Alpha Omega. What can I really start to say? Wow? Ew? Brilliant? Idiotic? Are there words? Well, here is one that is pretty much undisputable: beautiful. If this game is nothing else, it is gorgeous. Not gorgeous in the way that 3rd Edition was compared to Advanced D&D, though it certainly is gorgeous in that way; and not just gorgeous in the way that Avatar was compared to Logan’s Run, though again that kinda fits too. Alpha Omega is gorgeous in the way the aliens were to the lead scientist in Alien: Resurrection: an awful, grotesque, frightening and perfect beauty.
It has taken me a long time to write this review, probably too long. I started almost as soon as I finished my last one on Lacuna pt. 1. I supposed that if I was going to write a review where I gave a game a dreaded 10, I should balance that with a game that would receive another 10 from me but in another area. Ok, so that’s not balance, but whatever - if I shake all my 10’s out now I will be much happier writing reviews. Anyways, that was days ago that I started and it has been more work than some thesis research papers I have written!
Ok, a bit about the game. The game is Canadian (Yay!), produced by Mindstorm labs, a small company for whom Alpha Omega is the only current line. The company appears to be headed by lead designers David Carter and Earl Fischl. I don’t know if these gentlemen are responsible for Alpha Omega’s structure and presentation, but there is some serious professional training involved in this book. If one is familiar with the publishing industry at large - outside of gaming and fantasy novels - one might come to the conclusion that Alpha Omega shares more with an advertising approach than it does with a serviceable book. The whole volume flows like an extended Car brochure with sleek artwork, well placed charts, superb text formatting. Car brochures aim to make all of the information as attractive, accessible and visually interesting as possible and that is precisely what Alpha Omega does.
Ok, so now I’m getting deeper into structure so the review has started, roll chapter screen:
Wait, pause. Um...take a bathroom break and get a soda, this is going to be long, sorry. I’ll try to break it up as much as possible so it’s easy to skim; as a tribute to AO I will be using a quick numbering system (x.x.x). Ok, roll it:
1.1 Physical Structure
The book was bound in some alternate universe where people prefer 11x8.5 books rather than 8.5x11 books. Yep it’s horizontal. I don’t know why they did this; to be different? I think it plays once again into the pro level of design; wanna guess what else happens to be photobook bound? Ahem, aside from photo books? Yep, advertising material; the long shape allows you to use artwork in more effective manners - is Mindstorm Labs a division of GM? The problem I have with this is twofold, first I hate that it sticks out of my collection like a sore thumb, and second I’m worried that storing it in the normal fashion will eventually stress the binding as this layout puts more leverage on less contact points - time will tell.
It is impossible to talk about Alpha Omega without talking about the artwork. The artwork is amazing. The book is filled with full page sprawling landscapes, close up character portraits, action shots that perfectly accompany text; there are paintings, sketches, inks, colourized drawings, paintshops, 3d models. There are dozens and dozens of artworks describing everything from individual personalities to alien denizens to future cityscapes to desolate wastelands. The best part? Save for a handful of pics, all the art is Alpha Omega specific. Whoever created them was a part of the 'vision' for the game and there are next to no pictures that could just be replaced with a shot from Rifts and still have the game make sense.
1.2.2 Artwork Comparisons
Now, I don’t invoke the name of Rifts lightly. Many, many people compare this game to rifts. It is a futuristic, post-apocalyptic world with a kind of magic, lots of monsters and lots of fortified cities. I think the game designers need to nod their head to all the work Rifts accomplished in this genre, and I do not deny that there are tropes that have passed from one game to the other. But saying that Alpha Omega is ‘Rifts X’ is as insulting to Alpha Omega as saying that Rogue Trader is just Traveller Dark, or Burning Wheel is just AD&D 1.4. Just because two systems have orcs and elves does not mean they share anything else. -Admittedly when I try to think of another system that has really put so much emphasis on high-quality, world-specific art in their core book..um...well ok, you have a point... but it’s not Rifts!
1.3 Page Layouts
So after you’ve flipped through the entire book to skim the art (trust me, you will), the very next thing that might catch your eye is the little navigation bar on the sides of the pages. This isn’t really inventive, many books have different ways to delineate chapters (GURPS uses colour coding). What is sort of neat is that the book is broken into chapters and subchapters so not only is there a highlighted icon to show you what chapter you’re in, but below the icon is a little list of numbers and the highlighted one shows you what sub-chapter you’re on. This, as you will see becomes vital to using the book, but we’ll talk about that later on. For now I just wanted to point out that I liked the continuity it gave the book, stylistically it actually looks like you’re using electronic means to read this material.
1.4.0 Internal Structure
1.4.1 - Introduction
So the book starts off with a little welcome to gaming, here’s what you need to play. Pretty standard fair, pencil, character sheets, dice, calculator, place to play-wait, what? Calculator? This should be your first hint that something is rotten in Denmark - so you shouldn’t order the burritos. The book also encourages you to use miniatures and play maps for your game. This is not unusual, miniatures are more and more popular among companies that want to not only grab a market share of the visually inclined younger generation but also want to sell miniatures. But wait you say, Mindstorm Labs doesn’t sell minis; check their website. I’ve got no problem with miniature aids in general, a lot of people rally against them in a sort of ‘not in this man’s RPG’ kinda way, but in reality, if the technology to produce cheap, pre-painted miniatures existed back in the day, not many games wouldn't have produced some - just look at the explosion of lead minis during the 3rd generation of RPGs (for more on my take on gaming generations see my Lacuna review).
1.4.2 Game Setting
I’m not going to spend a lot of time talking about the game setting here; I’ll leave that for the third section of the review as per usual. I will say that the setting is very nicely laid out for the reader. It starts with an introduction to the culture of the game world, some of the history, and the major events which have shaped the world. In the very briefest of terms, you have a planet that self-destructs in environmental and man-made disaster, alien races visit the planet bringing their intergalactic conflict with them and introducing humans to new technology and access to ‘magic’. Ok, so the magic is thinly veiled in a pseudo-scientific explanation that is more fit for a George Noory bit than a speculative fiction mag, but it’s not bad as far as this kind of thing goes.
One of the really nice things that Alpha Omega does is a technique often found in really good writing; they explain the world in the details and let the bigger pictures draw themselves. For example, they start right-off with a discussion of common slang terms, briefly the sort of places people live and then the details like what they eat, how they pay for things, what transportation, medicine and entertainment is like. It might sound a bit awkward to some, but it really gives you that visceral sense of setting that often gets missed when you only describe the broad strokes.
Following the background there is a really creative chapter on various locations around the world. Unlike most core rules which tend to be focused on a single city or country, the locations listed here include everything from Los Angeles to Hong Kong, Sao Paulo to Arcon-C-Hell. Almost every city has it’s own high-quality piece of art to give you a visual reference as well.
After the world is presented, the international players are introduced. The book provides 27 different characters that inhabit the world of Alpha Omega. While most of the players feature on the global stage some are localized individuals who increase the thematic feel of Alpha Omega and help set-up the background. Once again, almost every character is accompanied by a piece of artwork, in some cases a sketch in other cases a half-page, full colour portrait. If all that wasn’t enough, the book then charts 7 different organizations with influence on the planet. All told the background material takes up almost 100 glossy pages. Really impressive!
1.4.3 Character Creation
Have I told you how beautiful this book is?
Character creation starts out with a comparative size chart for each of the 10 races that includes a silhouette of the shortest member of the race, the tallest and the average height for both a male and a female. It’s pretty cool, but overall, silhouettes are kinda...meh. Then you turn the page and there is a 2-page, full colour illustration of an average example in male and female of every single race. Has this been done before? Yeah. Is it done even better in this book? Hell yeah. Does it get better? Every single race is then neatly laid out in a 2 page spread (4 for more complex races) with another high-quality illustration of a male and female.
It’s not just the drawings that are pretty, most of the information is laid out in well formatted charts that show core stats, qualities, abilities and drawbacks. Think about how a videogame rpg takes you through character creation, you select your race and a little window pops up telling you what the benefits and drawback of your race are; those little windows are printed on the page. I know a lot of people will claim that other games do this, but they don’t; not in the same way. Other games use collaborative charts to show all the information comparatively, Alpha Omega gives you clear, concise reference boxes which transfer directly to your character creation sheet; you could theoretically never read a word of the racial description paragraphs to get all the information you need to play.
As I mentioned, some of the races are more complex and have a few more options; for example if you choose to be bio-engineered, you must select what you were bio-engineered for: Combat, Labor, Stealth or Manipulation (read seduction).
1.4.4 Core Qualities
It is slightly odd that this section occurs after the racial selection phase because this is generally the lead off chapter in character design. Although it’s counter intuitive, it makes perfect sense. In Alpha Omega, what you were born as is probably the most important factor of who your game character is; playing a regular human is a wildly different experience from playing a god-like Anunnaki and both races have a wildly different influence on character statistics.
If, for some reason, you were getting tired of the high-quality scenic and portrait artwork in the book, the Mechanics section should restore your interest with it’s well thought-out action pictures. Here again you will find a plethora of charts but they are used in an interesting way. Rather than being provided as reference as they so often are in other books, the charts here are almost all critical parts of the game. There is a page just devoted to tracking a target’s speed, density, size, fear and disposition. While that sounds ridiculous it’s actually part of a fairly ingenious system of quickly tracking the state of a creature/character, but it does serve as an excellent example of how many different and detailed charts this book contains - there are hundreds. And in terms of structure they are beautiful and organized, in terms of the system...that’s later.
The Mechanics section is extremely well laid out considering the volume of information contained. Everything from combat to seduction; wielding magic to driving vehicles is covered here and it’s covered well.
Guess what the first thing I’m going to say about the gear section is? Anyone? High quality illustrations of most major gear pieces? Check. High-detailed illustrations of EVERY weapon, all 104 different types? Check. Varient drawings of every melee weapon showing a standard, waste-land improvised and high-tech version? Check. I’m not kidding you, this has to be the most detailed armoury section ever. I’m positive most arms & armament supplements don’t contain this many illustrations - it is a real joy to read, like your own personal high-tech, post-apocalyptic Sears catalogue. The weapons run the gamut from two-handed mauls to short-barrel shotguns, rail-gun tech sniper rifles to carousel fed grenade launchers and remote-controlled mobile mortar launchers. Impressive.
The gear section closes out with a some augmentations that can be purchased and a few full descriptions of some vehicles.
1.4.7 Playing the Game
The final section of the book contains a few pages of rudimentary advice on how to play an RPG along with a good section of sample NPC’s all fully illustrated. Like most game books the end sort of feels like the tiny kitchen drawer that holds the stuff that has no rack on the shelf. It’s an almost universal fact so it’s nothing against Alpha Omega.
1.5.1 Things I Hated
Not much. The binding, I don’t like how it sticks out on my shelf and worry it will break itself. I also have a small issue with the lack of page numbers, but in consideration I think the book is cooler without them in terms of its overall coherence. Think of it like this review, there are no pages, just one contiguous scroll of paragraphs.
1.5.2 Things I Loved
I loved the Art, the layout, the design. This is a beautiful book and its layout/design is impressively thought out. The production quality is of the highest caliber and the artwork is stunning. I would happily use this as a centerpiece, on a lectern were I a bigger fan of the system.
1.5.3 Bottom Line
This is perhaps one of the most beautiful books you will ever own. For collectors, its uniqueness, design and interiors are worth the price of admission alone. In its printed format it’s a little hard to navigate, but I recon it is made superbly easy in PDF with a search function
2.1 At First Glance
Detail. So you start with a D, add an ‘e’, then ‘t,a,i,l’ just like the word tail. A tail is the long, flexible protrusion from the rear of many animals that assists primarily with balance. Balance is the act of equalizing the center of gravity of an object so that it stays immobile in its present position. Position is the spacial...do you get the point? Alpha Omega is all about the details. This a great thing when it comes to writing stories but in terms of a game - it can be the difference between playing Axis & Allies for a few fun hours and spending a grudging weekend on an advanced squad leader opening move.
2.2 Character Creation
Since this comes first in the book, I’ll talk about it first here. Character creation is essentially a point build system with every new character starting with 500 Character development points.
There are 10 different races to choose from, they are:
Normal Human - 50,000 years and going strong
Remnant Human - Genetically altered survivors of the wastes
Bio-Engineered Human - More human than human?
Necrosi Human - Gene-altered by radiation (pale skin, eyes light-sensitive, twilight fans)
A.I. - Not exactly your Haley Joel Osment versions of robots
Nephilim - Massive winged aliens who are either of the feathery variety (Seraph) or the leathery/horny (Ophanim)
Lesser Nephilim - The offspring of Nephilim and any other intelligent race
Grigori - Genetically engineered servants of the Nephilim
Lesser Grigori - The offspring of Grigori and any other intelligent race
Anunnaki - The result of the forbidden union of a Seraph with an Ophanim
As mentioned above, each race has its own chart of abilities, drawbacks and genetic deviations. These are itemized really clearly and include things like: Bonus Ability - Blood Lust, Must select at least 80 points in drawbacks, cannot access Innate wielding, Cannot use Cybernetic or Necrotic augmentations.
If you want to play something innately powerful such as an Anunnaki, a lot of your 500 points will be spent in a predetermined way; while playing a normal human will net you 100 extra points and the freedom to spend them as you see fit. The power of the Anunnaki is found in the fact that it can access trait levels and power spheres far beyond those of a normal human.
The first things to spend points on are a standard set of 7 core qualities: Strength, Agility, Conditioning, Vitality, Discipline, Intelligence and Charisma. After you’ve done that there are 7 secondary derived stats that are calculated, followed by 5 tertiary stats after that and rounded off with a health stat. So all told your character has 20 stats. 20! Why that many? Detail of course. Lets use the example of ‘Reaction’. Reaction is a measure of your character’s ability to quickly react to events, it is derived from athleticism + wisdom /2... but wait, your wisdom is derived from your discipline + intelligence /2 and your athleticism is derived from your strength + agility /2... Does anyone else see the stinking green ghost of palladium rising with a vengeance? I love that they’re trying to make a world representative of our own, a realistic gaming experience, but it doesn’t work - it’s too much - they’ve made an epic game into an epic rule-learning session.
2.2.3 Rounding out
Following these stat crunches, you must choose abilities and drawback for your characters. This section has good descriptions and a decent summary chart to it. Then you get to choose genetic deviations such as increased skeletal structure or gills etc. and if applicable, Elim (alien) deviations such as glowing eyes and wings.
The skill selection is broken into mental and physical skills and follows a tree-based system where there are general areas of knowledge such as Arts, Science, Millitary that break down into specific skills such as Tactics and Leadership. Again we’re looking at a maximum amount of detail.
The magic system in the game is called wielding because the characters are essentially manipulating the raw forces from one of 6 dimensional sources. This essentially breaks down into schools of magic such as elemental, void, alpha etc. It’s an interesting, free-form system that reminds me of the old White Wolf Mage system.
2.3 Game Mechanics
2.3.1 Basic actions
Ok, so - Everything is done with dice pools. Not a bad system, it’s highly flexible and fairly dynamic for story telling. Stats can range anywhere from 1 to 100 ... so in a normal dice pool system this would mean you’re rolling anywhere form 1 to 100 dice. Alpha Omega has a fairly interesting system for this but its chart intensive. Every range of 2-3 numbers is assigned it’s own dice pool. This pool is composed of different dice that give an incrementally higher average and the chance of bonus actions. For example:
8-9 = 4D4
9-10 = 5D4
85-88 = 3D20 + 3D12
97-100 = 6D20
Basic actions are carried out against standard difficulty ratings and opposed checks against opponent results just as you would expect.
Combat is cool and complex at the same time. What sucks? There are 13 stances - 13! There are 5 static stances and 8 moving stances including flying and swimming. Like many parts of these rules it feels like you’re hunting for mice with elephant guns because... you know... there might be tigers... somewhere... at some point. Getting beyond that:
Combat is always done in 6 segments, your reaction tertiary quality is tied to a pre-set list showing when you act. For example a reaction score of 14 allows you to act in segment 3 and 6 while a reaction of 50 allows you to act on 1, 2, 4 and 6. You are able to use a maximum of 6 dice from your appropriate dice pool on any one segment but can divide your dice pool as you see fit among your active cycles. Now remember those odd dice pool combinations such as 3D20 + 3D12, there are never more than 6 dice. So in one sequence a character with a score of 100 and a high enough reaction could role a 1D20 for 6 actions, one every segment.
I actually found this an interesting way to deal with the fact that some characters are god-like in their speed while others are more mundane. Here you can have an NPC decide his action is to shoot a charging Nephilim and he acts in segment 5. In segment 1 the Nephilim closes the distance with NPC, in segment 3 the Nephilim slices the rifle in 2 pieces, in segment 5 the Nephilim smiles wickedly as the NPC’s trigger makes a harmless click - ok it’s not quite that easy but it’s close.
One interesting twist brought on by aliens who move at super-speed is that they are able to make actions like the one above; ie. where they anticipate their opponent’s aim and move out of the way quicker than the opponent can pull the trigger. This diminishes the effectiveness of projectiles in high-level combat (think Equilibrium when the two grammaton clerics are trying to shoot each other). To help solve this (and I think to give a reason to draw Nephilim with giant swords) the authors have made melee fighting the dominant way higher-order fighters resolve physical confrontation. To this end there are melee attachments for just about all the weapons going. Everything from: submachine gun, three-bladed bayonets; to detachable butt-stock flails; to pistol mounted hand-grip blades. This makes for an interesting setting flavour but I find it rather juvenile - wouldn’t an alien that fast be equally skilled at anticipating their target when firing a weapon - meh, small point and I admit, the SMG’s look cool with 3 foot blades coming off the front.
One of the things I liked to balance out the melee weapons was that each weapon had an exertion rating comparable to the size of the weapon. This means it is very likely that a massive Grigori with a Maul is going to attack once or twice in a round while a similar opponent with a knife will be able to put in a few more blows - then again this is just ANOTHER stat to track so, I’m mixed.
Damage is also dealt out by type: High-velocity kinetic, melee kinetic, energy, chemical etc. The damage type affects absorption, resistance, bleeding etc. Bleeding rate can in turn affect endurance etc. It is A LOT of information to track, record and implement. It makes for highly realistic combat but an ordeal when it comes to number crunching.
I actually like the Wielding (read Magic) system in Alpha Omega. It’s extremely free-form and very flexible. The essential basis is that any wielder can access one of the six basic power sources but must access the sources through an intention. The 6 basic sources are Elemental, Energy, Void, Being, Alpha, Omega and the 4 intentions are the diametrically opposed Sancto and Bane, Order and Chaos. Within each intention are 4 sub-intentions. For Sancto the 4 sub-categories are Deliverence, Salvation, Creation and Inspiration. Not every sub-category works with every power source. Creation for example can be used with every power source while Deliverance can only be used with Being, Alpha or Omega. Every sub-intention has a short list of the sort of things it can be used for, though this is a guideline, not a list of direct effects. To use deliverance for an example, it can be used to relieve physical suffering; example uses include replenishing a health pool, countering a disease or poison or resuscitating the dying.
Every spell is successful or fails based on an ability check. Every check is rolled with 7 factors in mind, a chart will tell you the modification:
1 - Range
2 - # of targets or area
3 - Damage or Healing
4 - Structural Integrity
5 - Mass of Object
6 - Duration
7 - Increase or Decrease Modifier
So, for example: I want to use Deliverance to heal a target 10 ft away.
1 - 10 ft range = +8
2 - Target is not myself = +4
3 - Healing base + (2D4x2) = +12
4 - No structural integrity = +0
5 - No weight involved = +0
6 - Duration is 1 round = +0
7 - No modifiers are applied = +0
The total difficulty is 24 (8+4+12)
Second example: I want to create a barrier of fire around myself.
1 - Touch Range = +2
2 - Target is myself = +2
3 - It causes not damage or healing = +0
4 - Structural Integrity is 200 = +16
5 - No weight involved = +0
6 - Duration is 2 combat cycles = +3
7 - No modifiers are applied = +0
Total difficulty is 23 (2+2+16+3). If I wanted to throw the barrier over the person I healed the difficulty would be 31 (+8 for range and +4 for target not myself)
All in all, a nice system - pretty crunchy but I find it a lot more imaginative and inspirational than throwing magic missiles.
Advancement is actually pretty straight forward. You get Character development points just as you did in character creation to use in roughly the same way. The game adds three ways to increase your statistics outside of this. The first is genetic deviation. You can essentially purchase a genetic deviance that allows one of your core quality maximums to increase by 10 points, allowing you to funnel more CDPs into it. The second is evolutionary bounds. At the cost of hundreds of Character points, you can have your character evolve to the next level and raise your stat maximums to 40. The third is Ascension whereby you channel your mind, body and soul together and reach a new level of existence on this mortal plane.
Genetic deviation makes sense at character creation but doing it more than once in medias res is stretching it.
Evolutionary Bounds I find ridiculous, the idea that evolution will cause all of your stat maximums to suddenly jump to the same arbitrary number is counterintuitive and silly. Outside of that, the fact that a human could purchase all 4 levels of it and raise every max to 100 -talk about the ultimate cheat code for natural selection.
Ascension is the only one that makes sense and is graded. It is hard to ascend, it takes a minimum number of a variety of stats in order to attempt it and the raise costs 100 pts on top of that. Once you ascend you get a few ranks in Alpha and Omega sources and a few ranks in an intention. This is logical given the intuitive nature of wielding and intense concentration it would require to master it. Unlike Evolutionary bounds that allow you to reach a potential maximum in 4 steps, there are a graded 9 steps to achieve total ascension and they aren’t easy.
In addition to this there is an alternate system provided for skill development. It’s not a new idea by any means but it is one I like. Rather than simply buying new skill points, players can track usage and of skills and the new level can be ‘challenged’ by completing tasks with target numbers within 5 point of the average skill score (yeah, there’s a chart). Since this only applies to skills, I’m not sure if it’s balance, but it’s certainly more organic.
2.5.1 Things I Hated
Well, I just finished covering the stupid genetic evolution system, so that makes the list. Outside of that, it’s clunky. Model T’s have run smoother than this game after 80 years in Alabama humidity. There is so much data to compile and keep track of and derive and apply and monitor and...arg! Makes you almost wish it was d20... no, I’d still take this over d20, but gah... west end games needs to make a d6 version of this game!
2.5.2 Things I Loved
It was inventive. The creators really thought about what they needed their system to deal with and created it from the ground up to be that. They knew they had super fast aliens battling super-gun carrying cyborgs so they created a system that could handle that. They didn’t envision magic coming from an ancient grimoire and I think their system perfectly reflects that.
2.5.3 Bottom Line
The designers took a risk. They attempted to create a perfectly new system that reflected the conflicts and resolutions they envisioned in their world. To that end, they perfectly succeeded. For any other purpose they created one of the most interesting, inventive, clunky, crunchy systems I’ve ever seen or feel likely to see- take that for what it’s worth.
3.0.0 CONCEPT / SETTING
3.1 Where to start?
How the hell would a person pitch this as a movie? Ok, so it’s a post-apocalyptic wasteland filled with genetic abominations and remnants of human society but there are still hundreds of really high-tech cities where people genetically modified themselves to be super-powerful but then after all this happened these two alien races show up who are essentially like angels and demons and they want to have a war on earth and they bring this genetically developed slave race with them and they know how to use magic and they start teaching humans how and then everyone sleeps with everyone else except for the angels and the demons, who usually don’t have sex but when they do, you get this super-badass angel demon mix that can kill anything. Yeah, it pretty much sounds like a 14yr old wet-dream produced by Michael Bay, directed by Brian Taylor and staring Christopher Walken and Randy Couture.
The first mention of plot comes from a two-page little mini-chapter that details the nostrodameus type predictions of an unknown prophet named Ethan Haas. I’m told this was part of some viral marketing campaign, but I don’t know who knew about it so I’m sure it didn’t really work for that and it absolutely does nothing for this book. (As a side note, I have been corrected on this point. The viral marketing was effective to a degree so I renege my assumption and apologize.)
In terms of setting the scene, this is a marvelous take on a post-apocalyptic, far future earth. The city-states, the archologies, the wastelands; these things are really well thought out. The complexity of design options for bio-engineered, cyborgs, A.I.s, genetically altered humans, it’s really thorough and well done. The openness they gave to the wastelands, explaining how humans allowed bio-engineered species to escape into the wild, accelerated evolution sciences etc. I really can buy into the idea that you could run into ANYTHING on this planet and find yourself in just about any situation. There are a few things that are a little cheesy. The light-sensitive, cannibalistic necrosi are essentially vampires and honestly; that’s dumb in my opinion... but there are those who like the whole I am Legend thing so I’ll shrug my shoulders to that.
All in all though, they do an amazing job creating a totally believable world to explore, and then the western-centric religious apocalypse comes to town and we’re all supposed to gasp and say - ah... see, the bible thought it was writing about servants of God but really they were just aliens fighting an intergalactic battle... Anyone? Anyone buying this? Just to secure the point we’ll use some Greek translations of Hebrew names for the aliens to make sure they have biblically referenced identities. C’mon guys - this is ridiculous, I’m pretty sure a seven year old is going to have a few problems with this premise.
Are the aliens a good addition? Yes! They bring the whole wielding thing, which is cool. They provide a level of intrigue to the setting and a unifying theme, very cool. Does making them big, bad-ass angels and demons add anything to the story... not a bit.
Here is my word of advice to all story tellers. Religions are all about morality. However they want to define it, religions present a moral code. That code isn’t always what one might consider ethical, but it is a code none-the-less. If you are telling stories about religion, awesome! It is a fascinating topic. But they should relate to morality. You can tell stories about sin and redemption, pride and fall, victory and suffering. You can tell a story about the lack of ethics a holy empire has despite its moral claims or you could talk about how the morality professed is not the morality engaged. These are all interesting stories. But if you bring in religion and you leave out any morality at all... you end up with a dissatisfying and hollow basis for story-telling. This isn’t to say that you couldn’t find some morality to add into Alpha Omega, just that the game isn’t about that. It’s about exploration and intrigue, it might have needed aliens but it didn’t need celestials.
And a note to the authors: I get it. I do. You wanted to present an alternate version of what might be the basis of biblical stories. It’s easy to do; the parts of Genesis that star the Grigori play very much like an alien first contact. And there is a powerful message that can either re-enforce the historicity of biblical accounts or completely discredit the supernaturalism of them; great basis for a game. Unfortunately you made Alpha Omega so rich with all the other science fiction elements that the storytelling potential of the Nephilim gets washed away. Their angelic/demonic nature ultimately becomes a distraction to their more important alien nature. I accept and recognize that there was an attempt to sterilize the races from their biblical counterparts but that isn’t possible - a perfectly beautiful human with white feathery wings is always an angel just as a human with horns, leathery wings and a tail is always a demon, and that belongs in another game.
But I digress.
3.2.1 Things I Hated
Just to say it one last time: The angels and demons; they were gratuitous, silly and annoying. Keep the aliens, loose the allusions.
3.2.2 Things I Loved
Pretty much everything else. This is an excellent high-tech, post-apocalyptic setting with something for everyone. There is political and city intrigue, a plethora of different character options, hundreds of places to explore, magic wielding aliens. It’s really well thought out and well executed for the most part.
3.2.3 Bottom Line
When you get this game, don’t balk at it as a reaction to something you don’t like. There is some bad but there is a lot of good. Throw the bad away: strip the wings off the Seraph and call them the Serrahk or something, take away the vampiric qualities of the Necrosi and make them extremely xenophobic. But by all means keep the good, try the system; I think you’ll be surprised at what you find.
4.0.0 THE SCOOP
Alpha Omega is something I wish we saw more of. It is an Indy game that has all the creativity of setting and system that it’s peers do but is light-years ahead of the rest in production value. This is a book that you will be proud to own, sharing more in common with a Games Workshop Special Edition volume than your average Indy printing. The rules and setting are complex and hard to sink your teeth into but there is no lack of thought and effort in anything this book presents. The people who worked on this obviously put some blood, sweat and tears into this and I think it deserves some recognition. So who should pick this up? If you play D&D almost exclusively, don’t bother; if you laude games that have simple systems, you might want to skip it too. If you like indy games, games with a different twist, if you long for someone to make a more story-based, grounded version of Rifts or if, above all, you like pretty-pretty shiny things; Alpha Omega is definitely a piece you should think strongly about.
4.2.1 Presentation (Style, Readability, Artwork): 10 - I hate giving tens but this book earns it hands-down.
4.2.2 Rules (Complexity, Logic, Playability): 4 - For all the production value you’d think they would have imbedded a calculator in the cover, maybe even an accountant.
4.2.3 Story (Setting, Concept, Intrigue): 6.5 - Not bad, could have scored much higher without the Armageddon references
Last word: The line doesn’t stop with the core book, there is a creature compendium called the encountered, I have a pdf version but no hardcover; I ordered one but it never came...I bet you it’s pretty!
"If you try to make something for everyone you'll just end up with something for noone."
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- Karl LarssonNorway
Man, that was a long review.
This game was the second one a reviewed here. I got it because of the viral campaign they had, that got mixed-up with the Cloverfield movie.
I think I didn't like it as much as you did. There was a lot of OK art in it, but nothing really great. Quantity over quality.
I generally like games that try to focus on a few good ideas. This game tried to cover everything, and suffered for it.
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karlkrlarsson wrote:Man, that was a long review.Don't I know it! Just over 6,000 words...I got into itQuote:This game was the second one a reviewed here. I got it because of the viral campaign they had, that got mixed-up with the Cloverfield movie.Fair enough...I stand corrected on this point; the viral campaign worked. I would still argue that the Ethan Haas stuff doesn't add anything, but I'm willing to concede this.Quote:I think I didn't like it as much as you did. There was a lot of OK art in it, but nothing really great. Quantity over quality.Ok, again fair, but what do you consider great art?Quote:I generally like games that try to focus on a few good ideas. This game tried to cover everything, and suffered for it.Couldn't agree more!
Thanks for the dialog Karl!
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- Karl LarssonNorway
agduncan wrote:Good question. When i was younger, I didn't pay much attention to this, but now I more and more feel I can appreciate the artwork in an RPG-book.
Ok, again fair, but what do you consider great art?
I don't have the book here, so I can't check specifics. I remember a lot of it was good, but not all was of the same standard. Good art enhances the "feel" of the book. The some of the AO artwork does this, but there is much that just clutters up the book.
Some of the art work in Qin: The Warring States looks like old chinese art, which works really well. I thought Eclipse Phase Core Rulebook had good art. I am now reading HELLAS: Worlds of Sun & Stone (1st Edition), it looks good, but has some strange lay-out choices.
Nice chatting with you too, good luck in the competition. Glad you made the deadline.
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- wayne r(oninowon)United States
Thanks for writing a review. I have an unfinished review on my desk that I'm having a hard time writing.
A lot of people lauded the artwork but while some artwork were great, my beef with the artwork was that only a very few really were evocative of the setting.
It also rubs me the wrong way when a rpg incorporates religious aspects to the setting (biggest culprit in my mind is ANIMA). In this particular case, the whole aliens that are mistaken for being angels and demons bent on warring with each other on a neutral planet (in this case Earth) every thousands of years, seems totally ridiculous.
I disagree about the evolutionary bounds mechanics. First, I think the concept is sound especially in this setting where evoltion is a key part of the setting. Second, good or bad, it just adds to the choices a player can spend his xp on. In the case of Evolutionary Bounds, it gives a player the opportunity to plan for a more broad Core Quality development. It'll still cost him a whopping amount of points- first for the privilage of expanding the limit and second, for actually putting points towards whatever Core Quality.
As to the actual mechanics, I liked the overall concept but the execution of the rules are not fluid. In fact, it can be down right intimidating. One thing it suffers from is the inaptitude of low level characters. The suggested DC/TNs are so high that unless a low level PC specializes in one area, that character will fail at a high percentage if a skill is required outside his specialty.
The 6-6 mechanics is a neat concept. While I don't particularly like battles that utilizes segment concepts (think HERO), I thought the concept of splitting dice added to the tactical nature of combat (Do you spend all 6 dice on a particular action thereby giving you a very good chance to suceed or do you spread the number of dice you roll throught out your activated segments thereby letting you act more?).
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oninowon wrote:A lot of people lauded the artwork but while some artwork were great, my beef with the artwork was that only a very few really were evocative of the setting.There are some pieces that fit that description but the world is so increadibly varied that I think just about every pic fits. I can see what you're saying though, there isn't enough of a unified vision in the art...but the same is often said about the game itself.Quote:It also rubs me the wrong way when a rpg incorporates religious aspects to the setting (biggest culprit in my mind is ANIMA).On the contrary, I feel relgion is a powerful topic to draw on, but I can understand the sentiment.Quote:In this particular case, the whole aliens that are mistaken for being angels and demons bent on warring with each other on a neutral planet (in this case Earth) every thousands of years, seems totally ridiculous.Amen!Quote:As to the actual mechanics, I liked the overall concept but the execution of the rules are not fluid. In fact, it can be down right intimidating. One thing it suffers from is the inaptitude of low level characters. The suggested DC/TNs are so high that unless a low level PC specializes in one area, that character will fail at a high percentage if a skill is required outside his specialty.This is a really good way to put it...the concept was good but the execution flawed. I also forgot to mention that low level characters are indeed, pretty much screwed when it comes to doing anything, it's definitely a problem with the game, and a great note!
Thanks for the reply! If you have any other points or comments, I'd love to hear them; discussion is much more interesting than diatribe in my opinion. I'd like to see you post your review too; see what takes you had on the system/book.
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