Mutant Chronicles RPG, a review

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Mutant Chronicles RPG, a review

Post by Reverend Red on Wed Sep 02, 2009 9:04 am

I'll be doing a series of investigations to the classic RPG, Mutant Chronicles, from the ancient year of 1993. The game spanned over about 20 splat books, expanded to the worlds of video games, an awesome card game under the name of Doomtrooper, a movie, boardgames and a miniature game. Though always remaining somewhat "underground," because of the tough competition in the 90's (D&D, GURPS, WoD, video RPG's, etc.) the game was praised widely, though always remaining mostly a European phenomenon (the game is actually Swedish). I've been a huge fan of the setting since fairly early childhood, though I've always had very limited information of it. The basic set is that in the future, mankind is ruled by cartells of corporations remotely related to current countries. The age of space exploration has led these giant corporations to interplanetary war and faring deeper and deeper into space to find more resources and habitable planets. But they went too far. They stumbled upon the demons of another dimension, the Dark Legion, which a fantical cult called the Brotherhood erringly unleash upon the known space and the war for survival peaks when hordes of demons and undead descend upon humanity.

It's corny, it's tongue-in-cheek, it's super cool and it's got space mutants and sewer demons and super soldiers and cyborgs and lasers and space ships and dark magics and the end of the world and shit. Awesome fucking shit. And there's a lot of material. So now I'm downloading the books and am planning to dwell into the details of both the setting and the mechanics. I'll report my findings here, trying to explain how the game works in the process.

Then, behold, ye mortals! The New Dark Ages have come and the spirit of man is naught but a flickering candle flame in the roiling winds of death and destruction.

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Re: Mutant Chronicles RPG, a review

Post by Reverend Red on Wed Sep 02, 2009 9:24 am

Looking at the books, I notice there is a first and second edition, preparing for a headache.

However, the 2nd edition is actually just an errata/update of the first one! The rules are the same, but "2nd Edition" actually only means you can make corporation member characters and can't die on char gen. This is very good, though the name is misleading. I'm reading from forums that the first edition character creation is better. I'll be looking at it first and once I have a hold of the system, I'll see if the so-called second edition is actually an improvement. Though dying at character generation is fucking awesome.

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Re: Mutant Chronicles RPG, a review

Post by Reverend Red on Wed Sep 02, 2009 11:20 am



Well, now having skimmed the surface of the core book, the amount of fluff in there is pretty damn amazing. They get to the mechanics part at page 133, before that, it's full of vignettes, descriptions of places, people and organisations, gritty comic book imagery and eventually an interesting segment called "What is Roleplaying?" Shit like this is commonplace. I'll do a little exploration to the fluff later, now I'm interested if the game itself is playable.

Now we get to the mechanics part. Chargen is super easy and really easy to grasp. We'll get to fighting and using the sheet later. The sequence described below will have easy D&D references in brackets.

The process has 6 steps, Basic Capabilities (Ability scores), Initial Social Standing (WBL, level), Adolescence skills (apart of skill system, easy), Backround (Also part of skill system,) Combat Stats (Basically the char sheet) and Equipment and Personality.

The Basic Capabilities are:
STR
PHY (Physique)
COR (Coordination)
INT
MST (Mental Strength)
PER (Personality)

Their values range from 1 to 20 and they are determined by rolling 8 sets of 3d6, dropping the lowest two sets. You can redistribute points by decreasing 2 points from a value (or two values, so I could tak a point from INT and one from MST) to apply a point to another capability. Ie. I could take 2 points from PER, a point from MST and a point from COR to get 2 points to put to STR.

Initial Social Standing is rolled on a 1d10 scale. This defines what kind fo family you're from and how much money you have. 1=street orphan, 10=your parents are Megacorporation officials. If you get a roll under 8, you may increase the value up to 8, by decreasing one point from PER and one from PHY.

Adolescence skills:
Determined on a scale of 1-20. Skill Value, or SV, is the used title. So SV 1 means you're a douche, SV 20 means you da man. Determining skills has a few different parts, bear with me.

First, you get Basic SV (ie. B-SV) which means you have one point in all Skills.

Second, you get Initial Skills, which are derived from Backround - we'll get to Backround next.

Third, you have Elementary Education. This means that you get Skill Picks (ie. get to choose skills) according to your INT. INT 1-5 grants you 4, 6-9 grants 5, 10-14 grants 6, 15-16 grants 7 and 17+ grants you 8 skill picks. Picking a skill means you get +3 to the skill, picking it again gets you another +2 and a third pick another +1, continue with +1 ad infinitum.


Backround is rolled as follows - read the
Table and you'll get the hang of it. There are several bulk backrounds and a few bonus ones that give you the option to be a caster, a Doomtrooper and some shit, they're obviously overpowered. I'll try to include the backround tables here in some format.

Near this point, there's a bonus table. Aging effects. Simple bonuses and minuses as per D&D3.5. As a bonus, you roll d20. If it exceeds your PHY, you die. Any basics drop to 0, you die. How awesome is that?

These are the basics, then we get to Combat Stats.
We have a simple table:

and one for body points:


We follow up by looking at skills, picking them and buying gear and filling a "personality form," which has no mechanical effect. I'll follow up later with a char sheet I've finished. Sounds easy so far!

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Re: Mutant Chronicles RPG, a review

Post by Reverend Red on Wed Sep 02, 2009 2:16 pm

The skills are listed here. They work pretty much like in D&D, which is good for us beginners. You make a skill roll and succeed or fail. The level of win or phail is decided by the DM, who also gives circumstance bonuses or penalties according to a simple table. What's different is that you try to roll exactly or BELOW the DC which is called Chance of Success here. Natural 20 and 1 apply to skill checks.

Skills:

Combat:

Missile Weapons (COR)
Primitive ranged.

Brawling (STR)
Unarmed.

Wrestling (COR)
Grappling and throwing folks.

Thrown Weapons (COR)

Melee Weapons (STR)

Parrying (COR)

Firearms:

Handguns (COR)
Shooting and maintaining a handgun.

Rifles (COR)

Light Automatics (STR)
Automatic/semiautomatic light firearms. STR req: 16

Heavy Automatics (STR)
Heavy automatic weapons. STR Req 17

Shoulder-Launched Weapons (INT)
Bazookas!

Grenade Launcers (COR)

Communication:

Administration (INT)
Knowledge: (Local) and (Royalty)

Oratory (PER)
Diplomacy.

Dealing (INT)
Appraise.

Social (PER)
Social grace, manners, popular culture knowledge - the cocktail party skill.

Interrogation (PER)
Intimidation/Sense Motive

Conning (PER)
Bluff/Disguise

Movement:

Sleight of Hand (COR)
Also Disable Device

Stealth (COR)

Agility (COR)
Jump/Acrobatics

Climbing (STR)

Flying Vehicles (MST)
This is a fully operational battle helicopter motherfuckers!

Ground Vehicles (COR)

Technical:

Chemistry (INT)
Explosives, poisons, gasses - identify and make 'em!

Weapons Systems (INT)
Modify weapons, make ammo, handle explosives...

Computer (INT)
Let's go geeky.

Medicine (INT)

Mechanics (INT)
Robots, vehicles, tools.

Special Skills:

Avoid (Special)
DB stat goes here to give you spider-sense.

Perception (Special)
PB goes here to determine Spot/Search.

The Art (Special)
You can't even have this skill. They explicitly state here, that Magic is not a Skill. It's fucking magic.

Looking at the skills, I see quite little redundancies. I think it's a fairly good selection, covering most of what an adventurer might need. Basic Capability rolls are more complicated, including a GM-set Difficulty Level and consultation of appropriate tables. This seems unnecessarily difficult for such a simple thing, but it being GM-lead seems like a pretty good idea to work from. They are also giving suggestions on how to make new skills and subskills, which is intriguing and gives more freedom to the GM to direct his game. So far, I'm very satisfied with the system. Exp or Hero Points are also explained in this section - it's a brief mention, 'cause the system is INCREDIBLY simple. Here's the deal with XP. The GM gives it when appropriate. You can store your HP for later or use it at once to improve skills or basic capabilities. You can earn HP by training. That's it. Functional, smart... this is by far the best-working system so far.

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Re: Mutant Chronicles RPG, a review

Post by Reverend Red on Wed Sep 02, 2009 2:56 pm

We're getting to the second-to-last portion of the rules, combat.

Combat:

Order of Battle (Initiative)
The winner of initiative does all his actions, or saves some of them for later. Your Initiative score is COR+1d10. You may delay your turn.

Every saved action entitles you an Avoid check at any time later on in the round. As for combat actions, there are four types.
-Attack using skills, Avoid rolls and very d20'ish range rules. If hit, roll d20 to consult table , roll damage minus Armor Value, apply damage effects.
-Movement (one square=one step (5'),
-Avoid (1d20 vs Avoid score and again you try to score under the value or instead of Avoid, use the Parry skill),
-Special (actions like charge, plus cool weapon properties).

"Non-Combat Actions" like starting a car, take 3 actions, ie, a "full-round."

When finished, the round continues and when it ends, roll initiative again.

There's a funny piece in the text, by the way: "--the battle continues until everyone has fled or been rendered helpless."

This short section is followed by rules for special weapons and vehicles, which is extremely cool shit. Pretty good rules for effects of damage, too. Lots to learn for the newcomer, D&D 3.5.

All in all, until this part, it's almost disturbing how similar this system is to d20 - 7 years before the launch of the said open license rule set. If you know D&D at all, this is very, very easy to learn. I'm excited to see what kind of options the splat books and "2nd edition" core book might add. Next, we're moving to magic and spells, which, I hope, will not be as utterly broken as in D&D.

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Re: Mutant Chronicles RPG, a review

Post by Reverend Red on Wed Sep 02, 2009 3:33 pm

The first impression is: "Damn, that's a great system." You know all the spells of your Art (Spell School) but channel them in a pretty imaginative way. You can cast any amount of spells your MST can handle - it is deducted from you at casting. It's this vague Perfection Level + MST = Magnitude-thing that makes the world go 'round. Basically, it's not a matter of what spell you can cast, but how well you can cast it.

Interesting enough, the spells described in the book are weak. Well, OK, you'll be maiming a warrior pretty easy with this shit, domination and levitation are cantrips for these fuckers. But still, the damages caused by damage spells are very low, flight speeds and such suck balls and you can't remarkably protect yourself with the Art. It seems fairly balanced, 'cause this shit comes in addition to being a warrior, you just don't have notably good backrounds (which, for a typical guy, give a huge chunk of their combat ability.) Why? Because in the 1st edition Core, you are either a Mystic or an Inquisitor if you want to cast a spell, PERIOD. This means you've got a fairly low social standing, shitty backround bonuses and entering these classes actually has requirements, reminding me of Prestige Classes.

Classes in the game are defined by Backround - you can be a Soldier, or a Criminal or an Inquisitor or one of the many other possibilities. The Soldier rides a tank and fires a grenade launcher, the Criminal steals the Soldier's tank and weapon and the Inquisitor wins a duel if he goes nova. The level of specialisation is pretty high and I can see how everyone is actually needed, instead of being a burden to the Mystic.

Eventually the book goes into the Dark Symmetry, which is magical force of the Dark Legion. Needless to say, these guys embarass the Brotherhood's casters pretty bad - but at this point, you're not even supposed to be on the bad guys' side. In later books, I believe, you're going to be getting there as well. But Dark Symmetry seriously does Teleport and Time Stop and Animate Dead and shit, all day long. No wonder man is getting its ass handed to it by the Dark Legion.

We finish off with the equipment section, which has basically no Tanks, Submarines or Spacecrafts. Which to me, is a huge downer. However, the guns and breastplates and shit are AWESOME. I'm so excited with all of these guns that I'm almost cursing that I don't live in the States. Anyway, this is a really fun portion of the book. Guns are really fucking powerful.

Anyway, I've now skimmed through the whole core book, I think we all know how it works now, so, we're prepared to look at the character options outside the Core.

My judgement is: this system is actually a little better than d20, and ragingly similar. The XP, target area and wounding plus the magic rules are what take the system beyond D20, however, with this amount of resources, it suffers from the lack of versatility. However, I have 11 more books to look at for additional shit. The setting is even better than I remembered, 'cause this joint is full of yahoos. I can't wait to see Bauhaus super tanks and Mishima mechas and supermagic shit and more monster entries. I'm honestly impressed with the simplicity and clarity of it all, as well as the coolness of the setting, the fun and the attitude. Lately, I've been looking at alternate D&D-rulesets like Incarnum, ToB, ToM and Pathfinder as well as Fading Suns and Savage Worlds, and I gotta say, this is the best of that lot. So were my childhood fantasies about this shit kicking ass for naught? Hell no!

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Re: Mutant Chronicles RPG, a review

Post by Reverend Red on Wed Sep 02, 2009 4:14 pm

Now finished overviewing 2nd edition. There are, indeed, practically no changes except for one which really makes all the difference. Magic has been buffed and we're once again facing the caster vs. non-caster dilemma. With the new spells and spell schools, flying and shooting lazors from your eyes has become normal. Being a Mystic or an Inquisitor is a very easy option. This is regrettable but probably inevitable. The additions are mostly from the splatbook, The Brotherhood Source Book, which is short and seems to be unnecessarily powerful, especially with the new schools... still, I've a gut feeling a Brother won't be doing shit against a Cybertronic superhuman with a shrapnel grenade launcher, which is very good.

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Re: Mutant Chronicles RPG, a review

Post by Reverend Red on Wed Sep 02, 2009 4:30 pm

The Cybertronic Sourcebook is fucking amazing, folks. It may be the best splat book I've ever read. It's in the form of a newspaper, with an addition of game rule options, giving a real hands-on feeling of the world. Shit, this might even be the only book I'd urge anyone to read if they had to pick one from MC. Cybertronics are the evil offspring of Bauhaus, they control the evil Cybernet ('cause Internet is evil, folks!) and it's got public opinion polls and shit, really tasty and colorful stuff in there. The game rule options give the player a chance to play a cybernetically enhanced superhuman and an array of cyber implants, weapons and vehicles that kick the living shit out of everything. And my favourite character from when I was kid, Vince Diamond, is depicted in full, with a complete explanation of his artificial enhancements and so on... this is a goldmine, guys, I love this fucking book!

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Re: Mutant Chronicles RPG, a review

Post by Reverend Red on Wed Sep 02, 2009 5:03 pm

For those who don't want to use torrents for this, the game books are also here here. I've tried a couple of the links, and they seem to be working fine. The "Creatures"-link was fairly appealing, it collects a lot of Dark Legion monsters and is a nice referral sheet for sample encounters. The Character Sheet is of supreme quality, except for the glaring problem of it not being editable. Otherwise, the site is shit.

For those looking to check out the books themselves, I think the "2nd Edition" will give a larger idea, if you read the above posts, it's easy to just cruise around the pages and get a pretty good concept of what's going on.

I'm also disappointed to find out that there are no Sourcebooks for any other Apostles than Ilian and Algeroth. Semai has always been my favorite, closley followed by Muawijhe. Having no books about them is a bore, but of course it has to be admitted, that Target (now Cog) was/is a small firm.

I've been reading into what's to be expected from the 3rd Edition of MC. It's by ex-Target guys, currently Cog members, completely done pro bono out of passion and with a close interaction with the worldwide MC community. However, it's a long process and they're hesitant about even giving a publishing schedule for the new work. I think it's going to be significantly different and apparently will change the MC world a lot. I'm not getting worked up over the ordeal, I think it sounds like a pretty good job.

I've been reading a lot, also from a few forums, and there seems to be no real cheesy cheating in the system. I, for one, can't figure out any way to really screw over the system. Theft is of course the best way to try and break the game. A Criminal and a 2nd ed. Mystic is a great team.

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Re: Mutant Chronicles RPG, a review

Post by Reverend Red on Wed Sep 02, 2009 5:14 pm

Post #10. The Mishima Sourcebook introduces a fairly interesting new system, the Ki with cool utility and combat abilities. Suddenly guys with fists or swords are decent at fighting again. Japanese shit is not interesting, I don't give a flying fuck about their shitty, inbred culture or their glorified history. Fuck the Japs. But they have some ass-kicking Chinese stuff in there as well. The read is not worth much, it's just a regular sourcebook with a pretty damn boring ready-made adventure. The new equip has barely any mechas, but those that they have, are great. Battle armors, hoverbikes and mechas with bazookas and chainsaw swords for everyone!

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