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Saturday 1 June 2019

Dungeon rollin', rollin', rollin'...

Mutant Crawl Classics #6: The Apocalypse Ark is the sixth release for Mutant Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game – Triumph & Technology Won by Mutants & Magic, the spiritual successor to Gamma World published by Goodman Games. It is the fifth adventure to be designed for use with player characters who are not Zero Level, being instead designed for player characters of Fifth Level. What this means is that it is not a Character Funnel, one of the features of both the Mutant Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game and the Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game it is mechanically based upon—in which initially, a player is expected to roll up three or four Level Zero characters and have them play through a generally nasty, deadly adventure, which surviving will prove a challenge. Those that do survive receive enough Experience Points to advance to First Level and gain all of the advantages of their Class. In terms of the setting, known as Terra A.D., or ‘Terra After Disaster’, this is a ‘Rite of Passage’ and in Mutants, Manimals, and Plantients, the stress of it will trigger ‘Metagenesis’, their DNA expressing itself and their mutations blossoming forth. Rather Blessings of the Vile Brotherhood is designed for characters of Fourth Level, so each of the player characters will have a range of powers and abilities as equipment and artefacts scavenged after two or three adventures out in Terra A.D.

Mutant Crawl Classics #6: The Apocalypse Ark is designed to be played by between six and eight player characters of Fifth Level. The set-up to the scenario is similar to that of Mutant Crawl Classics #4: Warlords of ATOZ in that the player characters’ village is faced by an external threat that is getting ever closer and closer. It opens with a member of a rival village running into the player characters’ village, sick and warning of a mountain of living metal having rolled into her village and attacked everyone… The events of the scenario then ensue. These can roughly divided into two parts. The first deals with the player characters following up on the villager’s claims and its clues which lead to the second part. Consisting of just three encounters these work best if the Game Master has developed both the village where the player characters live and the surrounding area and perhaps highlighted the rivalry with the other village. Not out and out conflict necessarily, but perhaps a disagreement over resources or trade. This should make more real the impact that the attack by the mountain of living metal has on the rival village.

In the second part of Mutant Crawl Classics #6: The Apocalypse Ark will not only locate the mountain of living metal, but clamber on to it and somehow make their inside it, for it turns out this ten-storey high, sixty-feet wide, two-hundred feet long monstrosity trundling unerringly along on elongated wheels cutting a gigantic swath through the player characters’ hothouse jungle homeland is a vehicle of the Ancients—a giant mobile laboratory whose chief scientist is hellbent on wiping out all sentient life on Terra A.D. To that end, this genocidal maniac has developed a new pathogen which it delivers via a swarm of insect drones. Of course, the likelihood is that not only will the player characters’ fellow villagers be infected, but so will one or more of the player characters, setting up a race against time to find the source of the new disease and hopefully find a cure.

It is possible, but unlikely that the player characters will be able to stop the monstrosity from the outside. It is just too tough. So getting inside is the only option, and once inside, they will discover that the mobile mountain of living metal—or ‘Beta Collection Unit NC-787’ as it was once known—actually consists of five floors inside with no more than eight locations on each floor. In general, the player characters will find the facilities weirdly clean and monotone, but there are locations where the outside world has intruded (or been allowed to intrude) and will probably impede the player characters’ progress. The facility is also fairly lifeless, the relatively few ‘monsters’ aboard consisting of strangely anodyne, but highly purposed humanoids. In fact, ‘Beta Collection Unit NC-787’ is home to just two NPCs, both competing for control of the facility and monitoring the player characters as they make their way from floor to floor.

Mutant Crawl Classics #6: The Apocalypse Ark is in the main, an exploration and investigation scenario. To that end, most of the rooms and locations in the mobile laboratory are described in great detail and there is plenty for the characters to interactive with and discover. The two NPCs are also given a similar treatment which should help the Game Master roleplay them. In fact two of the best moments in the module occur when the player characters are interacting with the NPCs. One involves the Game Master having the opportunity to mug it up with her best mime act, whilst the other involves a Robot DJ which will interpret everything said to her as a song request. The latter begs for access to a really wide song library and the means to play it immediately.

The scenario does have a slight seventies feel to it, what with its potential for a bad disco experience, the cooly anodyne look to its facilities, and the impersonal nature of most of the monsters aboard  ‘Beta Collection Unit NC-787’. The inspirations for Mutant Crawl Classics #6: The Apocalypse Ark are not immediately obvious, but perhaps Demon Seed, Future World, THX 1138, and The Amtrak Wars series of novels?

Surprisingly, there is very little in the way of artefacts and devices to be salvaged or found aboard Mutant Crawl Classics #6: The Apocalypse Ark, so the Game Master may want to ensure that the player characters have plenty of equipment before they go aboard. More so though, for Pure Strain Humans who lack the mutant powers of Mutant, Manimal, and Plantient characters. This is despite the scenario being primarily one of exploration and investigation, there is quite a bit of combat at the start and probably at the end of the scenario.   

Physically, Mutant Crawl Classics #6: The Apocalypse Ark is well presented with some excellent artwork, although not all of it matches the plans and layout of ‘Beta Collection Unit NC-787’. In fact, the cartography and the accompanying illustration for ‘Beta Collection Unit NC-787’ is really good and it would have been nice to see it spread across two pages instead of just inside the front cover.

Mutant Crawl Classics #6: The Apocalypse Ark takes the game play out of the ‘dungeon style’ format of previous entries in the series and places it aboard something that is no less fantastical in the eyes of the player characters, but plays firmly to the Science Fictional nature of the roleplaying game. Further, it makes good use of its two NPCs, one of which can become a recurring villain in a Game Master’s campaign, building a decent little mystery around them. Overall, Mutant Crawl Classics #6: The Apocalypse Ark is a great adventure, strong on detail and roleplaying opportunities, and one of the best releases for Mutant Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game to date.


Goodman Games will be at UK Games Expo which will take place between June 1st and June 3rd, 2018 at Birmingham NEC. This is the world’s fourth largest gaming convention and the biggest in the United Kingdom.

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