Tabletop Game / Gamma World

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Not pictured: gun-wielding mutant bunnies.

A classic role-playing game originally created by TSR, the same people who made Dungeons & Dragons. Centuries after a vaguely defined apocalypse, a radioactive and ruin-strewn Earth is inhabited by mutants, sentient animals and plants, and insane half-functioning robots, all of whom compete for influence as multi-species civilization begins its long climb to recovery. Gamma World was heavily influenced by TSR's earlier sci-fi RPG, Metamorphosis Alpha.

Despite what a newcomer might think, the tone is quite light-hearted, and the players are strongly encouraged to have fun and not think too hard about how silly it all is.

The game has gone through seven editions so far; TSR published the first three from 1978 to 1985 with their own unique rule sets. 1992's 4th Edition was based on the same engine as D&D's 2nd edition, and 1995's 5th was a supplement for the sci-fi RPG Alternity. In 2002, Wizards of the Coast, which had since absorbed TSR, published a wacky homage to Gamma World entitled Omega World in Polyhedron magazine.

The setting was licensed by Sword & Sorcery Studios (a subsidiary of White Wolf) and heavily revised for d20 Modern in 2003. This new edition recasts the apocalypse as a war among post-Singularity civilizations, a horrific spasm of nanotechnological and biological warfare (with a few nukes thrown in for old time's sake). The old creatures and robots are nearly all retained, but given new and detailed explanations that are designed to elicit horror and awe rather than cheap jokes.

Most recently, Wizards of the Coast released a seventh edition of Gamma World, using the 4th edition Dungeons & Dragons rules, in October 2010. The game was far more humorous, from character creation to Omega Tech descriptions. The 7th Edition setting is one where "the Big Mistake" merged all possible worlds into one, and really leaves the door open for player interpretation.

That edition fell victim to the most notable trend in Gamma World's long history: usually, only a handful of books are released before a new edition comes out and renders all the previous books obsolete. This reached its zenith with the Alternity version, which had only a single, core rulebook released before being discontinued.


This game includes examples of:

  • Adam and/or Eve
  • Adaptation Distillation: Omega World, a tribute to the original game.
  • Adventure Towns
  • After the End
  • Amazing Technicolor Population: Antimatter Blasters are blue, Demons are red, and Photonics come in shiny red, blue, or green.
  • Ammunition Backpack: Contained an atomic energy cell that powered the fusion rifle.
  • Ancient Conspiracy
  • Apocalypse How: Class 2
  • Artistic License Physics: The game is meant to emulate pulp post-apocalypse, and nobody should mistake it for any kind of science text.
  • Attack Its Weak Point: Adventure GW1 Legion of Gold. An amoeboid monster' body can withstand 1,000 Hit Points of damage, but its nucleus can only take 50 Hit Points before it's killed.
  • Attack Reflector
    • The Reflection mutation causes damage inflicted by an opponent to rebound on that opponent. The fraction of damage reflected decreases during use. The first turn the mutation is used all damage is sent back at the attacker. The second turn only half the damage is reflected, and in the third and subsequent turns only one quarter of damage is returned to the source.
    • The Life Leech mutation allows a mutant to drain Hit Points from all creatures within range. If a creature within range has the Anti-Life Leech mutation, the mutant using Life Leech loses Hit Points and the mutant with Anti-Life Leech heals that number of Hit Points.
    • If a creature has both the Absorption and Energy Metamorphosis mutations, it can absorb incoming attacks and use them to heal Hit Points of damage. If there's an excess of energy the attack is redirected back at the source of the attack, damaging it.
  • Atomic Superpowers: Earlier editions leaned heavily on radiation as the source of the bizarre ecosystem. More recently, see Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke.
  • Auto Doc: The 1st Edition Medi-Kit
  • Beast Men
  • Brain in a Jar: Borgs, Permanent Cybernetic Installations and Think Tanks in 1st Edition.
  • Chameleon Camouflage: The Chameleon Powers mutation in the 1E game.
  • City in a Bottle
  • Collectible Card Game: 7th edition had its powers and technology sold on this model; GMs and players had to buy more cards in booster packs for more fantastic stuff to use in their RPG, instead of buying them in sourcebooks. This marketing concept was not well received. However, the core game did include include a full deck of mutations and Omega Tech (Loot), so players weren't required to buy boosters.
  • Crapsack World: It's a pretty run-down world and the players tend to be scavengers picking through what amount to mass graves. However, it's Played for Laughs.
  • Crystal Dragon Jesus
  • Darker and Edgier
    • The 6th Edition for d20 Modern.
    • The original game when it first came out. It's said to have popularized dark humor in RPGs.
  • Dash Attack: In the adventure GW6 Alpha Factor, the mutant creatures known as the S're'daan and the Ba'crolbai would attack opponents with their horns after charging into them.
  • Duct Tape for Everything: We're sure you'll find a use for this...
  • Everything's Worse With Bears Who Think They Are Napoleon
  • Fantastic Racism: The Knights of Genetic Purity, the Iron Society, the Zoopremacists...the list goes on.
  • Fungus Humongous: Adventure GW1 Legion of Gold. The buggem lair has a room filled with a fungus garden made up of tall, shrub-like fungi.
  • Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke: Nanotechnology and its use in altering genetic code have become dominant over the old power source, 'The Bomb did it.'
  • Home Field Advantage: The adventure GW6 Alpha Factor. Jeremiah Coot has filled his base Mindkeep with all sorts of traps, including false vines that cause any opponent who tries to swing on them to fall.
  • Horn Attack: Mutant characters could have horns as a mutation. The mutants known as Rakoxen (and Hoppers in 2nd Edition) had them. Two new monsters in the adventure GW6 Alpha Factor, the S're'daan and the Ba'crolbai, had horns that they could use to attack opponents after charging into them.
  • Horse of a Different Color: Mutant horses, giant horses, podogs, cactus horses...
  • I Love Nuclear Power
  • Improbable Weapon User: Since the game is set in a Scavenger World, it is almost a given that your characters will be these. You could wield a stop sign, a telephone pole, vending machines...really anything you can think of that fits within the one-handed/two-handed light/heavy melee/ranged parameters.
  • In the Future, We Still Have Roombas: In 1st Edition (1978), the General Household Robotoid is designed to clean homes. It has tools such as cleaners, polishers, disinfectants and vacuums.
  • Killer Robot: Technically could be your player character. The Created are an entire faction made of Killer Robots.
  • Light 'em Up: Photonic origins.
  • Lost Technology
  • Machine Worship
  • Make Me Wanna Shout: The 1E Sonic Attack Ability mutation.
  • The Multiverse: The seventh edition backstory features the Large Hadron Collider causing several different realities to intermingle and exchange places, in an event called "the big mistake". Furthermore, Dopplegangers create their doubles by pulling them out of alternate realities.
  • Mutants
  • Nano Machines
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Because you can choose two origins for your character, and the origins are each quite different, you can end up with lots of these. Android Plants, Vampire Octopoids, a hoard of tiny yetis...
  • Overclocking Attack: Alpha mutations have this option, with a 45% chance of failure.
  • Plant Person
  • Playing with Fire
  • Psychic Block Defense
  • Radiation-Immune Mutants: Notably averted. While there were mutations that allowed for resistance to radiation, it wasn't universal to all mutants.
  • Ragnarok-Proofing
  • Rapid Aging: The mutation Hands of Power has four variants. The fourth one is Withering Hands, which causes any creature touched to immediately age 1-10 years.
  • Recycled IN SPACE!: It's D&D, but AFTER THE END! AND SILLY!
  • Rule of Cool
  • Rule of Fun
  • Scavenger World
  • Shout-Out
    • Original 1981 rules booklet. The Treasure List at the end of the book has a number of references to other works.
      • A "pleasure globe" that gives the holder pleasurable sensations. The 1973 movie Sleeper has such a device in use by a future U.S. society.
      • A "Mama" doll. Near the end of the original 1968 Planet of the Apes (1968) movie, a doll that says "Mama" appears as evidence that humans could once speak.
      • A "Rollerball" trophy (from the original 1975 movie Rollerball).
      • A tuba that has mashed flat by a steamroller. In the 1978 M*A*S*H episode "The Smell of Music" Major Winchester's French Horn is crushed flat by a steamroller.
    • Module Famine in Far-Go. The PCs can find an ID card with a Hologram of a bearded man and the inscription "Executive Pass, E.G.G., Pres." This is a reference to E. Gary Gygax, then President of the company TSR that created the Gamma World game.
    • 1983 edition boxed set "Adventure Booklet". One of the buildings in the destroyed city of Pitz Burke (Pittsburg) is Rossum's Universal Robots A&W Division. It once belonged to the RUR Corporation, which made almost 40% of the robots in the world before the Social Wars and the end of civilization. This is a reference to Rossum's Universal Robots in Karl Capek's play R.U.R., which also manufactured robots.
    • 1986 module GW6 Alpha Factor
      • Rakees are mutated flying squirrels who can't be killed. They're taken from Rocky the Flying Squirrel, who appeared in the Rocky and Bullwinkle show.
      • Bokshee is a man who guides the PCs across the After the End landscape of Gamma World. This is a reference to Ralph Bakshi, who led moviegoers through a similar mutant-filled post-apocalyptic world in his film Wizards.
  • Shrouded in Myth: The world before the Cataclysm. Old technology are known as artifacts, electricty is called lightning and machinery, particularly robots, are called live metal.
  • Sickly Green Glow
  • Sliding Scale of Silliness Versus Seriousness
    • The original game, 4th edition, and Omega World are so far on the silly scale that it mutates and flies out into space. 3rd edition and 6th edition, on the other hand, land on the more serious part of the scale, but not to the very end.
    • 7th Edition is much closer to the silly end, including a suggestion that you could respond to a villain by pulling out a cane and singing and dancing like Michigan J. Frog, a backstory in which Peshtigo, Wisconsin suffered nuclear annihilation by the French an untold number of times over (it's said to have happened in 3% of the originally-separate universes that combined into Gamma Terra), random shout-outs to virtually everything under the sun, and not even an attempt to make the yexil (Basically cloth-eating anthropomorphic manticore bandits with laser eyes—no, really) or the other more bizarre monsters anything except completely ridiculous.
  • Sliding Scale of Turn Realism: Round by Round.
  • Spare Body Parts
  • Spike Shooter: The mutations "Quills or Spines" and "Thorn Thrower" allow creatures to throw quills, spines or thorns at opponents and damage them.
  • Supernatural Fear Inducer: The mutation Fear Generation instills complete terror in a creature, causing it to run away for an entire minute. If the target can't run away it will collapse into unconsciousness.
  • Super-Powered Robot Meter Maids: Literally.
  • Super Spit: Several Dragon magazine articles gave new mutations and mutants with this ability, and the Bu'daan in GW6 Alpha Factor.
  • Swiss Army Weapon: The Chameleon Rifle in module GW6 Alpha Factor can be configured in several different ways.
  • Telepathy: Having the Telepathy mutation allows a creature to read the emotions and thoughts of other creatures and send its own thoughts to them.
  • Universal Ammunition: The 7th edition uses an abstract system of ammunition, where any weapon can use any type of ammo. However, using more than one shot per encounter will cause you to run out.
  • Unspecified Apocalypse: Most of the game's versions are highly vague about the reason why Earth has been destroyed.
  • Vampiric Draining: Adventure GW1 Legion of Gold. In the buggem lair, the parn embryots will jump onto victims' heads or shoulders, bite them and suck out their bodily fluids at a rate of 10 Hit Points per combat round
  • Weakened by the Light: While in bright light, a mutant with the Dark Dependency mutational defect is nearly blinded and takes 1-8 Hit Points of damage per four hours of exposure.
  • Wetware CPU: Androids. Inverted with AIs.
  • When Trees Attack: Plants are a possible character origin in all of the editions. Also there have always been numerous species of plant-monsters to spice up wilderness adventures.
  • The Worm That Walks: One of the possible character origins. Depending on your primary origin and your secondary origin, you could be anything from a horde of cockroaches, to a mass of nanomachines, to a horde of sentient, hive-minded kittens.
  • X Meets Y: D&D meets Fallout. (Although, chronologically speaking, Fallout is actually Gamma World meets Mad Max.)

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