Let me start off by saying that I really appreciate the fact that Mutant: Year Zero classifies both combat and social engagements as conflict. It’s a good way of thinking that unifies both under the thinking that conflict happens whenever two opposed parties are looking to force one another to give in.
Conflict starts with Initiative, which is determined by rolling a d6 and adding current Agility scores. There’s no skill involved in this, and this roll can’t be pushed.
Actions & Maneuvers
During a character’s turn, they are allowed to take one action and one maneuver, or two maneuvers. For clarity Actions are used for skill rolls and activating mutations. Maneuvers on the other hand involve other actions such as movement or general motions such as drawing, or reloading a weapon.
Social Conflict pays attention to a character’s Bargaining Position which can be positive or negative based on multiple factors such as their disposition towards you and the number of people on your side.
Success in Manipulation-based social conflict means that you arrive at a deal. The target will do something if you likewise will do something for them. Intimidate-based social conflict, on the other hand is less about getting a deal and more about forcing them to do something for you… or start a fight.
I find it rather interesting that intimidate doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re cowed as much as they’re threatened and may react with force.
Close and Ranged Combat
Physical combat isn’t too different from those from other systems, but there’s certainly a more brutal spin to it. a successful attack roll not only deals damage, but for every nuclear radiation symbol in the roll, you get to choose from a list of stunts that bring in further pain and suffering to the ones who got hit.
These stunts inflict anything from fatigue, disarming them, dealing further damage or forcing them to lose footing.
It’s an interesting system, and one that elegantly folds things that are usually found in a combat maneuvers section into a single roll.
As with any post-apocalyptic game, the weapons list is a fascinating read with lovely entries such as “Bat with Spikes.” There’s definitely a lot going on here, and I’m more than happy to see that the list has a lot of jury-rigged items that many imaginative players will probably put together as soon as they get the chance to.
Given the state of the world and the tone of the game, it’s no surprise that there’s a section devoted to the world of pain that you can get yourself into. Characters take Critical Injuries when their Strength falls to zero.
The accompanying Critical Injury table reads like something from old-school RPGS, but it definitely seems to work given the setting. There’s a lot of cringe-worthy entries, from Crushed Knee to Damaged Spine, but I can’t fault the game for doing that.
In addition to just injuries, several conditions are given attention to as well. These include starvation, dehydration, hypothermic shock, lack of sleep, getting drunk and getting around in the darkness. Each one makes sense in the context of the game, and with every rule I read, I’m getting a much deeper appreciation for the desperation in this game.
As a small addition, rules for explosions are also looked into, though such events won’t be too easy to make given limited resources. Still, having them here is very important as well as players always do have a means to try and jury rig anything into an explosive.
Vehicles are given some treatment as well, but doesn’t go so far as to stat out tanks. I’m glad that Mutant: Year Zero was pretty pragmatic about this, and while Vehicles can be used to attack, they’re of the most use as a means of conveyance.
If ever there was any need to actually stress how bleak and desperate the setting for Mutant: Year Zero is, then this chapter should be the sum of it. Not to say that it can’t be fun, but there’s plenty of reason to find ways to stay away from direct conflict in the rules, and that’s probably why I find myself loving it.
In some ways the rules themselves enforce the fact that violence, while occasionaly inevitable, should never be the first resort. When violence actually does happen, it should be unpredictable, dangerous and both sides should be looking to take advantage of any possible edge to make sure they walk (or crawl) out of it alive.
In our next article, we’ll look at The Ark, the home of your mutants and the very center of civilization that you have to evolve if there is to be any chance of saving mankind at all.