Mutant: Year Zero
|Mutant: Year Zero|
|RPG published by
|Rule System||Dice pool|
Mutant is a series of Swedish role-playing games that were developed and published by Target Games. The current version is developed by Fria Ligan under license by Cabinet Entertainment and published in Swedish and English by Fria Ligan and Modiphius respectively. It currently consists of three games (four in Swedish) that use the same system and can be played together (much like how World of Darkness splats function), with the first being the eponymous Year Zero. The second is Mutant: Genlab Alpha, in which you play as mutant anthropomorphic animals leading a revolt against your robotic overlords. In the third, Mechatron, you play a robot who suddenly finds it has gained self-awareness troubleshooting in a crumbling robot city. And in the fourth, Elysium, you play as un-mutated humans keeping the peace in an underground bunker-city like some kind of badass commissar/Judge Dredd hybrids.
Mutant has gone through several editions and revisions since its 1984 origin, Year Zero being the most recent (in actuality and in-universe).
- The original, 1984 edition. Used the BRP system also found in GURPS, Call of Cthulhu, and RuneQuest.
- The 1986 Mutant 2 edition. Updated several of the systems and expanded on the setting.
- The 1989 New Mutant edition. Kept the rules from Mutant 2, but advanced the setting into Cyberpunk.
- The 1992 Mutant RYMD edition (Mutant SPACE). Advanced the setting into SPAAACE!
- The 1993 Mutant Chronicles edition. Mostly the same setting with a fresh coat of paint.
- The 2002 Mutant: Undergångens Arvtagare (Mutant: Heirs of Doom) edition. Rewound the setting back to its roots with a whole new system.
- The 2014 Year Zero edition.
Setting and Rules
Lore and Metaplot
|This article contains spoilers! You have been warned.|
The world of Mutant is something like a post-apocalyptic mishmash of Fallout, Metro, and Gamma World. Really, pretty much any popular post-apocalyptic franchise can find something of itself somewhere in the world of Mutant. Basically, there was a plague called, creatively enough, the Red Plague. It was more or less tuberculosis on steroids, and put the Black Plague to shame (damn those colored plagues). This proved to be the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back, and pretty soon nukes started flying. Before humanity got turned into irradiated ash, all the rich people made like trees and got the hell out of Dodge, either in underground bunkers (Elysium), space stations (Mimir), or Sealab 2021 (Noatun). These enclaves became the new world superpowers, the Titan Powers, and rather than chill the fuck out after blowing up Earth, they just moved the nuke-fest to their new houses.
The Titan Power Mimir was a big fan of a scientist named Jeremiah Atwood (who may or may not have created the Red Plague) who specialized in biogenetics. They picked up one of his pet projects, Project Eden, and revitalized it to create life that could live on what was left of Earth. Project Eden 2: Electric Boogaloo involved creating a bunch of settlements in relatively safe places across the planet, the Arks, where a handful of scientists would babysit the new mutants and report back to base. They also made them sterile to reduce the number of potential variables in their mutant experiment. The project was deemed a failure as the mutant's DNA had a tendency to go haywire and either kill them or eventually mutate them into that-which-shall-not-be-named. The leader of the project, Dr. Retzius, decided to scrap the whole thing and start over, but the scientist nannies couldn't bring themselves to murder their new mutant babies. So Dr. Retzius gave them the finger and cut them off from Eden base, stranding them in the Arks where they remain to this day. In the years since, the mutants have grown up, the scientists have grown old to become religious/father figures in the Arks, and Dr. Retzius has gone full mad scientist trying to "perfect" her creations.
Dice and Mechanics
Mutant uses a simple dice pool mechanic similar to World of Darkness, except with d6's instead of d10's. You add up the number of points you have in a skill, its attached attribute, as well as any bonus dice from gear, and roll that many d6's. Any 6's rolled results in a success, but if you fail and Push the roll, any 1's rolled have different additional results, all of them equally shitty, depending on which type of die rolled the 1 (attribute, skill, or equipment). A 1 on a base (attribute) dice results in trauma to that particular attribute (but also nets you a Mutation Point, so silver linings), and a 1 on a gear dice results in the gear in question becoming broken and its bonus reduced by a point. A 1 on a skill die doesn't do anything extra. Due to this, Modiphius sells special dice for Mutant with different colors for the dice (yellow for base dice, green for skill dice, and black for gear dice), and the "radiation" symbol in the 6's place, "biohazard" symbol in the 1's place on the base dice, and an explosion symbol in the 1's place on the gear dice; which you might be tempted to get if you don't play 40k and already have a metric fuckton of d6's of every shade of color conceivable lying around.
Pushing, a mechanic familiar to Call of Cthulhu players, allows you to re-roll a check at the risk of harsher consequences beyond simply failure. You re-roll all the dice that weren't 6's or 1's, but this time 1's are extra bad (see above). Note this means you can push a roll you already succeeded to fish for extra 6's, as most skills grant additional benefits for each 6 rolled (like converting each additional 6 into another point of damage for the Fight skill, for example). Note, you get bent over for every 1 you roll, noted above, even if you succeed on the check.
As a survival-genre game, your inventory is strictly enforced. The book straight up states that if it's not written down on your character sheet, you either lost it or it was stolen. Either way, you don't have it; keep better track of your shit. Your mutant has a number of inventory slots equal to double his Strength score (normal Strength, Damage doesn't reduce how much you can carry). Most items take up a single slot, heavy items take up 2 slots, light items take up 1/2 a slot, food and water take up 1/4 of a slot, and bullets (aka money) take up 1/20 of a slot. Doodads you find that don't actually do anything are freebies. Anything your character is too puny to carry can be stashed at your den at the Ark, but doing so leaves it vulnerable to the GM announcing Bobo the mutant hobo stole it while you were out exploring.
Experience is gained by advancing your character's goals rather than by murdering everything in sight. As such, you're supposed to come up with how you feel about your fellow PCs during character creation, as well as create two NPCs, one whom you hate and another whom you want to protect. You should also come up with your character's "Big Dream": what you want to accomplish more than anything else in life. At the end of each session you gain 1 exp if you: helped a buddy, dicked over someone you hate, made progress on your Big Dream, explored a Zone sector, or helped work on an Ark project. Note, that's 1 exp for the act, not 1 for each time you did it (exploring 5 Zone sectors is still only 1 exp, not 5). You can cash in 5 exp to buy either a new talent or another point in a skill.
Players of M:Y0 play mutants (duh), or as they refer to themselves, the People. The Elder has been warning you your entire life (you're not exactly sure how long that's been) to stay safe and sound in the Ark. Well now he's in the post-apocalyptic geriatric ward, and you're running out of food and non-contaminated water. This coupled with your inability to make babies has led you to make the obvious decision: it's time to go out into the Zone to find Eden, the magical holy land of happiness and rainbows that'll save your people... maybe. The Elder has been telling you about it since you were a kid, and now it's time to find out if it was all just a load of bullshit. But you don't really have many other options at this point.
Every mutant gets a role, even the NPCs. As opposed to character classes in other games which grant you numerous features that get progressively more powerful as your character advances, roles in Mutant grant you access to a single skill. While this may make it seem like role isn't especially important by comparison, each of the skills granted by your role are very useful. Each role also has a Key Attribute that allows you to begin with said attribute at 5. There is also a selection of Talents that are limited to certain roles.
- Enforcer: Your bog-standard close combat face-puncher. Has the Intimidate skill which is actually far more useful than it sounds since trauma directly reduces base attributes. You can Intimidate someone to do what you want, but it can also inflict Doubt so you can literally scare someone to death.
- Gearhead: Repairs all the group's shit when it inevitably breaks. Not to be confused with the Fixer, who does not, in fact, fix anything. Gains the Jury-Rig skill which, as previously mentioned, fixes broken stuff, but also allows you to craft items whole-cloth out of the miscellaneous junk you find lying around.
- Stalker: Most RPGs borderline require at least one person to play some form of healer. Mutant practically requires someone play a Stalker if your group plans on ever going into the Zone. Gains the Find the Path skill which not only helps you actually find artifacts in the Zone (you have to damn near trip over them to find any otherwise), but more importantly allows your group to enter a Zone square without wandering face first into whatever horrible monstrosity happens to be hanging out there.
- Fixer: Combination used car salesman and drug dealer, the Fixer gets the Make a Deal skill. This allows you to, as the skill says, make a deal to get access to items. Though there are restrictions on what you can wheel and deal to get, it's worth noting that success on the skill just allows you to know where/how to get the item(s). You still have to actually obtain it, though how you do so is up to you. The GM is strictly encouraged to not make this easy.
- Dog Handler: The first pet class. You have a dog that you probably like better than your fellow PCs. Can use the Sic a Dog skill to make your pooch do stuff for you (like track or bite people), and you can play with your dog to regain Empathy rather than spend time with actual other people. While this might sound like all the same reasons Beastmaster Ranger sucks in 4e and 5e D&D, consider that all options you utilize your doge for are all based on the Sic a Dog skill, allowing you to effectively level up multiple skills at once rather than increase multiple different skills.
- Chronicler: Has been writing down everything the Elder's been talking about in his notepad. Functions as the team "buffer/de-buffer" with the Inspire skill by telling you Aesop's fables.
- Boss: The other pet class. Instead of a dog, comes with a gang of goons to do your dirty work for you. Can use the Command skill to order your thugs around, as well as recruit more.
- Slave: It feels good to be a slave. Has quite possibly one of the best skills in the game, Shake it Off. Any time you take trauma of any type, you can pull a Taylor Swift and roll to negate it. Your life is so shitty, any additional shit just doesn't bother you.
To help you survive in the Zone, your mutant comes with Mutations (surprise!). These are always random, but very powerful. They allow you to do all sorts of things like fly, crawl on walls, turn invisible, possess extra arms, breathe fire, heal from sunlight like Superman, and sniff out a trail like a damn bloodhound. Using them requires Mutation Points (MP), which you gain at the top of each session and refill during game by pushing die rolls. Every time you use them, there's a chance that you'll gain an additional mutation. The downside of this is that every time you do, your attributes/health permanently go down. Dem's da brakes.
When you're not crawling through irradiated ruins looking for useful junk, you'll be spending time at the Ark. At the beginning of the campaign, it's a shit show barely holding it together. But at the beginning of each session, as long as there's at least one PC hanging out in the Ark, the group holds an Assembly. This is where you get to decide how you want to advance the Ark. There are four areas of concern:
- Culture: Building theaters, temples, museums, and other artsy-fartsy stuff. Helps your characters know how to read and write, and makes the NPCs of the Ark less likely to turn to less savory means when the shit hits the fan.
- Food: Investing in farming, and better food preparation and storage. Because, you know, the People are starving. Kind of important.
- Technology: Helps your characters know what the hell all stuff they find in the Zone actually does without having to roll for it. Can also be increased by handing in the stuff you find to the Dawn Vault for study and safe keeping.
- Warfare: Barricades, fortifications, and arming the populace for when all the gribblies the PCs have been carving through in the Zone decide to return the favor.
You advance these areas through Projects. During the session's assembly, the group, representing the Ark as a whole, come to a consensus on a project and the People get to work. Each project has a required number of Work Points for it to be completed. A PC may spend a day working on a project rather than tromping through the wasteland to contribute to a project, or can be That Guy and attempt to sabotage one.
Everything outside the Ark. It's likely a very scary place since nobody except the odd Stalker has ever left the Ark before. The GM should draw up a map of the Zone on a grid (or use one of the pre-made ones: The Dead Apple or the Big Smoke, representing new York and London respectively, if he's a shit GM with no creativity) with each square representing about a square mile. Upon entering a Zone sector, your Stalker can check for what's in it. Without a Stalker you'll just wander face-first into whatever's there and pray to god your GM's rolling for loot and not Anal Circumference.
Mutant: Genlab Alpha uses (mostly) the same system as Year Zero with a few exceptions. First, animal mutants possess the Instinct attribtue rather than Empathy, which functions mostly the same except that it is restored in different ways depending on tribe (spending time with other dogs for dogs, spending some alone time for bears, cleaning yourself for cats, etc...). Animal mutants also replace the Manipulate skill with the Dominate skill, reflecting how animals interact with each other through dominance/submission rather than through all the intricacies of human social interaction. An animal mutant's choice of which attribute it can begin with at 5 is determined through either its role (like a human mutant) or its tribe (bears can have 5 Strength regardless of role, for example). Animals have their own list of talents to choose from, with guidelines on how to mix and match with Year Zero talents. Animal mutants possess "Animal Powers" (yes, it's a stupid name) rather than mutations (though, it does mention how to give animals mutations from Year Zero if you have access to it and incorporate it into the story). These function similarly to mutations, being powered by Feral Points, which are refilled by pushing rolls, except that gaining additional powers doesn't slowly kill you. You are hard capped at four powers, however. These are chosen, rather than rolled randomly, with a list on what powers which animals can take. Lastly, the number of points you have to spend on attributes and skills, rather than being fixed, is determined by your animal mutant's age. Older mutants have more skill points, but less attribute points; young mutants have more attribute points, but fewer skill points; and middle-aged mutants sit comfortably in the middle of the other two.
It's also worth mentioning that, due to the radically different environments animal mutants live in compared to human mutants, ranged weapons and ammunition are much rarer. Thus, bullets are not used as currency, and there is a much greater focus on melee combat.
- https://www.modiphius.com/mutant.html - Official site.