Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Mutant Epoch: Walking Through Character Generation - Meet Fermi!

Today I start off an overview of The Mutant Epoch by way of a walkthough on character generation. After loading up the official Mutant Epoch Dice Roller, I decide on a couple preliminary basics (name, and he has a mother) then plunge right into the thick of it…so without further adieu:

Meet Fermi.

Fermi is undefined and amorphous, but I know this much about him: he had a mother, and that mother owned a book, a biography of the great Enrico Fermi. She didn’t understand much about the book, and couldn’t read much of it, but the cryptic nature of the book fascinated her endlessly. She decided, after learning she was pregnant with a child that she (amazingly) carried to term as a healthy baby boy, to name him Enrico Fermi after the man in the book. Maybe this man’s greatness would rub off on her son…

I’m new to TME so I think I’ll roll on the beginning player chart in the book for just what sort of type Fermi is. 71! Fermi was born a “mild mutant.” In the ordinary world this could be bad….mutations caused by chemicals or radiation are a bad thing, m’kay, but luckily this is a mutant of the Mutant Epoch, so Fermi is destined to be better off….looks like he starts with rolls for prime mutations, minor mutations and a chance of a flaw. A few quick rolls and we’ve got 2 prime mutations, 2 minor mutations and (yay!) no flaw. But more about that later, I’ve skipped ahead a bit here.

TME defines characters by traits, also known as attributes and statistcs in other games. Here we’re looking at endurance, strength, agility, accuracy, intelligence, perception, willpower and appearance. Goooooood. I like a game that puts perception right out there as a primary feature, it’s a pet peeve of mine when it’s missing or condemned to a skill check.

TME offers a few ways to calculate these scores. I’m going to stick with the standard system, in which all eight stats are rolled I order, with no trades, switches or other gimmicks to make them better. Fermi’s going to be all Old School here. Traits are determined by rolling D100 and comparing them to a chart. The chart favors stats in the lower range (25-40 seem to be the norm) but the values can plummet or skyrocket on particularly unusual rolls. It’s an interesting and different way to handle point spreads.

A few quick rolls and I get the following:

Endurance 23 – Fermi gets colds all the time. He might be asthmatic.

Strength 41 – Fermi’s got some muscles, he can haul firewood, carcasses and relic tech with the rest of the tribe.

Agility 57 – nimble fellow!

Accuracy 41 – He can hit a doom moth at range without too much trouble.

Intelligence 27 – Fermi apparently didn’t learn to read or absorb much of his mom’s lessons.

Perception 56 – A keen observer! Good trait for surviving the post-apocalyptic wasteland.

Willpower 25 – low average. Fermi is easily influenced.

Appearance 98 – score! Rolled a 98 on the chart, which means his actual stat is 80+1D20. Fermi is a handsome dude.

Like all good RPGs (and especially the old school RPGs) TME has value modifiers, also known as secondary characteristics, derived from his traits. Right now he’s got a low healing rate (3), okay damage modifier to melee attacks (+4) and decent strength range (+10% bonus to how far he can throw things), decent defensive value modifier for being agile (-6) and is slightly faster (+.75meters/round), slight accuracy bonus to his strike value (+2) and a +1 initiatve modifier for being perceptive. These might change if his traits get warped later on, we’ll see.

Like all survivors of the Mutant Epoch Fermi has a caste which tells us what he’s been doing up until the point at which he, for whatever reason, set out into the wide world to start adventuring. His caste will suggest a lot about who he was, how he grew up and what he was taught about himself and the world. So going to the “mutant” column I click the D100 button and get…6! Gladiator Slave!!!!! Well now we know why he has a low intelligence and willpower…maybe he was enslaved at a young age.

Just for the record, TME offers up thirty possible castes/careers which include the mundane (fisher, miner and logger) and the exotic (pirate, draftee, watchman). Castes tell you what sort of skills you might start with, and fill in some background history. They might give you some other weird background details, as we shall see below…

Right off the bat Fermi gets some trait modifiers for being a gladiator slave. His attributes change accordingly:

Endurance 37 – all that fighting has hardened him into almost normal levels of health!

Strength 55 – he’s gotten his work out in the arena.

Agility 58 – a tiny improvement.

Accuracy 46 – likewise.

Intelligence 22 – brains…stagnating….killing….requires….less….book smarts….!

Perception 59 – Already decent vision has gotten better as he learns to watch out for danger!

Willpower 22 – time as a slave has made him even more submissive.

Appearance 89 – his natural beauty has been marred by a few scars, maybe a broken nose….I guess you could say Fermi is looking a bit “rugged” now. Even with all that he’s still a handsome fellow.

He has an outfitting code: ESC. This will be important later, it lets him look up his starting gear.

As a gladiator slave Fermi has automatically started with D3 levels in brawling; I rolled a 1…hmmm, guess I know why he took a few beatings to the face now. He also gets 4+1D4 rolls to the warriors skills table. I roll 8 total, this is good.

Starting skills come from a chart that you roll on based upon skill set (warrior, in this case). Each roll is equivalent to 1 skill point in the determined skill. Some skills stack, some don’t, some do other things.

Rolling percentiles I get the following:

Unarmed Combat 1 – essential basic skill. Unarmed combat is either brawling or martial arts. He’s already got a point in brawling, and you only start with one or the other at Rank 1 either by caste or roll, so brawling it is…now with 2 points instead.

Riding 1 – Maybe they made the gladiators ride beasts of war into skirmishes?

Weapons Expert 3 – Good skill to have for what he does. This can apply to an offensive mutation or to a rolled weapon group. I think a weapon group would be handy….I roll 98 on the chart and get pistols. Interesting! But Fermi is an escaped slave so he doesn’t start with a weapon in his possession (yet).

Grapple 2 – close combat grappling was a decent survival skill, apparently. Still, should he get his hands on one, 3 points in pistols gives him +8 strike value and +6 to damage bonus.

Stealth 1 – he’s learned to hide when necessary.

Okay, now he’s starting to look like he could live through a few fights!

Skills are defined in specific ways in TME. The rank of a skill reflects specific characteristics and should be looked up and noted for reference; it is not the same as, say, Traveller skills where the rank applies to rolls as a modifier.

TME uses a “Hazard Check” (i.e. saving throw) mechanic to resolve conflicts. You cross-reference the relevant skill with the hazard check code (from A to E or higher…higher letter codes are tougher) and make a percentile check to overcome the matter. As an example, Grappling 2 offers two codes: Hazard Code C to resist his attacks and Hazard Code B for holding on.

There are a few more things to determine. Gladiator slaves are rough, brutal and short-lived fellows who usually survive by escaping. There’s a 94% chance a “wanted-alive” bounty is on Fermi’s head, and after rolling 54 the answer is yes: his former owners want him back, and alive, for more fun in the arena. This is one of many bits of bait that I like to call “fodder for the GM” that caste backgrounds offer. He also has a 2% chance he can read and write, and an 11 rolled says nope, even if he was on track for literacy early in life, he didn’t retain it, and his owners did not see fit to educate their slave.

While we’re at it lets get his base physical stats down: he’s a hefty 94kg but is a stocky and short 1.69 meters tall. He’s left handed –just like his player, yay- and he can’t swim. Guess being a slave hasn’t afforded Fermi any opportunities to learn. Fermi is only 18 years old at the start of his career as a free man, too. This is good; he’s the minimum adult standard, so no modifiers by age apply for now. And yes, all of these are accounted and rolled for in the book.

So now we’re back to what it means to be a minor mutant. He’s got 2 prime mutations and 2 minor mutations, and is fortunate not to have any flaws. He also gets to figure out a few other fun traits as well, such as:

Skin Color: pitch black! This sounds like inky black, not African American black. At least I didn’t roll teal or carrot….

Hair Color: rusty

Eye Color: grape colored. Hmmm….except for the hair, he really does sound like Drizzt.

Timefor those mutations. This chart is an impressive D1000. I don’t think I’ve actually had to roll a D1000 chart since my Ysgarth days. Two rolls first on the prime mutations: 402 and 279! Then two on the secondary (on a D100): 65 and 42…let’s see what we have wrought:

The Prime Mutations:

Fanged – What it says; a quick roll and it is determined that Fermi’s got regular old fangs with a +4 strike value and a D10 damage roll. He loses a point of appearance, however (but see next…)

Deviant Skin Structure – this takes me to another chart with a D12 roll. He’s got Reflective Skin it turns out. Holy crap, he looks like the guys from Wetworks! Metallic reflective skin, can’t sunburn, lasers and other beam weapons have a 70% chance of being deflected (and do half damage if they get through)….and he gains an extra D8 Appearance for being so freakin’ cool (bumps his Appearance up to 94…Fermi can make everything look good, heh!)

The Minor Mutations:

Physical Alterations (twice) – The physical alteration chart calls for two percentile checks. I snag 21 and 19, leading to: Bulbous Eyes –eewww (drops Appearance to 92) and give him a better field of vision adding +1 to initiative checks; also, a Bulbous Head!!!! Fermi is starting to sound like a golden metallic alien grey. This is a good thing for the smarts department however. He loses 4 more Appearance (now 88) but gains 2D20 INT (bumping it 25 points to a decent 47, and an additional D20 to his WILL as well for a total of 38. Finally, he’s got a 77% chance of D2 ghost mutations, and rolling a 38 confirms it….he’s got 1, it turns out. Flipping back to the ghost and lambent mutations chart I roll percentiles and get 64…Mental Mine. What is Mental Mine? Why it’s an orb of glowing green energy he can generate once per day per rank (rank here being equivalent to “level” elsewhere). It deals D20+INT modifier damage; his INT modifier (+4) damage. He can leave it around like a mine, throw it, or time it for explosion. Cool.

Fermi is now one weird looking dude. He’s going to stand out in a crowd (well, maybe not so much in the Epoch of Mutants, but…well, you get the idea.) And remember: he’s a minor mutant!

Time for some gear. Fermi’s caste gear code was ESC, which means escaped slave or prisoner. As such, he starts with the following, much of which is rolled for on percentages (I’m only going to list what was rolled for):

Tattered slave garb (luckily NOT flea infested! Yes you do roll to check)

He’s not presently wounded, nor does he have a black eye (rolled 43, had a 42% chance of starting off play wounded from his escape; yes, you roll for both of these—how cool is that? It’s as if Classic Traveller let you make a survival roll, then when you failed you got to roll to see if you died in an airlock accident, or maybe accidental laser discharge, or alien herpes or who knows what. I love this stuff!)

He is the proud owner of numerous whip scars on his back. His only satisfaction is knowing that the laser whips were all but useless against him…

He has one regular round of pistol ammo he managed to hold onto.

Spiked leather armor, a spiked shield and an iron helmet! Guess he escaped in his fighting armor.

A hatchet. Well, beggars can’t be choosers…..but honestly he’s going to be better at hitting with his fists than this thing.

Finally, we establish that Fermi is Rank 1. He has no experience factors (alias experience points) yet, and his starting Strike Value is 01-50. All of his SV bonuses add to this….so if he is attacking with his fists (brawling) his 2 skill points give him a +5 SV bonus, and his accuracy bonus to attacks is +4, making his brawling SV total 01-59 at Rank 1. Naturally DV values reduce the SV making things harder to hit/penetrate.

So what do we know about Fermi now? He had a loving mother who named him after a person in a sacred ancient book, but at a young age he was sold or captured into slavery. He was impressively handsome despite his alien eyes, head and skin and was placed in the gladiatorial arenas, perhaps as a curiosity, but he struggled and survived until he was able to escape into the wide world with much of his fighting gear. Fermi now stands at the threshold of the wasteland a free mutant, but with the threat of bounty hunters seeking to drag him back to his former master.

Fermi's final character sheet:
Enrico Fermi

Type: Mutant (minor); Former Caste: gladiator slave

Appearance: pitch black reflective skin, purple-grape bulbous eyes, a bulbous head, with rusty colored hair (probably long and in a braid to keep it out of the way from his fights); he has whip scars on his back. Gender: male Age: 18 Weight: 94kg Height: 1.69 meters

Traits: Endurance 37; Strength 55; Agility 58; Accuracy 46; Intelligence 47; Perception 59; Willpower 38; Appearance 88

Secondary Stats: Move: 6.75 meters; Healing Rate 4; Melee Damage Bonus +6; +30% strength range; Agility DV -6; Acc SV +4; Initiative Modifier +2

Skills: Brawling 2, Grapple 2, Riding 1, Stealth 1, Weapon Expert (pistols) 3

Mutations: fangs (medium), deviant skin structure (reflective skin), bulbous eyes, bulbous head, mental mine (1D20+4 damage; ranges based on WILL)

Gear: hatchet, spiked leather armor, spiked shield, iron helmet, one regular round of pistol ammo, tattered slave garb.

Armor: Total DV -27 (-6 AGL, -16 armor, -5 shield);

Weapons: Hatchet (SV 01-54; 1D12+6 damage); Brawling (SV: 01-59; 1D6+8 damage); If he ever gets a pistol his SV is 01-62 with a +6 damage modifier for skill.

In the end, Fermi looks something like a cross between this:

And This:

Next: some Mutant Epoch Adventuring!


  1. Thank you for this. I've only rolled up a few characters myself (I got an engineer cat, and a pleasure droid), so it was a hoot seeing someone else go through the process.

    I haven't actually tried out playing the game, though. Any insights or opinions?

  2. Soon, hopefully! I have had a very positive response from my two player groups after showing off the game, and it is now a matter of scheduling (getting through the holidays, basically). In the meantime, to continue familiarizing myself with the system I intend to walk through the mechanical side of actions and the GM side of designing scenarios in a couple near-future columns (next one by Xmas morning hopefully).

  3. Awesome post! It's great to seem someone as excited about The Mutant Epoch as I am. Keep the posts coming!!!

  4. I highly enjoyed your character creation exploits. Nice! Makes me even more excited for the The Mutant Epoch!

  5. Looking for a table of every character type so that my players get to have a good variety any suggestions?