June 27, 2013

[Let's Look At] Mutants & Machine-Guns: A Gonzo Post-Apocalyptic RPG, Part 6: GM Rules

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.

I've been looking at the player aspect of the rules for Mutants and Machine-Guns in the past few [Let's Look At] posts. I started out with an Overview of the game and its makeup, the Character Creation rules and options for players, the Mutations that are available, how Combat works, and at the Wasteland Economy for what the players can expect to do in the game. 

Now I've come to the final bit of the rules and it's one that I am most concerned about as a GM; the GM rules and what are the tools that we have to make sure that we can run a fun session of this game for the players. Unfortunately, there isn't much of that either. Granted that this is a very simple game, and I am not expecting it to have a few pages dedicated just to explain what an RPG and post-apocalyse is that you would find in Game Masters' books of other games, given it's already intended page limit. It is not difficult to imply what I can do as a GM from the player rules, so its simplicity has an advantage in making the life of a GM easier.

However, there are elements of an RPG that I believe should only be known to a GM, or at least kept away from player knowledge for the sake of maintaining the suspension of disbelief during the game. But let's look at what are the rules that has been presented in the rules that a GM should be aware of, or find useful.

The first rule I found useful for the GM is for Radiation, which is something that you can expect to be very prevalent in the post-apocalyptic world. In Mutants and Machine-Guns, there are four levels of Radiation that can cause harm or be a boon to characters depending on their Race. But if a character is exposed to too much radiation, it will ultimately kill them. 

Radiation levels go up from Level 1 to 4, and whenever a character is exposed to them they must make a Physical check against the TN of the level. Level 1 radiation having the easiest TN to beat of 7 up to TN13 for Level 4 radiation.  If a character fails their Physical check against the radiation, they will soak up an amount of Radiation Point equal to its level (Level 1 radiation causes 1 Radiation Point, and so forth). 

Pure Humans are more susceptible to radiation and would die from it when they have soaked up to 10 Radiation Points. For Mutant Humans and Evolved Animals, for every 10 Radiation Point that they end up taking, they get one random Mutation. However, they also die from radiation if they take up to 40 Radiation Points.

The only way for a character to remove any Radiation Point they have endured is by injecting a rare substance known as AntiRad, which reduces their current Radiation Point by 1d6.

It's a flavorful rule to have since it has its place in a post-apocalyptic setting, but I feel like there are a few missing areas. For one, it would be helpful to have some examples of sources of Radiation and how GMs should decide whether a source should have Level 1 or Level 4 radiations. Just a simple guideline for this could be useful. Also what constitute as exposure to Radiation and when do they make the Physical check? Do the characters have to be holding an item that is radiated? Or just be within a radiated area? Is there any way that a character can protect themselves from radiation, if they take any proper precautionary measures? 

Also I'm worried there could be a mechanical balance issue with Pure Humans being so easily killed by Radiation, while Mutant Humans and Evolved Animals being able to sustain four times the amount of Radiation, with added Mutations to boot. This could motivate such characters to intentionally get radiated for the sake of gaining more mutations, and none of them so far has any negative side-effects to be considered a risk. It does make the choice of Pure Humans less appealing when players are thinking about the survival of their characters. It would be interesting if there is a chance for a Pure Human to gain a mutation through radiation, rather than fearing away from every radiated zone they encounter. 

This last section of the rules is the smallest, but what I think is one of the favorite section for most GMs; the Critters that will be the opponents of the characters. There isn't anything except for two sample critters (the Spike Mushroom and the Porker) that comes with their respective stats.

I think there could be a separate pocketmod dedicated for Critters in the future, or alternatively the designers could switch it with some critter creation rules so that GMs can design their own to challenge their players.

That's all the GM Rules there is, and I think there should be more. For one, there isn't an explanation of how XP is awarded to PCs. Even the stats in the Critters section did not give any indication how much they are worth when they are defeated. 

Another important element of GM rules that I also find lacking is to have encounter design rules. Maybe I'm too accustomed to 3.5 design philosophy, but there should be a guideline for GMs, especially when I am reading a new game, on how to balance risk and reward when players are facing a challenge in-game.

Speaking of rewards, a random loot table could have be an added benefit to include for GMs to use as a reference too.

Although this is the last piece of rules there is in the game, but this won't be the last [Let's Look At] post for Mutants and Machine-Guns. Next I'm planning to start my own playtesting sessions to gets some hands-on experience with the game. I'm going to start by creating my own characters.

So, see you in the next post!

No comments: