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[WIR] Gamma World, first edition (1978)

Sleeper

Red-eyed dust bunny
Validated User
That all makes sense, but nowhere in your WIR has this ever been stated. In fact there is little in game stuff which is probably why I asked the question--that and a lot of people seem to really play up the post-apocalypse angle. Like what happens with kids who have mutation in small villages? Did I mention there seems to be little in game information?
You're correct, the setting of GW1 is almost entirely implied. For example, I always got a lot of inspiration from the descriptions of the bots. I don't think the let's read really dwelt on that part, but those writeups suggest things about how the world of the Ancients functioned. But those are hints and suggestions; it's not spelled out.

The world itself is primarily defined by threats, curiosities, and artifacts. In other words, you only see the setting through the tools you're given to play the game, not by some holistic overview or a day in the life breakdown. There's a little discussion of population centers, currency, cargo cult quasi-religions, and a (comparatively) lengthy history, but that's pretty much it on the economic, social, cultural, and religious front.

Which can be frustrating, if you want everything planned out and defined. But it can also be wondrously (and terrifyingly) liberating. The focus on things you'll meet, problems you'll face, dangers you have to overcome, and the stuff you find gives the referee everything they need to start playing immediately. You have some powers, and there's a completely new world out there to explore. You don't need a setting bible or infodumps, because you don't really need to fill in anything, until it comes up.

This minimalist, bottom-up approach works best if it's highly reactive. Who cares what's over the next hill? Nobody, it's irrelevant -- unless the players are interested. In which case you invent it, and move on. Which is the best way to handle a game of exploration. Let the world emerge not based on some grand vision you have, but on what the players are interested in. It does require some improvisational skill, but it also reduces the workload because you only really need to think one session ahead.

You can also pick up a lot of cues from your players. Their questions, how they phrase them, the implied assumptions they make about the world works -- run with them. Let them, perhaps unknowingly, create the framework for a world that interests them. For something like how they grew up, ask them. Only then figure out whether everyone's a mutant, whether they had to struggle, whether everyone liked them, and so on. Then riff on it, emphasizing those themes -- for instance, if they're unique and special and everyone likes them, they might be the chosen ones in some mysterious prophecy. If they're persecuted, you could make some dramatic betrayal or expulsion (though that's probably for older kids). And so on.

Another advantage of this approach is you can easily see what works, based on how the players react. It's not a white room theoretical exercise. If they're interested, they'll ask questions and follow up. If they're not, just drop it. Your job to is leave hints and hooks, and then flesh them out based on their reactions. Don't invest a lot of work in creating the hooks, just spin them off until something catches. If they don't care about the prophecy, then there's no reason to ever bring it up again. If they do, then put some effort into developing it.
 
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Gentleman Highwayman

Registered User
Validated User
You're correct, the setting of GW1 is almost entirely implied. For example, I always got a lot of inspiration from the descriptions of the bots. I don't think the let's read really dwelt on that part, but those writeups suggest things about how the world of the Ancients functioned. But those are hints and suggestions; it's not spelled out.
...
Which can be frustrating, if you want everything planned out and defined.
I understand GW1 is a product of its time. Outside of M.A.R. Barker who was doing vast world building? And D&D to this day still relies on an implied setting that is never really elaborated to in the PHB. That said the game seems to want players to play dumb about things you know while at the same time implicitly assumes you know a bunch of the missing setting. GW is even less generic than D&D, so maybe the adventures/modules helped to fill in some in world character views?

Either way, I'm still going to run it as a bog standard anime fantasy world...with some weird stuff. Oh, and teenagers with magic powers tracking down the MacGuffins.
 

Sleeper

Red-eyed dust bunny
Validated User
I understand GW1 is a product of its time. Outside of M.A.R. Barker who was doing vast world building? And D&D to this day still relies on an implied setting that is never really elaborated to in the PHB. That said the game seems to want players to play dumb about things you know while at the same time implicitly assumes you know a bunch of the missing setting. GW is even less generic than D&D, so maybe the adventures/modules helped to fill in some in world character views?

Either way, I'm still going to run it as a bog standard anime fantasy world...with some weird stuff. Oh, and teenagers with magic powers tracking down the MacGuffins.
Everything is a product of its time, that's a tautology. But if you're implying the setting is done poorly because it's old, I have to completely disagree. It's not designed as a top-down setting, it's a bottom-up setting. The "missing" elements are the point; because the world is emergent it can be fresh and new every time, even to the referee. That's something modern incarnations of many games, with their exhaustive reams of backstory and details, are absolutely terrible at. Neither approach is a bad thing, they both have their virtues. They're just very different.
 

Gentleman Highwayman

Registered User
Validated User
Everything is a product of its time, that's a tautology. But if you're implying the setting is done poorly because it's old,
Not everything is a product of its time, it's why we have things that are ahead of their time... And a tautology is something like "It's old because it was made long ago." That's not what I said or even implied that the setting was poorly done because it's old. My assertion is it has 'no setting' because at the time games didn't have detailed settings. It has nothing to do with the age, but the vintage. By the '90s settings were possibly more important than the rules and that was their vintage. There is no judgement, just observation. You seem to be upset at a slight I never made.
 

Sleeper

Red-eyed dust bunny
Validated User
Not everything is a product of its time, it's why we have things that are ahead of their time... And a tautology is something like "It's old because it was made long ago." That's not what I said or even implied that the setting was poorly done because it's old. My assertion is it has 'no setting' because at the time games didn't have detailed settings. It has nothing to do with the age, but the vintage. By the '90s settings were possibly more important than the rules and that was their vintage. There is no judgement, just observation. You seem to be upset at a slight I never made.
I'm not upset at anything, though now I'm mildly amused at the close to zero accuracy rate of internet telepathy. I just disagreed with the implication that parts of the setting were "missing" and required you to "play dumb" (your phrasing, which intentionally or not was a bit loaded), and explained why. It's one of those things that's hard to talk about, because it's rooted in largely unconscious assumptions and preferences. But the reason I addressed it (and have addressed it in other threads) is I think it's important to distinguish between elements of games that are objectively bad, and elements that work well at what they do, even if what they do is not what you want. Because understanding why a game works, and how the various components contribute to that goal, is important not just for enjoying a game in the way it was designed, but for tweaking the game in new ways. When you twist dials or throw switches, it helps to understand what they do and why. And Gamma World 1e is very much designed around the assumption that you'll roll up a party of PCs, start playing, and let the setting emerge during play. The reason why it isn't further defined is because the authors assume the reader has enough referents to throw something together in a moment's notice. You could start them in a village based on Thundarr the Barbarian, or Avatar the Last Airbender, for instance.

And it is a tautology, even the most forward thinking product is still a product of its time. But if you want to make the distinction between games that presage future trends, then I'd argue that Gamma World first edition's foreword with the discussion of increasing factionalism, terrorism, and biotic agents is uncannily prescient and reflects the modern world more than the Cold War that was its presumptive inspiration. And the emergent design philosophy inherent in the setting-lite nature of the game is closer to the cutting edge story games than modern games that have accumulated rules and setting details like flotsam pooling in the Sargasso.
 

DJChallix

Gygaxian Gen-Xer
Validated User
PART 42: PLAY OF THE GAME (Offensive Armor)

The section on offensive armor begins with the following passage which must be quoted in its entirety due to its retro-SF awesomeness:

“Offensive armor was the culmination of the science of battle armor, and as such, it is usually the most complicated equipment the player characters will encounter. Each suit is more like a space capsule into which the wearer must crawl. All types are equipped with various sophisticated sub-systems which must be activated before the suit is fully operational that include: 2 way radios (part of a world-wide satellite communications network); complete life support systems with a 72 hour oxygen supply (the air circulating and conditioning unit may function independently without draining the battery); a medi-kit (see MISCELLANEOUS ENERGY DEVICES); sound, ultra-violet, and infra-red sensors; and a self-destruct mechanism, activated by the death of a wearer.”

A space capsule? I’m not sure that’s the best analogy, unless they actually are wanting us to envision some big mech-like thing. Personally, I tend to envision the offensive armors as more equivalent to Iron Man’s suit, or that really awesome M.A.U.L.E.R. armor, or maybe the Crimson Dynamo, or that green-and-purple suit Lex Luther sometimes wears. But I’m probably wrong; in all likelihood the authors were in fact thinking more of something much larger, like Tony Stark’s Hulk Buster suit or the RIFTS Glitter Boy (god I hate that name). At any rate, there are no physical descriptions of any of these armors, so let your imagination get to work.

There are four types of offensive armor described in this section. The consistent theme for all four is the presence of a powerful force field (which, in terms of game mechanics, provides damage reduction each round) and “anti-grav flight”, which as far as I can figure, is the same thing as good old-fashioned regular flight. But sounds cooler.

Powered Scout Armor (AC2)
No physical details at all; just the following stats are provided.

Force field:
20 hp damage/melee turn (I have by this point made peace with the fact that Ward and Jaquet are intentionally using “round” and “turn” as synonymous terms).

Locomotion:
Anti-grav flight of 250 meters/melee turn. (Does this mean that the wearer can conceivably keep going up and up and up, 250 meters every 10 seconds? Seems like it).

Battery source:
2 atomic energy cells

Battery life:
54 hours of continuous use

Powered Battle Armor (AC2)
No clue as to what this armor looks like either, though we are told the suit has a “hydraulic system” which allows the use to lift 1.5 metric tons (which is apparently extremely close in value to imperial tons, or as we call them in my neighborhood, “plain, ordinary, regular, old-school tons”). Just for comparison’s sake, the average car weighs about two tons, but as a referee I certainly wouldn’t nickel and dime a PC who was wearing this suit and wanted to lift and throw a car. The rule of cool would override mathematics. The suit can also leap 25 meters per melee turn and can deliver a “sunday punch” (the authors’ term, which is apparently boxing slang for a knockout blow) of 8d6 damage.

Force field:
30 hp damage/melee turn.

Locomotion:
Anti-grav flight of 100 meters/melee turn. (Nice attention to detail here; it makes sense that the battle armor would be slower than the scout armor, yet more powerful with its lift and punch capabilities).

Battery source:
2 atomic energy cells

Battery life:
48 hours of continuous use

Powered Attack Armor (AC1)
Once again, no physical description, but lots of goodies:
1. Laser pistol built into the forefinger of each hand (powered “independently”, which I’m assuming means it has its own laser pistol battery rather than drawing power from the atomic power cells of the suit).
2. Micro missile launcher and a clip of 20 missiles built into the helmet (so much for a sleek, Iron Man-style design for this armor!). Remember that micro-missiles are only 10 cm long.
3. Grenade launcher with a bolt of 15 grenades (referee determines grenade type) attached to the left shoulder.

This suit has the following stats:

Hydraulic system:
Can lift up to 2 metric tons and leap 25 meters in a melee turn (and it can do both in the same turn). Can also punch for 9d6 damage.

Force field:
40 hp damage/melee turn.

Locomotion:
Anti-grav flight of 150 meters/melee turn.

Battery source:
2 atomic energy cells

Battery life:
42 hours of continuous use

Powered Assault Armor (AC1)
This armor is identical to powered attack armor, except for three details: its force field absorbs 50 hp per melee turn, its flight range is 200 meters per melee turn, and its power source is 3 atomic energy cells.

I just had another thought. For what is possibly a good interpretation of what these offensive armors look like, see the cover of the 3e module GW9: Delta Fragment.

That’s it for armor, my friends. Tomorrow we’ll start on page 35 with Vehicles!
 

Strange Visitor

Grumpy Grognard
Validated User
Given the time period and some phrasing, most of the power armor was most likely based on a combination of the suits from Starship Troopers with maybe some influence from the combat armors from the Lensmen books.
 

Dalillama

Registered User
Validated User
sunday punch” (the authors’ term, which is apparently boxing slang for a knockout blow)
The term appeared quite often in Marvel Comics around this time, especially Fantastic Four; was one of the Thing's favourites.
 

Sleeper

Red-eyed dust bunny
Validated User
The term appeared quite often in Marvel Comics around this time, especially Fantastic Four; was one of the Thing's favourites.
Comics were veritable cornucopias of slang and jargon. Often decades-old, preserved like flies in amber.
 
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