[WIR] Gamma World, first edition (1978)

DJChallix

Gygaxian Gen-Xer
Validated User
PART 46: PLAY OF THE GAME (Miscellaneous Energy Devices / Medical Supplies and Equipment)

I’ve got my feet up on the couch, got the ThinkPad running hot, and I’ve got RUSH playing on the headphones. The dog is sleeping peacefully by my side, and all is right with the world. Let’s carry on.

Anti-Grav Sled
Pretty much what it says, the anti-grav sled is a 2x3 meter platform that hovers, landspeeder-style, 50 cm above the ground and can carry loads of up to 25 metric tons. It’s powered by an atomic energy cell that will last for 100 hours of continuous operation. There’s a nice bit of detail with this sentence: “The sled may be pushed manually when supporting light loads, but inertia is such a problem that a separate powered, towing or pushing device must be used for cargoes over 2 metric tons.” I’ll say it again: that’s some GURPS-level detail to physics right there.

Ultra-Violet & Infra-Red Goggles
“These goggles enable the wearer to detect heat and light sources normally invisible to the naked eye.”

What else is there to say?

Chemical Energy Cell
[Now begins the list of various power cells.]

The chemical energy cell is rechargeable and only loses its charge after 1d6 years of disuse. The authors tell us the batteries come in various sizes and can power many different types of devices.

Solar Energy Cell
“These are chemical energy cells equipped with, or attached to, a solar panel that recharges them when exposed to bright light.”

I’m guessing that you detached the fully-charged solar cell from the panel and use it in whatever device that will accept it, then re-connect it to the solar panel for recharging. Seems reasonable.

Hydrogen Energy Cell
“These are rechargeable batteries, less common, and more expensive than chemical energy cells. They do not lose their charge through disuse.”

They don’t lose their charge? Like, ever? I get that if you use them they use their charge, but does that mean that if you have a hydrogen energy cell and don’t use it its charge will last for millions of years? Until the eventual heat death of the universe? Doesn’t that violate some law of physics or something? Entropy or some law of thermodynamics or such thing?

Atomic Energy Cell
We don’t know exactly how big this thing is, but it’s “bulky because of its shielding.” We know that it weighs 12 kg and will hold a charge for 1,000 years if not used. To recharge the cell, the user must replace its fuel cylinder.

Energy Cell Charger
Interesting detail here: “When connected to the appropriate power source (line or broadcast), this small unit will recharge practically any chemical or hydrogen energy cell.”

There it is again, friends: another teasing reference to “broadcast power”, which hasn’t yet been defined in the rules. It’s coming up though, very soon. Broadcast power is one of my personal favorite GAMMA WORLD setting details, so I love seeing these references in the book. But we'll get to it later when it is properly explained (just a few pages on).

I’m also trying to visualize what this charger looks like and I just can’t. It’s small, and is compatible with so many batteries that I’d rather not worry about it right now.

We also have this odd sentence: “Although no times are specified, it takes twice as long to recharge hydrogen energy cells as it does to recharge chemical energy cells.” That’s some Zen-koan stuff right there. One is twice the other, yet neither is ever specified. And now you are enlightened.

That’s it for miscellaneous energy devices. At the bottom of page 35 we have the next sub-heading: “Medical Supplies and Equipment.” The section begins with a brief paragraph in which the authors offer the now-familiar disclaimer that this list is but a handful of the various healing items that existed before the Apocalypse, and assuring nervous players that medical supplies “can still be found in an occasional ruined hospital, military aid station, or trauma center.”

There are twelve medical items listed here (13 if you want to include the medi-kit from the previous section) and the last few are pretty trippy. Let’s talk about the first six of them.

Pain Reducer
It’s a drug but we aren’t told how it is administered (pill form? epipen? do you smoke it?). We are told that the user will not feel any pain for 4 hours, and thankfully this is a meaningful effect, since during this pain-free time the PC “will be able to sustain 1 extra hit point for each point of his constitution.” What that essentially means is that instead of death at 0 hp, the PC can endure additional damage and won’t die until his hit points drop to negative Constitution. (So if his CON is 15 and he injects the pain reducer, he can now survive until -15 hp).

Hold on--my analysis might be flawed. The last sentence of the description states: “When the drug wears off, the patient loses these additional hit points (and dies if this leaves no hit points remaining)”. So it might make more sense to say he GAINS additional hit points equal to his Constitution score and then, after the end of the 4 hours, must SUBTRACT that same number from his current hit points and will die if then at 0 or less.

I like my way better.

Mind Booster
The kind of drug one would cherish in a SCANNERS movie, the mind booster adds +3 to the user’s Mental Strength for 1 hour. At the end of the hour, however, the “patient” (feels like the wrong term, but the authors use it) must rest completely (lie down, no exertion, put one of those little eye pillows on your face, etc.) or permanently lose 3 points of Intelligence. This drug seems custom-designed for juicing up a mutant before a mental mutation battle.

Sustenance Dose
We have but a one sentence description: “One dose provides a full day’s required nourishment and short-circuits any hunger signals to the brain for a 24 hour period.”

Does hunger matter in your games? If so, this stuff could come in handy. There are no mechanics (yet, at least) for hunger or thirst in GAMMA WORLD, however.

Interra Shot
The authors describe this stuff as a “truth serum” which lasts a mere ten minutes, after which the individual will not remember being questioned. This stuff seems custom designed for PCs to get information out of NPCs.

Stim Dose
Sort of the physical version of the mind booster, this stuff gives the user +3 to Physical Strength and +1 to Dexterity for 1 hour, after which the user must rest for 4 hours or forever lose 1 point of Physical Strength.

Cur-In Dose
“This miracle antidote negates the effects of any poison or drug.”

That’s all we’re told, but remember that back on page 28 the authors tell us that poison antidotes must be administered within two melee rounds to be effective, so it seems reasonable to apply that principle here.


Stay tuned, friends. Next time we’ll discuss the rest of the medical equipment, including the rejuv-chamber and the life ray. Some cool stuff coming up.
 
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Sleeper

Red-eyed dust bunny
Validated User
Anti-Grav Sled
Pretty much what it says, the anti-grav sled is a 2x3 meter platform that hovers, landspeeder-style, 50 cm above the ground and can carry loads of up to 25 metric tons. It’s powered by an atomic energy cell that will last for 100 hours of continuous operation. There’s a nice bit of detail with this sentence: “The sled may be pushed manually when supporting light loads, but inertia is such a problem that a separate powered, towing or pushing device must be used for cargoes over 2 metric tons.” I’ll say it again: that’s some GURPS-level detail to physics right there.
It's like Tenser's floating disc, except it lasts for a 100 hours and lets you haul tons of loot out of the dungeo.... I mean ruins.

Hydrogen Energy Cell
“These are rechargeable batteries, less common, and more expensive than chemical energy cells. They do not lose their charge through disuse.”

They don’t lose their charge? Like, ever? I get that if you use them they use their charge, but does that mean that if you have a hydrogen energy cell and don’t use it its charge will last for millions of years? Until the eventual heat death of the universe? Doesn’t that violate some law of physics or something? Entropy or some law of thermodynamics or such thing?
Each is equipped with its own, personal, Maxwell's demon.
 

Strange Visitor

Grumpy Grognard
Validated User
When you are writing instructions for people who already know what they are doing it is easy to leave a lot out without even realizing it. I think early RPG design was like this. They were being written by gamers for gamers. There was also a strong component of DIY and hit the books for research in the hobby then. Research is almost a side hobby for many wargames.

There are some interesting lacunae in game rules. I helped playlets a set of English Civil War rules that allowed pikemen to function at full efficiency in forests. This was because the author and most of his other play testers were ECW enthusiast and in some case reenactors and they all knew that pikes simply do not go in the woods. It simply never occurred to them to write a rule about something that of course no one would ever do.
Well, its worse than that; they were written by gamers for other similar gamers. That's an important distinction since you could have people from other parts of the hobby who, upon encountering, say, an armor combat game, would not go in with the assumptions the game designers had and thus not fill in the blanks in the way the designers would assume.

You still see some of this; I've been involved, both as a playtester and an editor, with games written with the assumption end-users would use the system the way the designer and his friends do, and were startled when they got reports of problems because they aren't just selling the game to people like their buddies. The advantage these days is if you do any sort of playtesting or early release at all, you'll probably hear about it if it catches any significant interest; the only question is whether you listen or decide that people responding are outliers (I'm of the opinion from having seen enough playtests that ignoring feedback is the cause of a pretty fair amount of game design problems).
 
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Strange Visitor

Grumpy Grognard
Validated User
Regarding the hydrogen cell, its probably more that its assumed it has a long enough shelf life that any passage of time is irrelevant in-game. If its just a case of escape of the contents, not breakdown of it (such as the case with conventional chemical cells), that doesn't seem unreasonable with high-tech casings.
 

DJChallix

Gygaxian Gen-Xer
Validated User
PART 47: PLAY OF THE GAME (Medical Supplies and Equipment)

Carrying on . . .

Suggestion Change
A hypnotic drug that “knocks the user unconscious for a few seconds.” Upon awakening, the user will fixate on the first person he or she sees and “follow unquestioningly any suggestions made by that person for up to 4 hours.” Perhaps instead of “user” we should use the term “victim.” Creepy as hell. Pray this thing doesn’t fall into the hands of a bunch of scumbag frat boys.

Accelera Dose
A single line of description: “Each application of this drug will restore 1-10 (d10) lost hit points to the user.” Essentially, this is GAMMA WORLD’s healing potion. I’ve always envisioned it as a kind of epi-pen and had lots of them lying around in military bases and so on, like green herbs in RESIDENT EVIL.

Anti-Radiation Serum
Remember the rulebook declaring earlier that there is no known antidote for radiation? Not quite true. This serum will “restore any hit points lost to radiation” if administered “immediately” after exposure. However, it won’t prevent death from radiation; so, in a sense, the previous assertion of the rulebook is perhaps true after all. We always house-ruled that this serum will, in fact, prevent death from radiation if administered immediately.

Rejuv-Chamber
Described as a “large hospital appliance” comparable to an iron lung, the rejuv-chamber requires a patient to enter the chamber for healing. Percentile dice are rolled with the following results:

Patient has lost one-half his hit points: 100% chance of having all hit points restored.
Patient has lost three-quarters his hit points: 75% chance.
Patient has more more than three-quarters his hit points: 50% chance.

A patient many only use this chamber once per month; if used more frequently the patient may die from system shock (30% chance).

Stasis-Chamber
This chamber looks like a rejuv-chamber but places the patient into suspended animation instead of healing.

Life Ray
I’ll quote the entire description because of awesomeness:

“This miraculous device, introduced just before the start of the wars, is able to revitalize the dead. When used, there is a 50% chance that it will bring new life to the dead, if used within 24 hours of the victim’s death. This device allows only one attempt to raise a given individual. If this fails, no further attempts may be made. A character resurrected by the Life Ray must reroll all ability traits. He does, however, retain his memory. Needless to say, life ray machines are quite rare.”


Next time, the awesomely-named section “Standard Devices, Units, and Materials.” See you then.
 

JohnBiles

Registered User
Validated User
Hydrogen Energy Cell
“These are rechargeable batteries, less common, and more expensive than chemical energy cells. They do not lose their charge through disuse.”

They don’t lose their charge? Like, ever? I get that if you use them they use their charge, but does that mean that if you have a hydrogen energy cell and don’t use it its charge will last for millions of years? Until the eventual heat death of the universe? Doesn’t that violate some law of physics or something? Entropy or some law of thermodynamics or such thing?
As Strange Visitor said, it probably just holds a charge for longer than any PCs will live to care about.

Energy Cell Charger

I’m also trying to visualize what this charger looks like and I just can’t. It’s small, and is compatible with so many batteries that I’d rather not worry about it right now.
All batteries are built with a similar charging access and have internal stuff which converts the electricity to how they need it. That's my theory. Though note that Solar batteries come with their own special charger.


PART 47: PLAY OF THE GAME (Medical Supplies and Equipment)


Life Ray
I’ll quote the entire description because of awesomeness:

“This miraculous device, introduced just before the start of the wars, is able to revitalize the dead. When used, there is a 50% chance that it will bring new life to the dead, if used within 24 hours of the victim’s death. This device allows only one attempt to raise a given individual. If this fails, no further attempts may be made. A character resurrected by the Life Ray must reroll all ability traits. He does, however, retain his memory. Needless to say, life ray machines are quite rare.”
This is basically the Amazonian Purple Ray from Wonder Woman.
 

DMH

Master of Mutant Design
Validated User
Or the ray could be from the Shaver Mysteries. Tero and Dero use rays to keep people alive even while suffering horrific trauma. The Tero use it for benign purposes while their degenerate scions use it for other purposes. And then they have many other sort of rays, but those life rays are by far the most memorable.
 

DJChallix

Gygaxian Gen-Xer
Validated User
PART 48: PLAY OF THE GAME (Standard Devices, Units, and Materials)

I know, I know. You’re sick of seeing “Play of the Game” as the heading of these posts. Be patient. We are but seven pages away from the final chapter of the game (which, amazingly, is not titled "Play of the Game"). Of course, at the rate we’re progressing here (and considering the density of the text) that will be a long coming yet.

Ahem.

So the final sub-section of adventurer equipment is titled “Standard Devices, Units, and Materials.” After this section the rules go on to discuss economics, healing, inheritance, and languages (a bit of a potpourri) before exploring robots and computers in great detail. The authors preface this section with a small explanatory paragraph stating, unnecessarily, that the items listed here are "found in almost all areas of the planet."

These “standard devices, units, and materials” consist of the following:

I.D. Devices
Main Building Computers
Hall Monitors
Com Unit
Computer Terminal
Radioactive Material
Duralloy
Broadcast Power
Energy Fields

Let’s consider each of these one at a time, starting with the first three.

I.D. Devices
Inspired by its progenitor METAMORPHOSIS ALPHA, the world of GAMMA WORLD is one in which characters will find (and will need to find) color-coded identification of various security clearances, especially the future-tech version of the iron key for the locked dungeon door. The authors stress that in the years prior to the Apocalypse there were many different I.D. systems used, yet (oddly) they also insist that “the referee should pick one type and use it consistently.” If various systems were used pre-Apocalypse it seems inconsistent, to say the least, for the PCs to only encounter one system post-Apocalypse. The authors illustrate the variation thus: “There were color coded wrist bands, lettered dog tags, radiated rings, recorded voice patterns, and many other ways of informing men and machines of one’s identity, status, and authority.” The authors suggest that the one thing linking each of these systems is that each was hierarchical, with the following being the most common system of authority levels:

First stage: Ordinary citizens (“May I see your I.D. card, citizen?”)
Second stage: Civil service
Third stage: Scientific, medical
Fourth stage: Law enforcement
Fifth stage: Military and civil authorities

The authors also suggest that although color codes were commonly used to denote authority level, this specific color system may vary; red, for example, may denote civilian clearance in one region and law enforcement in another. In addition, combinations may be used (for instance, Grey and Green might denote something different than just Grey alone). The common colorings are described below:

Blue: Military
Brown or Yellow: Common citizens
Gray or Green: Scientific and technical
Red: Law enforcement
Red and Blue: Civil authorities
Red and White: Emergency
White: Medical

Essentially this boils down to "The PCs can't open the pressurized security vault without a red key card. They go find one. Voila!" Note that in the three modules published for GAMMA WORLD it was common for enemies to be carrying color cards of various types.

Main Building Computers
There is very little information given in the text about what would, ostensibly, appear to be a huge topic. As I said, the book deals in more detail with robots and A.I. in a later section. For now, this is the brief description of main building computers (quoted in full): “Nearly all buildings of the 24th century had all security and maintenance functions supervised and controlled by computers. Such computers had a limited number of logic circuits that allowed them to deal with natural abnormalities (fire, structural damage, cleaning, etc.) and unauthorized intruders (usually handled by calling on a security robot).”

Basically, the PCs should expect to have to deal with computers in some form or other. Keep in mind the concept of computers in 1978 was, obviously, significantly different from how we might envision them today. Obviously, if you’re the referee, you can envision the tech in GAMMA WORLD anyway you like. Personally, though, I have always thought of it as 1970s tech with Buck Rogers/Battlestar Galactica upgrades. So if the PCs in my game kick down the door to the “Central Computer Control Room”, this is what they see—covered in cobwebs, of course. And since it’s GAMMA WORLD, the panel lights up and the magnetic drives begin to spin. And then the computer speaks to them in a voice similar to HAL 9000, or Joshua from WarGames ("Greetings, Professor Falcon"), or the Master Control Computer from TRON ("End of line"). You get the idea.

Hall Monitors
Not much to add to the brief description: “These are multi-lens cameras with audio pickups used in most high-security areas and to monitor city traffic. The lenses are equipped with infra-red sensors for night time, and the unit will usually broadcast to security installations within a one-mile radius of its location.” Again, I envision a distinctly clunky, retro-aesthetic here. Remember the big, noisy security cameras in BIOSHOCK?

See you soon.
 

JohnBiles

Registered User
Validated User
PART 48: PLAY OF THE GAME (Standard Devices, Units, and Materials)

Main Building Computers
There is very little information given in the text about what would, ostensibly, appear to be a huge topic. As I said, the book deals in more detail with robots and A.I. in a later section. For now, this is the brief description of main building computers (quoted in full): “Nearly all buildings of the 24th century had all security and maintenance functions supervised and controlled by computers. Such computers had a limited number of logic circuits that allowed them to deal with natural abnormalities (fire, structural damage, cleaning, etc.) and unauthorized intruders (usually handled by calling on a security robot).”

Basically, the PCs should expect to have to deal with computers in some form or other. Keep in mind the concept of computers in 1978 was, obviously, significantly different from how we might envision them today. Obviously, if you’re the referee, you can envision the tech in GAMMA WORLD anyway you like. Personally, though, I have always thought of it as 1970s tech with Buck Rogers/Battlestar Galactica upgrades. So if the PCs in my game kick down the door to the “Central Computer Control Room”, this is what they see—covered in cobwebs, of course. And since it’s GAMMA WORLD, the panel lights up and the magnetic drives begin to spin. And then the computer speaks to them in a voice similar to HAL 9000, or Joshua from WarGames ("Greetings, Professor Falcon"), or the Master Control Computer from TRON ("End of line"). You get the idea.
That also applies to computers in Traveller.
 
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