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Gamma World Cover 1

Gamma World is a science fantasy role-playing game, originally designed by James M. Ward and Gary Jaquet, and first published by TSR in 1978. It borrowed heavily from James M. Ward's earlier product, Metamorphosis Alpha. Thus far, there have been 7 editions.

The game's designers took inspiration from the post-apocalyptic novels and movies of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s; the first edition rules cite Brian Aldiss's Hothouse, Andre Norton's Star Man's Son (also published as Daybreak - 2250 A.D.), Sterling E. Lanier's Hiero's Journey, and Ralph Bakshi's Wizards.



Map of Gamma World from the second edition rule set.

The details provided change from version to version, but from the beginning, Gamma World takes place in the mid-25th century, more than a century after a nuclear war had decimated human civilization.

In the early editions, humanity achieved in creating a high-tech utopia that effectively ended human suffering and reversed man-made pollution. Without the daily struggles of life, mankind focused on politics, and eventually became galvanized in their own views; to the point of fanaticism and terrorism! With the world falling apart to bloody conflict, a fanatical group called "The Apocalypse" tried to force world peace by threatening the world with total annihilation! Their plan of absolution was not that absolute, as the world still survived, but a bit... altered. The aftermath resulted in the fall of civilization, and a state of Darwinism unleashed!

Early on, the setting was focused on finding the long-lost treasures of the fabled Apocalypse Base, but in truth, the setting was open-ended enough for a wide range of adventures. The remnants of civilization are primitive and xenophobic. Some people from into secret societies called Cryptic Alliances. Bound by common philosophies, they operate in the shadows of civilization in order the fulfill their mysterious agendas. With each edition, the Cryptic Alliances became larger, more well-known, and even more tied to the rules and setting. Eventually, it reached a point a to where they control large areas across North America, becoming governments by their own right.


(see Barony of Horn for more information on that location)


Second edition map noting the regions of the Cryptic Alliances.

The RulesEdit

The 1978 first edition rule set was based on an unproduced game called Munant, and was further developed by Ward and Jaquet. Attributes are rolled like D&D Abilities, but Strength is called Physical Strength, and Wisdom is called Mental Strength. The playable races are Pure Strain Human (PSH), Humanoids, and Mutant Animals. There are no character classes. It did have a crude advancement system that granted ether an attribute boost or a bonus to combat (number of attacks per round, to-hit bonus, or bonus damage die with melee weapons). This was an optional rule, and was most likely a tacked-on feature. Hit Points are rolled based on ones Constitution score and always uses a d6. Initiative is unrolled and based on one's Dexterity score; the higher the score, the faster one is. The ability to hit was based on Weapon Class: An abstract system that groups weapon types into to-hit arrays, and was not entirely a measurement of weapon strength.

For the most part, the game mechanics were rather piecemeal and required a bit of tweaking to make it work in places.

The game came in a box set containing a 58-page softcover rulebook (with a black and white cover) and a fold-out map of a radically altered North America with no locations listed.

This edition had three accessories:

  • GW1: Legion of Gold by Gary Gygax, Luke Gygax, and Paul Reiche III
  • GW2: Famine in Far-Go by Michael Price
  • Gamma World Referee's Screen (with the cover form the top of the page), with the mini-module The Albuquerque Starport by Paul Reiche III

The 1983 second edition rule set was a major upgrade to the first edition game. Beyond a lot of superficial indexing and rule clarifications, the combat rules are more complete, and there are a number a newer features. The races are more defined in capability, and mutations have listed Attributes rolls. This game also introduced Tech Levels to help grade items and people by technological development. The book also includes a list of common survival gear, more setting details like language and economics, and campaign rules.

The one glaring downside is the loud, garish formatting. Keywords are bold and ALL CAPS (which there are a lot of), and stats (artifact, mutation, monster, etc.) make use of a lot of confusing and redundant abbreviations. Also, if you like to play mutant plants, the rules do not cover them.

The game came in a box set containing a 64 page rules booklet, a 32 page adventure booklet, a full-colored map with US on one side and Pitz Burke on the other.

This edition had four accessories:

  • GW3: The Cleansing War of Garik Blackhand by Michael Price & Garry Spiegle
  • GW4: The Mind Masters by Philip Taterczynski
  • GWAC1: Gamma World Referee's Screen, with the mini-module The Albuquerque Starport by Paul Reiche III
  • GWAC2: Gamma World Character Sheets

The 1985 third edition rule set was noted (and infamous) for making use of the Action Control Table (ACT). This table was a color-coded chart, introduced in the Marvel Super Heroes role-playing game, that allowed players to determine degrees of success with a percentile roll. (At the time, TSR thought in was a brilliant system, and tried to include it in other games, like Star Frontiers and Top Secret.)

This edition suffered from a number of editorial mistakes, including cross-references to rules that didn't appear in the boxed set. The missing information included the cryptic alliances, plant mutations, price lists, and equipment. The errors were serious enough that TSR published a 16-page rules supplement containing the omitted rules.

The game came in a box set containing a 64-page rulebook, a 32-page adventure book with a full-color detachable cover containing a map on one side and the ACT chart on the other, a 16-page coverless reference book, a tri-fold referee's screen, and a double-sided fold-up map of Pitz Burke and Allegheny.

This edition had five accessories:

  • GW6: Alpha Factor by Kim Eastland
  • GW7: Beta Principle by Bruce Nesmith
  • GW8: Gamma Base by Kim Eastland
  • GW9: Delta Fragment by Kim Eastland
  • GW10: Epsilon Cyborgs by Kim Eastland

TSR dropped the 3rd edition of Gamma World from its product line before the multi-module storyline could be completed. In 2003 an unofficial conclusion to the series was published under the title GW11 Omega Project.

The 1992 fourth edition rule set by Bruce Nesmith and James M. Ward abandoned the ACT system in favor of mechanics derived from the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition rules. The rules are extensive, and includes different ways to roll attributes based in genotypes; a new attribute called Perception; animal and plant templates for mutant races; 4 playable classes (Enforcer, Esper, Examiner, and Scout) with their own specialized skills; and game mechanics prolifically similar to the AC/DC mechanics used in the third edition D&D.

Where the core book lacked rules for powered armor, Gamma Knights featured highly customizable suits with attachable weapons and equipment reminiscent of the classic '80 cartoon The Centurions.

This edition was published as a standalone 192-page rulebook.

This edition had five accessories:

  • GWA1: Treasures of the Ancients by Dale "Slade" Henson
  • GWA2: The Overlord of Bonparr by Jack A. Barker
  • GWQ1: Mutant Master by Bruce Nesmith
  • GWQ2: All Animals Are Equal by Dale "Slade" Henson
  • GWQ3: Home Before the Sky Falls by Tim Beach, Paul Riegel, Drew Bittner, and Kim Eastland

The fifth edition game (2000), by Andy Collins and Jeff Grubb, was a 192-page setting supplement for Alternity, and requires the Alternity core rulebook to play. Since it came months before Wizards of the Coast canceled the Alternity game line, this edition did not have any accessories or supplements.

This is largely an obscure edition, but the Alternity RPG still maintains a strong cult-following.

Omega World was a d20 System mini-game based on Gamma World and written by Jonathan Tweet for Dungeon #94 and Polyhedron #153 in 2002. Tweet did not produce any expansions for the game, although it received a warm reception from Gamma World fans and new players alike.

The 2003 sixth edition was a licensed game by White Wolf Studio, and uses the d20 Modern rules. Like The fifth edition, it was no a complete rule set, so you'll need d20 Modern (or any other compatible D20 rulebooks, like Darwin's World or Grim Tales) to play, but there are enough rules to be a fairly complete game.

Unlike the wacky, soft-science nature of previous editions, this edition strides for a gritty, hard-edged sci-fi feel. This game downplays radiation as the primary means of mutation. Most of the mutant monsters in the game are noted as being deliberate inventions: As fulfilling same use in society or war, or were some escaped experiment. Few mutants are true fallout mutants. Much of the mutations are the product of mutagenic nanites or viruses. In the Sources and Inspirations form the Player's Handbook, they were more dismissive of "gonzo" works like Damnation Alley (movie) and Six-String Samurai, while citing works like The Postman, Mad Max and Independence Day as being more in line with Gamma World styled adventures. While they are fine works of fiction, this misses the mark of what makes Gamma World fun for many fans, and was not what the fans were expecting. Although, to their credit, they did recommend Six-String Samurai, Tetsuo: The Iron Man, which are both extremely wacky.

One of the key elements added was the use of nano-technology. Fluff-wise, they are clouds of microscopic machines that can alter normal matter. Crunch-wise, they are an interesting placeholder for magic-use. Nanites can alter normal matter (living and inorganic), alter gravity, project energy and force, create sensory stimulation and beyond. The rules for nanite-manipulation includes Difficulty Classes to manifest them, and Nano Costs to get them to take effect.

The game also list rules of cybernetics, with added rules for energy charge and consumption, as well as linking them to items. To make them useful without major surgery and specialized medical knowledge, they are made in a way were almost anyone can install them on effected areas (this is were the influence of Tetsuo comes into play).

Races are called genotypes. Players can play as one of two un-mutated humans: Stock Humans (the most common) or Pure-Strain Humans (isolated prewar people). You can choose from four types of mutants: Engineered Animals, Engineered Humans, New-Men, and True Mutants. The first two where engineered prier to the war, while the last two where the product of the aftermath of the way. Synthetics comes in three flavors: Androids (human-like robot with an AI), Cyborgs (machine covered in living tissue) and Robots. Classes follow the d20 Modern standard: Strong, Fast, Tough, Smart, Dedicated and Charismatic heroes. Advanced classes includes: Cybercologist (someone with a mental and emotional connection to synthetics), Leader, Nanosmith (like a Wizard, but with ), Prophet (more a rabble rouser with good insight than a spiritual clairvoyant), Survivor, and War Chief. Everything else, is covered like a d20 game, with backgrounds, skills, feats, wealth score, reputation bonuses, equipment, and so on.

The game is unique for the inclusion of Community rules, that rates and generates communities – form small nomadic bands, to large cities – as non-player characters. Strength becomes Force (ability to construct or to combat threats), Dexterity becomes Mobility (ability to move people and cargo), Constitution becomes Resilience (ability to withstand and recover form disaster or attacks), Intelligence becomes Learning (community knowledge; ability to assimilate and possess new information), Wisdom becomes Awareness (ability to send and preserve information; ability to withstand and recover form psychological/information warfare), and Charisma becomes Command (ability to influence other people and cultures, including commerce). Like characters, communities have backgrounds, skills, feats, etc.

Much like D&D's core rule books, this game set comes with three core rule books:

  • Gamma World Player's Handbook by Bruce Baugh, Ian Eller, Mikko Rautalahti, and Geoff Skellams
  • Gamma World Game Master's Guide by Bruce Baugh, Werner Hager, Lizard, and Doug Oglesby
  • Gamma World Mutants and Machines by David Bolack, Gareth Hanrahan, Patrick O'Duffy, and Chuck Wendig

Sword & Sorcery Studios also published three supplements for the game:

  • Gamma World Beyond the Horizon by Ellen Kiley
  • Gamma World Cryptic Alliances and Unknown Enemies by Owen K.C. Stephens, Alejandro Melchor, and Geoff Skellams
  • Gamma World Out of the Vaults by James Maliszewski, John Snead, and Ellen P. Kiley

The 2010 seventh edition — officially: Gamma World Roleplaying Game: A D&D Roleplaying Game — is often called "4e Gamma World", as it runs on the 4th edition "4e" D&D rules. This game is unique for its collectible card game component. Characters are given random cards for mutations (Alpha Mutations) and loot (Omega Tech). This would be good, if it was done right. With how the game is played, mutations change after each encounter. As a collectible card game, you start off with a basic set of cards, but to get anymore cards, you'll need to buy a "booster pack" of 8 random cards. Trying to collect the whole set will get pricey. As 4th edition D&D is fundamentally geared towards "Beer and Pretzels" miniature combat, you'll need battle maps and miniatures or tokens to represent the combinations.

The game came in a box set containing a 160-page full-colored rule book, 40 Alpha Mutations cards, 40 Omega Tech cards, two double-sided battle mats and a set of 30 character and monster tokens.


The Treasure Charts in first edition Gamma World (a list of common junk fond in the pull-out sections at the end of the book) notes some notable objects:

Conversion with Mutant FutureEdit


Physical Mutations

1st Ed Gamma World 2nd Ed Gamma World Mutant Future
------ Actual Metamorphosis ------
------ Anti-Life Leech ------ (typically includes Albinism)
------ Bodily Control ------
Chameleon Powers Chameleon Powers Chameleon Epidermis
Density Control (self) Density Control (self) Density Alteration
------ ------ Dermal Poison Slime
------ Displacement ------
------ ------ Dual Headed
Electrical Generation Electrical Generation Energy-Retaining Cell Structure
------ ------ Fragrance Development
Gas Generation – Musk (or other) Gas Generation – Musk (or other) Toxic Weapon
------ Gills Aberrant Form: Xenomorphism
Heat Generation Heat Generation Energy Ray
Heightened Balance Heightened Balance Increased Balance
Heightened Constitution Heightened Physical Attribute (Constitution) Increased Physical Attribute: Constitution
Heightened Dexterity Heightened Physical Attribute (Dexterity) Increased Physical Attribute: Dexterity
Heightened Hearing Heightened Sense (Hearing) Increased Sense: Hearing
Heightened Precision Heightened Precision -
Heightened Smell Heightened Sense (Smell) Increased Sense: Smell
Heightened Strength Heightened Physical Attribute (Strength) Increased Physical Attribute: Strength
Heightened Taste Heightened Sense (Taste) Increased Sense: Taste
Heightened Touch Heightened Sense (Touch) Increased Sense: Touch
Heightened Vision Heightened Sense (Vision) Increased Sense: Vision
------ Horns or Antlers Aberrant Form: Natural Weapon
Increased Speed Speed Increase Quickness
Infravision Infravision Thermal Vision
Light Generation Light Generation ------
------ Mane & Bristles Bizarre Appearance or otherwise a superficial trait
------ Modified Body Parts Aberrant Form: Enlarged Parts or an other superficial trait
Multiple Body Parts Multiple Body Parts Aberrant Form: Extra Parts
New Body Parts New Body Parts Aberrant Form: Xenomorphism
------ ------ Night Vision
Oversized Body Parts Oversized Body Parts Aberrant Form: Enlarged Parts
Partial Carapace Partial Carapace Natural Armor (moderate)
Photosynthetic Skin Photosynthetic Skin Epidermal Photosynthesis
Physical Reflection Physical Reflection Reflective Epidermis
------ ------ Prehensile Tail
Quills or Spines Quills or Spines Spiny Growth
------ Radar or Sonar Echolocation
Radiated Eyes Radiation Eyes Optic Emissions
Regeneration Regeneration Regenerative Capability
Shapechange Shapechange Metamorph
Shorter Shorter Dwarfism
------ Skeletal Enhancement -------
Sonic Attack Ability Sonic Blast Shriek
------ Sound Imitation ------
Symbiotic Attachment ------ Parasitic Control
Taller Taller Gigantism
Total Carapace Total Carapace Natural Armor (extreme)
Ultravision Ultravision Ultraviolet Vision
------ ------ Unique Sense
Wings Wings Complete Wing Development

Physical Defects/Drawbacks

1st Ed Gamma World 2nd Ed Gamma World Mutant Future
------ (Anti-Life Leech usaully comes with Albinism) Albinism
------ Anti-Charisma ------
Attraction Odor Attraction Odor Prey Scent
------ ------ Bizarre Appearance
Body Structure Change Body Structure Change Frailty
------ Dark Dependency (use Epidermal Susceptibility and Vision Impairment)
Diminished Sense Diminished Sense Sensory Deficiency
Double Physical Pain Double Physical Pain Pain Sensitivity
------ Energy Sensitivity (use Unique Sense and Epidermal Susceptibility)
Fat Cell Accumulation Fat Cell Accumulation Obese
------ Heat Reaction Epidermal Susceptibility
Hemophilia Arterial Weakness Hemophilia
------ Light Dependency (use Epidermal Susceptibility)
------ Narcolepsy ------
Increased Metabolism Increased Metabolism Increased Caloric Needs
------ Inhibiting Field ------
------ Insanity ------
No Resistance to Bacteria Bacterial Susceptibility Reduced Immune System
No Resistance to Poison Poison Susceptibility Poison Susceptibility
No Nerve Endings No Nerve Endings Pain Insensitivity
------ ------ Pituitary Deformation
(see Mental Defects) Phobia (see Mental Drawbacks)
(see Mental Defects) Poor Dual Brain (see Mental Drawbacks)
Poor Respiratory System Poor Respiration Reduced Oxygen Efficiency
Skin Structure Change Skin Structure Change Epidermal Susceptibility
------ ------ Simian Deformity
------ ------ Slow Mutant
Vision Defect Vision Defect Vision Impairment
------ Water Dependency Epidermal Susceptibility
Weight Decrease Weight Decrease ------

Mental Mutations

1st Ed Gamma World 2nd Ed Gamma World Mutant Future
Absorption Absorption Accumulated Resistance
------ Beguiling (use Fragrance Development)
Cryokinesis Cryokinesis Temperature Control
------ Confusion ------
Death Field Generation Death Field Generation Killing Sphere
De-evolution De-evolution Ancestral Form
Density Control (others) Density Control (others) Density Alteration (Others)
Directional Sense Directional Sense Know Direction
Dual Brain Dual Brain Dual Cerebellum
Empathy Empathy Empathy
------ Fear Generation ------
Force Field Generation Force Field Generation Force Screen
Genius Capability (military, scientific or economic) Genius Capability (military, scientific or economic) Intellectual Affinity (martial, tinkerer or bartering)
Heightened Brain Talent Heightened Brain Talent Quick Mind
Heightened Intelligence Heightened Intelligence Increased Willpower
Illusion Generation Illusion Generation Mental Phantasm
Intuition Intuition Combat Empathy
------ Levitation ------
Life Leech Life Leech Vampiric Field
Light Wave Manipulation Light Wave Manipulation Control Light Waves
Magnetic Control Magnetic Control ------
Mass Mind Mass Mind Metaconcert
Mental Blast Mental Blast Mind Thrust
Mental Control Mental Control Possession
Mental Control Over Physical State Mental Control of Body Body Adjustment
Mental Defense Shield Mental Defense Shield Mental Barrier
------ Mental Multiplier ------
------ Mental Paralysis ------
Molecular Disruption Molecular Disruption Disintegration
Molecular Understanding Molecular Sense ------
Planar Travel Planar Travel Plane Shift
------ Plant Control ------
Precognition Precognition Precognition
------ Psychometry ------
Pyrokinesis Pyrokinesis Temperature Control
Radar/Sonar (see physical mutations) (see physical mutations)
Reflection Reflection Damage Turning
Repulsion Field Repulsion Field Force Screen, Greater
------ Repelling Force ------
Sound Imitation ------ ------
------ Stunning Force ------
------ Summoning ------
(see physical mutations) Symbiotic Attachment (see physical mutations)
Telekinesis Telekinesis Neural Telekinesis
Telekinetic Arm Telekinetic Arm ------
Telekinetic Flight Telekinetic Flight Flight, Psionic
Telepathy Telepathy Neural Telepathy
Teleportation Teleportation Teleport
------ Teleport Object ------
------ Temporal Fugue ------
------ The Gamma Eye ------
Thought Imitation Thought Imitation Mind Reflection
------ Time Distortion ------
Time Field Manipulation Time Field Manipulation ------
------ Time Suspension ------
Total Healing Total Healing Acute Hyper Healing
Weather Manipulation Weather Manipulation Control Weather
Will Force Will Force Ability Boost

Mental Defects/Drawbacks

1st Ed Gamma World 2nd Ed Gamma World Mutant Future
------ ------ Atrophied Cerebellum
------ Attack Reversal ------
Anti-reflection ------ Mind Reflection
Complete Mental Block Complete Mental Block ------
------ Energy Sensitivity (use Unique Sense and Epidermal Susceptibility)
------ Energy Negation ------
Epilepsy Seizures ------
Fear Impulse Fear Impulse Phobia
Hostility Field Hostility Field Negative Empathy
Mental Defenselessness Mental Defenselessness Weak Will
Multiple Damage Multiple Damage Phantasmal Damage
------ Periodic Amnesia ------
Poor Dual Brain Poor Dual Brain Dual Cerebellum (defective)
------ Unconscious Summoning ------

Plant Mutations

1st Ed Gamma World 2nd Ed Gamma World Mutant Future
Adaptation Adaptation Accumulated Resistance
------ Allurement Fragrance Development (plants)
------ Anti-Life Leech ------
Aromatic Powers Aromatic Powers ------
Bacterial Symbiosis Bacterial Symbiosis ------
Barbed Leaves Modified Leaves (barbed) Natural Vegetal Weapons
------ Death Field Generation ------
------ Beguiling ------
Berries Berries ------
Boring Tendrils Modified Vines and Roots (boring tendrils) Natural Vegetal Weapons
Carnivorous Jaws Modified Vines and Roots (carnivorous jaws) Carnivore
Color Sensitivity and Imitation Chamelion Powers Chameleon Metamorph
Contact Poison Sap Contact Poison Sap Dermal Poison Sap (or Natural Vegetal Weapons)
Dissolving Juices Dissolving Juices Dermal Acid Sap (or Natural Vegetal Weapons)
Divisional Body Segments Divisional Body Segments Free Movement
Electrical Generation Electrical Generation Electric Charge Generation
------ Energy Absorption ------
------ Energy Negation ------
Explosive and/or Radiated Fruit or Seeds Explosive or Radiated Fruit or Seeds Grenade-Like Fruit
Heat Generation Heat Generation Thermal Emissions
Increased Senses Increased Senses Full Senses (if rolled again)
Manipulation Vines Modified Vines and Roots (manipulation vines) Prehensile Tendrils: Simple tendrils
Mobility Mobility Free Movement
New Plant Parts New Body Parts Animal Limbs or Organs
New Senses New Senses Full Senses
Parasitic Attachment Symbiotic Attachment Vegetal Parasite
Physical Reflection Physical Reflection Reflective Cellular Structure
Poison Throwing Thorns Throwing Thorns Projectile Thorns
Poison Vines Modified Vines and Roots (poison vines) Injected Poison Sap
Radiated Plant Fiber Radiated Plant Fiber Radioactive Emissions
Razor-edged Leaves Modified Leaves (razor-edged) Natural Vegetal Weapons
Saw-edged Leaves Modified Leaves (saw-edged) Natural Vegetal Weapons
Seed Mobility Seed Mobility Animate Seeds
Size Decrease Size Decrease Abnormal Size
Size Increase Size Increase Abnormal Size
Sonic Attack Ability Sonic Blast Shriek (plant)
Squeeze Vines/Roots Modified Vines and Roots (squeeze vines/roots) Prehensile Tendrils: Constrictive Tendrils
Spore Cloud and/or Shooting Seeds Spore Cloud Poisonous Spores
Sucker Vines Modified Vines and Roots (sucker vines) Natural Vegetal Weapons
Tangle Vines Modified Vines and Roots (tangle vines) Tripping Tendrils
Texture Change Texture Change Natural Armor (plant)
Thorns/Spines Thorns/Spines Natural Vegetal Weapons
Throwing Thorns Throwing Thorns Projectile Thorns
Wings/Gas Bag Wings/Gas Bag Flight

Plant Defects/Drawbacks

1st Ed Gamma World 2nd Ed Gamma World Mutant Future
Attraction Odor Attraction Odor Prey Scent
------ Dark Dependency ------
Daylight Stasis Daylight Stasis Nocturnal
------ Heat Reaction ------
------ Light Dependency ------
Low Fertility Low Fertility Reduced Fertility
Temperature Sensitivity Temperature Sensitivity Thermal Sensitivity

The Apocalyptic PostEdit

Back in 2000 a group of Gamma World fans made a free unofficial, semi-monthly online e-zine that lasted for only 5 issues. The editors are: Chris Conboy, Benjamen Hebert, Derek Holland, Lord Irish, Neil "Tormentor" Whitlow, and John Traglio. Guest contributors includes: Brian Judt, Brutorz Bill, Colin Chapman, David Little, Derek Winston, Fabian Benavente, Kerry Jordan, Mike Leach, Moses "Wolfy" Wildermuth, Randy Messick, Sean Kindred, Sidhain, and Tetsubo. Most of the the people involved are iconic figures in the tight-knit fan community, and can still be found posting on GW forums.

External LinksEdit


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