Cockroaches in the Thunderdome: Gonzo on Gama Terra.

Cockroaches in the Thunderdome: Gonzo on Gama Terra.

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There’s this game, you may have heard of  it?  It’s called Gamma World and everyone seems to be talking about it and/or playing it.  Yours truly got  fascinated with Gamma World long ago, after hearing about it at PAX East.  The hooks sunk even deeper when I spoke to Dave over at Critical Hits about the playtest.

What’s so special about Gamma World?  First, it’s 4th edition D&D ruleset on massive, mind-bending amounts of peyote; the ruleset is vastly tweaked, made wilder and faster and more agressive by several degrees.  Second, it’s a really great return to something that  there is a distinct lack of — the gonzo rpg.  It seems that every game that you come across these days is you and your friends versus a world-spanning threat.  There aren’t a lot of games in the mainstream –certainnly nothing else in WotC’s stable — that explicitly says “Relax, have fun.  Laugh and be zany.” I appreciate that Gamma World holds the banner for the gonzo, following in the great tradition of Paranoia (which in my opinion is the classic gonzo game).

If there’s a chink in the armor, it’s that whlie we can make characters tremendously fast (10 minutes to start, around 5 once you’ve made a few), there are currently no official ways to make an adventure quickly.  All the ease of  play has been passed to the players, while the DM gets the standard encounter building tools that you use for 4e.  4e makes building encounters easier for sure, but for a game like Gamma World the tools need to enable a GM to get the basics to run a game right when they want to play.  One can always improv a game (I did so, though with the help of some tools I built), but Gamma World should provide those tools explicitly.  Experienced GMs will probably do what I’ve been doing automatically, but lesser GMs might be at a loss, especially as there is not much other help for building an encounter.

(did I mention that I have a set of tools I made up to do just that? I’ll be releasing it soon on the site.  It’s called Automatic Adventures and I think it’s pretty damn cool. Patience grasshoppers!)

So that’s my basic thoughts on the game.  The very next day after I picked it up, I had to play.  I actually got a couple of sessions that weekend. I’ll talk about the first here.

My first victim was my buddy Dave over at Guilt Free Games.  He rolled up a Seismic Gravity Controller.  I wasn’t really jazzed up by the adventures or encounters in the book, so time for Automatic Adventures.  I had done, no prep other than build the first draft of AA, but using it we established that his character Thurgood was a street tough, looking to knock out whoever got in his way.

Around the area known as the Devil’s Bend, a cult of genetically engineered humans known as the Cult of In Vitro had been causing problems to  the other denizens of the area.  Thurgood had come into a town (can’t find my notes we wrote unfortunately),  right as there was a toxic spill!   Irradiated vegetation came to life in the form of reptiles, and Thurgood fought the lizard vines off bravely.  There wasn’t much time to celebrate though, as even more lizard vines arose from the sludge, attacking the survivors in the town.

Fortunately for Thurgood there was an empty car nearby.  He hotwired it with a quick mechanics roll and started to flee the chaos of the town. Unfortunately for him, the agents who caused this spill were members of the cult of In Vitro were under strict orders not to let anyone leave alive.

So here we tinkered around with some makeshift vehicle rules (so I like to tinker! sue me), which resulted ultimately in Thurgood shaking off his pursuers and making his way to further adventures…

It was great and fast fun.

Next up is Cockroach empaths and cockroach drones piloting humans.

Also, what do you want to see on At-Will concerning Gamma World?  Gamma World is not going to ever be our main emphasis, but if it’s 4e I like to cover it.

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About the Author

A Jack of All Trades ,or if you prefer, an extreme example of multi-classing, Gamefiend, a.k.a Quinn Murphy has been discussing, playing and designing games straight out of the womb. He is the owner and Editor-in-Chief of this site in addition to being an aspiring game designer. As you would assume, he is a huge fan of 4e. By day he is a technologist. Follow gamefiend on Twitter