Gamma World as “D&D Supers?”

So over at RPG Table Talk (which is becoming one of my favorite new forums), there was a bit of discussion about Running a Fantasy Super Hero Game.

The basic idea was running masked heroes in a fantasy city like Sharn in Eberron. The conversation took a bit of a serious 4E/D&D lean, so one of the things I uttered (and I confess it isn’t original, I’m sure plenty have said it before) was that Gamma World might be a fun way to run Super Hero D&D. I know others have made the Gamma World/Supers comparison, and the system is allegedly compatible with 4E…..why not mash the two?

Basic Guidelines:

Of course, I guess 4E already is a supers game as some have said....

Big thing first: stick to Gamma World character creation. Don’t worry about bringing in D&D classes and races….let the descriptions and flavor text sink in and disregard the mechanics in those hefty books. Gamma World provides all the rules needed, period. In my opinion, the best “supers” games are the ones that dabble less with concrete details and focus more on the character (and, to a degree their “kewl abilities.”) This doesn’t mean we can’t use the monsters, treasure, and maybe the money system from D&D….but let’s not bicker about feats, builds, class roles, daily powers, the differences between a dagger and a knife, etc.

Instead, let’s worry about re-skinning the origins to a high-fantasy setting. Gamma World is primarily sci-fi….so this is where the real thinking caps will need to come in.  Also, when it comes to equipment (such as starting junk) you may instead just simply want to roll the 1d4+1 and just choose basic gear from the D&D equipment lists (and everyone still gets a free adventurer’s kit!) Also, when picking ranged weapons, the DM might want to declare if any sort of bows fit under the “Ranged” Weapons or if they’re considered “Guns” (and thus, use the Ammo rules.) Me personally? Throwing knives can be Ranged Weapons; Bows use Ammo rules.

As for the scale of the game (since Gamma World uses 10 levels as opposed to 30), I would say mechanically scale down, flavor text scale big. Being “Level 1” in this type of game is a big deal. Common folk are like level 0 minions or something…..Level 10’s are definitely huge threats to the countryside, and level 12-15 are our cataclysmic threats. Mechanically, just take anything you want to throw at the party and scale the stats down accordingly. With all the Cheat Sheets and Monster Manual 3 Math available, you have no excuse. And for Gygax’s sake, stop worrying about balance all the damn time!

Keywords:

For simplicity’s sake, I would stick to Gamma World keywords. This can be tricky since they’re so broad compared to 4E D&D, and generally without a fantasy element in mind. I suppose, depending on the nature of the character, the origins could easily be re-written in D&D terms….but I’m trying to be quick and painless with this. My general rule of thumb here?

  • Dark: Arcane & Shadow
  • Bio: Martial & Primal
  • Psi: Divine & Psionic

Some Sample Ideas:
Let’s sit down with the Origin Tables and make a few rolls, and see what kind of heroes we can come up with shall we?

  • Yeti/Gravity Controller: A Minotaur who made a pact with a Gravity Spirit, protecting his homeland from planar invaders.
  • Doppleganger/Electrokinetic: A clever illusionist who always shocks his foes with his mirror image.
  • Plant/Rat Swarm: Almost lost me! But how about a spirit of the Autumn Court, lost from the Feywilds? Manifests as a humanoid pile of leaves and vines, lashing out and swarming its enemies?
  • Radioactive/Hawkoid: Can you say Tengu Sorcerer?

Let’s get some Far-Go action in here!

  • Arachnid/Re-Animated: My favorite combo so far: The Sin-Eater anti-hero. It’s Batman meets Spider-Man meets The Crow. A pious knight, slain and raised to undeath by a Drow Necromancer, yet his champion heart still burns for his damned soul. He lurks the dark alleys of the city for Cultists and evil criminals, snaring them in his toxic webbing and feasting on them for his salvation.
  • Telekinetic/Prescient: Too easy. A Psionic hero that could easily play too well as a Jedi-style character. Perhaps his Prescience is a gift from Ioun? Who knows.
  • Android/Simian: If this doesn’t scream Warforged Brawler, I don’t know what else can.
  • Ectoplasmic/Mythic: How awesome is this? You are a Ghost of a Mythical hero of Legend, possibly of Divine nature!
  • Wheeled/Fungoid: Legend tells of a ….err…..ummm….once upon a time….no……..damn it.
Worst. Combination. Ever.

8 thoughts on “Gamma World as “D&D Supers?””

  1. cool stuff. I still want to see more about the masked identity side of things, but that really comes down to fluff. Using the Gamma World rules seems just as good as any other rules that I have seen so far. I don’t really think, personally at least, that the system should matter too much for this kind of thing. Just having all your heroes wear masks and hide their identity in a fantasy world, then have them primarily work in the open, rather than the dungeon seems like a good start to me. Using the Gamma World rules would certainly make for a better “super” version of the super heroes kind of game.

  2. Very nice article. I especially like the origin examples.

    And I wholeheartedly agree with you on the rules. There is never a need to bog down a supers game with fiddly math and complex tactics. The only thing I might want to take a look at it is the skills, to make sure they still make sense.

    1. Well, Gamma World has 10 skills where 4E has 17. It gives us Conspiracy, Interaction, Mechanics and Science and tosses out a lot of things we take for granted in D&D. If it’s a big deal, I’d say add back what you think is necessary but I could easily swing just the 10 GW uses….maybe converting Science to Arcana. Maybe. Conspiracy works for any legwork, bluffing and thievery based stuff…..Interaction is a catch-all social skill…..Mechanics works for dungeoneering and disarming traps. Endurance, Heal….not really necessary in GW rules. Religion, History…..hrrm, maybe Science/Arcana could just become “Scholarly” and cover all 3?

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