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Metamorphosis Alpha 1st Edition $5.99
Average Rating:4.5 / 5
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Metamorphosis Alpha 1st Edition
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Metamorphosis Alpha 1st Edition
Publisher: WardCo.
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/14/2015 09:15:46

MORBIUS: Back. To. The. Beginning! - Doctor Who: The Brain of Morbius.

There is a game going all the way back to the dawn of time, or at least the dawn of the roleplaying age, that has fascinated me. I knew of it's children games, Gamma World and Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, but it has not be till recently that I have seen the father of sci-fi games.

Metamorphosis Alpha is considered to be the first popular Scifi game available. While many of us heard of and purchased Traveller first (and that could be another entire week for me) MA really is the first. Published a year before the Traveller books. Written by James "Drawmij" Ward, MA has deep ties with D&D. The game was playtested by Ward and Gygax and others at TSR. This lead to the aforementioned Expedition to the Barrier Peaks and Gamma World. The forward of the game was written by Gygax and Brian Blume.

The basic game outline is that characters, human, mutant and other all live on a fantastic colony ship, The Warden, that has broken down. The ship is basically a giant flying dungeon. In space. The character creation rules, monsters and everything are like Original D&D through a distorted lens. To use an analogy from computer programing if D&D/AD&D is Pascal then Metamorphosis Alpha is Modula. Naturally this makes Gamma World Modula 2, AD&D2 Turbo Pascal, D&D3 Borland Pascal, D&D4 Oberon, D&D5 Delphi and so on...

It would be a fantastic game to play when you are in a great old-school mood and I do know people that have made great long campaigns with it. Think about it, the idea would later pop up in the series Red Dwarf.

The book itself is 40 pages which includes front and back cover, an updated errata sheet, pages of tables, character sheet and maps of the Warden.

The game itself is complete and a prime example of old-school minimalism. Modern readers might be tempted to ask "is this it", but to these eyes it is succinct and complete at the same time.

MA of course is perfectly playable on it's own. Has been for 40 years. But it also works great as a setting or a as a "Mega dungeon" in space.

Mix MA with any of the games I have been reveiwing over the last few days and you have a mysterious, ancient colony ship. 80 km long, 40 km wide and 14 km tall and filled with humans, mutants and who knows what else. Think of the ship in "WALL-E" now fill it with mutants.

Honestly I am using it in my own old-school D&D game and it is part of my world's history. The uses and re-uses of this game are endless.

The mutant rules in the book are easily ported over to any game. So use them as mutants or aliens or even demons in your fantasy game.

At just under 6 bucks it is also a steal. There are character sheets too for humans and mutants at a buck each. Normally I think sheets should be free, but I am only paying $5.99 for the pdf. If the sheets were free and the game was $7.99 I would not balk or fret at the price.

If you have any interest in old-school gaming, sci-fi gaming or even the roots of our hobby, then this is a fantastic game to add to your collection. If you are playing any of the new "old-school" sci-fi games then I consider this a must buy.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Metamorphosis Alpha 1st Edition
Publisher: WardCo.
by Alastair M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/25/2013 05:47:45

I learnt what "Metamorphosis Alpha" was all about thanks to a review-discussion article in the first issue of "White Dwarf" magazine back in the summer of '77. Although that review was inspirational, I was already heavily committed to D&D since late in the previous year. Sadly, as a youngster with very limited funds, and D&D even then having four supplements available, MA remained just beyond reach. But I never forgot it, and some of MA's ideas, including from a further piece in "White Dwarf" 5 on adding mutated food plants and finding safe water to the game, went on to feature in my D&D campaigns. Fast-forward 36 years, and finally I have a copy of MA, thanks to the marvels of the Internet and PDF files! And it's every bit as inspirational still as I'd once hoped.

Yes, it's from a time when RPGs were in their infancy, and like the wargame rules from which they grew, it was generally expected that you'd need to amend or create some rules to plug gaps as you went along. Then as now though, a strong background setting and development can always overcome any "inconvenience" that might be thought.

I don't recall any comparable RPG set exclusively on a "generational" starship like Warden, one where if all went well (not what happens in MA, of course!), the crew and colonists were expected to continue their lives in a managed, fully-functional, enclosed ecosystem on-board, leaving it to their ancestors to reach and colonise the destination planet. Subsequently, the third and fourth editions (and presumably also the seemingly imminent fifth) changed MA's setting more towards that of a "sleeper" starship, where the crew and colonists were maintained in stasis units until arrival, and where the ship's main computer had become insane.

Weirdly, it's this alternate setting which forms the basis for the short adventure included here, albeit this is largely unrelated to the craft as detailed in these first edition rules! While both concepts have their merits, it's a little disappointing the original premise seems not to have been thought strong enough to fully support here. Similarly, instead of doing a proper revised edition, the "official errata" are simply tacked-on separately, while despite claims of grammatical and spelling corrections having been made, a more thorough check would have been beneficial in places.

I understand WardCo's energies are probably thought better concentrated on the newer editions of MA, but this primary setting shouldn't be ignored by gamers, since there are some beautiful ideas here that deserve exploration, and which won't be found quite the same elsewhere.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Metamorphosis Alpha 1st Edition
Publisher: WardCo.
by Ed S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/20/2013 04:06:48

this is the game that got me into gaming years ago(i bought the original when it came out in stores) my first rpg experience was with met alpha. so when i found a reprint here i just had to get it for myself. trying to recaoture the magic. i guess. happy gaming to all!!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Metamorphosis Alpha 1st Edition
Publisher: WardCo.
by Eric K. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/28/2012 17:35:18

So glad this was released in this format! Always wanted to own this game and now I do.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Creator Reply:
Eric, Thanks for taking the time to provide a bit of feedback. I hope you get many years of gaming pleasure from your copy of the game. Craig J. Brain WardCo.
Metamorphosis Alpha 1st Edition
Publisher: WardCo.
by William W. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/09/2012 13:02:51

A great treatment of the first sci-fi RPG in history. The scans are nice and clear, the images come through nicely, and all of the text is searchable.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Creator Reply:
William, Thanks very much for taking the time to provide feedback. I am glad that you are happy with the book. Regards, Craig J. Brain WardCo.
Metamorphosis Alpha 1st Edition
Publisher: WardCo.
by David L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/15/2010 13:58:23

What can I add that the others haven't already said? This was the FIRST RPG that I ever owned.

My buddies had OD&D and AD&D1e and I had MA. We would take turns GMing both. Yes, we even had a couple of 'crossovers' from D&D to MA and viceversa. I spent countless hours working on my version of the Warden.

The very first adventure I took them on had them hooked on MA. Naturally, it is very dated according to current standards, but you have a complete, playable set of rules with which you can have hours of fun. Many gamers today like having a 'bare-bones' system that they can house-rule or customize.

Try finding an original, printed copy of this game (I still have mine). It will cost you big bucks. Releasing it in .pdf format was a godsend, and will hopefully bring fresh fans.

I own an extensive collection of OOP RPGs and supplements. Having them available in pdf format is great in case of a fire or other type of disaster.

Buy it, try it! You can't go wrong for the price of a single meal at McDonalds.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Metamorphosis Alpha 1st Edition
Publisher: WardCo.
by David R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/28/2009 15:59:56

This is a good re-print of an old classic. I really wish the font size was increased and the errata included in the text, instead of separate.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Creator Reply:
David, Thanks very much for the feedback! We are looking at a larger print version in the future. The pdf version has a lot of minor fixes incorporated into the main text (typos and grammar), but the main body of text was left alone to keep it as close as possible to the original. The larger print version will incorporate all of the errata as well as many of the Dragon Magazine articles - which Jim Ward owns the rights to. Regards, Craig J. Brain
Metamorphosis Alpha 1st Edition
Publisher: WardCo.
by Edmund W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/05/2008 03:21:43

This product is all that, though it lacks a bag of chips (even for the reasonable price, less than 50 pages does not earn a bag of chips). The original Metamorphosis Alpha setting has not been emulated in the newer editions per se (currently on its 4th edition, and a very worthy book that is to get, though unavailable in PDF), rather presenting an alternate Warden whose population are a lot closer to being original crew. Thus, for the data on the original setting, devoid of aliens and other colony ships, this is the thing.

The rules set is still workable, although even with errata it's bare bones. This was actually standard fare at the time, the idea being that you would do most of the creation of the ship yourself on the fly as you play/run the game, using the brief notes on each of the decks of the ship, all of its technologies, etc., and fleshing it out. Dragon magazine articles (available online at www.metamorphosisalpha.com, as opposed to www.metamorphosisalpha.net which is the official website) gave notes on androids, rules for robot PCs, and a whole host of other tasty elements.

This setting is, to me, superior to the new 4th ed one. Although the alien plotline in itself is fun, the change of making PCs who are technologically semi-literate and historically aware, even if addled or debased, doesn't convey the original feel of the game. Playing or running this original version of the game, and reading the text, is like reading an existentialist novel, only it lacks the pretention or heavy-handed morality play. That in itself is worth gold to anybody who likes to mix dramatic roleplay with dungeon crawling goodness, such as any long-time fan of D&D settings like Ravenloft or Dark Sun.

The game itself is better than good, and although the older mechanics have a number of dings and breaks, it's all good fare.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Creator Reply:
Edmund, Thanks for the kind words. I'll make sure that Jim Ward sees this review. Warmest regards, Craig J. Brain WardCo.
Metamorphosis Alpha 1st Edition
Publisher: WardCo.
by Daniel P. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/05/2007 23:33:10

This is a classic game for a great price! (watch for the POD version due to hit the scene at lulu.com before Christmas)

The main question readers of this review will want answered is - should I buy this? In a word, yes.

Why?

This isn't JUST the very first science fiction RPG ever published. You won't JUST be supporting one of the founders of the whole fandangled RPG hobby. This game is an old-school icon for what it means to play in a gritty, fight-for-your-life environment where smarts, mutations, and a bit of luck can save you from the android maniacs and mutated beasts that are out for your blood. Don't even get me started about the insane AI running the whole show.

This game's system is an adapted version of AD&D 1e/ OD&D (both available here at RPGnow as PDFs).

Look, don't expect some glossy, fancy, "unified game mechanic" nonsense here. We're talkin' an old-school kick-you-in-the-gut system with role-playing (and maybe a radiation blast) as your only means of survival, buddy, and don't let any "3.5/OGL" confuse you!

Take the Metamorphosis 1e challenge. I dare you. Buy this game, play it as written for a few sessions, and decide for yourself if RPG "advancement" means anything. This game is just as relevant today as the day Jim Ward wrote it up. Buy it, play it, house rule it, and for god's sake have fun with it!

This game is a piece of gaming history, so don't let it pass you by.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Creator Reply:
Daniel, Thank you for posting this. I think you captured Jim Ward's intent perfectly with your sentence: "Buy it, play it, house rule it, and for god's sake have fun with it!" We will continue to work hard towards getting this out as a POD product as well. Regards, Craig J. Brain A piece of the WardCo. puzzle.
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