The new 4th edition D&D Gamma World Roleplaying Game has just hit the shelves, and I had to write an article on the early days of this venerable roleplaying game setting.
Way back in the 80s Gamma World was one of our gaming favourites, along with Empire of the Petal Throne, Advanced D&D, Star Frontiers and Call of Cthulhu. Gamma World is roleplaying in the post-apocalyptic wastelands of a future Earth, and one of the most fun and fascinating roleplaying game settings every created. The game has seen a lot of editions over the years, but the setting is just too good to go away, and it’s great to see this new (stand-alone) version using the D&D 4th edition rules.
If you’re a fan of the computer game Fallout, you’ll feel right at home here in Gamma World; in fact I wouldn’t be surprised if the makers of that game took a lot of inspiration from it. The original game was released by TSR (Tactical Studies Rules)—the company that originally published Dungeons & Dragons—way back in 1978 (I still have two of those original sets). The rules weren’t too different from the boundaries set by original D&D, but this was only the second science-fiction roleplaying setting (after Metamorphosis Alpha, a game set on a huge starship), and really started to show that the roleplaying concept could be applied to any genre that you cared to name.
In the game, players took on the roles of mutants, mutanted animals, or ‘pure strain’ (ie, non-mutated) humans. Crazy mutated animals were one of the game’s memorable features—things like giant bunnies carrying shotguns were par for the course in this post-apocalyptic world—and rolling up a series of weird mutations (physical and mental) for your character was always fun. Another feature of the game were the so-called Cryptic Alliances. These were bands of non-player characters who shared a common goal in the future world, for example the Knights of Genetic Purity, who wanted to exterminate all mutant humans; or the Followers of the Voice, who worshipped computers.
Another unique feature of the game was the collection of flowcharts that players had to navigate when they encountered technological items from Earth’s past; flowcharts that could lead to being able to figure out how the laser rifle worked, for example, or having it explode in your face. One of the challenges of game mastering a Gamma World campaign was describing items in such a way so the players would, like their characters, not be aware of the item’s use. So when the character found that funny metal object, you as game master might have known it was just a can opener, but the player might convince himself it was a sonic blaster!
Unlike D&D games, which tended to be set in dungeons or castles, with only the occasional wilderness jaunt, Gamma World really featured the wilderness, with players travelling over radioactive wastelands or ruined cities, encountering the remains of old spaceports or shopping malls, interacting with groups of survivors all with their own weird survival agendas. It really opened out the possibilities of roleplaying.
Gamma World went on to see six more editions by various publishers and using various different game systems—this new edition is the seventh! When it comes to roleplaying settings this one is definitely a survivor, and just a brief time in the post-apocalytic wastelands of Gamma World will show you why. If you love roleplaying and haven’t yet discovered the Gamma World, now is the perfect time to roll up a few mutations, grab that battered laser rifle and hunt some mutie!
There are already expansions on the way: Famine in Far-Go and The Legion of Gold are the names of two original modules, so it looks like that the new system is really appealing to old fans.
The D&D Gamma World Roleplaying Game offers hours of rollicking entertainment in a savage land of adventure, where the survivors of some mythical future disaster must contend with radioactive wastes, ravaged cities, and rampant lawlessness. Against a nuclear backdrop, heroic scavengers search crumbled ruins for lost artifacts while battling mutants and other perils.
This product is a complete, stand-alone roleplaying game that uses the 4th Edition D&D roleplaying game system as its foundation.
160-page book with rules for character creation, game rules, and an adventure
2 sheets of die-cut character and monster tokens
2 double-sided battle maps
Cardstock character sheets and mutation power cards
Mutation power card deck
Loot power card deck