Gamma World is a game I’ve heard of but never actually played. It sounded fun enough: some bizarre future world where you can play characters with all manner of wacky mutations and you encounter bizarre technology that is wondrous to behold, either because it is genuinely future tech or because it is something mundane from our modern world that your character doesn’t know anything about!
Naturally, I was interested to hear that WotC was releasing a 4th edition style Gamma World. I love seeing new innovations with the 4e rules system and I was curious to see how they would keep the wackiness and randomness of the original game while still preserving something a kin to a balanced play experience. I picked up the box set several days ago. My thoughts are as follows:
- Random Character Origins: Randomly rolling two different character origins (Android Rat Swarm or Hawkoid Cockroach, for example) is an awesome idea for capturing the wacky mutations that I understand were a cornerstone of the original game, while still preserving some semblance of sanity and balance. Each origin comes with its own set of traits and at-will powers that you start out with and then you pick from one of the lists for new powers and abilities as you level.
- Ability Scores: The ability score associated with your primary origin gets an 18 and the one associated with your secondary origin gets a 16. If they are the same, you get a 20. Then you roll 3d6 for the rest! Crazy! But also an awesome way to ensure that no one gets totally left out in the cold, while still allowing for the hilarity that comes from random die rolls, like super charismatic brutes or characters with no wisdom score. There are still ways to get kind of screwed over here, such as by rolling really low in both stats for a defense or having an abysmally low constitution, but generally this seems like a good mix of balance and wackiness.
- Omega Tech and Alpha Mutations: I’m not sure if I’m super on board with buying a bunch of random booster packs (though I could see picking up some for variety), but the general idea of having random cards for crazy mutations and wacky pieces of technology that you pick up is great. Alpha mutations change literally every encounter, so you generally don’t have to worry about them being too balanced with each other, and they give you cool powers, which seems like a good mechanic for injecting variety and even more wackiness into the game. Omega Tech is similar and generally consist of one off or consumable items, with the caveat that you can hoard them and that you can roll to see if they continue working at the end of the encounter. Also, some can be salvaged and turned into upgrades to normal items (like better armor, a better gun, etc.). Overall, a nice system for replicating the craziness and uncertainty of these mutations and items!
- At-Will Powers: The at-will powers for the different origins seem roughly balanced with each other, though I do have some criticisms. Firstly, one of the points of balance seems to be that powers that effect multiple targets do 1 extra damage a level, where powers that only effect 1 target do 2 extra damage a level. This is a little weird since it means that single target powers become disproportionally more powerful as you level up (dice sizes and attribute bonuses stay the same). What is really weird though is that single target powers that use either ranged or melee (not one or the other) seem to follow the path of 1 extra damage a level, which definitely means they start out fine and get left in the dust at higher levels. I don’t think the flexibility is worth the loss of power. It’s possible I’m missing something here…
- Heavy and Light Weapons: I like the mechanic of heavy weapons using Strength/Con and light weapons using Dex/Int for ability scores. It ensures that virtually every character will have a decent basic attack if they want it.
- Ammo: Paul beat me to the punch on the new ammo rules. But I will say I really like the abstract mechanic of choosing whether to conserve ammo and make only one shot with your cool weapon in an encounter or to go hog wild and make as many as you want in an encounter and then your out of ammo. Beats keeping track of every bullet and saves the DM the headache of deciding just how many bullets you need to find to keep things balanced.