Over the past year or so, I’ve heard several different people, in different venues, talk about how cool a D&D Warehouse 13 -inspired campaign would be. Granted, the fact that the show is centered around “magic items” makes it ripe for translation to high fantasy, but I think they’re missing something that could make their campaign so much better: Gamma World, both mechanically and thematically, is a much better fit for what they’re trying to do.
But first, for those of you who are wondering what the heck “Warehouse 13” is: Warehouse 13 is a series on the SyFy channel that depicts a super secret warehouse in South Dakota. This warehouse was built to store “artifacts” that have magical properties both good and bad. There are two secret service agents assigned to the warehouse whose job it is to track down and recover newly discovered artifacts, and bring them to the warehouse. In the words of the show: “snag, bag, and tag.” If you want more details, and you’re a Netflix subscriber, you can (currently) stream the first three seasons. Given the chance, here is how I would run a Warehouse 13 themed Gamma World campaign. There are a few reasons I really like Gamma World for a Warehouse 13. First, Gamma World, much more than a high fantasy setting, simulates the perfect blend of technology and magic that the show captures so well. Incidentally, the show avoids the use of the word “magic,” and so does Gamma World. Second, the fact that the Omega Tech is card-based makes The Warehouse and the Artifacts a tangible thing. The Warehouse is a physical deck of cards sitting on the table, and when characters take something from The Warehouse or place something there, the player also places or takes a card from The Warehouse.
Using Omega Tech As Artifacts (or, “the nitty gritty”)
The main idea is that each player will not have their own “personal” Omega Tech deck, nor will they draw an Omega Tech card as loot after every encounter. Omega Tech acts as “the artifacts,” and recovering them is the whole point of every adventure. So instead, one central deck serves as “The Warehouse” of Omega Tech that has been found over the course of the campaign, and players are allowed at certain points to take artifacts out of The Warehouse and use them. In other words, the Omega Tech in the game is extremely rare, and very special.
(Alpha Mutations, however, work as normal. Generally. See “Other Ideas,” below.)
When the party recovers an artifact, that Omega Tech card is placed into the Warehouse. Before subsequent missions, players are allowed to take two pieces of Omega Tech each to help them. Also, any time the players find themselves in the Warehouse, they may swap out items they have for others in the deck. Since Omega Tech is so special in this campaign, when an Omega Charge check fails, the Omega Tech card simply remains tapped until it can be returned to The Warehouse. At any rate, it is not usable for the rest of the adventure.
At the beginning of the campaign, The Warehouse already holds several pieces of Omega Tech. I would suggest about 3 per player – since players can only take two each on missions, this insures that each player has some sort of a choice as to what Omega Tech to bring. I was going to list some suggestions, but you really need to figure out what cards to use as starting cards yourself. Best to have a couple of weapons, a couple of armors, and then some of the more “exotic” stuff. Let me give you this advice: grab the stuff based on the name and flavor text of the card, not the mechanics, and if something gives you an idea for a recovery adventure, don’t use it in the starting deck – use it as the first adventure!
If you’re a fan of the show, you know that the recovery of each artifact is basically an episode. Yes, there are overarching plots going on in the background, but by and large, each recovery acts as a one-shot adventure. This translates perfectly into an RPG setting – the party is sent out to recover a piece of Omega Tech each session, and you can also weave greater threats into the background that resolve themselves over the course of several levels.
Professor Rat is the main NPC that sends the party out on missions. He remains in contact with the PCs, and also acts as an information source; in other words, “Artie.” (Professor Rat makes several cameos in the Gamma World core books, although he is not an officially fleshed out NPC.)
You could also come up with a Claudia character who will “Salvage” Omega Tech for characters. Being the techie on the show, she is always upgrading and modifying the Warehouse technology, and the other characters rely on that inventiveness. In Gamma World mechanical terms, this would prevent characters from salvaging their own gear, instead having to wait until Claudia was “available” to do it for them.
Rolls of 1-5 (natural) when using Omega Tech will trigger an Alpha Mutation. To offset this greater range, make that the only roll that will trigger an Alpha Mutation (though mutations also occur after encounters as normal). This is meant to reflect the instability and power of the Omega Tech Artifacts. If you want to expand this idea even further, house rule that the only time an Alpha Mutation changes is when a character misses/fails with an Omega Tech item (so, not after encounters). This drastically increases the possibility of triggering a mutation, but since it’s the only way to trigger one, we have a cool simulation as to the dangers of using and possibly mishandling artifacts.
And speaking of mishandling artifacts, most of the artifacts in the TV show have what’s called a “downside.” Since Omega Tech is so central to this campaign, come up with some negative effects for using certain Omega Tech. They don’t have to be immediate, either. Keep informal track of how many times a PC uses an artifact to track their slow slide down the slope to evil.
That’s about it. Even though I’m fairly sure that I won’t get the chance to run this type of Gamma World campaign any time soon, it seemed to me to be a good enough idea to toss out onto the internet in the hopes that someone else would find it useful.
What about you? How would you make a Warehouse 13 / Gamma World campaign special?