Living after the end of the world

Of the many role-playing games I played as a kid, Gamma World always held a special place in my heart. Maybe it was the goofy “get exposed to radiation, gain super powers” concept. Maybe I just liked death machines. Maybe it was because my friend PG created a six foot mutant chicken named Sal Manilla. Either way, playing it was a total hoot.

It gets resurrected every so often, with it’s current incarnation (the sixth!) released about a year ago. Unfortunately, this version uses the d20 Modern system. Actually, perhaps “abuses” is a better term. I don’t like d20 enough to say definatively, but several reviews suggest that new Gamma World was designed by someone who didn’t understand the d20 Modern system that well. Though I love the fact it uses an open content license, I’m not a big fan of the d20 system, so this new edition didn’t exactly blow my skirt up. Still, there is some stuff worth borrowing, which you can read about in my kleptoreview. Also, you can check it out yourself, since Drive Thru RPG is offering it for free download until 18 Apr 2005.

When reading this latest edition, I again was blown away at how neat the world can be. As before, I started to think about what a good MMORPG it would make. In the gaming press, you often see references to the need to refresh the genre. Given other games that deal with super-powers, it seems possible to build a game based around a bunch of post-apocalypse mutants. There are a few things unique to the Gamma World setting, particularly as envisioned in the latest revision, that could make it stand out, if handled properly:

  • Entropy. Everything in the game should wear and decay, especially buildings of the player’s community. It should require investment of the players to keep villages and towns operational.
  • Production. It should be possible (through massive effort of large groups of players) to build or discover and make operational, production facilities of various kinds. Gamma World is all about scratching out survival in a strange wilderness. Reclaiming lost technology is a big part of that, and a critical part of the game.
  • Variation. The terrain within the game should be completely different on each server, particularly the locations of dead factories. Exploring this terrain and how to exploit it would then be a big part of the game.
  • Mortality. Death is easy to understand, but most games don’t put much effort into explaining resurrection. It should have a cause in this game. For example, maybe pure strain humans have access to cloning banks. Perhaps a tribe of mutant animals surrounds some kind of blob where the dead can be fed and new (perhaps slightly altered) versions emerge.
  • Finality. On a few servers, death should be final. That is, you get one life and when you are killed, you have to start a new character. These servers should cost about a third of the normal subscription rate.
  • Linearity. Quests should not repeat, ever. Once the scouting party of mutant pig men is eliminated, they should stay eliminated until a new scouting party is sent. There should be somewhere from where they are sent, a vast hive of mutant pig men that can be eliminated if tons of players decide to try it. Naturally, there would need to be some quest “templates”, like “bring this {mcguffin} to {random guy} in {random location} in exchange for {reward}”.
  • Soup. The nanotech/genetech soup that pervades the atmosphere should be an ever present threat/boon, able to hurt, heal or mutate players given the right situation. Pure strain humans should start in extremely large, Zion-like enclaves where this soup is kept out. They start with much higher technology, but have a lot of difficulty being outside in the soup.
  • Impact. Players should be able to change the world, even so far as to expand towns, or even found their own. They should start by belonging to a tribe, and be able to found their own. Tribes should be able to form alliances and declare war. Members of warring tribes should be able to kill each other. Players should be able to climb the ranks to gain control of tribes.
  • Economics. Resources, even those from/to vendors, should be represented realistically. If a bunch of people gather moss and sell it to vendors, the price to buy and sell it should go down. I people start buying tons of it, the price should go up.
  • Armageddon. It should be possible for players, with ample warning to other players, to destroy the world. Again. If this happens, nearly everyone dies. Perhaps the server restarts, with new terrain.

Such a game would probably only attract really die-hard players, which means it probably wouldn’t do very well. It would be fun while it lasted, though.

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One Response to “Living after the end of the world”

1Dr. Evil Says:

Warning is overrated. I warned you once, and you bombed my secret volcano laboratory! This time, no warnings. No hints. And Bond? Eats hot lead.

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