Gamma World: You Can’t Handle All This Junk

“What you gon’ do with all that junk?
All that junk inside your trunk?”
-Black Eyed Peas, “My Humps”

Hi there, Gamma Boys, Girls, Androgynous Robots, Plants, and indiscernible Others. What we’re going to talk about today is the Junk. Junk that’s survived the test of time. But first, Trivia! How did we get here?

For me, it involved doing way too much research for my D&D Alumni Drop-Out article on the long history of Gamma World. I tore through book after book, edition after edition, trying to wrap my head around what the essence of the Gamma World experience was all about. Thing was, I overlooked a major component, mostly because I think I have an allergy to what was cool about old-school gaming: Charts.

It wasn’t until I saw the Ancient Junk table on pg 81 that something started popping back into my mind, like that Gummi Bear song or that one time at Summer Camp you’re supposed to have forgotten about. Fast Forward a bit to me torturing my players by forcing them to roll random to get terrible treasure crafted by the infamous James Ward or Gygax themselves, a Twitter joke about having these charts lying around, and huzzah: The Critical Hits crew steps up and makes Gygax’s Junk available to all. That….sounds wrong some how, but such is the fun of talking about Gamma World and a word that’s versatile enough to refer to Twinkies, Chinese merchant vessels, broken alarm clocks, and genitalia. So don’t judge me.

On topic: The Grand Unified Junk table has terrible things from all editions….that had Junk tables. Sure, they might have been called Loot or Treasure, but anyone who played knew they mostly contained something that you’d be embarrassed to have…or ashamed to be excited to have. The White Wolf & Alternity editions, being serious expeditions into Gamma Terra, had nothing to stuff inside my trunk. The others? Oh my. Here’s a brief rundown, followed by some of my personal favorites that just might convince you that the Grand Unified Junk Table needs to be let into your heart (or hearts, if you have more than one).

First Edition

The edition that started it all is also the edition with what can only be referred to as the one with the most “Crapstastic” of items. They’re still fantastic but there’s a lot of Spite embedded there, from getting Pencils with the Tips broken off to a Perfectly Working Vacuum cleaner that just happens to be missing its motor. The expanded Loot Lists, created by Gary Gygax and published in the original “Legion of Gold” are particularly cruel. You’ll see what I mean in a moment.

Second & Third Edition

There are a lot of reprints between these two since the main reason for 3rd edition was simply to cash in on the Color-Coded Chart craze or some such madness. Still, this was the edition that decided that Loot/Junk charts should have SOMETHING good on them. Somewhere. Maybe. This was also the edition that included a lot of “retro-future” technology. On a chart of 100 items, 1-33 were actual items in the book, while the others were items that you had to guess/figure out on your own what they were. For instance, if you rolled a “Powered Kiddiesitter” did you get a Robotic Babysitter? A Television? A Game Boy? It’s all up to you to sort it out.

These editions also introduced the idea of “Area Specific” Junk Tables, meaning that if you’re in the Artic Wastes of New Mexico, chances are you’ll find Mutant Beaver pelts + snowshoes more often than an inflatable pool alligator.

Fourth Edition

This is my favorite edition for terrible things, mostly because there were many useful but hilariously lame things on the Junk Tables. Funnily enough, this is the edition that was the most in common with the Modern 7th edition Ancient Junk table…many of the funnier items are found here. Just fun trivia I guess. This, by the way, is the edition that hooked me on using older Ancient Junk tables. After a couple of rolls, a Giant Yeti player was suddenly burning rubber all over Gamma Terra armed with an Electric Golf Cart & an Automatic Milking Machine. Which is positively terrifying.

Dragon & Polyhedron Magazine

These also offered a few optional Loot tables….though these were often reprinted later in a Supplements, as seen in Legion of Gold. Dragon also introduced a “Super Cool Loot Table” which was aimed at appeasing the Gamma World players who didn’t want to roll on a chart that only have a 1% of giving up something useful to a power gamer. I didn’t offer that chart hasn’t been included because in the spirit of modern Gamma World, it just isn’t Kosher to have a list that includes Laser Rifles, Grenades, and Landmines when you could be getting broken doll parts. I’m weird like that.

Seventh Edition

While the current edition of Gamma World is fun incarnate, the Ancient Junk table is…kind. The items are random & quirky, it can’t be denied. Yet all the items function as they should or have a recognizable purpose, something that ignores the tradition of Gamma World Loot Lists. And thus, the Grand Unified Junk Table works to fix the Not-so-Big Mistake.

My Highlights from the Lists of Yesteryear

First Edition

  • The Pleasure Globe. A small Orb you can grab to feel pleasurable sensation. Oh. My. Lord. Even worse, this one was first spotted by me on a Second Edition list… where they provided absolutely no description at all, beyond the name. Classy.
  • Attaché Case Filled with Insurance Papers. I can only imagine this heavily influencing a character concept if you got this at creation. Post-Apocalyptic Insurance Salesman, anyone?
  • Rusted Can of Sauerkraut. This one included some rules text, informing the GM that the sauerkraut was an Intensity 10 poison. Thanks German culture, your food has become weaponized in the future.
  • Metal Dungeons & Dragons Figures + Leather Bag of Funny-Sided Dice. If you ever wanted to have an excuse for playing a D&D nerd after the Apocalypse, now’s your chance.
  • Cedar Chest filled with Women’s Clothing. After the Big Mistake, is a Yeti really going to know he shouldn’t be wearing a pink evening gown when brawling with Badders?
  • Riding Lawn Mower, blade broken. How else is your Plant Monster going to travel in style?
  • Tuba, useless as it has been flattened by a Steamroller. No really, that’s in the item’s description.
  • Drums of Radioactive Waste. Yes, this is treasure. In fact, many treasures in the older lists were Radioactive, meaning that if you didn’t have a Geiger Counter or immunity to Radiation…they would kill you. Thanks, Gamma Terra!
  • Time Capsule that Looks just Like an Unexploded Neutron Bomb. If that item doesn’t scream horrible but awesome role-playing moments to you, you’re dead inside.
  • Bicycle, good condition. Wheels are flat & there’s no seat. Somehow this seems more spiteful than the tuba that’s been flattened. Thanks Gary.
  • Science Fiction Book, fair condition. Cover and last page torn out. Yeah. Gary Gygax had a lot of spite to work through methinks.
  • Pencils, good condition. All leads broken. Also note that while “Pencil Sharpener” was on the list, it was broken and could not be used to sharpen pencils.
  • Metal Can of Peanut Brittle that a Fake Snake Pops out of. Trade for food with the natives & then run. Don’t forget to spread rumors of deadly can snakes before the transaction.

Second Edition & Third Edition

  • Finger Watch. No longer worry about having to look at your wrist to tell time in Gamma Terra, now it’s at the tip of your finger!
  • Portable Fax Machine. I love the fact that what was presented as “Futuristic” technology in 2nd edition is amazingly out of date. Still, it does make me want to play an Android that can only communicate through Dot-Matrix Printouts.
  • Toilet Paper. Seriously, this only appears on one list? I suppose the Science Fiction Novel mentioned above could do in a pinch….assuming any toilets survived the Big Mistake.
  • Universal Gym. Nothing says “I’m ready for anything” quite like traveling with a Soloflex.
  • Promo Ball. I have no idea what a Promo Ball and neither does anyone else. In my game it’s a holographic generator you throw at people and then they’re forced to watch a pre-programmed commercial. The one my friend Lutz got kept trying to get Hoops to watch something called Homeboyz in Space.
  • Traffic Regulator. Since there’s no description, use your imagination. Is it a traffic light? Is it a Stop Sign? Is it a robotic deer that rolls back and forth across a dark country road? Only you can answer this.
  • Portable Rose. Yes, a Rose purchased from the Gas station has survived the Apocalypse.
  • Electric Wheel Chair. You know, because most places in the Wasteland are Handicap-Accessible.
  • Power Stool. Again, I have no idea what this thing is. Either it keeps people’s asses from getting tired while sitting at the bar or it does something unspeakable involving bowel movements.
  • Glow-in-the-Dark Frisbee. Remember that “Glowing” in Gamma Terra means dangerously radioactive more often than not. Frisbee tournament at the Quad goes downhill quickly.
  • Halloween Mask. Because no one’s going to recognize that giant robotic tree if you cover up the part where its face might be.

Fourth Edition

  • Helium Tank. Besides actually making a Birthday party festive, the idea of stuffing this into a Landshark’s mouth before detonating it amuses me to no end. Sure, it won’t hurt but his roars of rage will be hilarious.
  • Electric Golf Cart. Older editions are littered with alternative methods of travel. Who needs another Pick-up truck?
  • Automatic Milking Machine. I won’t say much, but I will say that nothing good will come of a player gaining this piece of Junk.
  • Joy Buzzer. The classics never die. You will, however, if you use this on the wrong person.
  • Bungee Chords. They’re not a “funny” item by my standards, but they’re bad ass enough it’s hard to imagine a party not using them to awesome effect.
  • Squirt gun. Dear Lord, don’t tell me what you put in there. Alternatively, this is a fun optional replacement for a Canteen of Water.
  • Label maker. In the future, there’s no excuse for people not knowing what stuff belongs to you.

….and there you go. I had to limit myself here but ultimately this is just a taste of the doom waiting for you on the Grand Unified Junk Table.

Enjoy and thanks for your time. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve a Pleasure Globe to attend to.

PS: One house rule that I’ve been using so that players can get more junk and not just roll on the “Gear Table” (which by the by contains most of the stuff players had to buy in older Gamma World editions) is to let them optionally roll twice on the Junk table instead of taking a roll on the Gear Table. Once a party has rolled 6 Pick-Up trucks between them (and don’t want to run a Gamma Terra Ford Dealership), this idea seems to look better and better. The other option I’ve read is that if you roll the same thing twice on the Gear Table you can choose to roll twice on the Ancient Junk table instead. Either way, it means more Ancient Junk and now with 800+ pieces of it all in one place, that’s more inviting than ever. (insert Inviting Junk joke of your choice here)


  1. Captain Pike says:

    The “Rusted Can of Sauerkraut” is probably a reference to the classic post apoc novel A Canticle for Lebowitz.

  2. maddogtime says:

    Dang it, Dr. J!

    Now that Gummi Bear title-tune is stuck in my head….iiiiirk.

    “Gam-ma Woooorld..where mutations pop up everywhere….lasers for fingernails, your head’s a chaaaaiiirr…”

    And Chinese have a lot of junk in theirs junks.

    Happy Shakakhan!


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