I've been thinking about Gamma World lately -- maybe because I've been watching the TV show "Jericho" which is about post-Apocalyptic North America.
Back in the early 80's, I played 1st and 2nd edition Gamma World a few times -- mostly one-off scenarios that never really got going. When I first played it, I think my only mental references for a post-Apocalyptic setting were "Thundarr the Barbarian," "The Road Warrior" and the novel "Dark is the Sun" by Philip Jose Farmer. It's only been in the past five or so years that I have read some of the cited influences on this game and its predecessor-game, Metamorphosis Alpha. I read: "Non-Stop" and "The Long Afternoon of Earth" by Brian Aldiss, "Orphans of the Sky" by Robert Heinlein, and "A Canticle for Leibowitz" by Walter Miller Jr. I still haven't read "Hiero's Journey" or "Starman's Son," and I haven't seen Ralph Bakshi's "Wizards" yet.
Eric and I were talking about Gamma World on the ride home Friday night. We were talking about how it would be nice to periodically rotate GMs and games. We all have these shelves and shelves of games that we never play. Gamma World was one of the ones we both said it would be cool to play. I haven't played GM since the early 80s and I have very few memories.
One of the problems I think Gamma World has is its identity. You would think a post-Apocalyptic game would be by definition dark and grim and serious. But Gamma World has mutant rabbits with rifles who can turn metal to rubber at will. It just isn't a serious game. I'm not saying that's bad, just that it's hard to point to some specific source material and say "Read/watch this, and you'll get what Gamma World is about." A lot of the source material that I've read so far is rather grim, and not what I would call light-hearted or humorous at all. And none have anthropomorphic mutant animals walking around with human weapons. I think including those things in the game was a poor design choice. I don't think having some animals developing intelligence (sentience) as a result of mutations is a bad idea, but having them also become bipdal and/or with human-like arms and hands and speaking English is somehow going too far. It ends up becoming a furry convention.
Yeah, I am giving this way more thought than it deserves. A one or two session game is probably the way to go.
A few notes about Thundarr...
Ookla the Mok was, aside from being an obvious Chewbacca rip-off, evidently a mutant cat of some sort (fangs, mane, yellow eyes). He was named after UCLA, the university. Jack Kirby did some of the design work for this show, including for a lot of the wizards -- and in retrospect, they were my favorite part of the show, with their weirdness and mixture of science and sorcery.
Some notes on the other inspirational sources...
Nonstop, by Brian Aldiss (1958), was also published under the title of Starship, and is clearly the primary influence for the Metamorphosis Alpha game. It is a generation ship with many decks, and in places completely overun with plants and vines. It does have mutant animals, like a telepathic rabbit and talking rats, but I don't remember them being anthropomorphic.
Orphans of the Sky by Robert Heinlein (1941) might be the most light-hearted of the inspirational sources that I've come across so far. It is short, and written like an adventure story for younger readers in the sci-fi pulp era. It is clearly the primary influence for Nonstop, above, and Nonstop could even be said to be a reworking of the same theme (generation ship with inhabitants who have backslid, mutated, and forgotten their original mission and aren't even sure where they are). A two-headed mutant human antagonist, but no furries.
Last Edit: May 15, 2012 14:32:15 GMT -5 by GRWelsh
I just watched Ralph Bakshi's animated film, Wizards, which was also cited as an influence on 1st edition Gamma World. This film wasn't what I was expecting, but I'm not sure what I was expecting. Although the nuclear apocalypse is part of the back story, the world this movie takes place in is more like fantasy. On one side are elves and fairies, the "true ancestors of man" who have returned, and they only use medieval weapons. On the other side are the mutants, who use technology such as machine guns, tanks, and robot-assassins. A lot of the animation is very cartoony, and by that I mean the characters have that old trope of three fingers rather than four. The main good wizard smokes a cigar while holding it with his toes -- I have no idea why. A lot of it is just bizarre. This one is going to take a few days to digest. There is at least one talking animal, a lizard-like critter named Larry.
Last Edit: May 11, 2012 20:30:18 GMT -5 by GRWelsh
My interactions with Jim have been a quick 'hello' in person, and a few Greyhawk question. He's always been cordial with me and with others that I have personally witnessed. I've heard a few third party, 'This one time at a convention...' kind of stories that reflect badly. That interview has seemed to fire a lot of people up, but, while I don't agree with everything, I don't see anything that bad,
Post by geneweigel on Aug 28, 2012 16:40:13 GMT -5
I guess I was a lot into "Jim Ward" and it firmly being aside the "TSR symbol" in the 80's so its more of a shock to hear how much of a non-creative nothing he is i.e. boasting about making money off of all the dull shit that I had bought!
Post by geneweigel on Aug 31, 2012 12:59:07 GMT -5
Back to GAMMA WORLD, I think its great but I think the most important thing about GW and METAMORPHOSIS ALPHA is the presence of Gary on the whole endeavor.
The whole presence of S3 EXPEDITION TO BARRIER PEAKS has loomed over D&D as a menace. Most people think its an afterthought to merge others ideas into the cloth of Gary Gygax's witless executive machinations. Unfortunately for them, S3 came out in 1980 in a form that speaks the truth about how MA and GW were formed. Ward identified Gygax's pulp sci-fi sources for the Greyhawk dungeons' spaceship level indirectly (Aldiss) through the various super generation starships of yore (Leinster, Heinlein, EC comics, etc). However, S3 was not a "steal" as Gygax detractors insinuate. S3 is a wake up call that says the concepts in MA and GW are Gygaxian Greyhawk.
The austerity of the stats making the "magic" be the hub of the game?
The separated and confused groups?
See the pattern?
The ultimate proof is in the item complexity charts: MA - mumbo jumbo GW - more mumbo jumbo S3 - A working system that is clear because its most likely closest to its "valuable assistance"
Not to further detract from Ward but we all know that for the most part he was an opportunist and if we're to believe Kuntz's tales directly at the very least someone who is very ambitious.
The generation starship level of Greyhawk dungeons we will probably never know about but from the inklings that I heard from Gary they are not S3 completely nor MA or GW "converted" but rather more on the line of the lost ending of the "D" series (which was turned [badly] into Q1), the "T" series "nodes" and the Tsojcanth "glowing grotto". That is, a way to get to elsewhere like the Greyhawk dungeon version of ISLE OF THE APE.
On another note was the Greyhawk dungeon every really publishable? Or have we just ignored the fact that the Greyhawk was published in its various forms of Gary Gygax's ideas?
"Boot Hill" perhaps another "take" that we will never see an S3 version of. At least we have "Six Guns and Sorcery" from the DMG but what could the "level" that we all know existed look like?
Barrier peaks is older than that I think. It was, just like Tsojcanth, an expanded version of an old Con Tournement adventure. I'm surprised you don't see the same kind of comparisons with the published version and the con version that you do with Tsojcanth.
Post by geneweigel on Sept 1, 2012 12:55:24 GMT -5
Its funny that most players who held onto the PEAKS' weaponry were annual players as opposed to infrequent ones who played a few times a year having had them destroyed etc.
I don't think that I ever had an official crossover to GAMMA WORLD's future Earth but I did utilize the GW section of the DMG quite often. Despite there being a huge bank of GW characters no one ever got the urge to bring them into the fantasy world or vise-versa. It was more comfortable creating the situations from scratch. I've never really discussed the details of the AD&D crossovers into sci-fi because most were original. I think back in the day you had to make original content for everything (monsters, maps, ships, etc) or nobody would bother because they would be outed as having played a module. Those golden days!
The weird thing is as much as I played with certain D&D people the GAMMA gang was altogether different. It was some familiar faces but many were strictly sci-fi and that is why they were there. My cousin Bill and friend Henry were not affiliated with the GAMMA campaign at all. I still have a sketch of my first character but the character sheet on looseleaf was pinched by somebody for a laugh. (Yeah, it was BAAAAD!!!). The character I used the most was an over-mutated gorilla.
Post by geneweigel on Sept 1, 2012 13:08:22 GMT -5
The people that I played STAR FRONTIERS with are all gone except one. I found him on FACEBOOK but doesn't say anything about yesterdays for some reason. Everytime I bring his name up most associates clam up but never explain. It would be great to hang with him because I literally played all the early 80's rpgs with him moreso than anyone else. But I can't imagine inviting someone you haven't seen in 25 years over 100 miles for a sleepover D&D game!
The Dangerous Journeys game Changeling was similar to Gamma World, but the apocalypse occurred after some limited planetary colonization started, and there's still some travel options available. There are bases on the Moon, Venus, and Mars.
There was some interplanetary space travel implied to have occurred in pre-Fall Gamma World, as well, but I'm not sure about colonization. The module "The Albuquerque Starport" references an alien virus brought back by long-range scout ships. One of the themes I've always wanted to explore in a Gamma World campaign (if I ever ran one) was the idea whether one could "escape" Gamma World and get to an off-world colony "Sanctuary" -- I guess sort of like the persistent rumours of "Sanctuary" in LOGAN'S RUN, that sort of thing.