Mutant Epoch by Hostile V
I’m the Trash Man. I come out, I throw trash all over the thread, and then I start eatin’ garbage, and then I pick up the trash can and bash the guy on the head.Original SA post
I’m the Trash Man. I come out, I throw trash all over the thread, and then I start eatin’ garbage, and then I pick up the trash can and bash the guy on the head.
There’s not much better than honest and open communication between parties about what they’re both getting into. Look at that cover. The breasts on display. The mutant with the leather studded thong. Everyone is fighting. Everything is being destroyed. This just looks bad. And it is! And that’s why I’m here to share this with you all today!
I saw this cover art and I thought “y’know what? Fuck it. Sure. You look like a fried food buffet at a carnival. Got any deep-friend oreos?”. Boy howdy was I not disappointed. The main writer is the main designer is the main artist; this is a one-man show. Players are expected to have two PCs being controlled at once due to high mortality. Pretty much every woman in this book is in a sports bra and has a minimum of a C-cup. Small little art pieces decorate everything. Most importantly: this game is serious. We’re not talking the casual gonzo humor of your Gamma World, though there’s a lot owed to Gamma World sense of humor and design. This is a serious game, despite all appearances.
Little casual backstory on the mind behind the game: William McAusland is apparently a long-time Canadian artist for RPGs and has been doing this for decades. According to his blurbs and resumes I’ve seen online, he’s done work for WOTC, Kenzer, FFG and Goodman Games. In fact, the nice blurb giving him praise on his website is by Joseph Goodman, the owner of Goodman Games. [sips a drink] Read into that how you will. But, he’s worked on some legitimate products and had his art used in a lot of OGL products. I will admit that this makes Mutant Epoch an interesting project; he’s someone who’s seen how the sausage is made, seen how books are constructed and knows layout. However. Making your own game in that position is kind of like being a professional saucier deciding to start your own restaurant because you’ve worked in enough kitchens and consider that to be enough experience to assume the role of head chef. That’s not even an accurate analogy; McAusland was solely responsible for this book’s construction, art, writing, layout, editing, etc. Mutant Epoch is like if a French-trained saucier took a break from being a mercenary kitchen worker to open an artisanal taco truck driven and crewed entirely by himself.
I don’t want this to be a personal attack, mind. I don’t know the guy and I don’t know too much about him besides what’s public. I’m just giving some context. Later on in the book, McAusland describes his game as “the game I always wanted to buy”, something he’s been working on for two decades (). This game is a labor of love and of professional development and I am going to focus on the product more than the person. The two are intertwined, and all art is inherently ideological based on the creator, but we’re not going to attack the creator. He is still making modules, monster books, runs a newsletter and is doing a pseudo-Adventurers League endeavor. This is his project, this is his idea, let’s talk about the execution.
Mutant Epoch is a bad heartbreaker with too many charts, incomplete formatting, missed typos, art that tends to treat women as breast pedestals, no seriously too many charts, fiddly mechanics, a strange sense of priorities, a deep fascist streak that stems from othering anyone not a “genetically pure” human into a second class or banned citizen, a lot of slavery baked into the mechanics and a tone so dry and clinical for the subject matter it’s like starting a fire with a surgeon’s notes as kindling.
It’s awful. I love it. Let’s begin.
WHAT IS MUTANT EPOCH?
Good question! Mutant Epoch is a post-apocalyptic adventure game from 2011. It's set in the 24th century in the ruins of what was California. The setting is specifically the area around what was once…”Las Angeles”. Sic.
God damn it.
The 2100s and 2200s were the decline of mankind as a whole. Corruption, civil strife, radicalized ideologies and war between nations and corporate states go hand-in-hand with amazing technological advances that created mutants and robots. Everything becomes more authoritarian and repressive, governing forces bolster their control over the civilians and military with slave races in the form of the artificial humans and robots. What causes everything to come to a head is a bunch of AI assuming control of “mecha” (an unexplained but easily surmised force) teaming up with the rebellion of the slave races to crush human dominance for the next century. It’s 2364, mankind has made enough of a comeback to have feudal states (except for all of the supertech enclaves that are, like, everywhere) compete for survival against the mutants, the clones, the cyborgs, the bestial humans…just a whole god damn mess of sapient beings, really. You are beings who are giving up your old life to try and make a new one as ruin delvers, folks who dig deep into the wrecks of the old world to come back up with relics such as guns, technology and lost sciences to make money and live comfortably.
Aaaaand that’s all you get for this book. Setting information comes later in other books which I may or may not cover. This game is more or less just mechanics for character generation, gameplay, equipment and more. There’s a glimpse at what the world is like that can be read into from the mechanics. It sucks! There is a ton of slavery and racism! Regular humans are fascist supremacist dickheads! A lot of the beings are right to dislike us because we tend to mindfuck a ton of them into being our slaves! But the game also offers us alternatives to play with in case you want to use this as some kind of universal system (don’t) such as:
- Near future survivalist roleplaying; just remove the robots, lasers, power armor, androids, bioroids, cyborgs, cybernetic implants aaaaaand all mutations and mutants. Easy peasy. Sounds like fun.
- Setting the game anywhere besides California.
- Having there be arks/vaults/arkvaults/aardvarks full of super tech and pure humans who are waiting to retake the Earth when it’s a lot less messy and mutated. You’re probably humans from these isolationist zones sent forth to explore the world as it is and see if it’s safe/find that fucking Vault water chip or something. Maybe your home is an orbiting satellite and you’re sent down on a ship to scout.
- Setting the game in a far future where tech has collapsed so much there’s only dirtfarming feudal societal and mutations are the height of power.
- Setting the game during the complete and total domination of the Mecha and the AIs. Reign of Steel, basically. Just a setting I love but…worse. Hooray.
- Setting the game during the complete and total domination of Earth by…aliens.
- Setting the game during the complete and total domination of Earth by…zombies.
- RIFTS but with the forces of Hell.
- RIFTS but with Shadowrun. [shudders]
- RIFTS but with the GM’s homebrew setting. Sensing a theme even though this is the end of the list?
GM goals are to have fun, facilitate fun and
This is the part where I knew the game was going to be that special kind of bad: dice conventions and commonly used dice. D4, d6, d8, d12, d20 and a whole mess of d10s to do d100 rolls and, drumroll please: d1000s. The beautiful and wonderful d1000, the shining hallmark of “I had a lot of ideas but I didn’t have exactly 100 ideas, and I didn’t want some ideas to be 1% probable, so I made a d1000 table out of what I had”. The d1000 is the true sign of the doomed heartbreaker, the mark it bears that call out to me and entices me, especially if it’s a post-apocalyptic adventure game.
This is where we’ll leave off for now. Let’s talk real quick about how I’m going to be handling this book: a ton of the writing is just bluntly boring. It takes its theoretically gonzo mutant splatterfest ideas and then gives them dry and technical summations that explain the mechanical reflections. Now, I find it hilarious. One of the strongest pillars of comedy is something ludicrous happening but being treated and played completely straight; this is the main thing behind why Leslie Nielsen was such a good comedic actor with the right direction. The man had gravitas and dignity pouring off his voice, delivery and mannerisms, treating things that are nonsensical as deathly serious and elevating the nonsense to comedic heights. It’s why it’s not funny to have him act funny and do yuk-yuk schtick because then he’s acting funny and making an ass out of himself. This book has rules for calling shots to the groin. This book has rules for if your character has male menopause. This book has rules for your character being naturally flammable or how there’s a lot of ethical debate over which bestial humanoids are okay to eat and which ones are generally considered edible or how a mutation can be the ability to fart sleeping gas twice a day. These would be intolerable and stupid in less skilled heh heh snicker hands…but the book treats them all as serious facts of life and explains, seriously, how acid farts work, how being trained in doing sex well makes you a decent at first aid, how your characters can have an extra nipple per breast and more. Radiation and mutations are Wizard Bullshit, to quote a friend, and the book pretends it isn’t, it’s serious and here are the rules.
I find it funny. However. It isn’t interesting to read.
As a result, I’m not including a lot of technical gritty gameplay details and mechanics for things. I’m leaving off damage values, how many times you can use a mutation per day, how many bullets fit in a gun, etc. I’m also leaving off a lot of art because there is a lot of art that’s often found in the form of a small thumbnail. If it’s interesting or warrants further diving into, I’ll take a look at it. This does mean I will just be posting a whole mess of charts that list things I won’t talk about. If you want to go seek out this book so you can see first-hand how it works and all shakes out, sure, go ahead. I can’t reprint this whole thing; as a general rule I like to leave something behind to motivate people to ever look at this on their own unless I consider it irredeemable. It would also be a boring mind-numbing slog on my end to just reprint it all and it wouldn’t be an engaging read. As a general rule of thumb, if it looks stupid and questionable and a joke, it may stem from a place of a joke but it is absolutely not intended as a joke, and I find that funny.
That said, I absolutely will be making characters where applicable, because stuff can get stupid and is also just full of questionable design choices. So! Join me NEXT TIME when we start the long haul into all 106 pages of character creation in this 250 page book. We're going to be specifically looking at stat generation and the first chunk of the races. And yes, dice will absolutely be rolled.
God Damn, I’ve Been So Spoiled by WFRPOriginal SA post
CHARACTER CREATION PART ONE: Initial Type Generation and Stat Generation
God Damn, I’ve Been So Spoiled by WFRP
Character creation is a sixteen-step process. Some of these steps are substantially faster than others. This is because A: some steps are just plain shorter than others and B: this book is structured…weirdly. You generate your character type, your stats, your caste, your height and weight and then some further details before there’s ever an explanation for what the different types of humanoids there are.
Step One: Type Selection
In short, there are eight different breeds of PC you can come up with: Pure Stock Humans, Clones, Bioreplicas, Trans-Humans, Cyborgs, Bestial Humans, Ghost Mutants and Mutants. As you can see some of those are broken down into subsections, and this doesn’t include the fact that there are thirty-three species of Bestial Humanoids you can have. Some of these are pretty self-explanatory for now, so we’ll do a deeper rundown later when we talk deep “species” lore. For now, here’s what you need to know:
- Pure Stock Humans are completely genetically baseline humans. The game really wants you to play as them if you’re a new player because, well, they have some D&D-style advantages and some setting privileges. Pure Stocks can more or less go anywhere but the most human-exclusionist areas.
- Clones are clones. They’re designed for a certain purpose and generally going to work for that purpose. They’re broken into three subsections because clones have their own stat generation baselines.
- Bioreplicas are riffs on Blade Runner Replicants. They were built to be humanity’s slaves. They’re not super happy about that. Like Clones, they have their own stat generation baselines.
- Trans-Humans are gengineered superhumans, Gattaca-style. Designer babies with their genetic code scrubbed clean of impurities, they’re designed to be mankind’s inheritors, a controlled evolutionary step. Trans-Humans get some pretty nice benefits.
- Cyborgs can more or less be anyone but they tend to be either Clones, Bioreplicants, Ghost Mutants or Pure Stocks because Mutants and Bestial Humanoids tend to lack the resources to make them. That doesn’t mean Mutants or Bestial Humanoids can’t be them, hint hint. Cyborgs are the result of someone needing heavy mechanical enhancements wired into their nervous system to replace damaged tissue.
- Bestial Humanoids are more or less manimals. A century after the collapse, radiation has played merry hell on the DNA of local wildlife and also animals that were gengineered. They firmly straddle the line between bipedal and quadrupedal, enhanced with natural gifts and instincts but also a cunning human intelligence. Bestial Humanoids also have their own stat lines.
- Ghost Mutants are what a lot of Mutants envy and Pure Stocks fear. Ghost Mutants have entirely latent or invisible mutations that let them fly under the radar, passing for Pure Stock but still possessing weird powers that have substantially less drawbacks. They’re lacking the sheer versatility you can get from mutation, but they’re still powerful.
- Mutants are, well, outwardly mutated individuals possessing wack-ass radiation-as-magic powers. The more mutations you have, the more it shows and the more you risk having some absolutely devastating downsides.
We’ve rolled a 41 (https://orokos.com/roll/732322), which is a pretty lucky selection for a beginner character: Trans-Human! Please welcome Helena Nothru of the Pure Stock enclave of Nothru. She’ll be our generation sample for this entire exercise. I like the idea of there being a matrix by which you can get random characters depending on play level. It’s explicitly said you should stick with lightly mutated or pure characters to get people used to the system and flow before the heavy details come. They do, admittedly, streamline some of the process because while it's the Mutants and Cyborgs and Bestial Humans who have a lot of extra cruft, everyone inherently has some cruft in this design process.
That said, here come the heavy details: traits.
There is just a general dearth of shirts for ladies. Guys too, but the absence of shirts still having the presence of bras just makes it stand out that much more. And it really doesn't matter how mutated they are; if one is possessed of bosom, they shall always be supple, pert, perky and pretty clearly on display in some form.
Step Two: Traits
Eight traits. Let’s see what we got. You can tell exactly when I realized I was going to have fun with this game: Endurance (Con/Str), Strength (Str/Con), Agility (Dex), Accuracy (for aiming and hitting), Intelligence (Int), Perception (the skill but as a stat), Willpower (defends against mutations, willpower) aaaaaaaaand Appearance (“physical looks based on human standards…One’s ugliness or attractiveness is often a factor when encountering beings with human ancestry”). Yeaahhhhh buddy it’s that kind of game! But, important question: how do you generate these stats (for anyone not a Clone, Bioreplicant or Bestial Humanoid)?
Oh I’m so glad you asked.
- Standard: 8d100, don’t add them. Place them in order. Yeah. Yeahhhhhh. It’s this kind of game.
- Nine rolls: 8d100, don’t add them and roll an extra 1d100. The ninth roll can sub in for any one of the weak rolls if you want. Works for the Clones, Bioreplicas and Bestial Humanoids because they do still have roll ranges but you’re fixing something that you can still roll for.
- Shuffle: 8d100, don’t add, place them wherever you want.
- Value Trade: Standard character generation but you can choose to lower good traits on a 2:1 basis. -2 AGI, +1 END, etc.
- Heroic Proportions: intended for generating characters for solo play. Combine the Nine Rolls system, Shuffle system, Value Trade and add +10 to the final result of each trait.
- Point Buy: get a pool of 200 points. You can buy points up to 44 on a 1:1 basis, 45-74 on a 2:1 basis and 75+ on a 3:1 basis. Enforce minimum scores as needed or just give the players more points to play with, you figure it out, watch the kids, I need a nap.
- END: 14
- STR: 32
- AG: 40
- ACC: 23
- INT: 52 (https://orokos.com/roll/732339)
- PER: 33
- WILL: 37
- APP: 22
And then you cross-reference the derived basic traits with another chart.
We’re not gonna do that just yet because Helena has much more coming that will just keep changing NEXT TIME when we take a look at the caste systems! Can you be a slave? Absolutely! Can you be a prostitute? You bet your ass! Do a lot of options come with some kind of mechanically enforced downside? BOY HOWDY!