Mutants in space! This week on the Vintage RPG Podcast, we dig into James M. Ward’s Metamorphosis Alpha, the first sci-fi RPG people care about! Halfway through the massive colony ship’s journey, it passed through a cloud of radiation, leading to waves of mutation and a breakdown of society. Now, centuries later, the human population of the ship have lost the knowledge of how to use the ship’s technology, heck, they don’t even know they’re on a ship in space! Explore the world, crawl through the engineering ducts and try to avoid the man-eating plants!
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7 thoughts on “Metamorphosis Alpha”
First podcast I’ve listened to, but I’ve been following your insta for a little while. Awesome episode! I knew a bit about MA from looking up stuff related to Gamma World 1e and 2e (more on that in a bit), but I didn’t know it was set on a generation ship. Really neat concept. I’ve been a huge Gamma World fan since I discovered my uncle’s RPG collection when I was probably 10 or 12 years old. I didn’t have anyone to play it with, so I memorized most of the handbook and some of the modules. Probably my favorite part about GW is how parts of it feel really undeveloped, which gives plenty of room for modding and homebrew material. I’ve been working on a homebrew Gamma World 2e as a pet project for the last year or so, but I unfortunately haven’t been able to get a steady enough player group to run a whole game. But here’s hoping in the future! Can’t wait to listen to your next episode.
Great review, but a slight error.
MA beat Starfaring – the dates in the books prove it. I have both.
Despite the dates, Metamorphosis Alpha released later in the year.
That is incorrect – the date in MA was the date of release.
OK, big pile of facts and references for you.
1. The date in the Metamorphosis Alpha foreword (July, 1976) does not indicate date of publication, it indicates when the foreword was written.
2. J. Eric Holmes credits Starfaring as the first sci-fi RPG in his 1981 book Fantasy Role Playing Games, explicitly states Metamorphosis Alpha came after it. (page 124)
3. Shannon Appelcline says Starfaring beat Metamorphosis Alpha to shelves by a couple months (Designers & Dragons vol 1, page 120)
4. In Playing at the World, Jon Peterson gets more specific, saying Metamorphosis Alpha was not ready for Origins II in July of 1976 (pages 564) and that it finally came out in November of 1976 (page 570)
5. First advertisement I can find for Starfaring being offered for sale is in the 1976 August/September issue of Space Gamer #7.
6. First mention of Metamorphosis Alpha in Dragon Magazine is in the 1976 December issue (#4), which would have hit the mail in November
Taking all that together: Starfaring was the first science fiction RPG.
Two of the references you quote rely upon one another. There have been pleny f people misrepresenting MA over the years. Heroic Worlds (1991, Lawrence Schick) even categorises the game as science-fantasy. I spoke with Ken St. Andre and Jim Ward back in 2006 to get the the bottom of this for producing the 4th edition of Metamorphosis Alpha. Hence my belief based upon both gents’ advice and recollections that MA was the first sci-fi rpg.
I found this site via the Metamorphosis Alpha Facebook page. A link was added by Cory Gahsman. I have nothing but psitive things to say about your MA review and look forward to the Gamma World review…