Today we’re kicking off the new year with a Let’s Study series covering one of the new releases from Modiphius: Mutant: Year Zero – Roleplaying at the End of Days which I was fortunate enough to receive a review copy of thanks to the generosity of Chris Birch.
As a fan of post-apocalyptic games, Mutant: Year Zero is a welcome addition to my collection of games, and it’s with no small amount of enthusiasm that I’m starting my year with this game.
I’m starting off with a few first impressions of my copy of the game from DriveThruRPG. First off, the artwork and layout of the book is very, very nice. There’s a lot to be said about how artwork influences the feel of a game, and Mutant: Year Zero uses a very consistent color palette and tone to their images to relay the somber mood of the game. It’s definitely a post-apocalyptic game, and the artwork doesn’t shy away from ruins, and grime, and there’s hardly any “pretty” characters in the entire book.
One of the things that intrigued me right away in the game is the mention of subsystems that allow you to develop your settlements, deciding on which projects to pursue to improve your home in terms of safety and progress. It’s a brilliant addition to a post-apocalyptic game, and provides a glimmer of hope in what is admittedly a rather bleak setup.
I also found it interesting that there’s a default “format” to a standard Mutant Year Zero session presented in the Introduction chapter of the book. I’ve always found that kind of breakdown to be rather informative as it helps in getting the GM to figure out how to actually run a session. While not all games work well with having a set framework like this (notably the World of Darkness games or Legend of the Five Rings) several successful RPGs have benefited from having a clear framework. D&D and Shadowrun being some of the more obvious examples.
Perhaps one of the most intriguing aspects of Mutant: Year Zero is how it pretty much just drops you in the middle of a basic setup but with little knowledge of the outside world. This is a deliberate move, as the player characters are Mutants who have been in a shelter for most of their lives. However scarcity has forced your characters to range outside their settlement in search for scavenged goods, ammo and technology to somehow survive.
There’s something refreshing about the fact that there’s no super-detailed setting and world history to work with. Players are about as much in the dark as their characters are and that amps up the survival aspect of the game by a lot.
Despite the number of post-apocalyptic games out there Mutant: Year Zero promises to bring a host of new ideas to the table. I’ve barely scratched the surface of this game, and we’ll get into more detail into this in my next installment, where we take a look at the character creation of the game, where I take a crack at designing my own Mutant.