A Walk in the Dark A look in to the mind of an RPG designer

17May/11Off

Cornering the Gamma World Market

I realized something today: I'm a published author! And it wasn't even planned!

For the past several months, I've been working on my own personal Citizen Kane (or Waterworld... Time can only tell): a massive Heroic tier campaign for Dungeons and Dragons 4e called The Coming Dark. And when I say "massive", I kind of mean it: part one of three is about 80% complete and already clocks in at a staggering 116 pages. It's so epic that nobody may ever play it, but it's something I want to do for my own personal gratification.

I've been working on it for months, doing all the maps, designing and redesigning each scene, creating each stat block, laying it all out in Adobe InDesign, playtesting it with at least three different "play by post" groups. It's been quite an undertaking, and the focus of most of my development efforts.

But about a month ago I decided to take a little diversion. Every now and then I get an idea that pops in to my head and I just can't get rid of, and have to actually create it in order to satisfy my subconscious. Usually this has taken many forms, but this was very specific: it was a Gamma World campaign.

NOTE: To avoid spoilers, I have chosen to make no reference to the module's contents.

So one week I decided to take a break from TCD and write a short delve for Gamma World called Fire From the Sky. It honestly didn't take much time to put together - probably no more than a few days for mechanic design, then several more days for map generation and layout - and was somewhat of an entertaining experience.

At the time of its writing, I didn't quite know what to do with it. I had read the 4e GSL but didn't know how it applied to publishing Gamma World content, so I sent a letter to Wizards of the Coast legal department hoping for clarification; I have yet to receive a response. At the same time, I submitted my Gamma World "pitch" to the Wizards of the Coast submission email address, and I got three responses back saying "we don't want Gamma World content." Well OK then.

So be it. One day I decided "what the hell, I've got nothing to lose" and published a free preview of the first two encounters on Drive Thru RPG while I prettied up the module for publication.

The free preview has over 300 downloads so far. Who knew there'd be that many?

At the same time I was preparing to post my module, I noticed something: Drive Thru RPG didn't really have a Gamma World category, so it lumped it together with the 4e/GSL content. Looking through the product list... I was virtually the only person creating Gamma World content!

I wasn't sure if Gamma World even had an audience; I could very well be creating something that nobody will ever use. But the module was done, and there was no reason to hold it back at this point.

When the module went up for sale, I immediately started receiving emails from would-be customers. Since Wizards of the Coast seems to have virtually abandoned Gamma World, fans of GW were excited to see actual content from someone. They began to praise my efforts before even seeing the module. They asked for tactical maps with 1" squares. They offered suggestions on how to continue it. And, today, I saw at least two people on Twitter mention that they were going to use my module with their gaming group. It's kind of a surreal experience. People like it, I think! 🙂

Almost everyone that communicated with me in one way or another had the same question "are you making another one?" A few even said they would buy it "regardless of price", which is flattering.

Making more Gamma World modules hadn't occurred to me until then, but I see now that there are many Gamma World fans out there that are desperate for new adventures and need someone to fill the void. I had found what is apparently an untapped market, a market long forgotten by Wizards of the Coast, a market that is just dying for someone to step up and create more stuff.

Well, if anyone's going to fill the void, might as well be me.

I have officially begun development on my next Gamma World module. I don't have a title for it, but here is a brief synopsis:

The town of Wildwood has taken some time to recover from the recent chaos, but it is finally back to its "normal" self... For one whole day. Then the swarms began: millions of rats, birds and insects poured over the nearby hill and assaulted the town, forcing everyone to seek shelter as they harried anyone and anything left in the open. Granted, one could argue that swarms of creatures were pretty common in Gamma Terra, but when a swarm of monkeys arrived in Wildwood handing out hand written death threats from someone called "Dr. Neb", it wasn't hard to see that this was far from ordinary.

[Name Pending] is a Gamma World campaign for five 2nd level characters, who must brave the swarms and other oddities to find this "Dr. Neb" and stop his nefarious plans!

As you can hopefully tell, this campaign will be a little more "off the wall" than my last one. It will also be longer; I'm debating whether to make it span one or two levels.

Maybe that's my calling in this crazy world: to be the authority on Gamma World. Well, we'll just have to see how things go, won't we?

Stay tuned for more information!

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  1. Thank you so much for stepping up as a champion for Gamma World!


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