Wednesday, April 9, 2014


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 Goodman Games forum’s METAMORPHOSIS ALPHA section