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Build Better Worlds To Die Upon

For a campaign built on investigation and exploration rather than blasting through an Alien hive.

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When Free League Publishing announced the Alien Role Playing Game, they said the line would be built upon three broad pillars. The game would support campaigns that focused on space marines, space truckers and colonists. With the space marine chapter filled out over the past few years it’s time for the colonists to get their due. Building Better Worlds is the sourcebook that focuses on exploration and colonization in the universe which fans know can be deadly for several reasons. Designers Andrew E.C. Gaska, Dave Semark and Tomas Härenstam split the book in a manner similar to the Colonial Marines Operations Manual. The first part of the book offers history, setting detail, character options, new ships and gear. The second half offers a campaign featuring the themes explored in the book. Free League Publishing sent along a copy for me to review. Does the book earn bonus shares? Let’s play to find out.

Fans starved for setting material will find a bounty within these pages. The book highlights the messy web of government interests, corporate greed and semi-independent operators that make up the settlements in the Middle Heavens. The effects of the Frontier War are still spreading to the area but the inherent tension between factions doesn’t really need a full on war to break out into violence. The frontier is full of squabbling settlement, desperate band of outlaws and corporate interests working on shady projects in the darkness of space. And that’s before you get into the aliens lurking in the shadows with their own agendas.

The book offers two new player options along with a handful of new Talents to use either with them or surviving characters. The wildcat is a scout that lives on the fringes of society who has a knack for surviving in the harsh conditions of new worlds. The entertainer makes life on the frontier easier through comfort in a variety of ways. The tech focuses on gear that’s on in the field and a little bit older and worn or items that can be picked up and used as improvised weapons when things get rough. I liked the ideas inspired by this gear and feel like you can have some tense scenes of welding doors shut, shooting hot bolts at bad guys and stripping gear into parts for bigger guns.

The campaign focuses on the intrigues of the powers that can afford to make settlements. The big guns combine into a big ship supported by several factions. The idea is to reconnect with a lost sector as well as survey worlds that could be expanded into new colonies now. The players are part of this new fleet and get a big list of the former colonies and can go after them in (almost) any order they choose. Of the dozen locations, half are pre-built episodes that advance the main plot, the rest are sites that the Game Master can use for their own stories or use the charts in the appendix to build.

I like the open ended nature of this campaign. Each of the full episodes contains a clue to the main plot though those can be moved around with relative ease.The final location is lightly lampshaded by being highly radioactive but I would hope players in an Alien campaign would want to get as much information as possible before charging into the most dangerous world.

The rest of the review contains spoilers. I think Building Better Worlds is a great book for groups that want a campaign built on investigation and exploration rather than blasting through an Alien hive.

The main antagonists are the Purified another alien experiment in black goo from those pesky Engineers. While the campaign also has pirates, warmongers and a Xenomorph worshiping cult, the Purified are the ones hoping to use the players to find a powerful alien artifact to bring their Xenomorph Queen hive to mother earth. I liked this plan and the strange way that the Purified aliens respect and worship the Xenomorph. The clash of faith and body horror seems rife with moments of horror and weirdness.
 

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Rob Wieland

Rob Wieland


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