Most of my RPG activities tend to focus on some sort of medieval fantasy gaming, which gets called “High Fantasy,” on some occasions. I have played Dungeons & Dragons 1st edition, D&D 4th edition, and most recently Pathfinder.
Being a fan of science fiction, I have also enjoyed playing SciFi RPG’s. Back in the early 1980’s, this included Star Frontiers, a TSR game. StarFrontiers was a progressive game with a pure d100 system, that meant percentile dice were rolled for all rolls. The world of Star Frontiers is a very optimistic view of the future, which focuses on planetary exploration adventures. The Sathar are the principle evil doers, and the Interplanetary Federation provides a clear order to the structure to the milieu. While the game is fun to play, and in my opinion ahead of its time, it is not likely a very accurate vision of the future. While there is still user development of SF, it has not been officially supported for almost three decades, and there remain many gaps in the rules that a second edition that never was published could have fixed.
I have also had the opportunity to play Star Wars: Saga Edition. This is a d20 game version of the Star Wars universe. This was enjoyable as well, but for the casual newcomer to the game, there was a myriad of rules, and after playing it for almost a year, the surface was barely scratched with many expansion packs, and different time periods. When playing a RPG, I also like to have a little more freedom and poetic license to make a campaign, and find it a little constraining in universe so well known to everyone.
Around the same time as Star Frontiers, there was another quirky game known as Gamma World. This was a place where mutants live alongside humans, but the two don’t generally get along. There is no magic, but various pieces of technology have survived into the future, and ones that do still work are every bit as magical.
While Star Frontiers never got a 2nd edition, one of the challenges for the Gamma World neophyte looking to get into the game is which edition to choose as there are several. There are also differences between them, making them not easily mutually compatible. One reasonable choice is the Gamma World 4th edition rules which are quite playable, and complete. However, there disadvantage is that they are heavily d6 based, which may not be as familiar to modern gamers.
One of the challenges of trying a new game system, and the reason that many of us stick with the same games is to not need to learn a new rule system. While the purists may balk, I was committed to trying Gamma World, and decided on a d20 Modern Gamma World Expansion. This provided all the richness of Gamma World, with all the d20 familiarity that makes it easy to play. For those who have not looked at d20 Modern, it is similar enough to D&D 3.5 or Pathfinder to make those players feel at home, while providing multiple expansion packs to fit a wide variety of campaign settings. In my mind, d20 Modern is like a d20 version of GURP.
There are many flavors that Gamma World can be situated to. These include controlling how much technology is involved, from very little to pervasive. Also, the mutations can be rare, more common, or even of the more humorous variety. On top of that, it can be more chaotic, or more of an ordered world.
While there were some modules produced for the game, they are difficult to find these days. This makes this an ideal game to create your own world and adventures, but does put additional work on the GM (Gamemaster) so this may not be for everyone.
The d20 Modern System has a somewhat unique method of character creation. While just about every other game starts characters at first level, in d20 Modern, characters start at 3rd level. Players get a choice of what type of hero they want to be, and in addition, choose an occupation. This provides plenty of differentiation, with characters being more unique than in some other systems.
The gameplay is fairly standard to resolve combat. Initiative is done with a d20, and done individually for each player. Also, the combat is resolved without combat tables using a d20 where the character, with bonuses, needs to roll higher than the defensive score of the enemy.
So far, the d20 Modern Gamma World Expansion has been more than met my expectations. While a niche product, I find that it is an effective port of a classic game, to a simple to use contemporary gaming system.
Overall Grade: A