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4Nov/100

The Bad Mutations Deck

Posted by Dennis

Find linked right about here [download#19] my latest creation.  These will comprise a draw deck that the players can pull from if they choose to when they draw a standard Mutation card for Gamma World 4E.

The cards have a Yin and Yang side to them, they're certainly not purely beneficial.  Some could even be really harsh to the right combination of player, character, encounter and assorted other things going on when it's drawn.   Once the player chooses to take the card they of course are stuck with it, no take backs.

The cards are designed to evoke some of the original flavor of Gamma World where some mutations weren't actually good for you oddly enough.  Now adding player suck for suck sake is a bad thing.  Hence these are player opt-in.

Why would a player do that you ask?  Well the humor value should be a pretty damn big draw for some players I would think. 🙂  Of course if you're playing Gamma World as a serious setting then you can probably safely ignore these although I suppose even so they could be used but without humor where's the fun? 😉  But I do offer a tangible reward for daring to pull a bad card, see the pdf for details.

Anyway this is the first rough draft, 36 cards I believe there are.  Enjoy and if you find them useful or just entertaining please let me know.  And if you have ideas for other cards by all means share, this was just a quick list I made up in an hour or two so there are tons of other ideas possible I'm sure.

Happy Gaming!

2Aug/102

Gamma World 4E Review

Posted by Dennis

After reading Wil Wheaton's little blurb about Gamma world and PennyArcade's little blurb I decided to pick up Gamma World from my premium FLGS aka Wizard's Asylum. It was the last copy they had as I was a little late to the whole premium early delivery thing.

Summation for those who don't like to read - It's got some things wrong with it but I ended up not regretting my purchase. I believe a more experienced/skilled GM will get a lot more mileage out of it than a new/unskilled GM.

Updates:  You can obtain the game online from places like Amazon for a much more reasonable price of under $30.  This removes one of the objections I have with the game.   The rest of my objections or concerns remain the same. The price of the booster packs still remains stupid priced even online.  YMMV.

The physical bits -

(Some of the below comes off as negative but in my opinion rightfully so)

The box is pointlessly huge. It's a standard sized board game box roughly 10" square and 4" high. The box is at a rough guess 90% empty. Inside you get two sheets of punch out tokens, some small folded battlemaps, two decks of cards of roughly 60 cards each, 8 character sheets and the trade paperback sized manual.

The tokens are decent quality, on par with most of the board games I own like Arkham Horror, Last Night on Earth etc. No complaints there.

The battlemaps are flimsy and probably won't survive long unless you laminate them. Since they're double sided you can't glue them to something stronger. They're fairly well done though in terms of graphic artwork and a couple are generic enough they could be re-used several times. The small intro adventure in the manual is designed to use these as is the Game Day adventure Trouble in Freesboro.

The cards are standard quality for the type and typical of most CCG cards, not unexpected coming from the maker of Magic The Gathering. They come in two types, Tech cards aka phat lewt and Mutations which are essentially powers.

The character sheets are dreadful, this is my opinion of course as a person on the cusp of needing reading glasses all the time, yours may vary. They're small, printed at an angle on the sheet in noxious green and purple with small fonts. The only thing that would have made them worse was if they had a texture pattern printed on the data areas. Luckily even this early there are decent alternatives from users available.

The manual is small, soft copy in the 5x8'ish size format, which I believe is referred to as Trade Paperback sized. It comes in around 150 pages. After only two reads cover to cover it's kind of bent up, I don't expect this age over the years well.

The non-physical bits -

The manual is small in information as well. There's very little setting information, a couple of paragraphs at the start of the book that describe how the world that is came to be. Damn you Hadron Collider!!!

Essentially its Sliders+Road Warrior meets Trash Compactor where all the possible worlds that ever were get smushed together with all the possible variations that might have happened. And because so many of those worlds ended up in nuclear wars a large section of the world that now is, is now irradiated and mutation prone. It's 150 years later and things are a bit... wild to say the least.

There's a section for the players on how to create a character, a section for the GM on how to run a game, a section of monsters (Roughly 40 total monsters from level 1 to level 6 with a single level 10 monster more on this later.) and then there is a small intro adventure at the back.

BUYING TIP: If you're not comfortable coming up with your own creatures or don't have a DDI subscription with the Adventure Tools (SubTip - Subscribe for one month just to get them and all the current data and then cancel) that let you reskin all the hundreds (1000's?) of creatures avaialble for Dungeons and Dragons 4e into something more post apocalyptic then perhaps this game isn't for you as you're going to run out of stock monsters pretty quickly.

The writing is clear and concise for the most part and the dialogue sets the tone for the world which comes off very much as not intended to be a serious role-playing setting. Indeed the entire game appears to be aimed at the wild and wacky, gonzo and over the top with player characters that range from a swarm of intelligent rats that cling together in the form of a humanoid or flying yeti or telekinetic plants.

BUYING TIP: Read that last sentence again and if the thought of playing a mobile plant with telekinetic powers dual wielding sewer pipes does nothing for you then this game is not aimed at you.

Luckily the idea of GM'ing a non-serious world with cybernetic bearmen and pyrokinetic hawkmen as players strikes a funny bone in me. There are tons of serious game settings out there, there are several serious post apocalyptic settings out there. It's about time that someone tossed out something aimed squarely at humor and righteous laughter.

Mechanically the game system is 4E light and is really randomized. If you're already familiar with 4E you'll find nothing complicated here, indeed there's some un-complicating going on. They've done away from Healing Surges for instance and there's a general lack of healing in the game overall.

A player's origins, those things that determine if it's a Doppleganger Android or a Pyrokinetic Giant are random. Four of the six character attributes, are random. Starting loot, random. Part of the character's powers every encounter, random.

The armour and weapons mechanic, in my opinion is just brilliant and I can see it being used across the board for the 4E line as a result. It simplifies the weapons, they're now just categories like 1H Light Melee or 2H Heavy Ranged etc. The player makes their choice on what type of weapon category fits their stats or concept, light weapons are based on Intelligence or Dexterity, heavy weapons are based on Strength or Constitution. The player determines what the non-number part of the weapon is. A character with a high Int or Dex might go with dual wielding two one hand light weapons and describe them as chunks of glass wrapped in duct tape or maybe he's dual wielding two wiimotes with steak knife blades glued to them. A character with high Str or Con who goes with two handed heavy weapons might be using a fence post complete with concrete footer or a cannonball on a chain. That's just stupendously flavorful to me and promotes serious player love/immersion with the characters. And avoids that whole cesspit of player munchkinism as they try and figure out which weapon combos with their powers and stats to give the most DPR (damage per round) averages.

Armor is the same way, it comes in three types, none, light and heavy. Heavy slows you down but grants lots of armour, light lets you add your int or dex to your total AC. So a smart or fast character can go with light armour and still have the same protection that a large yeti might have.

Ammo is primarily the sole domain of Guns. There's no tracking involved, you either have ammo or you don't. If you shoot a gun once during an encounter then you'll have ammo for the next encounter. If you shoot a gun twice (or 100 times) in an encounter then you'll have no ammo for the next encounter. No tracking needed. And the ranged weapons that aren't guns are decent enough that you'll probably only carry a gun for boss fights or simply hope you can scavenge ammo between fights. Monsters by the way don't drop ammo, they're assumed to have used up whatever ammo they have during the fight regardless of how many times they shot.

A character's powers are few, by level 10 they'll have something like 4 innate powers based on their origins. They'll pick up another 3 powers from the mutations deck of cards. At the start of every adventure or on a alpha flux the character draws 1 to 3 cards from the mutations deck. these are their powers for that encounter. What this does it give the player a base of powers that help define their character while randomizing other powers which means each encounter the player is having to come up with new ways to exploit what they have at the moment. One fight they might have controller ish powers and another they might be damage dealers.

BUYING TIP: For players/groups who find meticulously building their characters just so with feats and power choices and weapon choices etc aimed at coming up with a character with a single purpose in life a primary reason they play these games, then this game may not be for you.

A player or GM could buy into the CCG aspect and pick up booster packs to expand the starting decks if they wish but the game starts with a lot that should provide plenty of entertainment value. And the booster packs are nothing more than the equivalent of additional class books. They may add cool things but are completely unnecessary to play the game. Players may build their own decks to draw from rather than using the GM's and this I think is where the system could have some 'fail' if all the players in a group don't do this. It would stupid easy to twink a character out by only putting in stuff you like in your own deck. It's still random as to when you get it but you're less likely to get powers that put you at odds with yourself. And players not willing to pay the stupidly high cost for booster packs might feel left out. Since this is very unlikely to be an issue with my group of players I'm not worried about it much but its something for you to consider.

Opinionated Thoughts - These are my opinions, yours may vary -

The game is overpriced for what you get. $40 for a mostly empty box, a couple of sheets of tokens a small manual and two decks of cards is crazy. A significantly better price point would have been $29.95 an even better one would have been $24.95 and get rid of the ginormous freakin' box.

The booster packs are stupid overpriced at $4 SRP for 8 cards. I can't recommend these at all. Download MSE and make your own cards.

The manual is very light on information germane to the setting. If you're not an experienced GM then you may end up lost after the first sample adventure and not really know where to go except throw more combat encounters at the players which will doom you to boring after awhile. Speaking of which don't expect deep roleplaying hints here in the first adventure, it's a basic string of encounters set up primarily for combat that lead to a BBEG. It's not bad and would be a good thing to get new players into the 'action' so to speak but you're probably not going to find a ton of long term RP'ing opportunities. In other words it's typical of the 4E published modules.

There aren't any monsters for level 7/8/9 and a single level 10 creature and no significant detail on any organizations in the world. That seems like a serious cop out to me but based on loose lips we can expect expansions in the upcoming year. You'll have to judge for yourself if the lack of information in this was WOTC trying to determine if there was enough interest to see if the line was worth pursuing at a low cost risk for them or a blatant money grab. I'm falling on a mix of the two.

I don't really expect to have the entire world documented but I would have liked to have seen more information on various power sources in the world rather than one sentence suggestions. I understand that such information would be wasted on many GM's who are going to come up with their world completely from scratch but for many others, having a firmer basis of where to start, who to present as antagonists etc would go a long way toward making this a better product across the board.

TIP: Day After Ragnorok although it's for Savage Worlds might be a good sourcebook to bring in some additional depth to your Gamma Terra and of course there's all the old GammaWorld source books.

The setting and mechanics are a good way to get people into gaming. There's a lot I like about the direction the mechanics in this have gone. It simplifies 4e a bit and makes it extremely easy to make a character and jump into a game. I'm not saying building a 4E character is Hero Systems hard but it sure as hell isn't Savage Worlds quick. This game could be great for Game Day kind of things or to run One Off's with your group to give someone else a chance to try the GM chair or for those times when you're down some players and need something that doesn't require a 2 hour character building process.

Bottom Line -

If the above comes off as completely negative that's the wrong thing to take away from it. Personally I recommend it, even as light and overpriced as it is for any experienced GM. For those newer to the sport, it's still a good introduction.

For the right group the game setting will be a blast and highly entertaining. For many groups, small forays into the world of Gamma Terra will provide a welcome and necessary change from their more serious campaigns of saving the world with a little bit of silliness in trying to get past Dddddancebot 3000. "Everybody ddddance now!"

For some groups who can't abide goofy or zany in their fantasy it'll go about as wrong as trying to teleport yourself with a fly in the pod. The end results will inevitably be messy and someone is going to start screaming "Help mee!" in a small whiny voice until you put them out of their misery.