Monday, February 1, 2010

Did Mutant Future Prompt Release of Gamma World 4e?

The announcement of the new version of Gamma World to be released later this year has everyone asking one very simple question:


It's a valid question since it doesn't make much good business sense on the surface. The last two editions of Gamma World weren't exactly barn-burners; in fact, both versions (SSS and Alternity) were either ignored or reviled by fans of the genre. So why drag this setting out of mothballs, dust it off, and add new bells and whistles when last two versions did rather poorly?

Before we answer that, let's take a look at some of the hotter post-apocalyptic properties currently in the public eye:
  • Video games - The Blasted Earth is alive and well on game systems, with that mega-seller Fallout 3 leading the pack and games like Badlands nipping at its heels.
  • Films - The Road was a bleak look at life after The End (and was based on a best-selling novel to boot) and The Book of Eli is now out in theaters. And a new Mad Max/Road Warrior film is waiting in the wings. Looks like the Apocalypse is doing well on the silver screen.
  • RPGs - Of course I'm gonna mention Mutant Future as the foremost genre-specific game out there right now, but I'd be remiss if I didn't point out other great games now available like Atomic Highway and Alpha Omega. The market for post-apocalyptic RPGs is still viable.
So it's simple really: The apocalypse is back in style again and Wizards has a ready-made RPG setting just ripe for the picking. And with the re-purposing of both the D&D "Red Box" and Dark Sun setting already imminent, it makes good business sense to revisit another classic TSR property at this time - especially one that is tailor-made for the very genre that's hot right now.

So, to answer the question posed in the subject title: Did Mutant Future prompt the release of the new Gamma World? No, it didn't. But I feel it - and the other genre-specific elements discussed above - revealed to Wizards that there's gold in them thar radioactive hills.


  1. I agree, but I think GW is also a property that WotC try out some different ideas (booster packs) without "tainting" the flagship. I'm not interested in this new version of GW, largely in part because once again we have a group of authors that don't appear to get the setting, well that and the CCG elements....

  2. I agree with Giles. I think WotC did this with both the Tome of Battle in 3.5 (testing out the powers system for 4E) and with Star Wars Saga Edition. (Skill mechanics, etc.) Although, now that I think about it, I thought a third party company was previously slated to do GW4e under license from WotC. Did that fall through?

  3. "I thought a third party company was previously slated to do GW4e under license from WotC. Did that fall through?"

    Seems like it. From Wikipedia:
    "In August 2005, White Wolf announced that it was reverting the rights to publish Gamma World products back to Wizards of the Coast, putting the game out of print again."

  4. Sniderman, that license White Wolf was dropping was the version they did using D20 Modern. Seemingly still available online at drivethrurpg.

  5. I tend to agree too Sniderman. As you have correctly observed in your post, Post-Apoc seems to be a hot item again these days. Most probably, this led WOTC to the 'smell of blood', so to speak, in the hopes of 'making another killing' in the gaming market.

  6. Not to mention that the relaunched Dark Sun setting is another post-apocalyptic setting, albeit wrapped in a fantasy motif. So 2010 must be The Year Wizards Returns To The Ruins.

  7. A third party does still have the rights to an MA release based on D&D4E rules.

  8. So will the re-vamped Gamma World be along the lines of 4th ed D&D or will it be a real role-playing game like 3rd ed or d20?

    I'm ALWAYS up for a good romp though the apocalypse, but they keep trying to make post-apocalyptic fantasy games. Too many wacky monsters, too many "magical" tech items and not enough grit and real-world type survival.

    I always sorta bash Aftermath! for its overly complicated game system, but they definitely had the feel right with its "just after the cataclysm" survival and improvised weapons and armor

    Fallout had a good balance between Mad Max and fantasy monsters. There were quite a few in there, but it didn't feel like a D&D game with shotguns. I just hope WOTC take the hint and realizes that post-apocalyptic games are a completely different genre than anything else out there. You can't just take the Monster Manual and give everything Radiation and expect people to think its different.

    ok, enough ranting :)

  9. You know I might have to do a mutant future based on Deathlands by James Axler.

  10. I think you're on to something Sniderman, and don't forget "Zombieland" was a huge hit in theaters and is doing gangbusters on DVD right now. Then there was "2012" and "Y the Last Man" is supposedly due in theaters in 2011. Between that, the video games you mentioned (plus the hugely popular Left 4 Dead and it's sequel) zombies and the aftermath are all very en vogue.

  11. Yup. I deliberately steered clear of the whole zombie resurgance since it's become a genre of its own (World War Z, Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, The Walking Dead, Marvel Zombies, and a ton of recent films and games as you pointed out). But if you view the zombie genre as a subform of the post-apocalyptic genre, all I can say is "Yup."

  12. Yeah, that makes sense. Here's hoping the new GW isn't just a zombie fest and that it still retains the weird-science element that helped make it so fun in the first place!

  13. I really, really have ti disagree with one point. I LOVED d20 Gamma World.

    The introduction of some thoughtful new ideas, and the use of nanotech and high biotech, and the emphasis on the amoral, insane, "Man is God" theme really put the horror of the apocalypse front and center.

    Did I hate it for sloppy editing, a croppy stuck-on psionics system, horrible lack of enough mutations? Yes. But the GM book and Cyptic Alliances were great things. It's just the mechanics looked like they were scribbled together by a 9-year-old.

    So - I fixed it. And am using it for my Savage Worlds: Gamma World game.

  14. Wow - it's late, I'm tired, and there are a ton of typos above. Apologies.

  15. Why Gamma World?

    Simple. WotC wants to test selling random packs of character powers.

    Gamma World is the IP/setting they own that best supports that concept of character

    The fact that "The last two editions of Gamma World weren't exactly barn-burners" means GW is an excellent guinea pig, since WotC has nothing to lose experimenting on it.

    --GW Fan