Good news for you for sure! It’s exactly what you describe. Of course, it has some differences from Call of Cthulhu, since this is bronze age fantasy, but the basic roll under a percentile mechanic is the same.
There’s a free quick start download if you want to try it out.
After reading through the rules over the weekend, I sadly have to agree with your comment about the organization of the book. It’s all there, but it’s scattered in weird ways. Creating a character is unnecessarily complicated thanks to the need to flip back and forth. Combat resolution could use some examples. (In fact, many of the rules could use some examples of play.) It’s counterintuitive to dump useful stuff like Patrons, the sample adventure, and rules for creating “Nameless Things” into the book’s Appendix section.
Maybe I’m being too sensitive to it, but the authors took pains to generalize the “Evil Men” in the Adversaries section to neatly sidestep some of the controversial elements of Tolkien’s writing, but they whiffed it in execution. In the rules, the people of Bree and the surrounding areas call everyone moving up the Greenway into their territory “Southerners” and no mention is made of their ethnicity, skin color, etc, which is a great call. But then in the sample adventure, one of the main named baddies is “Sabian, the Spy from Umbar” and he gets this description:
“a short, wiry fellow by the name of Sabian, swarthy and dressed in black”
Swarthy? Really Free League? Swarthy isn’t pejorative on its own, but it’s fallen out of favor as a neutral descriptor since it’s typically always used to describe POC in a negative way, and I think that goes doubly when you’re trying to emulate Tolkien’s writing without stepping into the same xenophobic pitfalls of making all bad guys POC.
Finally, I really dislike games that rely on custom dice. Yes, you can use normal D12 and D6 dice, but the rules make a lot of hay over the various symbols and exceptions on the custom dice, enough that a quick sample encounter I ran had us constantly saying “Oh wait. That’s supposed to be the eye thingy, not a 12.” or “These numbers are supposed to be outlined, not solid.”
ALL of Free League games use costum dice - I suspect its a large part of their income projections or whatever it is called in english. I kinda wish they would just make a diceroller app.
Hmm, maybe Free Leagues upcoming online VTT will have it, and allow us to just use that? Although, one of the large joys of playing TTRPG’s, is of course, the rolling of dice :-)
Can I ask what POC means? As a foreigner, I had to look up swarthy, but couldn’t find anything about POC related to Tolkien or racism online.
It’s all my fault. I’m sorry. I encouraged them. I’m running Hope’s Last Day for the first time this weekend (it took forever to manage schedules) for 5 players; then again on the 6th of March for another group of 5.
Most are new to TTRPGs and I wanted them to have a pool of easy to parse dice. So I got these:
Free League is never getting off the easy money train now. :(
That being said, I really love their dice and the Mutant Year Zero engine ones are the least needed. For Alien, all you need is 2 distinct colours. For Vaesen, not even that. You can easily purchase cheap regular D6’s.
I think the “just different enough to be confusing” D12 in TOR is unfortunate though.
Question for you @Razgon. I know you started last year’s thread with Alien and ran it for your family. How wrong did it go for them and how improv heavy did this end up having to go as the GM? Did you have spare character sheets for replacement PCs? I read the stories can go quite off the rails and am unsure what to expect for my first game.
As for the game itself, it went really, really well. Mostly because at the beginning, I had forgotten about the aliens special attacks and how they actually worked. Once I got my head around that, pretty much all of them except for one ended up dying, but most of them at the very end.
The end is VERY rough on the players, and I managed to instill fear in them rather well, I have to say, talking fast, telling them how close the aliens were.
I had one player die half-way through, and gave her a new character.
The agendas worked VERY well, actually. Much better than I expected, and everyone really played their characters, right up to almost violence at times. Thats a great mechanic.
I found a lot of extras on the internet for this - I printed out a few maps in A3, since I had access to a printer that could do so. I also had 6 characters from…Chariot of the Gods as backup, and changed their agenda a bit.
But - we weren’t very good at the combat rules. I would really suggest trying to play out a few combat rounds, either yourself, or with a player or two before hand, just to get a handle on it.
Anyways - I’d LOVE to hear how the game went for your group, once you get it going!
I think I forgot a number of dice for the aliens, and I forgot whenever they are hurt, they spray acid!
Oh, I started the game a bit before. Actually, I ran with Seth Serkowskys ideas, and started with the actual job to go out and find the missing technicians, to set the mood. That went really well.
As for railroading - not really. The group is fairly inexperienced, and take my leads pretty much to heart, instead of going off on their own ideas.
Edit.: In general - watch Seth’s review of the adventure, and consider carefully his suggestions. For instance, having a map with aliens located on them, so you don’t have to remember their locations yourself was pretty good for me.
Unfortunately, my players won’t have that chance. I’ve read through the rules a couple of times and, like you suggested, I had my daughter play a hapless character fighting a facehugger first, then a scout. She died to acid splash after putting the xenomorph down both times.
I also doublechecked the rules on speed. Facehuggers get 2 initiative cards in combat, the scouts and drones 2 or 3 (can’t remember which is which). Any combat is going to get pretty scary with that in play. That last scene… I can’t think about it.
So I guess they get to play hard mode from the start. :)
That’s great to hear. Agendas and stress are 2 really good mechanics in Alien. I’m looking foward to seeing how they work out in both groups. I’ll try and encourage them to think about their agenda before we start.
Also, I like to hear how you instilled fear in your players. I’ll try and emulate that!
Oh yes, Seth skorkowski is my first port of call to get impressions on CoC / Alien modules and tips on running them. He’s really good.
That’s a really good idea about using Chariots of the Gods characters as spares. I have the ones Seth added to his campaign (the NPCs for this scenario). But I might add another one from Chariot to the sub-basement mass housing, as an added lure to explore and spare PC if they go that way (or someone to sacrifice in a spectacular fashion if they don’t :) ).
Today was the day and I ran the game for 4 players. And wow, it was intensely cinematic and epic. The scenario says it can be completed under 2 hours… It took us nearly 5 (with 2 short breaks). And I skipped the optional events; there was no way they would fit in!
As a GM, I had no time to drink, no time to check my phone. There is so much to do and track while the players explore the colony and get tracked by “friendly locals”.
They played it smart. They got hurt in the base and they were constantly hunted, but nobody died. They were also lucky with some panic rolls.
You aren’t kidding about the end being very rough. However, it also led to some awesome moments. Especially thanks to this bit:
Do not read the following spoiler if you plan to play Hadley’s Hope. I won’t spoil the exact details, but it will spoil motivations and characters.
The players were in sight of their mean of escape: the corporate shuttle.
One of the players decided that whatever was happening at Hadley’s Hope should not be allowed to get out of the moon. As they reached the shuttle, they took a shot at another player. Fortunately, they missed. But the other player ran off in a panic.
At that point, the giant Stalker Xenomorph which had been pursuing the group took a leap and dragged one of the players away from the landing pad. Holroyd launched in pursuit with a flamethrower. Up to that point, I thought the players actually had a decent chance of making it if they reached the shuttle with all their weaponry.
But Holroyd dropped the flamethrower. The other player picked it up, panicked and emptied the tank, barely managing to hurt the beast. From there, it went from bad to worst. Routed players made a beeline for the shuttle while our aggressive traitor got facehugged hiding in a corner.
Komiskey (taken over by the facehugged player) had only one thought: Get off the planet and get in cryo. So she made preparations to launch the shuttle while another player got facehugged inside. Holroyd ended up fighting 2 Facehuggers in the shuttle with a side arm, taking severe acid splash damage.
As the shuttle took off and Komiskey made the preparations to go in cryo, Holroyd decided he would not let Komiskey get away with it. In a beautiful moment of self sacrifice, he held his fire and attracted the Facehugger next to the navigational controls and hull. The Facehugger launched at his face and he blasted it. The acid splash went through the computers, setting electronics on fire, piercing the hull and, fittingly, dealing Holroyd a critical injury which separated his head from his torso.
As he slowly collapsed and Komiskey sank into the cryo pod, all both could see was the hull breached and more components burst into flame. Komiskey fell into unconsciousness to the sight of the shuttle starting its descent to crash back down on the moon; a silent scream escaping from her cryo pod.
It was an intense ending. Happy players at the end!
They look very plain, like old style printouts. I remade all the character sheets using those last night. Statistics are logically grouped and easy to read (except for the weird alignment of buddy / rival / signature item). One of the biggest gain is that I could pre-calc and record the weapon bonuses at various ranges or X out the ranges where they can’t be used. Really helped the players. I like the simplicity.
Verdict: Everybody thought the game was epic. The experienced roleplayers in the group jumped into their roles and agendas without missing a beat. And the new players quickly followed that lead.
I’m looking forward to running it for group 2 in 2 weeks! And now I really want to run the longer scenarios at my TTRPG club.
Luck Tales are GM focused tips, traps, adventure hooks, organisations and treasures. And What If is a volume of hacks created by Two Little Mice to change the system for all kinds of settings (pet adventures, cyberpunk, a trip to Wonderland, urban legends, high school, …)
Awesome writeup, Wendelius - Thanks!
The agendas work really, really well. I actually used something similar in a D&D oneshot game a few years back, where my players were soldiers returning from a war, being embroiled in a plot to devastate the population of their previous enemies - as each player had different motivations, they ended up roleplaying a lot more than pretty much ever. Its such a great mechanic.
Its interesting to see that you forgot a few of the same rules, leading to a slightly less deadly alien, as I did.
Interesting character sheets - I kinda like the original ones though, and find them quite easy to read, but I do realize some of my players had issues, mostly since they aren’t long-term roleplayers, or heavy gamers in any way. (They are family, roped into my hobby once every other month)
The Chariot of the Gods scenario reads like an incredible storyline - I REALLY like the way the first part ends. Actually, one of the things I enjoy quite a lot about Aliens, is the structure with 3 parts, where its a lot of buildup.
Call of Cthulhu uses something similar, not structured into chapters, but more organically, where the start is slow buildup, tension, and then explosion - so much fun!
Currently, I am running the prologue of Masks of Nyarlahothetop…gah, I cant spell that! For the same family group, and it was very, very fun.
Originally, I wanted to run the adventures from the Berlin sourcebook, but considering they had a theme on Lustmord (Sexual assault ending in murder), I found it impossible to play with my daugthers and father-in-law I have to admit.
Anyways - love the stories, and am kinda jealous of your new game! I’ll be getting The One ring soon, I hope!
Moving to the correct thread, wanted to highlight this itchio TTRPG bundle for a very good cause. I have no idea if any of these games are worth spending time on, but for $5 it’s certain worth a d20 roll.
Highlights include Pigsmoke (magical grad school faculty - very funny), Strike! (a 4E D&D inspired fantasy game), A Dirty World (Greg Stolze’s One Roll Engine noir game) as well as several newer Stolze games, Thirsty Sword Lesbians (Evil Hat-published PBTA game of…you know), a couple Forged in the Dark games (Fistful of Darkness, Quietus), Wanderhome, and John Harper’s Agon (heroic fantasy adventures inspired by Greek mythology and culture).