Interview with Chris Birch (Modiphius Games) about Mutant chronicles
First and foremost, tell us a little about yourself, your gaming experience and your writing experience?
I first played D&D at age 9 with my brother, his girlfriend and friends, this is when it was huge. I then found a copy of Steve Jackson’s Ogre in a tiny village shop, loved it! Scratched my head over the ratio combat and then discovered the world of ‘tabletop games.’ I started playing war-games, boardgames, anything I could get my hands on. I’d often not have people to play games with when my brother moved away to university so I’d invent solo rules. Fast forward a few years, I came up with a game system with my friend Stuart Newman and later we went on to design the FATE based Starblazer Adventures which was so much fun and SO exhausting! I then co-wrote Legends of Anglerre with a fantastic team including Sarah Newton.
How much of the original rules system are you preserving? How much is new? Will it be backward compatible?
We’ve taken the 6 stats and expanded to 8, we’ve kept the d20 (albeit with a new core system), hit locations and the awesome life path character generation (although you can also point buy your character too). Otherwise it’s a fresh new system designed for fast cinematic play, lots of cool gear and spaceships – that’s something new for example. In the 2nd Ed it was a heavily combat-focused game and now we’re adding in the ability to control spaceships. There’s corporations, social skills, lifestyle, allegiances and much more.
Are you advancing the timeline of the setting or keeping it about the same time?
We’re winding the clock back 700 years to when the Dark Symmetry, a malign foul corrupting force, is released and infects computer systems and equipment leading to the downfall of the modern age. This allows you to have adventures during the collapse of technology, as it turns on man, literally! Exploration and investigation of strange cults and rumoured creatures, leading up to the first great war with the Dark Legion. Alternatively you can wind forward 700 years and play in the same timeline as the original RPG. It’s up to you and you get all the information you need on both timelines in the core book.
What about Mutant Chronicles attracts you?
The over-the-top exaggerated heroic action, the dark noir styling, the diesel-punk vibe, the brightly coloured iconic art by Paul Bonner
You are calling Mutant Chronicles a “dieselpunk sci-fi RPG.” This is first time I have seen it referenced in that way. When Mutant Chronicles first came out, those type of terms – “steampunk” and “dieselpunk” – were not all that common. So is this a reinvention of the property to fit a more modern genre or was Mutant Chronicles “dieselpunk” before it was cool to call it so – a game before its time, perhaps?
I think it was actually diesel punk ‘style’ back then, the term just wasn’t really in use. I still love the ‘techno-fantasy’ term too as it really tells you about the vibe of the setting, the cool gear, the madness of the Dark Legion and the epic adventure!
Do you think the comparisons to Warhammer 40K are fair? What makes it different from that property?
It’s set in a more recognizable time, with more familiar factions. At the time characters were exaggerated but Mutant Chronicles made the massive shoulder pads their ‘thing.’ It’s what identifies it and makes it so cool.
What are you most proud of in this work?
I was a big fan in the 90’s; I owned many of the games, so bringing together such a talented team to work on the game and bring it back fresh and ready for action is what I’m proud of.
What did you think of the Mutant Chronicles movie?
It’s a Hollywood movie. It’s a miracle that there’s a multi-million dollar movie with the Mutant Chronicles name, with the same characters, the same corporate names even if the story is not what fans wanted. The styling is a pretty good representation of Imperial and Capitol, so overall I think it did a great job of promoting the brand to a massive audience. We’ve had tons of people sign up who said they saw the film first and so have gone on to discover our awesome gaming world. Just go and watch a few D&D films and see how bad it really could have been 🙂
What is in the immediate future for Mutant Chronicles after your Kickstarter?
Get the core book finished, get the Guides and Campaigns finished, get them out to backers! There’ll be a lot of merchandise to produce, lots of writers and artists to manage, and that’s all part of making it happen. We’re just so excited to see the new system taking shape and we’re already planning a long line of additional products to expand the range.
Mutant Chronicles was not only an RPG, but there was a collectible card game, a miniature wargame, board games, video games, novels, and comic books. It was a pretty extensive property. Do you see or are there plans for Modiphius getting involved in any of the other areas?
Who knows! It depends on the success of the kickstarter, as we’re obviously going to be pretty busy, but once you’re designing one set of products it’s not hard to expand into another similar product.
Thank you for your time and good luck with Mutant Chronicles. We look forward to reviewing it.