Mutant Mechatron

Mechatron is  the second major expansion to the award-winning post-apocalyptic tabletop roleplaying game, Mutant Year Zero (MYZ)  by Free League Publishing. Just like the first expansion Genlab Alpha, Mechatron both stands alone as game setting and yet integrates completely with what has come before allowing youth play games either solely focussed around the robot characters of Mutant Mechatron or to bring those robot characters into your wider MYZ campaign.

Well, its been a while since the PDF was released to backers of the Kickstarter, and its even been a while since the physical book landed on my doorstep. I’ve had a good chance to read and enjoy Mutant Mechatron - but, I haven’t had time to play it, and I really wanted to before I wrote any kind of review.  That however doesn’t look like happening for a while, so rather than wait any longer I’m going to write about what I’m hoping for when I do get around to running it.  That way I might get to follow up with another post sometime down the road.

The first thing that i’m looking forward to is seeing players come to grips with a different set of motivations.  MYZ was about survival in a strange world, Genlab Alpha was about escaping to freedom. Mechatron is about self discovery, about coming to grips with who your character really is and what their place in the world is.

In Mutant Mechatron you play as subservient robots following the edicts of NODOS, the central intelligence that directs and controls everything in the Mechatron-7 facility. There is no reason to question your orders, or not until very recently when something different happened and you suddenly became self-aware. now you are beginning to question things, big things like, why?  Why do we continue to make repairs to this underwater dome?  Why would we think that the humans are ever coming back?  Why should you care if they do or don’t?  Is there anything outside of the Mechatron-7?  Are there others who think like you?

Mainly you continue to work and do as instructed because that is how you continue to get the power you need to survive, you work as directed and receive payment in units of power, this in turn you can use yourself or trade with other robots.  Without power your circuits will fail and you will not be able to function, and suddenly that seems very important to the new self aware you.

You are also part of a hive mind, connected, one that sees this kind of “thinking” as subversive, rebellious, faulty programming.  You could rebel, disconnect, drop off the grid.  But then, you will lose your guaranteed supply of power.

The second thing I like is the “Ghost In The Machine” campaign, a sequence of scenarios which introduce the robot concepts, outlines the world which they inhabit and provides all of the necessary background and context without feeling rules heavy or laboured.  It won’t be exactly to everyones taste, but I like what I read, there is enough there to cover all the key bases and provide me with the creative space to make it my own as a GM.

Thirdly, the setting - The setting itself, a huge facility hidden underneath the ocean.  Mechatron-7 is beautifully described and detailed with an amazing map. Its the Mechatron equivalent to the concept of the Ark in MYZ.  But whereas your Ark is constantly being upgraded and improved the Mechatron 7 collective is slowly falling apart.  No matter how many robots work until their servos burn out it cannot be saved.  It is only a matter of time before you will have to find your way out.

Finally I really like the way that Fria Ligan have balanced the need for new mechanics for robot characters with the existing ruleset. It doesn’t feel fudged, everything is complementary and builds on what you already know.  There are new concepts; character creation takes a different route allowing you to “build” your robot piece by piece starting with a basic chassis and adding a head, torso and undercarriage.  The choices you make affect the robots attribute scores: Servo (Strength), processor (Wits) and Network (Empathy).  You get to select the Programs you have installed (effectively your skills), Secondary Functions (which are akin to MYZ talents).  Your choice of components also affects your armour and the number of Module Slots (these are analogous to MYZ mutations of Genlab animal powers).  Essentially it is the same game, sympathetically tailored to give robot characters meaning and to be sufficiently different.

The book itself runs to some 235 pages and is printed and bound to the same high quality as other core rulebooks from Fria Ligan.  As well as all of the necessary background material and rules there are a couple of notable extra bits.  I’ve mentioned the campaign “Ghost In The Machine” which is around seventy-five pages in the core book, but its also worth mentioning the last section of etc book which focusses attention on “Robots In The Zone”, what happens next.  including how to incorporate robot characters into the MYZ world, including existing MYZ campaigns.  There are plenty of ideas and hooks provided for the games master that ensures that there is lots of use Mutant Mechatron beyond the initial campaign.

I’m really looking forward to playing this and I’ll be sure to report back once I have.

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