Game of the Month: Gamma World

A giant two-headed spider, an anti-matter spewing treeman, a living gargoyle, and a robotic replica of Abraham Lincoln bravely ventured through the ruins of Sea-at-Ell to recover stolen medicine from a band of Caws. Along the way, they faced fishmen and their vicious flying fish minions near Pike Palace and fought off giant crabs as they crossed a sinking bridge. Finally, they confronted the crow-like Caws in their gas station hideout and recovered the stolen supply of Nyquil.

If you haven’t already realized it, I ran a game of Gamma World for February’s game-of-the-month session. The most recent version of Gamma World is based on Dungeons & Dragons 4E, but has a few simplifications and some interesting features that give it a unique feel.

One of the most fun aspects of Gamma World is character creation. Each character gets two randomly determined origins, such as Two-Headed and Arachnoid in the case of one of my players. These origins contribute powers and traits that define most of what a character can do during a game. While random generation doesn’t offer much choice to players, it goes very quick and leads to fun and wacky combinations.

Another notable difference from D&D 4E is that Gamma World uses cards for powerful items called Omega Tech and ever-shifting Alpha Mutations. A character gets one or more Alpha Mutation cards depending on their level that change each encounter. In addition, characters draw from the Omega Tech deck when they earn treasure and can get powerful items, but the items have a chance to burn out each time they’re used. These cards add even more random wackiness to the game while also giving players a slightly different set of options each encounter.

Fantasy Gamma World

You could use Gamma World as the basis for a simplified version of 4E. It wouldn’t be too difficult to create origins based on the races and classes of D&D and then let players choose one race origin and one class origin to create their characters. Omega Tech and Alpha Mutations could both be replaced with magical items based on the same cards but given a fantasy flavor.

Gamma World characters are about as powerful as D&D 4E characters of the same level, so fantasy monsters from D&D can easily be used with Gamma World characters. In fact, in the game-of-the-month session I used kenku stats for the caws and crauds from Monster Manual 3 as giant crabs.

Gammified 4E

Another possibility opened up by the compatibility between 4E and Gamma World is to mix a little bit of Gamma World into a D&D game. I’ve played in a one-shot game based on the Pharaoh adventure for AD&D where the DM gave out Omega Tech cards as treasure as we explored a pyramid that was really the control center for a satellite weapon. The same could also be done with Alpha Mutation cards to represent the influence of the Far Realm or the Spellplague. Giving out the cards adds a fun twist and opens up different options in each encounter as the powers change due to Alpha Flux or tech items burning out during the course of the adventure.

Gamma World Resources

Even though Wizards of the Coast isn’t planning any further Gamma World releases, there are a lot of fan-made resources for the game. Critical Hits has a good compilation of links here. My own blog also has a few Gamma World resources, mostly homebrew origins, that you can download here.


Part idiot. Part old man. All geek. A game enthusiast and software engineer living near Seattle.


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About Scott Boehmer

A game enthusiast and software engineer living near Seattle.

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