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Saturday 17 February 2018

The Zone Quartet (+1) III

Mutant: Year Zero Zone Compendium 3: Die, Meat-Eater, Die! is the third supplement for Mutant: Year Zero – Roleplaying at the End of Days, the post-apocalypse set RPG based on Mutant - År Noll, the Swedish RPG from Free League Publishing released in English by Modiphius Entertainment. As with the first, Mutant: Year Zero – Zone Compendium 1 – Lair of the Saurians, Mutant: Year Zero and the second, Mutant: Year Zero – Zone Compendium 2 – Dead Blue Sea, this is a slim supplement that presents various scenario set-ups and situations—though not new rules—which can be quickly and easily dropped into a Game Master’s campaign and the sectors of his Zone map. Where Mutant: Year Zero – Zone Compendium 2 – Dead Blue Sea took Mutant: Year Zero to sea, what Mutant: Year Zero Zone Compendium 3: Die, Meat-Eater, Die! does is set up encounters with mutant animals in the post apocalyptic world of Mutant: Year Zero. However, it does not present four encounters in a thirty-two page supplement like those two previous supplements, but five encounters in a thirty-six page supplement, but this is only a minor difference.

What really sets Mutant: Year Zero Zone Compendium 3: Die, Meat-Eater, Die! apart from the previous entries in the ‘Zone Compendium’ series is that it is a supplement to another supplement as well as the Mutant: Year Zero core rules. That supplement is Mutant: Genlab Alpha, the standalone roleplaying game and supplement which enabled the Game Master and his players to explore the place of mutant animals and their roles in the post apocalyptic future. Notably, it included the campaign, ‘Escape from Paradise’, which told of the various animal tribes coming together to discover who their robot overlords were and ultimately making an escape into the world beyond Paradise Valley. It is beyond this valley home where the encounters are to be had in Mutant: Year Zero Zone Compendium 3: Die, Meat-Eater, Die! take place, in the Zone—or at least near it—where the player characters have their home in their tribe’s Ark.

Problematically, the title and cover of Mutant: Year Zero Zone Compendium 3: Die, Meat-Eater, Die! are a bit of a giveaway for the first location. ‘New Kingdom of Deeproot’ presents a warren of lagomorphs, militantly paranoid in their fear and hatred of meat-eaters—as depicted on the front cover. The rabbits have also formed a workers’ protectorate and entrenched themselves against attack. In some ways this is the most challenging encounter in the book, the Rabbits being equally as entrenched in their opinions and beliefs, and getting to persuade them otherwise will take a lot of effort upon the part of player characters. Now the concept of gun-toting bunnies has been a mainstay of the gonzo post-apocalypse genre ever since Gamma World gave us the Hoops, so what we have with ‘New Kingdom of Deeproot’ is something of a cliche. Fortunately, this a decent treatment of a genre standby and whilst it might not be the easiest of location to use, there are good suggestions on how to use it.

Fortunately, ‘Blackhand’s Bar’ is much easier to use. It presents a former rest stop, an oasis of calm and rest amidst the tumult and the wreckage of the long past, somewhere where the player characters can stop, recover, and perhaps gather information. ‘Blackhand’s Bar’ is also the headquarters of the Zone Riders, messengers who traverse the Zone carrying missives and mapping out the Zone. A simple encounter with the Zone Riders will easily draw the player characters to ‘Blackhand’s Bar’ and from there they can establish relationships with the owners and the patrons, perhaps with the aim of also establishing a forward base. Another area of interest is ‘The Garbage Masters’, a mountain of garbage overseen by mutant toads! The place stinks, but the owners will trade for permission to root around in and around the great pile of refuse in search of artefacts. Of course, how long the batrachian owners can hold before someone else wants control of the trash piles and just what artefacts are there to be found in the miasmic mounds?

‘The Island of Doctor Life’ is home to a mysterious machine being as much a refugee from Genlab Alpha as the mutant animals are. As well as the secrets of who this machine is, this is an opportunity for the player characters to gain some much-needed healing, but at what price? There is potential here for a scenario which might take the player characters into—or back into—Paradise Valley, though it will be up to the Game Master to develop this. Lastly, ‘Squirrel Wars’ drops the player characters into the middle of a forest war between two packs, one of squirrels and one of dogs. The war has been running for as long as they can remember. The question is, will the player characters side with the Hounds or the Tail Runners, or perhaps find a way to mediate between the two?

Physically, Mutant: Year Zero Zone Compendium 3: Die, Meat-Eater, Die! is as well presented as the other titles in the series. The artwork is excellent and the maps, both illustrated and cartographic, are nicely done. In fact, the artwork also serves as great illustrations to show the players when they encounter the various locations and NPCs. The book is also well written, with solid descriptions and a handful of events and scenario ideas for the Game Master to flesh out.

Mutant: Year Zero Zone Compendium 3: Die, Meat-Eater, Die! also marks the growing co-operation between Free League Publishing and Modiphius Entertainment as its contents are a joint project, both in terms of writing and publishing. There is a great deal of flexibility in how a Game Master can use Mutant: Year Zero Zone Compendium 3: Die, Meat-Eater, Die! The most obvious one is simply use it as sequel content to Mutant: Genlab Alpha, exploring what happens to the mutant animal player characters after the events of the ‘Escape from Paradise’ campaign out in the Zone. Alternatively, it could be dropped into an existing Mutant: Year Zero campaign and the content used to introduce mutant animals as characters and the mechanics of Mutant: Genlab Alpha. The mutant player characters of Mutant: Year Zero could even encounter the NPCs and locations of this supplement and then play out the events of Mutant: Genlab Alpha as a prequel, allowing the players to explore how the mutant animals got to the Zone. That said, the mutant animals do need time to establish themselves after escaping from Paradise Valley, so the Game Master needs to allow for this before the player characters—mutant or mutant animals—encounter each other and these scenario locations.

Ultimately, the Game Master does not need to have a copy of Mutant: Genlab Alpha to run the contents of Mutant: Year Zero Zone Compendium 3: Die, Meat-Eater, Die!, though having access to it may help. If he has Mutant: Genlab Alpha, then Mutant: Year Zero Zone Compendium 3: Die, Meat-Eater, Die! will definitely be useful if he has run ‘Escape from Paradise’ as it provides information about what happens to some of its escaping NPCs and helps him bring mutant animals into the Zone. Overall, Mutant: Year Zero Zone Compendium 3: Die, Meat-Eater, Die! contains content that will freshen up a Game Master’s Mutant: Year Zero campaign.

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