Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Reading Third Edition Gamma World… part I

I’m reading through this old game. A guy gave it to me for my birthday when I was in high school. A complete game like that made for a truly epic gift– easily one of the best things I have ever received on a day like that. It left an indelible mark upon my psyche, so I’ll be making random remarks as I go through it chapter by chapter.

A single game adventure may last from one to four hours. — A one hour game…? Really? It seems to me that real role playing is just getting warmed up at the four hour mark, but it would be an interesting exercise to intentionally work up a one hour game. The Filthy Lucre scenarios from The Cauldron would fit that bill, I guess.

Whatever the cause, nation rose up against nation and deadly war was waged. Awesome weapons of destruction scoured the earth, deadly lasers, dread atomic bombs, chemical and biological agents that dissolved flesh, all did their terrible work. — Growing up in the eighties, the fear of an arbitrary and pointless cataclysmic war hung over my head every single day. Red Dawn was a best-case scenario. But with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the sense of dread dissipated and apocalyptic games like Gamma World became passé.

Oceans boiled. Continents buckled. The skies blazed with the light of unholy energies. — Nowadays we fret over whether the oceans will rise. But in my day… we worried about them boiling. That’s how awesome it was when I was a kid. And yes… we said stuff like “rad”, “gnarly”, and “awesome” all the time, too. Our unconscious minds were ever haunted by premonitions of the coming pestilence-shrouded Aurora Borealis of death. (Today’s apocalyptic maunderings are just pathetic in comparison to this stuff.)

The Reference Book [includes] important tables and appendices, as well as a campaign setting for use in creating your own adventures. — The fact that no campaign setting was included to go with the map in this box set has puzzled me for decades. (Yes, they included the campaign maps… but not the campaign background and encounter information.) I suppose I could get my hands on that by digging up earlier editions of this game, but the incompleteness is now part of my enjoyment of the system. There certainly is no shortage of charm here.

The GM should feel free to create new rules and perhaps alter some of those provided if it makes the game more fun for the players. — Much has been made of this of late, but to a child of the eighties, this largely was incomprehensible. Sure, we understood that we should  make up new monsters and adventures, but we wouldn’t think to create or alter rules so much. Almost all of the rules modifications in our Gamma World campaign was by way of omission– the talents, skills, and complicated damage special effects in particular.

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13 responses to “Reading Third Edition Gamma World… part I

  1. RogerBW April 9, 2013 at 6:43 am

    Ah, the damage done by Gygax – “if you’re not using ALL THE RULES, you’re not playing D&D any more”.

    • jeffro April 9, 2013 at 7:46 am

      Heh. We ignored vast swaths of the AD&D rules when we played that, too. Honestly, beyond rolling up characters and maybe ten percent of the combat rules, we really didn’t depend on the rules for much.

    • Jason Packer April 9, 2013 at 10:18 am

      If I ever read that admonition, I don’t remember it. But I sure was – and remain – a follower of the rules. I prefer to know that there are rules, tested thoroughly by the authors, rather than be left to my own to figure out the best course of action.

      • jeffro April 9, 2013 at 11:10 am

        Oh, yeah. I try to play by both the written rules and what I interpolate to be the designer’s intent. If the ruleset fails to cover a significant subset role playing, I handwave and telescope the action in order to get back to whatever it is that the game focuses on. (This is the reason why Car Wars played as an rpg tends to culminate into a two hour battle royale of some strip.)

  2. PeterD April 9, 2013 at 7:31 am

    I never read this one. Only 1e (which was depressing and dark and full of mutants so deformed looking everyone ran a PSH) and 2e (which had happier mutants and less defects so no one wanted to be a PSH). So I’m curious what was in this one.

    • jeffro April 9, 2013 at 7:48 am

      I gather that the PSH’s would have had a contingent of mutants following the around back in the earliest iterations of this game. There is nothing in this ruleset that would point you in that direction.

    • Jason Packer April 9, 2013 at 10:19 am

      We, too, played a huge amount of 1e, but for whatever reason most of us wanted to play mutant humans – crazy, detrimental mutations notwithstanding.

  3. Grouchy Chris April 9, 2013 at 3:28 pm

    “You kids today talking about your pretend zombie apocalypse! Feh! Back in my day, we had a real, nuclear apocalypse to worry about! An inferno of death descending from the sky at any moment! You don’t know how easy you’ve got it!”

    I’m right there with you, man.

  4. Robert Amador April 9, 2013 at 6:53 pm

    1st and 2nd editions were great, but lacked certain skill rules. 3rd was based on Marvel’s RPG’s ACT tables. I was an ok game design. I never got the hang of it. The best part of the 3rd editions was the modules. It had a mega-story that mined the Gamma World history and showcased the several Ancients still fighting to rule Gamma Terra. 4th editions is by far the best editions to date.

    • jeffro April 9, 2013 at 7:15 pm

      I remember those modules well… and played more than one. What fascinates me is that what those modules did with the game– and especially what we did with those modules– is a far cry from what the third edition rules seem to indicate was the intended style of play.

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