Wednesday, April 9, 2014

METAMORPHOSIS ALPHA: 1976

You may have heard the news already, but I’ve yet to chime in on the latest announcement by Goodman Games that emerged from the chaos of Gary Con VI. Yes, it’s true: the original METAMORPHOSIS ALPHA rules as written by James. M. Ward is being re-released in a deluxe collector’s edition!

Late last year, I started receiving some very cryptic emails from Joseph Goodman inquiring about my familiarity with METAMORPHOSIS ALPHA. I knew the game, and had the uncommon honor of adventuring aboard the Warden three times under Jim Ward’s mastery without the loss of life or limb. I was hoping these email were leading in the direction they seemed to be going, and, sure enough, once the legalities and contracts were obtained, I got the invite to climb aboard the doomed Warden for another go-around.

For those of you unfamiliar with METAMORPHOSIS ALPHA, it is the original science-fiction roleplaying game released by TSR back in 1976. You play the role of a primitive tribesman aboard the generational starship, the Warden, bound for a distant star. Generations ago, catastrophe struck the Warden, killing a large percentage of the crew and colonists, and mutating many of the survivors. Over time, those left alive on the Warden forgot their original mission and plunged into a state of barbarism. The decline of civilization was so thorough that the survivors forgot they were aboard a starship, and developed tribal communities in self-contained levels of the ship that defined their entire world.

As a player character, you begin the game in these small enclosed worlds but eventually discover the truth of your predicament, acquiring knowledge of the Warden and learning to use many of the weird artifacts (lasers, vibro blades, Geiger counters, etc.) left behind by the original crew. If you survive long enough (a difficult task given the hostility of the mutated creatures that prowl the ship and the lethality of radiation still lingering in places), you may eventually gain control of the ship and perhaps even guide it to safety on a new world.

Although METAMORPHOSIS ALPHA didn’t have a long printing life during the TSR days, the game, unlike the PCs who explore the Warden, proved notoriously hard to kill. METAMORPHOSIS ALPHA is the urtext for GAMMA WORLD, and many of the mutations, mutants, and technology found in that first post-apocalyptic roleplaying game first appeared in MA. And like GAMMA WORLD, a game which has gone through seven or eight editions, METAMORPHOSIS ALPHA endured beyond its original print run. TSR released a version of the game for it AMAZING ENGINE system in 1994, Fast Forward Entertainment published a 25th anniversary edition in 2002, Mudpuppy Games produced the fourth edition in 2006, and there is currently work on a 5th edition of MA by Signal Fire Games. On top of all this, the original 1976 rulebook is available for download and print-on-demand from WardCo.



“So why in the blazes in Goodman Games producing a deluxe collector’s edition of the original rules?” you might ask. The answer is based on playability, longevity, and historical importance.

The original rules, as available from WardCo., are identical to the 1976 TSR release—and that includes the minute font they were printed in. If you’ve never seen the original rulebook, the type is very small and the layout is in dual column format. That might have been a good idea in 1976, but as many gamers get older, their eyes aren’t what they used to be and the tiny type becomes difficult to decipher. The Goodman Games print run will be an oversized 10.5” x 14” book, allowing the original rules to be printed at 110% size. This will alleviate the eyestrain factor.

The Goodman Games version also collects a vast amount of material released for METAMORPHOSIS ALPHA under a single cover. Magazine articles about the game, James M. Ward’s short story, “Footprints in the Sky,” a new introductory adventure, special advice essays written especially for the deluxe edition, and other useful material will all be compiled in the Goodman Games edition. To ensure this material survives, say exposure to cosmic radiation (or regular game use), the deluxe edition will utilized high-quality binding, that used by collegiate text, to keep the book intact for decades to come. It’s a book you’ll be proud to have as part of your RPG collection, yet tough enough to actually use at the table.

The collector’s edition release also allows Goodman Games to provide support for METAMORPHOSIS ALPHA in the form of published adventures, something that MA has been lacking for many years. Four (and maybe five if the Kickstarter hits its stretch goals) adventures released by Goodman Games are planned for METAMORPHOSIS ALPHA in the coming year. The first, The Android Underlords, was available for purchase at Gary Con VI and was written by yours truly. The opportunity to contribute even a little bit to the Warden’s long history was a dream come true for me, and when the creator of the game praised the adventure, it was a fan’s dream come true. If Jim likes it, you know it’s both good and worthy of bearing the METAMORPHOSIS ALPHA title on the cover.


Once the Kickstarter funds, there will be another three adventures produced, one by Jobe Bittman, another by me, and a third by the captain of the Warden, himself, James M. Ward. Should the Kickstarter hit $37,000, a fifth adventure, author to be determined, will be published as well. Even if you decide that the collector’s edition isn’t your cup of tea, you might consider contributing to the Kickstarter to get the complete run of adventures, all of which can be played with the WardCo version of the rules or easily adapted to other RPG systems (like DCC RPG, for instance!).

Before I go, it bears mentioning that the deluxe collector’s edition is being produced under a license that allows a single printing of the book. Once this run is gone, so is the deluxe version. Those who don’t get aboard the Kickstarter now will have to rely on the secondary markets—where it will command an extravagant price—to obtain a copy.

Hopefully, my ramblings have piqued your interest enough to back the Kickstarter, but if not, there are other ways to get involved with the original science-fiction RPG. Consider checking out one or more of the following METAMORPHOSIS ALPHA forums for more information about the game and to meet like-minded mutants:

The Official METAMORPHOSIS ALPHA forum
The Goodman Games forum’s METAMORPHOSIS ALPHA section
The METAMORPHOSIS ALPHA Facebook Group
The Google+ METAMORPHOSIS ALPHA Community

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Gary Con VI Bound

I’m leaving for the still-wintery Midwest on Wednesday, travelling once again to Lake Geneva, WI to attend Gary Con VI. This year’s convention looks to be a good one for both myself and Goodman Games.

I’m bringing three new DCC RPG adventures to playtest: The Forging of the Ghost Ring, The First Phantasmagoria, and The Second Phantasmagoria. In addition to these three titles, I’ll be running Not Another Night on the Town, the follow-up to the “street crawl” adventure I took on tour with me in 2013. Unfortunately for anyone looking to register at the con, all the seats for those games are filled, but if you’re going to be at the Lodge and are looking to experience DCC RPG, Doug Kovacs will be running various pick-up games during the weekend. One way or another, if you want to play DCC RPG, we’ll find a way to make it happen.

On Friday morning, there will be a special seminar in the bar entitled “What’s New with Goodman Games?” This hour-long event features the Goodman Games’ crew unveiling our secret plans for 2014 and 2015, including a first look at forthcoming art and adventures. The event culminates with the announcement of a “hush hush” project that I’m excited to be part of. A Very Special Guest will join us to help make that announcement. I can say no more.

To add to my already busy schedule, I’ll be running two unofficial game sessions over the weekend. Wednesday night is the return of my Completely Unofficial Pre Gary Con Gamma World Game and Sunday night will see Down Where the Dead Men Go, a Call of Cthulhu game set in my Wildwyck County setting featured in Fight On! magazine. If you’re arriving early or staying late at the Lodge, track me down and I’ll squeeze you in if there’s room.

I’m looking forward to seeing a number of old friends and meeting new ones. As always, if you’ve got something you want me to deface with my scrawl, just ask.

I’ll see some of you in three days!

Stonehell 2 Update

It has been awhile since I posted anything here regarding the progress of Stonehell 2 (or about anything else for that matter). Most of the status reports have been shared via the Stonehell Facebook page and the Google+ page, but I’ve let the blog go fallow. My apologies for that to everyone who chooses to avoid social media. Let me correct my error.

The manuscript and maps for Stonehell 2 are finished and the book is in rough layout. After a couple of editing passes by myself, the book is now in the hands of an outside editor for a final editing and proofing pass. Once this is complete and the last corrections are implemented, I’ll be ready to move the book into the final layout phase in preparation for getting a printer’s proof.

I’m expecting to have all the art by the end of April, and using May to do the layout and proofing of the book. If things go according to plan, I intend to have Stonehell 2 out in the first weekend of June to coincide with NTRPG Con. I’ll have copies in hand down in Texas and the book and PDF will be available through the usual venues.

Needless to say, I’m anxiously looking forward to getting the sequel out into the wild, bringing a project with began five years ago to a long-overdue conclusion. I hate leaving things unfinished and I’m ecstatic Stonehell has defied the obstacles and reached the end of its journey. As we get closer to the finish line, I’ll post here again to keep you up to date on the status of the sequel.

Let me once again extend my thanks for your patience and support, and I hope you enjoy the final Stonehell book as much as the first.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Post-Fundraiser Stonehell Sequel Status Report

This is a brief update for the period immediately following the Save Stonehell Fundraiser from last week. As promised, now that I’ve restored myself to the 21st century and have the means to continue working on the dungeon, I’ve spent the last seven days getting back to business. Some time was spent acquiring my new system and the programs needed to access and edit the existing draft of the sequel and its map components, but, despite that, the project moves along.

As of this morning, three more quadrants are completed, meaning their maps saw their final tweaks, the drafts went through preliminary edits, and they been added to the rough layout of the book. For those of you following along at home, this means that I’ve hit the two-thirds completed mark and only nine more quadrants remain to be finished. I remain optimistic we’ll have a finished draft by month’s end and a completed Stonehell Dungeon by the end of December. Of course, any delay could through this schedule out of whack, but I’m keeping my head down and pushing on.

There are existing projects that I need to work on, all of which were assigned prior to the fundraiser, but these are small ones that shouldn’t eat into too much time to work on the sequel. One will be completed this afternoon, while the second is due in mid-November. Until the end of the month, Stonehell will be my primary concern, and I’m aiming to have the draft ready for editing by that time. Once it’s prepared, my next step will be acquiring art for the book to prepare the cover and the interior layout after the editing process is finished. After those steps are finished, it’s just a short sprint across the finish line with proof copies and final changes.

Since I have a bunch of new bosses, I’ll continue to make weekly progress reports throughout this stage of the process (preliminary editing, map changes, and draft layout). They may become bi-weekly during the editing and art phase since that’s all work that will be out of my direct control and I’ll be dependent on others for progress through that period. Nevertheless, I look forward to keeping everyone informed and I hope you’re getting as excited as I am that the final Stonehell book is nearing completion.

I'll be posting status reports over on both the Google+ Stonehell Dungeon page and the Facebook Stonehell Group. If you're not yet circled or joined those groups, now it the perfect time to do so to ensure you get the news first, as I'm not certain I'll be detailing the process as thoroughly here on the blog.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Thank You

The Save Stonehell Fundraiser (which swiftly became the “pay what you want” release of Convention Specials: Revealed) is finished. Actually, it was finished two hours after it started, surprising the hell out of me. Due to your overwhelming generosity, my efforts to raise $300.00 to cover or defray the cost of getting my old computer repaired or replaced was met six times over. One hundred and nine of you contributed to meeting that goal, resulting in a total of $1889.63 in contributions and purchases of the limited-edition PDF. I am astounded.

In all honesty, I thought I’d be lucky to reach the $300.00 mark over the course of the week. You proved me wrong and for that I’m deeply appreciative. I now have 109 new bosses, so I’d better get to work on finishing that sequel.

As to dispersal of the money raised, here’s the anticipated breakdown: Half of it goes to replacing my ancient computer, upgrading the few programs I need, and purchasing a backup power-supply. I’ve not owned a computer that wasn’t second-hand since the turn of the millennium, and owning one without “quirks” is a new experience for me.

The remaining money is going towards two other goals. Firstly, I’ll cover some monthly bills with it. This means I can turn down a project or two and devote all my time to finishing Stonehell 2. Lack of time and breathing room has been the book’s greatest enemy and is largely the reason it keeps getting delayed. With the surplus raised, I can say “no” to another gig or two in the short term to finish the sequel. This will be both a boon to everyone who has been waiting patiently for it, and to myself, who wants to get the damned thing done and remove the millstone from around my neck.

Secondly, a portion of the remaining money is to be paid forward. Since I ended up with far more money than I anticipated, it only stands to reason that others benefit from my good fortune. There’s a number of worthy causes out there more deserving of assistance than my First World problem. I mean to do my part to help now that I can.

In regards to the two sets of original notes I promised, each of those has a new home. One is going to the North Texas RPG Convention. I’m not certain what plans Doug and Mike have for those pages, but I can’t think of a better home for them. There, they’ll either find a place of security or make their way into someone’s collection.

The second set goes to a very generous contributor who paid a few dollars extra to bump him into second place. That contributor will receive the remaining set of notes after NTRPG Con makes their decision as to which one they want.

Let me close by again thanking you all for contributing or buying the PDF. Your generosity and fellowship has both inspired me and humbled me. I will continue to endeavor to sustain your faith in my ability to produce interesting and entertaining material for your games.

Very sincerely,

Mike

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Fundraiser Update 10.9.13

We're reaching the last 24 hours of the fundraiser, and I'd like to again thank everyone who donated. Yesterday, I replaced my broken, aged computer with a new Dell Inspiron and will soon be back at full production. I’ve one small piece I’m contracted to finish, and then it’s on to Stonehell 2 full-time. Your generosity has made that possible.

There are still three donors tied for who shall receive the original notes for one of the adventures. These three contributors each donated $100.00, and if you were one of those kind souls, you’re in the running for my notes. The last thing I want to do is encourage more donation as you all gone above and beyond my expectation, but if one of those three were to contribute even $1.00, that’d break the tie and ensure that party ownership of the original adventure. I’ll leave that up to you all to decide if you desire adventure that much or are willing to determine the receiver by a die-roll.

According to my records, every donor has been sent their copy of the PDF as of 10:45 AM EST, today. If you didn’t receive yours, please check your spam folder and then contact me. I’ll make sure you get your copy. For those of you who have your copy, I hope you’re enjoying them!

Remember that I’ll be officially pulling the plug on the fundraiser/”pay what you want” release at noon EST time tomorrow. At that time, the donation button comes down and the Stonehell Dungeon—Convention Specials: Revealed supplement goes away for good. You have roughly 25 hours remaining.

Thank you all once again for your extreme generosity and fellowship. No matter if you contributed $1.00 or $100.00, your help is greatly appreciated. Without you, I’d been sidelined from making any progress on either Stonehell or other projects until at least the turn of the year. You’ve made it possible for this writer to write, and you don’t know how much that means to me.

Sincerely,

Michael.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

DCC RPG #80: Intrigue at the Court of Chaos is now available for pre-order


At the mercy of Chaos! Abducted by the Court of Chaos, the adventurers face hard choices if they want to return home. The Host of Chaos desires a legendary artifact held by the Scions of Law and need patsies to retrieve it. Faced with an eternity of servitude, the party must sneak into the Plane of Law and steal the Yokeless Egg from under its guardians’ watch. But not all is what it appears when the Court of Chaos is concerned and serving the Host may destroy the party from within. Can they survive the Intrigue At the Court of Chaos? Link



Rules Set: DCC RPG
Writer: Michael Curtis
Cover Art and Cartography: Doug Kovacs