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Taking the Game Seriously

November 6, 2010

Yet Another Gamma World Article

Fast Leveling

This isn’t necessarily a problem for all, but it does set an upper limit on how long your campaign can go on. As it stands, if you include quest XP and build balanced encounters, the PCs will probably gain about two levels every three sessions. That seems to be the pace my group is running on. That means that the campaign will end after fifteen weeks. That may be enough for most groups.

DMs who want more should consider simply using the XP table from D&D 4E instead of the one from Gamma World. The monster XP is the same in either case, but the Gamma World values for each level are half what they are in 4E. Doing so should extend the length of the campaign to around six months on average.


Like fast level advancement, randomness does not have to be a problem. I haven’t change the randomness at all and my game is going just fine. I know that there are those who believe that random character generation precludes role-playing and character development, but I’m not one of them. I remember a time when all characters were randomly generated in D&D and we did just fine. In fact, random character generation can provide a good change of pace. A good role-player can find a way to play anything and it is a refreshing challenge to have to create a personality and a back-story for something you didn’t create. In fact, some folks who have trouble writing characters actually thrive when given a character to role-play. Constraints and limitations facilitate imagination and creativity by providing a starting point rather than a blank slate.

The randomness is also the easiest to remove, at least from character generation. It’s simply a matter of letting people choose their origins and skills. For ability scores, a DM can let people roll 4d6 for each ability score and drop the lowest. Or he can allow people to use an array. I suggest allowing players to use either ’14, 12, 11, 8′ or ’14, 13, 12, 11, 8′ as their arrays depending on whether they need to fill in four scores or five based on their origins.

Alpha Mutations can be left alone. But the DM who wants to rein in some of that craziness can let players build their own decks (as described in the Gamma World rules). The group can either buy booster packs or just divvy up the cards that came with the game. After that, the DM just has to ignore the rules that determine whether a player draws from his own deck or the DM’s deck and always allow the player to draw from his own.

And Finally, Humor

Gamma World is playable as a serious RPG out of the box, provided the DM is aware of a few of the minor obstacles that the game includes. If the DM keeps those few things in mind, there is no reason why he can’t build a campaign as he would for any other RPG. I’m about to enter the third session of my Gamma World campaign and the story already has my players hooked. I’ve used skill challenges, including a modified elite trap from the 4E rules, and we’ve had plenty of role-playing and story development. The first adventure is drawing to a close and the plot twist that will set up the next is about to be revealed.

But still, there are a few folks who have asked me how I can possibly run a serious story in a game that emphasizes humor and absurdity. They assume I must have stripped away the craziness. I haven’t. My game is effectively a comedy-drama and there are some very challenging themes and moral dilemmas. But the topic of combining drama and humor is a tricky one and it deserves a discussion of its own. So I will discuss it in Part 2 of Taking the Game Seriously.

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