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After the End - A spotlight on post-apocalyptic gaming

Jonathan Tweet's Omega World

Jonathan Tweet's Omega World

“You’ve got Giant Pincers and a Lethal Toxic Stench… Lucky Mutant!”

Jonathan Tweet’s Omega World – Post Apocalyptic d20 – appeared in an issue of Dungeon / Polyhedron back in 2002. It is definitely one of the best adaptations of Gamma World to ever see print. Omega World takes the “wild and wahoo” vision of Gamma World, turns it up to 11, and includes a few twists to the classic d20 system that really helps make it work.

(As a footnote, the same issue also has rules for playing Orangutans in the Thunderball Rally RPG, another d20 minigame previously published in Polyhedron. Because it wouldn’t be a real thunderball rally without at least one vehicle copiloted by an orangutan.)

As with most Gamma World games, Omega World has random mutations for each character. Unlike many of them, however, Omega World puts the Mutation Defects on a separate table, and you roll on that table, collecting “points” of defects until your total defect points value exceeds the point value of your beneficial mutations.

One of the other major differences from classic d20 is the use of a “Reserves” pool. This is a pool of hit points equal to your max hit points that slowly move from the reserve to your hit points pool when out of combat. This takes care of the problem of the lack of healing in Gamma World vs D&D by effectively doubling your hit points, but leaving your hit point total the same as normal during an encounter.

So let’s make a mutant!

The first step in character creation is choosing to either play a Pure Strain Human or a Mutant. If you pick Mutant (and really, who doesn’t?), you roll for your base stock (Human, Hairy, Clicky or Scaly). Instead of powering up the PSH as it is done in most Gamma World derivatives, the mutant stocks each have an ECL rating – this way a PSH starts out at level 4, while a mutant human starts at level 3, and an animal mutant starts at level 2. This tkaes the ECL concept from d20 and applies it in a way that works for classic Gamma goodness.

Obviously, to truly play through the chargen system, I’m going to make a mutant. A roll of 92 on the Mutant Stock table makes me a Scaly (a lizard-derived mutant). This is an ECL 2 race with +2 Strength, -2 Intelligence and Charisma (poor social instincts, don’t you know). I get free Claws, Scales and Tail mutations.

Then I get to roll for mutations. Each mutation has a point value and I can stop rolling for mutations whenever I want, or when my total point value is 10 or higher (and my three free mutations don’t count – although they have a point value of 6 points if they did).

I roll that I get Regeneration (pretty cool and thematic for a lizard), Tremorsense, and then a big seven-pointer – Energy Drain (I have a level-draining psychic touch attack that I can use 6 times per day). Energy Drain also introduces another cool feature of the game – there is a feat you can take to boost a mutation. Only some of the mutations can be boosted this way, but Energy Drain is one of them. Every time the feat is taken, I can use it one additional time per day.

[Free] Claws | 1d6 damage, can make a flurry attack with them like a monk (+1 attack, -2 on each attack)

[Free] Scales | +3 Natural Armor

[Free] Tail | +4 Balance, Jump & Swim

[3] Regeneration | Convert 5 reserves to hit points every round

[1] Tremorsense | Detect movement within 30 feet

[7] Energy Drain | Psychic touch attack – roll psychic attack versus Will save, deals one negative level to the target, gain 5 hit points. 6 uses per day.

With Energy Drain I’m up to 11 points of mutations, so now I have to roll on the Defects table until I have more points in defects than I have in mutations. Which isn’t that hard – the defects have higher point values than the mutations, up to 20 points for “no arms”.

[3] Stiff Motion | Always flat-footed

[8] Weapon Incompetent | never proficient with weapons other than natural ones

[3] Terrible Will | -10 on Will saving throws

The first defect, Stiff Motion, would be terrifying if there were classes that provide sneak attack in this game. It leaves Mr Lizard perpetually flat-footed, unable to get its Dex bonus to AC or to make attacks of opportunity. There’s even a note to increase the value if you use standard character classes that might grant sneak attack. The big hitter, however, is Weapon Incompetent. My lizard’s brain just doesn’t grok weapons, and thus suffers a -4 attack roll with anything that isn’t a natural weapon or a grenade. Finally, he’s weak-willed.

Now that the mutations are out of the way, stats are generated using the Organic method from the DMG. This is the method where you roll your stats in order using 4d6-L, and then get to swap two stats and re-roll one.

My rolls of 9, 11, 17, 8, 14, 13 are kind of painful… without recourse to high tech weapons, a high Strength would be useful, but I don’t want to ditch the high Constitution, so I swap Strength and Wisdom, and then re-roll Dexterity, getting a 15. After stat modifiers for being a Scaly, I finish off with 16, 15, 17, 6, 9, 11. Not a mental powerhouse.

Now I stat him out as a level 2 Explorer (the only class in the game). Explorers have one good save, one middle save and one weak save, the middle Base Attack Bonus, d10 for hit points, a bonus feat every level, and 4 skill points per level (well, 2 skill points per level for poor old lizzie here). I’ll make Will the weak save, since I already suck at it, and make Reflex the strong save, hoping my Constitution will keep my Fort save close.I also get to pick 8 class skills, but only have 10 skill points to spend on them. One of them will be the “Psychic Attack” skill which is used for my level draining power.

As an explorer, Pugnacious Rex here gets light armor proficiency for free (and normally a few weapon proficiencies… but not this poor mutant). He also gets a feat for being level 1, and one feat for each level of the Explorer class (so 3 feats). The first thing I WANT is Improved Natural Attack (to increase the die size of his claws), but that’s not available until level 6 (when Pugnacious Rex finally gets a BAB of +4). However, Improved Natural Armor is available, for +1 AC each time it is taken. Something to consider. Since he doesn’t get his Dex bonus to AC anyways, I pick up Medium Armor Proficiency as his character level 1 feat. Power Attack as his class level 1 feat and Weapon Focus (claws) as his class level 2 feat finish him off.

Finally, he starts with 8 pieces of regular gear and one random piece of special gear. The special gear ends up being a working relic, so I head over to the treasure section and roll up a relic. It ends up being a 20 point personal force field belt. It is working, and has juice! It runs for 1 hour on a chemical cell, so I’ll be on the lookout for those. Since he can’t use weapons well, and doesn’t have any technical skills, the 8 pieces of gear is actually difficult to fill. In the end I take a Healing Kit and a Tech (Bang) tool kit, in case I can trade them for something cool in town.

In the end, what I would keep from this game more than anything else is the point values on the mutations. I love random mutation tables, and feel that defects are an important part of the system, but the way they work in classic Gamma World means that a character might be totally encumbered by defects without a single worthwhile mutation to back them up, whereas Omega World gives us a nice balance of fun mutations and almost as fun defects. And I love Jonathan Tweet’s take on the classic “helpless characters” rule from Gamma World; Play the character you get, and get him killed as fast as you can. This lets you make a new character and also helps save the existing characters from whatever it was that killed you.

Pugnacious Rex
Race: Scaly
Level: 2

Strength: 16 (+3)
Dexterity: 15 (+2)
Constitution: 17 (+3)
Intelligence: 6 (-2)
Wisdom: 9 (-1)
Charisma: 11

Hit Points: 24
Armor Class: 17
Base Attack Bonus: +1
Fort Save: +4
Ref Save: +5
Will Save: -11

Attack: Claw +5, 1d6+3 damage
Full Attack: Claws +3 / +3, 1d6+3 damage

Skills (* are class skills)
Balance | 0 ranks | +6
* Gather Information | 2 ranks | +2
* Hide | 0 ranks | +2
* Intimidate | 2 ranks | +2
* Jump | 0 ranks | +7
* Listen | 0 ranks | -1
* Move Silently | 2 ranks | +4
* Psychic Attack | 4 ranks | +4
Swim | 0 ranks | +7
* Spot | 0 ranks | -1

Mutations & Defects

  • Claws | 1d6 damage natural weapon, can flurry (+1 attack, -2 on all attacks)
  • Energy Drain | Touch attack, Psychic Attack vs Will Save, Drains 1 level, gives 5 hit points, 6 / day
  • Regeneration | Move 5 reserves to hit points every round
  • Scales | +3 Natural Armor
  • Stiff Motion | Always flat-footed
  • Tail | +4 Balance, Jump & Swim
  • Terrible Will | -10 Will Saves
  • Tremorsense | Sense vibrations & movement within 30 feet
  • Weapon Incompetent | Non-proficient with all weapons except grenades & natural weapons

Armor Proficiency, Light
Armor Proficiency, Medium
Power Attack
Weapon Focus (Claws)

Personal Force Field | 20 point force field
Metal Armor | +4 AC, -4 Armor Check Penalty, 30 lbs
Camping Gear
2 Weeks Rations
Climbing Gear
Healing Kit
Tech (Bang) Tool Kit