The Morrow Project
Originally Published in 1980 by Richard Tucholka.
Todays review will consist of some commentary about the original edition as well as a review of The Morrow Project 3rd edition, which I picked up from Dave Chase back in 2004. If I can find it, I’ll include a short interview with Dave, which happened a few years back during Origins 2004 when I found the Timeline Ltd. booth in the dealer hall.
The Morrow Project, which was one of the first Post-Apocalypse RPG titles released that featured a basic storyline about secret government enclaves whose personnel that were put into stasis for the specific purpose of reviving the culture and technology of America in the event of a holocaust. Well… with the Morrow Project, that holocaust came to be, and this is the story of various teams (Scientific, Mars, and Recon), that work to rebuild the shattered country hundreds of years after the war. Timeline is doing well with the Morrow Project, and in addition to TM 1-1 The Morrow Project RPG, no less than eleven supplements are available for the Morrow Project.
Now the 4th edition, the newest edition was released in December of 2016, retails for $49.95 and you can order it online right here;
Timeline Ltd. is now owned by Chris Garland, and he runs the website, as well as is selling the current edition of the Morrow Project. If you have a question you can reach him at email@example.com
Timeline Ltd. on Twitter
Back in 1980 when I first purchased this bad boy, I had already been playing RPG’s for a few years by then, and had already been running Gamma World, which we had been playing pretty often since 1977. At least three other of my friends, as well as myself, had created our own post-nuclear-holocaust, post-apocalyptic Earth, and we often ran games in this setting. Inspired by Andre Norton’s Starman’s Sun, and some really cool Sci-Fi shows from the early 1970’s like Planet Earth produced by Gene Roddenberry which first aired as a CBS television special 1974 and its sequel also produced by Gene Roddenberry Strange New World (1975), as well as it’s precursor Genesis II (1973) and Earth II (1971). These shows were originally broadcast in the primetime on CBS at 3 P.M. and I was lucky enough to watch them on their very first broadcast. Genesis II, Planet Earth, and Strange New World was the story of a scientist named Dylan Hunt who had been awakened from suspended animation in a cryogenic chamber after a Nuclear Holocaust. He was the senior scientist on a team that had been put into suspended animation to be re-awakened later to help rebuild civilization after a catastrophe. As a side note, It seems especially coincidental that the pig faced mutants known as Kree were very similar to the pig faced orcs in original D&D.
The mid-70’s featured another movie based on the similar premise, that of a military team that survived a nuclear holocaust, Damnation Alley, and then finally, at the end of the decade, Mad Max. These all, with the exception of possibly the last served as an inspiration for The Morrow Project. Damnation Alley featured the Landmaster, rugged RV which was later utilized for a popular saturday morning children’s Post-Apocalyptic show ARK II, which was about a family of young scientists with their intelligent chimpanzee who travel around the country in the 25th century after the world has been ravaged by pollution.
Effects of the War
Now the first part of the game rules covers the nuclear holocaust and includes directions on how to calculate the size of various destruction zones, impact craters, and radioactive as well as biological weapons contamination that would result from an all out war. The Gamemaster or GM was expected to create a post-holocaust campaign map featuring his/her geographical area and including all of these details. Once this was completed, then players could create characters. For GMs this prep was actually a really fun exercise, and would allow one to use a standard road atlas map, and create a really good post-holocaust map using pretty much any road atlas.
Chargen uses 4d6-4 (which will give you a range of 0-20) for determining the following attributes Strength, Constitution, Dexterity, Accuracy, Charisma, Luck. Next up you create body structure and blood points using a formula which are then divided into the various areas of the body. Richard Tucholka, when he first wrote this game wanted it to be as realistic as possible, and so used a hit location table for combat. This realism is reflected throughout the game, and being in the military at the time, he made extensive use of available military field manuals while creating this game, so much of the game world statistics are very accurate in a real world sense in order to immerse the player, and get the player to buy-in on the campaign. There is a section for Psionics though. Movement is based on Dexterity, and Dexterity determines the the number of actions you can take in a single game turn, up to a maximum of 5 although there is a point cost for actions, and some actions take more than one point. There is an additional attribute called Endurance which determines how long a character and move, work, fight, or explore, before requiring some time for rest. This includes a section on the use of stimulants to prolong endurance, with some additional side affects which will then occur later.
The book then goes into the various different types of teams which were placed into suspended animation, the players have to decide what kind of team they are a part of prior to play. The Teams I will briefly describe here;
Recon Team – These are general purpose teams intended to seek out the condition of the countryside ahead of the other teams to help Prime Base decide what other teams should next be awakened (if any).
Scientific Team – a non-specialized team designed to be capable of coping just about any situation. The Scientific Units are specially designed mobile laboratories with facilities for just about any of the sciences ranges from biology to nuclear physics, and personnel tend to be trained scientists and engineers.
MARS Team – these are the military teams, MARS is an acronym which stands for Mobile Assault, Rescue & Strike forces.
Additional specialized teams include Engineering & Construction teams, Agricultural Rehabilitation teams, and Psych teams with personnel specifically trained to handle extremist groups and rioting mobs.
The next section covers available equipment, weapons, and vehicles. Before the game begins, The GM is responsible for Placement of the teams (which were scattered into subterranean bunkers to ensure the best chances of survival for a specific team). The GM pre-places a series of teams in the geographical area the game will cover, and the players may activate or contact additional Morrow Project NPC teams, or, if new players want to join the game, they can be assigned to one of these other pre-placed teams to expand the scope of the campaign or game.
The weapons, equipment, ammunition, and vehicle section are richly populated with plenty of crunchy detail gleaned from actual service manuals, and seem a bit dated now, however can be easily updated for more modern weapons and equipment by any competent GM. Basically the GM pre-places equipment, ammunition, and weapons caches for the players to sustain their team. The Morrow Project, is, after all, about Dr. Morrow, and his grand plans to save civilization in the event of a nuclear holocaust.
This next part of the original book contained rules on exploration and combat as well as animals, encounters, and the mutants of the new world, that the Morrow Project teams were likely to encounter.
Third Edition includes an expansion on the original game that was written up by Chaosium and Tadashi Ehara. This includes a section including streamlined skills, and combat mechanics. A section on how Morrow Project teams should work together, some nice rules on explosives, and their use. Armor Penetration formulas and tables, and rules for electrical, burn, and poison damage, as well as diseases and using edged weapons, and edged projectile weapons. Skills & Combat use a d100 percentile based system, and during Chargen skills are initial based on your attributes, and additional bonuses result from either background training as detailed in the book, or when characters successfully use a skill during the course of a week, then the player has a chance to increase that skill based on making a percentile roll that is less than 100 minus the current skill level. The result is, the higher the skill level, the more difficult it is to actually improve that skill, although most of the players will start with a set of good skills and a better than 50% chance of success using their core skills.
The last few pages of the book include complete weather generation tables, the effects of aging on people and structures, an npc fast skills generation system, and details on PC/NPC relations and NPC tech levels likely to be encountered. The final section details various encounters, starting with human encounter types, and going into various post-apoc factions which includes random encounter tables. there is also Fauna encounters, which is animals, and this includes tables for mutated species, and mutant NPC encounters as well. There is some helpful tips on starting a running a game, some English to Metric conversion tables, and a glossary & bibliography on the last two pages.
The 66 pages that make up The Morrow Project 3rd edition, is a complete highly detailed game which can be run standalone, or that is an excellent supplement for Gamma World.
The Morrow Project – Science base
P.S. Notice how the U.S. Army blatantly copied my original XR-311 All-Terrain scout cars design and then renamed them HUMVEES.
Earth II (1971)
Genesis II (1973)
Planet Earth (1974)
Planet Earth Trailer on Youtube (available for $2.99)
Strange New World (1975)
Strange New World Trailer
John Saxon’s Website (been making movies for 65 years now)
You can ask him about these movies. For questions:
Damnation Alley, with an Intro by Joe Bob Briggs
ARK II Episodes