Several weeks ago, I was delighted to find a couple friends of mine in my hometown have been up to something exciting, and I thought what better way than to launch a new series of posts to revive this long-dead blog. [Let's Look At] is where I try to read through and dissect every chapter and corner of a new RPG that I have yet to play, and explore it with all of my musings about its design, some notes, and experimental plays to better understand it. I don't really intend these examinations to be a review of the game, but rants and raves may seep through the seams at times.
What RPG would dare to call itself a post-apocalypse if it didn't had rules for mutations? I consider this part of the game to be its heart of the ruleset because it has dedicated a list of the possible mutations that are available.
As mentioned in my previous look at Character Creation, depending on your character's Race, characters may gain either fixed or random mutations, by rolling 2D6s. Instead of being limited to the highest possible number of 12 (the sum of the highest roll on both dice) mutations, Mutants & Machine-Guns uses an ingenious method of rolling the dice.
Instead of adding the results of the 2d6s, Mutants & Machine-Guns actually treats the numbers rolled as two separate digits' with the lowest always being the digit for tens and the higher being the digit for ones. This is referred in the game to as rolling d66. So for example, if you rolled a 5 and 1, your total is 15.
This increases the total number of possibilities from 12 to 21 mutations, and I really like this design because it expands on the limitations of its dice-rolling mechanic (instead of using a different sort of die) and shows that the creators have put some creative thought into making their game standout from the ordinary.
Another way for a character to get a Mutation is that when a character takes any Radiation, there is a possibility of them gaining a Mutation (so that the poor Pure Humans don't feel left out). But the rules aren't very clear on when that happens or how to determine that (maybe a Physical check of some kind?), so it's probably up to the GM's discretion.
Among the 21 mutations, 8 of them are psionic mutations, which I would address later because it has an umbrella rule over its usage. For now, let's look at the non-Psionic mutations one by one.
Spiky Growth (Rolled 13)
The character grows spikes on their body, although it is not explicitly explained, the spikes can be presumably used as a melee weapon. Player rolls a D6 and depending on the result, the spikes deals either S damage (1d3), M damage (1d6) or L damage (1d6+2). Any roll higher than 3 will prevent the character to wear any armor as a result of the mutation and if the player rolled a 5 or 6, the character suffers -1 to Social rolls, due to the hideousness of the spikes.
Detect Machine (Rolled 14)
There is no real mechanic explanation for this mutation, so I will assume that it is meant to be used as a roleplaying trait for the character.
Detonating Pods (Rolled 15)
The description says that the character grows 1d3 pods a day, which can be used to deal L damage (1d6+2). Again, not much is said after that, though I would venture to guess that it requires the Use Item action in combat so it has a range of 0 or 1. There is some potential of this being mechanically imbalance though, since the character can grow these pods for free and store a stackhouse of these grenades if not used, unless there's a rule of how many can be in possession of the character/party at one time.
Dual Brain (Rolled 22)
Allows a second roll when making a Mental check and pick the higher one. Quite straightforward, although could potentially be very powerful for characters with Psionic mutations if it does not have a cap to how many times this ability can be used.
Extra Arms (Rolled 24)
The character may make an additional attack when making the Attack action in combat with an additional weapon (for a total of 2 attacks in the same turn). There is mention of a rule that enables the character to carry a second two-handed weapon though I don't see any rules for that in the Equipment section. I think this mutation needs more clearing up with the rules.
Gigantism (Rolled 25)
The character deals an additional +2 damage for any melee attacks but cannot wear any armor.
Mind Block (Rolled 33)
Resist any Mental or Psionic attack, though I'm not sure if there's any mechanical meaning to Resist or if it just means that the character is immune to such attacks. If it's the latter, it can be really powerful.
Natural Armour (Rolled 34 or gained from Evolved Animal race)
Player rolls a D6. 1-2 gives the character +1 to their Defense (DEF); 3-4 is +2 DEF and 5-6 is +3 DEF. The character can still wear armour, which could make the character impenetrable.
Natural Weapon (Rolled 25 or gained from Evolved Animal race)
Character gains a melee weapon that deals 1d6+their Physical score damage. This could be really powerful if the character has a Phyiscal score of more than 4.
Quickness (Rolled 45)
+2 to Initiative rolls at the start of combat. It also gives a +2 to Speed rolls, which I think was an Ability that has been removed. Though I'm not sure if it should give a bonus to Physical as well.
Psi-Sense (Rolled 46)
Similar to Detect Machine except for Psionic-users, with no mechanical benefits. I'm curious as to why this is not a Psionic mutation or unless the creators had accidentally left this out from the Psionics list.
Enhanced Healing (Rolled 56)
Not properly worded, but I'm assuming it means that the character may choose to use this ability to restore 1d6 HP by spending the action during his Action phase in combat.
Wings (Rolled 66 or gained from Evolved Animal race)
The character has wings, which allows the character to move 2 areas in combat, instead of the usual 1 area per turn.
Before I get into the 8 Psionic Mutations (the mutations marked with an * in the rules), I just want to go over the rules for them and how to use these Psionic mutations.
First, whenever a character wants to use a Psionic Mutation, they must expend 1 HP, so there's a painful price to pay for using them. However, once expended, the Psionic Mutation doesn't take effect until the character has passed a Mental check against the Target Number (TN) of the Psionic Mutation. Now there are some Psionics with an easy TN (lowest in the list is 7), but the majority of them are normal (9) which means they could potentially be 50-50 affairs, and some hard ones as well (11). Although the rules mentioned that the TN for some mutations could be modified by the target's Mental score on top of the mutations' TN, there isn't any in the 8 listed here. This could be explored in future supplements, but I'd imagined those are some really risky and powerful mutations.
Psionic Mutations are not only painful but also risky as well, as the character could be spending HPs for nothing. So it would be wise for character to use them prudently.
Now that we've covered the basics, let's see if the 8 Psionic Mutations are really worth what they cost.
Control Machine (Rolled 11) (TN 9)
Able to let the character control 1 machine within range 3 for 1d3 turns, which implies that machines can be located within the battlegrid during combat.
Acid Spit (Rolled 12) (TN 9)
The character produces acid that can be spat with a range of 2 and deals M damage (1d6).
Energy Blast (Rolled 16) (TN 11)
Similar with Acid Spit in range but deals 1d6+3 damage, which is probably justified by its higher TN.
Empathy (Rolled 23) (TN 7)
A Psionic Mutation that doesn't have any mechanical benefits. Only allows the character to read a person's feelings and emotions. Has the lowest TN of all the other Psionic Mutations in the rules.
Life Leech (Rolled 26) (TN 9)
Drains a target for M damage (1d6) and restores the same amount in HP to the character. Has a short range of 1. Seems a little powerful since it can be used effectively without paying the HP cost, if successful.
Psi-Charm (Rolled 36) (TN 9)
Turns a target into an ally for 1 turn. I think the TN for this mutation deserves to be modified by the target's Mental score (if it has any).
Psionic Blast (Rolled 44) (TN 9)
Knocks a target within range 2 unconscious for 1d3 turns. I think this is very powerful and requires a higher TN.
Telekenesis (Rolled 55) (TN 11)
Not nearly as powerful as Energy Blast, this mutation deals 1d6+2 damage with the same range of 2, but has the same TN. There should be a non-mechanical use to this mutation as well.
There needs to be more careful study of these mutations by the creators, as some needs better wording and explained clearly according to the rules, while there are others that might need a little tweaking in terms of their mechanical benefits.
It would be really hard to gauge the balance of these mutations without creating a character and using them in combat, although some powerful combinations are visible on the first glance. Still, these mutations are picked randomly (with the exception for Natural Weapon, Natural Armour and Winged), so it's not that the players would always have a chance to take them for their characters.
Next we would be looking into the one of the most favourite part of any RPG to a gamer; Combat.
See you in the next post!