Review: Mutant Year Zero

imageMutant Year Zero is one of the games that took me completely by surprise. I faintly remember that I read that Modiphius was running a Kickstarter project for the game, but I for some reason I didn’t give it a closer look. Recently a friend reminded me of Mutant Year Zero. He has been one of the KS backers and was totally blown away by the final game.

So I started doing some research. Mutant Year Zero is the latest edition of a decade-old Swedish RPG franchise. The more well-known Mutant Chronicles RPG has actually been developed from an earlier edition of the Mutant game. The latest edition of Mutant has been created in 2014 and is published by Modiphius, which you probably know from Achtung! Cthulhu.

This review is based on the PDF version of Mutant Year Zero, which has been provided by the publisher for the purpose of said review. Thanks again, Chris! The digital edition is available from DriveThruRPG and contains not only the core rules but also several sheets, handouts, and two Zone maps.

The first thing you’ll notice when you pick up the game is that it looks totally awesome. The comic-style artwork fits the setting perfectly and the layout is top notch. I know that substance is more important than style, but in most cases style is what gets you interested in a game in the first place. The production quality of Mutant Year Zero is definitely on par with Fantasy Flight Games or Paizo products.

Seal of ApprovalSo what is Mutant Year Zero about? The subtitle “Roleplaying at the End of Days” actually gives it away. It’s the post apocalypse. Humanity has screwed up big time and the vast majority of Earth is a radioactive wasteland. But some pockets of humanity remain. The “People”, shephered by the Elder, have survived in a place called the Ark. In Mutant you play one of these people. And as you might have suspected every player character is a mutant.

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What am I Reading at the Moment?

I am a collector of roleplaying games. While most people only buy what they intend to use I buy roleplaying games for a lot of reasons and often even when I know I won’t be able to use it anytime soon.

But for me reading new rules and settings, or just admiring the artwork, or a well-done layout is a lot of fun in itself. Recently I acquired a couple new roleplaying games which I want talk about.

9781616616571_p0_v1_s260x420Let me start with Star Wars: Edge of the Empire. I have to admit I wasn’t that interested in this game when it was released. I already own several Star Wars RPGs and I was highly skeptical of the dice mechanic they used.

But a few RPG pub meeting regulars highly recommended the game (and the other FFG Star Wars RPGs) and so I eventually picked up a copy. The core rulebook is not exactly cheap but it’s a very good looking book with about 460 pages. The production quality is top-notch and instead of using photos from the movies, the book only contains original artwork.

In Egde the focus is on the outer rim of the galaxy and people who operate in the darker parts of society: bounty hunters, smugglers, and the like. The core rulebook is pretty complete. I am sure you could easily run a long campaign just with the stuff included in this book. If you want more than that you can always pick up the various supplements already released.

139453The other book I am currently reading is Modiphius’ Mutant: Year Zero. The recently released game has been out in Sweden for about 30 years, and is the game that eventually developed into the more well-known Mutant Chronicles. I’ve got the PDF version – courtesy of Chris Birch – and I have leafed through it during the weekend.

The 269-paged PDF looks awesome and the content doesn’t disappoint either. In Mutant you play – as the name implies – mutants in a post-apocalyptic world. Character creation is quick and easy, but allows for pretty varied characters. The player characters’ home is the Ark, which may be an airplane wreck, an old bunker, a walled town, or something similar. It’s a point of light in the wastelands and also a hook for most adventures. What sets apart Mutant from most similar games is that the players can initiate projects to develop their Ark and improve living conditions for their friends and families. But all projects may have consequences which may spell further trouble for the Ark.

Exploration is also a huge part of the game. The characters have to explore “The Zone” in order to find resources, or deal with threats. In a way Mutant can be played a bit like a classic hexcrawl (even though its maps are using squares). Even though I haven’t read the rules completely, I already see a huge potential in Mutant. From what I’ve seen GMs can easily run campaigns with only minor to no prep. Players can decide how their Ark evolves and set their own goals.

I’ll write an extensive review of Mutant: Year Zero as soon as I have read it thoroughly. Stay tuned!

Proto-Traveller

On the Citizens of the Imperium forums I stumbled upon a thread about a very cool idea how to run Traveller. It’s called Proto-Traveller and refers to a campaign mostly based on the material released in the original Traveller rulebook and just a few supplements.

The OTU is huge, pretty complex, and somewhat overwhelming – especially for new players. So why not reduce it to the basics? In a Proto-Traveller campaign there are no capital starships, the various star empires (including the Imperium) are much smaller, the focus is on frontier opportunities. There are even Proto-Traveller concepts which are even more minimalistic. Some people just use stuff from the core rulebook which means there’s only the Regina subsector.

I was never someone who follows rules – especially in RPGs – that slavishly. So if I ever run a Proto-Traveller campaign I doubt I’ll follow what was written in the abovementioned thread to the letter. I would probably use Mongoose Traveller instead of Classic Traveller anyway. But the idea of a smaller Traveller universe with only small spaceships and small pocket empires is extremely tempting. Using this premise you can probably get people to play Traveller much easier than to scare them away with endless amounts of lore.

What do you think? Would you play in a Proto-Traveller-ish campaign, or do you prefer to go all out? Please share your thoughts below.

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