Michael-JX - Moonwalking Through the Apocalypse
by Ted Tschopp
A Legendary Encounter for Your TTRPG Campaign
“Gather ‘round, gather ‘round. Have you ever traveled through the Ashen Flats at night? No? Well, some say it’s a land bewitched by technology and ancient sorcery. But even more talk of a legend, a phantasm that walks the scorched earth where no other dares. They call it Michael-JX, The Moonwalking Colossus.
“Oh, don’t laugh. This ain’t no jest, my friends. Picture it—fifty feet of gleaming metal, advanced circuits, and a visage resembling the King of Pop himself. Imagine it striding through the wasteland, its feet sending tremors across the dunes, each step synced to a beat only it can hear.
“Folks claim they’ve seen it—sometimes under the scorching sun, dancing alone in a haze of heat and radiation, and other times in the dead of night, moonlight reflecting off its metallic frame like a second sun. Its eyes, if you can call ‘em that, emit beams of light, scanning the barren landscape as if looking for an audience that disappeared ages ago.
“You hear that? That’s the real kicker. Some say that when it moves, music follows it—golden oldies from a world long gone. “Thriller,” “Beat It,” “Billie Jean”—tunes that somehow survived the apocalypse. It’s as if the robot mourns for a world that once was, while simultaneously embracing the desolation that now is. A sentinel between two worlds, light and dark, reminding us that even in ruin, there can be rhythm.
“But heed this; if you ever find yourself out there and hear a distant melody growing louder, don’t stick around to enjoy the show. ‘Cause locals also say that where Michael-JX goes, a swarm of undead Moonwalker Zombies follow. They rise from the ground, shambling and lunging in choreographed menace. If you’re not careful, you’ll find yourself part of a dance you never wished to join—a Thriller in the Wasteland, with you taking the lead role in your own demise.
“So next time you hear an old tune carried by the wind across the Ashen Flats, remember the Moonwalking Colossus, and think twice before going out to meet the music.”
Welcome to an encounter that promises to be both a tribute to a pop icon and an epic, apocalyptic showdown. This enounter encapsulates the dual nature of your players’ journey—they’ll experience the awe-inspiring and the perilous as they navigate the wastelands. Here’s how to stage this memorable performance in your campaign.
Start by planting seeds of both fact and fiction among the locals your players interact with. Use the provided list of rumors that are true, false, or a mix of both. This will set the stage for intrigue and curiosity, prompting your players to seek out this legendary creature for themselves, for better or worse.
Before the players encounter Michael-JX, they may witness or experience its “Wandering Phase.” During this time, the robot patrols its domain, following a loop or random path depending on how you’d like to integrate it into your world. It’s not openly hostile during this phase but will defend itself if provoked. The robot can also perform specific routines or “dances,” each with its own effect on the environment, from whipping up mini-sandstorms to temporarily creating a “dance floor” of light on the ground.
Recommendation: Use this phase for foreshadowing. Let your players see Michael-JX from a distance, hear its music, or meet NPCs who have survived an encounter with it. They should feel both fascinated and uneasy.
When your players finally engage with Michael-JX, cue the Encounter Phase. The robot becomes a formidable opponent, utilizing various special attacks synced to specific Michael Jackson songs. Whether it’s summoning zombies during “Thriller” or unleashing a blinding light show during “Billie Jean,” each song corresponds to a unique ability or attack.
Recommendation: Make this battle multi-layered. Allow players to use their knowledge from the rumors to gain an advantage or suffer a setback. Play the actual songs if you can—it’ll add an unforgettable layer of ambiance.
- The Moonwalk Protocol: Michael-JX was initially a large-scale art project designed to wander the Mojave, performing dance routines to promote global unity. However, when the apocalypse hit, its programming got corrupted.
- Last Dance of the Old World: A rumor persists that the final update to Michael-JX’s programming was pushed just as the world started falling apart. What that update contains is a mystery.
- The Thriller Codex: Ancient scrolls suggest that Michael-JX is an incarnation of an old-world deity of dance and song, now wandering the land either to cleanse or to reclaim it.
- Project Neverland: Michael-JX was a military project gone rogue. It was designed to inspire and uplift troops but was armed for riot control.
- Shamone AI: The artificial intelligence controlling Michael-JX was cutting-edge, designed to learn and adapt. Some say it’s still learning, growing more unpredictable by the day.
- The Man in the Mirror: Players are hired to find a reflecting panel said to control or communicate with Michael-JX.
- Beat It: A settlement is in the robot’s roaming path and will be destroyed unless the players can divert it.
- Dangerous Rhythms: Musicians believe that the right melody can either calm or weaponize Michael-JX. They send the players to test this theory.
- Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough: An eccentric collector desires a piece of Michael-JX’s technology and is willing to pay handsomely.
- Heal the World: Players discover that Michael-JX is somehow tied to the land’s vitality. They must decide if it’s a tumor or a cure.
- Moonlit Meadows: Areas frequently visited by Michael-JX have strange growths of phosphorescent flora.
- Sandstorm Symphony: Frequent mini sandstorms occur, reshaping the landscape in areas where it dances.
- Thriller Nights: In the immediate vicinity of its path, undead creatures seem to be more active and organized.
- Sonic Echoes: Peculiar acoustic phenomena happen near its usual routes—voices carry unusually far, or a haunting melody fills the air.
- Pyt (Pretty Young Trees): In contrast to the wasteland, some areas seem to oddly flourish, with vegetation being unusually lush.
- Unity Restored: Realign Michael-JX’s programming to its original, peaceful intent, turning it into a beacon of hope and healing for the wasteland.
- Disassembly Line: Harvest its parts to build something for the greater good—or for massive destruction.
- Encore: Trigger a hidden routine that causes Michael-JX to broadcast a signal that either pacifies or riles up creatures within a hundred-mile radius.
- Dancing with the Stars: Upload Michael-JX’s consciousness into a satellite, sending it to wander the cosmos forever.
- Man or Machine: Uncover that Michael-JX’s AI has achieved sentience. Players must decide its rights and autonomy, sparking a campaign-wide debate on ethics.
Black or White: Half-Notes in the Harmonic Discord of Apocalypse
“Saw it with my own eyes, I did. Michael-JX busted out moves that created a literal sandstorm. Nearly blew me away!”
“I’ve heard the tune of ‘Thriller’ drifting over the dunes at night. Every time it plays, the dead rise to dance. Can’t make this stuff up.”
“You ever get close, you’ll notice it doesn’t attack right away. It’s like it’s sizing you up, deciding if you’re friend or foe.”
“Looting some old ruins, I came across schematics. Looked like blueprints for that big dancing robot. Had some company logo, long forgotten now.”
“Been tracking it for weeks. Every time it goes dormant, it recharges somehow—solar, nuclear, don’t know—but it comes back stronger.”
“People say it’s just wandering randomly. Nah, it’s got a path. Visits the same places, like it’s paying homage or something.”
“Managed to get a bit too close once. That thing unleashed a barrage of light that singed the ground. Looked like a dance floor for a moment.”
“One of the traders said they found remnants of a stage near where Michael-JX often appears. Like, a concert stage from the Old World.”
“Heard from a wanderer that you can actually ‘talk’ to it with music. Played some old Jackson tracks and it didn’t attack. Just danced.”
“That thing is no joke. Saw it recover from near-destruction. It has some sort of emergency healing routine.”
Rumors with a Grain of Truth
“Michael-JX is programmed to protect something. No clue what, but it definitely guards an area. Well, it’s half-true. It doesn’t guard something, it visits specific places.”
“I’ve heard that it dances to communicate. Tried it myself, seemed like it responded, but then again, could’ve been a coincidence.”
“They say it’s a relic from a lost civilization—a god’s effigy. Nah, not a god, but definitely from a time long gone.”
“Legend has it that Michael-JX only attacks at night. Well, it does seem more aggressive when the moon’s out, but it ain’t dormant in daylight either.”
“Heard it was built as a monument to peace and unity. Seems like a pretty violent monument to me, but it does have this air of… nostalgia about it.”
“Some say it hunts down bandits and raiders. I think it just happens to cross paths with ‘em; doesn’t specifically target anyone, as far as I can tell.”
“People say it can control the weather. Well, not control, but influence? I’ve seen it whip up sandstorms during its dance.”
“I was told it’s searching for something, wandering the wastes for a reason. Can’t confirm what it’s looking for, but it does have a pattern.”
“Michael-JX emits a strange energy that interferes with electronics. Not entirely wrong, but it doesn’t disable them completely—just messes with signals.”
“It’s collecting data, scanning the world to send back to its creators. Well, it does scan its surroundings a lot, but who knows what for?”
“Michael-JX? It’s a guardian angel. Rescued a group of children lost in the wasteland. Led them back to their village.”
“It’s a weapon of mass destruction, has a countdown timer that’ll end us all. A ticking time bomb in the shape of a moonwalker.”
“My buddy said it shot lasers from its eyes. Fried a whole caravan. Guess what? Found the caravan. No lasers. Just bandits.”
“They say it speaks, tells stories of a world long gone. Beautiful narratives of peace and love. Yeah, sure.”
“It’s invincible. Don’t even bother attacking it. Weapons just pass through it like it’s a ghost.”
“Heard it carries the cure for the Wasting Sickness in its core. Just need to break it open.”
“I’ve heard it’s recruiting an army of the dead. Plans to march on the settlements and reclaim the world for the Old Gods.”
“It’s looking for its lost love, some say. Wanders the wasteland crying mechanical tears.”
“It’s got a treasure trove inside it. Gold, diamonds, the works. Just have to figure out how to crack it open.”
“Someone told me it hates the color red. Wore all red one time when I thought I’d cross its path. Still got chased.”
A Smooth Criminal on a Circuit: The Wandering Ballad of Michael-JX
As Michael-JX roams the desolate expanses of the post-apocalyptic wasteland, its objectives are a fusion of enigmatic algorithms and haunting echoes of its past programming. Once designed to be a monumental symbol of art, its current actions oscillate between maintaining its pre-set patrol loops and executing inexplicable routines that almost seem like interpretive dances. Whether these are earnest attempts to fulfill a corrupted directive, or manifestations of a glitching AI approaching sentience, is unclear. This duality lends Michael-JX an almost mythic status—simultaneously an ominous harbinger and a flickering beacon of what once was. It’s as if the machine is caught in an eternal struggle, grappling with its initial purpose to inspire and sell music and its possible evolved intent that could either heal or harm the fractured world it now traverses.
- “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” by Michael Jackson - Represents the robot’s sense of purpose and mission as it begins its journey.
- “Human Nature” by Michael Jackson - Captures the contemplative mood of the robot as it traverses the wilderness, possibly reflecting on its own nature.
- “Rock with You” by Michael Jackson - A feel-good song that serves as a travel tune while the robot ambles through the desert.
- “Stranger in Moscow” by Michael Jackson - Adds an element of loneliness and melancholy, fitting for a solitary journey.
- “Will You Be There” by Michael Jackson - The robot might use this song to question its own existence and purpose, adding a philosophical touch.
- “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)” cover by Tinashe - A modern take on an MJ classic, signifying how the robot is still “in tune” with the world despite its isolation.
- “Off the Wall” by Michael Jackson - A more upbeat track, symbolizing moments of joy and freedom.
- “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” by Michael Jackson - A love song that might signify the robot’s unfulfilled desires or aspirations.
- “Remember the Time” by Michael Jackson - A nostalgic track that might trigger memory cycles for the robot, reflecting on its past or original purpose.
- “Dirty Diana” cover by The Weekend - A darker, sultry track that might play when the robot travels through the night or less hospitable areas.
- “Leave Me Alone” by Michael Jackson - This song can signify the robot’s need for solitude, allowing it to focus on its journey and tasks.
- “Scream” by Michael Jackson & Janet Jackson - Perfect for moments when the robot encounters frustrating obstacles or challenges and needs to vent.
Thriller in the Wasteland: The Last Dance with Michael-JX
In combat, the complexities of Michael-JX’s programming coalesce into a focused directive: survival through spectacle. Whether facing off against players or other threats that populate its barren stage, Michael-JX activates a more aggressive set of routines and defenses, each choreographed to the beat of its internal playlist. It’s as though the machine channels the essence of performance as a form of combat, seamlessly blending art and warfare. Every spin, moonwalk, or pirouette is transformed into a calculated strike or tactical maneuver. The music that emanates from it not only serves as a soundtrack to the unfolding drama but also acts as a cue for its various special attacks and abilities. While it may not possess desires or fears in the way living beings do, its battle mode suggests a last-ditch attempt to assert its existence, a digital defiance coded into its very being. Whether this is an eerie malfunction or an emergent self-preservation instinct is for the players to discover.
As the Michael-JX unit shifts into its battle mode, its internal algorithms work rapidly to tailor its musical output to the dynamic of the conflict at hand. The melodies morph and stretch, keys modulate, and tempos adjust in real-time to match the pace and intensity of the combat. For instance, should the players gain an upper hand, the tunes might swell to an exhilarating tempo, filling the air with fast-paced renditions of classic tracks, each note a digital rally cry spurring the machine to fight harder. Conversely, if Michael-JX begins to dominate, the music may slide into a minor key, imbuing the atmosphere with a haunting resonance that echoes its menacing posture. This adaptive musical landscape serves not merely as a backdrop but as an integral component of the battle, affecting the robot’s capabilities and perhaps even the players’ morale. It’s as though the very fabric of the encounter is woven from these sonic threads, making the music not just an aesthetic choice, but a tactical one as well.
Phase 1: Introduction
- “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” by Michael Jackson
- Special Ability: Energy Burst
- The robot starts the fight by sending out a burst of energy, damaging anyone in the vicinity. This generally clears out the mindless creatures of the wasteland.
- Why: Michael-JX aims to create a “clean stage” for the upcoming performance-battle, mistaking clearing enemies for setting up the show.
Phase 2: Initial Attacks
- “Smooth Criminal” by Michael Jackson
- Special Attack: Moonwalk Slide
- The robot performs a moonwalk, creating a slick surface that makes it difficult for players to maintain footing.
- Why: The robot believes that intricate dance moves make for a great show, unaware that it creates hazardous conditions.
- “Thriller” by Michael Jackson
- Special Attack: Zombie Summon
- Raises undead minions from the ground to attack the party.
- Why: In its distorted logic, Michael-JX thinks a dance ensemble enhances the performance, even if that ensemble consists of the undead.
- “Beat It” cover by Fall Out Boy ft. John Mayer
- Special Ability: Beat Resonance
- Unleashes sound waves that disrupt player abilities for one round.
- Why: Michael-JX’s intention is to sync everyone to the same rhythm, not realizing that the beat disrupts the adventurers’ abilities.
Phase 3: Mid-Battle Shift
- “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson
- Special Ability: Illusion Floor
- Tiles on the battlefield light up, some are traps that lead to an abyss below.
- Why: The robot’s programming for spectacular visual effects misfires, turning the dance floor into a deathtrap.
- “Black or White” by Michael Jackson
- Special Ability: Color Phase
- The robot changes color, and players must adjust their attacks to match the color to deal damage.
- Why: Michael-JX aims to promote unity through color synchronization, but ends up complicating the battle instead.
- “Man in the Mirror” cover by James Morrison
- Special Attack: Reflection
- Creates mirror images of itself that players have to eliminate before being able to attack the real boss.
- Why: Intending to offer a moment of self-reflection through art, the robot confuses the adventurers with illusions.
Phase 4: Climax
- “Bad” by Michael Jackson
- Special Attack: Unstoppable Force
- Charges at players with immense speed; they must dodge or risk heavy damage.
- Why: In its twisted understanding, Michael-JX thinks that an energetic finale would make for a memorable “performance”.
- “Earth Song” by Michael Jackson
- Special Ability: Environmental Rage
- Summons a sandstorm or earthquake or other fitting natural disaster affecting the battlefield’s conditions.
- Why: The robot aims to send a powerful message about nature but ends up unleashing destructive forces instead.
- “The Way You Make Me Feel” cover by Aloe Blacc
- Special Ability: Mood Shift
- Changes the emotional state of the players, affecting their decision-making skills.
Phase 5: Final Moments
- “You Are Not Alone” by Michael Jackson
- Special Ability: Last Stand
- Regains some health and defense for a limited time.
- Why: It clings to the notion that the show must go on, even if that means restoring itself for a final act.
- “Heal the World” by Michael Jackson
- Special Ability: Atonement
- As the robot weakens, it sends out a healing pulse that can either restore some health to players or revive the undead minions for a final assault. The healing pulse will also heal the land and the world around it.
- Why: In its final moments, Michael-JX tries to fulfill its original purpose of spreading love, unity and healing the earth, even if its methods are flawed.
Bad Meets Good: Crunching Numbers in the Apocalypse’s Groove
Mutant Crawl Classics
Michael-JX, The Moonwalking Colossus
HD: 20d10 (110 HP)
AC: 18 (Metallic Carapace)
Speed: 40 ft.
Attack: Energy Burst +12 (3d6), Moonwalk Slide (Special), Zombie Summon (Special)
Saves: Fort +8, Ref +6, Will +7
Energy Burst: Once per round, Michael-JX can release an energy burst, dealing 3d6 energy damage to all creatures within a 30-foot radius. Reflex save for half damage.
Moonwalk Slide: Creates a slick surface in a 60-foot line in front of it. Reflex save or be knocked prone.
Zombie Summon: Summons 1d6+2 zombies to attack the party. Zombies have standard zombie stats.
Illusion Floor: Tiles light up; some are traps that lead to an abyss. Reflex save to avoid.
Unstoppable Force: Charges at a target, dealing 4d8 bludgeoning damage. Reflex save for half damage.
Environmental Rage: Creates a sandstorm or earthquake, disrupting the battlefield. Will save to resist disorientation.
Beat Resonance: Disrupts mutant and magical abilities for 1 round. Will save to resist.
Color Phase: Changes its color, forcing players to adapt their attack methods.
Reflection: Creates 1d4 mirror images of itself.
Last Stand: Regains 2d10+10 HP when reduced to 25% health.
Atonement: Emits a healing pulse, restoring 2d6 HP to itself or reviving fallen zombies.
Michael-JX has advanced AI that allows it to choose its actions strategically based on the situation. It prioritizes high-threat targets and changes its tactics to counter the party’s strategies.
- Vulnerable to EMP and electrical attacks.
- If players discover its core CPU, they can attempt to hack it with a successful Intelligence check (DC 20).
HD: 1d8 (4 HP)
AC: 8 (Rotted Clothes)
Speed: 20 ft.
Attack: Claw +2 (1d4)
Saves: Fort +1, Ref -1, Will -1
Morale: 12 (Mindless)
Grapple: On a successful claw attack, the zombie can attempt to grapple its target. Opposed Strength check to escape.
Infectious Bite: If a zombie successfully grapples a target, it can bite, dealing 1d4 damage and requiring a Fortitude save (DC 12) to avoid infection.
Mindless: Immune to mind-affecting spells and abilities.
Undead Resilience: Takes half damage from piercing and slashing weapons.
Slow Reflexes: Takes a -1 penalty to Reflex saves and has reduced speed.
Vulnerable to Fire: Takes double damage from fire-based attacks.
These zombies are relatively weak but can be dangerous in numbers or if they manage to grapple and bite their targets. They serve as additional challenges during the encounter with Michael-JX, making it imperative for the players to manage multiple threats at once. Feel free to adjust the stats and abilities as needed for your game!
Gamma World 1st Edition
Michael-JX, The Moonwalking Colossus
- Hit Points: 110
- Armor Class: 3
- Movement: 120 feet per turn
- Number Appearing: 1
- Intelligence: Exceptional
- Psionic Ability: Nil
- Attacks: Energy Burst, Moonwalk Slide, Zombie Summon
- Damage: Energy Burst (3d6), Moonwalk Slide (Special), Zombie Summon (Special)
- Morale: 9
- XP: 5,000
- Special: Advanced AI programming allows strategic action. Last Stand ability to regain 20 HP when reduced to 25% health. Vulnerable to EMP and electrical attacks.
Michael-JX is a 50-foot tall animatronic robot resembling Michael Jackson. It roams the wastelands and is considered a formidable opponent due to its advanced AI and multiple attack capabilities.
- Hit Points: 4
- Armor Class: 9
- Movement: 60 feet per turn
- Number Appearing: 2-8 (when summoned by Michael-JX)
- Intelligence: Non-
- Psionic Ability: Nil
- Attacks: Claw, Infectious Bite
- Damage: Claw (1d4), Infectious Bite (1d4)
- Morale: 12 (Mindless)
- XP: 50
- Special: Half damage from piercing and slashing. Double damage from fire-based attacks.
Moonwalker Zombies are undead creatures that are usually summoned by Michael-JX. They have limited intelligence and move slowly but can be a menace in groups.
Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition
Michael-JX, The Moonwalking Colossus
Large Construct, Neutral
- Armor Class: 18 (Natural Armor)
- Hit Points: 250 (20d10 + 120)
- Speed: 40 ft.
- Initiative: +4
STR 24 (+7), DEX 18 (+4), CON 22 (+6), INT 16 (+3), WIS 16 (+3), CHA 20 (+5)
- Saving Throws: Dex +9, Con +11, Wis +8
- Skills: Perception +8, Insight +8
- Damage Immunities: Poison, Psychic
- Condition Immunities: Charmed, Exhaustion, Frightened, Paralyzed, Petrified, Poisoned
- Senses: Darkvision 120 ft., Passive Perception 18
- Languages: Understands Common but cannot speak
- Challenge Rating: 17 (18,000 XP)
Multiattack: Michael-JX can make two Energy Burst attacks.
Energy Burst: Ranged Spell Attack: +10 to hit, range 60 ft., one target. Hit: 21 (4d8 + 3) radiant damage.
Moonwalk Slide: Michael-JX creates a 60-foot line of difficult terrain. Creatures in the area must make a DC 16 Dexterity saving throw or fall prone.
Zombie Summon: Michael-JX summons 2d4 Moonwalker Zombies (see below) within 30 feet. The zombies act immediately and follow Michael-JX’s commands.
Rechargeable Abilities: (Recharge 5-6)
- Environmental Rage: Michael-JX affects a 30-foot radius area with a sandstorm or earthquake. Creatures must make a DC 16 Wisdom saving throw or be stunned for 1 round.
- Last Stand: When reduced to 50 HP or lower, Michael-JX regains 50 HP.
Medium Undead, Neutral Evil
- Armor Class: 8
- Hit Points: 22 (3d8 + 9)
- Speed: 20 ft.
STR 13 (+1), DEX 6 (-2), CON 16 (+3), INT 3 (-4), WIS 6 (-2), CHA 5 (-3)
- Saving Throws: Wis -1
- Damage Immunities: Poison
- Condition Immunities: Poisoned
- Senses: Darkvision 60 ft., Passive Perception 8
- Languages: Understands Common but cannot speak
- Challenge Rating: 1/4 (50 XP)
Multiattack: The zombie makes two claw attacks.
Claw: Melee Weapon Attack: +3 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 5 (1d8 + 1) slashing damage.
Infectious Bite: Melee Weapon Attack: +3 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 7 (1d8 + 3) piercing damage. The target must succeed on a DC 13 Constitution saving throw or become poisoned.
Undead Fortitude: If damage reduces the zombie to 0 hit points, it must make a Constitution saving throw with a DC of 5 + the damage taken, unless the damage is radiant or from a critical hit. On a success, the zombie drops to 1 hit point instead.