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Friday 31 August 2018

The Zone Quartet IV

Mutant: Year Zero Zone Compendium 4: The Eternal War is the fourth 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 previous supplements in this series—Mutant: Year Zero – Zone Compendium 1 – Lair of the Saurians, Mutant: Year Zero – Zone Compendium 2 – Dead Blue Sea, and Mutant: Year Zero Zone Compendium 3: Die, Meat-Eater, Die!—this is a slim supplement that presents various scenario set-ups and situations, or ‘Special Zone Sectors’—though not new rules—which can be quickly and easily dropped into a Game Master’s campaign and the sectors of her Zone map. Where those three supplements have in turn provided encounters in the Zone, at sea, and with the animals of Mutant: Year Zero: Genlab Alpha, this supplement provides encounters with robots, as detailed in Mutant: Year Zero – Mechatron – Rise of the Robots Roleplaying.

As a supplement to a supplement—that is, a supplement to Mutant: Year Zero – Mechatron – Rise of the Robots RoleplayingMutant: Year Zero Zone Compendium 4: The Eternal War sets up encounters with robots in the wider world beyond the confines of Mechatron-7, a sub-sea manufacturing and supply base for Noatun, one of the three Titan powers which fought the apocalypse. Depending upon the scenario, this can be as player character mutants from the Ark in Mutant: Year Zero – Roleplaying at the End of Days or as robots from Mechatron-7 from Mutant: Year Zero – Mechatron – Rise of the Robots Roleplaying. Each scenario includes notes for using it with either and for what happens if there the mutated animals of Mutant: Year Zero: Genlab Alpha in the party also as well as the standard descriptions of the location, the situation, inhabitants, and possible events.

The first of the four Special Zone Sectors is the eponymous, ‘The Eternal War’. The player characters—specifically mutants, but again easily adjusted to include other character types—find an intact building with an open steel door, near some water. Inside stairs lead down to an underwater harbour, complete with cargo submarines, cargo drones, a mystery, and two robots with conflicting orders battling it out to destroy each in between increasingly lengthy recharge periods. This a closed area, ripe for exploration, and an opportunity to send the player characters off in a radical new direct—perhaps to Mechatron-7, perhaps somewhere else of the Game Master’s design. (Oh, for an official scenario where that happened!) The facilities themselves could easily be expanded upon if the Game Master so wanted. Overall, this is a pleasingly straightforward Special Zone Sector to run with a limited number of NPCs and things going on.

‘Fort Robot’ the second scenario, can be best described as Mutant: Year Zero – Roleplaying at the End of Days and Mutant: Year Zero – Mechatron – Rise of the Robots Roleplaying get together and mix it up with West World. The player characters come across ‘WILD WEST WORLD’, a former theme park which has been taken over by robots who are slowly renovating it and restoring parts of it to order. As visitors they get taken in and invited to partake of what the park has to offer—drink at the saloon, ride the steam locomotive, visit the Native American village, and so on. Of course, the saloon gets shot up by bandits, the steam locomotive gets robbed by bandits, the Native American village gets raided by bandits—it is all part of the entertainment. This is all fun and good, but there is a rattlesnake or two present to shake things and how things shake out is definitely down to the players and their characters. In the meantime, both players and Game Master can have fun with the clichés of the Wild West genre in this inventive, if a little odd Special Zone Sector.

The third Special Zone Sector is ‘Northbay Nandeep 23’ and is specifically designed to be played by player character robots. It can be run as part of the ‘Ghosts in the Machine’ from Mutant: Year Zero – Mechatron – Rise of the Robots Roleplaying and sees the player characters sent on a strange mission. They are given a Work Order to visit an external farming facility and ascertain what resources it holds. It turns out that the facility is still working—more or less—but not without its problems. Some robots want to keep it working, others want to leave, whilst still others are simply sick. All sides will be surprised to see the player characters, their arrival serving to upset the balance of power which has existed for a long while. There are a couple of secrets to uncover, but eventually things will come to head and chaos will probably break out at the facility. This is probably the most complex of the four Special Zone Sectors in Mutant: Year Zero Zone Compendium 4: The Eternal War.

The last of the Special Zone Sectors in the supplement is the simplest and its only disappointing entry. ‘The Robot Factory’ is a restored cannery, a potential source of grub for the Zone that may well ensure the survival of its inhabitants. Unfortunately, the factory operators are employing slave labour—robot slave labour—and something of them are beginning to achieve self-awareness… Who will the player characters side with? The owners with their supply of canned grub or the newly awoken robots? Unfortunately there are not as many options or events to play this through as the other three Special Zone Sectors. Nor is there much in the way of subtlety or nuance either and it is rather underwhelming in comparison to the other three. It does not help that there is no internal map of the location either. Overall, not an overly special Special Zone Sector.

Physically, Mutant: Year Zero Zone Compendium 4: The Eternal War 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 4: The Eternal War presents good collection of Special Zone Sectors. Three of them—‘The Eternal War’, ‘Fort Robot’, and ‘The Factory’—work as different introductions to the robots of Mutant: Year Zero – Mechatron – Rise of the Robots Roleplaying, in turn as killers, protectors, entertainers, and workers, whilst the third, ‘Northbay Nandeep 23’, introduces robots of Mechatron-7 to the outside world of the Zone. It would be good to see a supplement devoted to the Work Orders—the scenarios inside the robot facility, but Mutant: Year Zero Zone Compendium 4: The Eternal War is a nicely presented, solid set of Special Zone Sectors for when the Game Master wants to bring robot and mutant together for the first time.

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