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TSR's Gamma World, Third Edition

TSR's Gamma World, Third Edition

One of the awesome side-products of the Old School Revival is Mutant Future from Goblinoid Games. I love post-apocalyptic RPGs, and this game game does it well, and within the structure of one of my all-time favourite games, the Moldvay Basic D&D rules set.

As with any game that I enjoy, I want to try to contribute to the game. But every time I start really poking around at Gamma World – like games, I end up back at Gamma World – at least to look up stuff. And then sooner or later I open up my Gamma World third edition boxed set.

And I stop thinking about Mutant Future, and start to marvel at the awesomeness that is buried in this box.

Because it is buried. The game was obviously put together on some serious time constraints and stuff is missing or misplaced. There’s a full booklet of errata that had to be included with the game. And I still can’t make sense of the Symbiotic / Parasitic mutant plant PC rules.

Most people dump on third edition because it switched from the D&D like rules to using an Action Chart (like the resolution system in the original Marvel RPG). However, if you sit down and use it, this is the game that really refined that table concept into something incredible. The table in most games remained pretty consistent as you moved up the table, with only the best result category getting “bigger” and thus moving the other positive results up to make failure more rare. In GW3, the most basic success level (the blue success) covers a smaller and smaller range as your skill increases, making it so not only are you more likely to succeed, the baseline success moves up from a blue success to a green or even a yellow success. The table also added a black “fumble” result and broke up the results into 7 categories –

  • Black – Fumble
  • White – Fail
  • Blue – Basic Success
  • Green – Fair Success
  • Yellow – Good Success
  • Orange – Excellent Success
  • Red – Perfect / Critical Success

Now *everything* in the game can operate with “levels of success” instead of a flat binary fail/succeed system. But where the true mastery of the game system shines though is the list of results. Every task or subsystem can be simply described as what has to be rolled, and what the 7 results mean for that roll. For example, you have been mutated in play, make a Con roll.

  • Red – +2 to an existing mutation score
  • Orange – No effect
  • Yellow – Gain one physical mutation
  • Green – Gain one mental mutation
  • Blue – -2 to an existing mutation score
  • White – Gain one Defect
  • Black – Lose one beneficial mutation

These carts exist for all kinds of actions / results, and they are all on the DM screen, so they are easy to find in game play. Result charts for dealing with Charming, Bartering and Haggling, Morale, Crippling Injuries, Burns, Infection, Encounter Distance and so on.

The other elements of the game also appeal to me – mutations are given a mutation score, so two different mutants will have different intensities of poison, or life leech fields, or damage for their razor sharp leaves. The experience rules allow you to increase your rank (level), mutation scores, ability scores, or even buy skills (although the game specifically makes the skill system 100% optional – if you don’t have the skills you aren’t penalized, you just get bonuses for buying the skills).

After all is said and done, the third edition of Gamma World remains my go-to RPG for post-apocalyptic mutant-infested gaming, and as proof that the ACT table can really work even outside of Marvel Super Heroes (and the FASERIP retro-clone).