Mutant:Year Zero

I have read just about everything that is available to get for free several times in the past couple of weeks and this looks like an awesome game and I really want to play/run it.

I am mechanically minded so I will start with my impressions of the detail of the system and work outwards to the bigger picture.

D6/D66/D666

I love this mechanic. At some point every GM is going to start to write their own adventures and being able to scale from six options to the 36 possible outcomes of the D66 to the 200+ options to the D666 is so simple, consistent and elegant. The mechanism gives you as much granularity as you could possibly wish for. D6 for initiative is simple enough and D66 for criticals gives you enough variety that injuries mean something. I don’t know what a hit point looks like but a broken nose means something. It seems that most fighter types will be able to take 5 points of trauma and weapons seem to do a typical 2 points per hit. This implies that fights are going to be short and bloody, no slug fests here.

The game play seems to be very social, something that I have been increasingly aware of recently both in my own games and in games I have reviewed. I like this but, as has been noted elsewhere, M:YZ is not a game for online or PBP play. It needs that sort of ‘around the table’ discussion and collaboration.

Character creation from what I have seen is really fast and easy to grasp. I am not a fan of dice and random rolls in character creation. This is a personal choice and I can see the occasional amusement of playing a warrior with a terrible strength or constitution. I would not want to do that every time. M:YZ thankfully uses a simple point buy system of sharing 14 points amongst four attributes and ten points amongst 12 basic skills. There is just as much emphasis put on relationships as there is on attributes and skills. This is something I wholeheartedly agree with. The only random factor in the rules I have seen is your mutation. In the quick start rules there are three mutations per character and you roll a D6 to select.

The Setting

I really like this vision of the post apocalypse. I have fond memories of Gamma World and to some extent this is a more grown up version of that vision. The setting is a role player’s setting, not a dungeon crawlers or hack and slashers setting. In that Gamma World version everyone wanted powered armour and big weaponry, from what I have seen the emphasis is more on collaboration and internal struggles with your fellow mutants and the survival of your ark.

My one and only concern is over the setting though and it is possibly completely irrelevant or wrong. There is something about M:YZ that reminds me of the original Call of Cthulhu (Chaosium?) game. I think it is the hint of an underlying menace. There are warnings at the front of the rules for players not to pry further into the rules regarding this. I wonder if once this secret is known, if the game will lose some of its return value. Even if I am right, does that detract any from the game? I think without that undercurrent the setting would lack a certain ‘something’. The setting is extremely hostile and even your mutations are out to get you. I do not think characters are going to live very long if you try and go out all guns blazing, or using a bat to try and solve your problems. This is not that sort of game. I suspect that unearthing that hidden story may never happen for a great many groups.

Finally, I would like to mention the job that Free League Publishing have done with the game materials. The writing is excellent and the art is more than adequate to imagine the setting. Page layout is possibly a bit of a nerdy thing to get excited about but it is of such massive importance to how we respond to a book. If you cannot find what you need then the rules appear opaque. If the pages are too dense with text then the rules become difficult to absorb. These are the little things that, although no single one makes or breaks a book, can change our perception of a rulebook and therefore the game. M:YZ was laid out by an extremely talented page designer.

I don’t do scores, I think games are too complex to boil down to a single ‘marks out of ten’ or ‘stars out of five’. I can imagine that reviews before me have given this game nines and tens and it would be well justified. I know I am picky and hard to please but this game is probably the best game I have read in a decade.

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 1st Edition available as PDF

228084Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 1st Edition was the first roleplaying game I’ve played for an extended period of time, and it’s to this day one of my favorites. Recently there was a Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2nd Edition RPG Book Bundle at Humble Bundle which included a PDF of the 1st Edition rules, but this was only a limited offer. But since yesterday or so, this classic is available on DrivethruRPG to everyone and hopefully for at least a few years to come. I am really glad that Cubicle 7, which is currently working on a 4th Edition of the classic dark fantasy RPG, has decided to bring this old game to the digital age.

For just $9.99 you can get your hands on a piece of roleplaying game history. WFRP 1st Edition may be clunky in parts – especially the magic rules were always a bit bonkers – but it’s a great game nevertheless. The 385-paged PDF contains everything you need to run a full campaign: countless careers, an extended bestiary, a huge number of spells from various schools, a complete setting for you to play in. I really hope they’ll add a POD option, too, since I’d love to get a hardcover version of this book even though I still own the book in softcover back from the days when it was published by Hogshead. Ahh, the memories …

Fate Accelerated And Fallout

Last weekend I wanted to give Fate another chance. Even though I have given up on Fate several times before, I wasn’t happy with that decision. In theory I love what Fate Core and Fate Accelerated represent. If I just could get into the right mindset, Fate could become one of my go-to games especially because of its endless flexibility.

My players were all fans of the Fallout series, so I decided to run a Fallout one-shot using the Fate Accelerated rules. This is something I’ve actually done before, but last time I replaced Fate Accelerated’s Approaches with Fallout’s S.P.E.C.I.A.L. attributes. This time I decided to use Fate Accelerated basically rules-as-written to make things easier for me. If you’re not 100% comfortable with a system you always should run it RAW instead of writing and using house rules.

I actually had a lot of fun preparing the game. I created an awesome Fallout-themed character sheet (you can download the PDF here) and made some notes on how to implement weapons, armor, chems, etc. from the video game series using Fate Accelerated rules. Unfortunately I didn’t have as much time as I hoped preparing, so I had to improvise a lot of the adventure.

One thing I noticed is that Approaches work well for active use but things become a bit more muddy, when you’re making passive tests. Often we had a hard time to decide which Action and Approach to use for detecting enemy presence, resisting radiation, or something similar. If you, my dear reader, have any advice, this would be very much appreciated. As I said before, I am still in the process of learning Fate.

Things actually worked great. We didn’t get to try all aspects of the Fate system, but that’s fine. At least noone disliked the system so far and everyone has said that they are open to playing another game using Fate in the future. One thing I noticed is that it’s very handy to have poker chips or something similar to represent Fate points. If you don’t have a physical representation of the FP lying in front of you, you tend to forget to use them, which is vital for Fate to work as it should. Next time I’ll make sure not to make the same blunder again.

But overall I was happy with how things turned out. I’ll definitely run a few more games using Fate Accelerated to get more familiar with it.

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