This is to be a series of posts (5 to be exact), and was prompted by a question from Kendricke this past weekend. He asked, “if you could make any game you wanted, and were guaranteed not only enough money to build it to your precise specs, but even guaranteed that it would be a success (in other words, setting aside all financial considerations), what would you make?” Being a pen-and-paper RPer for, well, forever, my mind automatically went to past exploits and experiences in that hobby, and two of my suggestions made at the time are in the list to follow (Call of Cthulhu and Gamma World).
After some reflection, I decided that there are 5 such settings that I’d truly love to make and explore, all primarily inspired by pen-and-paper RPGs. Note that, unlike most of my other posts where I refer to PnP RPGs, in this series of posts I’m talking about setting, not system. I’m not presenting in any particular order, either… just posting them as they come to hand while I scan across my bookshelves.
And so, without any further ado…
Maybe it’s just a result of growing up in later part of the Cold War Era, but I’ve always loved this setting. The gritty black-and-white first edition of Gamma World, as cobbled together and spotty as the rule system was, really intrigued me for some reason, and I’ve been an avid fan of the setting ever since. To wit: you may have noticed an omission in the middle of the set of covers above… I can’t show the 2nd edition rules cover because we literally wore it off the book. I can’t find it to scan it in. Yes, it was just stapled on, but still…
(There were other influences as well: the Thundarr the Barbarian Saturday morning cartoon series, various books (Hiero, the Pelbar series), and of course, the Fallout CRPG series, all play into this, too.)
Contrary to popular belief, post-apocalyptic games are not all about wandering around Cities In Flames, any more than fantasy gaming is all about camping out in the Lower Planes of Hell. The particular style that Gamma World represents is more about trying to piece together what happened, in a world that alternates between intimately familiar and utterly alien from one moment to the next.
The earlier versions of Gamma World, in particular, felt more like fantasy gaming than sci-fi, with high tech gadgetry and mutations taking the place of magic artifacts and spells. Throw in traffic signs as makeshift shields, wild AI computers as whimsical oracles, and mutated humanoid rabbits that can turn metal to rubber at a touch…
Later versions have become more or less hard sci-fi, as opposed to the more whimsical “weird science” of the original, sometimes including cybernetics, alien races, and so on, but the true core setting is still there: our everyday world, pushed far off-center by our own weaknesses and failures, but slowly rebuilding itself from the ashes.
There is no specific version I would lean on entirely, in terms of the design. I’d be shooting for more of the feel of first edition, especially at the beginning of play. As characters progressed, more “hard sci-fi” elements, like cybernetics, might come into the mix. Powerful and useful mutations are central to the setting, and would definitely be available.
Non-mutation-spawned “psionic” skills/abilities might be incorporated as well, to offer some added spice, particularly to Pure Strain Human characters. Build-your-own-mutant, allowing the selection of a wide range of base animal or plant genotypes, would be a key element. A set of MacGyver-style repair-and-invent skills (or a class, shudder, based on the concept) would also be something I’d want to incorporate. Playing an AI-based “xenotype”, like an android or robot, with a highly unique set of rule systems for advancement and activity, might be an “unlockable race”.
Cryptic alliances with aims ranging from benevolent to apocalyptic, reclusive good and evil “wizards” of various specialties (genetics, cybernetics, psionics, etc), decrepit military bases guarded by half-insane robots… all part and parcel of the setting. Visits to space stations, lunar bases, and even other parts of the solar system or galaxy would not necessarily be out-of-the-question, either.
I could write a whole bunch more, but I want to keep these posts brief, and invite commentary and feedback. Anyone else out there that wants to slice up Obbs with a fusion-powered weed-whacker?
Tomorrow: Vrusk and Dralasites and Sathar, oh my…