Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Junkyard - City of Ember for Gamma World

"What is the most resilient parasite? An idea. Resilient, highly contagious. Once an idea has taken hold of the brain it's almost impossible to eradicate..."

The Junkyard:  This is the place where I'll post campaign ideas, notions, and high concepts that just haven't gotten built.  Yet.

I recently watched a movie with the kiddos, something called "The City of Ember".  In the prologue, the world is being destroyed by an apocalypse and a group of humans are shuffled off to a city-sized shelter deep underground, to wait out two hundred years before returning to the surface.  Over the course of the two hundred years, the time capsule with instructions to escape the city is lost, and people continue to live in the city as the infrastructure crumbles over time.

I couldn't help but think how this would be a great set up for Mutant Future or Gamma World.  The infrastructure of the sheltered enclave, New Eden, is crumbling, and the mayor or elders come to a fateful decision after consulting the archives; it's time to send a search party to the surface world looking for a critical MacGuffin before the city's reactor blows up.  (Although I never played anything in the Fallout series, I think they have a similar set up).

It turns the tropes of Gamma World on it's head.  In Gamma World, the characters are typically primitives, living in the mutant future, and they know next to nothing about the Ancients or their technology.

In this type of game, the characters would know rudimentary technology, and be equipped with maps hundreds of years out of date showing the location of ancient military complexes, research centers, and nearby cities where they could seek the control rods or fuel needed to keep the city running.  They would know nothing about the barbaric societies and mutant horrors waiting on the surface.

Emerging after 200 years...
The Grognardian is currently doing a cover-to-cover reading of 1st Edition Gamma World (thanks James - it's been fun so far!) and he asked the question whether the 1st Edition cover actually fits the game.  It would fit this approach to Gamma World!  Scientist-type characters with armaments, maps and radiation detectors would be perfect for the type of characters emerging from the shelter.  You could see a Mutant Future style android in that mix, some pure strain humans, and maybe even humans with limited mutations - perhaps the vault wasn't as sealed as expected.

This would be a very easy campaign to set up, too - basically plop the home base shelter in the middle of a giant hex crawl of the ruined future, give the players an outdated map from 200 years ago, and let them roll.  There would be a time limit of course - be back in 6 months, or New Eden goes boom.

Too often Gamma World adventures were presented as coming-of-age quests for teenage primitives in the Gamma World; I like the idea of turning that on it's head and having the characters start as tough soldiers and scientists, with some basic equipment and weapons, conducting a wide area survey seeking critical supplies before time is up.

Anyway, I'm going to park this idea in the Junkyard while I focus on the Black City, but it's intriguing!

"You Maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! Damn you all to hell!"


  1. When I watched it I had thoughts of Paranoia but or Metamorphosis Alpha. Where no one remembers how or why anything is the way it is but they have to keep doing it. There may be some deeper meaning in what I just wrote but I will keep reading my blogs because that is what I am supposed to do!

  2. Yep, City of Ember could fit the Paranoia theme as well. The movie ends with the pair of kids making it out to the fresh air and seeing a new dawn - I like to think shortly after sunrise, a Froghemoth comes along and eats them. They are, after all, unarmed teenagers (and the movie already had a mutant giant mole, and the mandible of a mutant giant beetle - we know there's some nasty stuff in the future world).

  3. Yeah the Fallout game series is great and follows a very similar kinda storyline.

    the part about the "true purpose" of the vaults is where it gets really insidious and interesting.

    Alot of great ideas in that series.

  4. There was an article in an early issue of the Dragon and reprinted in Best of The Dragon volume 1 that did something similar for Metamorphosis Alpha.

    Instead of a primitive tribesman you were a clone of one of the ship's crew created by the ship when the accident happened, but often mutated due to failures of the cloning system. Again, you knew how things were supposed to be and had a mission (to get the Warden back on course) but reality didn't match your maps.