Friday, April 1, 2011

A is for: AAAAAAAAAAIYEEEE!!! GO GO GO!!!

The terrified scream in the title of this post is brought to you for two reasons...

Reason the first: After a morning coffee bender, I decided I did not have enough time-sensitive obligations in my life and decided to enter the April A to Z Blogging Challenge. How does this challenge work? you ask. Simply put, during the month of April, I shall attempt to post to this here blog every day except Sundays. Each blog post shall be brought to you by the letter for that day, beginning with A. In today's blog, "A" is for "AAAAAAAAAAIYEEEE!!!", which is, in part a cry of disbelief that I have decided to commit to this challenge... but I have.

However, "AAAAAAAAAAIYEEEE!!!" also has a less cop-outey meaning, which is actually relevant to the gaming subject matter included in this blog. For it is the sound my brain made yesterday morning when I decided to run a session of Gamma World on a whim, which began about 8 hours after the decision was made. Oh, and I had absolutely no prep time, because I was at work until about an hour before the game was scheduled to start.

Why would I do such a thing? Well, my regular D&D game night fell apart at the last minute, due to an unacceptable number of absences. When a number of my players who still wanted to do something brought up the snot green box that has been idling on my shelf since my birthday last fall, I thought... "Oh, sod it! who needs prep time? Let's play!" and so we would hurl ourselves into a world ruled by the cruel and capricious atom.

"A" is for "Atom."


While I have had my share of planning scrambles, I have never run a completely improvised session before. Fortunately, Gamma World is very easy to start up from an RPG standpoint and fairly straightforward to run, especially if you are familiar with the 4E D&D game mechanics. (I am only sort of familiar with 4E, but run a regular 3.5 game, so it wasn't a big stretch.)

Anyway, the minimal prep I had consisted of:
  1. That time I walked one of my friends through character creation process back in November
  2. That time I read through the introductory adventure... also in November

When it came down to it, the game played out really well. Honestly, the roughest part was getting the characters created. I didn't have time to prep pregens, so I had to walk 5 entirely new players through the creation process with only one rulebook shared between them. (NOTE to other GMs: If you find yourself in this situation, either walk all your players through each step simultaneously, or each player sequentially. I did a mishmash of the two and it left me feeling all higgledy-piggledy.) Nevertheless, given the considerably stumbling blocks, I was thoroughly impressed that we were ready to roll 40 minutes after the last player arrived. No way that would happen with D&D!

We only had a couple hours of play time for the evening, but we managed to get through a roleplaying introduction / investigation, a little intro flavor encounter and a combat encounter. Most importantly, however, everyone seemed to have fun! Now that I at least know the structure of the rulebook, I feel like I would have no trouble picking up the game where we left off... on a moment's notice. If I had to come up with my own adventure, it might be a different story. I might need a couple hours to lay things out, but Gamma World is definitely a lighter time investment than something like D&D.

Oh, P.S. Our amusing cast of characters:

Buckworth, hypercognitive electrokineticist
Chlorzak, the genetic amalgamation of cockroach and plant-matter
Dusty Two-Shoes, the Radioactive Doppelganger and his faithful Rifle Hound
Harvey Birdman, empathic hawkoid
Willard, the empathic rat swarm

This spunky Scooby Doo gang set out through the mountains of Cascadia to solve the mystery of the Steading of the Iron King! Zoiks!

3 comments:

  1. Sounds like it might be fun and a lot easier for noobs to follow & pick up than D&D. Nice post for the challenge...can't wait for the other 25! :)

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  2. Hey thanks, Varmit! The current version of Gamma World is actually a pared down version of the current version of D&D as far as the rules mechanics are concerned. Wizards of the Coast, which owns both franchises has definitely been trying to make their products more accessible to new players.

    The thing that makes Gamma World especially easy to pick up and run on a whim, however is that it leaves much of the character creation process up to the dice. With D&D, a player might say, "Okay, do I want to play a human barbarian, or a dwarven thief?" and then weigh the pros and cons of each for a while. With Gamma World, you roll two dice to establish your "origins" the numbers on the dice correspond to a list of possible mutant character types (rat swarm, pyrokinetic, android & yeti are all on the list) By leaving many of your initial choices up to the dice and paring down other options, Gamma World takes out a lot of the initial "think factor".

    So, to make a short answer long... Yes. It is much more accessible to new or casual players, but just as much fun for those of us who play regularly.

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  3. Gamma World is without a doubt the best thing Wizards of the Coast has done in a long, long time. Whenever I run it, I generate encounters while the players are generating characters, just by picking out crazy monsters and the fights are always entertaining. The best was when our time-travelling spider teleported a mile up with an enemy, and then ended up landing safely.

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