Early science-fiction role-playing game
. Based on an earlier project called Metamorphosis Alpha
(released in 1976), which put the players on a doomed generation ship
filled with mutated animals. Gamma World (released in 1978) took the mutation
ball and ran with it, set on earth in a post-apocalyptic
future in which a great, unspecified disaster
had destroyed a high-tech human civilization, leaving shattered continents and radioactive ruins in its wake.
Characters could be created as one of three types: Humanoid Mutants, Pure Strain Humans, and Mutated Animals.
The game was high science-fantasy, with virtually no heed given to science in any form. Mutants had wild powers akin to those of comic book superheroes and virtually every species of animal had produced an intelligent descendant.
Recovering technological artifacts was the main focus of the game, with players encountering robots and computers still laboring, unaware that their world had been destroyed.
Like TSR's other early SF title, Star Frontiers, Gamma World's popularity among roleplayers was undermined by a lack of product support. Compared to its juggernaut cousin Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, Gamma World produced only a thin trickle of supplements and adventures.
Various editions of the game were released over the years, with the best support going to Gamma World, Third Edition. Easily TSR's best entry in the SF field at the time, this edition had greatly expanded rules and a much better fleshed out world. A series of excellent modules also appeared at this time, lending support to the game.
Unfortunately, the vicissitudes of TSR's creative energies being what they are, the quality of this line ebbed suddenly, with several poor products released (including the inexcuseable Gammarauders) and new material stopped appearing on TSR's upcoming products roster.
A fourth edition was released, but by this time there were many other SF RPG's out there. Shadowrun had captured the techno-magical future niche and Rifts completely took over the post-apocalyptic thing. In addition, Steve Jackson Games' GURPS provided a system that was more complete and diverse and could certainly accommodate a post-apocalyptic game in the same vein as GW. Fourth edition died almost unnoticed.
TSR's "Amazing Engine" line included a supplement based on Metamorphosis Alpha and Gamma World titled "Metamorphosis Alpha to Omega." It set the game on board the generation ship again, but recycled most of its material from fourth edition Gamma World. Like most Amazing Engine products, it has long since disappeared.
Recently, Gamma World was reissued as a worldbook for TSR's Alternity line. This release at least placed Gamma World in the context of a supported product line again and provided a broader set of rules for players to use than the necessarily-narrow spectrum of a simple "aftermath" style game.
Unfortunately, in true TSR fashion, the Alternity line itself was cancelled shortly after the Gamma World supplement hit the shelves.