Game: C+
From 277 reviews

Gamma World

7th Edition

The Oldest Post-Apocalyptic RPG Setting, With a Heavy Focus on Mutants

Publisher Description

A wacky, wily roleplaying game of post-apocalyptic peril.

Earth. After the apocalypse. Never mind the radiation—you’re gonna like it here.


Official Description [ edit ]

A wacky, wily roleplaying game of post-apocalyptic peril.

Earth. After the apocalypse. Never mind the radiation—you're gonna like it here.

The D&D Gamma World Roleplaying Game offers hours of rollicking entertainment in a savage land of adventure, where the survivors of some mythical future disaster must contend with radioactive wastes, ravaged cities, and rampant lawlessness. Against a nuclear backdrop, heroic scavengers search crumbled ruins for lost artifacts while battling mutants and other perils.

- Publisher Blurb

The Oldest Post-Apocalyptic RPG Setting [ edit ]

TSR, the same company that originally created Dungeons and Dragons, came out with a new game just four years after D&D's release: Gamma World.  It offered a world still in a post-apocalyptic "dark ages" (in the game's original edition described the humble crossbow as "the ultimate weapon" of most Gamma World societies), and ravaged by radiation-induced (and unrealistically positive) mutations.

Adventures in Gamma World tend to focus on exploring ancient "ruins" (of pre-apocalyptic societies), but also often revolve around the conflicts between the Cryptic Alliances (a set of secret organizations such as the "Knights of Genetic Purity", who seek to destroy all mutants). Although the setting was never as successful as D&D, it nevertheless gained devoted fans ... enough to result in seven major editions of the game.

The latest (7th) edition returns to the game's roots, by using the same rules system as Dungeons and Dragons (4th Edition).  That system was widely regarded as the most "video-game-like" of all of D&D's editions, and while it proved unpopular with many D&D fans, that certainly doesn't make it a bad system overall.  In fact, according to the ratings on RPG Geek (which rate 7th the highest of all editions), it makes for a perfect rule set for experiencing Gamma World.

Rules [ edit ]

As a "D20 system", Gamma World uses the full set of polyhedral dice.  Just as in D&D, to determine success a player rolls a D20 and tries to beat a specified difficulty number (eg. their target's AC).

Gamma World also requires special cards to play, which are similar to the "power cards" of D&D 4th ed (although those were optional).  There are two card sets in Gamma World, Alpha Mutations and Omega Tech, which represent powers gained from mutations or ancient technology.

Unlike D&D, these cards are not permanent: used mutation cards go back to the deck, which means that one minute you could have a mutation that gives you feelers for moving in the dark, and the next  you might instead have a disintegrating touch.

Technology cards also have a chance to "burn out" and go back to the deck, but players get to make a roll to try and save them after using them.  Also some items can be "salvaged" by experienced characters, essentially allowing them to reduce the item's abilities in order to avoid having to check for burn out.

Gamma World is a Gonzo Setting [ edit ]

If it wasn't already clear from the rotating mutations, Gamma World is a bit of an "over the top" or "gonzo" type of setting.  In this sense it is somewhat similar to Rifts, but instead of the "everything and the kitchen sink" vibe of Rifts, Gamma World has much more focus to its setting ... it's just a weird focus.

For instance, instead of races Gamma World has "origins" (which serve a similar role to classes and races in D&D), and charcters get two: a primary and secondary.  If your origins are "Rat Swarm" and "Felinoid", the game advises that either "you're a pack of kittens, or you're a swarm of rats that climbs and clings together in a panther-shaped collection of individuals."

As in Dungeons and Dragons, Gamma World characters have six attributes.  However, they only roll 3d6 to determine four of them: the other two are set to 18 and 16 (which ones are determined by the character's origins).  As mentioned Gamma World characters do not have classes, only origins, but they do get to choose (D*D-like) skills, allowing them some further differentiation.

Who Should Try Gamma World? [ edit ]

RPG Geek ranks Gamma World's 7th Edition in the high 200's.  That's the highest rating of any of the game's editions, but it's still far behind the most popular post-apocalyptic RPG (Apocalypse World, at #3).

It's fair to say that Gamma World, with its 4th Edition D&D-based rules, won't be an ideal fit for every gamer.  But at the same time, Gamma World 7th still ranks well above (literally) thousands of other RPGs, and is clearly well-loved by many fans.

Gamma World could be perfect for your next campaign, if you:

  • are looking for a quirky/gonzo/over the top game (but with more focus than Rifts), or
  • are already a fan of Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition, or 
  • are looking for a mutant-focused, "dark ages" post-apocalyptic setting, involving the exploration of ancient ruins and competing post-apocalyptic factions, or
  • simply want the oldest and most well-established post-apocalyptic RPG setting