One thing we’ve seen in the Alien RPG we’ve been running is that while rolling is more limited, high-stakes actions out of combat have been leading our characters to occasionally panic. This seems a bit overboard for the usual run of the mill “losing their shit” that people do under stress. We’ve all had these moments — you’re so frazzled you forget what you were doing or where that thing is, you suddenly develop dropsy, you snap at people, you hide in the bathroom for 30 minutes…

So here’s a more appropriate social/normal day panic chart. Adapt as needed/wanted:

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Here are the NPCs that have been turning up in our campaign connected to Lasalle Bionational.

EDINA LASALLE

3FA79D8B00000578-0-image-a-1_1493655969819Edina is the heir to the Lasalle fortune and the new CEO of the company her father built. Her mother, Shana and her father are both of Irish decent and Edina has a slight accent when emotional. Unlike her siblings and father, she does not view Lasalle as a “Texan” nor “American” company — nationality is a dying thing to her. She has been doing an audit of the company since taking over, digging up a lot of dirt, and investigating the disappearance of certain key scientists and other mysterious events tied to the Special Projects Division.

Nowhere as tall, strong, or attractive as her half-siblings — the “test tube twins” as she privately refers to them — she is still highly intelligent and ruthless. Edina still confers with her father on the direction she is taking the company, and her siblings are often jealous of the close relationship between their father and their half-sister.

She is considered one of the most eligible single women in the world and it is rumored she turned down an offer of marriage to the king of the Three Worlds Empire.

ATTRIBUTES: Strength 3, Agility 3, Wits 5, Empathy 3

SKILLS: Command 3, Comtech 1, Manipulation 3, Mobility 1, Observation 2

TALENTS: Cunning, Personal Safety, Take Control

SIGNATURE ITEM: Ring once part of the Royal Jewels.

BUDDY: Brendan Lasalle

RIVAL: Mercedes Lasalle

MICHAEL LASALLE

25-Chris-Hemsworth.nocrop.w710.h2147483647The face of Lasalle Bionational’s operations, Michael Lasalle is also a walking advertisement for their “designer child” line. He and his sister Mercedes were the first truly successful products of the bioengineering division at Optima Reproduction.

He is now the Chief Operating Officer of the company, and assists his “natural-born” half-sister Edina run the company. He is cunning and observant, with little empathy for other people but an excellent eye for their behavior. He has been learning his half-sister’s strengths and weaknesses in an ongoing effort to learn how to effectively manipulate her and improve his chances of eventually taking over the company. He is also dedicated to the idea of making genetic engineering of humans a respected and accepted thing.

While he disapproves of some of his twin sister’s activities and shortcomings, he is devoted to her.

ATTRIBUTES: Strength 6, Agility 5, Wits 5, Empathy 2

SKILLS: Close Combat 1, Command 2, Comtech 2, Manipulation 3, Mobility 2, Observation 2

TALENTS:  Personal Safety, Second Wind, Take Control

PERSONAL AGENDA:  He wants to make bioengineering a thing.

PROBLEM: When pushing roll, gains 2 stress.

SIGNATURE ITEM: Father’s ring.

BUDDY: Mercedes Lasalle

RIVAL: Edina Lasalle

MERCEDES LASALLE

3157550F00000578-3510081-image-m-48_1458950973226Brilliant and beautiful, ruthless and sociopathic. While she has little empathy, she can “model behavior” of others quite well. She is tall and deceptively strong and fast. She is a practitioner of yoga and jujitsu.

Mercedes is the head of the Special Projects Division of Bionational. Like her brother, she is one of their original “designer children” — physically and mentally superior to most humans…and she knows it. Unlike her brother, she stays out of the company limelight and prefers to be involved in the day-to-day research, but has crafted an image as a socialite to create the impression of being unserious and shallow. She has been romantically linked to a number of men. She is generally underestimated and she likes it that way. They rarely see her coming…

She has been slowly moving to discredit her sister so that she and her brother can take over their father’s kingdom. This has involved shady operations, the investigations of dangerous alien technologies, unethical experiments, and the disappearance of those that might cause her trouble.

ATTRIBUTES: Strength 4, Agility 6, Wits 6, Empathy 2

SKILLS: Close Combat 2, Command 2, Comtech 2, Manipulation 2, Mobility 2, Observation 2, Science 5, Stamina 2

TALENTS:  Flyweight, Second Wind, Take Control

PERSONAL AGENDA: Power…raw power.

PROBLEM: When pushing roll, gains 2 stress. She is sadistic and violent when crossed.

SIGNATURE ITEM: Necklace w/ her DNA profile.

BUDDY: Michael Lasalle

RIVAL: Edina Lasalle

We’ve been focusing more on the corporate intrigue end of things in the Alien universe and we quickly saw a move toward a more cyberpunk-styled world, to fit with the ’80s vibe of the Aliens period setting. (We even have two characters, brothers, appropriately played by Emilio Estevez and Charlie Sheen ala the late ’80s.)

The company that has been up front and center in the game has been LaSalle Bionational, and I added a slightly Blade Runner flair to LB by making one of their main product lines “designer children” for the rich and powerful.  To that end, some of these designer babies are now adults.

GENETICALLY ENGINEERED HUMANS

The designer children fad hit in the early 2130s, and was spearheaded by the Lasalle Bionational Corporation through their Optima Medical division. Created by genetic manipulation and artificial insemination, these children, while physically and mentally gifted, were often plagued with particular emotional issues. Some of the early children also had unexpected genetic abnormalities. Optima Reproductions stepped back their more ambitious research, focusing on more reliable assisted reproduction technologies, but the designer baby services remained available to those willing to chance the risks. NDAs and legal release agreements are typical for customers of the Advanced Biomanipulation Technologies division, now directly under the Special Projects of Lasalle.

These characters receive a +2 to two attributes, but their Empathy score cannot be raised above a 3. Additionally, they receive +2 stress when pushing a skill roll, and suffer a permanent mental trauma of their choice from the list on p. 101 of the Alien RPG rulebook, or the following:

Generalized Social Disorder: The character has some form of processing disorder that makes it difficult for them to connect with people. They receive a -1 die to any Empathy-based skill test.

Memory Disfunction: The character has a short or long-term memory disorder that causes them difficulty. -1 die to Wits’-based tests.

The player can also choose some form of behavioral issue that can be roleplayed but which does not have a mechanical impact, such as kleptomania, sadism, masochism, obsessive lying, self-aggrandizement, etc.

We’ve played a few sessions since I last reported on our shift to a campaign game using the new Alien RPG by Free League. We had tied the new campaign into the cinematic adventure provided with the game bundle, Chariot of the Gods, and you can see the last installment here. Having survived an attack by a juvenile bloodburster, one of the characters was near death but saved by the medics, while the damaged synthetic Ava (from the original adventure) and their ship’s synthetic, Stella, worked quickly to improve on the vaccine for the 26 Draconis infection. Having saved the one mortally wounded character, they had to test the new inoculation on those characters that had been exposed to the air during the other action scenes. This had led to only one failure — and the only character lost to the mission. The characters found themselves battling their former buddy turned abomination and hastily had to abandon ship.

They had set the reactor of Cronus, the ship from the Chariots adventure to blow and had to convince the captain of their ship to let them onboard. Left in quarantine for 24 hours in the vehicle bay of their vessel, the characters seemed to be alright. They would so after rendezvous with a Colonial Marine ship, at which point they were poked and prodded, interrogated and interviewed, and finally found safe to proceed on their way. The characters had decided to tell the marine interrogators that they had not recovered anything from the hulk — a lie — but unbeknownst to them, the marines downloaded everything they needed from Stella’s memory.

The players did some upgrades to their characters and got paid for their work. At this point, we discussed the system and how it seemed to work. We had already played Tales from the Loop, so we had a good idea of how things worked, but there was a pretty consistent opinion that the three skills/attribute mechanic on TFTL didn’t quite fit the Alien universe so well. We thought the skill list too truncated. I thought a “science” skill was appropriate, and there were a few other suggestions to open the characters to a bit more differentiation. considering there is a more comprehensive (though not by much) list of skills for the Coriolis RPG using the same mechanics, we’ve decided to let people build out differing skills, and perhaps adjust their attributes. (I did not see this as an option in the Alien rules, though I seem to remember it in the TFFL.

So how did it play? We found expanding out the universe from the eponymous critters and looking at the corporate espionage and synthetics angle worked for us, and in the next play sessions, we returned to the characters, with different additions, back on Earth lying low with new identities…until an agent from Lasalle Bionational turned up to hire them to look into their original mission to steal the Cronus data from them. Edina Lasalle, the CEO of the company, is looking into security breeches and strange disappearances throughout their facilities. She suspects an insider is helping someone to damage the company and she was impressed with the way they managed to disappear, then reappear a month later having procured the information they so desperately had sought on the 26 Draconis mission. Soon they found their way to Japan (with a new PC, a corporate security officer) to investigate who had hired them.

Along the way they discovered they had ticked off the security contractors whom they had used as cover — a company owned by the yakuza. Additionally, their initial suspicions, that they had been hired by Weyland-Yutani to spy on Lasalle looked to have been false. The group that had attacked them was a top-tier military and security contractor called Constellations . Some of the team began looking into Constellations, only to be found by the yakuza, leading to a full chop-socky style fight in the kitchen of the coffee bar/internet cafe they were in . The other half hit up a high-end bar/sex club to find out what Constellations was up to and in the end the groups returned to compare notes in their hotel.

Their hacker, Jensen, had found a bank account that the Lasalle security guy, Hauer, was able to track to the National Bank of Polynesia — a bank owned by the Lasalle Financial Holding Company in Colombia. He worked out the time and date, and even terminal that had created the false account used to launder the funds for multiple operations Constellations was doing around interstellar space, then narrowed down the suspects until he had one: Mercedes Lasalle, the genetically engineered super-genius daughter of old man Lasalle and twin of their Chief Security Officer (and Hauer’s boss) Michael. They seem to have stepped into some kind of family feud for control of the company! They also noted to new contracts paid for — one in Tokyo, and a protection detail for a VIP going up to Luna City. At that point, a flash bang grenade came through the window, and they were captured by Constellations operatives that then bundled them onto a plane headed who knows where…

I didn’t want the same ol’ for the Alien game we’ve been playing so after peeping through the interwebz, I came on this lovely:

lucas_orstrom_02

Introducing, Honest Mistake

The U.S.C.S.S. Honest Mistake is an older Ostrrom M305 G-Class Transport. With a length of 55.2m, a beam oof 34.6m, and a draught of 28m, she has two main crew decks (A and B), and a vehicle bay/cargo bay (capable of 10 tons of cargo) on C Deck. The M305 uses vectored thrust nacelles for planetfall, and a fusion pulse drive in the main hull. Honest Mistake has an uprated FTL drive that gives her an FTL rating of 12. The standard crew complement for the class is six crew, but the airscrubbers and galley can accomodate 10. The cre accomodations are minimal, with hot swap bunks for the off-duty crew, and only a single cabin for the captain. There is a Type 337 EEV for evacuation, and a medbay that can be repurposed for basic scientific missions. The ship’s operations are overseen by an upgraded Seegson METIS artificial intelligence system, replacing in the old APOLLO system.

Additionally, Honest Mistake boasts two nose-mounted light railguns and an external bay for eight Short Lance ASAT missiles to complement the modified drone deployment system, which is now used to dispense sensor decoys in combat. The ship is commanded by Richard Dunn, a retired Weyland-Yutani ship officer, now independent. The three-man crew is also aided by an older Weyland Series 12 gynoid, Stella.

Game Stats: HULL: 5, ARMOR: 5, FTL: 12, SIGNATURE: 0, THRUSTERS +1

The ship is the design and work of Lucas Örstöm. You can find his resume and links to his Artstation page here It is used without permission, but no infringement is intended. SCR

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Some of the stuff the characters were toting in the game:

GRIZZLY HSW 6.5mm Riflef4

A high-end semi-automatic sniper and battle rifle, the HSW uses a high-speed, long-range armor-piercing round. The gun uses a 10 or 20-round magazine. 

Bonus: +1   Damage: 3   Range: Long   Weight: 1   Cost: $1200   Comment: Armor piercing

 CZ PDW-10-M 10MM machine pistol

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The CZ PDW-10-M is the military version of this 10mm machine pistol. It can be fired semi or full-automatic, has a30 round magazine, and rails for lasers (adds +1 bonus), and telescopic sights (range: long).

Bonus: +1   Damage: 2   Range: Medium   Weight: 1   Cost: $950   Comment: Full Auto

30 round magazine for 10mm cased ammo. Semi and full-auto settings. Rails for lasers (adds +1 bonus), and telescopic sights (range: long)

MATEBA PDR 10mm Revolver

5345364476_eb22dc8eb5_bThis revolver uses an electrically fired caseless 10mm round used by the Colonial Marines. These weapons have been popular with police services on Earth for handling issues with synthetics.

Bonus: +1   Damage: 1   Range: Medium   Weight: 1   Cost; $800   Comments: Caseless ammo.

This week, we picked up where we left off with the campaign-style adventure for the Alien RPG from Free League:

The characters, with the help of a pair of scientists and a synthetic (Stella 12) attached to the crew of Honest Mistake were investigating U.S.C.S.S. Cronus, a Weyland Corporation vessel missing for almost 80 years. This ship is the setting for the scenario Chariots of the Gods, which we played to test the system before attempting a campaign. They had learned the ship had put down on Luther Colony inthe GJ1256 system because of irreparable issues with the drive system, and that there was some kind of contagion aboard.

The characters moved aft from the bridge, having heard voices, and found the two hapless terraforming techs that had been dispatched from a nearby atmosphere processor, and another man (Cham, the roughneck from the scenario, and in our game, the undercover synthetic working for LaSalle Bionational. ) But not before they come face-to-face with the results of the denouement of our playthrough of Chariots: a bloodbath involving a woman who is terribly mutated, her head apparently mildly elongated, her eyes hazed over, and her limbs stretched and strange. She has been killed with a half dozen .45s to the torso and is clutching the helmet of the shooter, a redheaded woman going ripe who died when the helmet — torn from its suit — had cut her carotid artery. Another woman lies just inside the medbay, her skin turned slightly translucent, like the mutant outside, but nowhere near as turned.

The men have been searching the ship in compression suits and rebreathers. Cham, the last survivor of the U.S.C.S.S. Montero, has been trapped here for weeks. As for the contagion: the doctors of Cronus had come up with a vaccine to the disease that created the horror in the vehicle bay, but it wasn’t always effective, instead mutating the recipient, like Miller, his captain; and Clayton, the shot to Swiss cheese mutant and former corporate rep on Cronus. At that time, they get a warning from the bridge — the Weyland synthetic is active and has warned them about the rogue synth on the ship. they did very well on their observation tests and realized this was Cham, but not before he disarmed Max, breaking his trigger finger and nearly wrenching the helmet from his suit.

Wade, protecting his brother, gave chase and finally shot the android down with his Mateba 10mm. They then had to start piecing together the situation from Ava 6, the Weyland android, the notebooks of the scientists and a data core that had been gathered up by one of the Montero crew. They found two of these in a hidden EEV, still alive but in cryosleep. The ship had set down on 26 Draconis 𝛃 and had suffered some kind of infection from an archeological dig. The crew had taken aboard vials of some kind of fluid that seemed related to the disease and in an attempt to inoculate the crew ad cobbled together a vaccine that was only 90-95% effective. Stella and Ava, working with the scientists, Kumbe and Mignault, began working on an improved cure, while Wade, Jensen, and Pugh did a sweep of the ship for any more surprises. Jensen then began downloading what he could get out of the ship’s computer, while Wade and Pugh set the ship’s reactor to overload on a code typed in from any console. Honest mistake, meanwhile, buttoned up and waited — if things went awry they would take off and destroy the ship; otherwise, the landing party would set the ship to scuttle and get back aboard in time to get out of the blast radius.

Simple.

Except the spores, which Stella had surmised were some kind of nanotechnology, had infected one of the workers, Said. The two had been sequestered in the room with the medpods for the two or so hours the crew was doing their thing. While the characters were working, Said gave birth to a bloodburster, which killed Said’s partner, then escaped into the air vents. Stella burned the room to prevent any other issues, but with the creature loose, Wade went to get Jensen from the MU/TH/ER compartment on Deck A. The two men met at the forward junction, but before Jensen could climb down to B Deck, wade was grabbed by the juvenlie bloodburster, injured by its claws in the leg, but he was able to kick it off. Jensen opened fire on the critter and missed and the chase was on.

Max and Pugh were on their way to aid the screaming Wade when the alien attacked, knocking Pugh to the ground and doing the classic evil, slobbering grin schtick. Pugh tossed it off, Jensen had a clear shot by blew his stress roll and panicked, freezing up. Wade opened up on the thing, emptying his Mateba (this has become his thing, and it tied nicely with the Overkill talent he has). The creature was killed, but not before it did a tail stab on Max. I ignored the “automatic” head hit and had it impale him, instead. Slumping to the ground, Max was out of the fight. Wade’s shots sprayed acid all over the place and it melted Pugh’s foot, requiring Ava and Mignault to amputate, while Kumbe and Stella managed to save Max’s life.

While the scientists did emergency surgery on Max, Stella and Ava finished the vaccine for the 26 Draconis infection and gave it to the people exposed to the air — Wade and Pugh. We ended with Wade finding out Max would live. He, Pugh, and Jensen were all trying to rest — Jensen doing well with the drug addiction he’s picking up, and Wade from the alcoholism he’d already kind of had from play. Meanwhile, Pugh began to change as the vaccine turned him into an abomination. Wade had been dozing but realized something was wrong at the last minute…he was disappointed to find Pugh turning into one of the monstrosities, and turned on him.

With a “Aw, Pooch…” from Wade, we ended for the night.

The game group tried out the Alien game by Free League over the holidays, and like their other offerings, we found it easy to create characters and get to playing quickly. After running through the “cinematic play” Chariot of the Gods scenario that came with the preorder game, we turned our attention to trying out a campaign game.

I wanted to tie it into how our Chariot game ended, with the last PCs put into cryosleep by the turncoat android Lucas, who then had to battle (post credits) the damaged bu trevived android from the adventure’s setting, the research ship Cronus.

Our first session involved the characters getting hired by a fixer in Tokyo, Ari Jacobson, who had a bit of corporate espionage on the menu. The players were Wade and Max Jones — a team of brothers. The first is a former marine and screw-up (the player wanted to play against his favored type and go “dumb); the latter is a corporate spy type hoping to get his brother back on track. The other two were a hacker, Jensen, and a former marine pilot, Pugh. The team was rounded out by an android, Clay, whose job in the mission was to capture a high-ranking officer of the LaSalle Bionational company, use a “dream reader” to get information they needed to allow Clay to impersonate the official and gain access to information on a mission to salvage a long-missing ship, USCSS Cronus.

There was the usual bit of getting the kit the needed, shadowing the mark, and then attempting to take him in his hotel room. The fight led to gunfire, and the characters had to think quickly to extract their target and leave as little evidence as they could. Once they got him to the “dream factory” they were able to use interrogation techniques and a dream reader helmet to question the mark, who was drugged unconscious.

In the second session, the characters convinced Ari — who was concerned by the police and corporate security investigating the disappearance of the mark and his security team — that they could still pull off the mission. Jensen hacked the security company’s database and replaced the information on the mark’s original security with their own. Then they waltzed into LaSalle Bionational’s small Tokyo offices and managed to fast talk their way inside. Clay was able to impersonate the mark perfectly, accessed the data with Jensen’s help, and find what they needed — Cronus was an old Weyland Corporation ship that had been damaged too badly over the years to get to a Bionational facility and their agent, Lucas, had it put down on the nearest colony…which was unfortunately a Weyland-Yutani colony.

With this information in hand they returned to Ari, who was in the process of paying them when they were raided by a corporate hit team using armed drones and a pair of unmarked police APCs. They were able to escape, but Clay was damaged, captured, and his memory hacked. While the characters looked for a way out of Japan and away from their pursuers, they were able to use their military contacts in town to get aid from a former Colonial Marine Corps officer. Within minutes they were whisked to the airport, flew in a private hypersonic to Los Angeles, and were offered money and new IDs to investigate Cronus before Weyland-Yutani did. They, they realized, were working for the United Americas, who were pissed with W-Y over the loss  of their ship Sulaco. 

The next session involved meeting their new partners (including a new PC to replace Clay; the player inadvertently picked the synthetic, again). The crew of the independent scout Honest Mistake are led by Captain Dunn, and include Akoye, the engineer, and Wei, the pilot. They have a jailbroken Weyland series 12 android, Stella, who has been repurposed to aid in scientific and medical tasks. They also have a pair of scientists, a Canadian biochemist (Mignault), and a Kenyan doctor, Kumbe. They were dropped into hypersleep and two weeks later the ship was in the GJ1256 system, closing on Luther Coloney, a fairly new “shake and bake” colony.

On their approach they were attacked by a Class D Skiff — a small interstellar vessel armed with missiles. This was our chance to roll out the space combat rules, and the fight was over quickly. Detection was accomplished, the skiff got an advantageous position, but missed Honest Mistake, but Pugh was able to put the skiff in front of their ship and Wade hit it with the ships light railguns. It was a solid hit and the skiff rolled nothing for their armor. The railguns ripped the little ship stem to stern and killed it instantly.

Suspecting they were on the clock, they took the ship down to the landing site of Cronus, finding a Cobb-styled jumpjet there.

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A pair of W-Y terraforming engineers had been dispatched to check out the hulk and had arrived only a few hours earlier. The team left the HM crew to mind the ship, and with the scientists and Stella, entered Cronus. They found a dead neomorph on the vehicle bay deck, the metal around it corroded and melted by acid. They bagged the critter in some plastic tarp for return to Honest Mistake and began a quick recon of the ship, arriving at the bridge. Along the way, they see dead bodies of the Montero crew from the Chariot of the Gods adventure, as well as loads of damage on the bridge. They also find the badly damaged, but reparable, Ava 6 — the ship’s synthetic.  Stella and Jensen were able to fire her back up, but not before Wade heard movement and voices aft near the science labs. The rest of the team went to investigate, missing Ava’s warning when she woke “You are all in terrible danger!”

IMG_0901

Over the Christmas break we had a few of the regulars in the gaming crew out for family travel, etc., but were joined by one of my gamer buddies that floats in fr a session or two every year or so. He was interested in the new Alien RPG by Free League, andsince I had gotten the bundle in a few weeks earlier, we got together with the rest of the group that was left in Albuquerque to play through the Chariot of the Gods adventure Andrew Gaska wrote for the game.

Yes, there will be spoilers. If you’re playing through this adventure, feel free to come back afterward.

Running the adventure made the cards in the bundle useful. Outside of that…not so much. Every character in the module is presented, so if you have someone come in late, they can play some of the characters that eventually wake up at the end of the first/ beginning of the second act. There’s gear cards, which were somewhat useful so I didn’t have to flip through the book for data on the weapons. Spacesuit cards would have been nice, however. I would suggest to Free League a second set of cards that’s just gear and initiative cards; they’d be more useful.

The dice — you don’t need ’em, but the yellow stress die with the facehugger for 1s really works to enhance the flavor of the game. On that note, stress builds fast in the game. When the characters have a stress die or two, they usually aided the player — the die mechanic, like most of the FL games needs you to roll a 6 to succeed on a die, with multiples giving you more damage to deal out, to aid people that failed a test, or to take some kind of benefit. On a facehugger, you have the chance of panic. We rolled a lot of panic tests in the playthrough, but it wasn’t until you started to hit five or six stress die that you were humped. We had a player drop his shotgun in the first encounter with an “abomination”, and later fled his companions. Others had the shakes or froze up. No one completely lost it. The stress mechanic works well, though I found myself ignoring the extra stress die characters got when panicking, as you already accrue another when you roll a facehugger. However, panic often spreads, so I did use the extra stress die to those around him when panic ensues.

The basics: the crew of a freighter on a milk run discovers a Prometheus-style ship adrift for the last 76 years. It’s Cronus, a missing science vessel that went out to 26 Draconis and was never heard from again. The company wants the ship boarded, repaired, and retrieved with all the scientific data and samples. The corporate weenie character, Wilson, however, see Special Order 966 — which orders the return no matter what and, of course, all other priorities are rescinded.

We ran the boarding and the initial investigation of the ship, but I had the ship in deep cold, in addition to the foul air specified in the adventure. The characters took excellent precautions and didn’t get out of their suits until toward the end of the adventure. Which leads me to the consumables rules — the game stipulates a facehugger on a stress die results in losing a consumable. In the case of the spacesuits, that would have meant 4 fails to the suit not working. I ignored that and went with a suit has a standard 2 shifts (5-10 hours) of air if the wearer is taking it easy; 1 shift if working hard. Past that, the consumables kicks in. This gave the crew the time to avoid some of the nastiness until the second act, but also made some of their tasks more difficult — they missed some of the clues they might have been able to exploit, like science team notes that they couldn’t flip through because of the bulky suit fingers, etc. Consumables worked best for weapons and the panicked spray and pray of Aliens. In the first encounter with the abomination belowdecks, the Rye character let loose with an EVA gun and on a facehugger, dumped the magazine. Now they were screwed.

I made some changes to the flow of the adventure to crank the tension. The ship is dark and in deep cold until they get the reactor online. They had missed the abomination in the scene, but I had it hold off until the ship warmed up in the second act. The loss of Montero happened at the end of the first act, which made people suspicious of the single NPC that had been aboard, Davis. I had played with the idea of making her the android, but in the end made that Cham the roughneck because the player wasn’t around for the second session. With Montero gone early, they were stuck on Cronus and had time to start repairs. They fixed the air scrubbers first, releasing the 26 Draconis pathogen into the ship.

Second act started after some intra-party conflict over Davies, then I had the Cronus crew come out of cyrosleep. They started to get the basics of what happened and took the crew down to medbay. At the same time, the roughnecs started their repairs on the ship — Rye in the reactor area, and Cham getting ready to EVA. He discovers Ava 6 in the cargo bay, where she had been trying to effect repairs on herself but wound up shutting down.

The first abomination gets the crew scrambling. They finished it off easy, but Captain Miller’s helmet on her suit got broken. At the same time, chaos ensued in the medbay with Cooper’s bloodburster. Davies wound up injuring it, but it escaped to return for act three, as a juvenile bloodburster. Clayton, the corporate rat from Cronus took this opportunity to abandon everyone and hide in her suite, where she recovered her pistol and the data on the alien goo.

Act three saw the characters get a moments rest in the bridge with the Cronus crew. While trying to come up with a plan, Johns turns abomination and the fight was on. A panic roll failed by Miller, she wound up blowing the mag on the pulse rifle they had found in the armory, and since she had two facehuggers, I had the burst hit the medic from Cronus. They find Clayton, who is turning, and right at that moment, the bloodburster was back. Miller, who was starting to turn, was killed fighting to get the creature off of Davies. Davies was killed when Clayton attacked her and cut her jugular while trying to rip pff her helmet. Wilson panicked and ran, and with the help of the roughnecks, they vented most of the ship, killing Clayton. With the aid of Ava 6, they got the ship’s engines working but were now running low on air. Not trusting the cryotubes, they used the EEV in Clayton’s cabin to go into cryosleep, leaving Ava to get them home. At this point, Cham took action and fought Ava for control of the ship. This all happened in the final moments of the game. As we are thinking of a campaign game in the universe, I am thinking of building out from the ending I had in mind and making Cronus the McGuffin to get started.

So how did it play? It took about 5 hours total to play the adventure, which was nicely written and pretty tight for plot. I made some changed — moved Montero‘s demise forward, backed up the waking the Cronus crew, cut the number of survivors on Cronus to the basics to cut the number of NPCs and heighten tension. I left out the mercenary vessel for act three as things were going badly enough. In the end, we had a three of the PCs make it to the end of the adventure, although the chances Wilson and Rye survived after Cham’s “Lucas” personality kicked in are low. The players had a blast, and it was fun to run horror — even though I think it’s very difficult. The stress die mechanic helped a lot with that.

I’ve not been a fan of horror games, mostly because it’s very hard to set up the right atmosphere, and because of an absolutely disastrous first encounter with Call of Chthulu in the ’90s. I’m not a fan of the “go insane or die” game; most of the Alien movies have the chance of promise of someone making it out alive (save the execrable Alien 3, and honestly, none of those characters — Ripley included — were likeable enough to care about).

So having played it, I’ll admit, I’m intrigued to try a game in the universe that focuses on corporate espionage, some exploration, and the synthetics angle, leaving the xenomorphs and Engineers for later in the campaign.

When I saw the pre-order call for Free League’s Alien Role Playing Game back in August I jumped on it. The wife encouraged me to go for broke and get the full set of stuff for the game, and after a long way (but really, not that long for most RPG publishers…) the game came in last week. The order came with a PDF of their “cinematic” adventure Chariot of the Gods plus a stripped down version of the rules, minus character creation and other parts of the rulebook, but after receiving the set, the PDF held about 2/3rds of the core rules.

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So here it is: For the bundle I got the rulebook (without the fancy cover option), the adventure booklet, a GM screen (with most of the needed charts in it), a set of specialty Alien dice and a set of yellow “stress” dice, as well as a deck of cards that for initiative, gear, and pre-gen characters for the Chariots adventure. Lastly, there’s a map of local space with the settled worlds, and a set of carboard counters for handling more tactical movement/fighting.

Production quality is high, as it was with their Tales from the Loop, and Things from the Flood games. The hardcover is well constructed, the binding superb, and the interior is well laid-out for ease of reading and finding rules. The print density on this thing is high with lots of black. A lot of the pre-order folks were complaining of intense chemical smells from the book and when I got mine in, you could smell the ink — this is due, most likely, to wanting to punch the product out before Christmas. The artwork, as with the other books I mentioned, is gorgeous and highly-atmospheric. The dice are well-done and seem to be rolling pretty randomly. I’m not one of those gamers that has to test the balance of my dice, nor do I obsess on their randomness, but after a few throws, they seemed to be pitching without any tendency to a particular number. The cards are pretty and used for drawing initiative, but otherwise they are pretty useless. The map is gorgeous; the counters are so-so.

The rules are a variation of Free League’s d6 dice pool where you need a 6 to succeed on a test (and sometimes more 6s to succeed at harder tasks, gain more damage in a fight, or get some kind of benefit from the extra successes.) If you’ve played Tales from the Loop or Forbidden Lands, the core mechanic will be familiar. Character creation is simple and quick, as with those other products — you have four stats: Strength, Agility, Wits, and Empathy, and each has three skills tied to them. You get to split 14 points between the attributes, and ten for skills. Your health is tied to strength. There’s a career specific trait you can take from some choices (or make your own up) to aid the character in a certain way, and there is the signature item — a thing that the character can use to relieve stress, as well as relationships — a buddy and an adversary — between the character and the other PCs/NPCs. There are also rules for playing a synthetic — whether a sleeper like Ash, or a more robotic version like Bishop. Synthetics have higher stats and don’t take stress, but they cannot push rolls, do not have signature items to assist them, and damage can affect them more more harshly.

Stress is the big mechanic for the game. When a character “pushes” a roll on a skill test, rerolling for a better result, they gain a stress die that is applied to the roll. On a 6, they’ve got a success; on a 1, they panic. When panicked, they have certain actions imposed on them. Some gamers might not like the mechanic forcing their characters to act in a certain way for a few turns, but getting players to respond realistically to fear is difficult, I find, and this is a way for the game to address that. This also means that a little stress actually is beneficial and can help the character, but too much and you might lose control of yourself. It emulates the reactions of horror movies pretty well.

There’s a lot of material on the world of Alien — some of the corporations, the politics, the governments are covered extensively and provide a lot of options for adventuring without even encountering the eponymous monster. There is a lot of data on the alien, but not so much on the Engineers. The other aliens that were thrown in are a bit bland, but there’s plenty of room to throw in your own stuff, and there’s a lot of folks already hacking the game for use with other horror franchises. Surprisingly, there are rules for space combat — something we haven’t seen in the Alien movies, but its a nice touch.

So is it worth it? The set cost me $100 (the core book was about $50 when last I checked) and yes it is. The production values are top-notch, the game system is light and ease to use and modify, and the background material is dense enough to allow even the most casual fan to jump right in. The pre-orders have been filled and they game should start turning up on store shelves by December 10.