Art from Barry J Kelly.
People asked me a few times whether or not Gamma World could be used for long term play. It sounds wierd, but I’m going to say “Yes”. You can’t sustain zaniness over several sessions,
But here’s the secret: A gonzo RPG isn’t always about being crazy. In fact no game, in any genre, should be consistently and constantly about any one thing all the time. A horror RPG that’s trying to take your head off or make you cry in fear all the time is actually failing — RPGs need a healthy balance of tones and moods. The mixutre of moods support your central tone over the long term.
Also, trying to make a funny game funny is going to break your heart, straight up. The closest you can come is to create absurrd situations that move the players towards humor. Setting yourself up for success means that once you create that absurd situation you let the situation resolve how it needs to. Sometimes your players will pick up on each absurd cue and the whole group will bust a gut. Other times they will make the situation more serious then you intended. No matter how they take it, the absurd elements originally placed by you remain. Serious or wacky, you’ve built a scene through play. Build off that scene and move to the next.
But don’t try to force the funny. The funny makes itself. It creates itself through play and through your table interactions. You can’t design your funny moments but you can allow for them for certain.
The second trick of making Gamma World work over several sessions is building the world over time. If the world build a little bit each section, it’s a natural for campaign play. You discover a new faction, or a new resource, and that drives you to the next session and the next after that. I really feel that Gamma Terra is a great place to run a wild sandbox game. So on top of everything, I feel that the prospective Gamma Terra GM will require a flair for improvisation (or at least start cultivating it) I feel that Gamma World is going to work best when you exhiibit a willingness to cut loose and let things fly off the rails. The game trends towards entropy and anarchy and wants you there too. If you can give it the fuel, the unexpected mechanical triggers will reward you with more than usual amounts of crazy, unpredictable fun.
None of this tells you anything about Automatic Adventures.
But I’m going to try talking to you about it right now. At the bottom of this post, you’ll see two PDFs; one is an overview of how automatic Adventures generally work. The second is the first example of an Automatic Adventure “campaign” or starting point. Basically Automatic Adventure gives you a mock world and scenario you can use with Gamma World — you’ll still need to make up an encounter, but a) I’m working on a random encounter generator and b) you should have enough basic material at that point to do something cool on your own in short order.
Think of each campaign as a jumping off point in a certain style. Thunderdome is Gamma World by way of Mad Max — all the origins and story elements are reminiscent of things out those movies. What I ultimately want to see and make are different sets with different themes. Chris Sims already mentioned Thundarr the Barbarian as a nice overlay, and Jared Von Hindman got inspired and brought up He-Man; I’ve been thinking that Gamma World could make a fine engine for something like Borderlands.
Take a peek at the Automatic Adventure playset. Try it out and offer feedback. Ultimately, make your own Automatic Adventure group and send us a link! We’d love to track them all here for people to pick up and play.