In case you’ve been living in Vault 101 for the past 20 years and are unaware, Gamma World is a post-apocalyptic RPG put out by Wizards of the Coast. The current version (officially named “D&D Gamma World”) comes in a pretty big box. You’ll be able to easily find it due to the retina burning green of the box, which is a similar color to the old Pinnacle game Deadlands: Hell on Earth (another post-apocalyptic game..what is it with post-apocalyptic games and the Toxic Waste Green color?).
So, what’s in the box, you ask? Well, Vault-Dweller, let’s look and see! First of course, is the rule book for the game itself. We’ll get into that little mutant in a moment. Like the DM’s Kit, the rule book is packaged in a cardboard protector to keep it from sliding around in the box.
Also packed into the protector is a deck of card; Alpha Mutation and Omega Tech cards. These are used to randomly determine what powerful mutations and technology your character has. There’s also a booster pack of cards in the box. Yes, that’s right, the Magic the Gathering model has been adopted here somewhat. The deck, for me, is an issue. Random Alpha Mutation powers have been hamfistedly hammered into the game world, since it’s the collapse of many realities into one and things are in a state of constant flux, but still I’m gonna go ahead and say it right now..I do not like the idea of your most powerful mutation being randomly determined each encounter. As Mr. Horse from Ren & Stimpy might say, “No sir, I don’t like it.”
We also have two double-sided poster-sized 1-inch grid battle maps, which go along with the adventure in the Gamma World rule book. They look pretty nice and makes me wonder if we’re going to get a D&D Gamma World Dungeon Tiles Set.
Also included are four full-color double-sided blank character sheets, enough to create 8 Gamma World characters. They’re a bit too small for my taste, matching up with the 6×9 size of the rulebook. I would have preferred the size of the sheets to be more traditional as they just look…tiny.
And lastly, we have two flats of die-cut monster and character tokens, similar to the ones in the DM’s Kit (yes, there are a lot of similarities between the D&D Gamma World box and the DM’s Kit).
As promised, I said I would discuss the rule book in a bit more detail. Well, wastlander, here we are. The general basis of the game world is that scientists at the Large Hadron Collider accidentally caused the Big Mistake and caused the mutliverse to condense down to one reality, many of which involved the world having a big nuclear war..which explains all the radioactivity.
The rule book is tiny, and I’m not referring to the 6×9 format, which I have actually grown to love. No, the entire rulebook is 160 pages and that includes how to play the game, how to create characters, how to run the game, a bestiary of monsters and an adventure. Granted, they saved some pages with the Alpha Mutations and Omega Tech being in card form rather than in the book itself, and the monster statblocks are very condensed, but still the book is so small that the game comes off feeling rather incomplete. It uses the D&D 4e system, though only up through level 10 (and a level means something slightly different than it does in 4e), which only adds to the incomplete feeling. And you’ll be levelling up faster, as far less XP is required. Oh, and the artwork is a pretty good, although it leans more towards the “cartoony” side.
Though I’ve outlined some of the problems I’ve had with the game up in the paragraphs above, here’s where the real problem comes in, the dealbreaker for me. The game is just goofy. It’s so over-the-top silly that it just shatters my desire to run this as anything other than an occasional one-shot. Don’t get me wrong, I can handle a little silly in my games but I like to keep it subtle and at about the level of Deadlands Hell on Earth (yes, I’m comparing the two again) or the Fallout series. Gigantic sentient cockroaches with huge craniums carrying around carnival-style giant stuffed bunnies need not apply. And, yes, that was the first character I rolled up. Many of the monsters are just as silly. Humanoid pigs, badgers and world-dominating bunnies? Check. I’ve never owned a version of Gamma World before this one, but I really hope they weren’t as goofy as this one. Maybe I just don’t “get it?” I guess I was hoping for more Fallout and less post-apocalyptic Toon.
Character creation is quite random, with you rolling twice on the origin table to determine what exactly you are, taking an 18 in the first mutation’s chosen stat and a 16 in the second mutation’s stat and then rolling 3d6 for each ability score other than that. Loot can also be determined randomly, and of course there’s the whole Alpha Mutation and Omega Tech random card draw I discussed above. I would be OK with this if the chart wasn’t full of ridiculously goofy origins which lead to some truly stupid sounding combinations. And, yes, I know you could just pick two origins if the GM allowed it, but that kinda defeats the purpose doesn’t it?
Weapons are very generic; basically you have melee (heavy or light) and ranged (heavy or light). So a giant steel-ingot filled stuffed rabbit does the same damage as a sledgehammer the size of a small house. I actually don’t have much problem with this. Oh, and armor is treated similarly.
There are a pretty decent selection of monsters in the book, as well as a decently written adventure. Technically, the monsters could be dragged over to 4e (and characters could be dragged into Gamma World) as it uses an extremely similar system though I’m not sure why you’d want to. And trust me, they make sure you know that too, starting with the branding that this is a D&D game.
So, overall, I was not impressed by the game. The rulebook is too short, there are too few levels for PCs, the XP rate is too fast, the random Alpha Mutations each encounter irk me and the game is just far, far too goofy. Gamma World might be great for a palate-cleansing one shot or series of one shots, but I just can’t see it as a long term game I’d want to play an entire campaign in.
[tags]Gamma World,D&D,d20,gaming,review,Role Playing Games,rpg,science fiction[/tags]