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Free League's Alien RPG - My Experience

payn

He'll flip ya...Flip ya for real...
I have a very clear line of where I'm okay with it. A competitive board game with a traitor mechanic, I can handle about 2-3 hours. I don't want to invest myself in it more than that. A 14-hour RPG that took an entire weekend was excessive for this style of play (for me). To be fair, I also wouldn't want to do a 14-hour session of a deathtrap dungeon with expendable characters.
If I'm going to be playing 4 or more hours, I want a decent chance of success in a mission. This is why games like Arkham Horror don't appeal to me (6+ hours just to know you're all going to lose at the 2 hour mark, and you have 4+ hours of sitting there feeling hopeless).
Well, I see two different things here. One is a board game with clear objectives in which you can see the end and know you are not going to make it. Also, you have hours to go. Thats sucks I agree. It even sucks in games with bad run away leader problems. I see RPGs a little differently. I dont see a process of start and finishes with clear objectives. For me, its try and survive while soaking in the genre and expected experiences.

The typical RPG leveling idea makes this seem more board game than anything. I mean, why bother playing a character that is never going to get improvements and rewards? Well, some experiences just suffer under that dynamic. Call of Cthlhu for example, has always seemed odd to me because its so lethal. I know folks run campaigns with it, but I have never been able to break the cognitive dissonance with the gameplay and the genre. Now, if you run a one shot contained scenario, with plenty of replacement characters, high lethality has a great risk reward element without you losing the game or having to stop playing. Playing into the genre and scenario is its own reward.
 

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Celebrim

Legend
Mostly the game just reminds me how much I hate the 'Alien' cinematic universe as a setting. I know it's inspired by a horror movie, but it's still one of those things that doesn't bear scrutiny. The 'Aliens' aren't really aliens but magical demon creatures with properties that ignore science and possess in the setting nigh unlimited plot protection. It's just an utterly annoying setting that is made all the more annoying when you try to game it.

The rules aren't bad. Stress is a fun mechanic and the core of the rules are fine, but the combat rules replicate the Alien's annoying levels of plot protection well so that bad stuff just happens, and you really feel the game should just be played as "nuke it all from orbit" except that the plot protection of the aliens keeps rearing its head in the form of comically over the stop stupid human villains.
 

Retreater

Legend
The typical RPG leveling idea makes this seem more board game than anything. I mean, why bother playing a character that is never going to get improvements and rewards? Well, some experiences just suffer under that dynamic. Call of Cthlhu for example, has always seemed odd to me because its so lethal. I know folks run campaigns with it, but I have never been able to break the cognitive dissonance with the gameplay and the genre. Now, if you run a one shot contained scenario, with plenty of replacement characters, high lethality has a great risk reward element without you losing the game or having to stop playing. Playing into the genre and scenario is its own reward.
I've been able to run successful Call of Cthulhu campaigns - including Masks of Nyarlahotep. I can say none of my sessions going back to the first one I ran in 1994 has felt as hopeless as the Free League Alien RPG. It could be that you have a comradery in CoC and don't have traitor mechanics for every player in the game.
 

payn

He'll flip ya...Flip ya for real...
I've been able to run successful Call of Cthulhu campaigns - including Masks of Nyarlahotep. I can say none of my sessions going back to the first one I ran in 1994 has felt as hopeless as the Free League Alien RPG. It could be that you have a comradery in CoC and don't have traitor mechanics for every player in the game.
Folks have different experiences I guess. Call of Cthulhu campaigns were not hopeless, so to speak, but by the time I was on my 5th or 6th character, I just couldn't grok what was happening and what was interesting about the story anymore. That was lost after the 2nd or 3rd session. Though, my keepers where always very lethal ones and did not run the game with kids gloves, so who knows? I don't think id like a a soft Cthulhu experience anyways. Though, plenty of one shot Cthulhu games I played in felt a lot like Alien. 🤷‍♂️
 

prabe

Tension, apprension, and dissension have begun
Supporter
Folks have different experiences I guess. Call of Cthulhu campaigns were not hopeless, so to speak, but by the time I was on my 5th or 6th character, I just couldn't grok what was happening and what was interesting about the story anymore. That was lost after the 2nd or 3rd session. Though, my keepers where always very lethal ones and did not run the game with kids gloves, so who knows? I don't think id like a a soft Cthulhu experience anyways. Though, plenty of one shot Cthulhu games I played in felt a lot like Alien. 🤷‍♂️
That's probably not entirely inapt. There's a pretty good argument that Alien is Lovecraftian fiction in a science-fiction costume.
 

Yora

Legend
You say Lovecraft isn't science fiction?
Mostly the game just reminds me how much I hate the 'Alien' cinematic universe as a setting. I know it's inspired by a horror movie, but it's still one of those things that doesn't bear scrutiny. The 'Aliens' aren't really aliens but magical demon creatures with properties that ignore science and possess in the setting nigh unlimited plot protection. It's just an utterly annoying setting that is made all the more annoying when you try to game it.

The rules aren't bad. Stress is a fun mechanic and the core of the rules are fine, but the combat rules replicate the Alien's annoying levels of plot protection well so that bad stuff just happens, and you really feel the game should just be played as "nuke it all from orbit" except that the plot protection of the aliens keeps rearing its head in the form of comically over the stop stupid human villains.
That's how both the first and second movie were set up. Monster on a cargo ship, and monsters on an isolated outpost. These stories don't require settings larger than a thousand meter bubble.
And I think pretty much everyone who's really into those two movies agrees that the attempts to expand on that world were all mistakes.
 

Celebrim

Legend
You say Lovecraft isn't science fiction?

I think you probably mean that with a wink and a grin, but for the record.

I mean, well, "Yes." Lovecraft is mostly fantasy, and while he does use alien elements and makes occasional reference to super-science, mostly Lovecraft is creating a sort of dark theology inspired by a very negative view of materialism and not actually a materialist view of the world at all. Nyarlathotep is not a science fiction concept, and neither are the Aliens. Real acid can't dissolve many times more material than its own molecular count, nor can a real creature store up so much energy by eating a person's insides to create super matter and sufficient energy to operate in a vacuum for a long period without any real harm to itself. Whatever an alien is made out of it, it would have to be made out of stuff you find in a person using the amount of energy you can get by ingesting human tissue. And the Alien organisms so aren't. They are rape demons from hell, and when you try to tell a larger science fiction story that tries to make them coherent rather than symbols of our fear, it just doesn't work.
 

MGibster

Legend
Most of the agenda cards were "you'll do anything to X" which you have to assume means up to killing off the other players - especially when your character is described as unhinged and greedy.
If you're running Chariot of the Gods from the starter set, then killing another PC to achieve the Agenda for Acts I-II would be an extreme response. Unreasonably so in my opinion.
 

That style of play - I just can't do it. It's not fun. It's the bleakest form of entertainment in the guise of cooperative fun.

Seems a little weird to just dismiss whole modes of play in RPGs. I just played in a Trophy Dark game that was a blast, and ended with outright PvP and carnage. And it was completely cooperative, since throughout a Trophy Dark game you're proposing bad things that might happen to your fellow PCs as a result of low rolls or taking a Devil's Bargain for a die-roll bonus. Just means leaning into the idea of telling a cool story as a group, instead of "winning." In Cinematic mode Alien is absolutely a play-to-lose game. If that's not your bag, fine, but it's by no means the bleakest anything in the guise of anything. It's playing an Alien-style horror story, down to the brutal end.
 

MGibster

Legend
Mostly the game just reminds me how much I hate the 'Alien' cinematic universe as a setting. I know it's inspired by a horror movie, but it's still one of those things that doesn't bear scrutiny. The 'Aliens' aren't really aliens but magical demon creatures with properties that ignore science and possess in the setting nigh unlimited plot protection. It's just an utterly annoying setting that is made all the more annoying when you try to game it.
I generally don't find it particuilarly constructive to obsess over whether something is truly science fiction or not. Star Wars, 2001, Alien, and Gravity are all science fiction movies. And if you hate the Alien universe, it should come to no surprise that you're not a fan of the game either. If I hated Robotech (another science fiction property) because of the ridiculous transforming vehicles there no way I'm going to enjoy an RPG based off of it.
 

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