We chatted with Kevin Siembieda of Palladium regarding their pen-and-paper role-playing game After the Bomb® -- a Gamma World-like post-apocalyptic setting with walking, talking animals. Siembieda discussed the game's beginnings as a spin-off of one of their more established games and why he personally enjoyed playing it.
Q: Could you describe the origin of the game?
A: Erick Wujcik had written the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness RPG and the first TMNT sourcebook. All kinds of crazy ideas were flowing between Erick and me when the idea for a post-apocalyptic setting blossomed. A setting that was Planet of the Apes on steroids and where all manner of intelligent mutant animals existed and represented the new world order. Mutant animals had inherited the Earth and human beings were struggling to survive. Some humans worked with the animals while others, like the Empire of Humanity, saw mutant animals as a threat and sought to annihilate them.
The ideas were whipped up by the two of us, but Erick did 90% of the final writing while I added bits and pieces, tweaked final text and handled the art direction. It was fun getting Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird to do a lot of the early artwork. Talk about two great guys. Really nice and wonderful to work with. Palladium would later work with some of the other Mirage Studios artists, like Jim Lawson and Eric Talbot, more nice guys.
I came up with the title, After the Bomb®, and for me it has always had the dual meanings of literally “after the bomb,” i.e. nuclear holocaust, and after the “gene bomb.” Erick and I were both fascinated with what the future held for genetic engineering and cloning, so that was part of our inspiration too.
The series was unique and separate from TMNT, but since it also focused on mutant animals and was packed with new mutants and additional material that could be also used with the TMNT RPG, we got permission from Mirage Studios to let us include the heading, A Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles® sourcebook on the first couple of After the Bomb® sourcebooks. However, the setting was immediately its own unique environment with additional use as a supplement offering a new range of mutant animals for the TMNT RPG.
Q: Is it still being published?
A: In 2001, Erick Wujcik completely rewrote the After the Bomb® Role-Playing Game as a stand alone RPG. It uses the same fundamental creation rules but includes a bunch of new, cool upgrades, tweaks and stats for a hundred mutant animals, including chimeras with combinations of animal powers. The focus has shifted more toward genetic engineering gone awry, but the post-apocalyptic setting remains. The game offers more than 100 mutant animals, and six adventures in a unique, post-apocalyptic world setting. I don’t know why, but it is a blast to play intelligent mutant animals.
Q: Are supplements coming for the game?
A: The original supplements, like Road Hogs, Mutants Down Under, Mutants in Avalon, Mutants of the Yucatan, and Mutants in Orbit, have never gone out of print. Erick had several new supplements planned, but he died before he could complete them and several other projects. Nine years later and Erick’s absence is still felt. I have plans to finish several Wujcik projects for After the Bomb®, Heroes Unlimited and Rifts®.
Q: Why anthromorphisized animals?
A: When I got the TMNT license, I knew that just playing the comic book characters was not enough for a rich role-playing game experience. Erick agreed. Plus we both always liked to think big and provide a wide range of fun possibilities in our games.
Q: What is the appeal of this game?
A: Like I mentioned earlier, there is something fun about playing an intelligent, humanoid animal. It is very different than most other games. Maybe it’s because animals are such a large part of our everyday lives. Even if you don’t own a pet, you see squirrels, rabbits, rats, mice, and birds everywhere. Animals are majestic and intriguing to us. Even deadly creatures like lions and tigers are beautiful and impressively graceful and powerful. Animals represent the familiar and the unknown, and a game like AtB lets you play them in a unique, humanizing way. I think all of that is appealing to people.
Everyone has their favorite animal or three – dog, cat, horse, ferret, bear, guinea pig, iguana, eagle, and so on. Now picture a game where you play characters that, though they are intelligent and humanoid, still retain their animal appearance, fur, powers and instincts. It’s fun to play.
I think the elements of After the Bomb® have that vibe of the familiar, yet different feel to it. You need to survive and rebuild the world. The question is, can you create a better civilization than the humans did before you? Or are you making the same mistakes? And what place do humans hold for the future of the planet? Any? Play it and figure it out for yourself.
And in case you couldn’t tell, I love all kinds of post-apocalyptic settings, because they always contain the familiar and the unknown, even the bizarre. And the setting throws the world and civilization as we know it on its head.
On a personal level, I have played After the Bomb® and enjoyed it immensely, but I’m a comic book guy from way back, so I enjoy bringing the AtB mutant animals into the modern world of Heroes Unlimited, as both superheroes and villains. I also bring them into Rifts® as D-Bees and in Robotech® and Phase World® as aliens. I’m telling you, mutant animals are great fun no matter how you incorporate them into the game. I imagine that’s why the After the Bomb® RPG has remained popular for a few decades now.