Mutant: Year Zero

[Let’s Study Mutant: Year Zero] Part 6 Review and Conclusion


I always thought that the Post-Apocalyptic setting is one that has always been near and dear to my heart. There’s something about the struggle to preserve civilization and survive despite incredibly poor odds that calls for amazing stories of heroism.

And yet, despite knowing this, and having played a multitude of different takes on the post-apocalypse, nothing really prepared me for Mutant: Year Zero.

Mutant: Year Zero is perhaps the hardest hitting post-apocalypitic game I know of. The setting is beautiful and bleak, carefully balancing themes of hope with the cruel realities of your poor chances of making it past this generation of survivors. Few games attempt to bring this sort of conflict onto the table, and even less manage to pull it off so spectacularly.

Part of this is from the rules. Mutant: Year Zero’s mechanics tie themselves so well with the themes of the game that I can’t imagine running this with any other system. It’s a triumph of game design when every mechanic serves to further the mood and tone of the game and that taking anything out will lessen the impact of the game.

That said Mutant: Year Zero is not a game for cathartic action-hero style mass murder. I would caution GMs to warn their players ahead of time that this isn’t one of those games just so you can set expectations right off the bat.

But if all expectations are aligned, and the players are willing to suffer for their victories, then I can promise you that Mutant: Year Zero will deliver an incredible experience.

I know that I’ve been very, very positive with my words regarding Mutant: Year Zero, but trust me when I say that if you only have one pick for a post-apocaclypse RPG, then make it Mutant: Year Zero.

Mutant: Year Zero is available from DriveThruRPG for $24.99 or roughly Php 1,100.00

[Let’s Study Mutant: Year Zero] Part 5: The Ark

One of the defining features of Mutant Year Zero is The Ark. The Ark is the home of the player characters, the location where the characters grew up with other mutants and the home that is relying on you to find salvation before everyone in it succumbs to the wasteland.

The best part of this is the fact that the player characters build their Ark. This makes every game of Mutant: Year Zero different as the player characters get to set their stakes and invest in the background of their characters by customizing the Ark to their vision.

Building an Ark is an involved process where the player characters start defining their home. This begins with a general location, and a map of the immediate area around it. They also get to define what type the Ark is, whether it’s an Airplane Wreck, or a Bridge or maybe even a Subway Station or Prison.

Players are also asked to draw a map of the Ark itself, placing the important details such as where the PC’s shelters are, as well as the Elder’s Refuge and the dens of the most important Bosses and the water source.

Bosses are given extra attention here as they are influential movers and shakers in the Ark and a lot of conflict revolves around their interests. Players get to define the Bosses in the location and the game provides a handy list of different archetypes, each with their own idiosyncrasies that might make them easier or harder to work with.

Other NPCs are defined after, along with an eyeball of the population size, where the water source is and distributing 12 points across Development Levels.

Development Levels are distributed across 4 broad categories that describe your Ark’s starting level of civilization. These are: Food Supply, Culture, Technology and Warfare. As you can see, each of these is vital, and to be honest 12 points doesn’t get very far. For perspective, the first tier of the Warfare Development Level category goes up to 9 points, and all that gets you are simple barricades to defend your Ark form outside forces.

During the campaign, player characters may choose to undertake projects. A project is essentially a means to upgrade your civilization beyond their starting levels. These improve the Ark in different ways, but it is important to keep an eye on how your civilization is evolving.

Projects have a minimum DEV requirement, and require players to actively participate in their creation. The benefits are useful however, as each of the projects bestows bonuses to one or more of the Development Level Categories.

Life is hard in Mutant Year Zero, and the Ark is not immune to misfortune. There may be instances when the Ark is attacked, and the players have to defend it. The game provides rules on how to measure the success or failure of an attempt to defend against an attack, as well as how to calculate for losses and destroyed projects. It’s a painful sight, but a sad reality in the post-apocalyptic world.

At the end of each session, one of the players gets to roll a D6, this result dictates how many of the inhabitants of the Ark have died in the time of the adventure, on top of any other NPCs wh o may have died in play. It’s a morbid sort of countdown clock… the player characters have only so much time before everyone in their community dies unless they find new residents or finally find a way to bring children to the world.

Part of what makes Mutant Year Zero so impactful is the fact that the players are made to understand what the stakes are for the game. By building more than just their own characters, they invest themselves into the setting and if they want to protect this thing they’ve built together, they’re going to need to do the impossible. It might feel helpless and overwhelming, but the players are going to go ahead and try anyway.

Because otherwise, only a slow extinction awaits them.

Mutant: Year Zero is available from DriveThruRPG for $24.99 or roughly Php 1,100.00

[Let’s Study Mutant: Year Zero] Part 4: Conflict

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

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.

Critical Injuries

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.

Mutant: Year Zero is available from DriveThruRPG for $24.99 or roughly Php 1,100.00

[Let’s Study Mutant: Year Zero] Part 3: Basic Mechanics

Hi there, today we’re taking a look at the mechanics of Mutant Year Zero.

Types of Dice

Mutant Year Zero is different in the sense that it has 3 different types of dice. These are color coded six-sided dice with special symbols in place of the ones (a biohazard symbol) and the six (a nuclear radiation symbol.)

Skill dice are color green
Base dice are color yellow
Gear dice are color black

Dice Substitution

For those without the Mutant Year Zero dice, it’s possible to play using regular D6’s, as long as you have them in different colors to differentiate the types.

The book has a small sidebar on how to do the substitutions. It’s a obviously easier to use the Mutant Year Zero dice, of course.

For those who are okay with using tech, a Fan-Made dice roller was recently made available on Android!

Rolling Dice

Whenever a character attempts to exercise one of their skills, they’ll need to make a roll.

The roll is done by getting a number of Skill Dice equal to the skill level, a number of Base Dice equal to the current value of the attribute connected to the skill, and a number of Gear Dice if your character is using the correct tool for the job.

For an action to succeed, you must roll at least one 6 (or nuclear radiation symbol.) If you roll more than one of these, you can perform stunts.

Rolling a 1 does not have an effect on the first roll, but they do kick in when you push the roll, which we’ll get to later.


If you roll no “6”‘s then you something goes wrong. The interesting thing in the game is how it explicitly states that the one thing that the GM cannot say is that “nothing happens.” Failure should have consequences, such as the loss of resources or a new threat.

Pushing Your Roll

Failure can be mitigated by Pushing Your Roll, this allows you to reroll all dice that didn’t come up with a symbol and roll them again. This can only be done once, after which you have to live with the consequences.

When pushing, rolling a “1” or biohazard symbol inflicts trauma to the attribute used. On the upside, you also get a mutation point for each point of trauma you suffer.

Gear Bonus

Gear is extremely useful in Mutant Year Zero as it gives you more dice and therefore more chances to roll a 6. HOwever, gear dice also have a special symbol. the “1” shows an explosion of some sort, and is used to track Gear degradation when used in a pushed roll. Every “1” that shows after you have pushed decreases the Gear bonus by 1.

Overall the basic mechanics are easy to use, and have a nice tie-in with the nature of the world. The idea of Pushing Your Roll sits well with me, and every roll has a potential for drama.

I do like the Gear Break rules, as again it pushes the feeling of scarcity in a post-apocalyptic world. I can imagine that a Mutant Year Zero game involves a lot of resource control, which can only enhance the mood of the game.

Next up, we’ll take a look at the Combat rules for Mutant Year Zero.

Mutant: Year Zero is available from DriveThruRPG for $24.99 or roughly Php 1,100.00

[Let’s Study Mutant: Year Zero] Part 2: Making Mutants

After several delays, we’re back with our coverage of Mutant: Year Zero! Today we’re tackling character creation as we attempt to make our very own Mutant.

Character creation is summarized in 12 steps:

  • Choose your role
  • Choose your name
  • Define your appearance
  • Distribute 14 points across your four attributes
  • Distribute 10 points across your skills
  • Choose a talent
  • Draw a mutation
  • Define your relationships to the other PCs and NPCs
  • Choose your big dream
  • Choose your gear

It seems like a lengthy process at first glance, but I’m getting the impression that it might actually be simpler than it first appears.


A character’s Role in Mutant Year Zero is essentially akin to their “Class” in other rpgs. There are eight to choose from in the game: Enforcer, Gearhead, Stalker, Fixer, Dog Handler, Chronicler, Boss and Slave. These roles define what your character does in their Ark

For the sake of this article, I’m going for a Chronicler. I like the idea of a character who dedicates their time to the recovery and preservation of information in a post-apocalyptic setting.


This is pretty self explanatory. For my character, I think I’ll call him “Veritas” a name he chose for himself after discovering the meaning of the word.


While ordinarily this section is left for the player to decide, Mutant Year Zero actually has a handy page for each of the Roles that has suggestions for appearance and other details to choose from. It’s a neat way to hasten character creation.

Veritas is a male character with a serious expression. He’s rather skinny for boys of his age and wears a worn coverall with a number on it.


Characters in Mutant Year Zero have four attributes: Strength, Agility, Wits and Empathy. These are measured on a scale of 1 to 5, and are used up when performing important actions or when suffering diferent forms of trauma.

Thankfully each attribute can be recovered by consuming a different resource each. It’s a novel idea, and one that plays up the theme of scarcity in Mutant Year Zero. Definitely an interesting way to play up the resource management side of things.

As a Chronicler, Veritas has a Key Attribute of Empathy, meaning I can start the game with a score of “5” on that attribute.

After a bit of point juggling, I distribute my 14 attribute points accordingly:

Strength: 2
Agility: 3
Wits: 4
Empathy: 5

Needless to say, Veritas isn’t going to be the new post-apocalyptic Conan.


Characters in Mutant Year Zero also have ratings in various skills, ranging from 0 to 5. Starting characters distribute 10 points across their skills.

Maximum starting levels for skills is at 3, and each role also has a specialist skill that they must have at least 1 point in.

Veritas is a Chronicler, giving him the specialist skill of Inspire.

For the rest of his skills, I’m going for:

Sneak 2
Shoot 2
Inspire 3
Manipulate 3
Heal 2


Along with Skills, Characters also have Talents, which are small abilities tht give the character an edge. Starting characters get to have one talent of their choice as defined from a small list in their Role.

Given the skills that Veritas has, Agitator seems to be the most appropriate Talent to have.


Now it’s time to get funky. Mutations are something you can’t avoid in the game, and while some are fun, others will be very strange indeed. You can draw a Mutation Card or just roll a D66 once on the a Mutation Table

I rolled a 23 making me… A Human Plant.

Oookay… I guess I can make that work.

As a Human Plant, I get nourishment from sunlight, have sharp thorns all ove rmy body and have bark like skin to absorb damage.

Relationships and Dreams

Next up is where you define the character’s relationships and their objective. If I was playing with a group, I’d have to define the relationship of Veritas with every other player character.

Interestingly enough, you get to choose one NPC to be your buddy, someone you’re closest too. YOu also pick two others, and assign them as someone you protect, and the other as someone that you hate.

The big dream is your character’s final goal, and some examples are given in the role pages as well. I’ll grab one from there and say that Veritas is looking to write the great story of how the People find Eden.


The last part is Gear for the character. The chronicler role gives Veritas D6 bullets, D6 rations of grub and D6 rations of water. He doesn’t start with weapons apparently but you can barter with bullets.

Overall character creation for Mutant Year Zero is pretty straightforward. There’s enough room for flexibility and customization with the point-buy systems, with a little bit of randomness with regards to the Mutations.

It’s a solid chapter for character creation, and I do like how well organized it was. I don’t see new players having difficulty with making characters in this system.

Next up we’ll take a look at the basic resolutions system and combat mechanics for Mutant Year Zero.

Mutant: Year Zero is available from DriveThruRPG for $24.99 or roughly Php 1,100.00

[Let’s Study Mutant: Year Zero] Part 1: Introduction


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.

Mutant: Year Zero is available from DriveThruRPG for $24.99 or roughly Php 1,100.00

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