Monday, 19 May 2014

Mutant: Year Zero

Monday, May 19, 2014

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Second day. Yorgos managed to put together a decent fireplace for us using some large metal tubes he scavenged, but the night was still bitter cold and if all eight of us hadn't huddled together I don't think we would have made it. Still, it was a good place to stop at - the Rot didn't seem to be as strong in this sector.  
After a quick breakfast we made our way to what Pommax said was sector H15. We had seen the great tower from the old times all the way back from the Ark and were all eager to have a look at it up close. Me, Milix and a couple of the others stayed behind while Pommax, Yorgos and Lorentz scouted ahead. They went into the tower and were gone for a long time. When Yorgos finally returned and called us he talked about some robed strangers they had seen leaving something inside! That means there are others out there! Like us perhaps? 
Still the greatest prize was yet to come. Pommax and Lorentz stood looking at something lying on a table. We had planned this expedition to find technology from the old time. Things that we might use to survive and understand more of our surroundings, yet what we had found was far greater than this. On the table lay something I had never seen before - a baby.
-Astrina, Ark Chronicler

I've covered a number of roleplaying games here in the past, but I don't think I've talked about any Swedish games. Not all that surprising seeing as this is an international blog after all, and it has been many years since I played a Swedish rpg (although I grew up on a healthy diet of them!). Still, this month saw the release of the new rebooted version of the classic Swedish post-apocalyptic roleplaying game Mutant, now rebranded as Mutant: År Noll (Mutant: Year Zero) and created by Fria Ligan. The original, and its sequals, took place several hundred(?) years after a great apocalypse and the setting was fairly optimistic with the civilization slowly rebuilding itself. The technology level was roughly 19th century with the odd artefact from the old time lying around in one of the radiation ridden Forbidden Zones.

In Mutant: Year Zero (or simply M:0) you play in the very aftermath of the great apocalypse. Humanity has been decimated by plague and warfare and there is almost nothing left. Almost. You play as a mutated member of the Ark; a community of similarly aged people, all mutants, who have stayed hidden for as long as they can remember. Up until now the Elder have been the community leader and told them what to do, he's always been the heart of the Ark. But the Elder is dying, and food is starting to become a problem. The huge stockpiles of canned and powdered goods are finally starting to run dry and it has become clear that some exploration of the outside world has become a necessity.

The chapter on character creation.
This is where you start playing. You create your mutant, decide her job in the Ark and her relationship to the other characters and community members. Then you sit down with the entire group and create the Ark. Where is it located? What kind of Ark is it? A subway station that survived the blasts? A beached passenger liner? Or simply a collection of junk huts? The game also encourages you to play in your town and your own neighborhood. Just take a map of the area you live in, draw a grid on it and you're ready to go! We are, of course, playing in the post-apocalyptical remnants of Stockholm and the Ark is inside the old Pripps brewery in the northwest part of the city.

The characters we have are Yorgos who's a Junkhead and can fix or invent all kinds of useful stuff. You need a lamp or something to protect you against the Rot (radiation)? Or perhaps get that moped you found running on moonshine? Yorgos is your man. Then there's Lorentz, a great big brute who might not be the smartest of the bunch but someone that instills respect and know how to dish it out if it comes to that. Finally there's Pommax the Stalker. He's one of the few who has actually ventured outside the Ark for longer periods of time and knows some of the dangers out in the Zone. Pommax is the pathfinder and guide for everything Zone related.

With the characters and the Ark sorted we cranked up the mood music - the excellent retro soundtrack Krater by Christian Gabel (put it on as you continue reading for added atmosphere) - and got to playing!

At the start of every session the People of the Ark get together for a large public meeting where they try to decide on how to improve the state of the Ark. This is the players stepping out of their characters and taking more of a meta look at the situation and where they should commit their resources. The four categories you have to work with are Food, Culture, Technology and Defence and there are many different projects you can undertake to improve upon them. After some discussion they decided on trying to start growing some edible fungus and beets in the Ark to make sure everyone would be able to eat. But they were also eager to get the Technology level up so prepared to start an expedition out into the Zone - to an ancient building that the Elder thought might once have been a school.

Before they could head out though a loud boom and a crash was heard and they ran into the interior of the Ark to find a great hole in the floor! This event came from the Threat card that you also draw at the start of every session. These cards usually have some kind of threat to the Ark that needs sorting out one way or another, and can either be drawn randomly or chosen by the GM. This time it was a great hole that opened up in the Ark.

Yorgos quickly put together a kind of winch which allowed Lorentz and Pommax to easily get down into the gaping hole. Once they reached the bottom they realized that they were in a great man-made tunnel and that some kind of explosion had taken place which made the roof cave in. Pommax lit his lamp and they started to explore. To the west was another cave in so a dead end and when they went the other way they came across some organic looking weave that covered the walls. As they went further it became harder and harder to get through as the weave was everywhere. Lorentz got the urge to touch it and discovered his hand was stuck and as he pulled it off, loosing some skin, the thread vibrated wildly and they could hear... things moving further down in the dark! Not waiting to find out what, Pommax used his mutation to let out a great gout of flame, engulfing the entire area of the tunnel and burning the weave. They ran back to the winch and
just made it up as a large pale spider, the size of a bulldog, came creeping towards them.

Once out of the hole it was quickly decided that they needed to block it somehow and people were scrambling looking for suitable junk. In the meantime the characters watched the hole and had to battle a few spiders who made their way up. They had the advantage of height though and soon the hole could be blocked with planks of wood, parts of an old fence and quite a lot of rubble. There we go, no more horrible mutated spiders. Out of sight, out of mind! I'm sure that won't come back and bite us in the ass.

Having dealt with the spider problems the configuration of the Zone expedition was sorted out. Besides the three characters there were a number of other mutants who joined them. Some were simply curious of the world outside, like the Chronicler Astrina, while others went as representatives of the different Bosses who held sway in the Ark. The Crusher Buppe and the Fixer Milix represented the Boss Marlotte while the dog handler Leffo was known for running errands for Johammed. All in all seven of them started out, heading toward what might once have been a great school.

Moving through the Zone.
When you move through the Zone in M:0 you use the gridded map of the area you play in and when scouting a new sector the GM rolls a number of dice to decide what the it looks like, what kind of threats might be lurking and if there's any artefacts from the old tim there (also available as a web app). Naturally the more dangerous a sector might be the higher is the chance that there's still something valuable in it. Exploring the Zone like this is also what the Stalker does best and she has a special skill called Lead the Way that allows her to scout out a sector about to be entered to try and spot dangers and Rot level as well as scavenge for food, water and bullets. Which leads me into talking a little bit about the resource management aspect of the game...

There are four vital resources in the game: Mutation Points, Grub, Water and Bullets. Mutation Points are used for triggering your mutations and more often than not these will a character's strongest weapon, so keep them close! You earn more by Pushing a roll. You roll a dicepool and need sixes to succeed and if you want you can Push and re-roll them once, except if you do you will take damage from each hazard symbol rolled, but each will also net you a Mutation Point. Basically your mutant strain herself more than her body or mind can handle, but this kind of strain also fuels her mutations! Grub and Water is just that - food and drink - both which are needed to heal injuries and stress. You also need to eat and drink every day not to take damage. Finally there are the bullets that work both as ammunition and as currency in the game. You rarely have more than 4~5 of any of these resources and managing them wisely when out in the Zone is very important.

The box contents. Notice the special dice and the markers for Mutation Points, Grub, Water and Bullets.
As Pommax moved ahead and acted as the guide through the sectors ahead, the rest of the group looked around with equal parts fear and excitement, they'd never been this far away from the Ark before! The ruined landscape was a mixture of death and life - buildings smashed to bits by the terrible weapons of the old times but also trees and shrubs pushing their way through the cracks in the concrete to retake their old domain. To the immediate north they passed some huge cisterns, most of them in ruins but one or two still whole enough for Pommax to use as a makeshift lookout position. "There's a lot more standing buildings in the next sector!" he called down, "There's a big building with a clock on it that looks interesting...".

Closer to the clock building the others agreed that it looked promising. From a distant it looked like all the doors into the west wing were intact - a good sign said Pommax. On the other hand, the doors of the east wing were broken into pieces and there were many large, strange tracks coming and going from it. Had something made the building its lair? Not seeing anything for quite some time Lorentz, Pommax and Yorgos decided to try and sneak up to the west wing to try and make their way inside. As they came to the locked door a dark lumbering shape made it's way out of the hole at the other end of the building. It raised its shaggy head to the sky and seemed to sniff. While it first moved slowly, almost lazily, towards the mutants it soon picked up speed and what looked like two tonnes of muscles and fangs didn't make it any easier for Yorgos to try and pick the lock! He got it just in time and they could make their way inside and started throwing debris and old junk at the door as a makeshift barricade.

The thing outside seemed to give up after a few minutes and the trio continued to look around among the rubble. Most everything was junk, but Lorentz did find a corpse wearing some funny looking yellow suit. He simply laughed at it but after Yorgos explained that it might be something to ward of the Rot he looked at it more seriously and discovered that it could fit even his massive frame. Not finding anything else of value they decided to jump out a broken window in the back to avoid the thing outside. Meeting up with Astrina and the others they pushed on to the next sector.

Unless your Stalker use her Lead the Way skill to make it quicker, the normal time to make it through (and search!) a Zone sector is four hours. So by the time the group made it to the third sector, a ruined landscape but with a semi-standing police house, they decided it was as good a place as any to make camp. This was in early spring and nights were cold so Yorgos used some parts he found lying around to juryrig a chimney of sorts so they could light a fire inside. The early morning was bitter cold, but at least they were all still alive! The Rot did take its toll though and only Lorentz, who insisted on sleeping in his new yellow suit, seemed unaffected.

The next sector didn't have any standing buildings but consisted simply of a huge field of rubble. At least Pommax had found some drinkable water. Crossing the field Buppe was attacked by something coming out of the sand! Luckily Yorgos was walking right behind him and the shock of the attack triggered his Beast mutation and as the carnivorous sandworm came for it he broke it's jaws off and beat it to death with it. Yes, mutations are powerful, and they better be as you're going to be hit by every bad thing there is while out in the zone. The Rot in this sector was also unusually powerful and several of the mutants could feel it eating away at both their bodies and their minds!

They passed through another couple of sectors until they made it to one of the tall towers that can be seen far and wide in the Zone. There are four of them and this was the most northerly one. Again, the group split into and half of them went inside. For the first time they saw other... humans? Mutants? Humanoids? move about inside. They wore long dark robes and moved slowly through the ruined tower. Not daring to talk to them Yorgos, Pommax, Lorentz and Leffo simply kept quiet and watched them. The robed strangers lingered for a while around a large desk and then moved out through a side door. They had left something on the table though and as the mutants approached they were stunned to see the tiny shape of a baby, sleepily moving about in its blanket. This was of course huge news as none of the mutants in the Ark could bear children!

After having talked to the others it was decided that half the group should take the child with them back to the Ark while the rest pressed on as the school was very close now. Astrina and Leffo went back with the child. Passing through another sector of partially standing but overgrown ruins the group finally arrived at their destination, except what they were looking at certainly didn't look like any school they'd ever seen in the picture books the Elder had shown them. It looked more like some kind of strange factory, with many snaking pipes going in and out of different buildings. Still... it certainly looked like there could be some old technology inside.

Of course, beyond the first room the insides of the complex was pitch black. Yorgos had to pull out his lamp and they all stuck close together as they explored further inside. The stairs both up and down were blocked, but there were two large shafts next to them that seemed like they could be used for descending into the sublevels. Pulling down some wire from a fallen over post outside Yorgos attached it to a door handle and started climbing down to the floor below. After some discussion Buppe and Milix were posted at the top so no weird creature or hooded individuals came and released their only way up of the shaft.

Pommax, Lorentz and Yorgos continued on sublevel 1 and looked through the rooms in search for artefacts. Pommax did find something, a piece of flabby but tough cloth that could be inflated and made into a makeshift bed. Very comfortable! However it wasn't until they came to the end of a corridor and another short stairway down that they found the kind of technology they really were after. It was a large round room with a number of square consoles with screens on them. Sure, most of them were smashed or simply broken, but still. They started looking around when a loud bang was heard as the door was slammed shut behind them!

Raspy voices were heard and the sound of feet on the metal catwalk above them. Yorgos aimed his lamp up and saw that they were surrounded by a dozen stunted but vicious looking creatures! Humanoids dressed in rags and horrifying masks who readied their weapons and levelled them at the intruders. "Zone spooks", Pommax muttered as he ducked into cover behind one of the consoles.

What followed was a desparate battle of survival against the spooks in the cramped quarters of the computer room and it was only by using all their remaining Mutation Points and skills to the limit that allowed them to survive. Even so, by the end of the fight Pommax lay bleading on the floor with a jagged piece of carved metal in his side. Yorgos and Lorentz did the best they could and at least managed to get him on his feet but they knew they needed to get out and make a proper camp for Pommax to rest in. They took whatever parts and artefacts they could carry and with the help of Buppe and Milix made it outside.

They made their way back to the tower in the neighbouring sector where they spent the night. While mutant physiology is volatile and upredictable they at least also able to recover quickly! Having eaten most of their Grub the group felt ready to go home. Going back through already explored sectors is a lot faster and usually doesn't take more than 30 minutes so they could make it back by sundown (making sure to avoid the beast in the clock bulding!). Everyone was happy to see their safe return and that they brought with them technology from the old times, but what everyone was really interested in was the baby that Astrina and Leffo had carried home! Things were about to change in the Ark!

Here ended our first session. The Zone expedition was a success (barely) and they found a baby to boot! Except... who were those guys who left it there? And why? After having raised the Technology level of the Ark a little bit through handing in artefacts we doled out some Experience Points and called it a night. I'm very happy to say that we all had a great time, the players really couldn't stop going on about how fun they had and how well M:0 captured the core themes of the original Mutant while dressing it in a new grittier setting and giving it a lot more focus. The random way of generating sectors might seem a little, well... random at first glance, but it's actually very liberating for me as a GM. And of course, there's nothing saying I can't throw in some encounters or environments of my own here and there if I feel like it. Also, I modified the Zone map you get in the box to show the sectors the mutants have explored and which have stronger Rot than usual, and which are free from it. Here's what it looks like so far:

The cross to the left is the location of the Ark and they made their way west to their goal in sector H16.
I wanted to use the original image as a background in a spreadsheet made in Google docs and then use the cells as sectors so I could fill in information about them as the mutants moved through the zone, but that didn't work unfortunately. Might have better luck with Open Office. Anyway...

Certainly a great experience and we were all eager for more! The coming session reports won't be as detailed as this one, but I wanted to start out giving you a decent sense of what can happen during a session (we usually play about four, maybe five hours when we get together. Oh, and if you think this sounds like fun and you'd like to explore your own city as a group of mutants after the great apocalypse, get in touch with Fria Ligan and tell them! They did make translated quick start rules for their first roleplaying game Svavelvinter so perhaps we could see something similar for M:0 as well.

EDIT: Ok guys, perhaps it was those of you who got in touch with Fria Ligan or perhaps it was the plan all along, either way Mutant: Year Zero is being released in English by Modiphius this fall! You can read more about it and our next session report here.

4 kommentarer :

  1. Oh, my gosh, thank you. I really liked reading about your session and would LOVE(!!!) to read more. And if they could be just as detailed as this one that would be nice too. :)
    I have some questions:
    1- Is this game in English?
    2- Is the map that you show the one that comes with the game or not. You confused me as you talk about making a map of your area, then talk about the map with the game.
    3- I don't understand what you could not post on Goggle, cause I am seeing a picture of a map.
    4- Do you game via Skype or something like it? If you do is there room for someone from the states????
    Finally, you been to the websight Tempora Mutantur? He also posted a summary of our game sessions.
    I have booked marked this and I eagerly await the next session report.
    Thanks again.

    1. Hi there! I'm glad you enjoy my little reports. :)
      I've written one more already that you can read here:

      1: This specific game isn't but Modiphius will release an English version before Christmas (check the link above).
      2: The map we use you get with the Swedish game. The English release won't have Stockholm but New York (The Dead Apple) and London (The Big Smoke).
      3: Well, I wanted to make a gridded spreadsheet with the map as a background which would work like an interactive sector map but I couldn't make it work, so now it's a simple jpeg.
      4: I haven't really done any Skype gaming I'm afraid. It would be a cool thing to try some day, but I think we'll keep it face to face for the most time. However, with the English release I'm sure you could get your own group together! :D

      Tempora Mutantor looks interesting! Will have to check it out. Hopefully I'll have the third session report up soonish.
      Cheers! :)

  2. Thanks for replying. You know you should have a map of Detroit, Michigan. There are, RIGHT NOW, whole swaths of the city that look like parts of Syria, (not the good parts either) but with more green. In fact there is a city within the city of Detroit call Highland Park. In less than 30yrs it has gone from a population of 50,000 to less than 10,000. It has for the last 10 years been in perpetual bankruptcy. If you know anything about Detroit's problems multiply HP's by 10-20. Detroit would make a better post apoplectic setting than New York:)
    As for finding my own group, I live in a gaming blackhole. Finding a group is impossible.
    Hope you do read Tempora Mutantor, as it is a fun read.
    I will now look for the second installment of M:O.

    1. That's the beauty of M:0! You get to make your own map. :)
      Although you have New York and London as two sample settings in the English release the idea is for you to use a map of your own city to play in.


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