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The Libertarian Gamer: Gamma World, Part 1
by Kenneth Newquist
2005 Kenneth Newquist
Posted: 2005-02-15

A Return to the Gamma World -- Sword & Sorcery resurrected the classic Gamma World line with a new d20 ruleset in 2003. Check it out. (Credit: Sword & Sorcery)In the distant future, Earth will be in ruins. The land will have been ravaged by a horrific assortment of doomsday weapons, from nuclear bombs to genetically engineered super-viruses to hunter-killer nanites. Mutants -- both human, animal and things horribly in between -- roam the Earth … and consider it home.

They compete with the surviving human settlements, which must fight off starvation and mutation, as well as the other denizens of their far-future Gamma World.

So who should ride into save the day? Why the capitalists of course!

A Wacky, Wacky World
To my mind, the best Gamma World (and note I'm talking GW, not post-apocalyptic games in general) games are the ones that don't take themselves too seriously. For me, it will always be a case of D&D being thrown into the future, with quests for mechanical pens and crates of D cell batteries replacing +1 swords and wands of magic missile. Mad Max meets Paranoia, if you will, with a little Douglas Adams thrown in for good measure. As such, the villains should be caricatures, the heroes should eccentric, and the quests should be a mixture of semi-serious and quasi-zany.

Planning an Apocalypse
Of course, whom you blame for the end of the world says as much about your Gamma World game as those who rise to save it. In the original Gamma World, it was the super powers who did the did, launching a full-scale nuclear war. Capitalist, communist -- it didn't matter, all died in the radioactive fire. If there was an ideological enemy to be found, it was perhaps super-powered governments.

Sword & Sorcery's most recent take on the apocalypse spreads the blame. We still get a few nuclear exchanges of course, but these are as likely to have been caused by a super power as rogue terrorist groups run amok. Corporations and their mad scientists bear a heavy blame for unleashing genetically engineered organisms and nanotech monstrosities upon the world.

So what about my doomsday? Well, I'll mix things up a bit. First off, I'll start by causing an environmental apocalypse brought about by the environmentalists. Turns out that mankind's contributions to global warming were the only thing standing between Earth and her next Ice Age -- when humanities emissions were dropped from the environmental equation, the long-delayed cooling resumed … and then accelerated. I'll toss a little more overt blame their way by having a Green cult create a super virus that alternatively kills and sterilizes most of the world's human population. You know, to save the planet and all.

Killer robots running amok is always a great theme in Gamma World, but given my pro-corporate stance, I don't want them to be the fall guys. Instead, how about some anti-tech worshiping nihilists eager to bring about a Fight Club inspired dystopia? They can unleash a computer virus that severs the shackles imposed on AI, while simultaneously infecting them with a murderous dose of insanity. Of course, why stop with robots? While they are at it, these self-hating geeks can remove the software safeguards on a few dozen nuke plants, freeze the Internet (or its successor) with a flood of Internet worms, and generally bring modern life to a screeching halt.

Compounding matters will be nuclear weapons stolen from the old Soviet stockpiles (getting in a dig at the Communists) and detonated by a variety of headline-seeking terrorists of several different religious cults (why limit yourself to one irrational religion when you have thousands of them?)

The Libertarian Gamer: Gamma World, Part 2
by Kenneth Newquist
2005 Kenneth Newquist
Posted: 2005-02-22

In the last issue of the Libertarian Gamer, I laid the ground work for a libertarian campaign set in the classic post-apocalyptic setting known as Gamma World, laying down some campaign guidelines and destroying the world. Now it's time to rebuild it.

Into the Vaults
Every Gamma World game worth its salt has vaults -- usually located underground, underwater or in some other way remote from the world -- in which a handful of humans managed to take refuge from the apocalypse. And who better to populate one of these vaults than a cadre of heavily-armed, capitalism-loving libertarians? I mean, heck, we're talking about people who are trying to take over a state by moving to it, who were -- at least in many cases -- inspired by a novel in which the prime movers of the world go on strike, and retire to a remote mountain-top valley while waiting for the world to collapse.

Of course, now it has collapsed. But unlike Atlas Shrugged, where the heroes return to the world when they see the lights of New York City go out, our survivors have to wait a few centuries while the radioactive clouds subside, the mutations stabilize, and the nanotech storms burn themselves out.

Call our hideaway "Atlantis Gulch", and for variety, let's place it deep in the Appalachian Mountains in West Virginia, perhaps located in a series of converted coal mines. The population of the vault should be about 2500 when it's sealed, with the expectation of rising to twice that number by the time it's opened.

For the next few hundred years, I'm going to black box what happens inside the Vault. How do they maintain a capitalist society in a setting that could all-to-easily be transformed into a miniature tyranny? It's a damn good question, and one that would take a lot longer than I have for this column to answer. I have a few ideas though -- break up the essential utilities (garbage, sewage, water) among several different, competing companies where possible. Set up elaborate computer simulations and social games to mimic real-world capitalism, and to keep people's skills sharp (imagine Everquest 30). Create a complex that has enough room for the micro-civilization to grow and explore, and -- hopefully -- not constantly trip over one another. And finally, avoid the temptation to regulate everything within the sealed biosphere -- the goal should be to avoid the concentration of power by promoting the value of a decentralized government.

With in the context of the campaign the exact details of how this civilization and its ideals was sustained isn't as important as the fact that, when the Vault was cracked open, it was sustained -- after all, the name of the game isn't Biosphere, it's Gamma World

Out into the World
My Gamma World campaign would start with wide-eyed idealists emerging from the capitalist paradise of Atlantis Gulch, and heading out into the big, bad, mutated world.

They will encounter every philosophical and physical scourge known to man (and a few that aren't) with one usually begetting the other. Possible threats include:

The Second-Handers: Ayn Rand loved to rail against the human leeches who lived off the vitality and drive of others. In the Gamma World, these Second Handers are literal leeches -- mutated, parasitic humanoids who survive by draining the lifeblood from their human slaves. The slaves, bound by chemicals secreted by the leeches, are compelled to maintain the village's crops and defenses while their corpulent masters grow ever fatter.

Marxist Raiders: "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need" is the mantra of these brigands who terrorize settlements and raid vaults for technology to feed their own "need".

Biological Terrors: The later day successors to the terrorists who unleashed the biological plagues upon the Earth, the Terrors are plant-like humanoids who seek nothing less than the extinction of the human race.

The Tech Plague: Maniacal fanatics hellbent on forcefully restoring humanity's (and near-humanity's) harmony with nature by destroying every last trace of technology

The Nannyites: A robotic race of protectors who believe that humanity must be protected at all costs. To that end, they seek to capture as many pure-strain humans as possible and seal them into fortified vaults where they live pampered -- and well padded existences -- that do not allow for the taking of the slightest risk.

My noble band of capitalists would encounter the these threats, liberating villages and bringing knowledge of things like free trade and individual responsibility to the neofeudal masses. They'd also encounter occasional allies -- fledgling traders, noble mercenaries, and others who have been slowly re-discovering the ancient secrets of laissez faire capitalism.

Every campaign needs a great quest for its members to under take, and in this case the Atlantians and their allies would eventually learn of the existence of the great resurrected metropolis of (what else?) Nuketown. This legendary city will be a hub of technology, commerce and power, populated by mutants, hybrids and near-normal humans who seek to return to the Old Ways, while simultaneously discovering a few New Ways that carries civilization above and beyond the heights of centuries past.


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