Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Mutant: Year Zero: 36 Plots for Roles

I’m currently running Mutant: Year Zero for the Gauntlet Hangouts. (You can see the sessions here). It’s an experiment in continuity. The thirteen sessions run through the first quarter of the year. The Ark, the homestead for the PCs, remains and grows throughout. The cast of PCs can change from game to game. As they come in new players can add to the lore and description of the community.

When I reviewed M: YZ, I mentioned I’d like to see more tools for events within the Ark. Free League’s released 5 Zone Compendiums which detail exploration of the Zone. But the game’s written to split the time between at-home and away. It has great tools (the NPC generators, certain Threats), but could use more development and support.

Below I’ve created six plot hooks for each role from the core rules. I start with some questions about the role and how it fits into the community. The GM can answer these or use them as prompts for collaboration. Some of these plots border on being Threats and a GM could connect them to random session problems. I can also see these as just scenes, a chance for players to explore and use their unique skills and talents.

BOSS
What’s the dynamic between the Ark’s Bosses? If you’re going to create a general relationship map, that’s a good place to start (so players can “Yojimbo” it if they want to). Have there been other Bosses? How do they rise up? How obviously do the Bosses display their character traits? How does the Ark react to racketeering?

1. A gang member from a rival Boss wants to defect to the PC Boss gang. Why? What will it take to have that happen? Is there a conspiracy afoot? What if it’s instead someone wanting to leave the gang?
2. One of their gang members harms or kills someone they shouldn’t. What happened? Does the PC Boss make it right? What kind of discipline do they keep?
3. Another Boss wants to sit down with the PC about territory and space. Can they be trusted? How do two Bosses negotiate and ensure compliance? What do the other Bosses think of any cozy relationship?
4. Information seems to be slipping out from the PC’s gang to another Boss. Is it coming from one of their own or is it a new tech/power? What kind of information’s being passed?
5. There’s rumblings among the community that something needs to be done about the Boss system. If these malcontents act, do they use non-cooperation, sabotage, or something else? Does the PC work to undermine the organization, strike at ringleaders, or demonstrate the value of their gang?
6. Someone seems to be gathering people close to them: bribes, secret meetings, etc. Are they a new Boss or is something else going on? If they are, how does the PC Boss respond?

CHRONICLER
What’s the relationship between the Chroniclers and the Elder? Do they act as gatekeepers, isolating the weakened Elder from the Ark? Or do they simply aid and listen to the Elder? How do they handle obvious Dawn Vault violations? At the present Culture level, what kinds of writing/recording technologies exist in the Ark? Is there a hierarchy among the Chroniclers?

1. Someone has marked places in the Ark with sigils or graffiti (at the Culture level of community). The PC Chronicler is called on to interpret or to suss out who has been doing it. Are the writings screeds against the Elder, satirical comments, prophecies, or something else?
2. Rumors spread that someone uncovered a stash of colorful documents and writings but has refused to share it with the Dawn Vault. Who has it and what knowledge does it offer?
3. With the Elder clearly aging, it’s become unclear who will be the next voice of wisdom within the Ark. One or two Chroniclers have begun to make political maneuvers: making promises, gathering allies. Will the PC Chronicler do the same, speak against it, or join a side?
4. A Boss’ gang has been remarkably healthy of late. They’ve treated some illnesses and diseases which have vexed the community. But so far they’ve said nothing and shared no details of their medicines or treatments.
5. The murder of a beloved member shakes the community. How does the Chronicler deal with the atmosphere of resignation, fear, and hopelessness?
6. One of the factions (a cult, gang, or household) has begun preaching and writing their own history, with their own symbol set and coded language. Are the spreading misinformation or revealing the truth? How do these new stories affect the old ones?

DOG HANDLER
Where do the dogs come from? Is there one lineage of canines or multiple breeds? How are they replaced? Is there a formal process for choosing Handlers? Is there a central kennel or does everyone “A Boy a His Dog” it in different areas?

1. There’s rumblings in the camp about the value of the dogs. Some people question feeding the animals. Does anyone take action? How does the PC Dog Handler justify their role?
2. A fellow Dog Handler died recently. They had a particularly excellent beast. Now there’s arguments over who will take on his animal and how to handle that. Can a dog even change masters?
3. One of Dog Handlers is experimenting with crueler and more vicious treatment to push their animal. It might be successful, at a cost, but could spur others to try such inhumane methods. How does the PC Dog Handler react?
4. The kennel or pen the PC Dog Handler uses has become contaminated. They must find and secure a new location in the Ark for themselves.
5. The Handler’s dog has begun barking and reacting badly to a fellow mutant in the Ark. Until now, the animal exhibited no reaction to the subject. What’s going on? How does the PC follow up? If the cause is something sinister, does it spread?
6. Rumor has it that a Boss or Fixer found litter of zone dogs some time ago. Rather than turn them over or train them, they’ve used them to fight captured beasts or other dogs as a spectator sport. How does the PC Dog Handler stop this?

ENFORCER
Any PC Enforcer’s going to be a badass obviously, but what’s the pecking order among the Enforcers of the Ark? Are most Enforcers affiliated with a Boss or do they operate solo? Is there any kind of formal training among them?

1. A fellow Enforcer takes a liking to something or someone the PC has feelings for or protects. The aggressor's reputed as badass among Enforcers. The target’s feelings remain ambiguous. Does this lead to a throw down or is there another solution?
2. Someone asks the PC Enforcer for fighting lessons. If they agree, they’ll have to figure out a training program. If the PC does well, they may have other clients looking for their services.
3. One of the Bosses offers the PC Enforcer a sweet deal to join up. However this Boss has strange beliefs and behaviors. What’s a deal breaker and why are they asking the PC? Perhaps someone else asks them to accept the offer to get info or organize a coup.
4. Another Enforcer secures badass artifact armor (kinetic repulsion wear, personal force field device). They begin to lord it over others and disrupt the status quo. How does the PC Enforcer react? Is the item keyed to that Enforcer or can it be taken?
5. The Elder, one of the Chroniclers, or even a Boss announces a new position (Watch Commander, Gate Keeper, Knight). They set up a competition, which may involve serious risk. The winner gets a secure grub supply and status.
6. A Chronicler, Gearhead, or Fixer offers the PC a job as a personal bodyguard for the next week. But the situation’s more complicated: someone’s trying to assassinate them, they’ve made an enemy of a Boss, something followed them from the zone, or they have a romantic interest in the Enforcer.

FIXER
We know from the core book that a barter economy exists. Is that solely Fixers or a more general group of people? Do the Fixers simply take advantage? What’s the relationship between Fixers and Bosses (who control resources) or Gearheads (who make things)? Are there other creators or scavengers? The economy will change throughout the game (better purchasing price for grub bullets, new items available, possibly the establishment of a Market); how does that impact Fixers?

1. There’s some high quality booze floating around the Ark, but no one’s saying where it came from. Who got it and how can the PC get a slice of that action?
2. One of the Fixer’s clients has come up with a new flavor additive (for booze, grub, or even water). How can they monopolize this discovery? Is the additive safe?
3. The Fixer discovers a mutant has a stash of minor but valuable artifacts hidden away somewhere in the Ark. Do they report the withholding from the Dawn Vault, steal the goods for themselves, or something else?
4. A Gearhead asks the Fixer for some very particular pieces of scrap. They seem innocuous enough, but getting all of them will take some serious trading. What is the Gearhead making?
5. There’s a thief in the Ark. While Fixers lift things from time to time, this person’s getting everyone upset and raising the heat level. Does the Fixer lie low or try to correct the situation? What happens if some of their stuff gets taken?
6. Two mutants have formed a close personal bond (romantic or otherwise). However they’re associated with two rival Bosses. They come to the Fixer asking for help in finding a way out. Are they on the level? Are there other factors at play?

GEARHEAD
How is technical knowledge acquired? Given all mutants in the Ark are the same age, we probably don’t have masters teaching. Is it lore from the Elder? Drawings? Instinct? How do the Gearheads operate—independently? Under a Boss? In a group? Or is it some mix of that? What kinds of responsibilities do they have and what are they building for the general economy? What’s the going price for ID’ing an item?

1. Someone comes to the Gearhead with a custom job they want, an item “tricked-out” or decorated. If they agree what’s the ramifications for the Ark? Does the person gain status or mockery? Is there an escalating competition to see who can look the most dangerous?
2. One of their fellow Gearheads is completely under the thumb of a Boss. The victim has some skills other Gearheads envy. What do they know? Is it worth the energy to try to get this person out?
3. There’s talk among the Gearheads about setting minimum prices for goods and services. Does this create pressure on the PC to charge their companions more (or at all)? Or does the discussion create pushback from Bosses and Fixers.
4. Someone’s buying up and hording a particular kind of scrap. It’s making jury-rigging more difficult. Who is it and why have they done this? Can the Gearhead track down other sources or will they have to find a way to pry it away from the hoarder?
5. A Gearhead blows up their shop—injuring several mutants (part of the end of session loss of life). There’s rumors that the Elder may limit what Gearheads can do. Bosses might take advantage of this to strong-arm independent Gearheads into their fold. What does the PC Gearhead do to protect their interests?
6. Among the scrap, the Gearhead finds an object that attaches itself physically to them. It grants a mutation power (GM sets what that is), but it has independent thought, speaks in their head, and sometimes takes over their body. How do they deal with it? Do they sever whatever limb it’s attached to or learn to live with it? How do others react?

STALKER
Always interesting to look at what drives the Stalkers. What pushed them to be the first to leave the Ark? Do the PC Stalker’s motivations differ from any NPC’s? How do they operate in the zone? How much communication is their between them?

1. A fellow Stalker comes to warn the PC about a particularly dangerous place they found in the zone. Is it true? What do they describe?
2. A Fixer approaches the Stalker offering bullets to be taken out to a sector close to the Ark. They seem suspicious and want to make sure the trip is secret from others. If the Stalker agrees, what do they find? What’s the Fixer’s angle?
3. Mutants have been returning from the Zone and not turning things over (likely including the PCs). Now there’s talk of more heavy-handed enforcement of Dawn Vault rules. Some Chroniclers and Bosses like the idea as it potentially gives them more control. How does the PC Stalker respond?
4. A fellow Stalker vanishes. No one but the PC Stalker remembers them. What is going on?
5. A Chronicler asks for the Stalker to bring back different samples of Rot. Why? Curiosity? Making a weapon? Trying to hide that the usual decontamination procedures have begun to break down?
6. One of the other Stalkers stops going out into the Zone. They become isolated and withdrawn. What’s going on? Did they see something that shook them, have they lost confidence, or have they become obsessed with something they found out there?

SLAVE
The Slave’s a tough role and the group needs to have a conversation about what “slavery” means in the context of the game. Is the PC a former slave? What kinds of rules are their? In my games it’s been more of an indentured servitude, protection racket, or serfdom. But I’ve also suggested players might want to carefully consider the role before picking it. In any case you’ll have to tweak these plots based on that.

1. The last several casualties in the Ark have been fellow Slaves. Most don’t think anything of it, but the PC Slave can tell something’s going on. What’s happening?
2. Someone wants to buy the PC Slave’s service/mastery from the owner. Is this person reputedly good, an abuser, or something more complicated. How does the owner respond?
3. Some Slaves find a refuge spot hidden away within the Ark. What does the PC Slave do to support, protect, or reveal this temporary retreat. How will that change if some of the Slaves start using this as a means to escape?
4. The Slaves of a particular Boss have become strangely docile and unquestioning. What’s going on? Does the Boss have an artifact or technique they’re using to create this change?
5. A Slave badly injures one of the Bosses. This sets all the Bosses on edge and some begin to test for obedience and loyalty. How far do they push this?
6. The PC Slave’s owner or controller dies. Alternately someone forces them to give up their influence. The PC's fellow group of slaves will be distributed across the Bosses. How is that handled or negotiated? How does the PC deal with this?

Other ideas? Anything especially cool from your own games?