Mouth Brood (2021) is by Amanda Lee Franck and adheres to a turquoise and dark, slightly greenish-gray color scheme. There’s some strong Annihilation vibes, and perhaps a little of The Thing and Stalker and some other bits (even some Lost?). But on whole, very much its own horrible thing.

Core concept: there is a glass biosphere that has been buried in a glacier since the paleozoic. Inside is a self-contained, self-sustaining cannibal ecosystem that has been eating itself to survive for millennia. Players, as pre-generated scientists, are tasked with securing five live specimens for study, with a cash bonus for every additional specimen. This task is of dubious legality and even more questionable in terms of safety and sanity. Cataloging the specimens requires observation rather than combat, and thus presents a fundamentally different play experience. Which isn’t to say the world inside the sphere isn’t dangerous. Everything in there is highly evolved for eating (and also being eaten), so there is a disconnect between the observations and the assumptions of what they might indicate. Countering that is the the fact that the characters can retreat to the glacier at any time and that there is only one actively hostile creature in the biosphere (though they don’t know that, really): a terribly crossing of a saber-toothed tiger, a manticore and John Carpenter’s The Thing. Just about everything in the environment is icky, too. So even if it isn’t dangerous, its still unpleasant.

I love this one. I love the unsolvable mystery of the dome. I love how the players don’t HAVE to go in, but they are going to anyway, and they are going to constantly psych themselves into staying longer and longer. I love how it is a fairly survivable environment, but the players have no way of knowing that, so decades of RPG’s training them to see danger around every corner is actually counter productive inside the dome. And that’s not even mentioning Franck’s lush, fungal art.

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