Superscience for Gamma World and Mutant Future

Derek Holland

The first edition that I owned of Gamma World was the 4th, the one that came out in the early 90's. It was designed to be cross compatible with AD&D and for a long time I only thought of that in one direction- using GW to make monsters for AD&D (that was what was infered in a Dragon article). Now I wish I had taken the time to think that through. Back then I tried to keep GW a little more science and a little less fantasy. Now I realize that was silly of me. D&D in any incarnation has a lot of material that can be used in Gamma World and Mutant Future. Monsters, characters, locations, adventures and most importantly, magic. Superscience has been a part of GW since before the first edition, in Metamorphosis Alpha, but mostly in the form of supernatural mutations rather than technology. Considering how world shaking the Ancients were in their understanding of the natural world (i.e. science and technology), I now find that a little odd. Fortunately it is easy to add superscience tech and remove it as well.

Of all the magic items I think work well for superscience, staves first come to mind. Each has several spells that fit within a theme. Turning them into magical boxes, accessories for vehicles or robots or applying them to a nanite swarm is easy. The number of charges in their power cells is up to the GM and if the players start to overextend themselves, then the cells may drain or short out (or the swarm self destructs). This also allows the GM to use non-intuitive functions: as well as combining other items as per in that post.

Other magic items can work just as well. Consider how many magic items are out there, not just in D&D and d20, but in all games. Most of them can have a place in Gamma Terra. Those to be avoided are pretty obvious (those that would have made the Cataclysm impossible). Artifacts and artifact powers in AD&D in both editions allow for superscience tech with a punch but, for the most part, not a setting breaking one.

Spells can be used easily to create new superscience items. Every spell list, including psionics, incarnum and other variants, is up for grabs. Several hundred spells are out there, in addition to whatever you create for your own use. Such an abundant resource, it overwhelms me a bit. Spells such as those that summon monsters in 3e (i.e. have an extreme time limit) may be represented by tech that creates virtual matter and short lived power cells.

It isn't just magic items and spells that can be turned into fantastic technology. Monsters have many unique powers. This is where the games cross over very well. Mutations allow for freaky critters in AD&D and supernatural powers can be applied to mutant monstrosities and fantastic technology in GW. Considering how many monster books there are out there, one could take years to comb them and create all the possible tech.

And then there is the other supernatural bits that aren't spells, items or monsters. Some settings have magic that is inherent in a location, ritual or some other aspect of that setting. These are harder to turn into technology as they aren't meant to be used by the PCs in the same way technological artifacts are. Still, draining power cells or some other limitation can give the PCs an ability that isn't even possible in the source material.

So much potential and so little use in official material for Gamma World (at least up to the 6th edition, I never bought the 7th) or Mutant Future. I plan on doing something about that for the latter in Wisdom from the Wastelands. Superscience is the big catagory of unmined riches in Gamma World and the games it has inspired over the decades.