Alien: The Roleplaying Game (2019)

I really didn’t think I was going to love Fria Liga’s Alien. I didn’t honestly understand the point of building an RPG around the license — Alien movies end with just about everyone getting killed by an alien, to the point that recent installments of the franchise have resorted to grotesque contortions to mix up the formula. Even so, those films are  pretty unimpressive. Do I really want to play an RPG set in a post-Prometheus Alien universe?

Shockingly, yes! The Alien RPG manages to take bits and pieces of every part of the larger franchise and synthesize them into something astonishingly and consistently cool. Remember how amazing the first Prometheus trailer was? All that promise? You get all that in the RPG, without having to be bound to the details of the movie’s execution. The specifics don’t matter at all, in fact. But the broad implications paint outer space as a hostile, howling void intent on murdering everyone who ventures out into it. It’s great. The look of the game, with its monochrome monitor graphics and dark art supports this well.

Under the hood, the game uses Year Zero Engine and bolts on a stress mechanic that can lead to panic — a quick and easy sanity system with immediate consequences. Similarly, the usual status damage system used by YZE is replaced with a health score, making combat far more deadly. While campaign play is supported (and there is plenty of source material in here to get one going, including a couple call backs to the Leading Edge Aliens RPG, of all things) the focus is really on “Cinematic” one-shots that match the dramatic arc of an Alien film. They play here is fast and deadly, made more complicated by personal agendas that almost inevitably lead to betrayals at crucial moments.

The one down-side here is that the scenario — a brief bid for survival parallel to the events of the film Aliens — doesn’t really show what the Alien system can do. It’s fine, but the real action is in the box sets.

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