Combine Gamma World, Mutant Crawl Classics and Mutant Future and marry it up with very streamlined version of original Traveler, you get Cepheus Atom. That pretty much sums it up. So yep. Cepheus Atom is a gonzo post apocalyptic game. You could leave out the mutations and such go for a more Mad Max style game if you wanted to.
This is a an extremely streamlined version of the 2d6 Traveler style rules. Characters have only two stats; Endurance and Lifeblood. And there are only six skills (Combat, Knowledge, Physical, Social, Survival, and Technical). There’s no Professions or Careers and you won’t die in character generation which will take only minutes to do. Equipment runs the full spectrum of technology. Characters start with some “common” equipment which covers the usual things and includes primitive as well as “modern” equipment like guns and vehicles.
As characters adventure through the wastelands, they gain Contamination which means they mutate. The more Mutations, they more bizarre they get. And get too contaminated, they character just dies. Mutations are broken into Beneficial and Detrimental and each of those has levels of Minor, Medium and Major. There’s a pretty well rounded range of mutations from psychic powers to physical changes like thick skin or claws or just cosmetic. Some of the mutations are purposefully left vague to allow the player to come up with specifically what happens to the character.
You can’t have a gonzo post apocalyptic game without “Ancient” relics. These are the high tech (almost “magical”) gadgets that the characters can find but have no actual idea how they work. This usually ends up being some fun and occasionally disastrous moments as the characters attempt to figure out what the device is and how to use it. The list of relics in the book are pretty standard things from healing items to power armor.
Monsters have pretty straight forward stat blocks. That’s one thing that I dislike in some of the other Cepheus Engine games is the more complex stat blocks (almost like a whole character write up). Since Cepheus Atom is so streamlined, it uses the same simple format for monsters as well as adding a some special abilities. There’s a pretty standard list of weird wasteland creatures but like the Relics, a GM is only limited by their imagination because it’d be darned right easy to make new and really weird monsters.
On the downside, there isn’t much artwork in the book. I can live with that. And there isn’t any sort of character advancement system. But you could easily port something in from another Cepheus Engine game. And there isn’t a character sheet but one again that isn’t much of problem since the game is so light and it would be easy to make one but it is something that would be nice to have.
Overall, I really like the game. The streamlined design lets game masters house rule and tweak to their desire and there’s plenty of options for them to build the kind of campaign they want to. For me personally, I have about half a dozen different ideas bouncing around inside my brain pan but more on those later.
Oh, yes. Did I also mention that it’s pretty darned cheap? You can grab Cepheus Atom over at DrivethruRPG