Monday, September 1, 2008

Manic Monday Apocalypso: Introduction

I thought it would be fun to start every week off with some sort of post-apocalyptic topic.

Nothing like a little doom-and-gloom to cure that "case of the Mondays" you have.

First up, Gamma World. Although I and my friends mostly played D&D, we dabbled in a few other games. The ones GMed by others never lasted long, though I don't know if it was because they weren't very dedicated, because I was so much better at running games, because I was a terrible player, or some combination all of the above. So for some reason I never got into sci-fi, and we flirted briefly with superheroes, but Gamma World was the only one that got much play when I was around.

It's entirely possible, if not probable, that my friends played without me without telling me, and Lord knows I was consumed by music increasingly as my teens progressed. But I did get a call from a 7th grade pal in 10th or 11th grade saying my Jr. High group hadn't played D&D since I changed schools.

Gamma World was highly derivative of D&D but had some cool highlights. There were little things--like the set came with a map of the post-Apocalypse USA, which, quite frankly, looks like what pass for global warming maps today.

Another cool thing about GW was that you didn't just rolled your stats, you optionally rolled your mutations. These were, of course, comic-book type mutations, not things like "easily susceptible to cancer" or "unable to aim urine stream". So you could have extra arms or legs or eyes, psychic powers, and I think even wings were an option. You could be a mutant animal, for sure. I think--like the superhero game--you could also pick a bad mutation to offset some good powers you had. (Much like you'd pick "kryptonite" for Superman.)

In retrospect, what GW really needed was a way to let GMs and players work out their own mutations.

Though GW was fairly generic, it also featured "social groups". One group was for expunging mutants while another was for expunging unmutated humans. There was an animal group that was for killing all humans, and a robot group, too, I think. Not all the groups were about killin', some were for trying to restore society or had other bases of organization.

Looking back at it, I think the real problem with the post-apocalyptic movie genre is that it seldom shows a fraction of the imagination GW creators did--and this is probably true of high fantasy and D&D, too, but high fantasy movies are really pretty rare.

When was the last time you saw a post-apocalyptic movie with a three-eyed, four-armed guy? Or a mutant animal? Or a bunch of rival societies, other than generic, purposeless, Road-Warrior-style thugs?

What puts the "pop" in apopalypse? (Work with me, here, I'm on a roll.)

Nothing, that's what. The closest you can get is Futurama, which isn't really post-apocalyptic.

The most recent versions of GW have been desultory enough to go out of print fast, which would be a shame, I guess, if I had time to play it.

Until next Monday, stay radiated, mutants!

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