Gamma World’s evocative cover art of 4 explorers crossing alien terrain, spotting the jagged remnants of ruined skyscrapers of an Ancient city. From the beginning, the original Gamma World grabs you, and doesn’t let go.
Gamma World 1st edition [BOX SET]
1978, 1981 … James M. Ward & Gary Jaquet … TSR 3002 … ISBN 0394518799
I go into the three printings of 1e, plus the subsequent editions, and the adventure modules.
Old school Gamma World is highly collectible, and expensive. If you’re just looking to play and enjoy, DTRPG has you covered.
Cover and title page art by the legendary David A. Trampier.
The rules immediately set the game apart from the typical fantasy RPGs of the time: Mutations and Technology. And these areas are richly detailed. Though characters begin play without technology, the unspoken assumption is that the PCs would quickly acquire ancient artifacts.
Though Humanoids and Mutated Animals start out with the physical and mental powers to survive in a dangerous environment, Pure Strain Humans can only rely on anemic primitive weapons, and the promise of great things in the future if they survive, since they are most able to utilize ancient artifacts. (This reminds me of AD&D magic users: Start out weak, but amass power as they gain levels.)
The rules and background, even if a bit thin by modern standards, are enough to play. The setting is so rich and exotic, it would take a pretty dull referee to not be able to use this set as a launchboard for their own imagination.
The large hex map in the original GW set, with its not-quite-familiar continental outlines, has never been matched in its simple beauty in any of the later editions of Gamma World. Depicting oceans, lakes, mountains, and ancient cities (some underwater!) – yet no labels – the map practically begs the referee to puzzle out what the cities are, and to fill in their own details.
See also: A Gamma World map colored by a prior owner. Very cool.
DriveThruRPG links are affiliate. Have DTRPG toss a few coins in my tip jar; costs you nothing extra.