The guys over at Midnight's Lair put together a very nice review of Mutant Future, based on a game they ran at Draconis, a game convention in Canada. I just want to shout out a thanks to those guys, and I'm very glad they had a good time!
This review is very interesting to me because from some of their comments I take them to be more "modern gamers," or part of the "new school" instead of "old school" to some extent. What I mean by that is gamers who are more accustomed to sort of streamlined game systems and games that spend a lot more time talking about "story" and role playing.
One of the things I think is very cool about this review is that we get a window into seeing how modern gamers who are "old-school curious" react to older games. But in truth I don't know the gaming background of the reviewers, and how much they played older games, but I *think* this is a fair assessment of their leanings based in the comments.
One of the things that came up was that they felt some of the rules were not well thought out or considered, like saving throws and how to find traps. I think this feeling comes for a couple of reasons. First, Mutant Future is designed to be compatible with Labyrinth Lord. So there are constraints, but mainly rules like these are designed to be simple. This isn't a skills-base system. It assumes that everyone can pretty much attempt anything, so what you have are guidelines that can be used as written or adapted on the fly to other situations.
But, I don't want to spend a lot of time commenting on those sorts of observations. I think it's fair for people who are used to more "unified" and "story driven" games to find elements of Mutant Future confusing. Also I think the reviewers recognize where these design choices come from. What I do want to say something about is how the reviewers seemed a bit baffled about how to take the wacky randomness of Mutant Future and run a story-driven game session.
Part of this bafflement is due to the fact that older games, and I mean specifically D&D and their variants prior to AD&D 2e, are not "story driven" in the same way a lot of modern games are. If you go back to the older modules, whether for AD&D or Gamma World, what you have are skeletons of a story. You have a situation that is described only as much as the referee needs to throw the characters into it. The actual story emerges in play, as the characters interact with the environment and each other. There is no compulsion that the characters actually "finish" the module in the way it was "intended," or that they follow a specific path and have interactions A, B, and C required to take place in any order.
This is in contrast to games that emphasis the story and have more rules surrounding how to create a story. In old-school games this is taken for granted because they assume you know how to tell a story, that you don't need any rules about how to play your character. It is up to the characters to help tell the story, based on the situation and how the dice fall. That is one difference between some story driven games, that randomness is seen as bad to the story. I disagree, but I recognize that these are two different approaches.
One thing I think that can sum up some of the difference between old-school and "new-school" story driven games is that old-school embraces the fact that it is a game, and everything that goes with it. Randomness, character death, these are all opportunities, not limitations. It's true that old-school typically means that the dice decide when randomness is a factor...but not always. Referees have always fudged die rolls. What do people think the GM screen is for, anyway? It isn't entirely to hide the GM's notes. Brutal interpretation of the dice is definitely, at least to me, an old-school characteristic but it doesn't have to always take place.
So, certainly adventures are possible but they need to be designed in a way that makes them flexible. They have to be able to adapt no matter what the players decide or how the dice fall. The story can't necessarily be geared toward everything culminating into a particular encounter or situation.
Anyway, what a great review! I'm very happy to be seeing people enjoy Mutant Future!