Gamma World as Super-Science Fantasy

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Gamma World as Super-Science Fantasy

Post by nezach on Wed Sep 05, 2012 2:32 pm

I recently pondered what set 1E Gamma World apart in my mind from other PA RPGs, including Mutant Future, some of the later versions of GW and even the 1E modules. I'm just musing over the basic boxed set here. Later versions moved away from this to one degree or another.

The main thing for me is the level of science fantasy implied in the pre-apocalyptic society. Actually, its Super-Science fantasy. Going by the book a character digging around in ruins wont find 9mm pistols, shotguns, and assault rifles, or their high tech analogues, but rather they will find Black Ray Guns, force swords, anti-grav and force fields.

Another bit of science fantasy is Broadcast Power. Not much is made of this as far as rules, but this is an underused facet of the setting IMO. Also very Super-Science. There are a lot of in game possibilities with such a setup as well. Items that only work in certain areas, Robots that can only move in range of a broadcast power source. An adventure could be built around getting an ancient broadcast power station running again.

Another Gamma World oddity was robots with tentacles. Just about every robot detailed in the 1E boxed set had at least one set of them even if they otherwise had arms or tractor/pressor beams! There weren't special rules for them and there's no overwhelming mechanical advantage to having them that I can think of, but it added that certain strangeness to the Ancient's technology. Other than its predecessor, Metamorphosis Alpha, I can't think of another RPG that has tentacled robots (The bots in Barrier Peak had them, but it was a cross over more than an entire game).

Another thing about the robots is the massive level of challenge they could represent. A fully loaded Death Machine could vaporize stuff out of Deities and Demigods let alone a group of adventurers maxed out with power armor and weapons. Even a low level encounter with a robotoid was not to be taken lightly.

Other super science fantasy tech that besides Black Ray Guns, force swords, anti-grav and force fields was evocative of a highly advanced society included Matter Transmitter Pads, cars you could drive to the moon, starports and starships, 'ultra-radar,' and mind manipulation technology.

I often daydreamed of running a Gamma World game set in space before the apocalypse where the characters were explorers who had access to all the relics as actual equipment. If it wasn't for the apocalypse the high tech equipment detailed in the game would be more at home in a Star Wars or Buck Rogers style high space opera game. This gradually changed with the modules and later editions, I assume to cater to the more gritty PA style that came into vogue when the Cold War ramped up in the 80s. I understand why it was done, but in doing so I feel GW lost some of it's uniqueness. It also lost some of the sense of wonder for the players in some ways too.

Anyway, I just wanted to share some of my ramblings on GW. Does anyone who has managed to get this far else ponder such things? Anyone else like the Super Science Gamma World of the 1st edition or would you rather there be more tech from 'modern' times?

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Re: Gamma World as Super-Science Fantasy

Post by JobaTett on Wed Sep 05, 2012 3:15 pm

The first post-apocalyptic RPGs I played were Fallout 3 and 1, so I became used to the gritty, yet sometimes comedic style of 50s nuclear horror of mutants, robots, advanced technology, and modern and retro technologies such as guns and iMacs. I like a PA game to be harsh, yet fun. Have modern items such as guns and toilet paper, yet have laser guns and robots. Have deadly craters and radioactive areas where no one can 'live', yet have villages and cities and wild mutations. Maybe that's why Gamma World appealed to me, because the adventures were meant to be as wild(yet serious looking) as the organization of the rulebooks. A game where toilet paper is worth millions, but crazy robots are free!

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Re: Gamma World as Super-Science Fantasy

Post by Draco Malcon on Wed Sep 05, 2012 4:36 pm

oh, definitely love the "weirdness" and super Science of GW. That's not to say that I don't enjoy gritty PA games like Aftermath! or T2000/2013; but there's just something about GW that sets it apart and makes it more fun.

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Re: Gamma World as Super-Science Fantasy

Post by Malcadon on Wed Sep 05, 2012 5:11 pm

The change in AP styles was do to the popularity of Mad Max, and it many clones. I call Mad Max inspired AP settings "Rat-eater" fiction. 1e GW on the other hand, was based more on comic book fantasy - think Mighty Samson or Kamandi. Comic books are a great source of science fantasy, from physics-defying transporters/teleporters, to tentacle-armed robots and death-ray eye-beams.

I find this ideal as a Referee, as I can throw a general shape at the players, and they have to figure out what they found. e.g. "Its shaped like a blocky doughnut, covered in nipples." or "Its spindle-shaped, with a T-shaped bar at the blunt-end, and is covered in strange markings." These things could be anything: guns, bombs, toys, tools, housewares, or even sex-toys—anything! The fun is figuring them out, and the less I make them seem modern, the harder it is to figure them out off-the-bat.

I also find that all the retro-tech adds a degree of flavor to the game. Indian-like players with their primitive technology, encountering Jettison-like technology in ruins, and the one thing that could bridge the gap, is to invent more modern (or at least steam-punk) devices.

I like the way the end was handled: A high-tech utopia where no one suffers, then they got so culturally introspective, that they eat themselves from the inside out! This futuristic ending also removes a lot of the future speculation around the Cold War.

As for having the party start off as futuristic spacemen, I once ran a game where a deep-space expedition was heading for a earth-like planet discovered by a space probe, where all the crew was in "sleep mode." The ship had a malfunction, then head back home, and then crashed on Earth. The surviving crew was told they were thrown off-course and crashed on some alien planet, and with all the alien (mutated) life around, they (the PCs and players) did not questioned this. Then again, I would start-up a Gamma World game, where the players discover that the environment is too limited to be anything but the Warden, but they discover they all that time, it was just a huge Warden-size bunker, and they need to leave as the reactor melted-down years ago, and is slowly flooding the bunker with radiation. I like to throw-off my players, and keep them on their toes. Twisted Evil

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Re: Gamma World as Super-Science Fantasy

Post by nezach on Wed Sep 05, 2012 10:32 pm

Malcadon, I think you are dead on regarding the lure of gritty PA. I know I got into to Twilight 2000 when it came out and games like Aftermath and Morrow Project all had a more after the nuclear war type feel. I know movies like Mad Max/Road Warrior, Red Dawn, and Night of the Comet really affected my group's ideas about what post apocalyptic settings should be like. Mine too. Only in the last few years, really after discovering Mutant Future, have I reexamined why Gamma World was distinct from the other systems.

Another great point about the finding science fantasy artifacts. If it's not based on a real world object there's no chance of a player figuring out what something is based on the description even if his character wouldn't know that. The fact that both the player and the character are baffled always seemed to help the immersion and the sense of wonder.

That 'future spacemen' game sounds pretty cool. The mutations as alien powers is another reason I figured Gamma World would make the basis of a cool retro-future space exploration game. That Warden-sized bunker is pretty cool too. Something like that would make a great Gamma World 'mega-dungeon'.

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