5e Setting Review: Wasteland 2099 (Mike Myler): 4 Stars
Humanity’s disparate tribes are braving the Wastelands seeking one another and attempting to forge something from the ashes of civilization, but even surviving is practically impossible and leaves little room to be concerned with anything else. The most powerful alter sapiens have turned the sanctuaries from the irradiated landscape in which they were raised into fortresses, manning them with armies of men and women willing to live by another’s creed. With the threat of these warlords, the unearthing of stockpiled nuclear weapons, and the horrors wrought from the past, violence is everywhere as battles rage across the blasted landscape. Those few looking toward the war for the future wonder if it holds anything but death and despair, but they are fools.
Mike Myler’s, Wasteland 2099 (and its Bally N’ Tour adventure module) is an apocalyptic spin on 5e rules, that introduces gritty, difficult game play with new races and classes to help players fully embrace the “fallout style” feeling permeating the setting. Also incorporating elements of Kingdom of Settlement building, this setting should have something for everyone. While the setting and book presentation has a few weaknesses, this is a great supplement for anyone looking for a more modern feel and difficult game play as the default.
Some Production. The art in this book, created by a retinue of different artists, is excellent and brings to life many of the creatures, weapons, and horror of the wasteland which players will be encountering throughout the campaign. Grammar and other proofreading issues are mostly well done, with only a few noticeable errors throughout the nearly 200 page document. The writing style is awkward or clunky at points, but overall flows well and doesn’t take the reader from engaging in the environment being created.
Ambiance. The environment portrayed by this setting was nearly palpable for me. While it is definitely reminiscent of the Fallout series, it brings its own unique creatures, factions, history, and challenges which separate it from the generic wasteland of Fallout and make it it’s own original, immersive experience.
Player Options. Wasteland 2099 introduces several new classes and races, as well as one new option for each existing 5e class. Possible concerns of balance aside, the classes are interesting, engaging, and present abundant ways for players to interact with the wasteland according to their own style. While elves, dwarves, etc., are still playable races, the androids, gaxians, mutants, and smart walkers races all aid in establishing Wasteland 2099 as its own diverse setting. The modern weapons seem self-explanatory and fun to use.
Bestiary. With a nearly 80-page bestiary included within the setting book, you’ll likely never have to use any canonical 5e book if you don’t want to. With mutated humanoids, aliens, and various warring factions, these creatures bring the fierce, gritty challenge of surviving the radiated wasteland to a tangible reality the characters will rightfully struggle with.
Settlement Building. Wasteland 2099 incorporates a set of settlement building rules that are somewhat like Pathfinder’s Kingdom Builder rules. Unlike PF’s rules, they are not convoluted and probably actually usable for fun, engaging game play that might not slog.
Adventure Module. If you get Wasteland 2099, consider also picking up an adventure made for the setting. Bally N’ Tour is a fun, riveting, and challenging sandbox adventure that will initiate your first level characters and take them to level 2 should they survive. The adventure comes with several maps, utilizes the settlement building rules, and introduces the players to several creatures… including the fear “radcow”!
Some Rules. This setting introduces several new rules, like radiation and luck ability scores. While the intent of these rules is obviously to add mechanics that will aid in immersion and difficulty within the setting, they were hard for me to understand. They could add a lot to a campaign, however, and the idea of them really interested me.
Layout. While the setting follows the Player’s Handbook layout of putting player options (races, classes, etc.) before the rules, I found myself wanting it reversed. While the classes and races are references new rule sets like irradiate ability score, I either had to suspend a complete understanding of the class mechanics, or page through to later in the book to read about the new rules. While it’s a relatively minor point, putting the new rules at the beginning of the book would aid in a more understandable read.
Balance. The classes and races offered in Wasteland 2099 are balanced towards the high end of power, and thus present concerns about the ability for the DM to keep the campaign challenging. The Doctor, for example, as early as level 2, increases hit die healing rapidly when 5e’s rules already present copious amounts of healing. With the difficulty of the setting however, (radiation, scarce resources, etc.), I’d guess that these player options are more balanced than they first appear. This is revealed in the fact that the setting actually gives rules to modify the scarcity of resources in the wasteland–implying that even with these powerful races and classes, the setting still may be more difficult than some players prefer.
Some Other Rules. Perhaps the only major problem I had with this setting is a few of the rules, particularly luck and radiation, which at times can be either ambiguous or overly complex. The irradiated ability score, for example, tries to distinguish between their score and their level (the irradiated modifier), and while most effects of radiation don’t effect you until you’re past ability score of 10, each point will also reduce your caster level by 1. Overall it’s hard for me to distinguish all the nuances of these rolls, and I could foresee much rules laywering during session as people try to figure out what this rule actually means. There is always a chance that the rules are clearer for other people than me, but its likely if I had trouble understanding them, others will as well.
Despite the confusion I had with a couple of the rules, I very much enjoyed reading this, and am looking forward to putting together a campaign to play through this setting. I’m giving it 4 Stars and Recommending it for Experienced DM’s and Players who like a challenge. With new classes, races, creatures, and weapons, combined with a Fallout like feel, this setting is sure to invoke a modern, challenging feel to table. Pick it up by clicking the picture below.