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Gamma World: Over 30 years of I have no idea what is going on.
I am a hopeless nerd. I remember the good old days, where I could point and laugh at the folks who played with plastic elves and rolled their funny-sided dice. In my ignorance, I dared to write "Stupid Monsters of Dungeons & Dragons" not knowing what it would unleash. Now my free time as well as my working hours are filled with Beholders, Flumphs, and all other manner of things that once brought me shame. I'm proud of my hobby but I admit I'm a hopeless nerd.
What we're going to talk about today is Gamma World. Until recently, I'd never heard of it. I never ran in the right circles (or maybe I did, depending on your outlook) for it to come up as a topic of conversation. Recently, most likely by the time you're reading this, Wizards of the Coast released the 7th (or 8th edition, I'll explain later) of Gamma World. That might not mean much to you if you're not familiar with the original game. The thing is, Gamma World is pretty much just as old as Dungeons & Dragons. It's been around forever, it won't go away and it's filled with giant mutant bunnies you can ride into combat wielding a flamethrower and a suit of medieval armor, like some drug-induced jousting knight reverie. I, naturally, fell in love immediately. The game is zany, madcap, and other similar terms while still being considered a "deadly serious" roleplaying experience for some. While at GenCon this past year, I visited the Gamma World Seminar, where they answered question after question of Gamma World fans unhappy with the new edition's lighthearted stance. Scathing arguments involving hot geek on geek rage flooded the land involving the seriousness of Gamma World, a game known for having a race of giant Badger Men who worship the mascot of the Wisconsin Badgers. So instead of choosing the side I liked the most (Team Jacob let me down) I decided I'd look at every Gamma World book ever made and give it the "Stupid Monsters" treatment. Admittedly it's a bit like kicking a cripple. Some of monsters are supposed to be "Joke" monsters. But if you've read my other articles, you'll know that's a little hard to prove sometimes. When Dungeons & Dragons presents a "Killer Pillow" and an "Evil Pile of Dirty Laundry" as serious monsters, you really lose scope. So while I will be sharing a few things that make my brain slush out my ears, we'll be multitasking and going through the sordid and surreal past of Gamma World, edition by edition. Don't play Gamma World? Me neither. But I plan to and have a driving need to because of what this random whim of an article exploded into. Let's begin.
The year is 1958 and Brian Aldis write the book "Non-Stop", the book cited as the official inspiration for the game that would be the inspiration for Gamma World. (Trust me, we'll get to Gamma World in the Gamma World article eventually.)
Here we've got a story of an interstellar ship where all the survivors are the descendants of explorers who were infected with alien water that turned them into midgets. I might be grossly oversimplifying but basically the inhabitants don't know what's going on and regular humans are trying to help them by sending in dwarves to infiltrate their society to let them know what's going on. Dear God if there'd ever been a movie of Non-Stop I would have have reviewed it by now. So James Ward, creator of what comes next (which is the parent of Gamma World) cites Non-Stop as one of the main inspirations. Oh James, you did so much better than a tragic interstellar dwarf story.
Ladies and Gentleman, it is 1976 and it is time to say hello to Metamorphosis Alpha.
Look at that cover Art. I see a Gay Pride Rainbow dragon coming out the face of a broken robot. I see what looks like the Smurf village slowly creeping into the control room. I see a really phallic spaceship that needs to go to the doctor to get those spots checked out. And finally, I see what can only be described as a barking spider. Well done, James Ward. That's awesome. No, really. Metamorphosis Alpha is the story of an interstellar ark starship named The Warden that passes through a radiation cloud sending it out of control and...well...fills it with Felinoids. The game looks to be pretty much a dungeon crawl, only you're on a spaceship, you're a mutant, and the entire world hates you. By "world" I mean The Warden, because that's where the entire game takes place. Keep in mind that this is one of the very first Campaign settings. Like ever. So why should we care? First off, James Ward is the same guy that'll create Gamma World. The Warden exists in the Gamma World setting (or it did until later editions & James kept the rights to Metamorphosis Alpha to himself) so they're connected. On a much more literal level: They're kinda the same game with a different setting. Sorta. Let's have a flip through the book and see if anything pops out at us.
Someone's been sleeping in my Coolant Chamber, said Papa Bearoid.
One thing to remember about Metamorphosis Alpha and subsequent Gamma Worlds is that any animal in the real world, will have a "futuristic mutant" version. Bearoids, Siminoids, Felinoids, Caninoids, etc. This is something that'll fluctuate between editions, depending on how serious the game designers wanted to be. Sometimes you could be a giant lizard man, other times playing a racoon ninja was out of the question. And some versions let you just play normal animals with mutant intelligence. Keep reading to see the psychic Cow that was a pregenerated character for the fight against Gamma World Walt Disney. I'm getting ahead of myself, so let's stick to the task at hand.
Where to begin? Say hello to the average party in Metamorphosis Alpha. I like the balls on the short guy there on the right. Armed only with a Bow & Arrow. Note that when I type "arrow" in the singular here I mean it. I think Fishman in the back is mourning the fact that the only woman he's seen on the ship is about 8 inches high. Those are all real mutations in the game...rolling your character you can easily become a fairy. Or Prince Valiant who likes to gently caress the shoulders of robots. You don't have much of a choice...the dice decide what genetic doom befalls you.
Take a look at this and tell me if you notice anything wrong:
So....you can have Adults that are twelve years old? The 70's were a weird time. More notably, look at how many players you can have. I swear to GOD I have trouble fitting 24 people in my flat. I can't imagine how that'd work. So let's just say it:
Dear Metamorphosis Alpha Fans: I dare you to play the game as it was intended, with 2 dozen players. Upload your video someplace and send me an email and I will replace this challenge with a link to you. Come on, Metamorphosis Alpha fanatics, you know you want to.
The less said about a perfect woman who is regularly serviced by whatever a "Sword Bush" is, the better. Let's move on.
The year is...oh damn it.
See the movie Wizards from Ralph Bakshi for another hint at the origins of Gamma World. It is, weirdly enough, the only movie I've found that comes close to the setting. It's a Post-apocalyptic fantasy story, where Wizards use old technology against the mutants, fairies, and each other.
The Year is 1978: First Edition Comes out. I'm not born yet and people are already playing Gamma World.
This? This is Gamma World? A bunch of G.I. Joe rejects in a bombed-out landscape? Where's my Rainbow Dragon?
While the cover isn't that impressive (or originally in color for some reason), this is indeed Gamma World, brought to you by James Ward and another guy who isn't James Ward, so it ruins my thesis if I talk about him too much. The game is all about random mutations and surviving in a world years and years after the Great Apocalypse happened. It's pretty much Metamorphosis Alpha only fleshed out into a full setting and given all the bells and whistles a "real" game should have. By that I just mean it's a close equivalent to original D&D mechanically only with some madness thrown in. Or so my geeks on the street tell me. I wasn't even a fetus yet so I have to trust their word.
I wonder if future Gamma World 1st edition stuff would have such mundane cover art?
Hello Legion of Gold.
Legion of Gold: Gold Robot Smash Jared with Craziness!
What about the Zombie wielding a parking meter, the samurai, and the chesty skink lady?
Legion of Gold: Gold Robot Still Smash!
What if I told you they're going to remake you in 2010?
Legion of Gold: Gold Robot Smash Jared Later.
This is the DM's screen and I think it's most interesting because I have no idea which side of this ambush is supposed to be the good guys. Is it the Beetle Lizard thing riding the Worm accompanied by the unspeakable thing & his robot? I think I'm going to side with the punk elf girl and her yoda-had-a-cyclops-baby-with-a-gargoyle friend there. I'm a bit of a contrarian, I admit.
So is Gamma World a serious game? You tell me. This is the picture that accompanies the section about Mutations. This isn't a monster in the game mind you, this is supposed to be something you can play. And who wouldn't want to be a flying hippo with antennae?
Confederate Fried Chicken, anyone? In Famine in Far-Go, a super computer is breeding the tastiest of chickens for long-dead fast food customers when the chickens suddenly become intelligent and rebel. It's almost the plot of the Troma movie "Poultrygeist" and thus I can only say Gamma World is an awesome, terrible thing.
In Gamma World, Badders (Mutant Badgers) worship the Wisconsin Badger Mascot.
And now, for some Stupid Monsters. For the sake of comparison, I've jumbled some of the images here, so you can see what a critter looks like when someone tries to make it cool. You'll laugh. You'll cry. Trust me.
This is the Yexil. I would propose that the Yexil is the silliest and strangest thing to appear in pretty much every edition of Gamma World. It's a Lion/Bat/Insect THING with laser vision....
....that only eats clothing. I'm not joking. It will take 6 editions of the game to go by before some game designer thought of even TRYING to explain that. They're peaceful kind creatures that can shoot you 3 times a round. They hurt my soul somehow. Giant terrible monsters that only want to devour high-end synthetic fibers that have been woven into clothing. I....yeah. Let's move on.
Oh sweet mother of No.
I don't care if you make an interesting back story. It's a Centisteed and it makes coke shoot my nose every time I hear it's name.
By the by, are you ready to meet the traditional nemesis in any given Gamma World game? What Orcs are Dungeons & Dragons, Hoops are to Gamma World. You are not prepared for their evil. Their adorable, cuddly wuddly evil.
Mutant Bunny Men. Actually, in the first edition, they look to be pretty much just big rabbits with arms. In later editions we'd hear introductions talking about the difficulty of making the Hoops scary. Let's see how they did?
One addendum to that: Besides being rabbit men who are feared "for their ability to breed quickly" all Hoops have the magical ability to turn metal into rubber. I don't know why either. They bounce so so should everything else?
Here, Rabbit plans a military coup against Christopher Robin.
Here's the Alternity Hoop (5th Edition), which introduces the notion of "Primeval wereRabbits" as the way to go. The current edition goes a similar route but still, here's my favorite.
This is from Jonathan Tweet's Omega World, the unofficial/Official 5.5 edition of Gamma World (I'll explain later). Here he (and Jeff Carlisle) makes Hoops Biker Fetish Punks, which is made all the scarier by their ability to turn anything they caress into latex. I mean Rubber.
Ho Ho Ho I bring you Tidings of Death, Mutie Scum!
God Save us. No, it's not a Futurama reference. Here the game's creator James shows up in Dragon Magazine with Santabot, complete with a detailed story of why a malfunctioning computer would install lasers in the foreheads of robot-reindeer. Looking at the picture though: If you don't want horrible Terminator-Klaus to come to your door with lasers and a vibro-dagger, don't put up a 9-foot-tall Xmas tree in your front yard. Gamma World Holidays: Where putting a Chanukah Menorah in your window could save your life.
Now, a Q & A moment from Polyhedron Magazine:
It's a terrible scan, but I believe in showing the proof that I'm not making some of this stuff up. (This is the same reason I scanned the text for "Giant Beaver" in D&D.) In the above you can see quite clearing that it's perfectly acceptable to have all watermelons explode when you bite into them and rabbits can very easily be filled with nitroglycerin. Did I mention I love Gamma World?
Here's one more word from James Ward. I keep saying the name and he's the daddy of Gamma World (as Gygax is the Daddy to Dungeons & Dragons and groups of men rolling dice in a basement without the intent to gamble). In my research, something became really apparent. James Ward wants to kill you. Which explains a lot about the lethality of Gamma World, particularly the recent edition Wizards just came out with. Let's see what he has to say.
"What right do primitive creatures that try for these great technology have in not expecting to get the maximum energy of force directed back at them?" Holy crap. That is the longest paragraph I've ever read where someone admits to being a Sadist who loves killing player characters. Read it again, he doesn't deny it. He starts an adventure by telling everyone they're going to die? This was written twenty years ago and I found RECENT posts online from James Ward involving happy dances and dead PCs. Gamma World was apparently meant to really, really, kill you. I said it already but I think the lethality combined with easy character creation of the new version is why this attitude might be something not sending me screaming to the hills. The current edition of Gamma World literally says: "If you die, you make a new character who wanders up to the party at the end of the encounter". Thank Jesus.
Note to James Ward: If we ever do meet, I would happily have my character killed by you. Just don't do the Jigsaw puppet voice when you start the game and talk about my inevitable demise. It's all I ask.
By the way, these are hopeless characters. Since you roll your character's statistics randomly, there's a rule in Gamma World that if you suck too much you can take your character behind the barn and shoot it. Not a bad rule, really.
Finally, a bit of advertisement from TSR:
Yes, that's Gary Gygax's underage daughter Elise surviving the apocalypse and looking foxy. It's not important to the Gamma World countdown, but I'd be a fool for not sharing it.
So now that first edition is out, some time passes. We've got a few years to kill, so let's go on a tangent. The Post-Apocalyptic craze sweeps across the land. Games start getting more heavily influence by movies and television, something you'll see OVERTLY in just a moment when 2nd edition Gamma World comes out. However, there are 2 properties that synch up well with Gamma World and while one is obvious...the other will surprise you as being a Post-Apocalyptic landscape.
Demon Dogs! It's Thundarr the Barbarian (1981). He's got a light saber, a big mutant cat man name Ookla, and a foxy princess who can cast magic spells. The story of the cartoon if you're one of the sane people who don't want it on DVD regularly because you're a nerd, is that in 1994 the world pretty much got screwed up by an asteroid and 2000 years later the land is filled with mutants, monsters, and people who don't know how to use a blender. The funny part is that while the setting is really close to Gamma World, Thundarr the Barbarian is a "serious" take on the Post-Apocalyptic wasteland. Yes it's a kid's cartoon but even when the cast meets mutant rabbitmen, they don't turn them into a joke. So....looking for a cartoon version of Gamma World, I feel that we need to move on. The setting is there, but something just isn't quite right.
The year is 1982 and I think we have a winner.
When I first started trying to find cartoons and movies that fit snuggly into the Gamma World mold, I kept coming back to He-Man. Look at the Cast: We've got robots, zombies, dangerous natural hazards, mutant animal men of all sorts, sword fighting right next to cybernetics next to laser cannons, ancient ruins, rocket cars, and green panthers. All the pieces fell into place save one thing: There wasn't an Apocalypse. Or I thought there wasn't. Turns out the original back story to the He-man universe that was only featured in the original comic books that came with the first string of toys was this: The ancients fought in The Great War, which destroyed the land, leaving technology scarce and the shape of man unstable. Apparently the secret of Castle Grayskull was that it was filled with the wisdom of the Ancients. Which would include how to build iPods or maybe pants. Now that I think about it, Eternia really needed a tailor. Looking back, I'm kind of bothered by how many Saturday mornings young Jared spent watching muscular men in daisy dukes bikini briefs slap each other around. Explains a bit though. Let's....get back to Gamma World and away from other cultural influences.
The year is 1983 and it's time for 2nd Edition Gamma World and no more talk of Pop Culture.
That Referee Screen art looks nothing like the monster from Alien. I know if you look closely you can see all sorts of differences, but at first glance, it's totally not a Xenomorph. Still, it's a step up from some of the Art in the last edition. Let's see what else it can do.
Here we see an Electric Razor in a World gone Mad. Now with lasers for an extra close shave!
Dear Lord, even old Gamma World pushes my buttons in a ridiculous way. Remember that drug-induced jousting tournament I was joking about earlier? I was just making that up...I'd totally forgotten that it pretty much happened on the cover of 2nd Edition. Well played, Gamma World.
I have so many questions. Why the Raccoon Musketeers? Why are the heroes dressed like the Fantastic Four, only with a musical note on their chests? Is that Orc attacking a giant robot with a board with a nail in it?
Not only is this bear huge, wielding cutlery, and armed with laser eyes...but its wardrobe illustrates a deep understanding of irony. Which means you need to kill it. Twice.
Seps are the Bulettes of the World of Gamma. To non-nerds, I'm sort of saying the idea of "Land Sharks" isn't as funny/original as people think it is. Then again, the right Art can change anything. Check out this from 7th edition:
Well, maybe not. But they're still funny and at least now it looks like a naked mole rat, which is, oddly enough, a non-mutant animal that can creep people out. I think it's the squishy flesh lined with dozens and dozens of nipples. Ick.
Do you ride the mighty Jackalope?
Say hello to Napoleon Bonaparte. The Bearoid.
I think I share this to reinforce that if Gamma World gets serious with an edition, it hasn't happened yet. It's true, the art in the 2nd edition of Gamma World is a bit less cartoony, but the content is all still there and will be for at least a couple more editions. I will, however, point out that the interior art, with a few exceptions, is featuring more and more humans in Mad Max-like situations. It kind of makes sense...The Road Warrior came out just before this edition & Beyond Thunderdome came out the year of the next edition. Think of it as less pandering to an audience and more just game designers being influenced by what's going on around them. That's what I like to think. I also believe in unicorns, for what it's worth.
The year is 1985. It's time to meet the 3rd Edition of Gamma World....only 2 years after the 2nd edition?
Not a He-man reference.
Seriously though, I tried to figure out why another edition came out so quickly after the other. Besides a radical change in the style for the cover art, the interior art and text is pretty much the same as 2nd Edition. Looking deeper, I found out what I missed and why. When I look at these old books, I don't take the time to learn the mechanics within them; I'm only looking for the fluff and the funny. Apparently, and yes I got this lead from Wikipedia, this is to blame:
Color-Coded Action Tables were apparently a big TSR trend at the time. I get scared when someone tries to explain THAC0 to me, so I'm going to trust that those curious enough about the ACT will be brave enough to figure it out on their own. Hell, maybe I'm just the only guy around who never role-played with a chart. I am sheltered in my geekery.
Action Table aside, I want Gamma World to have my babies.
Electro-Punching a Dinosaur? Dr. McNinja would be proud.
You'll notice that the Art has stepped away from the "Post-Apocalyptic I made my weapons and clothes out of garbage" look to the "In Gamma World, We can all find custom fetish outfits and matching weapons" vibe. I mean look at the city in the background there. It doesn't exactly feel like Gamma World if it's still standing, you know? Maybe that's why some people feel older editions might be serious about Gamma World. The Art for any roleplaying game really shapes what people walk away from it...World of Darkness games wouldn't be the same if the interior art was in color, since the starkness of the black & white (which saves money) hammers the grim setting home. With Gamma World, the art seems to be even more important. By now we're not seeing flying hippo mutants and more pug-faced bikers with cybernetic arms. Eventually we're going to dive into how our attitude towards the post-apocalyptic future changed over time, but not just yet.
...I'm going to introduce you to the deadly Koala people.
When you think back to the time I showed you the giant six-breasted Lesbian Amazon, and you will, please be gentle.
Let me unpack what you're looking at. One of the adventures in The Beta Principle supplement involves the party traveling through Disneyworld. It's not called that, but the great sage who was frozen and thawed out after the apocalypse, is great at creating animatronics, runs the whole amusement park, and is named Waldis. Waldis? I'd like solve the puzzle, Alex. There's even a map that's just almost a map of Mickey's hometown. Here WalDisney waters his flowers, attended to by his cyborg servant who has a robot head and bird legs installed. The characters on the ledge are the pregenerated characters provided in the book, including a Mutated Bull, a walking & talking cactus, and a spear-wielding kangaroo mutant with an elephant's nose. If you had any doubt that Gamma world was still zany, please put it to rest.
The year is 1992 and it's time for 4th Edition.
See the destroyed building in the background? That's how we roll in Gamma World, baby. Besides getting the architecture right, you can see we've returned to the salvage hodgepodge fashion sense. Armor made out of road signs never goes out of style. Also I think it's important to note the effort to show that the scary wolfman is an ally in need of help, rather than just another monster. Just saying, it's important...most covers featured only the most humanoid character getting to be heroic. This didn't apply to the supplements for the core books? That crap be important. Speaking of which...
So much to say. This edition is just as light-hearted as the others and yet....that looks pretty dark my friends. Luckily I can be distracted by either bison booty or a Dr. Insano cameo in the background.
You don't need to know the context of this image. Be it the wasteland, a Furry convention, a meeting of breakfast cereal mascots...nothing good will come of it. Please note the eerie Michael Myers star of Sprout from those Golly Green Giant commercials in the bottom left corner. If your eyes meet his, he owns your soul.
Purrlions? Also known as Heer Kitties? Giant housecats that can only be distracted by mutant catnip? In the world after the bomb, I want to be half man-half mushroom with laser vision scouring the blasted landscape for catnip.
Because Rhyming is the Height of Terror
Finally, let's have one final word from James Ward. This bit is from the 4th edition core book.
Well damn. I wish I'd seen that quote before I started this grand experiment to determine whether and why Gamma World was/wasn't a Serious game. So basically, if realism is strictly optional than those playing a serious game are bringing it to the table? Then again, we're about to see how far Gamma World can go. This was James' last swing at Gamma World, and it's time for some new blood. What does that mean?
The year is 2000 and it's time for Gamma World's 5th edition....which is a campaign setting for another game called Alternity.
Oh man, if you're a fan of Gamma World, this is weird, sad news. I'll hold off on joking about the cover for just a moment. Gamma World 5th edition was published in the year 2000, the very same year that the Alternity line was canceled. So pretty much the moment this book came out, Gamma World fans kind of knew this was it for 5th edition, besides a single Dragon Magazine article that'd come out a bit later. Sadness of a game kinda having a jinxed edition aside, let's find out how serious it is.
Have you seen the Matrix? I know it's weird to think that with the trenchcoat and the pose and the movie having come out the year before but...yeah, I must be crazy. This is fifth edition. While all the editions before let you play a Human, Mutant, or Mutated Animal (well, not all on that last one), this one introduced options for playing Raccoon people, Sasquatches, & Androids right out of the gate. The weird thing? This might be the most serious Gamma World setting I've seen. Raccoon people = serious. Just to show you what I mean, let's talk about how Mutations work in Gamma World. In every edition before this one, you'd roll randomly on these huge mutation tables. Some of the mutations were good and some were downright "I should make a new character" terrible. In Gamma World 1-4, you could roll up your character and suddenly be plagued with dwarfism, obesity, antlers, burning in the sunlight like a vampire, and your only "good" power would be the ability to divide your body parts so they could crawl around on their own. Your chubby, tiny, allergic-to-the-sun body parts. That's terrible, but it's hilarious. The random element of Gamma World is a big part of the madness apparently. Looking at 5th edition, let's see how terrible a character you could get.
:sound of Jared flipping through the book:
There's your problem. Every Mutant (if you chose to get mutations, most races don't in Alternity) is guaranteed 7 points of Good Mutations and 4 points of Bad Mutations. Ok, so they averaged it out in your favor. That's not bad, right? The Good mutations look the same, let's have a look at the bad....oh. Here are some of the most embarrassing Drawbacks in the Alternity Gamma World: Seizures, Weak Immune System, Susceptible to Damage, and Minor or Major Physical Change. Well that last one might...oh no. The player chooses what's physically different about them and they get a penalty to socialize with people. Not the cripply horror of being round ball who's only power is to have parts fall off.
Ok, so Alternity took a serious approach to
Gamma World and a strict "no more random silliness" attitude when it came
to mutations. The off-the-wall stuff is what I'm a fan of, but I can
understand the appeal.
But what in the name of James Ward is this?
I don't know how it happened. One, very short article, in Dragon 272 takes a decent stab and showing that Alternity Gamma World might just have a sense of humor. I mean why else would they have "Roki & Binkel" as the mascots for playing Mutant Animals in Gamma World?
By the by, this and that last bit of Squirrel art is from Marc Sasso, who does a really hardcore job of post-apocalyptic Moose, Squirrel, & Ninja Turtle. Of course, the Art is the funniest bit of the article, but it does let you play a mutant horse who can mind control people into riding him. You still won't suffer from the sheer random horror of rolling on the mutation table you typically see in Gamma World, but being a mutant horse is horror enough sometimes.
And now for something completely different:
The year is 2002 and Jonathan Tweet publishes "Omega World" in Dungeon & Polyhedron Magazine.
It's not Gamma World, but it totally is.
Omega World was made for the Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 Edition and, in a word, it's awesome. I won't lie and say the Art didn't help buy me over, but reading through the issue it really says a lot about the Gamma World experience. Also I kind of feel that this edition (unofficial) may be the natural precursor to the 7th edition that came out this year. Why do I say that? Let's begin.
Tone. Unlike other Gamma World books, this game reads like a Meta-Comic book, with monsters descriptions that read:
"Hoops: A 7-foot tall white rabbit. Attempts to annihilate these irritating creatures have proved unsuccessful. Your assistance is welcome"
or an introduction that contains this text:
"The science of Omega World Sucks. This is a game about big, crazy powers and big, crazy guns, not about genetics or physics."
According to the game's introduction, Omega World was designed to be more random and less balanced than your average gaming experience. Characters die easily but, as the game states, half the fun is charging right back in. The game also introduces some other interesting stuff, like being able to hold your feats/skills in reserve, so you can cash them in to "suddenly" become proficient in that exotic ray gun you just found. All these attributes strike me as harbingers to some of the craziness released this month with 7th edition. Back on track:
You might also be noticing the Art. It's the first time we've seen "Comic" style post-apocalyptic madness in the Gamma World franchise. All the Art I'm sharing from Omega World was done by Ramon Perez, who does indeed rock. The kindergarten xylophone as body armor still amuses the bejesus out of me.
By the by, you know how I said rolling horrible doom on the mutation table was half the fun? In Omega World, it's a more like gambling than ever before. You roll on the Mutation table and you can keep rolling until you've earned a certain amount of points from Good Mutations. And then, it's time for the Drawback table. The more points you earned the more you get to spend here. I think my favorite Drawback might be: No Arms, which is described as "Good afternoon, Mr. Stumpy".
So yes. I could rant and rave about how great Omega World is a Gamma World until I'm blue in the face. If you're a fan of the Gamma, I suggest taking a look. I'm honestly a little confused as to why it isn't a Gamma World...it features all the same faction, monsters, and what-not iconic to the line...and yet it lacks the name. Could it be someone had sold the rights to publish Gamma World? Only the Fates know the answer to that.
Funnily enough, someone did sell the rights to publish Gamma World: Wizards of the Coast! To White Wolf under the Swords & Sorcery Banner.
The Year is 2003 and it's time for the 6th edition of Gamma World.
This is the first time another company has given Gamma World a go. The random factor is there in some degree, those mutants are allowed to choose their positive mutations when created. The terrible Drawbacks reveal themselves with much more details than usual, in many ways because in the game you may gain these by just walking down the wrong street and it's much more interesting to have a few paragraphs describing how you turn into a giant gorilla so that you and your friends know how to react when it happens. So the mutations have gotten their teeth back from the last edition but.....something is awry. While most Gamma Worlds include a back story as to what destroyed the world turning it into a mutant-filled wasteland, it's usually only about a paragraph long and it leaves a lot to the imagination. 6th Edition features 10+ pages detailing the fall of mankind and how things came to be the way they are. And heaven help me, I enjoyed it. It's a tale of cyberpunkery and transhuman evolution and....I don't want to spoil it. While I skimmed through older Gamma World editions, I flipped through hunting the sick and the strange. This edition? It sucker punched me multiple times. I know that I won't ever play it but it was a real interesting read. Of course, liking it didn't stop me from finding some amazing things.
By the by, remember the Yexil? You know, the giant bat/lion/scorpion thing that only eats clothing? This is the first edition to give a reason why it only eats clothes. Of course, it involves a weird symbiotic relationship with fabric recycling-producing Nanites, but hey, at least they stood up to the challenge that many others had refused.
Now for the weird:
Vibrating Axe. Stun Whip. Incredibly Phallic Paralysis Rod.
I need a date.
Say hello to a gargantuan pile of fat power by nanotechnology! It's a liposuction procedure gone horribly wrong!
I don't know if it's offensive that there are now sentient androids from a historic recreation amusement part running around the American wilderness, but it is hilarious.
Somehow I know that if this thing caught me, I'd be the head between the legs there.
Same expression too.
And trust me when I say you don't want to know the backstory of this monster. Imagine frozen heads, a dead psychic, and......just a little bit of magic. I wish I didn't know.
Thank you White Wolf for not naming the Shark Cat the Shat.
I want to make fun of the Spider Goat for its name alone. Of course that was before I realized this is actually a joke about the Goats they injected spider DNA into so that they'd produce spider silk instead of milk. I'm oversimplifying it but it's a true story. True story or not...Spoat? Seriously?
Here's an old picture of a Hisser, a "Man Snake" if you will, featured in the 2nd edition of Gamma World. It wasn't interesting enough to share on its own but that was before I saw what White Wolf did with the Man Snake.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I'd like to propose that Hissers never be called Man Snakes again.
Thank you for your time.
At first glance, I didn't think the Fire Eater would be worth sharing. Then I realized it's a bear that's been genetically modified to vomit forth a huge stream of fire-suppressing foam when the forest is in danger. I'm not joking.
Remember Kids, only you and Puke out Forest Fires.
All that said, 6th edition isn't too terribly zany and off the wall. I mean, the nanotechnology stuff is really out there but it's "Dark" weird, not "funny" weird. Even the worst mutations are more tragic than comedic and the sheer volume of back story provided for everything (including foam-spewing bears) helps insulate the Edition from the typical madness I've grown to associate with Gamma World. So those folks at the GenCon seminar who were angered about the new approach to Gamma World...I understand. Again.
So wow. I went into this with the assumption that Gamma World has always been a comedic game. Random antlers, arms that fall off, giant killer ladybugs. How was I to know there was a period in Gamma World's past not bent on madcap destruction of a pre-destroyed world by the most mutant means possible?
So where does that leave us now?
The year is 2010 and Wizards of the Coast release Gamma World, 7th Edition.
For those not in the know, this edition of Gamma World is what lured me in with it's tentacled siren's song. It's the reason I sat down to find out where Gamma World came from and why I've learned far too much about mutant rabbits who like rubber a little too much. But how to convince the uninitiated that Gamma World.7 is awesome?
I will allow you a moment to gaze upon the following image.
You're looking at a giant wearing armor made of road signs (see previous editions) wielding a parking meter (ditto) while fighting screensaver-esque flying toasters and automated kitchen appliances. Oh, and his backpack is made of Car. He's joined by a gamma green mantis wielding a laser pistol and butchers knife, both of which its wields while catching some radical air hanging from the rim of a basketball hoop.
If that doesn't sell the game to you, you're dead to me.
The current edition draws from the original deadliness infamous to James Ward's self-professed sadism, the off-the-cuff attitude of Omega World, ramps up the madness by making you redraw your mutation after every fight which was the crazy rush of Gamma World Mutations, and condenses 30 years of post-apocalyptic chaos into something....well. Look back to the mantis slam dunking flying toasters.
I swear, the scarier they make the Yexil the more hilarious it is.
I wish I had a clever way to end this but really, I'm tired of writing about Gamma World. I want to go play. Until next time, keep watching the skies. You know, because apparently FISH can fly now. It's a Gamma world after all.
"Who offers up some surplus Gamma World Comics he made below"
This article is dedicated to the fine but stubborn Gamma World fans who went to the seminar at GenCon 2010 to complain as well as Jon Schindehette, who got to be the "Big Guns" the panel pulled out when they wouldn't stop phrasing complaints as questions. Over and over again. In fact, here's a crappy scan of my notes that I took during the seminar:
Bonus: Gary Gygax's underage daughter Elise Did more Advertisements!
Somehow I feel she's laughing at me. You know, because that's the damn book that lured me into D&D in the first place. Sure, it was to make fun of it but...look at those eyes. It's as if she knows.
I can't imagine ending this page in any better way than this. Thanks for playing us out, Elise!
Copyright 2010 Jared von Hindman or maybe just Jared Hindman. It depends. Any images used that are not Jared's are used via Fair Use review purposes and belong to their respective owners....who are nice people that don't want to sue me. No really. The images in this one in particular are from all over the place so please, if you've an issue, drop me a line.
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