AO: The Evolution of Sci-Fi Roleplaying

2008 Ennie Nominee
2008 Ennie Nominee

Mind Storm LabsAlpha Omega, or AO, is a new RPG that debuted before GenCon ’08.  Mind Storm Labs and its fresh new game were nominated for three Ennie awards for Best Interior Art, Best Production Values, and Best Publisher.

In the public voting, I voted for it for best production value, just judging from a small sample.  After receiving the thick, horizontal format (akin to the height and width ration of a widescreen monitor) book in the mail, I see that my vote was well placed.  The art and graphic design employed on the book is phenomenal.  If you check out their website, you will find more of the same production value there.

The coolest feature of the graphic design includes a navbar on the outside of the pages that highlights section icons and section numbers, making navigation fairly easy.  It brings a web designer mentality to book navigation.  The only thing I wish it had is an index and page numbers, but the table of contents is pretty thorough.

So, Mind Storm Labs certainly invested in the eye candy, but did they set the same bar for the actual development of the game?  That was what I had wondered when I initially visited their booth at GenCon.

Alpha Omega RPG
Alpha Omega RPG

I wish I had taken note of the representative who I had spoke with to get a general idea of the game, cause it might have very well been one of the two developers, David Carter or Earl Fischl.  Or maybe it could have been Tom McLaughlin who was the person kind enough to hook me up with a copy of the game for review.

So does Alpha Omega bring an “A” game to the table?  I think so.  I will say that I had to make a significant investment of time to take full advantage of the mechanics.  The time invested was not unbearable though.  This investment is somewhat mitigated by the fact that the game was developed in layers of complexity that can be removed or added as necessary.  So you can build off the core as you become more familiar.

Character Creation

Necrosi Male
Necrosi Male

The game uses a point buy character creation model, offering a choice of ten races including the versatile human, artificially intelligent androids, and the angelic and demonic looking Nephilim who are the offspring of aliens and humans.  Characters have seven attributes or ability scores which are called Core Qualities in AO.  These scores have minimum and maximum values based upon race.  Then you have Secondary and Tertiary Qualities that are calculated using the values of the Core Qualities.

Character creation is expanded by using Abilities and Drawbacks (think Merits and Flaws, or Feats), Genetic Deviations, Skills, and Wielding (AO’s version of magic).  Since there are no classes or archetypes, players are free to develop whatever characters they want.  This is something I value greatly.

Game Mechanics

The rule mechanics for Alpha Omega is called the 6-6 System.  This stands for the six, one second segments that comprise a combat cycle and the maximum six dice in his dice pool that a player may roll to resolve actions during that combat cycle.  The size of the dice that can be rolled scales with character development, beginning with a majority of d4s and one or two d6s all the way up to d20s.

The more developed a character, the more segments he or she may act in.  The player only gets one dice pool, which he may spend all at once or over the course of multiple segments.  Also, depending on the situation, the player upgrade his dice pool with higher sided dice, or be penalized with lower sided dice.  Your dice pool is determined by the key Core Quality for the action you are taking.

Setting

Remnant Female
Remnant Female

In my personal opinion, the best part of Alpha Omega is the setting.  In the world of AO, the Earth finally fought back against all the damn humanity that has been destroying for centuries.  Earthquakes, volcanoes, typhoons, and aberrant weather wreak havoc upon the face of the earth.  Follow this upon with the mutually assured annihilation of nuclear-biological-chemical war and six years of comet debris raining death and devastation.

So humans pulled back into the safety of cities, letting the rural parts return to the elemental wild.  Years of exposure to the chemicals, radiation, and biological weapons the war and the strange alien influence of the comets have caused wild mutations in the wildlife and some of humanity, bringing new species.  Remnants, the descendents of humans left to the mutations of the wild.  Necrosi are the descendents of humans who fled underground but were mutated by radiation from the comets.

While the world outside were running wild, the cities built up into massive self-contain super structures called arcologies.  These structures soar several kilometers into the sky.  It is within these arcologies that technology grew by leaps and bounds, allowing humans to thrive.  Now these mega-cities struggle against each other for control of resources in the wild, also known as Freezones.

This backdrop is interesting enough, but AO also adds an element of alien scheming and influence in the presence of two alien races: the angelic appearing Seraph and the Ophanum, of demonic countenance.  These two races are at war with each other and every thousand years they use Earth as a battleground.

Some of these aliens bred with humans, birthing the Nephilim.  The Seraph, Ophanum, Nephilim, and the Grigori (servants of the Seraph and Ophanum) are known as the Evolutionaries.  The Evolutionaries only revealed themselves in the last couple of centuries, which sets the stage for the impending alien war coming to Earth.  All that is left is to choose sides.

Online Community

AI Male
AI Male

Has developed the Alpha Omega Players’ Community, which is a forum based website that looks very active.  You can find gaming group, look into Cons and Event stuff, find out about the official managed campaign, and participate in general discussion.

I don’t know if I have seen a publisher go to the lengths Mind Storm Labs has to ensure fans have access to resources to make community content.  AO provide a fan kit on their homepage that includes images and assets from that snazzy piece of eye candy that is their website.  Some of which I have used in this article.

They also created the New World Science and Engineering Commission (NWSEC), a wiki set in the AO universe where players can submit their own “discoveries.”  Players can submit new creatures, weapons, gear, and locations.  In fact Mind Storm Labs recently completed a contest that where they chose the five best creatures to be included in their bestiary supplement, The Encountered.  The best part is that is all “in character.”  Pretty slick.

Impressions

If you want a game that brings a fresh perspective on the Sci-Fi RPG, I definitely recommend you give Alpha Omega a whirl.  It only requires one book, which while more pricey than the current average cost for a core book (EDIT: MSRP $44.95), you only need one, instead of two or three. Note: Atomic Array listeners get a $15 discount, which makes the price $29.95! Which makes this RPG a MUST HAVE!

When combined with the strong, player-driven online community that Mind Storm Labs has built, this game could provide many hours of enjoyable roleplay.  While it is far too early for me to render a final verdict, Alpha Omega is still young and if it perseveres, it could shape up to be a major contender.

Want to learn more about Alpha Omega? Read on…

Special Offer from Atomic Array: $15 off Alpha Omega when you enter the coupon code “Atomic” during purchase. Drop by Mind Storm Labs to pick up your copy today!

Listening to: Android Lust – Evolution – Suffer the Flesh

19 thoughts on “AO: The Evolution of Sci-Fi Roleplaying

  1. Pingback: Interview with Roger Traffler of the NWSEC
  2. Hi Mike,

    Thanks for reviewing Alpha Omega. If any of your readers have a question about the game please pass on my contact information to them.

    On a side note the retail price for Alpha Omega is $44.95, not $54.95.

    Thanks,

    Tom McLaughlin
    Mind Storm Labs

  3. Pingback: AppzDrive.com » Blog Archive » Alpha Omega RPG (Atomic Array 012)
  4. From one crazy AO fan, thanks so much for the shoutout to the community. We are passionate about the game but we wouldn’t be if it weren’t for MSL’s awesome job in developing such an engaging world that you just want to jump into to feed both players’ and GMs’ imagination worldwide. 😉

  5. @Myridean: Thanks for stopping by and showing your passion for the game. I’m currently outlining some stuff for my next campaign which will be using AO. I think my group will dig the game.

  6. Pingback: Interview with Roger Traffler of the NWSEC | freewarhammer.com
  7. I know this game has been out for awhile now…but I still can not stop playing it. I read about it here when you did this original post and went out and bought it. I was going through by bookmarks today to clean them and found this post one more time..so I had to give everyone an update. The game is sweet and addictive.
    .-= Frank Tables´s last blog ..Lift and Tilt Table =-.

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