This art-punk RPG harkens back to mini-comics and zines of the 80s and 90s – small and dense and DIY to the core. The entire game, which features a player’s guide and game master’s guide, fits on two sheets of paper, marked to fold into three-panel brochures. I can’t help but think this is a piss-take on bloated multi-volume games. If D&D 5e is Emerson, Lake and Palmer, then The Mutants of Ixx is Stiff Little Fingers.
Unlike Stjernberg’s Black Hack variation, The Rad-Hack, Mutants inherits its twisted DNA from Into the Odd, but retains the Black Hack’s advantage/disadvantage system. And like The Rad-Hack, Mutants is a post-apocalyptic playground featuring mutations and a hodgepodge of archaic weapons as well as firepower.
Character creation is like a punk song: if it takes more than two minutes, you’re doing it wrong. Roll for three attributes, some mutations (from fire breath to teleportation), a specialty (a chopped-down class), and get in the action.
The mechanics are roll-under, armour is ablative, and hit points are a buffer for the real damage: attribute loss. Start taking STR damage and you’ll be rolling STR saves to avoid Critical Damage, which might cost you some fingers or an entire limb.
I’ve stated my love of minimalist RPGs on this site before, but unlike Knave’s just the facts presentation, Mutants of Ixx’s art gives it an energy and style that makes the game pop. Stjernberg isn’t just a game designer, he’s an artist (seriously, check out his Instagram @skullfungus). His thick black and white line work fills out each page: an evocative hex map of the default setting, the Jungles of Ixx, as well as a collage of weapons and equipment that acts as an equipment list, and an example adventure map. It’s exactly the right kind of art for a gonzo game – it would look right on a skateboard deck.
Games like Mutants are important for the same reason punk bands were important. Their directness and simplicity say, “You too could do this.” As the Minuteman said, “Our band could be your life.” You read Mutants of Ixx, and you want to make a game of your own. And that’s a beautiful thing.
Is it the game that’ll make you throw out your hardcovers? No. Is it worth $2 USD? Fuck yes.