Up From the Ruins
The Final Wars destroyed civilization. Competing forces battle for control of the shattered remains, using everything from strong fists and cold steel to the most advanced science of the old world and mysterious new powers of the mind.
The Gamma World Player's Handbook presents a new edition of the classic sci-fi adventure game, energized for the 21st century! Play humans, mutants and new races created in the chaos of the Final Wars, out not just to survive but to thrive in the midst of adventure, danger and mystery.
100% Compatible with d20 Rules
Requires the use of the d20 Modern Roleplaying Game OR Dungeons and Dragons Players Handbook, version 3.5, published by Wizards of the Coast, Inc.
The Gamma World campaign setting is published under license with Wizards of the Coast and is 100% compatible with d20 rules.
Gamma World Player's Handbook (2003), by Bruce Baugh, Ian Eller, Lizard, Mikko Rautalahti, and Geoff Skellams, is the first core book for d20 Modern Gamma World. It was published in October 2003.
About the Cover. The cover to the Gamma World Player's Handbook is a modern, post-apocalyptic take on the D&D 3e (2000) trade dress. Instead of a grimoire, the cover shows modern debris, while the central orb has become a glowing ball of radioactivity.
From Here to White Wolf. When Wizards of the Coast released their d20 Trademark License, White Wolf leapt to create a new imprint called Sword & Sorcery, dedicated to producing d20 content. Their first publication, Creature Collection (2000), showed that they were thinking big, because they cheekily labeled it a "core rulebook" and paid homage to the D&D 3e trade dress. The result was a monster manual that could go head-to-head with Wizards of the Coast's own products.
Shortly afterward, White Wolf came up with another idea for increasing their d20 presence: they licensed some of the settings that Wizards of the Coast wasn't using. The first of these was Ravenloft, which resulted in White Wolf's Ravenloft Campaign Setting (2001). Then in 2002 White Wolf announced a second license, for TSR's classic post-apocalyptic science-fantasy game, Gamma World. White Wolf's new edition of the game would be built on WotC's brand new d20 Modern Roleplaying Game (2002).
Origins. When White Wolf developer Bruce Baugh was handed the Gamma World project, he was given some specific goals for the project. He was told to adapt the newest and hottest science-fiction ideas, and he was asked to create an "'80s-esque grim cyberpunk-ish corporate sort of thing". Though Baugh was happy to make Gamma World fresh and relevant again, he balked at the major tonal changes and counter-proposed something more akin to the Thundarr the Barbarian cartoon (1980-1982). His proposal was rejected … but his Gamma World would end up somewhere between the two extremes.
A History of Gamma World. The story of Gamma World begins with James M. Ward's Metamorphosis Alpha (1976), a game of humans and mutants aboard a generational space ship. Two years later James Ward and Gary Jaquet revamped this idea as Gamma World — giving players the ability to roam the whole Earth, not just a huge space craft.
The first (1978) and second (1983) editions of the game hewed close to their Metamorphosis Alpha and OD&D roots — with the most notable change being an absence of a meaningful experience system. Players could even find conversion rules for Gamma World and AD&D in D&D's original Dungeon Masters Guide (1979).
When third edition (1985) came around, it totally revamped the system to match TSR's newest gaming trend: the color chart. This mechanic for universal task resolution originated with Marvel Super Heroes (1984) and quickly spread to other games like Conan Role-Playing Game (1985) and Star Frontiers (1985, 1986). Gamma World was the newest member of this in-crowd.
The fourth edition (1992) returned to Gamma World's roots by closely mimicking the mechanics of AD&D 2e (1989). Then the fifth edition (2000) was built using TSR's final game system, Alternity (1997). Unfortunately, fifth-edition Gamma World was very short-lived; it appeared just a few months before the massive revamp of D&D 3e (2000).
The d20 era actually saw two releases of Gamma World-like games. The first was Jonathan's Tweet's weird and wacky "Omega World", which appeared in Dungeon #94 / Polyhedron #153 (September 2002). The second was (of course) White Wolf's Gamma World, which appeared a year later. At the time, fans didn't know whether to call White Wolf's game the seventh edition (including "Omega World") or the sixth edition (skipping "Omega World"). Some split the difference by calling it Gamma World d20, but "sixth edition" has since become the settled monicker for this edition.
A Different Sort of Player's Handbook. This book calls itself a Player's Handbook, but it's actually "a campaign setting for d20 roleplaying", not a core rulebook; the main rules are over in d20 Modern.
So, what do you include in a setting Player's Handbook?
The answer is a bit of an anthology. There's a lot of background on Gamma World earth and on Home Sector. A mini-bestiary and notes on a Gamma World campaign close out the setting material. So, about half of this Player's Handbook is really for GMs.
However the other half of the Gamma World Player's Handbook expands on the d20 Modern rules to allow for the creation of Gamma World–specific characters. This includes new genotypes (stock human, pure-strain, mutant, and synthetic), basic classes (strong, fast, tough, smart, dedicated, and charismatic), occupations, skills, feats, equipment, advanced classes (cybercologist, leader, nanosmith, prophet, survivor, and war chief), and lots of FX (mutations, biotech, cellular transformations, nanotech, cybernetics, and psionics).
A few of these character attributes are worthy of additional comment. First, the mutations are not random, a big change for Gamma World; instead good and bad mutations are balanced with a point-buy system. Second, the psionics FX is a totally new system, not built on the psionics mechanics of either D&D 3e or d20 Modern…
Expanding D&D Obviously, Gamma World adds plenty of character attributes to the d20 Modern game. It also contains an extensive ruleset for creating communities, complete with PC-like attributes such as type, size, abilities, skills, feats, and wealth. As far back as Traveller (1977) and Champions (1981), games had statted up communities, but this was a major innovation for a D&D-derived game.
Expanding the Gamma World. The backstory of Gamma World has changed from edition to edition, and this was true again with White Wolf's revamp. Where the post-apocalyptic future was previously the result of nuclear fallout, now it has been caused by a combination of radiation, biotech, and nanotech gone wrong. The introduction of nanotechnology was probably the biggest change to the setting (and answered Baugh's requirement that new and relevant technologies be included). White Wolf's Gamma World was also a lot grimmer and darker than those that had come before. Previously Gamma World had been weird and somewhat light-hearted, and that was no longer the case.
Many of these changes were obvious in the changing list of inspirational reading. The first edition had included weird novels and movies like Sterling E. Lanier's Hiero's Journey (1973) and Ralph Bakshi's Wizards (1977), while the newest edition instead suggested more serious (or violent) sources like Akira (1985), Mad Max (1979), David Brin's The Postman (1985), and Walter M. Miller, Jr.'s A Canticle for Leibowitz (1960).
Love It or Hate It? White Wolf's Gamma World was initially not well-received. This was in part due to editorial issues and in part due the notable changes in the setting. Some players also missed out on some of the stranger character options that had been available in previous editions: White Wolf's Gamma World Player's Guide had a relatively small number of mutations and it contained no options to play sentient plants — the latter being a requirement handed down from Wizards of the Coast.
With that said, some players enjoyed the more modern take on the setting and the ability to play in a more realistic post-apocalyptic setting. Most readers also agreed that the setting improved following the publication of Player's Handbook — that the later supplements that built on it were better and that they also filled in the gaps. For example, there were new mutations in most of the supplements for the Gamma World line.
Future History. The Gamma World Player's Handbook was the first of three core rulebooks for the Gamma World 6e line, the others being Machines and Mutants (2003) and the Gamma World Game Master's Guide (2004). There were also three soft-covered rules supplements for the line (2004).
About the Creators. Baugh was the developer for the White Wolf Gamma World line; he also wrote the introduction and backstory in this book. Eller wrote about characters and Rautalahti detailed FX. Lizard gave advice on characters and campaigns, and Skellams wrote about the world.
About the Product Historian
The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to email@example.com.