Thursday, May 20, 2010

Erol Otus' Gamma World

I’m immersing myself in Gamma World in preparation for the con session I’m running during Memorial Day weekend. I played this game back in the early/mid-80s using the second edition set in the burgundy box. I have fond memories of grid crawling through a trashed post-apocalyptic world, munching on Cheez-Its, listening to Iron Maiden cassettes late into the night. Playing Gamma World was pretty weird and cool - mutated humanoids digging through piles of rubbish to find goodies, cults of talking animals hiding in the hills, and secret bunkers hosting fundamentalist pure strain humans.

In reading about other folks’ Gamma World (and Mutant Future) games on blogs and forums these days it’s interesting to note the divergent aesthetic approaches to the game. The aesthetic represented in the official published material is pretty dark, gritty, and Mad Max-like. This approach seemed to become stronger over time through the various editions (at least the ones I have seen, I lost track around edition 4 or 5). More evident in the earlier editions, and in the current retro gaming world, is gonzo zaniness reminiscent of Thundaar the Barbarian and Dave Trampier’s first edition illustrations. I love Thundaar, so of course I'm biased towards this latter vision.

My personal favorite approach to Gamma World, however, is best illustrated by Erol Otus’ illustrations in the first edition supplements. Beautiful technicolor weirdness more along the lines of early Heavy Metal and Epic Illustrated magazines than Saturday Morning cartoons.

In particular, look closely at Otus’ colorful ref screen illustration. The sky is clear and blue – not a dark and gritty scene at all. Green tress, mountains, dragons, mushrooms. I like the punked out warrior babe with the Dead Kennedys amulet and the crazy techno-wand - I want to be her friend. The mutants are really weird and fantastic. Soooooooo awesome! I’ll take Otustown over Bartertown any day!



  1. Ha! I never noticed that DKs symbol. O_o

    I could *totally* see running a post-apocalyptic game using lightly-modified T&T 5th with some homebrewed mutation tables. Must not think about that right now ...

  2. I've been fiddling with a setting for Labyrinth Lord, but lately I've had a strong urge to use the Mutants and Mazes section of Mutant Future...

  3. Great post. Along with an older post from Trey at Sorcerers' Skull, this is one that has reinforced my desire to do a world based solely on the art of Erol Otus. Since all Erol Otus art would be canon, it would no doubt be a weird science fantasy world. Mutant Future or Encounter Critical would be obvious system choices though (given the the focus of my blog) I'm also thinking of a Sword & Wizardy/Risus hybrid. Whatever. Rules are irrelevant. The setting would be much fun to develop.

    I've been gathering Erol Otus art but I have not yet seen that color GW cover. I'll have to add that to me folder of inspirational images. Sweet.

  4. And, of course, the B&Ws are from "GW1: The Legion of Gold" which is, in my honest opinion, EGG's best module ever. Like B2 and T1 it is a sandbox/mini-campaign with plenty of areas to flesh out by the GM. Unlike the other 2, however, it has even more encounter locations and keyed regional encounters.

    Of course, that is my opinion now. BITD, at the age of 12-13, it was the Otus and Dee art athta sold the module to me. It is such a great module that, like both B2 and T1, I own three copies. :)


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