Welcome back, dice fondlers! Last week, we finished up character creation for our team of post-apocalyptic mutants. This week, we’re diving in to create the Ark they live in and whose well-being is going to be the crux of our adventures in Mutant: Year Zero. Are you ready to build a shelter for the People at the End of Time? Good! Let’s get started.
The First Steps of Wordbuilding
First things first, before we can define the Ark, we have to figure out where the Zone it resides in is located. Mutant: Year Zero comes with some great sample Zones to get your creative juices flowing, as well as providing a template on their website if you decide to create something from scratch.
Before putting together a map of your Zone, you and your players should first create a broad outline of the features you want in your Zone. Is your Zone heavily forested? Is it a desert? How thick is it with the ruins of prior civilizations? What sort of bizarre research facilities might’ve been hidden within its borders?
Make the Zone Your Home
A tactic I personally find helpful when I create my first world inside a new game system is to recreate my hometown as the setting. Then I find what unique features exist there that can turn into story hooks. In my case, the local power plant and the ruins of a sea of factories would set a very specific tone. The power plant might even have been repurposed by nefarious forces who are using it to extend their reach across the post-apocalyptic landscape. Let your imagination run wild.
Starting with your hometown, at least for your first world, gives you another benefit. When we move to the second step, creating the map for your custom Zone, you already have space to work with. As mentioned above, you can certainly go with one of the pre-generated Zones that Modiphius has created for you, as they are quite nice. However, if you want to stretch your abilities, incredible fun awaits by using your local map and theorizing what it could look like after a flurry of apocalypses hammered it.
Use Modiphius’ Zone template and start by seeing what chunk of the map gets you the best cross-section of your hometown. The center of the Zone typically has the worst Rot, so keep that under consideration when you start lining up your local landmarks.
D.I.Y. Ark Creation
The positioning for your Ark itself shouldn’t be quite on the edge of the map, nor dead in the Zone center (again, because of storytelling caveats), so you’ll want to guide your players’ Zone creation so that plenty of interesting Ark locations are still viable when they move to the next step.
In this case, as we’re talking about taking your local area and turning it into your wasteland du jour, we’re going to combine the next two steps. Typically, your table would decide what kind of Ark they dwell within, whether it is the ruins of an ancient mall, the skeletal remains of an oil rig, an abandoned jail turned fortress, a sprawling, junkyard-turned city, or even a fortified subway station. In this case, your players will often be selecting a landmark they are already familiar with and turning it into the Ark of their desires. Encourage out-of-the-box thinking! How did the local mall change? What strange religious or otherwise meaning have the inhabitants given its ancient contents? Or perhaps they’ve given it no such meaning, and view it purely as a testament to the failings of the previous civilization. Once your players feel comfortable with their choice of Ark, you can move onto the nitty-gritty.
Group Project: Map It Out
That’s right, kiddies! it’s time for the most fun part of worldbuilding as a group: map-making. You might think I’m being facetious, as plenty of us gamers hate group projects, but I adore group map-making. Your players are already working with a place that they have memories of, so the rough outline will be easy to sketch. After that, have each player go around the table and create one building or shelter within the Ark, defining its purpose. We can condense down several of our later steps in one fell swoop this way.
Ask pointed questions of your players— where does the Elder live? Where do the Bosses of the Ark live? Who dominates what territory? Where do the players live? With each building a player creates, have them create an NPC associated with it. It can be a rival Boss, a Fixer that operates out of that building— again, run wild.
As your Ark grows, be sure to keep your settlement capped to around 200 people. Mutant: Year Zero makes this recommendation, and I have to agree. Two hundred is small enough to keep the drama in the Ark personal but leaves room to create NPCs later to fill whatever role you need. Also, as you build your Ark, keep in mind that most important of resource— fresh water. How do the People get clean water? Is obtaining it dangerous? Are there other groups vying for your water source?
Once you’ve finished building your map, let your players sit back and take a moment to appreciate what they’ve created. Why? Because next week, we’re going to talk about tech development levels, the People’s projects, and your characters’ Dens. Until then, my wasteland wanderers, remember to….