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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 a strange new civilization begins its long climb out of barbarism. Gamma World was heavily influenced by TSR's earlier sci-fi RPG, Metamorphosis Alpha.

Despite what the above description might suggest, the setting rarely takes itself too seriously, 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.

One tragic trend of Gamma World's long history is that most editions only see a handful of books 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 before being discontinued.

This game includes examples of:

  • Absurdly-Spacious Sewer: Polyhedron magazine #79 adventure "Evansburgh". The title town has sewers that are two meters high by three meters wide. The Player Characters must explore them while searching for kidnapped children.
  • Adaptation Distillation: Omega World, a tribute to the original game.
  • Adventure Towns: The breakdown of communication and other infrastructure leaves most of the world in its own little corners. Villages, bunkers and city-states may exist at widely varying tech levels, and cultural norms vary wildly.
  • After the End: While it's generally played for laughs, it's Black Comedy at best.
  • All Hail the Great God Mickey! Badders (mutant badgers) worshipping the Wisconsin Badgers football mascot.
  • Amazing Technicolor Population: Antimatter Blasters are blue, Demons are red, and Photonics come in shiny red, blue, or green.
  • Ammo-Using Melee Weapon: Four weapons used in melee combat are powered by hydrogen or chemical energy cells that last for various amounts of time: vibro dagger (30 minutes), vibro blade (20 minutes), energy mace (15 minutes) and stun whip (30 minutes).
  • Ammunition Backpack: The fusion rifle is connected to a backpack that contains the atomic energy cell that powers it.
  • Ancient Conspiracy: Several editions include theories that the apocalyptic event and some of its consequences were the results of conspiracies beforehand.
  • Anti-Radiation Drug: In 1st edition, one of the types of medical equipment left by the Ancients is Anti-Radiation Serum. If it is administered to someone immediately after they've been exposed to hard radiation, it will cure all hit points of damage inflicted by the radiation.
  • Apocalypse How: Class 2
  • Apocalypse Not: In 6th edition, the "New Empire" period takes place generations after the apocalypse, when the world is developing into new nations and starting to develop its own advanced technology again, and the question is whether a new modern world can be born or whether people will screw it all up again.
  • Artistic License – Physics: The game is meant to emulate pulp post-apocalypse adventure. As such, most editions of the game have a section explicitly stating that on Gamma Terra, scientific realism takes a backseat to the Rule of Fun.
  • 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.
    • A creature with the Thought Imitation mutation can return any mental attack made on it against the source. This includes Mental Blasts, Mental Control and Illusion Generation.
  • 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 Man: In a wide variety, including one-of-a-kinds.
  • Bizarro Apocalypse: The 7th edition is set after the CERN Supercollider caused every possible timeline to merge into one, scattering bits of time and space all over a vast wasteland.
  • Black Comedy: The entire landscape is a mass grave, but it's hard to feel terribly somber in a world where location names are puns, monsters have LEGO Genetics and alphabet-soup names, and most of the heroes look like the rejects from any other game's monster lists.
  • 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. In fairness, 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: Global civilization has been eradicated, the world is now a radioactive and monster-infested wasteland, only a small handful of settlements retain more than a Renaissance tech level, and the few survivors who aren't living hand to mouth seem intent on raiding or oppressing their neighbors. While some editions set a tone of hope for the future, there seems little or no prospect of Gamma Terra climbing out of its dark age any time soon.
  • Crystal Dragon Jesus: Some of the new faiths seem strangely familiar.
  • Darker and Edgier: 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.
  • Denser and Wackier:
    • The later editions gradually avert this and develop a more serious setting, with 6th Edition being a post-apocalyptic world played almost completely straight. Most of the old monsters and robots are still there, but they're no longer Played for Laughs.
    • 7th edition reversed the whole trend and is the wackiest version yet.
  • Duct Tape for Everything: We're sure you'll find a use for this...
  • Fantastic Racism: The Knights of Genetic Purity, the Iron Society, the Zoopremacists... the list goes on. Whether you happen to be a pure strain human, a mutant, an animal, a plant, or a robot, you can rest assured that a) someone hates you and b) there's a violently supremacist cryptic alliance just for you.
  • Fast-Killing Radiation: In the 1st edition, high intensity radiation causes instant death.
  • 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.
  • Funny Animal: Player character mutant animals tend to fall into this category - certainly that's what most of the art depicts. Other mutated creatures in the setting have a much wider range.
  • Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke: This trope is present to some extent in all editions, but in later editions, nanotechnology (and its use in altering genetic code) became more prominent.
  • 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, including the Rakoxen and (in 2nd edition) Hoppers. 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...and jackalopes.
  • 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 in 7th edition.
  • Lost Technology: Most campaigns will feature efforts to recover forgotten technologies at some point, and most characters will carry and employ devices they do not really understand.
  • Machine Worship: Present in some areas.
  • Magical Particle Accelerator: The "Big Mistake" of the 7th edition was caused by the Large Hadron Collider malfunctioning somehow. And what a malfunction it was.
  • Meat-Sack Robot: In the adventure GW 1 Legion of Gold, the PCs will explore an Ancient base that has been taken over by androids. They will discover some People Jars with androids growing inside of them. The androids consist of an underlying metallic framework with electronic wiring (the "robot" part) covered by a normal human body (flesh, muscles, etc.).
  • Moth Menace:
    • The blaash is a 1 meter long carnivorous moth that gives off high intensity radiation in a five meter radius. The radiation can kill or mutate characters.
    • Module GW6 Alpha Factor introduces the blaasut, a giant moth that looks like the blaash. Anyone near a heat source (such as a campfire) at night may be attacked by a blaasut's battering wings.
  • The Multiverse: The 7th 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: Playable in humanoid, animal, and plant varieties.
  • Nano Machines: The concept didn't really exist yet in the earliest editions, but the sixth edition relied heavily on this kind of technology to apply Better than a Bare Bulb to some of the ludicrousness.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Characters in 7th edition. Because you can choose two origins for your character, and the origins are each quite different, you can end up with this trope nonstop. Android Plants, Vampire Octopoids, an enormous horde of tiny yetis...
  • Only Shop in Town: Adventure GW 1 Legion of Gold. The town known as the Fortress of Horn has only one shop, a general store that sells food, equipment and other merchandise.
  • Overclocking Attack: Alpha mutations have this option, with a 45% chance of failure.
  • Plant Person: Mutated Plants are an uncommon option for players. A few other plants in the setting employ a humanoid form, albeit usually only as bait.
  • Playing with Fire
  • Psychic Block Defense
  • Radiation-Immune Mutants: Notably averted. While there are mutations that allow for resistance to radiation, it isn't universal to all mutants.
  • Radiation-Induced Superpowers: Radiation is still dangerous, but depending on the edition and your character, you might get a new mutant power after the radiation sickness is over.
  • Ragnarök Proofing: Judging from the gear lists, some surprisingly mundane objects were engineered to survive centuries.
  • 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!
  • Regional Redecoration: In the 1st edition, the epic battle between the terrorist group The Apocalypse and its opponents released powerful energies that caused continents to buckle and oceans to boil, massively changing the surface of the Earth. Among other things, it caused inland seas to appear in the North American continent.
  • Rule of Cool: There aren't many efforts at justifying all this strangeness...
  • Rule of Fun: ...and why should there be?
  • Scavenger World: Even the wreckage of the lost ages is much better than the best hand-made products of the new.
  • 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 was 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, electricity is called lightning and machinery (particularly robots) are called live metal.
  • Sickly Green Glow: Radiation tends to give off this helpful warning glow, which has saved many, many lives.
  • Sliding Scale of Silliness vs. 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, while still unmistakably Gamma Terra, make more of an effort to portray a world that's a little more plausible.
    • 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: A not-uncommon result of mutation. This is possibly the only game system in which your total count of limbs may increase over the course of the campaign.
  • 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
    • Adventure GW6 Alpha Factor. The monster known as the Bu'daan can spit a ball of phlegm at a target or group (an area effect attack up to 15 meter radius). Depending on the success of the attack the ball can knock the victim(s) down, stun them, entrap them or entrap and suffocate them.
    • Dragon magazine #96 article on mutant body parts. One of the new body parts is an acid pump attached to the digestive system that allows the mutant to squirt hydrochloric acid out its mouth at targets up to four meters away.
    • Dragon #108 article "Mutant Manual I".
      • The Dragun can collect up to 4 large stones in its gizzard and spit them out at opponents. A stone weighs 4-16 lbs., can be spit up to 40 yards away and does 6-36 Hit Points when it hits.
      • A Firebug can spit a glob of flammable liquid up to 8 meters away. The glob ignites on contact with air, doing 2-12 Hit Points of damage per Action Turn for five Action Turns.
    • Polyhedron magazine #57 article "Mutations". The mutation Incendiary Spittle allows the mutant to spit out saliva that lights on fire like napalm. It does 1-6 Hit Points of damage per combat round for a number of rounds equal to the mutant's Constitution.
  • 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 minds of other creatures and send its own thoughts to them.
  • Terminator Impersonator: Dragon magazine #104 article "The Exterminator". Exterminators are based on the T-800 Terminator. They're two meter tall humanoid robots with a duralloy skeleton covered by synthetic skin that makes them look identical to Pure-Strain Humans. Their sole purpose is to hunt down and kill specific targets. They normally carry a plasma rifle, but can pick up and use other weapons. They are vulnerable to high explosives.
  • Towering Flower: In the area around Mindkeep in module GW 6 Alpha Factor, there are multiple areas with flowers up to 20 meters high, including the Rainbow Forest (petunias), Ice Forest (daisies), Fire Forest (snapdragons) and Rose Fields. The giant plants are mutations caused by the nightmarish effects that reduced the planet to an After the End setting.
  • 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 ruined.
  • 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.
    • Polyhedron magazine #18 article "Kobolds and Robots and Mutants with Wings, These Are a Few of My Favorite Things". Kobalts are the Gamma World version of the Dungeons & Dragons kobold. They have a -2 penalty to hit in direct sunlight.
  • Wetware CPU: Androids. Inverted with A.I.s.
  • 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 in 7th edition. 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.