Category: Gamma World

Free Broken Earth Map

a7549-brokenearthA while back I reviewed Broken Earth, a post-apocalyptic setting for Savage Worlds. I liked it. It had a nice flavor of not being too out there as a setting with enough twists and weird mutant stuff to make it interesting. One big gripe I had was the maps however. They were pretty hard to navigate using the book.

Seems a free map is available at Drivethru RPG. It’s still a little sparse on details and certainly keyed for locations in the setting, but overall I think much of an improvement from what was presented in the physical book. Worth checking out, and a shout out to the folks that run the Savage Bloggers Network for circulating this.

Litko game tokens as holiday gifts

Say you want a stocking stuffer for your significant nerdy other, or want to give a small gift to a gamer pal. Litko makes quality plastic acrylic game tokens and other miscellaneous game items, offering a great gift for them. A long while back I made no bones about my preference using tokens and markers around the table. Having a tactile marker to represent a condition, bonus, or temporary status is great over just using pen and paper. So I’ve had a long affair of enjoying Litko products for years now. They’ve got wonderful stuff for just about any gamer you’d like to get a gift for.

The wargamer – They offer tons of sets and individual packs for tokens. From command and casualty markers, to range band and blast templates, Litko offers some fantastic tokens and markers.

The board game fan – Litko has branched out and now provides game token sets for popular board games too. Imagine spicing up your Pandemic game with these tokens…

Not to mention some really wonderful X-Wing token and marker sets…

And I’m certain Netrunner players would enjoy having these on the table…

The RPG player – Litko also offers a lot of sets and tokens for RPG games also. You can find lots of tokens to mark temporary conditions….

and complete sets are also available like this one for Savage Worlds.

They offer some more interesting items like paper figure miniature stands…

or markers for indicating which character miniature is holding a torch…

And other bits for gamers – Litko also makes a variety of bases for miniatures and other really clever items like counter dials….

and a variety of portable dice towers which can be taken apart and thrown in a zip lock bag. Perfect for those gaming tourneys.

So I encourage folks to give them a look. Several online retailers also carry their products. And if you aren’t sure about what they’d really like, well just give them a gift certificate instead. Hope folks enjoy the holidays with family and friends (and get some games in too).

Currency in Gamma World

I get the newest edition of Gamma World is a fast and loose game without needing a money system. However having a complete economy based on barter itself can get tangled up with a lot of questions. How much is a piece of junk worth? What about salvaged omega tech? For the most part I think it’s expected that players just handwave the whole affair and move on to the next set of pre-fall ruins for exploration and looting.

However if a group wanted something more of a serious game, some guidelines for a monetary system would help. An abstract system might work, with simple markers to represent wealth, but players are often rewarded with pre-fall tech and items. All these bits and pieces of technology lend itself to having some value in relation with other other goods.

For my game I wanted to delve into using monetary units, but not get too bogged down. I wanted some form of currency, and a system for figuring the value of salvage and junk. Yet at the same time not resort to a list or table of costs to figure an item’s value. So I settled on a few basic house rules to introduce an economy in my game that steps away from a complete barter system and uses a form of currency.

Bottle Caps – Taken straight out of the computer RPG, Fallout, most of monetary transactions are through bottle caps. They are lightweight, resistant to most wear and the elements, and are somewhat difficult to create. The caps do have a lifetime however, with excessive rust being an issue. As such, some caps are deemed worthless.

It is not uncommon for more devious merchants unwilling to take 5% or so of caps offered for goods. A common ploy is to complain such caps are ‘too worn for trade’. This also provides an excellent opportunity for players to wield their interaction skill and haggle a bit if desired.

Most goods and services are paid in caps. A simple local meal and a night’s rest would be a single cap, as would a full day’s menial labor (work is cheap in the post apocalypse). Most equipment that can be purchased is of relatively high quality and good craftsmanship, and would be roughly 5-6 caps a piece (ammunition being a separate purchase). Such gear and equipment might even incorporate some limited pre-fall technology, such as a compound bow having ball-bearing cams and equipped with a simple laser sight. Sets of gear like an explorer’s kit or climbing kit would run about 20 caps, a slight discount for buying several pieces of gear in one go.

Packaged, properly sealed food and drink are also worth 5 caps each and are highly prized. Fresh water, unless sealed in a pre-fall container, does not have much value. Most water must pass a sniffer test (usually some simple-to-operate pre-fall tech that quickly analyzes a portion) before it could be sold. Most communities are notorious for passing off lightly irradiated water to travelers as ‘sniffer free’ pure H-TWO-O.

Yawns – Yawns are pre-fall currency that are highly prized for their rarity and resistance to all forms of damage. A single yawn is worth 50 caps.Typically such currency is a small, engraved plastic disk with a square hole. The disks are roughly 25 mm in diameter and 2 mm thick. Yawns are lightweight and practically indestructible. They are made of an inert material and are highly resistant to radiation. Some incredibly wealthy individuals have been known to create clothing layered in such disks, almost as a suit of mail to protect themselves from radiation.

The characters and lettering on these disks are of a pre-fall language that can be found on most omega tech. Some elders claim that they were the common currency of several tribes that fell under the influence of one great power. Some claim that such power was obtained not through warfare, but through economic might, with the disks taking the name of that great tribe’s coin.

Junk Salvage Value – Junk salvage that players find are of relatively good condition and usually worth 2 caps each as a base value. Some items require a power source to operate. Such junk would be worth 5 times the base value (10 caps). Jury-rigged batteries, alternate homemade fuels, and simplified pre-fall energy producing technology (automated solar panels, geothermal power plants, tidal and wind generators, Mr. FusionTM biowaste reactors, etc.) are readily available, allowing many forms of older technology able to operate. The energy needed to operate such technology is easy to obtain, but what is lost is the manufacturing ability to create such technological marvels.

Actual scrap is worth much less that the typical junk salvage that players would find during their adventures and is the common target commodity of Junkers (people willing to gather up such scrap material). Due to their poor quality (and at times highly radioactive nature), scrap junk at best would be 1/8th the base salvage value. Usually 8-10 pieces of scrap junk might be enough to warrant a price of 2 caps. However some especially resourceful beings are able to make a living gathering such scrap, and old refuse storage facilities have been the spark of many armed conflicts between wandering bands of Junkers.

Omega Tech – Functioning omega tech is worth 50 times the base value of salvage (100 caps) mostly due to their limited functionality. Omega tech that can be jury-rigged to operate as salvageable tech is a little more reliable and worth a bit more. Omega tech that can be salvaged is worth 75 times the base amount, or 150 caps.

Some especially rare omega tech may be worth much more. Automated facilities that operate algae farms, water purification plants, and robot manufacturing facilities are some examples. These locations are highly prized and sometimes result in entire communities residing on the grounds of such places.

Freesound.org – sounds for your game

A while back I linked a gaming site that had various MMO soundtracks you could download. They had a pretty nice selection and found a few tracks that would work well for some background music to my sessions. I used to shy away from having music for my games. However I found with a decent mix you could get something playing in the background on a loop adding a little flavor to the game, and still not make it a distraction to what was happening around the table.

A few months ago I ran a Savage Worlds game for a local con. Being a demo game with new people, I really wanted to add something to the session to make it stand out. Normally I’m not one for sound effects. However for a few key points in the game, I wanted to add something to make it more of an engaging experience. As it was a horror sci-fi game, I also wanted some type of ambient noise to get everyone in the mood. Having a MP3 player and a miniature speaker, I could easily get something portable up and be able to play some tracks without it being too fiddly and taking up a bunch of space on the table.

So I needed to try and pick up some sounds. I stumbled across Freesound.org and fell into the rabbit hole of creative commons sound files. A bit of digging and I was able to find that perfect space ship alarm. There were tons of industrial and factory sounds. You can really find some wonderful ambient stuff. As for my sci-fi horror game, I settled on a few and also threw in a particularly longer ambient music track that was perfect for setting the mood.

The tracks are free, but many require attribution if being used in other projects. Consider throwing a bit of money to the site also as a donation. There are some nice tracks folks have made available. As for me, I am certainly going to be mining this for certain games. I simply cannot see running a horror game taking place on a dark and stormy night without using this site for some needed atmosphere.

Obsidian Portal Kickstarter wrapping up

A possible dashboard layout. Spiffy!

I’ve frequently gushed on this blog how much I love Obsidian Portal. In fact, I’ve been a fan of the site for a long time. It’s been very functional over the years however I understand the people running it really want to give it a face lift.

A Kickstarter campaign is wrapping up in a few days. Fortunately, they’ve made their funding goals and then some. I’ve been a freebie user for a long time and I appreciate Obsidian Portal allowing that. If you aren’t a regular subscriber to their system this kickstarter is a great way to support the site.

So I hope folks are willing to send a few dollars their way. The project is funded. It’s a nice way to thank them for all the support they give to the gaming community. There are only 5 more days until the campaign ends, so if you are inclined be sure to support it soon.

Free MMO soundtracks for your game

I never really was into having music in the background while I play RPGs. However it’s something I’ve begun to dabble in. I don’t go for making a specific playlist. Rather I started using soundtracks. I can typically just put it on a loop without having to worry about the music being a hindrance to play.

MMO soundtracks are pretty good sources for background music, and one of my favorites of late has been the Age of Conan Soundtrack. It just fits my Savage Worlds hack of Dark Sun very well. Just the right touch to give the session a little ambiance and not be too distracting.

Massively is a MMO news site that recently posted a gold mine of links for free MMO soundtracks. It’s a bit of a pain to go through as many are individual tracks. However I think you can easily have a ton of tunes to mix and match for your game. The links likely cover a pretty wide spread of ‘sci-fi’ themed stuff to your typical fantasy music. Hope folks find this useful for their games.

Making alpha mutation decks through a card draft

GammaWorld4thThe alpha mutation cards in Gamma World are a pretty fun. After every encounter, or if a player rolls a 1 on a d20, the player draws a new mutation card to replace the one in his hand (or had used). Other environmental effects can also cause a player to draw a new card. It can be a lot of fun using this mechanic, however the player is totally at the whim of cards in the GM deck. To get around this, a player could assemble his own personal deck of cards. This might be desired if a character is going after a certain theme of mutations for RP reasons, or just prefers powers that would work off a specific stat.

I imagine WotC would then love the player to go out and purchase several booster card packs to create their own personal deck of cards. Good marketing there. An optional part of the game, but the diehard player may just decide to jump in an buy a ton of cards to get a little more control on his mutation draws. A workaround for this however is using a mechanic in many boardgames and other card games, a card draft.

Out of the box, Gamma World has 44 mutation cards (40 in the deck and 4 from an included booster pack). Staying with the 7 card minimum deck, you can have 6 players each having their own personal alpha mutation deck without having buy any additional booster packs. You generate these decks by dealing out all the cards, each player selects a card they want, passing the excess to another player.

As a step by step example:

1. Deal out all the cards – Some players will end up with extra cards, don’t worry about this. However you could always have all the players roll off, with the highest roll (resolving ties) being the first player dealt.

2. Each player selects a single card – Each player goes through all the cards in their hand, and selects one card they want to keep. They set that card aside for their deck.

3. Pass the remaining cards – Each player then passes the remaining cards to the player on their left.

Repeat steps 2-3 until a deck of 7 cards is made for each player.

Each player will eventually have 7 cards they have set aside. This is their deck for the night’s game. The remaining cards are given to the GM as his mutation deck.

I like having the excess cards given to the GM to allow for alpha flux mutations from other weird sources. If a player runs out of alpha cards in his deck he can draw from the GM deck. If you want a little more structured game, when a player runs out of cards allow them to reshuffle their discard pile and place it face down to make a new draw deck.

You can do a card draft for omega tech cards, but I prefer keeping them as a single GM deck. Yet instead of handing out a specified card to each player individually, deal the cards in a single pile face up on the table. Allow the players to barter, argue, or agree (boooooorrrring) on which card they will take. This way there is a little control the players have in choosing what tech card they want, but it is still a random draw. I like this better than giving the players a chance to draw from their own stacked omega tech deck.

If you have players complaining about the wildness of alpha mutation cards, and want to give them a little more control with the types they get, consider using a card draft. You get a pretty good selection right out of the box and can accommodate quite a few players at the table.

Gamma World is the Gateway RPG to D&D

GammaWorld4thSo Gamma World has been released for a while now. I’m certain a lot of folks since it’s release have taken some time to put down the sword and shield, and taken a swing at wielding a vibroblade and suiting up in Mk. 2 power armor. Something I have come to realize playing Gamma World a bit, it’s a great way to get folks into RPGs and I think works wonders as a quick tutorial for 4E D&D mechanics as well. There are a couple of reasons why…

Few character generation choices – Just about every thing when making up a character is done randomly. You roll on a table and this is what you get. Instead of having to figure out what at will and encounter powers you want, the choice is made for you. Unsure about how to assign ability scores? No worries! You get a bonus to some and just roll for the others.

Best of all everyone else is going through the same process. So that new guy is not stuck thinking he made a bad choice (or feeling lost as a more ‘knowledgeable’ player picks them out). Also as many of the additional powers and gear are random items represented as cards that are drawn and discarded, at most the player just has to decide whether to use a power during a fight. Which leaves more time to dwell on the…

Simplified mechanics – The core of the 4E game is there, but the math and book keeping is easier. No need to write down how many arrows you fired, you either have ammunition or you go hog wild and run out after a fight. No healing surges to muck around with during a rest. You heal up to full hit points. The bonus for hitting and dealing damage with a weapon is easier to calculate. The framework for D&D rules are there, things are just more simple.

Easier setting to grasp – I really think with TV shows and with movies, sci-fi is a little more easier for people to pick up compared to fantasy. Gamma World is envisioned to be 150 years after a sudden blending of alternate realities from a scientific experiment that went awry in 2012. The world is wild and crazy with all sorts of mutated creatures and technology, but the backdrop is a run down civilization taken from the vista of someone’s home city that they currently see around them.

Likely you’d have to explain to a new player what a glaive is. You most likely wouldn’t have to do the same talking about an automatic rifle. I think even the most fantastic futuristic artifact might be easier for a person to understand compared to many fantasy-centric items. When the GM talks of a fur covered beast wielding a stop sign and a trashcan lid for a shield, they get it. This helps with getting the player more relaxed and open to trying more creative ideas and actions.

Creativity is encouraged – How exactly is a player a pyrotechnic rat swarm? With all the random chart rolling, I think Gamma World really ends up pushing players from the start to think about their character. I feel the player has ample opportunity to describe their looks and how they utilize their powers. Much of the mechanics for abilities and powers are handled through such an abstract way, it gives the player a lot of freedom to describe how these abilities look and feel in the world. This freedom to envision what their character looks and acts like is further reinforced by the game philosophy…

Things are fun and temporary – You want loot and high quality gear, but you only get to use it a few times before you have to junk it. You might have this great mutant power, but shortly you will get something else to replace it. The game is made to be zany fun with things constantly being in flux.

Also, you don’t need to be mired down in some elaborate quest to save a kingdom. The game seems to work best as a few short sessions with a lot of action. You aren’t after a pile of gold pieces and gems, or to stop a ritual from being cast by an evil cult. You are after some weird technology hidden away in some ruins (being represented by drawing a card from a deck).

Your character is assembled quickly and randomly. If you get wiped out simply pull out another sheet, roll a few dice, and keep playing. The lethality of the game reinforces how disposable your character is. You don’t have this pressure to work up some elaborate past for your character, mostly because the next fight might result in him being only a pile of ash. I think this all reinforces how much the game should be a lighthearted stab at adventure and having a good time. No need for the heavy campaign story, just sit down, roll some dice, and pray that leaky fusion rifle doesn’t obliterate your character when it’s fired.

So the next time someone wants to know more about D&D, and possibly thinking about sitting in on a session, consider making that first jump with Gamma World. As I mentioned I think it’s a great game all in one box. It has a frivolous theme and a lot of crazy random mechanics to illustrate how much fun RPGs can be. That idea of fun is something every new gamer should take away from their first sitting, and I think Gamma World does that very well.

Suggested gift RPGs in a single box

With last minute shopping or that potential gift certificate burning a hole in someone’s pocket by next week, what kind of RPG would be a good buy for getting a person into the hobby? Both Pathfinder and D&D have some nice boxed sets. However both also have a looming library of other books associated with them. Some potential RPG fans might be a little leery of getting into a game with so much out there. So what about other games that are a full ruleset right out of the box, or a complete game between the covers of a single book. I’ve got a few suggestions for folks then.

Mouse Guard – An adorable setting where mice have their own simple medieval society fighting for survival in the wild. This is the game for a group of storytellers. Using a simplified Burning Wheels mechanic, players select goals and traits rolling regular 6-sided dice to gain successes against the game master, or against each other. Failure usually means more complications and setbacks in achieving goals rather than simply not completing a task.

I feel this game works better with an experienced GM that is confident enough to lay out a framework for adventures and able to adjudicate fairly on the fly. However given the collaborative nature of the game, if you have a group full of imaginative players that burden of coming up with adventure ideas can be shared. Mouse Guard is a great buy for players that enjoy telling a story, although the setting might be a bit limited. I’d also heartily recommend passing one of the graphic novels around as inspired reading before running a game.

Savage Worlds Deluxe – The Explorer’s Edition was a steal at $10 USD. The price of the book has gone up but I still think this is a solid buy for a very flexible RPG game. The core mechanic is based on rolling a single polyhedral die to beat a fixed target number. The better the skill or ability, the bigger the die. PCs usually start out rolling a lowly D4 or D6, but with emphasis on select skills and improved natural ability, they can move up to rolling a D10 or D12. Of course all of these rolls are coupled with an extra D6, allowing a player to choose the best of either die roll.

It is a very quick and dirty mechanic that leads to fast gameplay and is a ton of fun. Best of all, you can play just about any adventurous setting imaginable. From pulp action, supernatural horror, fantasy, superhero, western, or sci-fi, Savage Worlds gives the GM tools to run just about anything. Better yet, it is able to do so with fluid rules that doesn’t get bogged down relying on a difficult, convoluted tome of a rulebook. The emphasis of the game is on imaginative, cinematic, over-the-top action. What results is a very fun game that encourages players to commit heroic acts, with a fair amount of uncertainty for success. Consider throwing in 3-4 sets of polyhedral dice for a complete gift.

Gamma World – The latest edition of Gamma World is a hoot. Just about everything needed to play is in the box. It is a lighter toned take on the radioactive post apocalypse setting compared to other games. The game offers a streamlined version of the 4E D&D rules that plays very fast and is surprisingly light. Combats can be a little regimented, but can be quite deadly adding some brutal tension to fights.

Fortunately character generation is a snap revolving around random die rolls for abilities and powers. I was a little skeptical at first about this. But somehow it just clicks and I’ve found my players loving this process which, oddly enough, seems to generate more character roleplaying ideas than expected. People have lamented quite a bit about the cards in the game. However if you really wanted to shoot for a personal alpha mutation deck, you could still get 6 PCs around the table and have a few extra (in a pinch you could do a draft and allow for up to 8 players with 5 cards each). Don’t buy into the hate rumors, you don’t need to continually buy more cards for the game. In fact you don’t need to ever pick up any cards other than what you get in the box set.

What you do need however for a complete gift is a few sets of polyhedral dice (blows my mind WotC didn’t throw in a cheap set). I’d add that you might want to consider a dry erase battlemap also, but a few printed blank 1” x 1” sheets does wonders too. It is a surprisingly fun game and light hearted enough to get even the most stiff-backed player into a roleplaying mood. Good fun there right out of the box.

So those are my picks for someone getting into RPGs. Each has something folks could likely pick up, start playing, and best of all comes in a single book (or box).

Where is the WotC love for Gamma World?

I’ve been debating about renewing my DDI subscription. I find myself struggling to justify keeping it active. One thing in particular I’ve noticed is the absence of content for Gamma World with their online material. A few months ago WotC did have a great vehicle rules article and had a pretty good article on making your town a backdrop in Dragon magazine (way back in December). However the amount of other material out there for Gamma World is rather sparse.

I really like Gamma World (GW) and found it to be a fun game. I think it captures a really light-hearted feeling of just providing a wacky game experience. Something missing a bit in the recent RPG market it seems. While it might be a stretch to get a serious game out of it, that can be done. So I think it straddles different campaign playstyles fairly well.

I understand that the printed material for Gamma World is pretty much done. They’ve released the boxed sets and I think we can expect that is just about it for the game. I don’t think it’s a bad idea. I actually think it helps in promoting the sales of the game. You don’t have to feel like you are overwhelmed with stuff if you decide to pick it up. Each extra boxed set adds a little to the main game, and that is entirely optional (plus they seem reasonably priced).

What I don’t get is the lack of support for the game, especially with DDI. Gamma World seemed to be a hot item. I do think the excitement has waned a bit with each successive expansion release. As I said, I get that WotC will likely not release any more printed material for the game. Its print cycle is complete. Yet, I do wish they provided additional support for the game through their digital products.

Having some new adventures, a few new monsters, and maybe some additional vocations available through the online magazines would be nice. How about a little more fluff for some of the cryptic alliances? What about a detailed city or region with descriptive NPCs and some adventure ideas? They have an interactive character sheet which works as a functional online character generator. What about a mini compendium just for the monsters in the GW universe?

GW is so tied into 4E, I really wish there were more of an effort to have additional material for the game through DDI. Personally, I would see that as a greater incentive to maintain my subscription. I’ve got some thoughts on other old TSR properties, and if they will get a 4E treatment (more to post about later). However it seems like Gamma World was so much a flash in the pan for WotC, I wonder how other games would fare given the lack of added online support for GW.

I hope at least WotC does make a push for more GW articles in Dragon and Dungeon. I’m unsure if they’ve put out a call for articles related to the game. I think it’s a shame for WotC that so many people in the community have made a greater effort to get material out there to support it. As to whether more stuff will come down the pipe, I guess we’ll see provided (in my case at least) folks are keeping their DDI subscription going.otusGammaWorldA