Sunday, April 18, 2010

Mutant Future- Fun and Free

I first heard about Mutant Future over at Jeff Rients' highly entertaining blog. But maybe in a sense I first heard about it twenty years ago at Waterloo Games on Long Island. Gamma World was one of the first generation role playing games released by TSR in the 1970s. The rules were quite similar to Dungeons and Dragons but the setting was a distant future after an apocalyptic war. Our gaming group never tried Gamma World. It seemed poorly supported compared to Dungeons and Dragons and the cover was both evocative and creepy. The emphasis on crazy mutations and dangerous radiation also just seemed depressing.

Twenty years down the road a number of publishers have begin printing versions of old school games like Dungeons and Dragons and Runequest. Mutant Future (MF) is Goblinoid Games version of original Gamma World. Our gaming group was looking for something different last night so I ran an ad lib game and we had a terrific time. In MF your character can be a human, a mutated human, a mutated animal, an android or a mutated plant (!). To my surprise no one chose to be a mutated plant, a character class which sounds incredibly entertaining. Instead the players chose android, mutated human, and a walking, speaking, mutant goat. The players roll dice to determine their character's strength, intelligence, and so on just as in D&D. As in the original Gamma World the attributes are pretty similar to D&D. The players then rolled for a random selection of mutations. One player discovered that he could reflect attacks- for example if he was stabbed with a spear the attacker would suffer the damage. Ironically that character also had the "prey scent" mutation- he had some unique scent that attracted predators. The android player got the ability to turn into a thirty foot python at will. In addition he had photosynthetic skin but slowed down in the dark. In general the mutations are entertaining and completely unbalanced. More on that later.

In the game the characters had to track down the population of their village which had mysteriously emptied one night. They tracked the villagers across the nearby burning sands under the hot, oblong sun. Oblong? Then they came to a wall painted the color of the sky that stretched far to the left and right and up to the sky, with a door in it. Of course by this point the players suspected they were actually in a huge room of some sort, perhaps an underground habitat or generational starship. Once through the door the encountered some mutant tiger mummy women and rescued their friends from a pack of intelligent walking dogs with shotguns (thanks Jack Kirby!). In the end they met with the "old man in the cave" but none of the players watched much Twilight Zone so the reference was wasted.

MF was a great time. My players are not interested in learning new game systems and MF is basically D&D with mutant powers so all the game mechanics were familiar. I struggled to find a setting that wasn't depressing but once I hit upon Starlost meets Kamandi the adventure flowed smoothly. The rules are well written and include all the information you would need to play, and they're free!

There are some downsides to MF. The mutant powers are random and completely unbalanced. We just accepted that and I made sure each player had something amusing to do. Competitive players may have trouble either accepting weak powers or holding back from dominating the game with better powers. A sense of whimsy may be key here.

The other potential issue with MF is that it has no clear setting other than "post apocalypse." The game master (actually referred to as "Mutant Lord") will need to come up with the setting and that may require a bit of thought or just some visits to the video store to review The Road Warrior, Delicatessen, or Six String Samurai.

I would recommend MF to anyone looking for some light, simple role playing fun. It's a great product and I'm glad we gave it a try. Download your copy at the Goblinoid Games website.

Pros: Well written, fun, free game

Cons: subject matter is potentially depressing, totally unbalanced powers

1 comment:

  1. Ah, Gamma World. I've never heard of Mutant Future, but if it comes as close to emulating the old classic as your review suggests, it has to be a blast.

    I completely agree with you on the overall bleakness that oozed off the original GW. While fun (we once ran a Space: 1999 game that was good for some laughs), Gamma World could be maddening in ways you touched on; there's nothing quite as bad as rolling up a mutant plant that can't uproot itself.

    Excellent post.