Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Gamma World Thought Experiment

Random thought experiment: What would happen if you removed stats from Gamma World?

First, the why: I’m thinking about this because I think they’re the biggest hurdle in the system - they complicate what is otherwise a fast, simple character creation system by demanding a range of modifiers and middling bonuses rather than fast resolution. So, bottom line, the goal of any such change would be to speed up and simplify things.

Ok, so given that, what would it do.

First, attack bonuses need to make up for the missing +3/+4. I don’t really feel too obliged to replicate the chance of an occasional +5/+5 but I’m ok simplifying things into +4/+4, which is to say, just call base attack bonus +4. Done.

Second: Skills. Similarly, let’s just cut to the chase - class skills and bonus skills get you a +8. Done. I actually have another thought about that too, but we’ll get to that in a second. Figure some sort of default for everything else (say, +2) and you're good to go.

Third: Hit points. Treat everyone like they have a 15 con for hit point purposes. A little generosity because, frankly, it’s a brutal game.

Fourth: Defenses. Same logic as Attacks. +4 as the virtual “dex” mod for AC. Figure a 4/3/2 (dealer’s choice) for other defenses.

Fifth…Well, hell, I think that’s it.

There are a few odds and ends to think about. GW has an an interesting model for weapons that splits between light weapons (that use int/dex) and heavy weapons (which use str/con), but that mostly exists to solve the problem of strange stat distributions. The problem is that, really, weapons in Gamma World are a matter of style. We’re not looking to _accurately_ represent the damage of an old stop sign or a razor sharp x-box controller thrown like a batarang. As such, just use whatever weapon stats you want.

So, the thing is this could all work. It’s a little samey-same, but it’s functional, and the assumptions is that the novelty would be coming in from the templates. But what intrigues me is that with a little work, you could do up one more set of templates to speed the process of creation and provide for a little variety in these bonuses.

Tweaking some of the ideas above (going back to +4/+3 and setting up a skill default idea) and you can end up with a template like:

Powers attack: +4 (Or +4/+3 if you really want)
Powerful Attack: +3
Quick Attack: +4
Skill Bonus: +2 (the bonus for any untrained skill)
Bonus Skill: Science (+8 - +12 if trained from template)
EDIT: Weak Skill: Acrobatics, Athletics or Perception (see comments)

Hit Points: 15
AC: +4
Reflex: +3
Will: +4
Fortitude: +2
Quick Junk List: Magnifying glass, Half a dozen specimen Jars, Spiffy lab coat.

Do one of these for every skill - maybe even multiple ones to get other themes - and I think you may have something. No longer are you merely a radioactive cockroach, your a radioactive cockroach ACROBAT!.

Anyway, just a thought.


  1. A proposal on twitter from @kandidkerry that I like very much is to include on random "bad" skill, something the character gets at -2 rather than the default plus. It's a stand in for the impact of bad stats and, for groups that can handle a bad roll for fun, it's an excellent piece of color.

    With that in mind, I'd probably update the templates to include bad skills, or bad skill options (probably three of them) in order. The first one which is not a trained skill becomes -2.

  2. Great idea.

    The new Gamma World has intrigued me but not enough to push me over the investment edge.

    The suggestion of a third template to simplify char gen is really appealing and makes the game a whole lot more attractive.

  3. I'm missing something. How are you handling Wisdom/Charisma based attacks if you remove stats? I'm assuming that Powerful = Str/Con and Quick = Dex/Int. If I've assumed correctly, then any Str/Con or Dex/Int based attacks can simply use the Powerful/Quick modifiers.

    I like the streamlining, I just can't suss out the odd stat pairing.

  4. @Big Rob - Whups. Forgot to include the implicit +4 (or maybe +4/+3) power bonus. Must fix that.

  5. This is a cool hack, but why stop here? What would DnD 4e look like without ability scores? Static combat and defensive bonuses based on class might work there as well, but with a few well placed assumptions and fiats, you could probably have your warforged rogues and eladrin wardens without having to follow a particular feat build.

  6. I like where this is going, as I've had some thoughts about going this way myself.

    I find the DMG2's rules for companion characters useful for reality-checking. So attack bonus of 4+level, F/R/W of 13+level and AC of 15+level (varies by role).

    One idea I've had is to re-scale the skill bonuses to the same level as attack bonuses. So a trained skill could be at 4+level, and an untrained skill at 0+level. Then you could use skills in combat without having to worry whether anything was going to break, and you could make a lot of skill checks against defenses to speed things up. So you might perform a stunt as Acrobatics vs Reflex, or Interaction vs Will, or Stealth vs Will, or Athletics vs Fortitude.

  7. Just to expand a little bit, in these systems, almost everything you do is tied directly to your primary ability score, which is given to your by your race and class. The issue is that as a legacy mechanic, you are supposed to inform your roleplay with the distribution of your ability scores, which also determines your effectiveness in combat and using skills. This leads to a glut of matched ability race/class combos, because the alternative is a character who is less likely to be effective at most aspects of the game.

    If the ability score was only responsible for EITHER mechanical benefit OR roleplay effect, it would work swimmingly. Since it affects both, the optimization of one can negatively impact the other.

    If we strip ability scores away from the mechanics of the game, we can accomplish a few things. We can equalize the ability of characters in combat, we can eliminate the boring math-fixing feats like weapon and implement expertise (which could have the effect of increasing the number of flavor feats taken), and we can open up the game engine for more unique character concepts that are not punished for their specialty.

    Because of the tightness of the 4e system's math, it doesn't seem out of the realm of possibility to develop a level chart in which characters could be developed and adjusted independent of monster stats and such.

  8. I can't help feeling that Mutant Type should fit in there somewhere as well. For example, Radioactive lists Constitution as it's Mutant Type, so perhaps a minor bonus to Con based abilities might be warranted, say normal bonus +3, +5 with Con based stuff.

    [Perhaps a slight penalty to the "opposed" characteristic might offset this to some degree. So a Con based mutation might get a penalty to Wis checks. This depends on your mood about such things.]

    It wouldn't add anything to character generation (since they are implicit in the mutant types). Although admittedly it does complicate stuff slightly more than having a generic penalty.


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