With the new Gamma World expansion released today, I thought it would be appropriate to look at some sources of inspiration for Gamma World adventures. Lord of the Rings is the often cited standard of “normal” in a fantasy setting. Sources of true medieval history abound. But where do we turn for Gamma World inspiration? Fortunately for us, Hollywood has made plenty of post-apocalypse and futuristic entertainment to draw ideas from. If you’re in a movie mood this holiday weekend (or are sick of holiday specials), here are some choices that will get you in the Gamma World mindset.
Note: Since most people get their movies from Netflix nowadays, I’ve marked movies currently available from their streaming service with an (S). All others are only available by DVD (for now). If you order the DVD today though, you should have it by this weekend!
This movie is set after an unknown apocalypse that has left the landscape barren and baked. One lone traveler (Denzel Washington) carries a book that is only spoken of in legends. This movie chronicles his journey. Book of Eli is a great movie if you’re looking for plot hooks, need ideas as to what a town without formal government might look like, or want to set your Gamma World game in a barren wasteland. Warning: This movie is graphically violent. If you can’t stomach lots and lots of blood, pass this one by.
Ok, so it’s not set in the future, and there hasn’t been an apocalypse. But if you’re looking for creative aliens and futuristic weapons, look no further. Plus, it’s on the humorous end of the cinematic spectrum, so if your Gamma World game tends toward comedy drama, these two movies might be a good place to start. And let’s be honest, you can’t go wrong with Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith.
I Am Legend
Speaking of Will Smith… Apocalyptic setting: check. Monsters: check. Man on a mission critical to humanity’s survival: check. Moving on…
Mad Max (I, II, Beyond Thunderdome) (S)
Everyone cites Mad Max when they try to describe what the Gamma World setting is. How could we not include it? This is another movie that shows the post-apocalypse as a barren wasteland. Did your characters get a pickup truck when they rolled their starting junk? Where are they getting gas to refill? Watch these movies!
So, what if, instead of the apocalypse creating a barren wasteland, the polar ice caps melted and covered the earth in water? Well, you’d have Waterworld. Starring Kevin Costner, it chronicles a man’s search for a fabled country: “Dryland.” Is it time for your characters to live on a boat? Are they headed somewhere across the sea? This movie is your inspiration.
Like Men in Black, this TV show is not set in a post-apocalypse, but rather in the future (as the name suggests). Also like Men in Black, it is comedic in nature. Unlike Men in Black, there is a LOT more material to work with here. Aliens, future tech, fantastic terrain, Futurama has it all. The only problem would be a lack of time to get through all the available material!
Set in a dystopian future, Equilibrium sets the tone of the movie by burning the Mona Lisa right at the outset. And not in a good way. For me, the Tetragrammaton Clerics inspired a couple of bad-ass engineered humans that my players have only gotten a few glimpses of so far. Is your Gamma World setting ruled by engineered humans? Has a cold hearted government that rules with an iron fist sprung up in your game? Is there a resistance forming? Start with Equilibrium.
District 9 (S)
A good look at what might happen if aliens were unfortunate enough to run out of fuel once they got to earth. An entire area of my Gamma World campaign is taken directly out of this movie. My players refer to it as the “Alien Slums.” Between the social commentary, and all the alien technology, District 9 will have you looking at mutants and Omega Tech in a whole new light. Warning: Lots of F-bombs.
Bonus! We’ve added a section to our store titled “Gamma World Inspiration.” There, we’ve put together some books that have a strong Gamma World flavor to them for one reason or another. There are only a few offerings at the moment, but we’ll add to them as we scour the internet for more recommendations (and read them, of course). Check back often!
Let me finish with this. There’s a very good chance that you’ve seen at least one, and probably several of these movies. (All of them? Really?) That’s fine, but I would encourage you to watch them again, this time with a pen, notepad, and your “Gamma World” glasses on. What you find to include in your game may just surprise you.