Up until only recently, there were only a handful of Post-Apocalyptic role playing games available. Some, like the great old Gamma World of 1978’s TSR fame, are full of mutated people, animals, and plants, and others such as Aftermath by Fantasy Games Unlimited in 1981, were more survival in the wasteland based, with a more realistic setting that didn’t focus too much on mutants.
Fortunately for all of us, there are literally dozens of quality Post-Apocalyptic (Post-A)games on the market these days, and they run the gamut of all the best science fiction and horror genres. For example, Palladium Books has their own game called (appropriately enough) After The Bomb, and their fantastic Rifts books are not only completely compatible with After the Bomb, Rifts itself is a ultra-high tech take on the Post-Apocalyptic genre. West End Games published Paranoia, which was very comical in scope but also terrifyingly Post-A with a mad dystopian world at it’s core.
Radioactive Ape Design’s Atomic Highway is just about as Mad Max Apocalypse as you could want, and one of my personal favorites, Torg (also by West End Games) is the Apocalypse of the invasion of different realities on a global scale. There is also a next-generation, AD&D based game called Mutant Future that is like a new take on the original Gamma World.
With all the choices available to us now, it can be hard to decide which game works best for our ideas, our players, and our tastes in game mechanics.
For me, though, hands down my first choice for any Post-A game is Will McAuslands The Mutant Epoch (TME), published by Outland Arts. TME has everything I liked about Gamma World, but with so much more it sets a new bar on content and quality for radioactive future settings. It uses an unusual twist on the Percentile mechanic (i.e. it uses a 1-100 scale, and the predominant dice used are two d10’s) that actually solves the 100 cap that I mentioned in my earlier blog post The Silverback Paradox.
What makes TME shine, though is character generation. Beyond the usual assortment of mutated humans or animals, there are cyborgs, clones, bio-replicas, transhumans, bestial humans, and ghost mutants (which are basically mutated humans whose mutations are not physically apparent). Each of these different types of characters can belong to one of dozens of different types of backgrounds, and Oh My God the number of different mutations is awe-inspiring. Using many different random generation tables, it’s not very often that you’re going to have two characters that are very similar. Customization is built right into the system (allowing free choice of almost any result on those tables), and the world these characters belong to is deeply detailed.
And one cannot mention The Mutant Epoch without raving about the art. Will McAusland, the creator of TME, is also the primary artist, and his work is sprinkled liberally and full colored throughout the rulebook and adventures. This is the kind of Post-A artwork that inspires play, and really brings the setting into focus. Even if you don’t like Post-A RPG’s for some reason (yeah, I’m talking to you, Joe), you owe it to yourself at least to check out the art. Mr. McAusland is a prolific artist, and you can see new stuff from him almost daily on social media. The adventures and background he’s written for TME is detailed right down to the lives of the NPC’s that are just trying to survive around you, and I think only D&D has more monsters to throw at your players.
There is a soon-to-be released Expansion Rulebook in production as I write this that seems set to expand the number of choices of type and background by a huge amount, and rumor has it that Mutated Plants are going to be included… that’s a biggie in my opinion; plant creatures were one of my favorite types in Gamma World, and I can’t wait to see how they’re implemented in TME.
I can’t say it enough how great TME is, and I suggest buying it forthwith. This is Post-Apocalyptic at it’s very best!