Legion of Gold, Then and Now – A Comparison

Looks like “Parking Meter” was a suggested weapon right from the beginning (The green guy, bottom left)

I think it’s interesting when Wizards of the Coast re-releases any of the  classic old adventures in current edition format.  I could name a few of the classic D&D adventures that have gotten a 4th edition facelift, but what fun would that be?  Instead I will turn to D&D’s crazy cousin: Gamma World.  In case you didn’t know, both expansions for this game – Famine in Far-Go and Legion of Gold – were modules published for the original edition of Gamma World.  Being the curious sort, I got my hands on copies of the original adventures, just to see how they had been changed.  I will reserve Famine in Far-Go for another time, and focus this article on Legion of Gold.  What’s changed?  What’s the same?  You may be surprised.

I shouldn’t have to say this, but I’m going to anyway: this article contains a LOT of spoilers.  I mean, how could I possibly compare the two adventures without actually discussing the plots?  Answer: I couldn’t.  So, if you have not played either of the Legion of Gold adventures, and plan to at some time in the future, I would suggest using this escape route instead of proceeding further.  You have been warned.

 

*****A little bit of spoiler space, just to be kind*****

 

Let me get the big difference out of the way first: in the original Legion of Gold (OLG), there is no travel to the moon.  The entire adventure takes place on Gamma Terra.  But what OLG lacks in cool space travel, it makes up for in nuclear explosions.  The new Legion of Gold (NLG), mentions a nuclear warhead in the background section (…and tried to nuke everything – only to discover that it could not do so), but never delivers on the promise of PC triggered warheads.  OLG has no qualms about laying out exactly how the characters (even unwittingly!) can cause a nuclear explosion.  But more on that in the summary.

Obviously, since there was no moon base in OLG, it would be difficult to compare the settings presented in the two modules.  However, I will note that NLG presents a far more complete setting than OLG does.  The older module describes the Barony of Horn in some detail alongside a map, but does not really provide location hooks that could be used in later adventures.  Hooks that extend beyond the published adventure, for the most part, are up to the “referee.”  On the other hand, the NLG’s chapter detailing Moon Zone 9 (chapter 3) is really meant to be a skeleton upon which to build adventures.  After all, it is only tangentially related to the included adventure – the PCs most likely won’t explore even half of the locations presented.  The locations and NPCs are merely provided so that we, as referees, can fill in plot.  I really like this.  It turns something that would normally be a one-shot into a true expansion of the game.

Summary – Old Legion of Gold

The original module begins in much the same way as the new one: mysterious golden warriors have been appearing and abducting citizens, and then disappearing.  No one seems to be able to stop them.  Baron Jemmas Warder, in the older module, issues a general call for help in stopping the golden warriors.  The PCs are expected to do a little investigative work on their own, which is when the referee is to throw them their first hook.  Except it has nothing to do with the golden warriors.  That’s right – OLG contains three “mini adventures” that lead up to the final encounter at the base controlled by an AI computer.

Now, as I said, in the module they’re called “mini adventures,” though I think a more appropriate name would be “red herring dungeon delves.”  There is nothing at all in these mini adventures that leads the PCs closer to the legion of gold.  The first one is a raid on a Buggem nest (cavern delve to kill giant bugs), the second is exploration of a neighborhood of sealed bomb shelters (urban delve with varied encounters), and the third is infiltration of an underwater research facility run by androids.  Let me reiterate: there is no information for the PCs to gain from these mini adventures that points them to their ultimate objective.  They are sent on these delves by rumors, and a heavy handed GM: “…No exact information is available to the players, but the GM may make up misleading information if necessary to encourage the players to journey to [the next mini adventure].”

This can be good or bad depending upon your perspective.  Some players and GMs may find the lack of purpose in these mini adventures frustrating.  On the other hand, some may accept that when you follow vague leads, you often end up with nothing useful.  Others may even simply ignore the lack of continuity, and revel in the successive dungeons to explore and conquer.  At any rate, there is one bright spot in these three mini adventures: since they are more or less self-contained, they are completely modular and hackable.  And I don’t mean just within the original rules system.  Since none of these adventures show up in the updated adventure, an enterprising GM could easily update them for the newest version of Gamma World, and drop them… well, anywhere.  There are no plot threads that really tie them to anything else, so it would be quite easy to make them your own.  And, of course, there are maps included.

Finally, the nuclear explosion I promised.  Eventually, the PCs find the central base where the AI lives and makes his new “golden warriors.”  In the subsequent exploration of the facility, they are bound to come across the Power Room.  First, the relevant section from the Power Rooms description in the NLG: The room houses the bunker’s fusion reactor, along with switchboards for routing power throughout the complex. Period.  Now try the OLG description on for size: This was merely an auxiliary power plant originally, with a small fusion reactor for emergency use.  It is now the main source of energy for the entire complex….If the party causes any damage to the plant, there is a 1% cumulative chance per point of damage that an uncontrolled thermonuclear reaction will be precipitated.  In the event this occurrs, roll a d20 to see how many minutes elapse before the explosion….The central hex…will be a fused ruin with a deep crater…while the six surrounding hexes will be swept by fire and high winds…  I don’t know about you, but none of my gaming stories start with, “Let me tell you about the time we triggered a nuclear explosion.” 

Other Comparisons – New Legion of Gold

One of the cool things about this updated adventure is the subtle nods to the original.  For example, after reading OLG, it’s quite obvious that the LUCAS lab from NLG is modeled after the SAMURAI lab (mini adventure 3).  It’s not exactly the same, mind you, but there are androids doing aquatic experiments in both.  Obviously, the same goes for the main antagonist in both adventures – an AI computer that has mysterious initials for a name.  RAID in OLG, and NERO in NLG.  I do appreciate that the updated adventure has a real plot, and each encounter has some sort of meaning within that plot.  As hackable and modular as the OLG’s mini adventures are, there is something to be said for continuity and avoiding time-waste by handing them false leads. 

Which one is better?  As a total package, I certainly prefer the new version.  That may not be a fair comparison, however, as NLG was meant as an expansion, while OLG was simply a published adventure.  Nuclear explosions notwithstanding however, I think that even just the adventure included in NLG is better and more comprehensive than OLG.  That’s not to say I think there is no value in OLG – the mini adventures could be very useful in any campaign, and the overall idea of the module is solid.  If you have the cash to spare, it’s definitely worth picking up for the minis, the maps, and even if you’re only interested in how adventures used to be written.

Have you read through the original Legion of Gold?  What are your thoughts?

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