Thursday, September 22, 2011

FtA: In the Beginning...

I loved the idea of Gamma World as a kid.  At the core of it sits an idea that was and is fascinating to me - the awe-inspiring notion of wandering through the remains of a lost civilization that is just barely familiar to the player, juxtaposed against the fact that it is an anthropomorphic bear doing the wandering, and oh by the way, it's wearing a napoleonic hat and quoting passages from Pumping Iron.  The solemn and the absurd sitting side by side, in perfect harmony.  I even loved the character creation process - the fact that the character you got was completely random, and you could end up a supergod, or a complete schmoo, depending on the roll of the dice.  Balance?  Bah, balance is for OTHER games.  Not Gamma World!

Then I started playing it, and, well... it was kind of dull.  I mean, it was fun at first, but there was no point beyond survival.  In D&D there is the leveling system, which makes  you more powerful, and gives you more things that you can do as you grow in power.  In Gamma World, you just got more hit points, and unless you took a bath in radiation, the powers you had at 1st level were the same ones you had at 10th.  Invariably the first level or so was fun, as you discovered the world and felt out your mutations and how they interacted with the mutations of the rest of the group, but eventually the party settled into The Way of Doing Things.  The floating monkey would use Paralyze on the Land Shark while the Mutated Human would use its telekenesis to hurl rocks from a distance, and the Pure Strain Human would charge in, vibrosword flashing.  Tactics could be applied, sure, but if you have a Paralyze attack that works 80% of the time, why would you use that Lower Temperature mutation?  It got to the point where I found myself, as a GM, rejiggering my adventures to give the party chances to use their mutations until I thought - there must be a better way.

Gamma World 4th edition tweaked the system a bit, giving characters classes and skills which grew as time progressed, but being able to swim better was not really what I was looking for.  The 4th Edition Gamma World took it a bit farther, with the randomization of the powers occuring multiple times per session, but that seemed to take away some of the fun that came from designing a character.  It became more Roll Playing than Role Playing, y'dig?

It never even occurred to me to just go ahead and create my own game, I was too used to suckling at the teat of TSR and WoTC.  But thanks to the OSR fellas and some time spent playing Labyrinth Lord, I've been inspired.  Since Gamma World isn't covered by the OGL, I'm going to create my own game which is TOTALLY NOT INSPIRED BY GAMMA WORLD IN ANY WAY, SHAPE OR FORM.

So far, I've got concepts.  Trying to hang these concepts on a game system will be a challenge, but I think if I can do it, the result will be a game that I can really enjoy.  And if someone else does too, even better.  Worst case scenario is that I end up writing a bunch of stuff nobody ever reads, but at least that keeps me writing.

So my concepts are as follows:
  • Post Apocalyptic Setting
  • Mostly mental mutations, physical mutations are VERY rare
  • Mutated Humans, Mutated Animals, Mutated Plants
  • Mutagens of some sort (radiation, chemicals, etc) are EVERYWHERE.  The longer you spend adventuring, the more of these you accumulate.  The more you accumulate, the more you mutate.
  • The more you mutate, the weaker you become - there are no happy endings here.  In the end, you're gonna die, but you'll never be more powerful than you are the moment right before you do.
  • Level 10 is the "Ultimate Level".  By Level 10, you've accumulated so much radiation or whatever that you're looking like that guy in Robocop, after he crashed into the truck of toxic waste.  Well, not really, but you get the point. 
  • The PCs as agents of change - civilization is digging itself out of the wreckage, and the players actions dictate the course of that emerging culture.  If they act nobly, the world becomes a better place.  If they act like dicks, it turns into Bartertown.
So that's where I'm at.  I want to combine the fun of Gamma World with a philosophical, build a better world by being a better person (or animal, or plant), world building experience.  And all with the idea that you're on the clock - level 10 is coming, whether you like it or not.  And once it does, you're time on the earth is over.

What kind of world do you want to leave behind when you go?


  1. I am intrigued by your ideas, especially the whole level 10 thing. Just knowing that your time is up once you get there is a little creepy, but it's such a unique twist. In fact I don't know if I've ever heard of a game where you know your going to die once you reach a certian level. Very twisted....and I like it. I'll stay tuned in to see where this goes.

  2. I spelled certain wrong (in the previous post).....opps!

  3. Thanks! I'll do my best to keep you interested!

  4. Thanks for the vote of confidence! Hopefully the finished product is just as interesting!

  5. Looking forward to this, and seeing how it differs from Mutant Future.

  6. I've taken a peek at Mutant Future, and I love what they've done - hopefully I can put out something at least as entertaining! If I recall correctly, it uses Labyrinth Lord rules, which are great (I play LL twice a month)! I'm not so much interested in doing an out and out retroclone, though, as I am in doing a "remix". You'll be able to recognize the tune, but the beats will be different.

  7. Sounds interesting.

    I'm always eager to look at games in any way related (or NOT AT ALL RELATED) to Gamma World 4th Edition. IMHO many things about that game are just about perfect, though I see what you mean about few rewards with character advancement.

    GW 4th Ed. is the loose inspiration for "Cherenkov Dusk" one of the pet projects I occasionally tinker with.

    I was going to recommend you look at the one-page Tempora Mutantur RPG, which seems to cover a couple of the things you want to do with your own game. But just noticed that it was originally on a blog with the same name and thought maybe you were aware of and/or affiliated with it already.

  8. Nope, I had no idea! I like what they're doing, though! Thanks for the heads up, stick around and hopefully I can put out something you'll enjoy!

  9. Just realized a point of confusion I might have had in reading your post. To clarify:

    When writing about Gamma World 4th Edition, I meant the book published in 1992, not the recently published iteration of Gamma World based on the D&D 4th Edition rule set.

  10. That was my system of choice as well, although I used the Action Control Table from 3rd edition to add some spice to critical hits and misses. I loved how broken it could be - I had a character roll up radiation hands and total healing, pick Radioactivist as his Cryptic Alliance and proceed to zap himself with radiation constantly to give himself more mutations.

  11. Hey Dude, Just came across your site. I have a bunch of post-apocalyptic related sites, the newest of which is a member-driven directory. Take a look at and if you wouldn't mind displaying the member badge, we'd love to have you join us.



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