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Mutant: Year Zero

Genlab Alpha

A Game of Post-Apocalyptic Humanoid Animals
Contents

A Post-Apocalyptic Animal Hybrid Future [ edit ]

Mutant: Genlab Alpha is one of two "spin-off" games from the popular Mutant: Year Zero franchise (with the other being Mutant: Elysium).  Unlike its sister games, however, Genlab Alpha focuses exclusively on humanoid animals.

The Setting

As you might guess from the title, the Mutant series is set in a post-apocalyptic world.  The basic premise of Genlab Alpha is that prior to the apocalypse, mankind bred a variety of animal-human hybrid creatures in a secluded valley, and also created a small army of robots to monitor and control them.  When the apocalypse happened, the mysterious robotic Watchers continued to guard (but also imprison) those animals.

Now, humans are virtually a myth, worshipped but never seen by the animal inhabitants.  The animals live together but apart, with each tribe having their own territories and strongholds (eg. the rabbits have a warren, while the rats have a castle).  Older animals urge deference to the Watchers, but the Watchers are oppressive (eg. they kidnap animals for horrible experiments). 

Younger animals however are increasingly joining an uprising known as The Resistance.  The players can decide whether they want to join that resistance, or stay and interact with the valley environment (eg. by working to become a leader of their tribe).

Genlab Alpha includes everything needed to play, including the core rules: no other product is required to play.  However, the game is also designed to integrate with its sister games, Year Zero and Elysium.

If the PCs survive the initial campaign to escape Paradise Valley, they can explore the rest of the wasteland outside their home using Mutant: Year Zero (and optionally Elysium also).  Although it doesn't go into great depth, the game does provide some thoughts on how to handle this possibility, and also mentions how to combine the similar, but slightly different, rules of the two games.
 

Mutant: Year Zero, Genlab Alpha - Rules SummaryCollapse

Character Creation [ edit ]

Tribes

There are nine animal tribes in Mutant: Genlab Alpha, with each corresponding to a set of animals.  Some tribes are very broad (eg. "Reptiles" includes lizards, frogs, and turtles) while others are more narrow (the "Rabbit" tribe only includes rabbits and hares).

In addition to choosing their tribe, a player must also choose a specific animal for their character.

Roles

After choosing their animal, a player chooses a role  (ie. class) for their character. Unlike Mutant: Year Zero, which has eight Roles, Genlab Alpha only has five: Healer, Hunter, Warrior, Seer, and Scavenger.

In addition to various role-playing details, the choice of Role also determines starting Talent options, as well as the character's starting gear.

Age, Attributes and Skills

Next, the player chooses their character's age category.  They can choose between youngster, mature, or elder, and that decision determines how many attribute points they get to distribute between their four Attributes: youngsters get 13, while matures get 14 and elders 15.

Three of the attributes (Strength, Agility, and Wits) are the same as Year Zero, while Empathy has been replaced instead with Instinct.  Every Attribute must have at least two points, and no Attribute can go above four, except for the primary Attribute for the character's Role (which can go up to five.

Next, the player assigns between 8 (for youngsters) to 12 (for elders) skill points.  Just as in Year Zero there are twelve skills (eg. Endure, Fight, or Heal), plus each Role has a unique skill, which they must put at least one point into. No skill can have more than three points.

All of the skills are the same as Year Zero, except that "Manipulate" is replaced with a similar "Dominate" skill for the animals of Genlab Alpha, and "Know the Zone" has been renamed to "Know Nature".

Talents

Next, the player picks from one of three Talents available to their Role.   Talents are similar to feats or edges in other games, and range from Surgeon (for a Healer), to Weapon Master (for a Warrior), to Totem Maker (for a Seer).

Characters can gain more talents later on by earning experience, and when they do they can choose from either of the two they didn't pick, or from a set of General talents.

Animal Powers

Each player starts with two animal powers, with their options determined by their animal.  For instance, only reptiles can have the Amphibian power, while a dog, cat, or reptile can choose the Tail power.  The character has the power (eg. a tail) constantly, but to activate it (eg. to perform acrobatics using the tail) they have to spend Feral Points, which are similar to Year Zero's mutation points.

Feral Points recover between sessions, and can also be gained by pushing actions. However, spending Feral Points is risky: if the player rolls a 1 they suffer a Feral Effect, and act like an animal (controlled by the GM) until they are healed (and only after d6 hours).

Core Mechanics [ edit ]

To perform an action in Mutant: Genlab Alpha a player rolls a number of d6s equal to the number of points in the corresponding Attribute, plus the corresponding Skill, plus the Gear Bonus of any Gear used.  In order to succeed they need to roll at least one 6, with multiple 6's indicating a greater degree of success.

Special colored dice (with alternate symbols for 1 and 6) are available for the game, although it can be played with regular dice also, as long as you have separate color sets for attributes/skills/gear.

Pushing

If the character is unhappy with the result, they can "push" the roll, which lets them re-roll any non-six/non-one results.  Doing this gains the player a Feral Point ... but if they roll any ones on the re-roll, they face a negative result from pushing.

If the die that rolled a one was a gear die, that piece of gear has its rating lowered by one.  Otherwise, the player suffers a point of "trauma to the corresponding Attribute (if an Attribute is reduced to 0 by trauma the player becomes incapacitated).

Combat [ edit ]

Initiative is determined by having all players roll a d6 and add their Agility score (with some mutations and Talents also offering initiative bonuses).  The GM then does the same for the NPCs, and any NPCs with the same initiative score share a roll and act together.  Unlike in most games, a combat turn is not a fixed amount of time, but can instead range from 10 seconds to several minutes.

Turns

On a turn a player can take one action and one maneuver.  An action could mean rolling a skill check or using a mutation power, while maneuvers can involve moving, drawing a weapon, etc.

Movement notably does not use a fixed movement amount.  Instead, the distance between a character and their enemies is expressed in "range categories", such as arm's length, near (a few steps away), short (within 20-30 yards), etc.  Each movement maneuver let's the character move one range category.

Attacking

To attack a character uses a Fight skill check (for close combat) or a Shoot check (for ranged).  For ranged attacks cover and the distance from the defender can add penalties to the roll.  If the attack succeeds, the target suffers the weapon's damage, plus extra damage for any extra 6's rolled on the attack.  Instead of dealing extra damage a player could opt to have other side effects, such as knocking the target's weapon out of their hand.

Trauma

Mutant: Genlab Alpha has four types of injuries or "trauma": damage (which lowers the character's strength), fatigue (which lowers agility), confusion (which lowers wits) and doubt (which lowers empathy).  Weapons are the main source of damage, while the other injury types happen in the course of the game (eg. a 1 on a die roll when pushing causes a point of trauma).  If any attribute is lowered to 0 the character is "broken" (the exact details of that depend on which stat was broken).

Armor can help reduce damage: when a character wearing armor is attacked they can make an armor check, and each 6 rolled reduces a point of damage.  However, each 1 rolled results in damage to the armor itself.

Should You Buy It? [ edit ]

Aggregated Review Scores

SourceAverage Score# of ReviewsAs Of
Drive Thru RPG4.8 / 5458/26/2022
Good Reads4.62 / 5268/26/2022
RPG Geek8.14 / 10198/26/2022

Although Mutant: Genlab Alpha is not the most mainstream product, it's still managed to accrue nearly a hundred reviews, with a very strong positive message from all sources.  The notoriously critical RPG Geek gave the game 8.14 / 10, while Drive Thru Rpg (with more reviews, and all of them from purchasing customers) gave it an extremely high 4.8 / 5.

Of course, despite all the good press Mutant: Genlab Alpha won't be the game for everyone.  But, if the idea of playing as an anthropomorphic mutant animal, fighting to survive in a post-apocalyptic robot-controlled research camp, sounds like fun ... then (based on the reviews)  you're likely going to enjoy Mutant: Genlab Alpha.