Tuesday, September 19, 2017

RPG Review: Alpha Blue

Alpha Blue
In the vast expanse of the interweb a role playing game (RPG) titled Alpha Blue was successfully funded October 2015, via Kickstarter to the tune of $4.5K internet bucks. Authored by Venger As’Nas Satanis of Kort'thalis Publishing (site), the book was up for general sale in the adult section with Onebookshelf (OBS: drivethrurpg & rpgnow) in December the same year. In March 2016, the title was temporarily pulled from OBS for “potentially offensive” content. Namely, as OBS put it customer complaint; but after in-house review, the title back up for purchase two days later.
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The origin of the controversy, what most of the RPG community picked up on, (Links for reference at Tenkar's Tavern & to RPG Pundit) was the use of a fictional Muslim terrorist organization the “Interstellar Caliphate” and descriptive text of a plot device, the “Rape Machine.”

Despite the above, Venger As’Nas Satanis’s, Alpha Blue isn’t quite the campy, oversexualized, space station hive of scum and villainy, I might have been looking for.

Move along, move along…



(Still here?)

Alpha Blue might be cult campy, if there is such category. If by oversexualized, I refine the word to mostly male, metrosexual fantasy tropes. But, then again what else is there (insert, sarcasm)? Hive of scum and villainy? Okay, we give it Dirk Diggler points for that. It’s a brothel, in space! Sort of, but wait there’s more!

Once upon a wishing well, Alpha Blue was the Terran Federation’s (earth’s) repository for sexual deviants, derelicts and nymphomaniacs. Now embarking upon the 23rd century, it drifts about, never in one place… It roams around, around, around, around, around. The sleaze of Alpha Blue’s half a million many, out sleazes the needs of the galactic stew (promise that’s almost the last, bad pun).

The setting material or where Alpha Blue will roam is presented with a basic outline of the galaxy. A number of brief plot hooks are seeded throughout the writing, as well as chapters for scenario seeds and NPCs do a good job of engaging the reader to potentially run the material. I’m in favor of writing which directly engages the Space Dungeon Master (SDM) to run said material, and it’s not always a given with a setting treatment.

System wise, Alpha Blue utilizes a unique and light, d6 dice pool. Most conflict resolution involves a character rolling 2d6 against a target number of 4 or better, 3d6 if the character has an advantage or 1d6 for situations which the SDM determines the character has a disadvantage. The highest die total of the pool is taken. Success or failure is rated on a sliding scale: 4 being a partial success, 5 a success, 6 a critical success. There is short section on converting the material to OSR and even a couple of interesting ideas for doing so, but it will need a few more hours, to be properly configured on the navi-computer. Instead of the system, converting the setting material to the space opera themed RPG of your preference, be it Stars Without Number, Traveller, or even Starfinder is probably just as likely.

Character creation is just as light as the system. No traits, attributes or (+1 and/or -1) modifiers. Players will pick their poison rolling twice (either once for each, of twice on the same) on the Respectable Careers Table and/or Scoundrel Career Table; or roll once on either of the prior mentioned tables and instead roll for their characters to have mutation, be an alien, or be “something special,” which I’ll leave to the reader’s imagination.

Speaking of tables, Alpha Blue has heaping handful of them. It’s certainly enough to sprain your dice wrist, if you’re not careful. There are tables for: alien creatures, creating character backgrounds, fashion (really fashion…? Yes.). Also, more tables such as character astrology, sexual fantasies & fetishes, wealth, and whole bunch of other stuff, including elements which should assist the SDM in regards to fleshing in some of the details of their adventures.

The portable document format (PDF) of Alpha Blue in 114 pages cover to cover including a basic un-specified map of the station, finishing with character sheets and a lined notes section. The Table of Contents is hyperlinked, which is a nice feature. The color cover does an adequate job of portraying the source material or sleazy theme. The interior illustrations are black and white ranging from semi-raunchy (partial nudity, sexual overtones), interesting, to mundane.

(Note: This review originally written and published on July 28, 2017, Stuffer Shack.)

As far as the sexual elements go, Alpha Blue doesn’t go near the level I thought it might. In fact, the writing of these elements are just that, elements (more optional than not) and not a requirement of using the setting. The "Interstellar Caliphate" is a religious group of bad folks doing bad things, and the "Rape Machine" is a plot device used by bad guys. Subjectively speaking, could these elements been pulled off with a little more class, yeah… But, I doubt the author of an RPG who coins his own title as “sleazy, gonzo science-fantasy,” had interest in doing such…

For certain, if you consider yourself sensitive to sexual themed material then Alpha Blue probably isn’t your cup of coffee (if you’re still reading). If you’re mostly indifferent, then this is a product has a respectable amount of material, whether you decide to run it as is, or mine it for ideas in regards to the space opera themed RPG of your choice.

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