posted by GorfZaplen Original SA post

What I bring to you isn't in the "mockable" category of FATAL and Friends. In fact, this game looks at FATAL with extreme disgust, considering things such as "realism" and "historical accuracy" not only pointless, but downright retarded. What I bring to you is one of the most fucking radical role-playing games.


Metamorphosis Alpha is the brainchild of James M. Ward, who went on to make Gamma World. Gamma World is the clear spiritual successor to Metamorphosis Alpha, which will become clear almost immediately.

Gary Gygax loved it and even wrote an entire D&D adventure to help players shift into the Metamorphosis Alpha mindset. This adventure, of course, is the amazing Expedition to the Barrier Peaks.

Don't take my word for it, though.

Gary Gygax posted:

METAMORPHOSIS ALPHA is one of the new breed of role-playing games. It is designed such that the referee and players will develop their own “game world” as they go along. METAMORPHOSIS ALPHA plays much like a good science-fiction book reads. Each player takes the role of a person, humanoid mutation or creature mutation on a vast, radiation-ridden starship which is out of control in deep space. Radiation has caused all knowledge to be “lost” and humans are in a state of semi-barbarism. The players must learn to survive in a world of fantastic mutations and hostile radiation, using only their natural cunning and such sophisticated space equipment as they can find and learn to use.

METAMORPHOSIS ALPHA is a free-form system, giving rules and guidelines for the basics of play and setting up the starship, but allowing the players and referee unlimited use of their imagination to create new problems and methods of solving them. Using the guidelines of the rules, the referee “creates” the starship (beginning a little at a time), sets up social structures for his people, plans the various mutations, places clues about the starship for the players to find, and any other of a multitude of possible happenings. The players take it from there as they explore the starship (“seeing” only what they actually would, as the referee keeps his plans and notes secret), trying to gain the knowledge and technological devices they need to survive. From then on, the referee can add new facets to the game as they become desirable. The game is a continuous adventure which need never end.

Readers familiar with TSR’s DUNGEONS & DRAGONS will immediately recognize many similarities between the two game systems, and they will just as quickly note the numerous important differences which make METAMORPHOSIS ALPHA a similar but outstandingly different sort of contest. On the other hand. the existing parallels in the games make it a simple move for the players to go from one to the other, and those with existing DUNGEONS & DRAGONS campaigns may wish to incorporate ideas from this game into their campaign “worlds.”

I love the art in this game.



Mankind’s urge to explore and expand its frontiers finally caused another push into the vastness of space - first interplanetary, then interstellar. By the 23rd Century a great migration wave was spreading from Old Terra to the hundreds of inhabitable worlds which had been discovered in the Milky Way galaxy. During the next hundred years colonization ships of all types and descriptions went out to the stars, bearing seedling colonies seeking a better life. Many found their new homes - for better or for worse - but for one reason or another scores of these starships never reached their destination. This game is based on just such an event, the fate of a colony ship which became lost...

The starship Warden was created from the designs used in the United Western Starship Cartel program, and it was laid down in the Trans-Plutonian Spaceyards in 2277. The design was the most ambitious ever attempted, the blueprints calling for an oval spheroid of tremendous size using a new metal alloy of tensile strength previously unknown. The ship was an incredible 50 miles in length, with a width of 25 miles, and a height of eight and one-half miles. Additional levels above and below the central one brought the total number of decks to 17. Warden required 11 years to complete, and it did not leave the Sol System until 2290 because of the effort required to outfit the starship. The vessel contained complete Terran environments, and the colonists were not rigidly screened for the expedition , for it was held that Warden’s accommodations would place few physical or psychological stresses upon colonist or crewman.

A description of the starship’s levels, as well as some of the equipment typically found on each, follows. The vessel was basically given over to large, open areas, with a simple system of electronic locks used to insure that colonists did not stray into command or possibly harmful areas . With its cargo of the flora and fauna of Earth , 1½ million colonists, and 50,000 crew members, the wonder of the Interstellar Colonization Age set forth to found a new world many light years from its old home.

I can only see this ending well. Oh god, the next section is labelled DISASTER !

DISASTER posted:

Some one-third of the way to the planetary destination which had been selected for Warden stretched the very fringe of a cloud of space radiation. This cloud had been charted and analyzed, so that Warden’s captain was aware that he was to plot a course to avoid any possible danger . Somehow the vessel came too close to the radiation, and the cloud contained disaster.

flashback posted:

the colonists were not rigidly screened for the expedition


DISASTER cont posted:

The energy given off at the fringes of this celestial hazard was foreign to all previously known radiation types. It passed through every one of the ship’s protection systems and defense screens. The effects on the ship itself were startling. The worst hit were the colonists aboard, and most of the human beings exposed to the radiation simply turned to piles of calcium with no advance symptoms. Hard hit also were the flora and fauna which underwent mutation if they even survived at all. Even some of the vessel's systems were affected, and unstable , radioactive areas were caused from the cloud's radiation. The humans who survived the initial exposure discovered too late that life forms in their natural setting - such as the ecologically prepared forest areas and the like - seemed to have the greatest resistance to the effects of the radiation. A few of the crew and colonists then took to living in the huge parks of Warden. A handful remained who tried to restore sanity and order to the starship. They failed.

Were Metamorphosis Alpha a friend of FATAL, the handful remaining would have succeeded, forming some sort of rape-based dicktatorship that would oppress the hard working, morally right, and neo-Pagan park people. The part about the plants and animals would be totally forgotten and replaced with POSER art or something. it'd be Synnibarr.

Disaster, Cont posted:

Life became a struggle merely to survive for those humans that were left. In this struggle all knowledge of the ship’s mission or even, in fact, that the humans were on a ship was lost. Ship’s systems were maintained in a minimum operative state by the vessel’s main computer and the robots that were operating at the time of the cloud's entrance into the starship. Later generations of humans lost all sense of identity. with the ship regressing into a state of savagery. Life quickly stabilized (as life has a habit of doing) with new life forms created from exposure to the unknown radiation. The humans settled into a tribal way of life and those few that traveled and came back told of areas where the animals walked like men and plants were able to talk and move. The vessel traveled on past its assigned planet with its safety systems preventing the ship’s destruction by crashing into a planet or burning up in the sun. It is only a matter of time until even those almost perfect systems fail and the starship dies. Until that time, life continues to flourish and the Warden travels on, much changed from what it once was.


Survival posted:

The players of the game are put into this situation as humans, mutated humanoids, or intelligent monsters. What they do and how they survive the dangers of the ship makes for an interesting situation for all participants alike. The travels up and down through the starship are only accomplished by using bits and pieces of ancient knowledge the players are able to gather from the referee and their starting point. Traveling throughout the ship forces the players to gain technological devices and information just to survive on a day to day basis. They can also make use of the secretions and liquids produced by the mutated plants and creatures of the forest levels.



Age Level: Adults 12 years and up.
Number of Participants: 1 referee and 2 to 24 players .

oh jesus fuck I actually almost fell off my chair when I saw this. Role-playing games were much, much different back in the day. 24 goddamn players? I wonder how they reached that number. Did they just keep inviting people until it became too big of a clusterfuck? Did James M. Ward eventually get fed up and said "No, 25 is one too many." There is surely a story behind this number.


Much of the material herein is presented in order to give participants the proper “feel” for play. This may cause some readers to hesitate to become involved in a game which has, seemingly, so many rules, but actually the system is quite simple; and it provides a nearly endless, multileveled, and completely absorbing science fiction game which will offer a challenge to the most imaginative intellect.

The rules are quite simple, yes, but like many old RPGs this book suffers from terrible layout design. The .pdf that you can buy off of DriveThruRPG or whatever fixes this somewhat, but it also lacks the totally awesome art.

The book goes on to talk about the player-referee relationship, how a good referee needs to balance out toughness and how the ultimate goal of the game is to have fun. It also offers some other names for the Referee: Supreme Arbiter or Starship Master.

This is where the .pdf totally pusses out. It gets rid of the Random Number Generator, Polyhedra (Multi-sided) Dice, Graph Paper, Hexagon Paper, Sheet Protectors, Notebooks, Pencils and Paper entries. I mean sure, it probably assumes we know that, but assumptions just make an ass out of you and me, right?



One Very Patient Referee


NEXT TIME: THE STARSHIP and I cut down on copy-pasting