D&D 4E Gamma World (7E) Post-Mortem

Retreater

Legend
As is my tradition, each time a game ends, I try to learn from it. This will be about my most recent trip into the radioactive (now) retro Gamma World 7e – based off the system for 4E D&D. I ran the adventure that came in the Core Rules Boxed Set, but spoilers will be kept to a minimum.

A Brief History of Me and Gamma World
I never played the previous editions of Gamma World (though I do own a few of them and have read them). I bought the rules and expansions when they were first released. Years later I even got a complete set of of the booster cards (Alpha Mutations and Omega Tech) from DriveThruCards. I ran the first two adventures but stopped before Legion of Gold. I thought it was a fun, fast, and beginner-friendly version of 4E.
After my groups moved on from 4E, I put away Gamma World.

About the Group and Selection of the Game
The group of players included my wife (a newish convert to 4E D&D), our neighbor (who grew up with THAC0-era D&D) and his teenaged son, and two teenaged sisters also from our neighborhood.
We started a group of 5E D&D about a year and a half ago. During that time, we played through a combination of Saltmarsh and OAR’s Isle of Dread, and then a following campaign of Curse of Strahd. As I’ve stated countless times on this board, I am a bit burned out on 5E, so I offered the group other options after the end of Strahd.
I covered the game table with a buffet of games for them to see, including Savage Worlds of many varieties, Old School Essentials, and our current topic – Gamma World.
“You mean I can play a psychic rat swarm?!!” one of the teens asked.
So, it was decided with great excitement to try Gamma World.

Character Creation
We used the random charts in the books to generate the origins. We were passing the books around to get their powers. I tried to help them. “Write down the powers, do the math, write it down.” (Of course, no one wrote down the math so literally every roll as we played was +level, +accuracy, +Dex … FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, JUST PUT DOWN +7!!!!)
Anyways, this took forever. Not having access to online tools, multiple books, etc., made the fun randomness I remembered feel hellish. Couple that with the high turnaround for character deaths, and this was a major issue. I believe it will continue to be an issue with any out of print system that requires a lot of specific math.

But “Out of Print” Doesn’t Mean "Unavailable"
Checking online, factory sealed copies of this edition of Gamma World are plentiful. I bought extra copies of the three boxes (from Amazon) and another set of the cards from DriveThru. The prices were even less than when the sets were first released around 15 years ago.

Character Deaths
At first, we had a lot of character deaths. The players often didn’t coordinate well, were stingy with their Omega Tech, and would use Basic Attacks instead of their Origin Powers or Alpha Mutations. It took a couple weeks for them to get the hang of it.

"We Are Tired of Fighting Everything"
I ran the adventure as written. The story is minimal, but the fights are challenging and showcase interesting terrain, tactical combats, etc. If I considered this group “murder hobos,” they definitely got it out of their system. Going from one battle scene to another with little story to connect, no roleplaying, - just a series of (admittedly exciting) fights seemed to break them.

Quick Mutation
Outside of a dedicated one-shot, I’ve rarely seen a group fall off a system so quickly. After two sessions the group was getting ready to move on. After four sessions, that was it!
It’s time to put my (now expanded) collection of Gamma World in a barrel and bury it safely in a containment vault until it’s ready to irradiate the world again (maybe in a decade?)

What Next?
When we did the game selection, about half of the group seemed excited to try Savage Worlds – Holler: An Appalachian Apocalypse. The players voted to try that one next.
Our neighbor said he’d give it a try, but “his heart is with D&D” – even if it means playing 4E at my wife’s insistence.
I’m obviously concerned that if the group struggled with the tactics and rules of Gamma World that we’d run into similar issues with D&D 4E. A growing party size (sometimes up to 8 players) means that whatever we play will need to be fast and light enough to accommodate them.
My recommendation would be to try to stick with Savage a bit – maybe try Savage Pathfinder if they want something more of a traditional fantasy feel. Or we can do an OSR system.
Time will tell.
 

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Retreater

Legend
I love these. I’m always glad to see impressions and outcomes. Highly recommend Savage Pathfinder.
Thanks.
I have run a (lengthy) one-shot of Savage Pathfinder. I think it's a capable enough system to please the group - if they're willing to break from their familiarity with the D&D mechanics. If so, I have the Rise of the Runelords AP (and will soon be getting Curse of the Crimson Throne).
My wife LOVES Savage Rifts. I have Deadlands, but I'm pretty "meh" on it because the Old West doesn't really grab my attention.
 

I run Deadlands and Rippers in the same universe. Leverage a lot of the Deadlands assets with a more Victorian screampunk setting rather than the Old West which I too am rather meh about.
 

Tony Vargas

Legend
GW has generally been a less serious 'beer & pretzels' sort of game that you play for fun, rather than for building deep stories or long campaigns, so even as a longtime fan going all the way back to the original Gamma World, I'm not offended that your players didn't take to it and want to play it for a long time. ;P

Oddly, I can't recall off the top of my head of GW7 had anything like 4e's Skill Challenges? I used 'em, since I was familiar from 4e, and why not, but, if it didn't (or you just didn't use them, yourself), that's one thing that's quite different from GW7 ... another is that the characters aren't random, so you can have more buy-in/attachment to the PCs, and more potential for synergy from working together. So the experience might be different.

8 characters is a large group for any more tactical/turn-based game where everyone gets more or less equal time, most of the time. It's one thing when the focus of play moves among 'specialist' characters, to have to move it among 8 players - half of them can zone out, play on their phones, or whatever while another specialty's spotlight time is resolved - it's another when everyone needs to remain focused and enganged while 7 other players take their turns. Anyone slips out of it, and you're stuck bringing them back up to speed on their turn, which slows things down, which loses more players....
(... at the old FLGS, if we got 8 players at one Encounters table (or even 6 at several tables), we'd split it - one of the players would DM a separate table with half the players. It was better to have more tables with 4 players each, than fewer with 6+ each...)

Mind, there were times I just went ahead and ran for as many as 12 players, but I'd never recommend it...
 
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Retreater

Legend
Oddly, I can't recall off the top of my head of GW7 had anything like 4e's Skill Challenges? I used 'em, since I was familiar from 4e, and why not, but, if it didn't (or you just didn't use them, yourself), that's one thing that's quite different from GW7 ... another is that the characters aren't random, so you can have more buy-in/attachment to the PCs, and more potential for synergy from working together. So the experience might be different.
I don't think it technically does, but they do have instances in the adventure where (for example), a character needs to roll three successful Electronics checks to hack a computer to turn off the robots. Or, you know, just kill them.
The issue with skill challenges in GW7 is - well, skills. Characters have training in 2-3, assigned at random (two from their origins and one from a random roll). They might not even be good at them.
So there's no guarantee of diversity or potency of skills.
If I were to continue the GW game, I would limit randomization of character creation.
8 characters is a large group for any more tactical/turn-based game where everyone gets more or less equal time, most of the time. It's one thing when the focus of play moves among 'specialist' characters, to have to move it among 8 players - half of them can zone out, play on their phones, or whatever while another specialty's spotlight time is resolved - it's another when everyone needs to remain focused and enganged while 7 other players take their turns. Anyone slips out of it, and you're stuck bringing them back up to speed on their turn, which slows things down, which loses more players....
Yes, now that we might be expanding to 8 players, GW isn't an option anyway. (Honestly, I don't think any d20 system will work. So nothing based off any WotC era D&D.)
 

Derulbaskul

Adventurer
There is a character generator floating around as a page on website. It might even be the archive.org version of the WotC page.
 

Retreater

Legend
There is a character generator floating around as a page on website. It might even be the archive.org version of the WotC page.
I've used it in the past, but I could not find it again. It seemed to have been taken down - a bunch of dead links.
I did find a somewhat wonky randomizer, but it didn't have the text of the powers, etc.
 


For a group that big, that is not great at tactics, I'd take a look at Fate. With 8 characters they can stack up ridiculous amount of Create An Advantage to get their now-we-do-a-really-big-hit (or whatever).

Fate Accelerated if you want to avoid the Skills pyramid.

Fate Core if not.
 

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