So after reading a lot of previews and, finally, a review over at Critical-Hits for the new Gamma World RPG, I came to a conclusion: I want it just for the silly one nighter fun factor, but I am kinda let down based on what I’m hearing. I’m not going to poke and stab at WoTC for the direction they took with it at all; aside from the “Booster Cards” aspect, I think just making it a little stand alone box set was a great idea. Really, I’m just skeptical on the cards themselves and how they’re used….I’ve been hearing tales of random mutation powers changing from game to game, which didn’t really make sense to me. But, I’m basing all of this on third party reviews and have yet to play it myself. But it does stand clear that this is a gonzo, wacky edition of Gamma World.
My introduction to Gamma World wasn’t with a game, but with an Endless Quest book titled “Lights on Quest Mountain.” I read it when I was a kid, and was floored by the different encounters in it. I loved the world described in that book….one with strange creatures, sentient plants, a primitive tribe of humans and mutants surviving the wastes. When I got into my teens, and met my first “regular” gaming friends, we kit-bashed our own Gamma World rules using the conversion notes in the AD&D Dungeon Master’s Guide. Even though we schemed some pretty gonzo stuff, I did (at the time) feel that our game setting was “serious” despite having mutant animals walking around.
Later on, I would play the Alternity edition with my friends. I had a blast with it, and at the time I felt it was a great edition. The problem, though, was that a lot of us had trouble adjusting to Alternity’s rules. When that game collapsed, I managed to find a text file of someone’s complete “house ruled” edition of Gamma World, mixing in stuff from 1st and 2nd editions (and his own work….so no telling how much of the real deal was in there and how much was his crazy stuff.) This was back before PDFs really hit the scene, and the idea of pirating RPG books sounded a bit too nerdy.
Either way, I ran that version off and we adopted it for a small campaign that lasted a couple months. The ending was never resolved but the times we had and the characters we played were definitely memorable. And again, I kept the silliness at a light level to keep it fun but still kept the overall mood and tone serious and survivalist. Moving on a few years, I’d pick up the d20 Modern version of Gamma World put out under the Sword & Sorcery label. If any edition or style of game made me cry foul, it was that one. Sure, I didn’t have the true box sets under my belt of experience. But, c’mon….it was like the Hippy Apocalypse or something. It felt nothing like the original games I played, and it wasn’t even Gamma. Radiation was replaced with Nanotech. They had a sorcerer class that used nano magic. Gimme a break! Even if you can argue 4th Edition D&D doesn’t feel like old school D&D, it at least had Dungeons, and Dragons in the fucking game!
What did hit my sweet spot, though, was Darwin’s World. I played the first edition (based on 3.0 d20) and it tickled me in all the right places. It was gritty. It was detailed. It had mutations that made freaking sense. It had all the elements of Mad Max, Fallout and other Post-Apoc tropes without going ludicrous or preachy. I missed out on the 2nd edition/d20 Modern version, but they do have a Savage Worlds edition coming out soon. Which, I’m gonna be honest, has been pushed to the front of the buy list.
I guess, in the end, it’s hard to claim any love for Gamma World because I was late to the game. The versions I played and love weren’t really true Gamma World, they were either AD&D house rules based on concepts from the descriptions we had, or it was someones homebrew where we had no clue how much of it was his and how much of it was pure. But I will admit, I am a sucker for a good post-apocalypse game regardless of title or brand. And I’m willing to give the new Gee-Dub a shot for what it is. I guess I’m just needing to come to terms that the game I have fond memories of wasn’t necessarily the same game everyone else was playing. Which may be for the better.