Fantasy and sci-fi RPG gaming on computers and consoles owes its lifeblood to tabletop RPG gaming, and we’re glad to report that the venerable medium not only alive and well, but still ground zero for innovation. Recently SKNR’s Gareth Von Kellerbach spoke with Tomas Härenstam at Free League Publishing about their new Alien RPG Destroyer of Worlds, its core game mechanics and what is to come.
What is the background and story of the game?
The ALIEN RPG is set in 2183, four years after the movies ALIENS and ALIEN 3. Rumors have started to spread about the xenomorph. Rivalries between the United Americas (UA) and the Union of Progressive Peoples (UPP) is intensifying, with Weyland-Yutani pulling the strings.
How do you capture the essence of the films, such as the paranoia and terror, in the RPG?
In many different ways. Rules-wise, a key element is the rules for stress and panic. Stressful situations will give characters Stress Dice, which initially will make characters more effective, but they also increase the risk of triggering a panic effect. The pool of Stress Dice growing is a very concrete representation of rising tension in the game. Another key thing is that each character has a Personal Agenda, unknown to the other players, creating paranoia between them. Thirdly, xenomorphs have something called signature attacks, which are extremely deadly and unpredictable – even for the GM.
How is character creation handled?
The game offers a range of archetypes to base characters on, such as Roughneck, Officer, Colonial Marine, etc – all taken from the ALIEN films. Character generation is fast, focusing on quickly generating characters and relationships between them.
How many characters can be in a party?
Any amount from one to five or six is possible, but ideally I’d say three or four.
What type of weapons and classes are available?
Lots of weapons known from the ALIEN films are available in the game, such as the pulse rifle, smartgun, and lots more.
How long does it take to learn and play a game?
The new Starter Set is designed to give a quick and easy starting point for the game. The GM probably needs an hour or two to read up on the material before playing. For the players, a short overview by the GM is enough. A game can be anything from a brief cinematic scenario lasting an hour or two to campaigns spanning dozens of sessions.
What is the gameplay like in terms of are there rolls to determine hits, defense, etc?
The base dice mechanic uses a version of the Year Zero Engine, used in most of our RPGs. In short, you get a number of dice to roll depending on your attributes, skills, and gear. In ALIEN, you also get Stress Dice. You roll your dice pool, and you need at least one six to succeed, and the more sixes you roll, the more powerful the effect. If you fail, you can push the roll and re-roll the dice, but that will give you a Stress Die and increase the risk of panic.
How many missions are available?
The game uses a format called Cinematic scenarios. At present, two full-length Cinematic scenarios are available: Chariot of the Gods, included in the Starter Set, and Destroyer of Worlds, recently released as a separate boxed set. The two scenarios are connected thematically and both are written by sci-fi author Andrew E.C. Gaska. There is also a short Cinematic scenario in the core rulebook, called Hope’s Last Day.
What can you tell us about the progression system of the game?
Characters earn XP and can use them to increase skill levels and learn new talents.
How would you compare/Contrast Destroyer of World to the core game?
Destroyer of Worlds is a new and really massive Cinematic scenario where the players take the roles of Colonial Marines. It’s playable with either the full core rulebook or the Starter Set.
Can you talk about new features and changes in the new adventure?
Several new types of Xenomorphs and weapons are included.
Where would you like to go in the next release?
The next release is a meaty sourcebook about Colonial Marines, for Campaign play.
You can get more information and ordering details here.