In working on No Man's Land: The Mutant Front I've come to grips with the notion that just a few changes in the background of a Mutant Future setting and the nature of the campaign can make for a decidedly different experience.
The baseline scenario for Mutant Future campaigns is based on three general assumptions. In brief review they are:
1. An advanced technological civilization suffered a collapse which reduced mankind to a primitive society for centuries. The game takes place after civilization has struggled back to a mean technological level of the middle ages.
2. Ruins and advanced technology are present and those in the know can deploy and even repair these treasures.
3. The ruin of civilization also gave rise to strange mutated creatures turning the world into a strange and dangerous place.
The pinnacle that civilization achieved and the technological wonders it made use of will have an impact on a Mutant Future campaign. If the campaign is set in a world where the Cuban missile crisis ended in WW3 or a chemically created zombie plague was caused by foolish teenagers and a corrupt government research program in the 80's the remains of civilization are going to stray from that of a "normal" mutant future campaign.
Varying the state of technology at the time of the ruin will change what artifacts may be scavenged in the ruins and have a direct impact on play. In a setting lacking powerful high-tech devices non-mutants may be severely disadvantaged.
What civilization (or what passes for it) retains or continues to develop will of course impact a campaign. If PCs are neo-cavemen sporting lead-pipe clubs and traffic-sign shields struggling against robotic predators or are Hippie telepaths employing 28th century biotech to defend themselves from musket carrying armies of the 11th Reich the campaign is going to unfold differently from the baseline.
How long it has been since the fall of civilization will certainly impact a campaign. Closer to the age of technology the more equipment there will seemingly be available for characters in a campaign and the more PCs will be able to easily make use of. If the PCs are fleeing clouds of fallout just days old or are archeologists some 3,000 years after the fall of the old civilization the knowledge and use of technological artifacts will vary greatly.
There is some treatment on the size and occurrence of communities in the Mutant Future, most of them geared to an early medieval society in scale. The presence or lack of such communities has an impact on the future and nature of a campaign. If the only communities of note are based on underground shelters or remote isolated communities that were spared the worst of the destruction it's going to impact a campaign; will outsiders be greeted as invaders or saviors?
Law and Order gets a brief treatment and would surely exist near the medieval-like communities of the baseline Mutant Future campaign. How people react to law enforcement will change in different campaign models. In some futures lawmen will be heroes in others they are the brutal enforcers of petty tyrants if they are present at all. A campaign where PCs are the descendants of the Highway patrol would make for a curious spin.
A brief section on religion in the wastelands makes it clear humanity and newer life wouldn't necessarily abandon old religions or resist creating new religions. How the occupants of the mutant future treat and relate to religion can have a profound impact on campaigns. If the last bastions of the old world were maintained by a monastic order what changes would that bring on a campaign, would technology be a religious wonder or be tools of evil?
There are many hazards in the wastelands of the Mutant Future the most common is that of Radiation which is given a simple yet effective treatment under the rules. In the past I have discussed grittier rules for Radiation and weirder wahoo comic book styles of radiation that can linger in a mutant future. The frequency and nature of radiation will present an ever-lurking threat that can impact a campaign greatly.
I'll be discussing how changing up some of the assumptions and applying variants can make for a different Mutant Future campaign along with some campaign outlines, artifact tables and rules variants in future posts.