I posted a few days ago about my itch to dig into Metamorphosis Alpha. While starting to write this post, I realized that the Starship Warden is a megadungeon Innnn Spaaaaace. 17 levels plus the mid levels. Except like one may normally think of a dungeon, it does not have a clear 1st level equals easier. Particular locations double as both traversing the wilderness and dungeoneering. The inhabitants see themselves as travelling in wilderness, and the inter and intra level tunnels and so forth and the buildings on the habitation levels are the dungeons.
After getting that realization out of the way, on to random plants and animals.
On page 19 there is a procedure for Creating Non-Player Creature Mutations. This table focuses on animals, but is easily modified to substitute the plant mutations on page 16.
Begin by choosing the plant or animal type, then determining the number of generations for which a new mutation might be introduced. The rules say 1 – 10 generations, so a d10 easily handles that.
Then roll percentile dice for each generation to determine if a physical, mental, physical and mental, or no mutation for that generation.
Then roll 1-50, d100/2 and look at the physical and mental mutation charts, and if the roll is off the chart, there is a sub-chart for physical mutations, and for mental it always means higher intelligence.
It is simple to do the same procedure and substitute the plant mutations for the physical mutations..
Finally, there is a note that if there are two or three early generations with a defect mutation, that that organism was not viable and start over.
One need not limit themselves to the mutations available in the rules. Make up your own, or borrow from other games. There are enough options here that one need not expand unless a busy campaign with lots of players digs into a lot of options.
I rolled up one animal and one plant using this method.
Chipmunks are small and cute, so why not randomly mutate one and see what happens?
I rolled a 5 on my d10, for 5 generations. So next I rolled percentile dice for each generation to determine what kind of mutation. I came up with physical, physical, no mutation, mental, and physical. Next I rolled d50 (d100/2) for each mutation. In the first generation, I rolled a defect of skin structure change. Then I rolled heightened strength, heightened intelligence,and ended with a defect of anti-reflection, which means that a mental attack or defense has a 25% chance to backfire.
My interpretation of all this is that these are normal looking, if slightly larger chipmunks, that are physically strong, but can’t take a hit. They are smart so they know to avoid a physical fight. They have a crude mental attack ability that sometimes backfires, so they need a few more generations for this power to strengthen and for the defect to fade. These small creatures can get into nooks and crannies and might have arm bands and other useful, but small devices; and know how to use them. They don’t have the power of speech or telepathy, so communication will be crude unless a member of the party speaks chipmunk, or has telepathy.
For a plant, I did not initially specify a plant, but let’s say it’s a dandelion. I rolled 9 on a d10 for nine generations of mutations. I rolled five generations of physical mutations, one generation of mental mutations, and ended with three generations of physical mutations.
The physical mutations are: electrical or heat generation, symbiotic attachment for both the second and third generations, contact poison sap, a defect of an attractive odor, poison thorns, manipulative vines, and texture changes. The mental mutation is telekinetic arm. Since there is no heightened intelligence, there is no communicating with this plant. It merely seeks to eat to survive and reproduce.
It can generate an electric shock to stun or perhaps kill small prey. It has two methods of symbiotic attachment that allow it to control another creature. It’s manipulative vines are a refinement of it’s ability to make symbiotic attachments. It has a contact poison sap, like poison ivy, yet it has an attractive odor that puts it at risk of being uprooted before it bears seeds. It also has poison thorns that keep away unarmored creatures. I interpret this defect to be attractive to some creature or other plant that is immune to its poisons, thus making it vulnerable to specific animals. It must be armored to resist the symbiotic attachment, and have some way to minimize the effects of the telekinetic arm. This means that another creature needs to be generated to fill this niche. Perhaps the skin of this creature will allow the party to pass through an area of these plants with minimal difficulty. Or it could get all the plants in the area to gang up on the party….
The manipulative vines and telekinetic arm server to draw in nutrition from the surrounding area, whether plant or animal. Its poison sap is a weak digestive enzyme that with prolonged contact helps speed the breakdown of plant and animal matter into the soil. It has a structure change to its leaves that are rougher in texture to normal dandelions, but its characteristic bright yellow flower and white seeds remain. One thing it will do with its symbiotic attachments is control a creature to blow its seeds to reproduce. Like dandelions, unless the root is sufficiently uprooted, it can come back. Like regular dandelions, I can see there being a thick patch of these that are slowly growing and spreading throughout their area. Their symbiotic/manipulative vines have a length of 1d3 feet. Perhaps in a few generations the manipulative vines will enable these plants to move towards food, rather than merely draw it in. They could become mindless predators only seeking food when their current soil becomes used up.
It is easy to create new creatures and plants for a variety of purposes, both helpful, neutral, and dangerous. Some dangerous things could be harnessed to be of use, like poison glands, or explosive fruit.
I like how simple this was, and in a few minutes I had two new creatures. The GM can determine how long a generation is and how many generations for negative mutations to fade and something new result. Exposure to additional radiation and other environmental toxins might speed up the possibility of new mutations.
Since some levels are sealed off from others, one could easily generate different plants and animals using the same type as a starting point. One chipmunk on one level has descendants who are intelligent creatures, another remains mostly unchanged, while another might be a deadly and vicious predator.
Of course, as with any RPG, the GM is free to ignore or tweak any random roll, or just make up a creature to suit their tastes or needs.