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Short Cut to Remote Gaming Forum (29 Aug 2020)

Since remote gaming has now become a significant part of how we play board games, we have added a short cut to this forum in the menu on the left.

This Time, it’s an RPG: Free League’s Alien Role-Playing Game Starter Set- Review

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29 Oct 2020 13:47 #315706 by Michael Barnes
Ridley Scott’s classic Alien has a very specific look, feel,...

One of the best uses of a licensed setting in RPG history.

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29 Oct 2020 14:58 #315707 by hotseatgames
Great review, thanks! I'll probably grab this starter set at some point.

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29 Oct 2020 15:02 #315708 by jason10mm
How far away from Alien/Aliens does this go? I feel like so many games set in this IP just seem to rehash the LV-426 fight over and over. But without xenomorphs (and I suppose Predators?) I'm not really sure what else this universe has to offer. Be nice to see it expanded out.

Plus I have the old Leading Edge Aliens rpg and that is a high bar! Who else has gun stats that take up an entire page per weapon??? :P

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29 Oct 2020 15:33 #315710 by ChristopherMD
I bought the Core Book specifically because I wanted to read the extra fluff. ;)
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29 Oct 2020 15:41 - 29 Oct 2020 15:52 #315711 by Michael Barnes
Oh, it definitely expands it outward- there’s a cohesive historical timeline that opens up a lot of possibilities for corporate and political intrigue and storylines even without Xenos. It sets up a very cool “frontier”-ish period and colors in lots of details. It really brings in and embellishes something from all the movies (but really very little from Resurrection, LOL).

The only LV-426 replay is in the core book- the shortened cinematic scenario is Hope’s Last Day and it is about the hours immediately after the Jordans and the outbreak.

I think Chariot of the Gods is a great model for what this game can do. It is so very Alien, but a different story and with some additional color (pirates!). It also has some new Xeno concepts so it’s not just a facehugger/chestburster deal.

I’ll be reviewing the second cinematic box, Destroyer of Worlds, soon. It is an all-Marines scenario but it’s still quite different than LV-426. There are human insurgents, an ice planet, and different aliens to deal with.
Last edit: 29 Oct 2020 15:52 by Michael Barnes.
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29 Oct 2020 15:48 #315713 by dysjunct

jason10mm wrote: How far away from Alien/Aliens does this go? I feel like so many games set in this IP just seem to rehash the LV-426 fight over and over. But without xenomorphs (and I suppose Predators?) I'm not really sure what else this universe has to offer. Be nice to see it expanded out.


No Predators yet; hopefully they'll be able to get that IP eventually. There are probably fan-made stats out there already.

Re: How far away? There's three scenarios released so far. All of them are Cinematic mode (one-shots). The only one that strictly rehashes the LV-426 fight is "Hope's Last Day," the one in the core book, which is specifically about some colonists trying to escape LV-426 as everything goes haywire. It is also the only one that has the classic Xenomorph.

"Chariots of the Gods," included in the starter set and also available as a standalone, involves the PCs as a freighter crew, who answer a distress call for what turns out to be a long-lost ship. Surely everything is fine on this ship, right? Just let the crew out of cryosleep and hope that MUTH/UR doesn't have any secret orders involving long-lost derelicts.

"Destroyer of Worlds" has the PCs as a colonial marine squad, stationed on a moon colony that is about to turn into the site of a hot war between Weyland-Yutani and the UPP (communists in space). Another group of marines defects to the UPP; the PCs must pursue them and their dark secret as the shooting starts.

I think all of them are good and all present good takes on the kinds of stuff possible in the setting. Granted, they all involve elements of alien body horror. You could probably cut it out if you really felt like it, but then why play ALIENS as opposed to any other hard sci-fi RPG?

The Campaign mode, in the core book, has three different frameworks you can use: Space Truckers, Colonial Marines, or Frontier Colonists. Space Truckers is probably the best developed, as there's prices for all the various ship upgrades you can get, plus a job generator table with payouts. Keep it flying -- like a dark/bleak non-Western FIREFLY. Space Marines is likely the easiest to GM, as you can just make a situation and then give the PCs orders to go check it out. There's a mission generator table for that too. Frontier Colonists (also with a mission generator) has the PCs as pseudo-indentured servants doing jobs for the company.

For non-Alien scenarios, there's always elements of greed, betrayal, and general corporate fuckery. The setting chapters do a good job of laying out the different powers in play, and how they are opposed to each other. The star systems are a cluster in more ways than one, and the whole thing is pretty much a tinderbox.

I think it's a fair question how much mileage you'd get out of the game if every scenario involves a body horror alien. Might get old. But, on the other hand, there's also non-supernatural scenarios for CALL OF CTHULHU. They never sell that well compared to the Mythos scenarios, and the game is still powering on after almost 40 years and seven editions, so I suspect it's more in the execution than the core concept.

The core book has a smattering of more traditional alien life too. Still weird and dangerous, but not so much on the body horror angle.
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29 Oct 2020 16:13 #315714 by dysjunct

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29 Oct 2020 16:14 #315715 by dysjunct
Barnes, did you purchase the official Roll20 module? I've been thinking about it, but I already have it in print and PDF already, and don't want to pay again unless there's a significant bunch of extras.

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29 Oct 2020 18:26 #315718 by Michael Barnes
LOL that was released literally the day after I manually created everything to play in Roll20.

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30 Oct 2020 15:10 #315769 by blatz
Great review. How does this compare to Mothership? Do I "need" both?

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30 Oct 2020 15:59 #315775 by dysjunct

blatz wrote: Great review. How does this compare to Mothership? Do I "need" both?


MOTHERSHIP is a lot shorter and lighter. It's a lot more efficient in terms of rules, which also means the GM will have to come up with more on their own, and make more judgement calls. The system only uses d10s. Skills checks are a d%; if you roll doubles then it's a critical success if the number if under your skill (e.g. rolling 22 when your skill is 45) but a failure if it's over your skill. This is one of my favorite mechanics for crits, as the odds scale smoothly as your skill increases. It has a wonky advantage/disadvantage system, where you roll percentile dice twice and take the best if you have advantage, worst if disadvantage. It also has a weird nomenclature where "2d10" means rolls two ten-sided dice and add them together, but "2d10" (with underlining) means multiply the dice together.

Most of the broad strokes are present in both games. Hazardous environments on both land and in space. Sanity, damage, paranoia, decompression, etc. ALIEN is a more complete game. The core book for MOTHERSHIP doesn't have very much in the way of designing scenarios, enemy stats, running horror games (mood, pacing, etc.). You'll have to get the supplements for that.

I prefer ALIEN. I like the system better, I think the design is smoother and more consistent, and the bits are really fun. You can get maps with cardboard counters, some of which are "blips" that your motion tracker can read, and it has a whole subsystem of sneaking and stalking.

That said, you can certainly do everything in MOTHERSHIP. You'll just have to do more of the work yourself.

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30 Oct 2020 16:00 #315776 by Michael Barnes
Mothership is a rawer, punkier, looser, grittier game that lends itself to a variety of SF horror scenarios- it does cyberpunk, trans humanism, ghosts, cannibals, space mummies, extra-dimensional foolishness, and so forth. It is also supported by some of the best modules in the business (Dead Planet and A Pound of Flesh in particular). It is leaner on rules, but it’s also not as clean as Alien. Event Horizon, Dead Space, Pandorum, etc. fit in with this game really well.

Alien is a branded setting so it is somewhat more restrictive- this makes it better for Alien games, and in particular shorter 1-3 session storylines with some scripting. It is pretty bound to the setting, so for example my game with space mummies, a virus that turns people into biological coprocessors for an insane AI, and the Church of E-Mo-Tion that worships Carly Rae Jepsen as the ascended empress of the universe doesn’t fit in. But for doing Alien stuff? It’s near perfect.

So yes to both.

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17 Nov 2020 17:10 #316236 by Andi Lennon
Having pre-ordered this I've had it since launch and I'm glad I held off on the hardback in favour of this pandoran plunder. Just waiting on a gap in the three concurrent campaigns I'm doing to even let this get a look-in. I feel like with all the shinies included that utilising roll20 would be doing it a disservice of sorts. Thankfully lockdown has eased considerably in these parts so we may get gather to silently scream before the year is out.

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