Category: Miscelaneous RPG’s

Mutant Year Zero – probably no happy ever after?

Every now and again, in amongst the dozens and dozens of games that I get to look at I find something that really piques my interest, something that is suitably familiar or perhaps very different.  Every now and again there is a game that I really want to play, or more likely that I really want to run.

Mutant Year Zero is definitely one of those games.

YearZero_coverIn fact, it is both familiar and yet different.  The familiarity comes from the simple nature of the mechanics.  It’s a little bit old school; simple archetypes with a point building system for character creation.  The numbers are simple to handle, skill levels, attributes and gear denote the number of d6 you roll for success.  And for that reason it’s a comfortable system to learn, it takes minutes not hours to pick up the rules and generate your first character.

But then, it’s also sufficiently different and innovative. Your character is a mutant and it is the mutant powers that will most likely keep her alive in the very hostile post-apocalyptic world of Mutant Year Zero.  But then, using those powers has a cost and one that will slowly but surely cause you to degenerate and die. Along the way you’ll become more powerful as your body continues to mutate, and this will kill you – if the environment, the deadly Rot, the others struggling to survive in this world don’t get you first.

For me another huge part of this game is its collaborative nature – your best chance of survival is with others by your side.  For that reason, character creation includes detailing relationships with the other player characters and also with significant NPC’s.  There is a strong community focus, you have grown up in an Ark – a refuge from the hazards outside.  You contribute to the development of the Ark, you have a role to play in its society and in decisions that shape how it grows.

I almost passed this game by, there are so many post-apocalyptic survival games and I was suspicious of the fact that you can buy custom d6’s with symbols instead of the 1’s and 6’s.  There is also a deck of cards which are referred to in the rules, and I’m always sceptical of games that “need” these little extra expensive goodies to work properly.  But whilst having played with them I would recommend the extras (especially the dice), you don’t need them, after all they are just d6’s and everything in the card decks can be found as tables and descriptions in the core book.  They are enhancements, not essentials.

I’ve played a few standalone games, (and I’ll be running one at this years ReuniCon RPG Day in Brighton on the 3rd September), and they work really well, but I think the real beauty of this game would be in playing an extended campaign watching the character’s stories unfold as they pursue their big dreams, as they develop their community and as they finally succumb to the inevitability of the environment.  This is a very story led game, there is an overarching metaplot detailed within the core book and it is up to the GM as to how much this plays into their specific game.

What will be important is survival, the need to eat and drink regularly, to track your bullets (not just for your weapons but as currency), to look after your health and to balance the use of your mutant powers, the need to “push” your dice rolls against the ongoing impact to and deterioration of your character.

One last thing that I think is worth a mention is the use of maps – not for the purpose of miniatures or pseudo-wargaming, but for discovering, recording and detailing the player’s environment.  You’ll start the game with a mostly empty Zone map – there are two provided with the setting, but you might find it interesting to create your own based on your home town or a favourite place.  My games have focussed on Brighton, the Palace pier partially collapsed and become the Ark for my adventurers, a defensible sprawl with a population of around 200.  The coastline, the towns, cities and the south downs have become the areas to explore and with rumours of a larger city – The Big Smoke – even further North across the Infected Rot lands.  Players will note points of interest scribble notes on the maps, share them with other explorers, discovering and creating their game world as they go.

Mutant Year Zero is a great game, it is balanced and intriguing, it makes for good story led collaborative roleplaying.  It will appeal across the age ranges and is accessible to both new and experienced players.  The core book runs to around 280 pages and the production values are also very high, the quality of the artwork, the comic book styling also makes you want to read it.

Available from the Modiphius store for £34.99 in Print/PDF or £14.99 for the PDF.

Nocturnal Media – Acknowledging a worldwide hobby

Roleplaying games are enjoyed worldwide and Stewart Wieck and Nocturnal Media seem to be on a mission to bring the very best foreign language games to English speaking audiences.

Nocturnal Media

Recently Nocturnal ran a very successful Kickstarter with the aim of publishing a translation of the classic Spanish RPG Aquellare (or “Coven”).  I’d been aware of Aquellare for many years; courtesy of a Spanish friend and long time Lovecraftian horror fan Amada Cabrera, so backing a project to translate this classic was for me an obvious choice.  If you too are not of faint heart, and like your medieval horror realistic and dark, then I urge you to head over to the Nocturnal Media website and consider treating yourself to a preorder of Aquellare while you still can!

Since the success of the Aquellare KS Nocturnal have announced their plans to publish a number of other outstanding Spanish language games that definitely deserve the attention of English-speaking gamers, and indeed they have already entered into the necessary agreements to do so over the course of the coming year.  Look out for the the first of these, Adventures in the East Mark”(AEM), created by Pedro Gil and published by Holocubierta Ediciones. AEM is a pre-eminent example of an OSR game that’s endorsed in an introduction by none other than Frank Mentzer.  See here for more detail.

But, despite how exciting I find all of this, it is not the games from Spain that drove me to my keyboard this morning, but a French title Hellywood.  Originally published in 2008 Hellywood is set in 1949 in the California city of Heaven Harbor, nicknamed “Hellywood”. It is a homage to the hardboiled, and gritty noir genre of RPG.  Made more challenging for its occupants by the fact that it seems to sit on Hell’s very doorstep.

There is no winning in Heaven Harbor, a city consumed by corruption, greed… & demons. There is only surviving for as long as you can.

In a nice touch the GM in a Hellywood game is referred to as the “voice-over” whilst players take on the roles of  Heaven Harbor inhabitants. Everyday people such as cops, bouncers, bums, thugs, artists, bartenders, trying to make sense of and hopefully survive the shadowy events around them. There is even scope to play the role of a “hornhead” — a golem, succubus, seraphim or possessed — a result of the mysterious Day of Ashes when Heaven Harbor and Hell came much closer together.


At the time of writing, there are just 13 days to run on the Kickstarter for Hellywood, and hopefully its on track to deliver a great game.  You can read all about it on the Kickstarter page, but there are a couple of things that I think merit note here.  Firstly, Hellywood is a very story led and “visual” game, the concept of the voice-over, the system based on the game of “craps” all lend themselves to an immersive and rich story.  Secondly, even though Hellywood provides a thoroughly detailed setting in Heaven Harbor there is more material available to get you going straight away.  Whilst stretch goal on the Kickstarter are looking to add more scenarios, included in the project from launch is the brand-new supplement, Justice of Angels.

Justice of Angels will be an enormous, estimated 300+ pages, hardcover book. Justice of Angels details a twelve-story campaign featuring three interconnected tales and is the subject of a parallel crowdfunding project by John Doe Editions.  Both projects are stand-alone, but there are joint stretch goals unlocked for backers based on the combined funding of the two projects. This unique collaboration has already achieved the stretch goal for a poster map of Heaven Harbor. Which means that all Kickstarter backers who pledge for a printed Hellywood rulebook ($45+) will now also receive this reward!

I’m excited by pretty much everything going on at Nocturnal Media at present.  From their acquisition of the almost legendary West End Games, to an already stunning line up of games which is being further enriched by this recognition that our global hobby has some hidden gems ripe for sharing with a wider audience.

Check out the Hellywood Kickstarter, you won’t be disappointed,

Jusqu’à la prochaine fois , au revoir …

Derek.

Ninja Crusade 2 Edition Kickstarter



A genre of RPG that I never really managed to get into for a long time was that of the Ninja, the Samurai, Medieval Asian settings – I think the reason being that my exposure to the history and culture was poor, it was a world that I found hard to visualise and to understand.  But, there were always elements that intrigued me – the honor, heroism, and mysticism of the genre would always have me picking up games and supplements and trying to get my head into the genre.  It never quite felt accessible and I think, in truth, I was always slightly nervous of being disrespectful and disingenuous to a cultural heritage that I was in reality very respectful of, but knew little.

Then a couple of years ago I played a single game of Wu-Xing: The Ninja Crusade, run by a friend – I might have opted out of playing that evening but for the fact that the game was produced by Third Eye Games and I already had a love for their game Apocalypse Prevention Inc.  As it turned out I played a really great game that evening, the games master did a fantastic job evoking the setting and explaining the back story to newbies like myself.

Basically behind the Ninja Crusade is the idea that a few years ago, a war was waged upon the ninja of the Izou Empire. This “Ninja Crusade” was ordered by the Emperor following the murder of the Empress and poisoning of the young princess.  Prior to this, the ninja of the Empire had been allies to the Emperor and his family, helping to protect citizens and keep the peace.  But now the Emperor suspecting that ninja had something to do with the tragic events in his family sought terrible vengeance.  The ninja, who live divided into discrete clans carving the Empire into numerous rival territories, were uncharacteristically caught unaware and many villages were destroyed by the Empire’s soldiers. The ninja clans now focussed on survival quickly put aside old rivalries and created the “Lotus Coalition”, a group of ninja to lead the rebellion against the Emperor.

We subsequently even gave the game a little plug here at miskatonic.co.uk when it was briefly available as a Pay-What-You-Want on DriveThruRPG (here).

It’s funny how the world sometimes conspires to bring things together.  It was, as I said, a few years ago that I played that single evening of Wu-Xing; The Ninja Crusade and I thought nothing of it until I was trying to select games for the ReuniCon 2015 RPG Day in Brighton this September when I thought briefly about running The Ninja Crusade.  In the end I decided against it, but still spent time re-reading the rulebook.  Then, unrelated, I had a bout of nostalgia when I saw a complete box set of “The Water Margin” for sale on eBay – unopened and unloved I purchased it for a pittance and have since relived many childhood memories watching two seasons of badly dubbed genius from start to finish (if your unfamiliar with it see here).  Then – because these things always seem to come in threes – I got an email, as a backer of previous Kickstarter’s, from Third Eye Games announcing The Ninja Crusade 2nd Ed.  Frankly I think its just the Great GM in the sky telling me that I need to play more of this game…

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The project is exciting, it is taking what is already a great game and addressing those bits that maybe weren’t quite the way that they wanted them to be, the wonderful story and background remain the same but the game system gets a major overhaul.

The Kickstarter for Ninja Crusade 2nd Edition is to produce a true system core book, containing all of the rules you need to create characters and play the game. This includes:

  • 10 ninja clans to pick from (plus an 11th clanless option)
  • Detailed history of the Ninja and the Izou Empire
  • Life path-style character creation system
  • Brand new d10 mechanics, redesigned from the ground up to bring stunning ninja action to your table
  • Opponent systems making it easy for GameMasters (GMs) to come up with enemies on the fly
  • New Dynamic Environments that make your choice of terrain a real part of the fight.
  • Plenty of advice on how to run the game

The final product is estimated to be 8.5 x 11, 240 pages, hardcover, black & white interior art, selling for around $40 when it hits the shops. The artwork looks to be superb with the highly talented Daniel Wong producing the majority of the artwork for the book. (See the Kickstarter page for some examples).

What is very exciting for anyone new to The Ninja Crusade is the fact that for the duration of this Kickstarter, Wu Xing: The Ninja Crusade (1st Edition), original released in 2009, is once again available as a Pay-What-You-Want product through DriveThruRPG. Anyone interested in checking out the 1st Edition can simply download it and give it a read. All the guys at 3EG ask is that if you like it, then please consider backing Ninja Crusade 2nd Edition. 


YOLO – The Last Bullet Edition

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Back in 2013, in preparation for that years ReuniCon RPG Day event – “The Zombiethon ReuniCon”– we pulled together a small RPG which we called YOLO.

YOLO, or more precisely “YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE”, is a highly cinematic and easy to play RPG of Everyday People surviving in a post zombie-apocalypse future.  I think at the time we had ambitions to flesh it out more (pardon the pun) and turn it into a saleable product.  There was certainly lots of notes and potential material dreamt up at the time.  But as it happens, we kept it short and light and it is really just a bit of RPG fun.  It might be that at some point in the future the “Survivors Edition” might make an appearance, but in truth there are no shortage of Zombie Horror survival RPGs out there.  We do think that YOLO – The Last Bullet Edition does however fill a gap in the market, for a highly cinematic, rules lite, pick up and play game of Zombie mashing mayhem.

YOLO – The Last Bullet Edition, was written using the brilliant Wushu ruleset.  You can find out all about Wushu here.  It is worth looking at I’ve played many games using Wushu and it is a an excellent rules-lite system for highly cinematic, kick-ass roleplaying.

Anyway, YOLO has never previously been made available on the web, but as we are approaching this years ReuniCon event we thought it might be nice to share it.  You can download the PDF here, or by clicking the image above, or by visiting our Download Stacks.

Hope you enjoy,

Derek.