With the complete release of Gamma World wrapped up now, I’ve been wondering if some of the older WotC properties inherited from TSR would get a new edition makeover. I also wonder how well they would mesh with 4E mechanics. Given how 4E has changed since its release and the tweaks made with Gamma World, I think some elements would work really well with a re-skinned version of these older RPGs.
Power Points and Augments – This is a neat mechanic. A base set of powers that can be altered to boost its effect. You don’t need a laundry list of powers for different classes. Having characters with different training could work into the amount of power points they have, or what abilities they could boost. Every character might be able to do a basic attack, but that spy with military training might be able to augment the attack with a couple of power points. With a few power selections, you get a lot of flexibility simply based on the power points used to augment them. Pretty nifty stuff.
A variant to this can be seen in Gamma World with the ability to boost alpha mutations. Again this might be another approach, with a failure being no special effect (rather than something unfortunate for the player), while having the appropriate background skill/training allows a player to get a bonus on altering the power effect. It’s a little more random than power points, but could still make for a fun mechanic.
Equipment Cards – Having a special equipment deck similar to omega tech cards in Gamma World is something I could totally see in Top Secret. Each mission a player draws 1-2 cards from a Q deck. You end up with some nifty gear that can get you out of a tight spot. It’s all cutting edge, prototype equipment, so you likely can’t depend on steady access to the same items. Something like this would be perfect for an espionage game.
Skill Challenges – I still think this is something that is more of a framework, rather than a hard rule set for 4E. But having an element in the game where a DM (or would that be administrator?) has guidelines to work out a non-combat challenge that still awards xp is a nice toolset. I think structured right, an entire adventure could be an extended skill challenge, where incremental successes and failures could be represented by a series of small engagements (or advantages) the players go through. It’s a neat idea that can be tinkered with and I think would work well with other RPGs.
Backgrounds and Themes – Gamma World got away without having any classes. I think Dark Sun showed how well over-arching character themes could work with D&D classes. You don’t need a bounty hunter or prospector class for a Boot Hill reboot, these would work better as character themes. I think this is an idea that definitely would work well, allowing players to get that additional flexibility in character generation without getting saddled with long lists of separate abilities and powers.
DDI Subscription Content – Who said that Boot Hill has to be released as a complete RPG? Maybe it would be better as a series of articles in Dragon? Having some exclusive content via DDI might help keep those subscriptions active. Best of all, WotC could get some feedback on the popularity of the content (based on downloads and forum response), including a bit of play testing. If enough interest is there, maybe you’d eventually see a printed product. Actually having the games as just downloadable content would be a solid approach, as you’re eliminating the costs for printing, warehousing, and distributing a boxed game entirely.
I wonder over the next year if WotC will take a look at other RPGs and give them a 4E reboot. It seems that the D&D brand is spreading out over different products, from board games to comics. It would be nice to see other older games get revisited. Until then, I guess you might have to stick with fan-made content, some of which I think is quite good (like the re-skinning of Star Frontiers over at This is my Game).