Today, after debating it for the last week, I purchased a big bag o' half-price Gamma World d20 stuff. Yes, that's a lot better than my employee discount.
Is there a conflict of interest involved in convincing the manager to let me put the old game stuff on sale, picking out what gets put on the sale rack, and then buying the stuff I really want myself? Maybe, but after speaking to a customer who had owned and played every edition of Gamma World since the first, and spoke highly of the d20 version, I decided to go for it.
I am a happy serpent indeed.
It's been a long time since I've sat down and read a game book pretty much cover to cover, but I did just that this evening.
The "Sword & Sorcery" team over at White Wolf really had a feel for Gamma World. Sure, they could have thrown in a lot more weird and wild mutations, but a little Tim Truman art goes a long way. Too bad they didn't get Bigfella Machine, as well.
The high point of the book: the Community Development rules. In thirty years, I've only seen two or three other RPGs that even attempted to devise mechanics for social change, and to integrate it as an essential part of gameplay. D&D long ago abandoned the idea that player characters would eventually (and inveitably) build strongholds, gather followers, and gain political as well as personal power, and each subsequent edition has moved further and further from that idea.
Sure, when I was 16, that kind of thing seemed like a nuisance and a burden to my PC's adventuring lifestyle, but, um, I haven't been 16 in a very long time.
The Community rules were, I believe, new to Gamma World, and it's well-suited to the setting. While this is a post-apocalyptic setting, the emphasis has never been on destruction and despair, but on rebuilding from the ashes.
While I rant and grumble about how disconnected Dungeons & Dragons has become from its sword-and-sorcery roots, and how it has, over the years, become its own, inbred genre of Dungeon Fantasy... I didn't read much fantasy at all until after I started playing D&D.
On the contrary: I grew up watching the Planet of the Apes movies, and reading Kamandi: Last Boy On Earth. Thundarr the Barbarian debuted just a couple of years after I got sucked into the role-playing hobby.
The first D&D game that I ran, in fact, was set on a post-apocalyptic Earth -- as was the first one in which I regularly played.
The resurgence of Dungeon Fantasy that accompanied D&D 3.0/3.5 left me cold -- especially when I saw that first wave of offbeat fantasy settings for d20 getting pushed off the market by that flood of poorly-written compilations of cheesy spells, imbalanced prestige classes, and Monty Haul magic items.
I thought that it was because I'd "used up" the Dungeon Fantasy genre, wrung every possible note of interest from the Heroic Fantasy paradigm. I mean, as my major PC, I'd played out the Hero's Journey that Joseph Campbell so lovingly described without my DM or myself really realizing it until years later, when I finally got around to reading The Hero with a Thousand Faces.
Maybe that's not it at all, though.
Maybe it's that my personal paradigm for over-the-top High Adventure doesn't have much at all to do with Elves and Dwarves and Orcs, and everything to do with ancient ruins, bizarre creatures, and (surprise, surprise) anthropomorphic animals.
Who wants to play?
One of my earliest LiveJournal entries, made almost exactly six years ago, was an anecdote about my favorite Gamma World character.