Mutant Future(tm) is mostly known for the wacky mutations and retro-scifi items. But some of the equipment in the „Technological Artifacts“ sections are actually everything but far out and may be easily adapted to more serious SciFi or Cyberpunk settings. One of those items is the Light Rod.
The following is a quote from the (available-for-free) Mutant Future(tm) core rules:
“These rigid 3’ long plastic rods are filled with two chemicals which, when combined by pulling a tab on the rod, glow brightly and intensely. Colors range from vibrant orange to fluorescent blue. The glow provides general illumination, but no heat, to a 50’ area for eight hours. A light rod can only be used once.”
To me, that sounds like a cheap solution for a temporary need of (colored) bright light. The following are ten examples of how these might be used in a given game world. I found out that those little details help the immersion of the players a lot.
Post-Apocalyptic GM´s, take note: those will give you a hint on where your players may find a stash of those items, and why!
01# An alternative for road flares
In the USA and other countries, flares are used as a warning- and emergency light at the site of a traffic accident (especially at night). Flares burn with a high temperature and produce a lot of heat, thereby I can see them being replaced by light rods in the future. Those do not only function as a visual warning for other drivers, but may provide safe illumination (i.e. for changing a tire at night).
02# Goal posts in a Neon-Night Sports-Game
This one is a bit “far out” and definitively “80´s”, but how about youngster playing sports games at night, in neon clothes and with such light rods as goal posts and field illumination? I am sure that would look good and might be (or have been) a fad in the near future.
03# Cheap construction site lighting
Construction workers have to work after dark at times, and an illumination that may be set up without a power line will for sure be handy. Thereby, light rods might be found near constructions sites or with construction site equipment.
04# Temporary Driveway-markers for rural areas
Roads in a rural area are not always illuminated, and somebody who lives their and invites friends from afar to their home is well advised to mark the driveway (so that it is not missed in the dark). Light rods seem to be a good choice here.
05# Camping lights
Everybody who likes to go camping is in need of a lightweight, reliable, simple light source. Light rods may do the trick and will not set a tent on fire by accident.
06# Party lights / Atmo lights
Light rods might be a party gimmick to illuminate one´s home, room by room and in different colors. Teenagers would for sure love a cheap “atmo light” when they feel blue, and couples might enjoy a special illumination at times, too.
07# Emergency lights
What do you do when the power grid fails or when there is a disaster? Households in areas with an unstable power grid usually have candles in stock. Light rods might have replaced those in a future setting. They may be in use in communal/official buildings, too. Long tunnels of any kind (road, train, subway) are not safe to navigate without a light, and may thereby have a small stash of such at strategic points. A police station or hospital might have some of them as well. In fact, every building that has an emergency backup generator may have light rods in stock, too. Spaceships and orbital stations would find those handy as well.
Those who travel into the wilds have reason to take one of them along, too. A flare gun is perfect to raise attention in a dire situation, but a bright light that shines for up to eight hours will greatly help in being found by the now-alarmed rescue crew, especially if the search is done in the dark and with a flying vehicle.
08# The poor man´s light
How about place and people that have no access to a power grid? What about illegal shanty towns at the fringes of the city, or slum villages near a garbage dumb? What about the illegal dive bars, about hideouts in abandoned buildings or closed-off areas? What about traveling prostitutes and shady salesman that sell their wares out of the trunks of their cars? They all need light and may have no access to a power source. If light rods are (rather) cheap, they will be found with those people.
09# Military Field Lights
Military camps of any kind may use this cheap, reliable, easy to transport, easy to set-up lights en mass. At least when the generator is not set-up yet or if the field base is a temporary one that will move on within the 16 hours.
10# Emergency Airfield Lights
When the power is down for one reason or another, the weather is bad or the airfield is not really an airfield but just a cleared strip somewhere in the wilds, light rods may help to illuminate it.