Updated: Jun 7, 2020
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We created Mutant: Year Zero - The Last Ark to playfully explore new ways of existing socially in an uncertain future. With the advent of the covid pandemic this theme became more relevant than we had expected. To a large degree the appeal of immersive culture simulations, and live roleplaying events, lies in dressing up weirdly and adapting new cultural behaviours for a brief time, many of which we would never accept in “real life”. We have thought long and hard about what role we could play in trying out physical and social behaviours that make going to an event like ours an acceptable risk, much like going to the supermarket or riding the subway are now acceptable risks in many countries. To do this, we will create an event structure and enforce certain rules that lessens the risk of spreading or contracting droplet- spread infectious disease at The Last Ark. We will in all cases adhere to, and often exceed, the safety recommendations given to us by our local authorities. Some of these measures, like the almost constant use of protective gear, social distancing and taboos against eating or sleeping in the same space, may seem impractical or extreme in a normal real world setting. But The Last Ark is not a normal social setting. It’s a simulation of life in a word devastated by plague, climate change and nuclear war. In this context we hope our safety measures will feel like a natural part of the experience. This philosophy will affect our development of the gameplay, location use, plot and the specific taboos and norms of the cultures of the Ark. Let’s start with setting the scene.
ON THE BEACH
You wake up coughing and wet, washed up on a strange island. Then you remember. There was a Rot-storm. The worst in memory. What did you do to survive? How did you spend your last moments? Now the impossible has happened. The Silver Ark of the Chosen has run aground. Your old home is little more than an irradiated wreck and you are one of a handful of survivors. Some of you will build the future. Others will die trying to seize control of the Ark’s crew and its legacy. The air smells funny and you remember the warnings. The Rot. It’s everywhere. You pull your mask tight. Test the air seal. You pick up your gun and your life-vest and set off towards a cluster of metal mountains, the ground sickeningly firm under your sea-mutant legs. This is dry land, a place of evil and corruption, according to Ark legend. A sharp bang stops you dead in your tracks. A familiar figure holding a gun steps from the shadows. Impossible. You sink to your knees in shock. Your blood-sworn comrade. They drowned before your eyes, yet here they are. “Welcome to the forbidden zone ‘mate’. Now toss me your gun and stay down!” CRASH aims at emulating the quintessential Mutant experience. Become a survivor of the dying Ark, a true Zone-stalker. Explore the toxic ruins of a dead civilization and uncover the secrets of a mysterious island. As you explore, you will meet other groups of Ark dwellers that have survived the storm. They may become your allies or enemies. Several groups have strong reasons to trust or distrust each other but ultimately what happens on the island during the game is entirely up to you. One thing is sure; the group or groups that find clues and artifacts that help them understand why the Ark crashed on the island and why this collection of ancient ruins seems to have a life of its own, will have a great advantage over their ignorant Ark- siblings. Think of it as “Treasure Island”, Mutant style. The treasure being secrets that give their holders power over the island and, ultimately, the privilege to usher in a new age and become its masters.
ABOUT THE ZONE: The Rot Storm has abated somewhat. But the island is HELL to an Arklander raised at sea. It is almost entirely a Forbidden Zone, full of radiation-soaked landships (buildings), undetonated mines and worst of all - life. Rot-green poison- plants and terrifying creatures no Arklander has ever seen before are EVERYWHERE according to the tales about land. Almost the entire island is a Forbidden Zone. This fear of all living things on land may sound silly those of not living in Australia. But in Mutant, everything alive after the bomb is a probably a bizarre lethal threat. More on this in the workshops at CRASH and the next blogs and newsletters.
Max 50 participants including organizers. A focus on outdoors adventure, conflict and exploration. Remember that these rules are written both to create a tense game and to help with decreasing covid related risks. Trust no one. Keep in groups of 5 or fewer. CRASH is based around very small groups competing or collaborating. Make sure your group is never larger than five people. Inside the fiction, the reason is that resources are sparse and trust even more so. Camping next to someone that could slit your throat or steal your food is the same as death. The bigger the group, the bigger the risk. It is likely that a camp of some kind will emerge around the wreck of the Ark and there will often be more than 10 people. That's ok, but try to keep outdoors and that a crowd is often a dangerous thing. Also remember wearing masks is never a bad thing, even outside The Zone (see below). Keep your distance. At all times except in combat (see below), stay 2 meters (6 feet) away from other Ark-folk or strangers you encounter and as often as you can, and ALWAYS in The Zone keep your mask on. Letting someone come close is a risk for now. Plus everyone knows Rot spreads from person to person as well as from the environment. Modification to the distance rule: You can choose to play closely with a few people you're not normally socially distancing from, as long as you "as a unit" still distance from others. No wrestling, no smooching. Mutant was never a game where amorous relationships play a large part, now even less so. Nor are other types of intimate physicality like hugging, wrestling, swimming right next to each other, pretending to drown someone etc. a part of CRASH. The closest you will get is probably in close combat, but even for this our system (step back after scoring and receiving a hit) allows for a lot of distance. And remember that the rule to never, ever hit someone in the face / head now has a second purpose - to not fuck someones protective gear up.
2 hard masks and 2 soft masks, and eyewear in various stages of Mutantification PROTECTIVE GEAR AND THE ZONE
Bring gloves (builders gloves, leather gloves etc. not mittens since manual dexterity is great to have and while rubber / disposable gloves are ok, they will be ripped to shreds by the rock, rust and metal you will deal with during the game. They are useful to eat with and cook with but that's pretty much it. Gloves allow Mutants to give each other a hand and handle their masks without fear of spreading Rot (or virus). Bring a face mask. Masks are a part of Ark culture, where rot-leaks and similar are common. It's sometimes hard to hear what someone is saying in a mask. This is intentional. I's also not THAT hard. You will get used to it fast. Masks are a core part of the look and feel of CRASH. There are two kinds of masks at the game. Hard masks and Soft masks. Soft masks offer some protection to OTHERS by preventing saliva droplet spread of fictional Rot and real covid. They are the kind of flimsy cloth masks you see civilians wearing in most of the world right now. In the game they are worn outside The Zone. They are great to wear indoors while in heated debates and while singing. You never HAVE to wear soft masks in non-zone areas, especially not outdoors, but its nice and looks cool. Soft masks only allow you to survive in The Zone for less than a minute or two, then you start feel sick and you become Broken after another minute. Not recommended for Zone-trips! Hard masks are N95 particulate masks, a gas mask or a paint mask. These are used by medical staff, ambulance drivers and in emergency rooms worldwide and offer pretty decent PROTECTION against Rot / virus. Depending on how exhale vents are constructed they also offer some spread protection. This can be improved by adding fabric filters to the inside of exhale vents. We can help you do this. They rely on a tight seal to work optimally so wild facial hair lessens efficiency a bit on many models. That's ok. If you use a mask designed for construction work, be sure to use a filter for “wet particles”. Gas masks also work great. Eye protection is optional but looks cool. We have around 10 wet particle masks / ABC gas masks and 5 cool goggles for players who don't have the time or money to get a hard mask. When Mutantifying masks be careful to not ruin functionality. Acrylic spray paint, rust paint is generally better ideas than mechanical abrasion. These masks should be worn at all times IN THE ZONE and as often as you want outside The Zone. All masks are personal for obvious reasons. If a mask needs to be transferred (after looting or finding it in The Zone) clean it meticulously with rubbing alcohol. IRL we hope this protective gear will reduce the risk of viral spread to some degree if used correctly. It is important not to feel safe in protective gear and still maintain all other precautions like social distance and staying outdoors as much as possible. GREEN (LAND) IS BAD - MASK ON Any form of green vegetation (outdoors) or green-ish light source (indoors) indicates you are in The Zone. Indoors, always look for any sign of a green light when entering a space to determine if you can take your Hard mask off. No green light means you can breathe here. Strong green light means no mask in the world will protect you. Only a full hazmat suit will allow you to (carefully) enter for a few moments without Breaking. BLUE (SEA) IS GOOD - MASK OFF You are of the sea and safe from rot on or very near it. The rocky and junk-lined beach is safe- ish. So are the tops of landships (buildings). But most of all the sea itself is home and very safe. This includes the deck of all ships, boats, rafts around the island and at sea. Sadly this does not The Ark, it's a heavy Rot Zone except the bridge(s) and a few other spaces in the fore where the remnants of Old Command (in masks) are slowly being Rotted, refusing to leave their posts. Underwater spaces require a different kind of mask. Bring one if you can. There may be green lights in or under water. As you can probably figure out this means the water is full of Rot. The Zone The Rot Storm has abated somewhat. But the island is HELL to an Arklander raised at sea. It is almost entirely a Forbidden Zone, full of radiation-soaked landships (buildings), undetonated mines and worst of all - life. Rot-green poison- plants and terrifying creatures no Arklander has ever seen before are EVERYWHERE according to the tales about land.
This fear of all living things on land may sound silly those of not living in Australia. But in Mutant, everything alive after the bomb is a probably a bizarre lethal threat. More on this in the workshops at CRASH and the next blogs and newsletters.
CULTURAL PROTECTION AND HABITS
Eat alone. Drink alone. While playing in The Zone you may find caches of Grub and liquid of various sorts in the ruins. There will be enough for everyone, vegan/vegetarian options will be clearly marked, and you will be able to trade for food or cook over a fire at your campsite. Always eat by the beach, in a boat, a safe land-ship or in another not-zone space. It's almost inevitable that the surviving Galley and maybe more crew- groups will start cooking and selling / trading food. This will probably be the algae and hydroponics grown stuff you ate on the ark, but what new possibilities will the island bring to the menu? Eating alone is always preferable, as food is sparse and you don't want to advertise it. If you have special dietary restrictions, let us know, and we’ll arrange a way for you to get your food that still works with the story. There are also bats on the island. Please do not eat the bats. Bring your own cup, bowl and fork, so you don't have to share. Rethinking communal areas. The Last Ark will still be about building up a community, and the first shared areas will be found and developed during CRASH. Think Trading Post, Outside Harbour Church, Garden, Anti-Rot Cleansing station, etc. We leave behind the sardine-like conditions of the inner Ark to spread out and make optimal use of outside areas and the many wrecks and ruins around the "crash site". Sleep apart. We will provide a number of more or less hidden locations where mattresses or beds are located. These will be away from wind and rain, be Rot-free but may not be very comfortable or safe in other ways (rust, moisture and holes in the floor are common on the island). All camp-beds will be far apart and most hidey-holes will only contain one “bed”. If you can, bring camping gear to create your own place to sleep for at least one night, since the dynamics of the game and safety dictates that you may have to sleep in an unexpected place. Shine that toilet seat until it glitters! We will have a handful of toilets / bathrooms on the island. They will have water, soap, cleaning alcohol or similar supplies. It’s our collective responsibility to wipe down all surfaces we have touched thoroughly and wash our hands meticulously and often. Non-verbal languages Since it’s hard to hear what a person in a mask is saying over a distance, especially at sea, Mutants often use exaggerated body postures and gestures or sign languages to communicate. The best place to start is probably tactical military hand signs and gestures. These are common among all mutants of the zone, whether they belong to the Ark or not. A popular letter-based signal language on the ark is the ancient esoteric dance language “Eurythmics”, where each body posture and movement stands for a letter. Other popular sea-mutant-signs include the flag-based semaphore language and morse code for use with heliographic (reflections in a mirror) or sound and radio transmission. We don’t require you to learn any of these but it’s worth checking them out, especially the SWAT police signs shown first. Choosing some signs to use in your group or teaching other Mutants on the island might be fun. Share your ideas Now you've read our thoughts, we'd love to get your ideas on how to make Mutant: Year Zero - The Last Ark a fun and safe game in these weird times. Just shoot us an email, or bring up your ideas in the Facebook group, and we will try to incorporate your best suggestions. Our Refund Policy We know it’s hard to commit to going to an event during a time like this and we want to make it as easy for you as possible. If you can’t make it to CRASH for a covid-related reason - maybe you’re sick or there’s a travel ban in your country - we will refund the ticket cost for the event or help transfer your character to the next event. Welcome to the forbidden zone and stay safe out there in the Rot!