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Colonial Marines Operations Manual (2021)

Hot damn, what a fantastic book. This is Colonial Marines Operations Manual (2021) for Free League’s Alien RPG. Prior to this, published Alien adventures were designed for the cinematic side of the game — pre-generated characters, secret agendas, fairly linear plots — but this is the first in a series of open world campaign supplements (the plan, I believe, is release a book like this for every primary occupation in the core rulebook).

The player portion of the book is everything you wanted to know about the Colonial Marines for play. There’s stuff on unit structure, specialized roles (with slight mechanical tweaks), heaps of equipment. There’s a good deal of lore and rumors, too, which is an appetizer for the GM section, containing as it does a truckload of lore, details on swaths of the galaxy, the lowdown on the war that just broke out (between the United Americas and the Union of Progressive Peoples) and secrets galore. This section lays out the an open ended military-focused campaign, complete with a ship that serves as home base, NPCs and framing for particular sorts of missions. The final section supplement the open campaign with seven connected scenarios that build off the events of the seemingly unconnected cinematic scenarios and pushes the overall Alien RPG meta forward with some potentially big paradigm shifts.

The thing about this book, and the Alien line in general, that bowls me over is the lore. There is a lot of BAD material in the Alien franchise (Prometheus? Prometheus.). There is also some great stuff that is obscure (lots of comic book stories) or was unproduced (like Gibson’s Alien 3 script). Somehow Andrew Gaska has pulled those thread of varying quality into a tapestry that works as a compelling universe for roleplay. Initially, with the cinematic scenarios, there were big guardrails. Colonial Marines lowers them substantially and beyond them I can see the expanse of thrilling galaxy. More please.

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