Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Tommy's Take on Mutant Future

Yeah, the Post Apocalyptic theme is continuing. Next on the list is Mutant Future, which isn't a retro-clone per se, but is built to be compatible with retro-clone Labyrinth Lord.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: Mutant Future, by Goblinoid Games, is available in a free, no-art version as well as a "regular" version, available in PDF for under $7 or a softcover POD version for about $24. As retroclones tend to do, the aesthetic is very old school, with a spartan layout and old school style black and white line art.

It's a post-apocalyptic game based on a D&D retro-clone, so if you know D&D, you should be able to settle in pretty quickly. The game uses levels but not classes, with the 3d6 or 4d6-drop-the-lowest method and uses the six standard Ability Scores, with Willpower subbing for Wisdom. The selectable races are Basic Android, Synthetic, Replicant, Mutant Animal, Mutant Human, Mutant Plant and Pure Human. Everyone except Pure Humans get Mutations, and Pure Humans get a whopping +3 each to INT, CHA and CON. Alignment is used in the game, on the Law, Neutral, Chaos spectrum.

As most PostApoc games do, Mutant Future has an extensive mutations list, divided up into Physical, Mental and Plant, then further divided into Beneficial and Drawback, on d100 charts. Physical Beneficial Mutations can include simple things like Increased Attribute or Echolocation, as well as flashier abilities like Optic Emission and Spiny Growth. Physical Drawbacks include Albinism, Hemophilia and Pain Sensitivity. Mental Beneficial Mutations hit standards like Neural Telepathy, Neural Telekinesis and Possession, as well as things like Weather Control and Killing Sphere, which is DANGEROUS but draining. Mental Drawbacks are things like Weak Will and Phobias. Plants can get beneficial mutations like Carnivore, Grenade-like Fruit and even Flight, while risking drawbacks like Reduced Fertility and Thermal Sensitivity. Each Mutation gets at least a paragraph in explanation.

The rules section proves to be concise, covering adventuring in ruins and wilderness, taking a very “dungeon crawl”-like approach to the ruins section. In fact, probably the biggest departure from early-D&D rules speak is the Technology rules, which covers the condition technological artifacts are in when you find them, as well as your chance of figuring out how to use them.

The Combat section addresses the rule that I hear tended to get overlooked the most in most D&D-style games: Morale rules. These can make all the difference in the world with many encounters. Given that it’s a PostApoc game, rules like firearm rates are included, and charts are provided for Armor Class and To-Hit rolls (remember: Armor deflects attacks in this game, rather than absorb damage).

The Monster section takes up the bulk of the book and is alphabetized. Some of the selection includes Clone Neutralizer Androids (designed to kill excess clones), Ant Horrors (ants with two heads and a tail!), giant bats, Brain Lashers (who look a loooooot like Mind Flayers), Cephalopoids (human squids), Cockroachoids (humanoid cockroaches), Electrophants (elephants who fire arcs of electricity), Eye Dogs (dogs covered in eyes), Gamma Wyrms (wingless dragons who fly via psionic flight), cave men, Giant Land Squids, Medusoids, Eloi and Morlocks, Pumpkin Men, Quill Cats, Skinner Trees, Vomit Flies and Walking Dead. 14 encounter charts are provided, divided by environment. The stat blocks are all provided in a format that allows for easy swapping in and out with Labyrinth Lord.

The Artifacts section is the “treasure” section, complete with random roll tables broken down by various types of weapons, armor, power sources, bombs, foodstuffs and drugs. Warp Field Daggers that pass through armor, EMP Rifles, Blood Agent Grenades (which jellifies the lungs of those that breath in the chemicals left in the aftermath of the explosion), cloning tubes, hologram projectors, and a generalized selection of vehicles.

The setting chapter paints the setting in very broad strokes, focusing very little on how the world got to the way it is, or how it will wind up. It includes a sample scenario (Mine of the Brain Lashers) as well an overland hex map to play around with.

The book includes a short appendix on combining the options fully with Labyrinth Lord, including turning the races into classes. A character sheet and the OGL notice rounds out the book.

WHAT WORKS: Well, there’s a no-art free version. That’s kind of a big deal, and it has bit of support, due in part to the OGL. The monster section has some really cool and unique options, and its compatibility with Labyrinth Lord can allow for some interesting scenarios if you and your players aren’t fantasy (or PostApoc) purists.

WHAT DOESN’T WORK: If you don’t like D&D as a base, this probably isn’t going to be your thing. If you want a developed setting, rather than an excuse for hex crawls or dungeon crawls with ray guns and mutant powers, this probably isn’t your thing.

CONCLUSION: If you’re into PostApoc games, you should at least download the free, no-art version. No reason not to. It’s worth it for swiping from the bestiary, in my opinion. Similarly, if you’re into old school D&D, there’s probably at least an odd monster or two that’s worth messing with. For my part, I had a blast with modifying one of my AD&D 2e characters (a bastard sword swinging elven fighter) into a Gamma World character once, transplanting him (complete with bastard sword) onto a PostApoc Earth where he traded horses for motorcycles and chain mail for trench coats. Mutant Future isn’t likely to ever make the rotation at my table, because I don’t really do the D&D base system thing anymore, and there’s other PostApoc games I’m dying to run, but it’s still a very good product that should scratch the PostApoc itch for older school gamers.