Excerpts Archive | 9/27/2010
Article Header Image
Exploring Gamma Terra
Gamma World Excerpts

One hundred and fifty years have passed since the Big Mistake. Fluctuating time lines, lingering radiation and toxins, and strange creatures and technology transposed from alternate dimensions have combined to create a unique setting that any of the Ancients would think the height of unrealistic fantasy. But to the inhabitants of Gamma Terra, our fantasy is their reality. No matter how bizarre the world, however, it still rests on a few principles.

“Human” is a broad term. Most inhabitants of Gamma Terra are human, with minor mutations. Most mutations are cosmetic, such as purple skin or distinctive head-wrinkles; a few are helpful, such as sensitive ears or cat eyes.

So is “mutant.” People who have major mutations (those that qualify as powers) are considered mutants—especially the players’ characters. Most player charac ters are mutants (or at least look like mutants). Attitudes toward mutants vary widely: Some people think they’re cool, others revile them, and most don’t care.

The world is lethal. In a post-apocalyptic world, civilization exists in small pockets separated by dead wastes, monster-haunted ruinscapes, and tracts of land given over to alien growth from alternate worlds. Traders follow well-established routes, and only devil-may-care adventurers, members of cryptic alliances, and tribal raiders move far beyond their own encampments or settlements.

Wonders beckon. For all that the world is dangerous, it’s also wondrous. Even seen through the lens of a shattered reality, the marvels of a thousand thousand worldlines lie beyond the door, just waiting to discovered!

Alpha flux happens. A small subset of the population that has just the right genetic or algorithmic predisposition can spontaneously manifest entirely new mutant abilities by drawing on alternate worldlines.

Omega Tech is everywhere. Gamma Terra is littered with artifacts of advanced technology. People attribute all Omega Tech to the Ancients, but much of it actually originates in the numerous alternate worldlines. The most prominent forms of Omega Tech are the nanotech-based Xi items, photonic gear from the Empire of Ishtar, and offshoot technologies derived from Area 52.

You never know what you’ll find. The world offers more than Omega Tech items to bold explorers. Ancient ruins are littered with all manner of interesting bric-a-brac just waiting to be found. This stuff, lovingly referred to as Ancient junk, is everywhere. The table below lists 100 items; whenever the opportunity arises, choose one item or roll two d10s for a random result.

A sampling includes:

01: Pack of crayons
02: Smoke detector
03: 8 GB RAM stick
04: Air compressor
05: Camcorder
06: Car stereo
07: Ceiling fan
08: Ammo
09: Stocking cap
10: Weed whacker
11: 15-inch computer monitor
12: 20-lb. dumbbell
13: Punching bag
14: Bike helmet
15: Day-glow vest
16: Exercise treadmill
17: Cell phone
18: Ashtray
19: Electric blender
20: Electric razor

Gamma World Adventure Locations

Here are some interesting areas for your players to explore. You can use these as starting points or as inspiration when designing your own adventures.

Bromphis: A tribe of cannibalistic menarls lives within the hollowed-out interior of a huge steel dry-docked hull that formerly served as a battleship before the Big Mistake. The menarls have managed to get a few of the guns working again.

Columbia Building: This skyscraper is infested by a sentient plant, called Columbia, that keeps the foundation in repair. Its vines reach from below the substructure all the way to the loft apartments. Columbia is known to be a font of wisdom, but not an especially friendly one. To ask it a question, one must sacrifice a charged Omega Tech item to its t wining strands. Even then, the great vine might decide to add the questioner to its collection of amber-encased oddities.

Firefly Sea: This immense inland lake glows a green-tinted white with residual radiation. There were once several Ancient cities along its coast, but the Big Mistake took care of that. Only half-flooded ruins remain. Fens that have managed to adapt to or protect themselves from the radiation now claim a city-state deep beneath the shining waves.

Iron Caves: A colony of sleeths inhabits these caves in the foothills of a mountain range. Oddly, most of the caves are lined with iron girders and cement. According to many Archivists, this particular colony sits inside an Ancient military bunker bursting with technology such as warbots and nuclear missiles.

Star of Purity: High in the mountains, a silvery dome is sometimes visible as the last rays of the setting sun strike it. Rumors say it’s a city where purestrain humans survive, safe in a self-contained crèche they built to protect themselves from the global cataclysm. Every so often, one such human escapes the computer-controlled ecosystem inside and strikes out into the wider world. And is promptly killed by gamma moths.

Timeslip City: This scattered ruin lies somewhere in the wastes, but its location appears to wander. Over the years, those who have glimpsed its tumbled skyscrapers and iron facades report the ruins are less decrepit than in earlier descriptions. Lately, people have seen indistinct figures shuffling through the streets, and phantom glows and laughter spill from obviously hollow structures. With each passing day, the otherworld city is slowly becoming more in sync with this reality.

Tranquility Base: A station on the cracked moon oversees robot-controlled mining equipment that, even after two centuries of neglect, continues to harvest helium-3 from the surface. The empty station’s gleaming halls could support an entire colony of engineers, as they once did. Anyone who could contrive to reach the moon would discover this refuge, completely free of the dangers of Gamma Terra. At least, until the clones in the basement are accidentally awakened.

Adventuring in Your Home Town

Wondrous sites beckon to be explored, but the first few encounters for a new group of D&D Gamma World adventurers could be as close as your own back yard. When you choose a local setting that your gaming group knows, you can juxtapose the familiar with the bizarre to create a memorable gaming session.

Get a Local Map: County-government maps provide great local focus for an area you live in. You can also find and download maps from the internet.

Choose a Familiar Site: You’ve probably been to your local mall, museum, school, or corporate headquarters hundreds of times. Choosing one of these places to set your adventure, especially one you’re familiar with, lets you describe the site with particular attention to atmosphere.

Use Props: If you can, collect business cards, fliers, gift-shop items, or other physical props associated with the site you choose. Showing your players fliers about the museum’s final display as their characters tromp up the dead escalators helps bring home the location in their minds. If you can’t find props, try to get a photo of the place to help the players visualize it.

Add the Gamma Terra Twist: Revel in the strangeness. Exploring the ruins of your high school is one thing. Exploring the ruins of your high school when it’s a base for a tribe of two-headed mutants that are hell-bent on detonating a suitcase nuke they dug up from some NSA black ops installation—well, that’s quite another thing. A stroll through the lobby of a former aerospace firm becomes far more interesting if part of the floor is covered in a spill of toxic goo and the upper gallery is patrolled by flying laserbots.

Excerpt Schedule

Monday Friday

September 13

What’s in the Game

September 17

Character Overview

September 20

Character Origins

September 24


September 27

Running a Game

October 1

Monster: Porker

October 4

Monster: Robot

October 8