You gotta hate it when the world goes to hell… well, usually. Sometimes it’s not so bad. Sometimes, it’s downright awesome! Like when it’s Gamma World 2754 – December’s Campaign of the Month! So get your post-apocalyptic on and join me for a ride around the wasteland of the 28th century with Omegabase, the GameMaster of this outstanding campaign.
First off, feel free to tell us about the person behind the GM screen. Where are you from? What do you do aside from gaming? Alter Egos? Wife and kids? Where can we stalk you on the internet. Let us know if you feel so inclined!
In my day job I’m a consultant in the web analytics and data science fields. Ironically I have no idea how much traffic our campaign site gets, though I know Google Analytics was or is available. I’m the father of two and nearing the half-century mark, mostly frittered away on idle pursuits such as motorcycling and gaming. As for internet stalking, good luck! I’m a neolithic savage with just about zero social media presence.
Tell us about Gamma World in a nutshell. How did it come to be and how long has the campaign been going on?
In spring of 2013 I made the decision to create and run a full-featured RPG with all the bells and whistles. This was after an RPG hiatus of several decades. Crossing off a ‘bucket list’ item you might say. Since then I’ve spent countless hours developing and running it. I chose GW as I felt it never got a proper treatment, often being thought of as a ‘throw-away’ setting more suited to one-shot games or very limited campaigns. I actually had the basic concept and story for GW2754 worked out decades ago as hand-drawn maps and notebooks stuffed into my 1983 GW 2nd edition. It’s certainly evolved from there, benefitting from all the great post-apoc source material since then: RPGs, computer games, fiction and movies.
From the start I’ve had great help from some really excellent RPG gurus and GMs here in Austin, Texas. I probably would not have got this campaign off the ground were it not for their help, particularly my first player, Arik (FireWall on OP), who also runs a legendary Eclipse Phase campaign here in town. My original story treatment for GW2754 specified 50 sessions start to finish, but of course fun stuff happened and things get extended. 86 sessions later and we’re only now approaching the end.
How regularly do you play, and where do you play?
Our original group met in person here in Austin every 2-3 weeks. This group played the first 36 sessions. Most everyone from that group moved out of town or on to other pursuits. After a four month hiatus, I got the current group together and we’ve been playing ever since (aka the ‘Ghost Bear Brigade’ or GBB for short). We play remotely using Google Hangout and RPTools / Maptools. The Ghost Bears are mostly old friends from high school with one player hailing from the first group (originally playing Grek, now Strelok): DWolf on OP. DWolf has the distinction of participating in the most sessions of any single player…probably at least 70!
The Campaign Elements portion of your wiki makes mention of a “suite of web apps created by the GM” in addition to the Obsidian Portal campaign site which are used to help manage the campaign. Can you tell us more about these apps and their functions with respects to the campaign?
I should also mention our giant spreadsheet-of-doom courtesy of Excel-wizards Gooptaz and Sleestak. This massive collection of minutely detailed equipment and formulas is terrible to behold (“Abandon all hope, ye who enter here”). It could probably be submitted as part of your doctoral dissertation in accounting.
An update on your campaign from back in 2014 states that material from The Mutant Epoch RPG had started making its way into the game. How heavily did you utilize this material over time, and how well did it mesh with Gamma World?
The amount of time and effort that William McAusland has put into TME boggles the mind. It’s a huge resource for anyone interested in old-school gonzo post-apoc gaming and meshes perfectly with Gamma World in terms of inspiration, if not game mechanics. I own most everything he’s produced. I’ve utilized one TME scenario in the ‘Flight to Facility 11’ and ‘Facility 11 to Mount Pleasant’ sessions. Most of the current character roster, with the exception of DWolf’s ‘Strelok’ and the new character ‘Grey Carlson’, were 100% randomly generated using TME chargen system and then converted to my homebrew GW system: Gooptaz, Sleestak, Humongous and Bannstone (anyone following the adventure logs know that Humongous got his head cratered in GBB Session 31: Omega Control Base – III).
For those out there who are running a campaign of this style, or considering doing so, what are some sources that you would recommend for inspiration?
Computer RPGs are a huge resource, notably Wasteland I and II and the entire Fallout series. Desktop RPGs: The Mutant Epoch, Eclipse Phase, The Morrow Project. Movies: Aliens (all), Mad Max (even the bad ones), The Book of Eli, Chappie, Pandorum, Resident Evil (even the bad ones), Brazil…the list is huge. Books: I highly recommend Jay Posey’s ‘Legends of the Duskwalker’ series for a fresh take on the PA genre. Art: the awesome artists over at deviantart.com, who I have shameless cribbed from for many of my adventure log pictures.
How did you get into tabletop gaming?
I was introduced to the D&D blue box set and GDW’s Traveller by older cousins when I was eight or nine. I had only a vague notion of what was going on, but was hooked. It’s a wonder I graduated high school.
How long have you been using Obsidian Portal? What brought you to the site and what keeps bringing you back?
I’ve been a member since March 2013 and first used OP as a player in FireWall’s great Eclipse Phase campaign. OP was the best campaign hosting site at the time and still is. Took me a while to absorb the big site redesign, but it’s even better now. There’s really nothing comparable out there. It would just kill me to have to move everything to some blog or other site I cooked up.
Without dropping any spoilers, can you tell us anything about what’s in store for the player characters, in this campaign or the next?
We’re about to wrap up GW2754 as the players fight their way to the bridge of the Daedalus starship. The survivors will have some tough end-game choices, such as: stay behind to help restore the earth, or venture forth to the stars? This group has a way of coming up with other options. As far as what comes next, I’m done with post-apoc for a while. For my next campaign, I’m thinking of something where the players must PREVENT the apocalypse, instead of cleaning up the mess afterwards. Sleestak has been talking about running a follow-on campaign in the same game universe using the same rules. It would be nice to be a player again.
If you had to pick just one thing, what would you say Obsidian Portal helps you with the most?
The adventure logs. Without the logs this campaign would be downright incomprehensible.
What would you say the single biggest highlight from your game has been so far?
That’s a tough one. One of the weirdest things in the campaign just happened in our last session (the forthcoming “GBB / Session 50: …”). I’m running 3 sessions behind in the logs right now…should catch up over the holidays. You’ll have to read the log for that one!
For me, the greatest unexpected turn of events was the players bailing out of their destroyed space shuttle and landing in the swamps along the eastern seaboard of 28th century North America. I really wasn’t planning on that, but it just kind of made sense considering how seriously they’d molested the alien’s pet satellite (Delta Star 419). That led to a lot of inspiration for me and an awesome series of adventures culminating in Ares Base, originally an optional side-story that might otherwise never have happened.
Okay, before we get out of here, give us some of your best GMing pearls of wisdom.
The big challenge for me is having a discernible story while not railroading the players. I’ve yet to find the magic formula for this. One option I’ve found that works well is a ‘puzzle-piece’ concept, requiring players to find and put together clues, bypass obstacles, or find items in various required sequences to solve the overall problem. Though they end up in the same place (if successful), how the players approach the puzzle is in their control. Another option is to create a semi-random ‘open world’ allowing players to go anywhere and generate their own adventures. Then work the results into the overall story. This has created some memorable and surprising outcomes in past sessions that really affected the story. This kind of thing requires a lot of work up front, but is the holy grail at least for me. For me as a GM, I’m having the most fun when I don’t know what’s going to happen. The challenge is to achieve that while still advancing the story.
That’ll do it for this month folks. Until next time, keep your eyes peeled for great campaigns to add to this list and keep those nominations coming!