While it’s not out for general consumption, Mutant: Mechatron was released to Kickstarter backers. This expansion for Mutant: Year Zero expands the world of the game but can also be played on its own. Like Mutant: Genelab Alpha, the expansion is into totally new territory and this time its robots!
I don’t mean that you play robots in mutant Ark or the Paradise Valley of uplifted animals. You play a robot in the crowded robot city of Mechatron-7 working for the good of the greater Collective. This city and the robots in it were built by one of the mighty Titan Powers of the past (i.e. a corporation) called Noatun. Some sort of corporate war between Titan Powers rocked the world, and Noatun set up automated factories to keep building soldiers and weapons for them. Now Noatun is gone but their plans remain and Mechatron-7 grows… only some of those robots are becoming self-aware. Enter the PCs.
The character-creation system in Mechatron is the same as Mutant: Year Zero and Genelab Alpha. In those you pick a role and tribe, respectively, that determine your special skills and other background material. In Mutant: Mechatron you pick a model for your robot that gives you a special program (equivalent to the other games’ special abilities). The models are Battle Robot (just what is says on the housing), Cleaning Robot (if you think this is a useless model type, you have seen the dusty innards of a desktop computer in a while), Companion Robot (fallen on hard times since all the Johns blew themselves up), Coordination Robot (why are there always five robots standing around for every one robot working?), Industrial Robot (fix-it bot), Protocol Robot (C-3PO meets I, Robot), Scrap Robot (bit of this, bit of that), and Security Robot (the defensive counterpart to the Battle Robot).
Something interesting and new with Mutant: Mechatron is the idea of chassis parts, the bits and pieces your robot is made out of. Not only are these pieces changeable (so you might get a new head several times through the campaign) but they affect your Attributes (so you’d also have Attributes that shift through the game). On top of that, the way you pick them is pretty sweet: there is a list of different parts for all your body parts (head, torso, and undercarriage) and only one character can pick each one. They are mostly balanced but there are a few parts that are just plain better than others and some that are junk. The table agrees on who gets what so character creation ends up feeling like you’re sifting through a scrap heap to find body parts.
After this you’re pretty much done. There are some extra things to add which can help your character including secondary functions (small bonuses like talents in MYZ) and modules (powerful resources used with Energy Points which are like the mutant powers of MYZ). You also start with a Hierarchy score, which indicates how likely NPC bots are to follow your orders, and relationships just like in the other games. Oh, and there are a few bits of gear but honestly none of them hold a candle to the crazy robotic bits you already have!
The rest of the chapter discusses tips for playing a robot including robotic self-awareness, a robot’s sense of time, what it’s like to suddenly start feeling emotions, and what it’s like to exist outside of human concepts of morality. I think it’s a powerful testament to the consideration that Fria Ligan puts into their game that there’s as much space devoted to morality and character immersion as their is to chassis powers. Nice going, guys.
So what do you actually do in Mutant: Mechatron? Well, as with other games in the Mutant series, things are a bit bleak and a bit mysterious. As with the mutants’ arks and the animal tribes’ Paradise Valley, things have been alright for a while but the cracks are starting to show. Mechatron-7 was built as a massive, powerful factory with autonomous capabilities running day and night but now it’s a broken shell of scrap metal and malfunctioning bots stuck in pointless loops. An intelligent program called NODOS tries to keep things on track but the direction is definitely downhill, hence the suddenly-sentient robots popping up in Mechatron-7.
Where is Mechatron-7 located? Well take your pick, there are certainly a lot of options listed here. Maybe it’s underground, maybe it’s on an island somewhere, maybe it’s in the Zone or right next to Paradise Valley… Personally, I’d put it right in the middle. When mutant patrols venture too far east and escaped animals venture far to the west they stumble on a strange metallic city. Wherever it is, there is plenty of information on what it’s like inside of Mechatron-7 including a great map.
The inhabitants, from the lowly bots to the powerful constructs that answer only to NODOS, are detailed as well and the details of life in the Collective (including the robots’ hive mind) are provided as well. Robot entertainment, clothing, food, and crime get some space and there’s a chapter on powerful artifacts as well.
The Gamemaster Chapter is another part of Fria Ligan’s design that is much better than usual. An earlier chapter (“Conflict & Damage”) provides some enemies and hazards to confront, but the contents of this chapter are all about creating the vibe of Mutant: Mechatron. It goes through eight game principles: Robots are Machines, The Collective Means Safety and Control, Robots are Individuals, The Decay is Inevitable, There Is Never Enough Energy, The Outside Is a Threat, Let the PCs Become Scrap (I particularly like this one), and It Can Be Funny Too.
Good advice, but there’s also a great campaign to get you started: a work order from NODOS to find and replace dangerously divergent robots. The final version of the book promises a full set of the work orders, scenarios based around a particular location like Special Zone Sectors from Mutant: Year Zero. I won’t ruin the plot for you but the title, Ghost in the Machine, should tell you a lot about what to expect.
This is a great addition to the Mutant universe, a unique setting that still meshes seamlessly with the other games. It’s what you have probably come to expect from Fria Ligan and you should rest assured that this product is just as strong as Mutant: Year Zero and Genelab Alpha. On the other hand, if you aren’t such a fan of those settings but you’re looking forward to a game about playing a robot in a city of robots, this game has a ton of different elements that underscore that theme. I’m happy with this game all around and encourage you to line up a copy if you haven’t already.