Game: Metal Gods
Review Dated: 18th, July 2004
Reviewer’s Rating: 6/10 [ On the ball ]
Total Score: 15
Average Score: 7.50
I suspect this is the 3, 291st time I’ve looked at RPGObjects’ Metal Gods supplement for their rather nice Darwin’s World line. They keep on updating Darwin’s World (revisions and then d20 Modern editions) (I suspect their sanity might break if d20 Future offers mechanics which suggest a compelling reason to re-do it again!) and so core supplements like Metal Gods get pulled into the revision marathon. This is actually a good thing. It shows the dedication and support you would want a publisher to give to an RPG series you’re buying. It shows the strength of RPGObjects’ PDF model and is one of the reasons why they’re so well respected.
But there’s a catch with Metal Gods. It wasn’t ever, in my opinion, the strongest offering from Darwin’s World and over time I’ve grown less forgiving of it. We’re given a strong caution at the start of the book that you, as the GM, might not want to include this suggested story of the rise of robots and the fall of mankind. You might find it too grim, we’re told. I find it too twee. That’s in addition to the decisive issue as whether it’s good to have, know, or be aware of publisher suggested reasons for what actually happened to turn the world we know into the post apocalyptic wasteland that is Darwin’s World. The first 15 or so pages are well written and as an RPG author it must be refreshing to be able to cut loose and write like that (rather than in stat blocks). I skip over them though. I normally read everything twice before the review; but not this time, just the once (besides I’ve ready it many times before!).
There are 59 pages in the PDF so after this start I’m left with two chapters; Characters and Terrors. Characters give you what you need to have metal PCs or NPCs in the game and Terrors give you what you need to terrorise PCs and NPCs in the game.
You can’t play a robot – they’re dumb. Instead the character options are limited to the Artificially Intelligent androids and the monstrous cyborgs.
Androids really aren’t super powerful. In fact there’s no EL modifier at all. Stats like Strength and Dexterity are somewhat fixed and can’t be advanced through levels gains. Androids can’t heal either – they have to be repaired. I can see this being an advantage at times and a disadvantage at others. Much of it depends on how evil the GM is and how often phrase like “right parts” get used. In the long run Androids are doomed to deteriorate. They begin with features and deteriorations – a bit like the Darwin’s World mutant with advantageous and disadvantageous mutations. Unlike the mutant, though, the features and deteriorations don’t have to be a statistical match. An android might be able to add a feature without having a new deterioration spontaneously appear. This is good. Androids are very likely to pick up deteriorations without features “magically” arriving to compensate them. Androids get new deteriorations (even if they’ve been very careful) at levels 10 and 20. That’s okay to, I think some things just break with age – the only concern here is that the android player and the GM will need to work together to ensure that the deterioration isn’t some inexplicable shock and is either foreshadowed or is a sudden fault with some science behind it. There are enough features and deteriorations in Metal Gods to ensure that three or four android players aren’t all the same.
Cyborgs aren’t the technological delights of precision military engineering. They were once but not any more. The cyborgs you’ll encounter in Darwin’s World now are probably only created by twisted Androids – and Androids have a real habit of turning sociopathic over time – and are created with limited resources and no respect for man. These post apocalyptic cyborgs didn’t volunteer; they’re captives who have cybernetic experiments performed on them. The cyborg is a template. I think both the android and the cyborg work in terms of mechanics. I can think of some evocative NPCs I could create with them. I wouldn’t have, in my Darwin’s World game, any PC as one. I prefer my Darwin’s World would to be a tough, generally low-tech, struggle.
Also in chapter two are three new classes. There’s the Assassin Android, Android Mastermind and Child of the Metal Gods. A Child of the Metal Gods is a human (or mutant, more likely) who has submitted to one of the sociopathic boss androids. They’re rather freaky and therefore excellent NPC henchmen. In theory they could be a PC class to but I assume they would have to have rebelled against their Metal God or are on a long away mission for their Metal God – either way it’s hard to explain why they suddenly get more surgical enhancements as they level up. Levelling up can happen anywhere and I really don’t think it’s possible to fudge a reason why the Child of the Metal God was mysteriously whisked away and came back with new metal bits every level or so.
If I’m going to use a robot in my Darwin’s World adventures then it’s likely to be some mangled, partially functioning, security robot which is still left guarding a ruined mall. A mall that just happens to be a temple-like-resource in the ruined future as it still has a supply of fresh water. All the local scavs know is that the “creature” is immune to their neural sting mutations and so theorise it’s some divine guardian – and has a terrible temper. It’s therefore chapter three – the Terrors – where Metal Gods is going to help me out most.
We look first at the type of “brain” that might be used in the robot. This is just a peak at the core technological idea so the game play can reflect on it. There are three types of bots too; robots and androids as previously discussed and the “droid” as a new one. Droids have the same AI levels as android but aren’t anthropomorphic/humanoid in the same way as the androids are. Okay. Makes sense. The list of terrors include; laborer android, pleasure android, scientist android, soldier android, automaton, children of the metal god (stat block examples), coordinator droid, instructor droid, war droid, agrobot robot, combat walker robot, commercial processing robot, hover-sentry robot, industrial robot, medical robot, military security robot, police emergency robot, police robot and war robot. These are carefully re-arranged so you’re looking at android something, droid something and robot something in the bookmarks.
As this is an RPGObjects PDF it’s as professional as you can expect. It doesn’t have internal hyperlink bookmarks – you can’t, for example, click on a word in the first section on Children of the Metal Gods to jump down to stat block examples in the Terrors chapter. I don’t like the way the PDF resizes when you use one of the bookmarks (but that’s a personal thing, I know some people appreciate it). At least there are bookmarks – I’m still reviewing PDFs (some at nearly $20 retail value), designed to be easy on the screen and which don’t have bookmarks. RPGObjects are now also very good at designing PDFs so there is enough illustrations and yet not so many that the PDF is bloated, sluggish and slow.