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Thursday, October 11, 2018

GAMMA WORLD IS HERE...

1978 promotional poster for Gamma World

FYI, just about forty years after they were originally released, the original Gamma World rules, now known as the first edition or 1E, are now available on Drive Thru RPG in both PDF ($10), Print-On-Demand ($20), or both ($22) ---

Gamma World 1E on Drive Thru RPG 
(link includes affiliate number)

Gamma World, by James Ward and Gary Jaquet, was first published in 1978 and was developed from Ward's earlier Metamorphosis Alpha RPG (1976). As the co-authors wrote in Dragon #18, "The creation of the boxed game of Gamma World was brought about when the need for a planet based version of Metamorphosis Alpha presented itself. The distances and possibilities presenting themselves on a planet were far more vast than those of a star ship. Also, through the course of playing MA, many new concepts were created and old ideas evolved into things far different from what was given" (from "GAMMA WORLD: First Report; Setting Up The Campaign" in the column From the Sorceror's Scroll in Dragon #18, Sep 1978).

The PDF is of the third printing from 1981, with a TSR Face Logo. Earlier printings had the Lizard Logo or the Wizard Logo (August 1978). I've checked the 2nd and 3rd printing against each other and didn't note any rules differences, just some slight differences to the logos, copyright info and product listings. I don't have access to a 1st printing, so I don't know whether any corrections were made from 1st to 2nd.

A Gamma World "Sneak Preview" appeared in Dragon #8, July 1977, the same month that Holmes Basic was first available at Origins 77. It was titled "Introduction to: Gamma World", and was an early draft of the Introduction that later appeared in the rulebook. It was attributed as an "Excerpt from "The Black Years" --- Hald Servin, 2562", with no further explanation. However, based on a further article "More Excerpts from the Journals
of Hald Sevrin" by Gary Jaquet in Dragon #19, it appears that he is "Hald Sevrin". 

In Dragon #15 (June 1978), an advertisement on page 18 announces two new TSR releases for Origins 78, Gamma World and the AD&D Players Handbook. This was repeated in Dragon #16 (July 1978), and the next two issues have, "This is Gamma World" advertisements that use the same artwork as the poster shown above, and specifically mention the poster as being available.

The back of the original Gamma World boxed set stated that "The GAMMA WORLD™ rules are also suitable for use with the ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS rules." This compatibility can be seen by looking at a stat block from the "Monster & Treasure Listings" in the back of the Gamma World 1E rulebook ---

07. Yexil (2) HP: 42, 35; AC: 6, Move: 4/15; AT: bite does 3d6 damage, laser eye beam does 5d6 damage (25m range); MU: totally resistant to cold attacks.

They left HD out of these listings (similar to the OD&D M&TA listings, although those have a "To Hit AC9" score), but it can be found elsewhere in the write-up (10 in this case). It'd be trivial to just throw this at a (A)D&D party as an encounter. 

In 1979, the AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide included a section, "Mutants & Magic" (pg 113-114), on conducting cross-over campaigns between the two rulesets in either direction.

It took a few years, but the original rules were eventually supported by several products, including the sandbox module GW1 Legion of Gold (1981) by Gary Gygax, Luke Gygax and Paul Reiche III, the module GW2 Famine in Far-go (1982) by Michael Price, and a Referee's Screen with a mini-module, The Albuquerque Starport, also by Reiche. None of these are available on Drive Thru RPG yet, but hopefully will eventually appear. There was also a module in Dragon #52 (August 1981, Cavern of the Sub-Train, by the original co-author, Gary Jaquet.

I must note that they still haven't released Holmes Basic in PDF or POD....!!!

Update: I saw some pics on FB of the POD product. Since the file format puts the box cover on top, it results in a booklet with a color cover - a nice touch. The original booklet cover is the first page on the inside. The blue map from the box is also included in the interior, across two pages.

7 comments:

  1. I was (happily) surprised that they released this edition, considering the half dozen variations they had to choose from. Back in the day I owned 2E, though I also possessed GW1 and GW2, as well as the GM screen/mini-module. I made the mistake of loaning the whole slew to a buddy who ended up selling/losing it (though he made it up to me years later with a giant crate of old Ral Partha minis). I’ve been trying to put the collection back together ever since.

    I did, of course, spring for the full PDF/PoD option. Reading through the PDF I am again astounded at the unification of THEME present in the original book. 2E never felt truly post-apocalyptic (kind of like running gun battles in Vampire never really felt “Gothic Horror”), but the original background/setting text of 1E, for me, clears up a lot of what appears “gonzo” in the later editions.

    Also, have to say I find it sad and disturbing the bit about polarizing special interest factions and issues of ideology and ramped-up terrorism that led to the apocalypse. No Cold War global conflict here, but something much closer to what we’re seeing today...in 1978!

    Anyway, fantastic buy. Love the map (and it’s intended use, per the rule book). Very nice pick-up.

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    1. Thanks for the comments! I meant to write something about the artwork (I'll have to add that), but the fact that most of the art is by Trampier contributes to the consistent tone. His work here is very '60-70s "underground comix".

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  2. I would add that currently the 2nd Edition GW version of the GM Screen is currently available on DriveThruRPG.

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    1. That's right, I did see that. Thank you. So random how they add the various products...

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  3. Awesome! Soon to be mine again!

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  4. In the wayback times when the only RPG books I recall having were Basic (the Holmes edit), Monster Manual, DMG, and Gamma World I made a ridiculously deep zoo dungeon with mutant kobolds and trolls with the final ultimate encounter being a pair of Pit Fiends armed with Fusion Rifles guarding a very annoyed Orcus locked in a cell.

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  5. Still have my first editions of both GW and MA. We ran it hard and combined it with elements of both D&D and Boot Hill. We used monsters from the brand new AD&D Monster Manual and creatures we made up ourselves.

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