On my birthday, I received a copy of the boxed set of Gamma World 4.0 direct from Wizards of the Coast. They sent it because they hoped I’d get a chance to use it, and tell all you folks about it. Then, this week, caught in a lull between Encounters seasons, I got the perfect opportunity to give it a try! I told my regular Encounters players that game was still on, but we’d do Gamma World, instead, and then I trundled on down to my Friendly Local Gaming Store, neon green box in hand.
First thing I need to tell you all is I am really digging this “everything you need is in the box” thing that Wizards is up to with its recent 4.0/Essentials releases. If you decide to pick up this post-apocalyptic future role playing set, inside you’ll find: a whole deck of cards, a stack of character “folios,” maps, three sheets of sturdy tokens, and the core rule book. And what a core rule book! The teensy (by comparison) tome contains character generation, rules explanations, the Game Master section, monster stat blocks, and a multi-encounter introductory adventure titled “Steading of the Iron King.” We played through the first encounter of that adventure the other night.
I admit, I went into the evening just barely prepared. I had taken the time earlier that day to hunt down some (really great, fan-made) random character generators online, and I read the intro to the adventure, so I knew the shape of the fight. Once at the table, though, my players and I (already somewhat familiar with 4.0 rules) learned some of the bits that make Gamma World unique. For example, Gamma World has a much more fluid, free-form feel to it. Rather than pick a single race and class, you choose two mutation origins, which dictate your powers, and give you guidelines for your appearance. One of my players chose “felinoid” and “rat swarm” as her two origins, and decided that her character’s appearance was that of a pack of fluffy, feral kittens who are so disarmingly adorable you don’t realize what they’re up to until they’ve stacked themselves in a pyramid and are scratching out your eyes. When it comes to weapon selection, you can wield anything you want; you just have to decide what broad category it falls into to determine its stats. Feel like hefting a metal lamp as a pole-arm or swinging 2 Litre pop bottles filled with coins as your weapon? Go ahead!
When we got through the basics of how to read our character sheets, and went to begin the game, I was thrilled that the box included the full-colour maps and the token sheets. I popped out the first encounter’s bad guys and the players picked tokens for themselves, and we launched into the story. Combat worked just like D&D 4.0, which isn’t surprising, since this is the 4.0 version of Gamma World (which is a lot like D&D in the far-flung future,) which meant that the tokens and map were very useful in resolving attacks and movement.
In the end, after the pyrokinetic giant finished barbecuing the porker guards, and everyone was packing up for the evening, I asked what they’d like to do in case my new season of Encounters hasn’t arrived in time for next week. “More Gamma World!” was the enthusiastic response. I’m happy to oblige: there are few things I like better in this world than a post-apocalyptic futuristic dystopia.