There has been a lot of buzz around Alpha Omega by Mindstorm Labs, what with people talking about the setting, the book itself and the system. Usually comments of amazing, beautiful and complex respectively. A new game from a new publisher has to do well to break into the rpg fraternities hearts and minds and from the discussions carrying on it looks like Alpha Omega has managed it with top marks.
Alpha Omega is stylised after a mishmash of genres, from post apocalyptic to high fantasy to high tech. The overall feel of the setting cannot be summed up in a simple overview, but I guess we’ll have to try here. Think of all the gritty near future sci-fi you can, movies like Blade Runner, games like Shadowrun and books like Necromancer. Add to that In Nomine or the Arnie movie End of Days. Then add a pinch of Day after Tomorrow….. and you might be somewhere in the vicinity of Alpha Omega.
Over all the tone of the game is pretty much whatever you want. Reading through the background material gave me so many ideas for how the game could be played it blew my mind. Everything that Rifts, Shadowrun, Cyberpunk, Torg, Gamma World and countless others cover, so can Alpha Omega. That’s not to say that it feels overwhelming, because it doesn’t. You feel drawn in as a reader and you want to play in this world. A great feat for any writer or rpg publisher to achieve, more so with their first product.
Alpha Omega uses a new system designed by Mindstorm, which it has tagged the “6-6 system”. The system is quite a bit different from most others and requires a bit of a trawl through so that you can get the ideas behind it. Stats (or Qualities) are rated from 1 to 100 with a maximum of 20 for an average human or 30 for other starting character races. These numbers equate to a system of dice progression starting at 1D4 moving up to 6D4, then 1D6 + 5D4, etc, etc with the maximum at 100 of 6D20. Add to these the skill ranks, which are usually quite low, and you get the outcome of a roll versus a target number set by the GM for task resolution.
Character creation is a long points buy system. If you like points purchasing systems like some of my group, you will love this. If you prefer random systems, just go with it for now because it’s worth it when you actually get to the game proper.
Another point worth mention here is the combat system which works on a segments system which along with the 6Dx dice for stats is probably where the 6-6 system gets its name. Essentially each round of combat is split into 6 segments and depending upon your qualities you only get to act in certain segments. Higher scores mean more segments, lower means less. It’s a nice idea and works well apart from a lot of book keeping for the GM. Mindstorm do give a nice tracking sheet in the back of the book, but my feeling is maybe they could have avoided the need for it if it was streamlined a bit.
One last point I’m going to cover is the magic system or Wielding as it’s called. Wielding is pretty damn powerful stuff in Alpha Omega and the design of the system places limits on who can do what, otherwise it would just overpower any game. Wielders have Sources and Intentions which define their skills with the magic powers and certain races only have access to some of the sources and intentions. Creating effects with Wielding can be a long process to work out the target numbers for skill checks but the system should allow you to cover just about anything that a character might want to do.
We touched on the setting a bit in the style section and it deserves much more explanation. Mix high tech cyberware, guns and bioware with angels, demons and mutated creatures, throw in magic and archologies, wastelands and a looming world war and that’s just the tip of iceberg.
The setting is brought to life so vividly in the first sections of the book that you will be overflowing with ideas on how you could run a game. High tech groups in archologies, hunters in the wilderness, radicals fighting the powers that be, corporate spies, hosts find and fighting for areas of land to enable the next war…. the list is endless.
The main races give lots of flavour to the setting as well. Humans are the usual bench mark as with most games, but then there are Necrosi (subset of Humans mutated by a meteor), Remnants (other mutated humans), Bio Engineered (clones grown in vats), Nephilim (offspring of human and angels or demons), Lesser Nephilim (Nephilim and human cross breed), Grigori (servants or the angels and demons), Lesser Grigori (Grigori/Human offspring), Anunnaki (child of a demon and angel) and AI (robots, cyborgs, et al). Unfortunately no rules for Ophanum or Seraph (the angels and demons) are given, but with the supposed war that they will fight set to occur in 2 years from the time of the game I guess it’s only a matter of time until we get a nice splat book that covers it. Besides, everything that you read in the base book makes them sound like they would overpower any group of starting PC’s so it’s probably for the best.
There is so much more I could say about the setting here, but with space at a premium, I’ll just say that while the ideas here have all been present in other games before, none of them have ever done so with such a clarity and with such enthusiasm. It really does make you want to play in this world from the get go.
Many words have been written about the layout of the book in other reviews, blogs, forums and the like. Some love it, some dislike parts of it, but all agree that was a bold move to try something new. Personally I love the layout, landscape formatted book with artwork that is just staggering, this is something that cost a lot of money to produce and a lot of love went into it, and it really shows.
Page numbers are missing but the book provides a innovative way of find what you want with a list of sections on each page edge with highlights for the current section. Coupled with an icon system for each chapter I have found no problems with it.
The one downside I have with the layout is how to store the book. If I put it on the shelves with my other games it either sticks out a mile or if it turn it up so that the dimensions match I can’t see the spine of the book. Guess I’ll just have to leave it sitting on my desk for a bit longer…..
Artwork in this tome is outstanding. There are no other words for it. Don’t believe me? Check out the Alpha Omega website, it’s all that good. There is not one piece that I don’t like, the full art for chapter headers is amazing, the character portraits are excellent and each and every weapon detailed has a sketch drawing to give you a real feel for the tech available.
I’m so glad that I managed to finally get a copy of this game. I have been thinking about it for quite a while, what with the buzz surrounding it and the enticing titbits on the web. I think that my group will have many a great time exploring the background and to be honest, so will I as GM. That is unless I can convince one of the others to run it.
The RPGBrainDump Checklist for good books
|Index||Check||Small, but covers most topics|
|Table of Contents||Check||Bigger than the Index|
|Adventure Seeds||Kind of||If you don’t get lots of ideas reading the background material, re-read it because you must have been asleep|
|Character Sheet||Check||4 page, landscape, could be clearer, especially the skills section|
|Chargen Summary||Check||Step by step summary|
|Stat Level Meanings||Absent|
|Rules examples||Check||Lots of good examples|
26.5 / 30.0
Scores – rpg.net Style