Buffaloed

Posted: April 12, 2009 in Gaming

The title isn’t referring to me being fooled or swindled or any such thing. The myriad pleasant happenings in my recent history all deserve stories of their own, and I figured on starting somewhere. The game I ran on Friday is as good a place to start as any. With most of the group gone for one reason or another, and me actually having a free night, I chose to shanghai Ben and Casey into a one-shot game of After the Bomb. The premise of the original setting is that designer viruses and genetic engineering got out of control and killed or mutated all human and animal life. In game terms, a player picked an animal and then used a pool of points to buy traits like bipedalism and opposable thumbs in exchange for the animal traits like claws and stronger-than-human-normal musculature and senses.

The game has an optional table for the random selection of animals, and it was determined that Ben would play a buffalo and Casey would play a wolf. Generally, the trade of animal features for human ones takes place before the game starts, but I got enamored of my own cleverness again; the players gained consciousness as a needle pulled out of each of them. I figured that playing the origin story of the characters would be fun, so every hour of game-time, I gave them a portion of their points. Ben’s first act upon gaining intelligence and will was to smash open his pen and trample the two scientists administering the drug. He then charged the surgical assistant robot, which tranquilized him. In his charge, he shredded the door to Casey’s cage, and Casey slunk into the then unoccupied pen. I had a lot of fun describing the players’ transformations as they acquired new traits and lost old ones… Ben had started out as an extraordinarily slow moving animal, but his first mutation was a dramatically improved running speed. He spent most of the game charging around on all fours (he didn’t buy even partial bipedalism until near the end of the game) and goring everyone in sight. Casey, on the other hand, slunk around in shadows for the majority of the game. There was a bit of low humor as we approached the use of an elevator to one who had never known what they were until this moment, and another bit as Ben tried to squeeze a full grown buffalo into a standard passenger elevator.

By a stroke of luck, the players (who had split up almost at the first opportunity) ended up on the same floor again (Floor 17). Ben gored another 20 or so scientists, and then followed Casey out. They emerged into daylight to be greeted by a large (manned) security robot that had been mobilized to stop a rampaging buffalo in the lab complex. Casey circled around behind it and mounted the thing while Ben charged (surprise) and mule-kicked it. The robot ignored Casey, as his lupine form was not overly threatening to a robot, and pummeled Ben until Ben realized he was several orders of magnitude stronger than the machine. Casey opened the pilot’s compartment and slipped in before the pilot could reseal it, and mauled the pilot a bit. In an act of desperation, the pilot ejected, but only one of the 4 charges fired. The pilot was slammed bleeding to the pavement, and Ben picked up the robot and threw it onto the man. Then both the buffalo and the wolf escaped into the woods.

Both Ben and Casey said this game was fun, and the hilarity of the one-sided fights is dramatically understated. If I ever end up with a consistently clear schedule, we will probably play this game again. Even the fact that character creation continued throughout the game didn’t really bog it down as much as I half-expected it to. Casey made the most astute observation about the game overall though: “This game seems like it’s a lot more fun when you don’t get to pick what you’re playing.” I have to say I agree.

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