This adventure/environment clocks in at 60 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a massive 56 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
This review was moved up in my reviewing queue…because I wanted to. Post-apocalypse is a genre that is not employed as often, and Goodman Games’ Mutant Crawl Classics provides a unique twist on the subject matter…and, unless I am sorely mistaken, this may well be the very first MCC 3rd part adventure released!
Structurally, this funnel is a combination of a sandbox that allows for a wide variety of different outcomes, and a more story-driven experience. It can be run as a straight fire and forget module, but arguably can provide more playtime by virtue of its free-form set-up. The module does include read-aloud text for the regions visited, and provides guidance with sample answers to likely questions posed in NPC interactions, making free-forming these conversations easy for judges usually not that well-versed in portraying such interactions.
Now, this being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.
Okay, only judges around? Great! So, after the Great Disaster, Sammy Squirrel’s Smart Toys went dark, as the AI running the place went into power conservation mode to weather the centuries. When Servitors of a bored Star Child found the store, it reactivated – and combat ensued. In the centuries since the Great Disaster, the neural consciousness had been severed, allowing the Smart Toys to gain consciousness. Pilgrims, in the meanwhile, followed the “Star” of the Servitors, encountered the toys and promptly began worshiping them as gods. Not all sentient Smart Toys liked that, and thus, further fragmentation and shenanigans ensued…but that’s not all. Amoral and bound to the program, the Sammy Squirrel began substituting organic components in the creation of new toys, giving rise to Toy-Borgs and abominations. It is into this chaos that the PCs stumble.
That is a recipe for delightful chaos, and the AI acting as it does makes sense; plus, the Freddy Fazbear-like style of Sammy on the cover immediately gave me the creeps, big time. Now, if all of this seems like it’s a pretty large amount of things to decide and room required to make the factions work, then you’d be correct. However, the module does not leave you alone as a judge; instead, and this is a big plus regarding replay value and unique adversaries: Each faction comes with an at-one-glance summary of goals, leaders, noting leaders, allies and the like at one glance before providing details regarding the faction in question. Moreover, these do include, for example sample stats for members. These stats, however, do not just come with the basics, oh no! Each of the factions comes with tables to customize the aesthetics of the adversaries and NPCs encountered, and in some cases also provide more detailed customizations with MV values included, to give you just one example.
Beyond the factions I noted, there also are the Dollies, who want to make the store presentable once more; there are the Furries, which are led, no surprise there, by a bear. I’m having 5 Nights at Freddy’s flashbacks right now. In an adorable and really cool twist, these guys do have a weakness – hugging them makes them hug back! This can really generate some bizarrely-hilarious “AWWWW”-moments. Unique abilities of e.g. the Servitors, Sammy’s holograms and mechanically-relevant Toyborg modifications to customize them… all of these details are bizarre, weird, and oftentimes hilarious in a way…plain and simple, really cool. Oh, and guess what: The module does account for the means of using a Toyborg as a replacement PC! (A similar option is noted for toy worshipers, fyi!)
Now, the module sports a rather significant array of toys, and as such, it uses Artifact Checks, but for toys, these do not require the expenditure of Luck, which adds to the leitmotif of whacky playfulness suffusing this adventure, allowing the PCs and players to experiment with penalizing them for doing so. The sandboxy support goes so far to have tables suggesting two-faction or multi-faction encounters, with the respective tables further making the actual use of the module easier. The module presents its sandboxy aspects thus as comfortable for the judge to implement as you can potentially demand from a module.
This level of customization options also pertains to the amount of hooks that the funnel provides. It is this amount of tweaks that ensures that the module’s factions and environments may remain relevant beyond the scope of this adventure.
That being said, this is nonetheless also a story-driven module, and as such, it begins with an introductory scene, wherein the PCs happen upon mula-a-pedes (with their own mutation table!) and thus happen upon the buried toy store – this choice of location also allows the judge to potentially bury the place sans bigger impact on the setting or seamlessly plug and play it into ongoing campaigns, should such a solution be desired. After all, the extensive customization tricks ultimately do translate to the module being pretty easy to organically scale to higher levels.
Anyhow, the PCs are greeted by the slightly mad Sammy Squirrel, who obviously is an AI hologram in its decidedly unnerving following of programming and inability to process the state of the world of Terra A.D. As the PCs proceed to explore the store, they can find a wide variety of unique toys that come with evocative descriptions and rules-relevant effects, with TLs and CMs noted as appropriate. From smart boomerangs to zeroballs and hoverboards, another man’s toys may be a wasteland survivor’s potent tricks. Encountering the toy worshipers (led by, obviously, Ma-Ma…), finding the seasonal room of the store that can indeed change, med-bay (featuring boo-boo bandages, for example…), fake and real traps…there is a ton of stuff to find and encounter, and indeed, quite a few quests can be unearthed by encountering the diverse factions. Sarge and his toy soldiers, for example, want to secure the store from the invasion that they know will come. Mister Bear, the leader of the Furries-faction has a slight temper, which makes the sample dialogue one of the most hilarious examples of writing I’ve seen in a while – picture it, and then remember that hugging the fellow will make him hug back. Regardless of short fuse and a somewhat less than enthused relationship with regular folks and moderates – damn meat-huggers! XD (For the information of real life furries – this is not fursecution; it is not mean-spirited…unless you want to run it that way!)
This glorious absurdity encapsulates and captures a tone that is hard to get right without losing the thrill, without devolving into just fun and giggles. Ultimately, it’s the oscillation between what’s funny and what could be played as downright horrific that makes sections like this so successful within the confines of the adventure. This can also be aptly envisioned by the second level, where a room has Sammy (who makes for a great judge-proxy; bonus points for inhaling helium before speaking as Sammy…): “These pods let your parents make a backup copy of what they value the most: YOU!…” This notion of kids being clones by potentially neglectful parents in a pre-apocalypse dystopia…actually managed to send shivers up my spine, particularly since the system isn’t (and perhaps never was) reliable. Pet-combiner is another such super-science aperture that really creeped me out, and its undone button is broken…
Heck, this tightrope-like oscillation of tones that makes this work so well, combined with the attention to detail, is pretty impressive throughout. Candy with weird effects and notes on using them as nutrition (and the consequences!)…those are just a couple of examples.
Where I frankly started to stare in disbelief at the pages in front of me, was when the module provided the Game Room. Here, the PCs can enter a holo-dungeon (complete with a d7-table of holographic character classes!) and basically roleplay a fantasy roleplaying game within the roleplaying game. Yep, including adversary overlay and obvious further adventuring potential – as Sammy Squirrel, GM, notes, they can always get the full experience! Questing for new levels or simulations could make for some great adventure hooks and may well allow for a combination of MCC and more traditional fantasy games or even the blending of systems! After all, it’s perfectly feasible that the hologram game played may adhere to different rules! Or, well, you can just have that be a brief, if fun encounters wherein the PCs battle illusory adversaries…but why waste this vast potential? I mean, you can roleplay MCC-PCs roleplaying usual characters! That can and will be funny as all heck!
Did I mention that PCs can well become sleeper agents, and that the module can conclude in a truly amazing free-for-all bout of epic proportions?
Editing and formatting re top-notch, I noticed no serious issues. Layout adheres to a nice and printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard with purple high-lights. The artworks presented throughout are often really neat full-color pieces, but the aesthetic highlight for me personally would be the GORGEOUS b/w-isometric maps, with artworks, details and grids all noted…and even better if you’re, for example, playing via VTTs or the like: In contrast to the (amazingly beautiful) Good man games maps, the maps within actually do come with an unlabeled, key-less version! You could print them out sans SPOILERS, cut them up and hand them out or use them in VTT. That is a huge plus for me, particularly considering the top-notch quality of the maps.
While Keith Garrett has, to my knowledge, contributed to the Gongfarmer’s Almanac community ‘zine before, this is the first of his books that I have read, and it’s his first release as sole author. As such, this would have received a freshman bonus and some leeway from yours truly. However, Mutants in Toyland is a rarity among such books in that it frankly doesn’t need me to be merciful.
Even if I wanted to pick this apart, it would withstand such attempts, as it perfectly encapsulates the outré and outrageous, wild and weird tone of MCC, walking the narrow path between being horrific and hilarious. You could run this for laughs and giggles, as something utterly disturbing or a combination thereof; tonally, this reminded me of the essence of my favorite Fallout-series moments, distilled and expanded upon, and then injected in a concentrated form.
Mutants in toyland is a furious debut of delightfully quirky and quarrelsome factions and places that will stay with you long after the adventure itself has ended; in fact, I can see this acting as a really cool and novel starting settlement or PC homebase of sorts!
If what I mentioned above, if the concept even remotely interested you, then you will want to checks this out; I’d even go so far as to recommend this module beyond the confines of its system, for the unique concepts work just as well in DCC or any other game. This is one amazing book and provides yet another super-impressive entry in Purple Duck games’ DCC/MCC-lines. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval – highly recommended!!
You can get this great adventure here on OBS!
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