.
Base Speed: Humans have a base speed of 30 feet.
Languages: Humans begin play speaking Common. Humans with high Intelligence scores can choose any languages they want (except secret languages, such as Druidic).
Defensive Racial Traits
Luck or Breeding?: Whether by dint of generations of ruthless evolution culling the herd, or by a racial tendency to draw a winning hand when the stakes are highest, humans beat the odds with regularity, gaining a +2 on all saving throws.
Sole Survivor: When pushed into a corner, humans push back. If a human is below half their hit points and has no allies within 30′, they gain a +1 racial bonus on melee attacks and AC, increasing by +1 at 5th, 10th, 15th, and 20th levels.
Feat and Skill Racial Traits
Bonus Feat: Humans select one extra feat at 1st level.
Skilled: Humans gain an additional skill rank at first level and one additional rank whenever they gain a level.
Mutates are mutated humans. (They are more classically called “humanoids”, but the term “humanoid” has an established meaning that interacts with a lot of rules, and also includes, rules-wise, unmutated humans, so why be confusing?) While there are many “stable” mutant subspecies of humanity, mutates represent the countless unique individuals who show seemingly random mutations and can spring up in any human community. The player is free to spend their mutation points as they see fit. It’s recommended at least 4 be spent on attribute mutations, to bring the character in line with the default racial expectations, but this is not mandated.
Size: Mutates are Medium creatures (unless they mutate otherwise) and thus receive no bonuses or penalties due to their size.
Base Speed: Mutates have a base speed of 30 feet.
Languages: Mutates begin play speaking Common. Mutates with high Intelligence scores can choose any languages they want (except secret languages, such as Druidic).
Mutation: Mutates gain 10 Mutation Points to define their character further.
Bonus Feat: Mutates select one extra feat at 1st level.
Skilled: Mutates gain an additional skill rank at first level and one additional rank whenever they gain a level.
Mark of The Cataclysm: Mutates choose two minor mutations.
As you can see, the bulk of the mutate’s racial abilities will come from their mutations.
For what it’s worth, “minor mutations” are roughly on par with Pathfinder Traits. Actual mutations, of which I have a lot so far and more being worked on, are based on the various racial traits in the Advanced Race Guide, with numerous options for fine-tuning them, adding benefits or drawbacks, etc.
And now, we get to the mutant animals, or uplifts. I’m not 100% happy with that term, but I find “mutant animal” clunky, especially when the major animal types are sub-races underneath the main category. One of the drawbacks of the older games was that the aforementioned mutant armadillo could easily have been a mutant bear, alligator, or turkey. There was no real provision for giving “animal” traits suitable for the breed, and then layering “mutant” traits on top of them. Earth Delta provides baseline species which have a few appropriate racial modifiers, and then lets you mutate them further, as desired.
As an example (and because it’s the only one I’ve done so far), a mutant bear:
Bear [20 RP]
Bears are normally found in temperate or sub-arctic climates, usually in the forested wilderness of their ancestral species. They tend to be clannish, very protective of their own family or tribe, and willing to take any risk to ensure their safety.
Size: Bearoids are Medium creatures and thus receive no bonuses or penalties due to their size.
Base Speed: Bearoids have a base speed of 30 feet.
Senses: Bearoids have darkvision, 60’.
Ability Scores: Bearoids gain +2 to Strength and Constitution, and a -2 to Charisma. They are very tough and strong, but tend to be gruff, anti-social, and crude.
Bite: Bearoids have a powerful bite, doing 1d4 damage.
Claws: Bearoids gain 2 claw attacks as primary attacks, doing 1d4 each.
Bear Hug: If a bearoid hits a target with both claw attacks, it may begin a grapple maneuver as a free action without provoking an attack of opportunity.
Survivors: Bearoids are good at living in the wild. They have a +1 racial bonus to Knowledge (Nature) and Survival, and both are class skills for them.
Mutations: Each bearoid may also have individual mutations that make them unique. Bearoids gain 8 MP to spend on mutations.
And, just for gits & shiggles, here’s what the mutation list currently looks like…
Some of these are very broad… “Energy Emission” has a long list of options and modifiers, for example. If you want lightning hands, laser eyes, or ice breath, they’re all created from that base.
Armored Skin, Light [obvious]
Armored Skin, Heavy [obvious]
Density Control, Denser
Empathic Scan [emotion, mind-affecting, telepathic]
Enhanced Charisma [Ability]
Enhanced Constitution [Ability]
Enhanced Dexterity [Ability]
Enhanced Hearing [Obvious]
Enhanced Intelligence [Ability]
Enhanced Sight [Obvious]
Enhanced Strength [Ability]
Enhanced Wisdom [Ability]
Heightened Immune System
Mental Blast (mind affecting, telepathic)
Mirrored Skin [obvious]
Pacifying Pulse [emotion, mind-affecting, telepathic]
Telepathy (mind-affecting, telepathic)
Attraction Odor [Defect]
Body Structure Change, Minor [Defect]
Diminished Senses [Defect]
Increased Pain [Defect]
Mental Block [Defect]
Poor Immune System [Defect]
Slow Learner [Defect]
Weak Lungs [Defect]