Mutant Year Zero – Gamma goings-on in the wasteland

MYZ book cover

I said ages ago (yes, literally eons, in a time when winter frost covered the land like icing sugar. Hmmm. That’s a stupid simile) that I would review some Tabletop Role Playing Games, as I am a complete nerd nut for these things.

Today, I’m going to talk about a lovely little Swedish RPG called Mutant Year Zero. It’s an update of an RPG that originated in the 80’s in Sweden, and was very popular. Mutant Year Zero is set in a post-apocalyptic future, where a colony of mutants on the ‘Ark’ is eking out a meagre existence amongst the ruins of the ‘Zone’, battling for the colony’s survival against various threats and attempting to solve the sterility of the ark survivors—no new ark children have been born in years.

I loooove post-apocalyptic anything! This isn’t Mad Max, it’s not Gamma World (the mechanics in Mutant Year Zero are MUCH better than d20), but it’s a crap load of fun.

Mutant Year Zero is a sandbox game, meaning that your players basically call the shots as to what they want to do and where they want to go. Two Zone maps, of future London and New York, are included, or the Games Master can create their own Zone for the players to explore.

Some cool things about Mutant Year Zero:

Excellent Dice Pool mechanic. Uses six-sided dice (D6) of three colours: Base dice are yellow, used for attribute checks; Skill Dice are green, used for skill checks; Gear dice are black, and are used to supplement checks when a character is using special gear or weapons. A six on any of the dice means a success, a 1 on either the Base or Gear dice can mean raging mutant powers or gear breaking, respectively. The number of base dice you roll are determined by your attributes, the number of skill dice you roll by your skill level. The number of gear dice depends on what gear you are using, and these are added to the dice pool.

Character attributes equal the number of Base dice rolled. Simple as that. Four attributes: Strength, Agility, Wits, Empathy. Assign 14 points amongst these, with your key ability (depending on your class) having a maximum of 5. The attribute number is how many dice you roll in a check, and each attribute is associated with particular skills, so the base dice are supplemented by skill dice.

Skill levels equal the number of Skill dice rolled. 10 points to distribute amongst skills, with a maximum of 3. You also get Talents, special abilities determined by your role (class, for all you old grognards). Some of these are Fast Draw, Loner, Zone Cook (more important than you think!), Sleepless, etc.

MYZ stalkerCool Roles/Classes. Eight roles, like Enforcer (the heavy), Gearheads, Stalkers (scouts), Fixers, Dog Handlers(!), etc. They are all well balanced, and have their part to play in the game.

Everyone is a mutant. Yep, everyone gets to have a crazy mutation (or two, in some cases). They are all powerful, interesting and relevant (i.e. none are there for show). There aren’t many, but the idea is the gaming group isn’t going to be huge so there won’t be any overlap in powers. You spend Mutant Points (MP) to activate powers during the game. You can win more MPs by pushing your rolls, where there is a greater chance something could go wrong. The powers include Acid Spit, Human Magnet, Puppeteer (mind control), Rot Eater, Telepathy, etc.

Everyone works together and the ark is a major ‘character’ in the game. You are working with your fellow mutants to save the ark. You interact with NPCs, get involved in disputes, deal with petty jealousies, food shortages, external attacks. The ark has four development levels: food supply, culture, technology and warfare, and you can undertake projects to improve any of these, using your skills, your characters and time. This is another fun aspect of the game, much like building a community in computer games like Fallout 4.

Combat is easy. Anyone familiar with a tabletop role playing game will find the combat generally easier than most other games. There’s the usual rolling for initiative, take one action (roll a skill check, activate a mutation, help another character, defend, etc.) and one manoeuvre (advance, retreat, flee, etc.), or two manoeuvres. You roll a number of D6s equal to your Strength plus your Fight skill to hit in melee combat; if you use a weapon, you do the weapon’s damage (e.g. Brass Knuckles do 1 damage) plus additional effects if you score more than one 6 on your roll. The target can defend to reduce damage and effects. Ranged combat works similarly. Damage effects attributes, and if one is reduced to zero your character is broken, with the impact relating to the attribute e.g. if Agility is zero, you are physically exhausted. You can also get critical injuries, which can kill, maim and traumatise your character.

Recovery is relevant. Resting four hours and eating a ration of grub helps recover Strength; water for Agility, sleep for Wits, company for Empathy. It makes the resources you recover in the wasteland more important to your characters, as well as the ark.

There are lots of opportunities to role play. Essentially, the players drive the plot by exploring and interacting with NPCs on the ark. Each sector on the map is one square mile, and it will take time for the PCs to search. The GM rolls random encounters for the sector, or uses some handy pre-designed Zone settings/scenarios (which are very open ended to cater for the players basically doing anything they want). You will find that those players who thrive on the role playing aspects of RPGs will love this game. It also encourages team work—working alone or against the group will quickly get your character killed.

Lots of adventures. Over half the book is devoted to campaign materials, so you won’t run out of things to fuel your sessions for a long time! Some of the sectors include a crazy cult in a missile bunker, a trading post in a grounded ship, and a full campaign arc, The Path to Eden.

There are a number of extras available: Genlab Alpha (a complete game in which you play intelligent, bipedal animals), Zone Compendiums (with additional scenarios/settings), maps and signature dice.

Mutant Year Zero has won several design awards, and so it should. It’s a player-driven, open-ended experience, that is fun and easy to play, with great mechanics and minimalist rules. It’s one of the best post-apocalyptic RPGs available at the moment, and well worth your time and investment.

Cheers

Steve 🙂

Mutant Year Zero  is available at the Modiphius Games website–https://www.modiphius.net/

MYZ ruins

 

The Laidback DM #12 – Free Village Map!

Time for another of my irregular Laidback DM posts, and a new free map! Map drawing for D&D adventures is my thang. I now have far too many maps, so I’m giving them away free each week.

This week: Village at the Crossroads!

At first this may seem like a boring little map, but imagine your player characters defending it against an attack by Hill Giants, Trolls, Ogres and Ogrillons, led by an Arch Mage! Just got a lot more exciting, huh? And imagine there’s a mysterious tomb under the local temple that the Arch Mage is trying to access to recover a powerful magical staff, that will give him enough power to take over the region (gotta start small: today, this village and region, tomorrow, THE WORLD! Bwah-ha-hah!

Actually, I drew this map in the style of those found in the old Judges Guild’s City State of the Invincible Overlord supplement. Anyone remember that classic? Ah, memories. What good are they…

Village at the Crossroads - 13x20 - stevestillstanding

Above: Actual map is 13cm x 20cm. Just right click and save.

This map is free to use for non-commercial purposes, as long as you acknowledge me and my website stevestillstanding.com. If you want to use it commercially, please send me an email and we can talk terms.

Happy Gaming!

Steve 😊

The Laidback DM #11 – Free Dungeon Map!

Yes, it’s that time of the week, and in the tradition of my irregular Laidback DM posts, here’s a new free map. I really enjoy drawing maps (nerd alert!) for D&D adventures, so much so that I have more maps then I know what to do with. So, I’m giving one away free on my blog each week.

This week: Plentar’s Mine!

I created this map because I really wanted to learn how to draw raised shelves (not cupboard shelves, cave shelves) and ledges properly. I was happy with the results. So happy, in fact, that I’m not even going to give you any hints for a scenario. You’re smart enough to stock this baby yourselves.

Plentar's Mine (Map)

Above: Actual map is 19cm x 13cm. Just right click and save.

This map is free to use for non-commercial purposes, as long as you acknowledge me and my website stevestillstanding.com. If you want to use it commercially, please send me an email and we can talk terms.

Happy Gaming!

Steve 😊

The Laidback DM #10 – Free Map!

Yes, it’s that time of the week, and in the tradition of my irregular Laidback DM posts, here’s a new free map. I loooooooove drawing maps for D&D adventures, so much so that I have more maps than I know what to do with. So, I’m giving one away free on my blog each week.

This week: Slaughter Sewers!

Who doesn’t love a good sewer to romp in. And very appropriate, given that my last poem, Enthroned, was about sitting on the toilet (read it, you’ll get it then). These sewers could be under an existing town or a ruin; up to you.

I love monster versus monster conflict in D&D games. In this instance, Lizardfolk and Troglodytes are having a go at each other. Additionally, a bunch of Wererats have moved in and set up house. And a Myconid group for good measure. And lots of other beasties I’m sure you can dream up.

The daughter of the Lizardfolk king and the son of the Troglodyte king have fallen in love (a Romeo and Juliet thing), and the opposing kings don’t like that one bit. The PCs can help solve this dilemma via diplomacy. Or killing lots of things. Either way.

In the meantime, the Troglodytes have started worshipping a Giant Shark that found its way into the central water pit and got trapped when the underwater tunnel collapsed. It now depends on food sacrificed by the Troglodytes, Naturally there is a nice bit of treasure down at the bottom of the pit, but watch out when crossing that wooden bridge: the shark can leap out of the water (gives ‘jump the shark’ a whole new meaning…).

I see this as a 2nd level scenario (watch that shark, though, players!), but get that imagination flowing and come up with something better! Happy to hear your ideas in the comments.

Slaughter Sewers - 14x21 - stevestillstanding

Above: Actual map is 14cm x 21cm. Just right-click and save.

This map is free to use for non-commercial purposes, as long as you acknowledge me and my website stevestillstanding.com. If you want to use it commercially, please send me an email and we can talk terms.

Happy Gaming!

Steve 😊

The Laid Back DM #9 – Free Dungeon Map!

Yes, it’s that time of the week, and in the tradition of my irregular Laid Back DM posts, here’s a new free map. As you know I like to draw maps for D&D adventures. Often I have more maps then I know what to do with. So, I’m giving one away free on my blog each week.

This week: Lava Caves!

The raised path is three feet above the surface of the lava river, which flows beside and under the path. This cavern is occupied by Firenewts and their Giant Striders, plus a few Firenewt Warlocks (see Volo’s Guide to Monsters), who will vigorously defend their lair. There are heat-acclimatised Piercers along the path through the caves, which will drop down at inopportune times when the party is fighting Firenewts. Additionally, in the lava at several points along the way are Fire Elementals, which will leap forth and drag PCs into the lava.

At the end of the path is a giant, crystalline formation, which is the hibernation shell for an adult Red Dragon, who was trapped by a spell many years before, encased in crystal. Of course the PCs are unaware of this, having heard about the ‘huge crystal’ and investigated. The Firenewts worship the crystal, but if the shell is broken the Red Dragon will awaken…

Lava Caves

Above: Actual map is 18cm x 12cm. Just right click and save.

This map is free to use for non-commercial purposes, as long as you acknowledge me and my website stevestillstanding.com. If you want to use it commercially, please send me an email and we can talk terms.

Happy Gaming!

Steve 😊

The Laidback DM #8 – Yet Another Free Map!

Yes, it’s that time of the week, and in the tradition of my irregular Laidback DM posts, here’s another free map. As you know I like to draw maps for D&D adventures. Often I have more maps then I know what to do with. So, I’m giving one away free on my blog each week.

This week: a river keep ruin a stone’s throw away from an Ogre lair. The current occupants of the river keep are Goblins, and they’re not on good terms with their Ogre neighbours. Let’s just say the feud has been going on a long time. The Goblins have trained the giant spiders that nest in the grove of trees near them to work as watchdogs and mounts, which gives them a bit of an edge against the larger and more vicious Ogres. To spice things up, a Green Hag lives in the tower on the ruined wall, and has nothing to do with either group, although she has been eying the tower as a possible new lair. Meanwhile, down in the valley below the caves and keep, a group of Treants is having a meeting to determine what to do about their warring neighbours. Looks like the player characters could be entering the scene just as everything goes to hell…

River Keep and Caves - 20x13 - stevestillstanding

Above: Actual map is 13.5cm x 20 cm. Just right click and save.

This map is free to use for non-commercial purposes, as long as you acknowledge me and my website stevestillstanding.com. If you want to use it commercially, please send me an email and we can talk terms.

Happy Gaming!

Steve 😊

The Laidback DM #7 – Another Free Map!

I like to draw maps for D&D adventures. Often I have more maps then I know what to do with. So, I’m giving one away free on my blog each week.

This week’s map is a Kobold and Demon lair. Whoa, you say? The game’s weakest creatures with some of the game’s toughest? If you’ve read the section on Kobolds in Volo’s Guide to Monsters, you’ll know that they are artful little trap-setting beasts. And the entrance to this lair is full of traps designed to bottleneck the PCs and make their life hell. I haven’t filled in the details so you can let your imagination soar.

As to the Demons? It just so happens this cave system used to be used by demon worshippers, and the Kobold’s Shaman unwittingly opened a gate to the Abyss. The demons are kept in check because the Kobold Chieftain has a soul-capturing gem which can imprison up to ten of them, so they have an uneasy alliance. The kobolds can call on the demons when things get a little hairy, making this lair no walkover for PCs assuming they’ll have an easy go of it.

Aside from the quicksand, arrow slits, tripwires, locking pit trap with poison spikes and six foot high brick walls with arrow slits, the kobold lair also has its own fungus farm (on the south wall), water source (in the northern cave), demonic gate (the southern cave), stolen supplies and a secret treasure room.

Kobolds and Demons Map 15x10 - stevestillstanding

Above: Actual map is 15cm x 10 cm. Just right click and save.

This map is free to use for non-commercial purposes, as long as you acknowledge me and my website stevestillstanding.com. If you want to use it commercially, please send me an email and we can talk terms.

Happy Gaming!

Steve 😊

The Laidback DM #6 – Free Map!

Despite being a bit laidback when it comes to D&D Dungeon Mastering, I do like to draw time-consuming maps. Since I don’t always use the maps I draw, I thought I’d offer them for free here on my blog.

The following map is a base for a bunch of pirates who have an alliance with a Blue Dragon. The pirates are part of a death cult that regularly raids coastal villages for sacrifices before returning to their island. Naturally they provide the Blue Dragon with a sampling of treasure. They have a high observation post for spotting incoming ships. The tide plays an interesting part in this map—as it rises the caves on the left of the map are swamped with water. The Blue Dragon’s lair is above the tide level of course, and it can conveniently use its lightning breath to electrify the water if anyone approaches during high tide…

Pirate Cove and Dragon Lair Map

Above: Actual map is 15cm x 10 cm. Just right click and save.

This map is free to use for non-commercial purposes, as long as you acknowledge me and my website stevestillstanding.com. If you want to use it commercially, please send me an email and we can talk terms.

Happy Gaming!

Steve 😊

The Laid Back DM #5 – Foiled again!

Don’t know what a Dungeon Master is? How uncool. Click here to find out. 

So what happens when that wonderful adventure you put together, with all its interesting surprises and nasty traps, gets circumnavigated by the party because they have some nifty spells and additional tricks up their sleeve you didn’t think about?

Aside from taking it on the chin and continuing in the spirit of fun, there’s not much you can do for that session. But it can give you some ideas to prevent said players from getting out of similar traps next time:

1)      Use a trap that breaks concentration. Something that projects loud noise, for instance. Have them save each round in order to keep their concentration up (you have to be fair, after all).

2)      Make traps only respond to human/humanoids, or have a weight limit. Using the poor mascot or familiar to activate a trap is just nasty, but some parties do that sort of thing. Think about your trap set up for next time: perhaps the mechanism is too complicated for an animal or it’s too light to activate it.

3)      Surround your mechanically-based traps with an Anti-Magic Shell. No magic works inside its 10 foot radius sphere. Take that, player characters…

4)      Trap the walls or the air. Now this is really evil. If the characters climb up the walls to avoid the trapped floor, the wall trap triggers. If they fly over the floor the air trap triggers. Bwah ha ha!

5)      Make their spells go haywire.  If the characters cast a Fly spell in the trapped area, make the spell go crazy and fly them straight into the wall, damaging them and possibly breaking their concentration. If they persist, have the spell go crazier still. You can ad lib the various effects if needed. You’re the DM, after all.

In the end, the whole point of traps is to challenge the players and let them have a good time figuring it out. Yeah, you can make them hard, but they shouldn’t be impossible. You want some of them to survive to play another day, don’t you?

You can find more Laid Back Dungeon Master posts by clicking here.

The Laid Back DM #4 – ‘Tales of the Yawning Portal’ Leaves me Yearning for Something Better

I received ‘Tales of the Yawning Portal’ the other day, after ordering it from the Book Depository. I’d heard that Wizards of the Coast (WoTC) were updating some of its best known modules to 5e, and was looking forward to it.

Well, I’ve been reading it for a few days now. And all I can say is – WTF WoTC?! Let me explain.

‘Tales of the Yawning Portal’? They couldn’t come up with a more inspiring title? And the titular tavern is featured in TWO pages of the book. Why bother with it at all? It’s supposed to be a linking device for the adventures. But guess what? It’s not! It’s just…there. Maybe it’s a plug for a future Yawning Portal adventure. It’s fantastic that the Undermountain dungeon (Which adventurers can access via the tavern) is mentioned so many times in those two pages, but it’s NOT IN THE BOOK. Yawn!

These adventures were some of the best, and most dangerous, of all time. One small problem: they are all dungeon crawls. There is no variety. They are all dungeons, with no wilderness, urban or role playing components (okay, ‘the Forge of Fury’ has a tiny bit of wilderness). I love some of the old modules (I own the AD&D (1e) ones featured), but come on! A dungeon crawl is a dungeon crawl – but seven of them? 

And ‘The Sunless Citadel’ is boring (sorry, all you people who loved D&D 3e). ‘Tomb of Horrors’ is still spectacular. ‘The Forge of Fury’ and ‘White Plume Mountain’ are great.

Supposedly the adventures were selected so that you could play the book as a campaign. But why bother? In the same line WoTC suggests using them any way you like, as fillers. And there are no real reasons for linking them as a campaign, except for the first two adventures (which followed each other in D&D 3e), other than the fact your PCs should be at the required level by the next chapter.

And why make some of the maps so small? Would a map to a page for some of the earlier dungeons be such a big ask (some of the later dungeons have maps to a page).

There are heaps of monsters included in the back, many of them from ‘Volo’s Guide’ (I guess it didn’t sell as well as they expected).

In WoTC’s defence: the adventures have been converted well. The artwork is great. I still dislike not having monster stat blocks in the room descriptions. A monster name in bold is NOT ideal. I know WoTC wants to sell more ‘Monster Manuals’, but shortened monster stat blocks are used by other companies producing 5e adventures, so why can’t they? And like all WoTC’s offerings, the text entries for each room are always too wordy. When I’m running an adventure I don’t want to have to drill through loads of text to get the information I need.

In summary, I was a little disappointed by this offering. Yes, some of the dungeons are great. But after so many great campaign releases, overall this was a bit of a let down. And I wish they’d left the Yawning Portal tavern out of it. I would also prefer they excluded the seminal ‘Against the Giants’ adventure, and released it with ‘Descent into the Depths’ and ‘Queen of the Demonweb Pits’, all together, the way it should have been. In fact, maybe they should have released that collected edition rather than ‘Tales of the Yawning Portal’. 

If you’re looking for some killer (literally) dungeon crawls, then this is the book for you. If you already own most of these adventures, save your cash and do a manual conversion instead.

The Laid Back DM #3 – Maps and random encounters?!

Welcome to my occasional series on Dungeons and Dragons (D&D)* refereeing (makes it sound like a sport, doesn’t it? Well it is, my friends: a sport of the mind. Okay, that sounded better before I read it out loud…).

Here’s some more time saving stuff:

  • No random encounters – hold on a second?! Didn’t I just say ‘save time’? Or something like that? Prior to the session I think about what the ‘random’ encounters will be. In a four hour session the players might have 1-2 random encounters, as well as play part of the main adventure, with its pre-set encounters. All I need to know is the monster types. I then ad lib the encounter as appropriate for the number of players present, terrain and challenge rating. Screw rolling for it.
  • Provide maps – there are lots of great maps in published adventures, but I hate mapping and so do the players. Sometimes you have to map manually; other times I use the story to give the players the map: maybe they get the town map from a local merchant or town guards, or find the dungeon map in a crevice in the wall, left behind by the original architect. Is it really that big an issue if they know where some of the secret doors are? You can always set additional challenges for them when they open them. And if you prefer theatre-of-the-mind, don’t use a map at all. Just describe the areas. Screw mapping.

More stuff in future columns. Subscribe if you’d like email notifications 🙂

* What is this guy raving about, I hear you say? Click here.

Didn’t see the previous columns?

For more on RPGs, check out my Top Ten favourite Roleplaying Games, or if you like D&D inspired poetry, my D&D Haiku Tetralogy.

The Laid Back DM #2 – New-fangled Electronic Gizmos?

Welcome to the second of my Dungeon Master (DM) columns. (Didn’t catch the first one? Click here.)

Today I’m going to talk about all these new wiz-bang apps and stuff that you can use during your sessions. (“What did he say?” Says the old grognard, raising his ear trumpet. “What’s an app? Is that some kind of new pill?”) Yeah, old timers. It’s like Viagra for your RPG sessions.

Android

The Spellbook – Every D&D 5E spell. The spell opens as a drop down, so you don’t have to go back and forth between pages. Sortable, and you can create and import custom spell lists. Free – https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.troublesomeapps.dnd.spells

eRPG Tools – Designed for you to enter party and encounter data, keep track of initiative and combat. Or you can use it for monsters, spell and magic item look ups. Also has treasure and NPC name generators and dice roller. Free – https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.mentiromano.erpgtools

5th Edition Spellbook – For magic using characters, contains every spell. Each spell has room to add individual notes. You can add new spells, create custom lists, and save multiple character spellbooks. Free – https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.spellsdd5

Loot Generator for D&D 5e – Generate treasures, magic items and spell scrolls randomly, by challenge level, and for individual monsters or hordes. Free – https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.dante.paul.lootgeneratorfordnd5e

Dice 3D – Awesome dice rolling simulator. You can add any number of dice to the table top. Tilt the tablet to roll the dice and listen to the sounds of the dice rolling (I love it!). Free – https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=fr.sevenpixels.dice

iOS

Most iPhone/iPad apps are paid, but a few are free. Not as many apps for D&D 5E as on Android. Go to the App Store on your phone and search to find these ones.

5E Spell Book – at first, you’re annoyed, because the spells are NOT pre-loaded. But there’s a link on the REDDIT page by a nice person who has manually coded all the spells (NOT the developers, I might add. Talk about lazy!). The update process for each spell is a bit tedious. You can sort by name and level. Supposedly you can add custom spell books, but to do this you have to create them individually. Possibly the most in-User-friendly app I’ve EVER used. If you just want a sortable list of all spells using the REDDIT link, go for it. There’s not a lot on iPhone for 5E spells. Paid app.

Fifth Edition Character Sheet – Update and maintain multiple characters. Pretty basic, but does the job. Free app.

Fight Club 5 – The free version allows you to create and save one character. More attractive than the previous app; I have some players who use it regularly and think it’s great. Free/Paid app.

Game Master 5 – lets you enter campaign and encounter information, run combat, includes compendium of spells, monsters, items. Compatible with Fight Club 5. Paid app.

Natural 20 – critical hits and critical misses. Provides variety for your crits, for weapon and spells. The effects add variety, however they are NOT balanced, so discuss with your players before you decide to use this. Free app.

DiceandDragons – Dice rolling app. Create customised dice rolling options for your characters. Create combos and add damage automatically. Flick the dice with your finger on the screen to roll them. Free app.

PDF versions of manuals

I own every D&D 5E manual and adventure in hard copy. Despite this, I find it easier to have the manuals in PDF on my tablets, especially when travelling around for games. I know some of the PDFs I own have been scanned illegally, but as I’ve already paid for the books I think I have the right to use them.

Come on WoTC – get with the program and provide proper PDFs for your manuals and adventures–other companies do. You could include a digital code inside each manual sold. That way you have a list of all the codes used so people don’t give them to their mates. I’d rather have a proper, pristine PDF version of the original book than a dodgy OCR version, scanned manually.

 

These are just a few examples. You don’t have to use electronica in your sessions. But it sure could save some time.

For more on RPGs, check out my Top Ten favourite Roleplaying Games, or if you like D&D inspired poetry, my D&D Haiku Tetralogy.

The Laid Back DM #1 – Empowerment

I’m a Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) fan from way back ( to find out why, click here).

I’ve been running a D&D 5th Edition campaign for eight players over the last few months. Everyone is having a lot of fun as they progress to the final inexorable encounter with the big bad in his castle overlooking the valley that he terrorises on a regular basis.

I’ve learned a few things over time as a Dungeon Master (DM). (Yes, it’s a silly name, but I didn’t think that one up. Blame the late Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, who co-created the role playing game hobby, and the very first D&D rules, back in the 1970’s.) I’ve realised that it’s often better to do less, rather than more, when preparing for a game. It’s also handy to empower the players, so that they take a more active role in both the story and running the game. And it’s not just because I’m lazy. Players enjoy it more when they participate and engage with the game more actively.

Over the next few weeks I’m going to be posting irregularly about DM’ing. Here’s a few things to get the ball rolling (or should that be dice rolling? Okay, crap joke).

There are a few things I’ve implemented to allow my games to run more smoothly:

  • Players roll all the dice rolls, including those for monsters attacking them – yep, no more rolls for the DM. This frees me up to describe battles, participate actively (but in a laid back way) and generally enjoy how the players freak out when they roll well for the monsters. It really adds to the tension. In a good way, of course. I also use the average damage number for monsters, rather than have more dice rolls (there’s enough dice rolling in the game already).
  • Players track initiative for every combat – another time saver and empowers players to do more, rather than have me ‘parent’ them. Honestly, I don’t know why I didn’t do this years ago.
  • Player decisions can and should change the adventure – nothing new here, but some DMs find that they prefer players to do their adventures on rails: that is, being led from encounter to encounter. Players can, and should, be allowed to go off on all sorts of wild tangents during the game. So be flexible, be laid back, and go with the flow. Ad lib it! You’ll be surprised how well it all turns out.

More stuff soon (not sure if I can call them tips, or not…)

For more on RPGs, check out my Top Ten favourite Roleplaying Games, or if you like D&D inspired poetry, my D&D Haiku Tetralogy.

D&D. A haiku tetralogy.

Dice

Polyhedral dice
In your hand, controlling fate
Hack! Slash! “Die, monster!”

Delve

Deep dungeon delving
Party of five outsiders
Death or glory here

Dauntless

“My hit points are low”
Rest or spells to recover
“Ready? Time to smash!”

Dire

“Awful acting, yeah?”
Comedic celebration
Shared gaming love


These haiku are about my love of tabletop role playing games (RPGs), particularly Dungeons and Dragons (D&D). I loooooove RPGs.

Don’t know what D&D and RPGs are? Read about them here and here.

Mindjammer – SF role playing that’ll bring you back for more

I guess you can tell by the title of this post that I love this game. I included it in my recent Top 10 Tabletop Role Playing Games.

Mindjammer is far future space opera role playing, a la the stories of Iain M. Banks and Peter F. Hamilton. It’s a world of exploration, political intrigue, cultural conflict, post-humanity, virtual existence and rediscovery. The name of the game is taken from the sentient starships that carry communications and information between the stars.

Mindjammer uses the excellent Fate Core System as its engine. I wrote about this system recently, so to find out more about how it works, click here. The Fate Core System is about cinematic storytelling and making your players look and feel awesome. It empowers players and Gamemasters (GMs) to stretch the envelope. This means that Mindjammer adventures can be…flexible, and as such, the game probably requires a reasonably experienced GM.

The New Commonality of Mankind is the setting, 10 000 years in the future. And what a huge setting it is. The Mindjammer hardcover rule book is almost 500 pages long, and it contains literally everything you can think of for a sci-fi campaign–-technology, equipment, weapons, armour, starships (including sentient spaceships), constructs, vehicles, cultures, history, synthetics, races, divergent evolution, environments, life forms–and more.

Although characters can be New Commonality humans, there are also hominids (humans who have evolved to suit their new environments, like the genurgically-enhanced Chembu, low gravity Javawayn, symbiotic Hydragand-Dezimeer, and the artistic Viri), xenomorphs (uplifted animals, like canids, cetaceans, felines, pithecines, ursoids), synthetics (intelligent starships with humanoid avatars, mechanicals, organics, installations, etc.), Aliens (the warlike Hooyow, the mysterious Lowhigh) and post-humans (Evanescents, Evolvers, Extenders, and Longevitors). And the rules are flexible enough to allow creation of your own genotypes so the sky is, quite literally, without limit. There are multiple occupations, with suggested aspects, skills, stunts, enhancements and equipment for quick builds, but players have the freedom to create builds from scratch.

In the far future, nearly everyone has Mindscape implants that enable them to connect with everyone else via a virtual network, enabling technopsi powers. The Mindscape stores memories and personalities of the dead, and can provide additional skills. It’s another environment for players to adventure in, or can be used as an adjunct to their ‘physical’ adventures.

The New Commonality itself stretches over 3000 light years from Old Earth, and contains so many systems that only a small number are in the book (The included Darradine Rim is a great introductory setting, nestled on the edge of the New Commonality and bordering the Venu Empire–lots of intrigue and cultural stresses to fuel adventures). Full rules are included for creating your own systems and sectors.

Adventure seeds are peppered throughout the Mindjammer rule book, to give GMs ideas. There are extensive sections on creating adventures and campaigns, which can be any type of sci-fi the GM and players want. There is so much contained within that it’s a bit overwhelming at times, and impossible for me to cover here. The rule book is impeccably written and edited by author Sarah Newton (who also put together the great retro-fantasy Monsters and Magic RPG, which I’ll also get around to reviewing sometime…).

There are various adventures and supplements available, including The Far Havens, Blue, The City People, Hearts and Minds, and the quickstart PDF (introductory rules and adventure) Dominion, which is only $4.00 (Australian).

Mindjammer has a Traveller-version of the game, for grognards old and new (I have many fond memories of Traveller campaigns from my way-distant past).

Mindjammer is a fantastic game and setting. The Fate rules engine is flexible and easy to use, the sci-fi setting is suitably vast, fascinating and challenging, and the options for style of play are many. You can’t go wrong with this game. Even if you already have a preferred ruleset, you can just adopt the setting.

Try Mindjammer out with your gaming group. I guarantee they’ll be coming back for more.

 

Mindjammer is available via Modiphius Games at https://www.modiphius.net/collections/mindjammer-press

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