Sunday, June 14, 2015

What is (and isn't) a mutant?

As I flesh out ideas for my own race categories in GWW, I thought I'd capture some quick thoughts about how mutants are presented in other settings.

With so many sources from which to field for inspiration, it's sometimes hard to pin down exactly what qualifies as "mutant" in a post-apocalyptic setting. In Marvel's universe--as with the X-men and other X-groups--the term "mutant" applies to a new class of human being called "homo superior," or a human who's genetic code is in someway altered to acquire any sort of superhuman (and I'll throw in here "non-human") abilities.

In the Marvel universe, Iceman with his power to create ice constructs, Jean Grey and her ability to read minds/use telekinesis, and Wolverine with his incredible healing ability are considered, mutants.

Switch to something like Total Recal where the mutants are more of a traditionally "deformed" depiction. Kuato, Benny, and a host of other melted-face Martians fill that role.

In GWW, I'm using it in a much broader sense--to mean an individual or group, who's appearance and makeup deviates from an ancestral species of origin. This includes hybrid types (e.g., any sort of were-creature), to the Cyborna races, which are at least partially robotic. There are enough of them that have, in some way, deviated from their collective original forms that they qualify as a new species or subspecies. I guess Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: After the Bomb would be a good example of this style.

It doesn't really matter how they became a mutant--they didn't need to be the result of some sort of evolutionary process. A mutant could be an individual who came in contact with some foreign, mutanagenic substance that caused them to change. In GWW, Spider-man would easily be considered to be a mutant, even though his classification as one is oft debated.

It might be easier to state what mutants aren't. They aren't pure strain humans, called Valids-- or flora or fauna, for that matter. They aren't purely robots, created for some specific task. They aren't unmended (reanimated dead). They aren't extraterrestrials. At least--in all of the above cases--they aren't until they begin to deviate from those baseline origins.

More later...


  1. The broadest definition of mutant is something that's exhibited change from its natural form. The biological definition is something that has changed on a genetic level such that it can pass on its change to subsequent generations.

    The comic book and SciFi use of the term is usually pretty setting specific...I'm not sure (for example) that the mutants of Marvel are technically "mutants;" they're more like the magical society of the Harry Potter books.

    The setting of Gamma World kind of implies that the Big Disaster caused mutations in many areas, and that these have been bred into much of the population. If humanoids of like mutation were to get together and form communities, they might actually start "breeding true" (see the Gren as an example). "Pure strain humans" are humans that were not mutated and have kept to themselves (when it comes to reproduction) thus ensuring they are of pre-Disaster stock.

    [in the first edition GW rules, PSH did not have some of the extra HPs...given in later editions. Their only bonus was a +3 to charisma and the capability of being recognized as "human" by old robots]

    Presumably, any humanoid mutant breeding with a PSH would produce mutant offspring...thus fitting with the more specific, biological definition of the term "mutant."

  2. "I'm not sure (for example) that the mutants of Marvel are technically "mutants;" they're more like the magical society of the Harry Potter books."

    I see what you're saying, but weren't they also referred to as the "Children of the Atom" in the 60s? I think the implication during the cold war was that their genotype was somehow linked to radiation exposure. Probably not a hard-connection, but then: COMICS!

    I agree that Gamma World seems to have a better hold on the theme. I feel like some of the later editions (starting with 4th/1992 edition, maybe?) they actually went into family trees and talked about whether you could be a first, second, or third-generation mutant.

    Good comments as always, JB! Thank you!