Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Metamorphosis Alpha Or What's This Shiny Thing?

A massive colony starship hurtling through the vastness of space, out of control and chock-full of mutated humans, animals, and plants. That's the setting for Metamorphosis Alpha, a game that captured my imagination as a kid growing up in an incredibly mundane suburb of Chicago. I ran the game for some friends back in junior high a few times; it was always fun, but I struggled back then because the rules leave a lot to your imagination.  And I never had the chance to be a player, despite the stacks of characters that I rolled up because there was no Xbox or internet or smart phones, so why not spend a few hours rolling up weirdo mutants?

Heavily armed rabbits are heavily armed.
Never bring a knife to a rifle-and laser-pistol fight. Unless you can blow up their brains WITH YOUR MIND...

Now step back in time to December of 2014: I finally got to be a player in a game of Metamorphosis Alpha, and it was fantastic! Fast, exploratory, violent, and funny. I admit that the GM and fellow players were smart, seasoned players with a great sense of humor--that obviously adds a lot to any game. But the setting held up very well and +Wayne Rossi wrestled the rules into submission nicely.

I'd also read a couple of the short stories, written when sci-fi was still young, that specifically inspired the game: A.E. Van Vogt's "Rogue Ship", Brian Aldiss's "Starship", and Robert Heinlein's "Orphans of the Sky". Skim them to understand the setting of the game and mine for ideas--these books are not fantastic works of literary art, if you get my meaning.

A very good representation of the vast starship world in Metamorphosis Alpha, except the sides and top are neither transparent nor reflective: holograms and actual weather hide the reality.

The game was similar in system, and compatible with, Gamma World which has a much larger following, multiple editions, and plenty of support.

A little about the game we played.  Our party consisted of two Mutants ("Doctor" Shock-Tober and Cubert) and three Humans (Miquel, Mascon, and Keir).

After leaving our village, I was promptly attacked by a metallic bush that hit me with a sonic blast. Then we found a gun, but I was like "Does it fire a projectile, a beam, or summons angels. Possible Angel Gun!"  We crossed the river, and got into a round building with help from the gun, which it turned out fired persistent laser beams, not angels.

Cylindrical metal thing on wheels with arms--turned out to be a Security Robot!
I found a Med bracelet and the Metal Man (Security Bot) got Respect for me, and started calling me Doctor.  I ordered the Metal Man to pursue the Cat People who’d been squatting in the building and had brutally attacked us. Sadly, it never came back. What was your fate, Metal Man?

Our village in the middle, Forbidden Zone south, river and round building to the east. Player-drawn map.

We spent the night in the Security Hut and struck out Forward to the Ramp. We fried an android after he attacked me with a vibro-sword and nearly cut me in half.  DON’T OFFER PEOPLE SQUIRREL MEAT OR VINEGAR CRISPS THEY GET SUPER PISSED. 

Now east of the river, we name the big fortified town north of us "Syracuse" because they are orange. Lake on the right is detail between "Cliff" (side of ship), Syracuse, and the ramp leading to next level of ship.

Ultimately I used my electrical power to electrify an electrical building with electricity and it blew up two cubes of C4 in my Gucci bag, killing the entire party. So it goes!
Light blue line is the ramp, which took us to the Forestry level of the ship. And, ultimately, our doom.

This game took place over Google Hangouts, and one of the players handled all the map duties, first time I'd seen it done that way. It was very fun figuring out what things were, and Wayne did a great job of explaining modern (and futuristic) tech to us. Looking forward to playing again!

By Lindsay Archer