by Mike Shea on 13 December 2010
Unless you've been living inside of an empty can of beans, you've heard all about Gamma World, the recent 4e-based post apocalypticdds RPG released this past fall. Players most certainly love this game, but today we're going to look at a few reasons DMs in particular love Gamma World.
Abstraction of mechanics and story
One of the things you'll see up front during character creation is how Gamma World abstracts the mechanics of weapons from the weapon itself. In 4th edition, every specific weapon, whether it's a kris, a dwarven waraxe, or a double-bladed sword, has its own specific set of stats. This is mechanically intensive and often unneeded. In Gamma World, weapons are broken up into eight broad categories such as two-handed melee weapon or one-handed gun. The player gets to decide exactly what sort of weapon this might be. Maybe it's a pole with a block of concrete on the end wrapped in barbed wire. Maybe it's a perfect chrome .44 Desert Eagle passed from generation to generation over 250 years. The player gets to build the story around the item and the game system handles the abstract rules to make that story work in the game.
This sort of rules abstraction can work all over the game. Once players feel empowered to build the sort of story they want, they do so across the whole game. They take the freedom to describe their armor, tweak their origins, or rewrite the descriptions of Omega Tech items to fit their story. It's great to watch this play out.
You can tell any story within this world
The storyline for Gamma World leaves unlimited options for storytelling. You can have a gunslinger such as Roland Deschain walking a wasteland of magic and old technology. You can have cybernetic ninja hunting squads. You can have a zombie apocalypse led by a xenomorphic alien necromancer recently released from being buried in the ice of the north pole for a half a million years. You can steal from nearly any other game system and almost any story can fit into this game world one way or another.
The random nature of Gamma World makes it nearly impossible to powergame. You don't know what cards you might pull from the Alpha Mutation or Omega Tech decks. You roll four of your six statistics with 3d6 and your primary stats are determined by your two origins. Even your origins are randomly determined. While there are options for players to build decks around their characters, you could easily eliminate this option from your game. What is left is the fun of a Magic the Gathering sealed deck tournament where players make the most with what they're dealt instead of endlessly tweaking to find a perfect match.
Best one-shot format available
In a $25 box you get everything you need to play a full level 1 to 10 Gamma World campaign. Everything you need is in the box except dice and pencils. You can generate characters in about ten minutes and get an adventure together in less than 30 minutes. Characters feel disposable so people are happy to go through a one-shot and wipe out at the end. Making characters is so much fun that players are happy to go through a series of one-shot games.
Gamma World may very well be the most convention friendly RPG around.
Tons of use from 4e material
As Dave the Game discussed in his article on the Gammarizer, you can very easily reskin 4e monsters to fit in Gamma World. A Beholder from the Monster Vault makes for a great alien probe boss with hardly any changes at all. Ghouls work perfectly as wild radioacive mutants. Zombies can be taken and used directly, without any changes at all. The close ties to 4e makes it even easier to run Gamma World games, with a wealth of material already available and ready to import.
The perfect break from a long-running campaign
Gamma World is the perfect game to slip in between sessions of your long-standing game. It's so easy to build adventures and roll up characters that you can pull it out and play it with hardly any warning at all. Any groups familiar with 4e will find it easy to pick up and will enjoy the random draws from the Alpha Mutation and Omega tech decks. As a DM, there is a lot in Gamma World to love. Give it a shot.
If you enjoyed this article, consider using these links to pick up the Gamma World boxed set or the Gamma World adventure, Famine in Far-Go. If you need more monsters for Gamma World, reskin some from the D&D Essentials Monster Vault. While the game comes with tokens for PCs and monsters, Troll and Toad has Star Wars minis under a buck that work very well for Gamma World PCs. To run a better Gamma World game, consider picking up Sly Flourish's Dungeon Master Tips. You can also support this site by bookmarking this link to Amazon.
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