Tag Archives: rpg

Mutant: Year Zero Review

Mutant: Year Zero is a post-apocalyptic role-playing game by Free Play League and distributed by Modiphius.  This book was recommended to me by Michael Collett from the Friday Night Roleplaying club. I am unabashed in my love of post-apocalyptic games and settings, and while the genre is incredibly popular for video games, published role playing games in this vein seem few and far between. The grandfather of these is, of course, Gamma World, which was a wonderfully weird look at life after the great mistake. Mutant: Year Zero has a darker tone.

This is a grim and unforgiving take on life among the ashes. The technology level is decidedly modern, lacking the fanciful science fiction elements common in Gamma World or Fallout. In some ways, it is even low tech, with the absence of computers and cellular communications. If you have a working vehicle that is a luxury.  You may have a gun, but you rarely want to use it, as bullets are the currency of the world and must be tracked. You also need to keep track of food, water, and your rot level if you hope to survive long. Life is hard in Mutant: Year Zero, and the game is as much resource management and base building as it is exploration and fighting.

The core of the game is rooted in the zone map. This is effectively a hex crawl, where you go in search of food, water, and supplies. There is a mechanic to randomly generate these zones within the map, which is how I first began running the game. I found this to be a shallow way to experience the world. You miss out on the detail and strangeness inherent in such a setting if you are merely rolling dice and populating an area according to tables. After the zone is generated, the players roll dice to navigate the area and the result of that roll determines what they encounter and any items they find. At early levels it is possible to roll up a death trap for the characters, and if they roll poorly in response, wipe the entire party. While this is thematically appropriate, it can be unsatisfying to be victims to the whims of fate to this degree.

In contrast, the book offers a handful of fleshed out zones for players to interact with, and these are where I think the game shines. You can take multiple approaches and handle the situation in smart ways. It encourages and rewards immersive play. I found interspersing these more crafted areas amid the randomly generated squares to be the best approach for running the game. Sadly, the core book does not give you enough of these, so it is wise to supplement with the zone books for the line, invent your own, or find zones other places. Such as, perhaps, a Zine. Like Survivalism, which is available on the Full Metal RPG patreon.

Shameless plugs aside, Mutant: Year Zero feels like it is really two games married together. There is the exploration part, where you are going out and searching for resources, and there is the Ark, your home base. At the start of each session you generate a new threat, by either rolling or drawing from a deck of cards Modiphius will happily sell you. After this is done, you undertake projects. These are things that increase the technology level, defenses, or resource generation abilities of your Ark. You can build a stable, functional society, or opt for a cannibal death cult that destroys anyone they come across.

The Ark is deeply political environment, ruled over by competing bosses and nominally overseen by the eldest, the last true human of which you know. The mind of the eldest has started to go and the future is very uncertain. Further, mutants do not survive past 30, so if a solution is not found soon, your people are doomed to extinction. The bosses are jockeying for position, and a number of the threat cards are centered around the ark, and existential threats to your scrappy society, both internal and external.

It is possible to run entire sessions either in the Ark or out in the wasteland. The flavor of each is very different. In the wasteland everyone cooperates to find resources, fight off monsters, and survive. Back in the Ark the players had a tendency to split apart and each scheme with different bosses and factions. When the end came for players in my game, it was inside the Ark, as a result of their actions or the wheels set into motion by others.

There is a story underlying all of this. I will not get into it, as I want to avoid spoilers and found it slightly underwhelming. It is not terrible, it is simply a tad predictable and uninteresting, all told. I did not use much of this material when I ran the game myself, but if meta plot is your thing, there is a meta plot here you can run with should you so desire.

The core mechanic involves rolling d6 to resolve actions. There are three types of dice needed: Attribute, Ability, and Equipment. It helps to have different colored dice for these, and Modiphius will happily sell you exorbitantly priced custom dice. 6s represent successes, and 1s are potentially bad. If you do not generate any successes, you have the option to push the role, but doing so causes the 1s rolled to have a negative effect. You either take attribute strain, or your equipment suffers damage.

The game is called mutant, and you are playing a mutant. Character creation is a point buy system, where you start by picking your role, and then assigning attributes and abilities based on that role and its special ability and talents. Mutations are randomly generated, which can make things a bit lopsided. In our play through we had several characters who rarely used their mutations, and others who used them every opportunity they had. Mutations are fueled by mutation points. Mutation points are generated when you take attribute strain, or at the start of each session if you are at 0. Using mutations forces you to roll a number of dice equal to the mutation points spent. On a roll of 1, something unexpected happens and you roll again. A further roll of 1 means you permanently lose an attribute point, but gain a new mutation. The other results have their own effect, but the two ones are effectively the death spiral that is built into the game. Once your attributes are low enough your character is no longer playable.

One final quibble is availability. Mutant: Year Zero suffers from a problem that seems all too common among the Free Play League games: Finding a copy can be an absolute chore. You can, of course, order from the publisher over in England, which can nearly doubles the cost of acquiring the game. The alternative is hunting across multiple game shops until you manage to stumble across a copy and then snatch it up like Gollum grabbing the Precious.

I like Mutant: Year Zero quite a bit. It is not as gonzo as I had initially hoped for, and the resource management and bookkeeping portions can be a bit tedious, but it is a really fun game to run and experiment with. I feel like the zone books are almost necessary to get the maximum utility out of the game, and it really could use a games master book to expand on zone building, adversary generation, creating maps, and offer a toolkit for modifying the game. It is a gritty, dark take on a genre that is often portrayed as weird and humorous. There is a lot here to like and you should pick it up if this type of game interests you. Assuming you can find it.

The Warlord’s Words

Greetings, I am the Warlord Amanda.

Here’s a quick run-down.

I was born n raised in Arizona, so I have a good idea what hell is like, and have been a geek since I popped out of the womb…literally.  Being named after Spock’s mother didn’t really give me a chance to be anything else, not that I would want to be anything else!!  I fell in love with comic books a little after I could walk, I know…I cringe when I think of a child with a comic book too.

I didn’t get into gaming until grade school.  Actually, I didn’t get into RPGs until grade school, I was playing video n board games way younger.  I’ve always been a geek, it was as natural as breathing, even though my childhood was spent during the age of bullying and horrendous geek shaming and stereotyping, I never wanted to be anything else.  I didn’t care that my lunch breaks were spent alone because I had my games, my comics and I knew I was smarter than everyone else, so who cared what the other monkeys thought?  I didn’t really meet like-minded people until high school, which is where my heavy rpg playing began.  Who was I playing with before?  Mostly my mom’s friends and the occasional Sci-Fi con game where I was the token kid.

Anyhoo, my point is I’ve been around the geeky block and kicked it’s ass repeatedly.  I’ve weathered the bullying storm when it was in high gear.  I am loving the new popularity of geekiness!!  My warlord status was earned…best to not forget that  =)  I will occasionally get tipsy, or drunk, and share some stories and/or insights here.  I raise my glass to you.

I am the Warlord Amanda…you may tremble now.

 

FMRPG 037 – “OSR” Gaming vs. “Vintage” Gaming

Whaddup Cultists?!

In this Episode Brendan Carrion and Adam Sink are joined by none other than the elusive Aleks aka “Legion” to discuss the relative merits and flaws of OSR gaming vs. their “Vintage” or “Classic” counterparts. We wrestle with a concept pitched to us by Jamie at Colosseum Rex in Sunderland:

“Do we need creators to emulate bygone systems or games when we live in a world where we have access to the original games from that time period, whether in physical copies via eBay, Amazon etc or pdfs”

Find us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=full%20metal%20rpg
or Instagram @fullmetalrpg

and let us know what you think!

Original art by Rich “Nerdgore” Sampson. Music by Legion, Bloodhound Gang and Opeth

Gamma World 4e

Gamma World Returns!

The update no one demanded. I forgot my notes, which turned out to be slightly less of a problem for reasons we will get into later. We leveled up to level 3, taking a new utility power and some extra hit points. This installment finds our intrepid heroes delving into the ruins of ASU. Only they are not really ruins. Surprisingly well maintained, actually. Robot servitors keeping the grounds and the Science and Technology Department in near perfect shape, save for an ominous Omega symbol spray painted on the front.

Sports Authority, Krunk Mayhem, and Mae Lyn entered the building, making their way to the lab. There they found a young man in a lab coat going by the name of AlBro-t Einstein. He explained his theory of Broletivity and introduced them to his peer: Erwin Broedinger, who told them about his box that contained a cat. If the cat was alive, you had to take a drink. If the cat was dead, you had to take two drinks. Opening the box the cat was very dead, leading Broedinger to lament a lack of airholes. Moving on, they met ABroham Lincoln and Broseph Stalin. Then on to the special projects division, where Robert Broppenheimer and Neils Bro-hr were working on their doomsday weapon: the Jager Bomb. Explaining their need for nuclear material to arm the devices, they lamented all of that was taken by “the nerds” who they had stolen the building from. They also mentioned having broken the nerds’ robot EVA by hitting it with a whiskey bottle, instilling the robot with a hatred of humanity and sending it out into the wastes.

Things got a little meta at this point, and the conversation veered several times. Eventually the trio agreed to go look for the nerds and return the nuclear material. Setting out for South Mountain, they took a detour to scope out the Fry’s Electronics. Inside of Fry’s, they found a quartet of cyber zombies, dead humans merged with the technology they used to sell. They were only marginally less apathetic and useless than living Fry’s employees, though they did hunger for human flesh. Wielding keyboards, they attacked our “heroes”. The fight started rather by the numbers, with zombies swinging and missing, and the player’s connecting some solid hits. A zombie made a wild swing, but rolled a 1 and instead performed a dainty pirouette, followed by a gentlemanly bow at the end. Combat continued. Then one of the zombies dropped. This triggered an electric reaction from one of the survivors, who let loose with force lightning on Sports Authority and dealt a massive amount of damage. Some handy Omega tech blunted to worst of it, but it was clear things were going to get worse. Shortly after, Krunk Mayhem got flanked by a pair of zombies. Two big hits landed, the first zombie smashing him in the face, right into a savage blow from behind by the second. From full hit points to one hit point in the space of two attacks. A new utility power was used, teleporting everyone out of harms way and allowing the players to regroup.

It was much more by the numbers from this point onward, with the player’s eventually triumphing, and scouring the ruins. Mae Lyn and Sports Authority found omega tech. Krunk Mayhem found a vacuum cleaner and a returns desk. Krunk returned a piece of omega tech he was not using for a new card. Everyone seemed satisfied. On to South Mountain!

Running short on time, we skipped the planned encounters (that were with my missing notes anyway) and fast forwarded to meeting with the nerds. The players negotiated an agreement with Doctor Parker to clear the frat bros out from ASU and give them back control of the lab. They learned the professors had retreated to South Mountain after having been ousted by the frat bros to work on a doomsday weapon. A pulse wired into one of the towers that would make being stupid painful, with the idea that they could cleanse the wastes of dumb people by forcing them to commit suicide or flee. The group agreed to send the bros packing, and headed back to ASU.

At ASU they gathered the bros for a presentation, with the intent of sending them after Baws Hawg, the guy Mayor Cluck Cluck had hired them to kill to begin with. Sports Authority expended his hypnosis ray, and Krunik Mayhem rolled a natural 20. Whipping the bros into a steroid fueled frenzy, their implements of destruction hit the streets, chanting and raging. Unfortunately, no one gave them a route to take, and bros chose the quickest path to the airport, taking the bridge over Tempeh Town Lake, home of the leviathan. A massive aquatic beast arose and began slaughtering the bros, who ripped their Tap Out shirts, screamed “Come at me, bro!”, and charged the beast. They, of course, met grisly deaths. It was a gruesome blood bath, which was watched by cheering mermaids and our trio.

Thus ended Gamma World for this week. Tune in next week where we find out… whatever we find out. I have no idea what is going to happen in this game anymore. I barely understood what we were doing this session.

Episode 31 – Fair Game

Well here we are once again witches and wolves! In Episode 31 of FMRPG that scurrilous bastard Ben peaces out on Brendan and gaming mastermind Jim Miller gets called in as a hired gun to help keep things in order. This week the Full Metal crew is joined by the homies Richard and Darryl of the Wrecking Crew and Podcast: the Wreckening. They talk about all manners of gaming and then there’s some talk about gaming cons, especially the upcoming Arizona Game Fair. Listen in and let us know how you like the show! Thanks for tuning in cultists!

We got art my Rich Nerdgore, Music by Legion, Wolves in the Throne room and Sepultura! Get at it!

How to be a Bad Ass DM

All right, listen up fools. I’m about to drop some truth into your head holes about how to be a bad ass dungeon master, hence forth referred to as Dungeon Mastuh or DM, ‘cuz that is how a bad ass talks. They don’t have time for proper pronunciation or sounding things out in full. We have better things to do. like sneering or conditioning our leather jackets. Yeah. That is a sweet lookin’ jacket.

First up: Candles. Candle the shit out of your play space, but not so many as to actually allow people to read what is on their sheet. If the player can’t read their sheet/dice, they can’t argue with you when you tell them than no, they actually failed that save and now they are a statue. A bad ass DM doesn’t take back talk from the players. You want your gaming area to look like a medieval tavern where the owner doesn’t have enough coin for torches, despite the fact you are actually at your kitchen table in the suburbs and have proper light sources that would actually allow you to see what is going on. Ambiance, suckas.

Second: Mirror shades. Wear ’em. “But Adam, with the low light from the candles I can’t see a thing!” First off, who told you that you could speak to me? Second, you don’t need to see anything if you have ‘tude. You are a bad ass. You are making this shit up as you go along. If the lighting is bad enough, it doesn’t matter. The players can’t see a damn thing either. If you really need to catch a peek at something, you can always stare down at your players in disgust from over the top of your shades. That is what cool guys do.

Third: Fingerless gloves. Wear ’em. Also, spike your hair. That is what cool people do. If you don’t look like the villain from an 1980’s vampire flick, you are doing it wrong. Try again. Got leather pants/skirt and a mesh shirt? Even better. “But Adam, now my legs are dumping sweat and my torso is freezing!” Deal with it, cry baby. Let your players learn to avert their eyes from your dagger like nipples.

Fourth: Random acts of violence. Hit your players. They deserve it. “But Adam, battery is illegal, besides, these are my friends!” WRONG. Players are the enemy. They deserve a smack. Light ’em up. They need to FEAR you.

Fifth: Music. Crank that shit. This plays into the candle thing. If it is loud enough, the players can’t argue that you said you rolled a 19 vs their AC rather than a 20, which would hit. Oh, you couldn’t hear me over Cradle of Filth? Boo hoo. Too bad. I guess your Gnome Enchanter is DEAD. Roll up a REAL character this time, like a wandering Drow outcast suffering from depression.

Sixth: Swords. Fucking. EVERYWHERE. Got a wall? Throw a sword up on there as decoration. Or an axe. Or a shield with two swords. Basically your house better look like a weapons museum. Got kids? Too bad. They’ll learn not be touching that stuff eventually. You know, once they bleed a few times or end up short a couple digits.

Seventh: Proper session prep and story. You don’t need ’em. You are flying by the seat of your (leather) pants. You can make something up. If they players don’t like it, pretend you said something else or they weren’t listening. Or hit them. You’ve got options, is my main point.

And that, friends, is how you be a bad ass DM. Of course, if you actually want to be a GOOD DM, then you can throw all this advice out the window, because it kind of sucks. Now if you will excuse me, I need to peel myself out of these stupid pants and hope I don’t accidentally walk into a wall along the way.

Gamma World the 3rd

This is officially the session where everything went bug fuck crazy, so bear with me as I try to recall the sequence of events.

First, Sports Authority started off with butchering one of the pig men killed last session for meat. Meat which he began cooking. This attracted attention of the frog men in Golfland/Sunsplash. After much discussion about the ethics of eating other sentient creatures and the need for a pair of GODDAMN BINOCULARS, the party packed it up, and moved on to their primary objective: The warlord Baby Eater. Binoculars and ethics turned into a theme for the session.

Making their way to Fiesta Mall, they group took stock of their surroundings. Deciding a direct approach was imprudent, they used the wiles of Mae Lin and some choice cuts of pig man to lure out a couple of raiders from the mall. Killing one and capturing the other, they took their quarry to the ruins of Eyeglass World.

Sports Authority busied himself butchering the dead raider ( henceforth known as Glenn), while Mae and Krunk Mayhem interrogated the surviving raider, Don. What followed was easily a half hour exploration into the moral quandary of surviving a post apocalyptic wasteland, the ethics of serving a warlord named Baby Eater, the merits of cannibalism, why a retirement plan is important, and where to find some goddamn binoculars. It was a strange and often hilarious conversation.

Look, I’m not going to lie. There was a table playing Pathfinder behind us, and a couple of them started starring at us like we were the spawn of the devil. Like… the literal devil. As though we might start eating other gamers at the store. It was sort of great.

After deciding that maybe they were not so different after all, the party told Don they wanted to join the raider group. He told them that was great news, and happily escorted them to the Ass O Shop (Bass Pro Shop), a hunting/fishing store taken over by a group of militant right wing rednecks. The trip there was uneventful, and our intrepid “heroes?” found themselves face to face with a survivor calling himself Jeff Gordon, devotee of the Left hand path (go fast and turn left), and servant of Nasc-Ar, his cruel and ambivalent God. Jeff was willing to bargain with the group, and they offered him their bags of concrete to assist in building a racing track in exchange for whatever they wanted from the Ass O Shop.

After a shopping spree, the group finally had several binoculars, along with fishing gear, some extra ammo, a filet knife (so Sports Authority can butcher people more efficiently), a hat, camo netting, and other assorted goodies.

They made their way back toward the Fiesta Mall, and were attacked by a Parn, a massive insect creature with spikes and blades and all manner of nasty surprises.  Omega tech and alpha mutations were spent, and the Parn defeated.  Our troupe collected it’s head as an offering to Baby Eater.

Don invited the group into mall, introducing them to Baby Eater, the warlord. They talked with him for a bit, eventually agreeing to his terms. His accent kept shifting, because I’m a shitty Games Master and can’t keep track of what I’m doing.

401k discussions occurred, the party looked for gear, and Mae Lin found the captives of Baby Eater. The team entered into discussions about how best to off the warlord, eventually deciding on a doppelganger suicide bomb. Achieving amazing success on turning their five gallons of fuel into a bomb, a plot was hatched. The Parn head was retrieved, and turned into a bomb to lay low the vile warlord.

Baby Eater was blown up spectacularly, though he stumbled from the inferno before fully collapsing. Krunk Mayhem seized the opportunity to take command of the raider group, trying to rip off the head of their once leader. Failing that, he cut it free with Sports Authority’s Filet Knife and attempted to intimate the surviving raiders… and rolled a one.

Holding the head aloft, he proclaimed himself… SHIT! He dropped the head. It bounced around and chased after it, trying to aggrandize himself poorly. Mae Lin and Sports Authority started playing hype men, and managed to undo the catastrophic head bouncing  scenario. Krunk Mayhem booted the head into the distance and declared himself the leader of the gang.

Next we entered the bookkeeping and environment building segment. The people of Ookmans would be used as indentured labor, as would the “brides” of Baby Eater, though they would be left relatively free in their own homesteading at Eyeglass World. A plan for dominating the wastes of Feenix was hatched, and the party left to continue their adventure, leaving Don in charge with dire warnings not to double cross them.

The party surveyed Golfland/Sunplash, vowing to return later and defeat the frog men led by Frogespierre.

Finally, they ventured into Tem-peh, spying a carnival at Tem-peh Marketplace. They surrendered their weapons and entered. Wandering the grounds, Sports Authority was drawn in by the games, while Mae Lin and Krunk Mayhem sensed something more sinister. They met with The Ringmaster, an AI from Area 52 tasked with maximizing human pleasure and enjoyment. The entire carnival appeared to be a diabolical trap to draw increasing numbers of victims into the web of a rampant AI, an AI designed to placate and pacify human enemies of a United States government long since gone in the wake of the Big Mistake. The group left the Marketplace, vowing to return, but not before telling the AI of a concentration of humans at Skyharbor Airport.

I missed my chance. . .

Shadowsworn Adam has been narrating our crazy adventures in the post apocalyptic land of metro Phoenix. The game is gonzo and insane. Like anything goes insane. I’m not going to waste your time and mine providing a recap that Adam has already done. Instead, I’m going to lament my missed opportunity.

First, don’t misunderstand. I like Sports Authority. The character is crazy and outlandish and fits perfectly with the setting. But after last session, it occurs to me that I missed a golden opportunity. During our last session, we spoke to a nerd that had survived the apocalypse and had assumed the identity of Aragorn.

Honestly, this blew my mind. I realized I had missed a golden opportunity. And do you know what that opportunity was? I could have played as Elric! That’s right, the White Wolf of Melnibone. Sure, maybe he’s just a mutant from our earth that has assumed (intentionally or otherwise) that fictional identity. Or maybe he’s a creation of the infinity earths that had created the singular event that caused the apocalypse. Either way, I missed the opportunity.

I could have been carrying a singing black sword that acted on its own (psychic powers from being a mutant easily translate to witchcraft thematically if I want it to). I could have been an albino at the end of time. Mistake noted. If Sports Authority dies, I know what I’m going to play next.

Episode 30 – Mailbag Dos: Last Train to Hell

Well amigo, the hour is nigh. You can only outrun the law for so long and then they put a silver bullet, dipped in holy water right between your fuckin’ shoulders. Now I hear that forlorn cry in the distance compadre, the sound of that one way ticket to Hell come to carry me away. I guess I’ll lay here in the dirt, waiting for El Diablo Maior to come carry me away, and you can read me this here letter from my dear ol’ paw back east. He knew I’d never make nuthin’ of myself. I never was very booksmart. Now, I’ll answer whatever he asks, but you gotta get word back to him ya hear? Is is a deal amigo? *cough cough*

In this SUPER LONG episode Brendan and Ben are met at the creepy crossroads of fate by the Grim Reaper himself taking a stroll with the Warlord Amanda. We get to talkin’ about our takes on some queries put to us by devoted listeners. We hope you’ll take a listen and walk with us for a while.

Art by Rich Nerdgore, music by Legion, Slayer and Ghost.

Gamma World Part Deux

We rejoined our intrepid heroes as they went ice skating at the Polar Ice. After a brief intermission, they reached level 2. Hooray!

They were rejoined by Sports Authority, the Mind Breaker/Telekinetic they had abandoned at The Junction.  The reunited party moved further into the ruins of Meesa, following along the US-60 by way of the canals running alongside it.

The trip ran afoul of a group of dragonflies and some mutated jumping cholla. A long and savage combat ensued. Much healing was spent. Powers were used.  Eventually the group triumphed over their foes, searching the area and finding a lighter and a ceiling fan, which they surmised was some manner of shield. Into the wagon the new junk went.

They reached an agreement to head to Ookmans, where they had heard the settlers there were having problems with a warlord named Baby Eater. They decided to skip Golfland/Sunsplash, as it was rumored a race of frog men ruled that blighted place.

Meeting the representative of the Ookmans settlers, a young lad named Aragorn, they began to bargain. Aragorn told them a tale of woe. How Baby Eater and his raiders had attacked their village, and the defenders sacrificed their lives to protect the walls made of comic book long boxes and stacks of books. He offered them many replica weapons to aid their quest, none of which seemed like they would withstand any real use. Eventually he offered a key to Ostco, we he promised many treasures awaited. Sports Authority grew annoyed dealing with Aragorn, but refrained from killing him.

The group left for Ostco, visions of treasures in their heads. Entering, they were beset by a pair of Pig men and their radioactive lizard mounts. Throwing caution to the wind, Sports Authority charged into battle. For his trouble, he was tag teamed by the pig men, who dropped him with startling efficiency. Mae Lin rushed to his aid, dropping one of the pig men in one blow, in a graphic and unsettling fashion. She saved Sports Authority from certain death, while Krunk Mayhem sent his doppleganger in to run interference. They bested their foes and searched the ruins of Ostco, finding Omega tech. Krunk Mayhem at last found a pair of binoculars, which he had been searching for. Then Sports Authority rolled a 1 on his search, dropping the binoculars on the floor and shattering them. The dice giveth, and the dice taketh away.

In this session we got a lot more use out of Alpha mutations, and saw some interesting critical rolls and critical fumbles. The game is really bizarre and out there, which is exactly what I had hoped for. We even had someone from another table come over and ask us about the game, and he was interested and amused by our antics. All in all, Gamma World is running exactly how I had hoped it would. It is weird and wonderful.