A shadow shall fall over the universe,
and evil will grow in its path,
and death will come from the skies.
Part 1 – Harry Canyon
“My name is Harry Canyon, I drive a cab”
While the next part of the movie (the Den segment) is far more “Mutant Future” than this one, Harry Canyon teaches us that the world is very different than we might expect in a typical Mutant Future setting. In New York at least, and some other parts of the planet, we still have civilization. While the wastelanders like to think they are the only survivors in the mutant wilds, the reality is that there are still a few leftovers of the once-great civilization of Earth, if you are willing to look for them.
The date in the Harry Canyon sequence is given as 2035, 54 years after the movie was released, 55 after it was drawn. Using that as a baseline and assuming everything goes forward from now instead of 1980, it puts the Heavy Metal Mutant Future somewhere around 2064 or 2065 – allowing for second and third generation mutants in the badlands.
Combined with what I’ll post from Captain Stern, it comes down to the few remaining civilized pockets of the world not letting the rabble in from out of town, and not having the energy, time or political will to do anything about the badlands.
The cities are home to the Pure Humans and a few mutants, although not to the many alien races across the universe. The mutants know that if they become too noticeable, they’ll be kicked out. Fortunately the authorities are pretty good at not noticing people, especially if you give them the last of your coin.
Since the mutant wars, there hasn’t been good satellite or radio communication available on Earth, so the cities rely on people to not run into each other in their vehicles and communications are back in the old days of personal meetings, land-line telephone calls, and the occasional message sent through the Trans-Com Message Service – a series of small robots that roam the city delivering messages that they download and upload directly from a central storage bank.
But don’t let the civilized facade of New York, Paris and a few other remnants of old Earth fool you. The world isn’t anything like we remember it. The vast majority of the planet is badlands and radioactive, mutagenic deserts as we’ll discover in the next segment. And no one is doing anything to re-civilize them – worse, the last bastions of Earth are crumbling as most people head off-world to join the galactic civilization and to avoid the mutagentic green radiation that will eventually turn everyone into a mutant.
Playing a Mutant Future game set in the cities changes character creation significantly. The assumption is that you are playing a human, a robot, or possibly a lightly mutated human who lives in a squat or on the streets (or in the U.N. Building). Everyone here understands how to use technology and would be hard-pressed to survive in the badlands where the typical Mutant Future character comes from.
If you decide to leave the city and head into the badlands there are two choices. The first is to stick to the few existing protected interstates to get to another city. The other is to head out into the badlands themselves. If you do head out into the badlands, don’t lose your papers or you will never be let back into the cities.
Part 2 – Den of Neverwhere
“There was no way I was gonna walk around this place with my dork hanging out! ”
Den finds us in a world of dust, deserts, and strange humanoid mutants. Most warriors carry melee weapons, with only a few firearms still operational (and most of them are fully automatic – which gives me the impression that it’s not guns that are rare, but ammunition. In this case, the “best” guns are the ones that get ammunition).
People fly around on giant mutated insects. Mutants are wimps when compared with the awesomeness of the Pure Strain Human (just check out Den’s massive Charisma… which he refuses to leave hanging out while walking around the wasteland in the movie version). It’s really while watching the mutants fight it out at the pool of Uhluhtc that I realized this was the perfect Mutant Future setting. When compared to the average human, the mutants of this setting are dim-witted, foolish and easily-broken creatures waiting for human leadership.
This is a story that takes place in the wastelands outside of the major cities of the world, after the mutant wars (for more adventures in this setting, watch for part 4 of this series in two weeks as I examine the world of Taarna). The average mutant human or animal in these wastelands has few non-cosmetic mutations – making the average grunt NPC just a one hit-die character with average stats (take a Labyrinth Lord orc as a sample “mutant”) and although no “real” mutations beyond the incredible regenerative capability of one of the mutant humans are shown in the actual movie, it would take little work to throw in a few in a game dealing with wastelanders while still having the setting feel like that of the movie. This is a setting where we can play classic Conan-esque adventures while remembering that there is something more to the world that we have lost, that the characters are living in some ruined future of the world we live in now.
Armour Class: 5
Hit Dice: 3+1
Move: 120′ (40′)
Flying: 300′ (100′)
Attacks: 1 bite
No Appearing: 1-6 (3-18)
Save As: F2
Treasure Type: Nil
Alignment: Neutral Blue Flier
Armour Class: 3
Hit Dice: 5+2
Move: 90′ (30′)
Flying: 360′ (120′)
Attacks: 1 bite / 1 sting
Damage: 1d6+1 / 1d8+1 + poison
No Appearing: 1-4 (2-12)
Save As: F3
Treasure Type: Nil
|Name:||DEN (David Ellis Norman)|
|Armor Class:||4 (base AC 5)|
DEN, born David Ellis Norman, was once a nerd from the 1970s. Working off his late/missing uncle's instructions, he built an dimensional gate to a world called Neverwhere. He was drawn-in by a strange, beautiful woman pleading for his help. When he awaken, he found himself in a new body - a highly robust body - and he lost much of his memories from Earth, save for his nickname "DEN". He found himself in a strange, savage world. He found out that that the normal rules of time and physics don't apply to Neverwhere, as he encounters other Earth-born people of different ages (all looking the same age as him), and from different times. Much of his adventures involved kicking mutant ass, rescuing one naked chick or another, dealing with cultists, kicking more ass, banging aforementioned women (and them some), kicking even mo... err.. basically, he is a hairless homoerotic chunk of gratuitous male wish-fulfillment fantasy.
He usually fights with his fist or what ever he has on hand, and spends most of the comics bare-ass-naked.
(It should be noted that the canons (the first animated short film, graphic novels and movie adaptation) gets really messy and confusing. So it is best to just cherry-pick the fiction, and work with the best bits.)
|Weapons:||None (unless he finds something useful at hand)|
|Armor:||loincloth (as skins/furs: basic "Chainmail Binini Effect") or nothing|
|Physical Mutations:||Increased Strength, Increased Dexterity Increased Constitution, Bizarre Appearance (completely hairless), Enlarged Part (do we need to elaborate?!)|
Designer: Malcadon (see here for original post)
Part 3 - So Beautiful & So Dangerous and of course... STERN!
He’s nothing but a low down double dealing back-stabbin’ larcenous perverted worrrrrm.
Hangin’s too good for him, burning’s too good for him! He aught to be torn into little bitsy pieces and buried alive!
Captain Sternn puts the hardest spin on the Mutant Future version of Heavy Metal. What we learn in this sequence is that there is a Federation in space, and Captain Lincoln F. Sternn has broken most of their laws, if not all of them (including one moving violation) – seemingly all while on duty as a Federation officer.
This is also the first time we see the direct mutative capability of the Loc-Nar (as opposed to it dissolving people into goo or even down to nothing).
The next sequence is B-17 which I am skipping as it is obviously historical and not future oriented.
After B-17 we come to So Beautiful and So Dangerous which, like Sternn, is set in a much larger space setting populated with strange aliens, huge space ships and lots of drugs as well as interfacing with a modern Earth.
So, how do we make this work with the Mutant Future Earth described in Harry Canyon and Den?
So Beautiful and So Dangerous shows humanity as the Mutant Wars are just starting. Constituents are turning green, they’re growing arms in their backs, and there is something or someone up there in space that is doing it. It also shows Earth at the point of first contact with the greater galactic Federation. It seems that Earth is just another human planet among many, and the other human worlds are much better off than Earth when it comes to galactic economics and a planetary standard of living.
To make matters worse, galactic researchers show that Earth is in a radioactive area of space, and the very planet is becoming mutagenic to all forms of life on the planet with only a few bloodlines of humans expected to continue to breed true in such an environment.
The shock of contact with a greater human civilization as well as the death sentence for the planet sends much of the world into a panic. Reacting to the immediate departure of large parts of the population (especially from third world countries who are promised far better lifestyles offworld), the mutant wars begin. As if not content to know the planet was going to hell, and no longer worried about destroying the whole human race and culture, nations begin using their stockpiles of nuclear and biological weapons.
Huge stretches of the world are reduced to wastelands populated by mutants and survivors, while some major cities like New York remain with their collective heads buried in the sand, pretending that the world goes on as it always has.
In the wastelands we find not just the ruins of our own technologies, but the occasional artifact of our contact with the stars. There are occasional items and weapons that are obviously from a technology beyond the grasp of the 21st Century human.
If you want to run a game that stretches off the confines of the post-mutant wars Earth, the aliens as shown in the Sternn sequence can be handled easily as mutant humanoids with a 1d3-2 physical mutations and the Aberrant Form mutation. Throw in a few androids and you have the majority of the universe handled for you – and don’t forget that actual humans are the dominant species overall, as they use the Pure Strain Human stats, making them significantly more powerful stat-wise than the average sentient alien. That’s what we get for letting in the low-life from other planets.
Metamorph (into a normal human – takes 2 turns to change form)
Increased Physical Attribute – Strength (deals +3d6 damage in hand to hand combat)
Gigantism (14′ tall – +2 damage dice with hand to hand weapons, -1 to hit creatures under 3′ tall)
(Overall, Hannover deals 5d6 damage in barehanded combat – be careful when he starts swinging)
And of course, Dr Anrak is just a base-model Synthetic with a boosted Intellect and Charisma (to best calm humans in the face of impending contact from the galactic Federation). And the Robot with John Candy’s voice has a high Charisma also, and possibly enhanced… robotic assistance.
Part 4 - Taarna
To defend: This is the Pact.
But when life loses its value,
and is taken for naught -
then the Pact is to Avenge.
Taarna is the piece most people think of when Heavy Metal comes up. It might have something to do with it being the longest segment, the cornerstone of the movie, and that Taarna is on the posters and cover of the movie.
It is also the most traditional piece for a post-apocalyptic game like Mutant Future. It features a bleak landscape with lots of metal piping, a mix of high tech weaponry and wild-west setting, and swords & cybernetics.
Taarna isn’t drawn from the pages of the classic Heavy Metal magazine all that closely, but at is an adaptation of the Arzach stories by Moebius who was practically the main artist for the original French version of the magazine (Metal Hurlant). This segment also has the best and most consistent animation of the movie, with the terrain getting pretty good footage as well as the action.
So we get into the Mutant Future of the setting. This is what the wastelands of America, Europe and Asia feel like in the Heavy Metal Mutant Future. This is a desert wasteland but of a world where there was a lot of pipeline being used to transport stuff. Just about every bit of plateau or hole in the ground has some unexplained chunk of steel and a series of pipes leading to and from it. As the Game Master, it is important to bring these up all the time – make them routinely available for cover during fights, and have the locals set up camps around and under them.
The villain of the sequence, the unnamed “Barbarian Leader” practically shares all his screen time with his scene-stealing cybernetic hand. Which brings us to our first major deviation from Mutant Future canon – cybernetics. The benefit of the Heavy Metal Mutant Future is that there is still some serious high technology here and there on the planet in the enclaves such as New York that survived the mutant wars. From these slowly decaying high tech enclaves we get the occasional wonder in the wastelands like cybernetics, rock and roll instruments, and Devo. (Yes, Devo. Still around after the apocalypse, and through being cool)
The easiest way to handle cybernetics in game is to simply have them as cosmetic versions of mutations on mutant humans. In some cases, like the Barbarian Leader, major NPCs might have cybernetics with specific new abilities not normally seen in the game (in his case it is switchable from a cybernetic hand to his whirling blade of bird-chopping and pipe-cutting).
The barbarian horde is a typical mess of mutant humans with only the simplest of mutations – assume that they get Enhanced Physical Attribute (Strength or Constitution), Bizarre Appearance (blood colour, skin colour, eye colour), and quite likely an Atrophied Cerebellum. They have these uniform mutations in the movie because of the ooze from the Loc-Nar, but they also make for a decent true-breeding humanoid stock that work as his horde in a non-loc-nar driven game.
Because of the limited amount of ammunition available in the wastelands, a large number of the barbarians are using compressed-air weaponry that fire arrows of a variety of sizes from a variety of different magazine types. In the end we’ll stat them all up as either “Arrow Rifle – Light” and “Arrow Rifle – Heavy”.
The Light Arrow Rifle is shown in the centre here (with scope).
Arrow Rifle, Light
Trigger Type: Rapid Fire
Normal / Max Range: 100′ / 150′
Ammunition: Arrow Clip (10 arrows)
Weight: 6 lb
The Heavy Arrow Gun fires a much heavier bolt at higher speeds and is capable of taking down large prey. It is typically hooked up to a backpack to assist in providing the air pressure needed. The one pictured above uses a binary chemical reaction to propel the bolt.
Arrow Rifle, Heavy
Trigger Type: Automatic
Normal / Max Range: 150′ / 250′
Ammunition: Arrow Clip (6 arrows)
Weight: 25 lb