We really are living in a golden age for indie RPG’s. Between PDF, print on demand, and crowd funding it seems like I’m learning about a new game every week, each with its own dedicated following. This is a strain on my Gamer ADD, as I don’t have enough time to get the games I already own to the table and I keep wanting to check out new ones.
This is an affliction I know I share with many of you. If I could choose an afterlife it might just be a gamer Valhalla where we spend all day rolling dice, eating pizza, and drinking Mt. Dew from finely carved drinking horns.
One genre I’ve noticed that is benefiting from the trend is post-apocalyptic gaming. This has always been a niche genre, even back in the 80’s when fears of nuclear Armageddon were hanging over us. Three games from that era come to mind; Gamma World is probably the most notable, blending far future science with gonzo mutants and Road Warrior style cultures. Twilight 2000 has a fascinating concept, darker and more realistic in tone, and putting the players in the role of US soldiers cut off in Europe after a limited nuclear war. Palladium’s After the Bomb was a spin off from their Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game and there were several supplements published for it.
Things changed as the Cold War ended. With the threat of apocalypse receding into the background its presence in role playing games also faded. However the gaming scene of today has made new space for games based on old fears. My armchair theory of why this is happening is a combination of the decade plus War on Terror mixed with Generation X’s renewed interest in gaming.
Of course my theory and a buck fifty might buy you a cup of coffee.
So lets look at a few of these new games. These are the ones I can think of off the top of my head and not a comprehensive list.
Mutant Future – As Gamma World was the progenitor of the first wave of post-apocalyptic games, its retro-clone Mutant Future seem to be pre-eminent among the new wave. At least from the perspective of the Old School Renaissance. Like its predecessor, Mutant Future is based on classic D&D (through the Labyrinth Lord retro-clone) and puts the players into a far future world, where the apocalypse happened after the world attained a much higher level of technology than we have today.
I never played Gamma World but ever since I discovered the OSR I’ve developed a fresh interest in the genre. Enough that I picked up my own copy of Mutant Future and it is high on my bucket list of games to play. It doesn’t hurt that The Savage AfterWorld blog has put out a free supplement called “The World of Thundarr” that throws Mutant Future into the realm of one of my favorite Saturday morning cartoons. Mutant Future is available from Goblinoid Games.
Mutant Chronicles – The history of Mutant Chronicles goes back to 1993 and is actually the cornerstone of a whole franchise that includes collectible card games, board games, and miniature wargaming. Again the setting is one where doomsday came to a future world and not present day. This game has a definite Warhammer-meets-Gamma World vibe going.
The original editions were published in 1993 and 1997 by Target Games. A new edition was planned for around 2009 but it never materialized. Still the game has many followers and there was enough interest for the British company Modiphius to acquire the property and run a successful Kickstarter campaign, reaching full funding in only three hours. The target release date is by the end of this year, so Mutant Chronicles fans have a joyful Christmas to look forward too. Mutant Chronicles is available for pre-order from the Modiphius website.
Mutant Epoch – Rounding out the Mutant trifecta is Mutant Epoch by Outland Arts. This is a recent addition to the genre, published in 2011. The game is a percentile based system and has received good reviews. The website features a great deal of their artwork, which has a distinctive style from other games in the genre and gives me the same vibes as a lot of late 90’s and early millennial games. There are a nice amount of support books available, including several free or Pay What You Want titles. The creators of Mutant Epoch have a lot of passion for their game and that energy comes through.
I particularly like the Kids’ Section of their website, where you can print out your own post-apocalyptic coloring book.
Apocalypse World – Published in 2010 Apocalypse World is one of several games using the Apocalypse Engine. Players create characters using “playbooks”, which appear to combine the idea of character creation with world design. So as the characters are generated elements are added to the game’s setting, including the connections between the player characters. It sounds like an interesting mechanic and I’ll have to check out.
Despite being rules light, Apocalypse World seems to fall outside the OSR’s collective notice. Possibly because the rules that are there are more tied to character stories than we grognards usually go for. The game can be purchased in print or PDF from their website.
Broken World – This game just recently funded on Kickstarter and is not yet available for purchase. Like Apocalypse World, Broken World uses the Apocalypse Engine. However based on the description Broken World will have a more established world, lighter tone, and more gonzo feel than its grim predecessor. The artwork reminds me of movies like Wizards and books like Cobalt 60., which is definitely not a bad thing.
I’m sure there are more games that I’ve missed and feel free to mention them, or your experiences with these games, in the comments below. I’d love to hear how you enjoy the end of the world.
And I Feel Fine