With the impending approach of October and all of the spookiness that brings, Free League Publishing is offering up some scary sci-fi tabletop role-playing to get the season started. I’ve written about the amazing Alien The Roleplaying Game before, but if you haven’t gotten a chance to pick up the core rulebook but were still interested—or haven’t even heard of the game before—Alien The Roleplaying Game Starter Set is a good entry point.
The Starter Set contains everything you need to do to jump into this sci-fi role-playing game. This boxed set contains two books, the Starter Set rules and the cinematic scenario Chariot of the Gods. See, Alien The Roleplaying Game has two main play modes: campaign, and cinematic. Campaign play is for those who want to have an extended stay in the Alien universe, possibly as space truckers, Colonial Marines, or corporate stooges. Cinematic play, on the other hand, is for movie-like experiences: “one-shots” that slowly builds up to a threat, and then once the danger presents itself the shit starts hitting the fan. The Starter Set has everything you need to jump right into Cinematic play.
Even if you have the Alien The Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook you’ll find something in the Starter Set for you. It comes with a 104 page condensed rulebook, which can work as a quick reference, but has all the information you need to run any of the Cinematic Scenarios, of which, there are currently two: Chariot of the Gods, which comes with the Starter Set, and the Colonial Marines focused Destroyer of Worlds, which launched simultaneously with—but separately from– the Starter Set.
Alien The Roleplaying Game is not for those players too squeamish to lose characters. Player Characters will die, sometimes in gruesome ways. In space, no one can hear you scream—but everyone at your table can, and AlienRPG does a great job of invoking that same sort of deep, dark dread that you get from watching the films. You know there is something waiting for you in the dark, hidden in the air ducts, waiting for you to venture off alone, or carelessly run into a room without checking—and when you make that mistake, only extremely lucky dice rolls will keep you alive. Xenomorphs, neomorphs and all manner of body horrors await those careless, or unlucky enough, to encounter them.
Included in the Starter Set is the Cinematic scenario Chariot of the Gods by sci-fi author Andrew E.C. Gaska. In Chariot of the Gods you (or your players) are crewmembers on the USCS Montero, a freighter hauler, when the ship’s AI redirects it to rendezvous with the USCS Cronus—a Weyland industries science vessel that has been lost in space for the last 70 years or so. The crew of the Montero will wake up from hypersleep into a nightmare—but if they play their cards right, it could be an extremely profitable one. Of course, each character has their own agenda, and their own ideas on how to procure that profit.
Everything included in the Starter Set is of very high quality. The books are softcover, but they are bound with a stiff cardboard soft cover that will hold up to repeated referencing. The 84 game markers can help keep track of PCs and their locations, and the high quality map is made out of a stiff, sturdy paper that will hold up to abuse. There are 56 custom playing cards that can be used for weapons references and initative—though there are not enough cards for each player to get a weapon card, since there is only one of each. Also included in the Starter Set are ten base dice, and ten stress dice. The more your character encounters, the higher stress they may accumulate—stress can lead to panic, and will lead to almost certain death if that stress is not relieved. There is a huge full color map that is also included There are also five pre-generated characters to play, each with their own background, motivations, and most fun: secret agendas.
Alien The Roleplaying Game has some rules that you would expect more in a board game than a tabletop role-playing game, especially during Cinematic play. You have control over your characters, but your characters have secret agendas and motivations of their own. Someone who is a corporate executive might, say, want to secure xenomorphic material to bring back to increase their position inside the company. If your character is infected, there are special rules to compel them to act a certain way. The hidden player agendas add more of that Alien film feel—this mirrors the big reveal in the original film when you discovered Ash was an android, or the scene where company man Burke tried to infect Ripley and Newt so he could bring Xenomorphs back to Weyland-Yutani. You can play out similar moments like these with your friends, and learn to never trust them again.
Alien The Roleplaying Game is one of my favorite tabletop role-playing games, and I tell as many people about it as I can. This Starter Set has everything you need to play Cinematic scenarios, but if you want to run your own long-term campaign, you’ll want to pick up the core rulebook which contains more information on character talents, creations, more lore info, and information on gamemastering. The Starter Set is great to pick up, even if you have the Core Rulebook—it comes with the great Chariot of the Gods scenario, a huge double-sided map, and the custom playing cards which are a great quick reference for weapons. I would have loved to see multiple item cards in the custom card deck so I could hand them out to my players, but they’re still useful to have. If you’re a fan of alien, horror or sci-fi tabletop, or are just looking for a new game to play with your usual group, you can’t go wrong with Alien The Roleplaying Game Starter Set.
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