Sunday, August 12, 2012

Tommy's Take on Mutant Epoch



More fun with PostApoc! This time, Mutant Epoch by Outland Arts!

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: The "Hub Rules" are 246 pages in PDF format, and while the PDF isn’t bookmarked, it has lots of links built into the table of contents. The PDF is $12.99 and POD softcover and hardcover editions (and bundles) are available at DriveThruRPG. In addition to the normal slate of supplements, The Mutant Epoch is also supported by the Excavator Monthly Magazine. The setting is pretty standard: It’s the year 2346 and society has collapsed. Mutant, robots, clones and more now roam the earth. If you need something other than the gradual erosion of society, culminating in a great war, then they provide other options: Alien invasions, portals to other dimensions, zombie apocalypse…whatever you need. The game uses the standard D&D array of dice (d4, d6, d8, d10, d12 and d20).

Part one is character creation, and it uses lots of random rolls. There are a few options for picking character types, rolling stats and assigning them as you will, etc., but the default it “roll on a bunch of charts”. There are three “character type” charts, based on your experience level (as a player). Eight Traits are used (Endurance, Strength, Agility, Accuracy, Intelligence, Perception, Willpower, Appearance). You use d100 tables for those that are capable of producing a range anywhere from 1 to 120 (those most Traits will fall somewhere in between). Then you roll the character’s Pre-Game Caste, which provides modifiers to your Traits. For instance, you may have been a Pirate, which gives you bonuses to Strength and Endurance, the ability to navigate by the stars, 2 Criminal Skills, 2 Warrior Skills and a Miscellaneous Skill. Also, it is assumed that your old crew is cranky about you abandoning ship. Each of the backgrounds have little hooks like that built in.

The available character types are Pure Stock Humans, Bioreplicas (organic, artificial humans), Clones (based off of the DNA of specific individuals), Trans-Humans (engineered to be better, faster, stronger), Cyborgs, Ghost Mutants (Mutants who show no outward signs of mutation), Mutants (Mild, Typical, Severe, Freakish Horrors), Bestial Humans (I CAN MAKE A HONEY BADGER!).

Interestingly, the game is level based, and while things like your Strike Value advance on a track, you also roll Rank Gain Bonus Matrix to see how else you advance. For instance, at Rank 2 your Cyborg may increase his Agility by 2d6, but gain a Minor Mutation at Rank 3. There is no upper limit to the leveling. You can also gain skills just by finding a teacher, regardless of where you are at on your advancement.

And then we get to mutations. First, the Prime Mutation table is a d1000 table. It includes tidbits like Berserk Rage, Multi Head, Poison Bite, Telekinesis and Wings. Then there’s the Creature Mutations table, with options like Acid Blood, Crab Pincers, Limb Regeneration, and Tusks. Ghost & Latent Mutations are less obvious, and include Coma Inducement, Heal Touch and Telepathy. Minor Mutations are bits like Blood Color Alteration and Eye Lights. Of course, there are Flaw Mutations (Baldness, Hemophilia, Increased Aging, Sterility and more). There are a LOT of options.

As if that’s not enough, there are Implants (like Razor Allow Claws, Grappling Hooks, Radio Scanners and Weapon Arms). Starting equipment is based off of the Outfitting Code that each background has. Escaped Slaves may be unlucky enough to start off wounded…while Wealthy Adventurers may actually have mounts. Starting weapons and armor are based on random roll tables with a die modifier based on the Outfitting Code. The gear section runs the full range from clubs, chains and animal hide armor all the way up to full tactical armor and laser weapons.

Combat is pretty simple. Roll 1d10 for initiative, roll under your Strike Value (minus the opponent’s defense) to hit, roll damage and take it off of the opponent’s Endurance. There are various modifiers that can apply here, and rolling a 2-5 is an auto hit, with a 1 being a Critical hit. Similarly, 95-99 is an auto miss, with 100 being a Fumble. And yes, there are tables for those. EXTREME differences in Strike Value vs Defensive Value can turn attacks into Auto Hits or remove the possibility of criticals. There are combat modifiers for various tactics (Called Shots, using other people as shields), and NPCs use Morale as well. Your Proximity to Death is determined by both Endurance and Willpower, so one can compensate for the other.

Chase rules are provided, with a number of random tables depending on what’s happening in the chase (running up a mountain, shooting behind you, flying through the air)…you use these tables every four rounds, just to jack with the chase.

Hazard checks are used for a variety of things…resisting traps, drowning, hypothermia, poisons, radiation, diseases and so on, and are handled pretty simply: Cross check the hazard rating (A through M) with the relevant Trait, and this gives you a percentile to roll against. If you fail, apply the effects.

The Encounters Table has charts for random encounters and random events, with random events including things like storms, loot, traps and rare encounters.

The bestiary starts off simple enough: Bears, cattle, fish, that sort of thing…as well as creatures like Horrlify (bio-engineered patrol beasts), moaners (essentially zombies), Reptili (lizard men), Skullocks (who are kinda like goblins) and giant worms. Even better…many of these (including the stock animals) have their OWN mutation tables! Robots and androids get their own chapter, it’s just not as cool as the monsters.

Most of the weapons and armor in the Relics section have game stats in the first chapter, and this one is full of descriptions of everything from chainsaws to stun sticks to .22 pistols to body armor to dune buggies.

Chapter Eight is NOTHING BUT TABLES. Find a corpse? Roll on the table to see what it has. Religious icon in a ruined church? That’s a die roll. There’s even a d100 treasure table that includes plastic samurai swords, plastic food wrap, doggy bowls, toy pianos and even Elvis busts.

The appendices include: Metric conversion tables, a bit about the Society of Excavators (an online vault of resources for Mutant Epoch GMs), common vehicles of the Epoch, scrap vehicles, barding for mounts, siege engines, GMing tips (they recommend that each player controls multiple PCs, with one as the “Lead”), adventure seeds, printable hex and grid maps, character sheets and printable dice you can assemble. Oh, and a clickable index.

WHAT WORKS: Random tables for EVERYTHING just shy of an adventure generator (which seems like an odd oversight, given the amount of random rolling). Mutations for all the monsters, flexibility in the setting, tons of support.

WHAT DOESN’T WORK: If you hate random rolls and feel like you need a lot of game balance, I’m not sure this game is for you. The setting, as presented in the Hub rules, is nothing you haven’t seen before.

CONCLUSION: My advice? Roll up a bunch of characters and have fun. Don’t worry about game balance, don’t worry about stuff making sense…for pure gonzo PostApoc fun, Mutant Epoch is one of the better options I’ve read. It doesn’t have the heavy metaplot/back story of Reclamation or Hell on Earth, but it has a lot of cool, old school stylings without being tied to a D&D base. If you know what you wanna do with a PostApoc game, but not HOW you want to do it, get this and go nuts.