Tuesday, November 10, 2009

MF Races vs. LL Classes or "What You Are vs. What You Do"

(Bear with me on the intro. I swear I'll bring this back to Mutant Future in a moment...)

One of the more hotly debated issues of Labyrinth Lord's design is the matter of "race as class." In the RPG, demi-humans are a class defined by their race. Humans can be clerics, fighters, magic-users, and thieves, whereas dwarves, halflings, and elves can be - well - dwarves, halflings, and elves. In LL, there are no "dwarven clerics" or "halfling thieves." Although is vastly simplifies the system, it isn't loved by all players, feeling that it limits character construction. Dan Proctor - the game's designer - has addressed this issue in the past, offering several ways to split the races away from the classes. Off the top of my head, he's discussed it in "Breaking Up Can Be So Hard" in Scribe of Orcus Vol. 1, Issue 3 (available at RPGNow), as well as at his blog.

Now to bring this issue back to Mutant Future. In MF, characters are designed in an opposite manner - based on a "race" rather than a "class." Characters are not defined by what they can do or what they were trained in ala thievery or magic-casting. Rather they are defined by how they were born and/or created (for our robotic characters). In much the same way as "race as class" feels limiting in LL, I feel that "class as race" is limiting in MF. So what options might we have to expound upon this?

I've given this some thought, and here is a rough, not-fully-fleshed-out concept I have. "Race" is obviously more important in MF than it is in LL since your race defines the number and extent of your mutations - pretty much the basis of the game. So if "Classes" were introduced into MF, I see them being defined as "an additional set of unique skills and abilities that a character has been trained and/or educated in." Your born into a race, but you've been trained into your class.

For example, after a character has been rolled up (a mutant hamster with pyrokinesis named "Herman"), there could be an additional class selected by the player. Herman studied mechanics and Ancient artifact repair and is now classified as a "tinkerer." As a tinkerer, Herman gets an additional +10% to identify and repair Ancient tech. He may also be trained to "MacGyver" a needed item out of junk on-hand once per week. So we still have a mutant fire-throwing hamster, but he now has a special set of skills that helps define the character. (So he won't be confused with all of the other fire-throwing hamsters in the Mutant Future!)

So, in this vein, here are some sample "Classes" that could be introduced into the Mutant Future:
  • Tinkerer - Good at repairs and inventing. Receives a bonus to ID/fix Ancient tech. May be able to create devices at a moment's notice.
  • Scavenger - Knows where to go to find any needed item in the junklands. Receives bonuses when scavenging or making trades with traders. May be able to find hidden things and/or find the best routes through Ancient ruins.
  • Brute - Is good at hitting things with other things. Trained in hand-to-hand combat. Gets a bonus to hit with close-combat weapons. Can build weapons.
  • Marksman - Same as a Brute only with ranged weapons.
  • Scholar - Can read Ancient languages and/or knows more of Ancient history than most. May not be able to fix tech, but can more easily tell you what it is, what it does, and how to turn it on. Knows where to go for information. May even know how to use Ancient computers for research.
  • Wheelman - Can fix/repair vehicles as well as drive them well. May even start with a small vehicle.
  • Medic - Familiar with first aid techniques on biological lifeforms. May know how to use most Ancient medical tech. Can "heal" injuries, allowing characters to regain hit points more quickly.
You get my drift. Classes would simply define those areas that they were trained in, giving them some minor benefits to their abilities as well as opening up the game for additional role-playing opportunities. Perhaps I'll hammer out this concept into some future supplemental material. If you have input or ideas or additional classes, I'd love to hear 'em.


  1. Your rundown seems to cover the basic post-apoc archetypes. I suspect anything else one could devise would "fold into" one (or more)of these.

  2. Oh there could be more:

    Naturalist - Has studied the new ecology. Can ID most flora and fauna and name the creature's/plant's muations and weaknesses. Can track animals and find lost paths (basically a druid).
    Survialist - Has built himself to withstand the harshness of the outlands. Immune to many poisons and receivs a bonus on radiation svaes. Can locate food/water in almost any location.

  3. I pretty much let my players have access to that sort of stuff by putting it into their background or simply expressing a desire at the table to learn how to do X, Y or Z. For instance, Beyonce Chai, fighter pilot from the past who was revived from cryogenic stasis, gets some bonuses to combat and is a trained pilot because of her background. Dataan the data entry bot gets bonuses to tech rolls having to do with computers from his centuries of enforced servitude by the Ooh Oh Monks. When Ron Burgundy the miniature wolf-man wanted to learn how to backstab and do extra damage, I told him that each time he rolled a natural 20 while trying to backstab he would have learned from the experience and would do extra damage (on top of the double damage I always award for rolling a 20) - if Ron had lived long enough, I would have probably given him the ability to backstab whenever he the jump on someone after rolling four natural 20's on backstab attempts.

    I guess what I am saying is that while I am into giving players options, I just sort of ruled these options in on the fly and it has worked out fine. If anything, this is supporting evidence that adding classes to Mutant Future would work, because I more or less did just that by another name.

  4. On the "Lush Valley" level of the Metamorphosis Alpha" MF game I'm going to spring on my players, I have most humans divided into three or four tribes. These tribes are descended from International village groups that existed on the ship pre-event. An Irish village, a German village, and an Italian village. The Irish evolved into woodsmen, the Germans viking-like metal workers, and the Italians into a "Roman Empire" types who are more advanced and civilized.

    So folk from different towns/cultures would be somewhat different in skills, combat techniques, etc. How I'm going to go about that, I dunno yet. But human PC's will need to have some starting differences of some kind to set them apart (Irish have archery and other "elf" skills and weapons to start, the Germans are sort of like "dwarves" in that they work metal and use big swords and axes, etc.).

    After several games, the party will leave the "valley" and start exploring the ship. How I make starting humans different at that point will take some thought...