Top Five Post-Apocalyptic RPGs

Chris Van Deelen

As is the case in many of the activities I enjoy, my start with RPGs was not what you would have expected. I would hazard a guess the majority of gamers started out with Dungeons and Dragons as their first exposure to the hobby.

Back when I first began getting into RPGs, my first exposure was to Gamma World. Considering the genre I dabble in when I create material for Skirmisher, this should come as no surprise to anyone.

From there I branched out into Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, The Fantasy Trip and Traveler. Of course over the years I have played many different tabletops RPGs, and even own quite a few I never did get around to playing.

Continuing with my theme of Top Five Favorite Post-Apocalyptic list, this week I will cover my favorite RPG’s.

This is by no means an extensive list, these are only the games I either own, or have played. I can easily mention many others, but these are my favorites.

Oh what the hell… I will mention one that did not make my top five but if you like the genre, you should take a look at it. It’s called Mutant Epoch and it’s a few years old now, and most of the material I write up is not easily compatible with it, but it is a very well supported game and has built up quite a following, myself included.

  1. Gamma World – Really? And anyone is surprised that I would put this as my favorite post-apocalyptic RPG? To a lesser extent I will include Mutant Future with this, since all the material I write is based upon the rules outlined in that game. Lets be honest, it is the grand-daddy of ALL post-apocalyptic RPGs! Still, Gamma World is, to my knowledge, the first post-apocalyptic RPG released. It was a simple game that was filled with wonder and had a heavy element of Science Fantasy. I mean, come on, there is no way this is Science Fiction. Just the mutations alone turned it into what is essentially a super power game! Still I loved the Science Fantasy aspect to the game and wrote my very first (and utterly horrible) adventure for it, and spent many of my formative years creating mutants, mutations, and artifacts. To this very day a lot of the material (especially my upcoming mutation books) use material I wrote for the game!  First, second and forth editions are still my favorite editions, although if you follow the link I posted with the title, you’ll be able to download the Pathfinder version for free! A real shame none of the editions were well supported, unless you count Dragon and Polyhedron.
  2. Twilight 2000Back in the 80’s when Russia was the huge hulking menace on the horizon, and people lived in fear of a nuclear holocaust, it should go without saying I was attracted to this game. You played a soldier trying to survive in the aftermath of WW3, trapped in Europe, trying to find a way home to the states. The game was VERY well supported with numerous adventures and supplements, and eventually the player were able to make their way back to the states, and GW produced a line of adventures set on American Soil. It was very heavily (in my opinion) laden with propaganda, but back when I played the game, which did not really bother me. Come to think of it, that still does not bother me.  There was a recent update called Twilight 2013, but I found the game really was lacking, and support has been minimal, and I’m being generous when I say that. It could be there simply is not any interest in the game any longer.
  3. Darwin’s WorldI like to think of this as Gamma World for adults and serious players. It does not have the ‘wild and wahoo’ feel to it the way its grandfather game had. In fact it was quite the opposite. The game uses the D20 system, and was back in its heyday VERY well supported. In fact, quite a few of the adventures and sourcebooks were edited by you humble author!  I loved the grittiness of the game, and the very richly detailed world in which it was set. Before I started my work with Skirmisher, I had been working on a lot of material for this game, in hopes of being published. Sadly, other than some cannibal tribes, none of the material I wrote ever was accepted. Then again, few people’s work was ever accepted and used. Sorry, got off track. All the material is still available through RPGnow and it is worth buying and using.
  4. The Morrow Project ­– Another game I really had wanted to write for. This one is set 150 years into the future, after nuclear war destroys civilization. The players are all part of the Morrow Project and were cryogenically suspended to be woken up a few years after the end to help rebuild the United States. Except… things went horribly wrong and they find themselves alone in a totally unexpected world with no sign of the project or any support what so ever. The game had a fair amount of support over the years and a brand new edition was released just a few years back. Again, this game has a lot of potential, but sadly a very limited audience.
  5. Aftermath! ­– This game was produced in the 80’s by Fantasy Games Unlimited and had the distinct (dubious?) honor of having without a doubt, one of the most complex rules systems available. If you pared down some of the rules, the game was quite playable and a lot of fun. It did not have a base setting, instead allowed the GM to create the holocaust that destroyed Civilization. It was ultimately malleable, which for me made the game all that more appealing, especially if you wanted a realistic game. Want to play ‘The Road Warrior?’ this was the perfect game! The downside is that if you wanted a wild, mutation heavy system, this game really did not work all that well for it. It did have a fair amount of support, and over the past few years FGU even published some new material for the system.

Finally, give credit where it's due... the image I used for this blog comes from this page.