6 Gamma World House Rules: Part 1

In the original Gamma World, Domars were described as rectangular pieces of colored plastic

In just a couple of weeks, I’ll be starting a Gamma World campaign with a new group. As mentioned previously, my last group broke up because they all went off to college, and so I was left with an empty game table. The library (where I DM) was open to me continuing “game night,” so I got another group together; however, they want to play Gamma World.

While I’m a little sad to not be running D&D on a regular basis anymore, I’m also quite excited to really take Gamma World out for a campaign long test drive.  I have lots of plans, and you can expect me to share them with you in the coming months. (Never fear, there will still be D&D content to be found here on a regular basis)

With that in mind, I’m going to be implementing some small house rules that will hopefully make the game more fun in the long run. I felt house rules were necessary because Gamma World seems to have been designed with as low complexity as possible. That’s fine for a one shot (which is how most people use the system) but I felt adding a little complexity might add to the campaign overall.

What follows are the first half of the house rules I’ll be implementing. These are the rules that will directly affect the players. On Thursday, I’ll be presenting rules changes from the other side of the screen, as well as a couple of “out of the ordinary” campaign planning tools I’m using.


I think the biggest change will be the (re)addition of domars to the game. In case you are unfamiliar with earlier editions of Gamma World, domars are the currency of Gamma Terra. By using domars instead of a bartering economy, I’m actually removing a bit of DM work from the game. I don’t have to figure out how much Omega Tech equals a tank of gas when PCs want to make a trade. Also, I’m adding a resource to the game – I can drop it as treasure, or allow the characters to circumvent obstacles by spending it (e.g., buy train tickets instead of making a travel skill challenge). So, adding currency removes a layer of complexity for me, as the DM, and adds a layer of (hopefully fun) complexity for the players through a spendable resource. It’s also a necessary addition in order for me to implement…

The Black Market

The Black Market will be a specific location in the PC’s home area where they can buy and sell Omega Tech and Alpha Mutations (in potion form). There are a few reasons I’m doing this. First, it will simply be a fun location full of all sorts of characters. Second, buying items in the market will be the only means of players building custom Omega and Alpha decks. So instead of starting at level 1 with a deck stacked full of items and mutations they want, the players will have to earn domars through adventuring in order to buy items for their decks. Hopefully this will create more investment in the items that a player owns. Now, that’s not to say I won’t also be giving out random Omega Tech as treasure, but the market will allow players to buy items from their “wish list” instead of hoping something they want comes up in a random draw.

There will be a future article explaining how I will price Black Market items, as well as how I will determine the amount of treasure to give out in the form of Domars.

Alpha Pen

The Alpha Pen (or “AP”) will be a consumable item that looks a lot like an Epipen. It will allow a player, as a free action, to dump an Alpha Mutation they don’t like, and draw a new one from their deck. This particular mechanic won’t change the game too much, as the APs will be quite rare, but I thought it would create an interesting decision point for players – when is an appropriate moment to spend such a rare consumable?

Partially Non-Random Characters

Yes, I get it.  The whole point of character creation in Gamma World is “hey! totally random!” but I wanted to give my players at least a tiny bit of control over what their final character would look like.  And really, it was a truly tiny bit.  Instead of rolling their third skill, I allowed them to simply choose it.  On top of that small amount of control it gave my players over what their character would look like, it also gave them the opportunity to make sure all the skills were covered.  As it turned out, there is a LOT of “interaction” at the table and none of several other skills, so we’ll see whether they try to actually cover their bases, or just go with what seems interesting.

I’m interested to see how these changes affect gameplay. If I had to guess, I’d say the Alphapen won’t change too much, but the Domars and Black Market will be radical changes – for the better, I hope. What are your thoughts?


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4 Responses to 6 Gamma World House Rules: Part 1

  1. Geek Ken says:

    I’m particularly liking the idea of the Alpha pen and the black market (especially for alpha mutations) sounds like a hoot. In the few games I ran, I also used a form of currency. It does help a bit as a resource for players to circumvent obstacles, serve as a reward, and act as an appropriate hook to get the players into an adventure.

  2. As a word of warning coming from my experiences running my StarCraft one-shot and my continuing 4E Modern campaign, class roles are sometimes hard to figure out based on Origins. As a result, some players wade into combat with no clear idea of what they want to be doing besides “rolling high”. When you can, try and throw in terrain features and powers that help give those kinds of players a more distinct goal in the encounter. Or, be smarter than I am and find a way to better inform the players of what their role should be.

    • Benoit says:

      Good points. Are you talking the traditional “Striker, leader, defender, controller” roles, or should I just mention to certain players, “you have low HP, maybe you should find something to do other than direct melee engagement”? In other words, how much direction do you think is necessary? (And don’t say, ‘it depends on your players.’) 🙂

      • The Striker-Leader-Defender roles, yes. In general, most players can figure out that they should throw their area of effect attacks at groups of minions, and that they should use their attack riders to buff allies when applicable, but more specifically between Defender and Striker I’ve seen a lot of confusion (?) or perhaps uncertainty as to where they should be and what they should be doing. There’s a lot of half-assed characters that are sort of between the two roles. Mechanically it all works out fine and the challenge level is about the same, but you end up with a lot of underwhelming encounters. For example, I see some people pick up Origins that lend themselves to being more of a Defender, but then pick up weapon combinations (ie. no shield) that are more appropriate for the Strikers.

        This is even stronger in differentiating between someone whom is a ranged attacker vs. a melee attacker. GW provides such equal support for everything that some players just get lost in figuring out what they want to do, where they should be going, etc.

        Obviously, some Origins are pretty clear about what kind of combat they support, but we’re not worried about the things that DO work well.

        Also, GW gets so zany sometimes with the randomness that you can’t keep up with roles since they change out of necessity due to alpha fluxes. Introducing your Alpha Pen would help a lot with this, plus having more customization of Omega Tech and/or encouraging strategic trading of Omega Tech within the group (ie. give the armor to the Defender).

        Wow this is long winded! In summary, the rules of GW allow everyone to be able to function as individuals on their own without any real regard for roles, and so the behaviors that I’ve seen at my table during combat have followed up on this with the result of many players disregarding any semblance of group strategy or tactics.

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