Alpha Blue (OSR)
This massive sourcebook clocks in at 114 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 3 pages of ToC, 4 pages of note-space, 1 page blank, 1 page Kort’thalis-glyph, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 100 pages of content, so let’s take a peek!
This book was moved ahead in my review-queue due to me receiving a complimentary print copy.
Okay, before we start: This is a satire, a spoof of 70s and 80s cheesy, low budget exploitation-scifi-flicks and aesthetics. Alpha Blue is a space station, where sex addicts were sent to experience experimental treatment techniques – what began as an institution devolved into a space brothel/casino; think of Las Vegas with a thick coating of disco-aesthetics and, obviously, sex. So yes, this supplement will offend some people, while others may be uncomfortable with the tone. If you want to know whether this may be for you, I’d suggest pondering the following: Do you take sex serious or can you laugh about the subject? In the latter case, you’ll probably like it. Do you consider the cover illustration offensive? If you do, then this will probably be not for you. Do you enjoy the balls to the wall crazy aesthetics of Heavy Metal F.A.K.K. or do you consider the like problematic? Ahhh, let’s cut to the chase: This supplement is named after the legendary Scifi-porn movie “The Satisfiers of Alpha Blue.” (In case you’re interested: Think dystopian 1984-style scifi after World War III, where sex is very much a caste-system and means of oppression and even love as a way out may not be the way, scarce though it is. Sure, it’s a porn-movie, but as far as these go, it is one of the most intelligent ones and elicited a complex array of emotions and can be considered a surprisingly interesting piece of social commentary.
If you have a hard time dealing with sex or being confronted by it in a given medium or taking it with a grain of salt and a wink, you may not enjoy this; however, if you can laugh about sex and all it entails, if you enjoy cheesy scifi…well, then this may very well be for you. Regarding the explicity of the content, this is btw. relatively tame, at least to my sensibilities – there are a few pictures of breasts and one instance of drawn nudity…and that’s pretty much it. This still can be considered NSFW, obviously, but yeah…pretty obvious, right?
…okay, I guess that those readers that might be offended have stopped reading right now, so let’s get on with the book! After a brief introduction of fluff, we get a dead simple rules-system: A combat round is 20 seconds. Task-resolution works via dice pool: At a disadvantage, you roll 1d6, at an advantage, you roll 3d6 and most normal tasks are resolved via 2d6. You only count the highest number rolled. There are some exceptions where 4d6 or 5d6 are rolled, but these fall in the category of overkill. When you roll a 1, you have a critical failure, 2 is a failure, 3 is a partial failure, 4 a partial success, 5 a success and 6 a critical success. In combat, damage is determined by numbers rolled as well – 1 is a critical fail, 2 and 3 misses and 4 provides 1d6 damage; +1d6 for every number above. Double sixes, triple sixes, etc. increase damage by +1d6 (so triple sixes would cause 5d6 damage). 6 critical. A six-entry critical fail table provides different degrees of unpleasantness for failure. Initiative is handled via first come, first serve…or by order of seating. Armor acts as damage reduction. At level 1, the character has 25 Health, +5 for every level. Characters can survive up to their level into negative HP – at 4th level, a character would die at -5 health. Interesting – in case you lose parts of your body, several types of replacement body parts, including chances for rejection, are provided – so yeah, getting that alien/robotic arm of death may look promising, but should be contemplated thoroughly. Saving throws are dice pools as well – 1 may see another character killed as well, while 6 can actually provide immunity to the given effect for 24 hours. 1/per session, a character may double his dice pool…but 1/session, a GM may do the same. (Just for completion’s sake – the proper term in Alpha Blue is SDM – Space Dungeon Master…which is one letter and a switch short of a certain acronym.) Interesting, btw. OSR-conversion is provided in the book – so if you do elect to use this system, you can import pretty easily OSR-content from most variants: HD influences attack dice, attribute bonuses translate to rerolls when the task is associated with the attribute – simple and can be done on the fly. Kudos!
Character creation follows a similar minimalistic style: You choose two rolls – these can be undertaken either to determine a scoundrel or legal occupation – 8 are available each and you can choose to roll two legit ones, two criminal ones, etc.. Scoundrel professions net more money (2d6 x100, as opposed to 1d6 x 100), but also carry a risk – per scoundrel profession, you roll a d4 to determine how far on your trail the authorities are. Characters can have “something special” – be psionic, a zedi, a noble or just be lucky. A massive d100 table of mutations is next: You roll thrice on it – and it is very useful: From mundane issues like cancer to radioactive/freezing touch to flesh that dissolves when in contact with water. There is a chance that your dreams come to life, to get astral projection…or…well… a detachable penis.
A 30-entry table of alien forms also is part of the deal – so yeah, maybe you’re playing an alien made of geometric forms. There is a d10 table for sizes and a HUGE table of 100 cultural quirks – these are roleplaying gold: Whether it’s seeing personal property as theft, being compelled to do worse than others to make them feel better, adapting fetishes…or what about the conviction that robots need to be liberated via “freedom phrases”? Need some idea what your character did? Roll a d6, d8 and d12, combine the entries and consult the tables. You get something like: “Visiting the spacer academy, a mysterious portal of swirling energy opened up, transporting you to a strange spaceship, where a dying, penis-headed alien taught you to use the artillery on his spaceship.” This one would net you advantage with space weaponry…and yes, there are chances you may die…in character creation. While this sounds odd, it actually got some serious laughs at my table. Weird fashion generators and 20 weapons of choice and several things to buy further complement this section. If you believe in astrological signs (a meta-joke if there ever was one in a scifi-context), personality traits based on them can be found here as well.
30 sample associates can be rolled and 20 possible relationships with said associates allow for pretty quick, on the fly ally-creation. Of course, robots are by now recycled: thus, a table provides previous “careers” -whether it’s gumball machine or 8-track player… Now seriously – this is supposed to be a bit sleazy, right? Well, 30 options to determine fetishes are provided. If you can’t decide which part of a woman you like best, well, there’s a table…and for women and gay dudes, fret not: Males are objectified as well: There’s a table for the type of males as well. PCs can start with more money…but then they’ll have to roll on the 3 debt-tables…including the consequences when they fail repaying your debt. Tables to secure jobs for/as assassins/bounty hunters and tables for their results can be found alongside a 40-entry table of male/female names…so that’s pretty much the character creation-section.
Next up would be a general overview of the campaign setting’s backdrop – While earth has started the Federation, only the Micro McDonald Disney Walmart Cola corporation keeps earth from being dumped from the federation. There are the draconians,, the reptilian Krylons ad a caliphate of insane space extremists – upon deaths, they believe they’ll get 72 cyber virgins. Brain bugs from Starship troopers and space clerics as well as universal phenomena are explained – from hyperspace to the eldritch black hole of S’rrah. And yes, if you ever wanted to know why there are so many humans in the universe…this explains it…sort of. Reasons for interspecies breeding, odd crystals and tech-generators…including effects of strange radiation can be found. Random sensor scanning results, star-quakes and random persons to fall out of time-warps, randomly generated derelict space ships (including tables to determine people aboard and what can be salvaged), a 30-entry table to determine what hides inside an asteroid is handy as well.
Campaign setting information-wise, the book introduces us to the crime syndicate Terra Nostra, the militant unification advocates (who want to unite all people…no matter the price) and the mining vessel crimson dwarf, an obvious, thinly veiled allusion to the scifi cult-series Red Dwarf. Now, obviously, Alpha Blue being what it is, the legendary space hookers (the proper name being “Satisfiers”) and rates for rooms are explained – and yes, there is no guarantee you get what you want. Currency is pretty simple and law-wise, Alpha Blue is not only a tax haven – it’s also a place where frontier law rules supreme…so expect no help…but also no consequences for killing that bastard over there…Alpha Blue’s central computer JCN (aka “Jason”) can only be accessed by the captain , the computer expert Dragz Logan or the commander of security, Razor Hash. And yeah, the captain’s position fluctuates – one day, Nicholas Cage could be in the seat, while a week from now you might meet Jabba. Oh, and the computer’s feelings are subject to rapid change – consult the table.
Alpha Blue also sports a strange type of device – orgasmatrons, which either come in big versions or private use ones – these open a rift to Meteblis 3 1/3, the radiation and blue light (What does it do? It shines blue!) of which heighten all senses to the n-th degree. And yes, they may be hallucinations…but they very much are real. Since these machines penetrate one’s mind, applying a mind condom would be prudent. Blue dreamers, aka space viagra, personal hookahs and 12 sample drugs can be consumed – from wizard weed to L-S-triple-D and Pink Floyd, all tastes are catered to. Those who don’t practice safe sex may find themselves in a nasty position – 12 unpleasant venereal space diseases can be contracted: From actual crabs living in your pants to sun-shaped solar syphilis, the effects are unpleasant. 10 sample hooks for actually being on Alpha Blue can be found…but pale next to the 12-entry table to “heavy metal it up to 11” – whether your next attack hits an artery, dread Cthulhu suddenly manifests or someone left his keys in the space Lamborghini…or perhaps a woman so gorgeous enters the room that everyone has to save to avoid being dazed. This table very much encompasses the spirit of this whole book – weird, diverse and interesting.
The first thing you see upon arrival, overarching plots and complications, spontaneous alien generator…even what’s on the TV (Can’t miss the latest episode of The Walking Space Dead or V: The Very Last Conclusive Battle at the End), robot quirks (the header of the section being “Do Robots use Electronic Tampons?”), unique party favors, a 30-entry strong table for walking in on people (With entries like “Crouching penis, hidden vagina”)…and so much more can be found. Regarding permanent residency…one of the entries is actually Charlie Sheen and you can witness surreal overindulgence: This guy over there attacking the robot, screaming “bacon”? Yeah, no idea what he used… Similarly, tables of weird cocktails, matrix malfunctions, and 8-ball style inefficient therapy robots – table-wise, this book is chock-full and fully staffed indeed.
The description of the respective sections of Alpha Blue is similarly detailed: From superb smoothies to arena games and a casino lit by an artificial sun – you name the decadent pleasure and you’ll probably find it in this place – and yes, among the inhabitants the Knights in White Satin wage and the Knights in Black Satin are conflicting factions…with rogue Knights in Alpha Blue Satin being the space Casanovas. A Snow-White-like princess in cryostasis, various teleportation mishaps, the penis-shaped and fully mapped Blue Flamingo ships and space poker – name your vice and there’s a good chance you may be able to indulge in it.
If the location and huge amount of tables provided do not spark your imagination on their own, well, then fret not, for there are numerous proposed scenario seeds: Whether sentient minerals don’t want to be mined or more complex scenarios…there is a lot of ideas here, often suffused with meta-humor: When e.g. the PCs are mistaken for ambassadors to an Utopian society and come upon a guy who swindled them via a kickstarter and then ran, the glorious vengeance unleashed may transform the tranquil planet into a full-blown war-zone or stopping Lovecraftian deities – the ideas run the full gamut of themes. What if e.g. a member of the Blue Humanoid Group was an assassin? And what about that interstellar women’s prison, or nods towards the world of Torth…and what about helping space Muslims to crack the heads of those aforementioned extremists? Quite a lot to do! 3 sample, fluff-only NPCs and a refugee from the Purple Islands (with full stats) are provided as well. Paralyzing wands and dangerous dildo-weapons can be found and when demon-worshiping madmen bring an demonically-possessed penetration-device on board, we know what need to be stopped, right?
Stats for mooks and tyrannosaurus-crocodile-hybrids complement the book alongside some basic advice for running the setting. There also are personality archetypes, a quick table to determine why a couple stays together and the map of Alpha Blue actually spans 4 full pages. The pdf provides full color and b/w-char sheets, while the print version sports both in b/w.
Editing and formatting are top-notch – in spite of the book’s length, I encountered no significant issues with this book in formal or rules-language departments – the system presented is simple, concise and pretty refined. Layout adheres to an aesthetically pleasing 2-column b/w-standard and deserves special mention – it is clean, organized and generally pleasing. The pdf sports a lot of beautiful, original b/w-artworks: While most of them are pretty tame, there are instances of nudity here…alongside e.g. an awesome rendition of the Doctor being puzzled/stupefied by the advances of two ladies. Artworks and text are suffused with pop-culture nods and winks. The pdf version is fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks, though considering the low asking price, I’d suggest getting the print version.
Venger As’ Nas Satanis’ Alpha Blue is a different book than I expected, honestly – this is very much a setting book – whether as a stand-alone or as part of another campaign, the station of Alpha Blue can be inserted sans much fuss and the OSR-conversion-notes are useful. The system presented is clear and concise and exceedingly simple to grasp. In fact, this book’s appeal if broader than I anticipated – we get a metric ton of tables that generally provide a ton of customization options that can be scavenged for just about any system…which is a plus and a minus, depending on where you’re standing. Personally, I would have enjoyed a bit more detail regarding the respective locations on Alpha Blue, though e.g. notes on music playing at a given place and similar details had me grin time and again. (That being said, Girls Gone Rogue, the expansion, will get its review in due course and may remedy that…)
Now that we’ve gone through the whole book and you had an impression regarding the humor herein, you’ll obviously note that this book doesn’t take itself too serious – which is a good thing. Alpha Blue, as presented, is actually a very light-hearted and rather sex-positive supplement…but if you’re looking for straight porn, you won’t find that here. Perhaps the best analogue I could find was the following: Picture basically a blending of the old Leisure Suit Larry and Space Quest-games in tone and explicitness. So if you enjoyed Leisure Suit Larry…you will probably like Alpha Blue’s setting as well: The humor oscillates between clever meta-jokes, obvious and obscure references and blunt-in-your-face-juvenile jokes – which made the reading experience, at least for me, rather lighthearted and enjoyable. (Btw.: Those strange glyphs littered throughout the book? They’re actually coded sentences, so if you enjoy that kind of undertaking, decoding them is a pretty fun and quick mental exercise…yes, the sentences unearthed feature planetary-sized dildos.)
How to rate this, then? Well, this is a wide-open sandbox/dressing-kit/adventure-location kit and it delivers in all of these regards, though each of the components could have arguably filled a whole book. So if you’re looking for an extremely detailed location, you may be disappointed. If, however, you’re looking for an enjoyable, minimalist RPG you can pick up and play sans any hassle, dressing or prefer working with a setting, developing it and fleshing up the fiddly small bits…well, then this will probably be right up your alley. Even if you’re looking for means to enhance the weirdness/raunchy-factor of your space opera game…well, this’ll do the job. In the end, I consider Alpha Blue a successful experiment that manages to portray a setting unlike anyone I’ve seen before. If you hate the premise, you’ll probably hate the book; if not, though, you’ll certainly find some hilarious ideas within these pages. It is a sleazy satire, is unapologetic about it and in play, actually was ample fun at my table – the minimalist rules and awesome tables engender an atmosphere of levity and fun…which was sure as heck a welcome diversion from my usual, rather serious games -a diversion to which we’ll return. In the end, my only gripe pertains the somewhat divided focus of the book, which may well be a personal preference; hence, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars, just short of my seal of approval.
You can get this unique setting here on OBS!
The expansion (review forthcoming) can be found here!
Finally, Kort’thalis Publishing is currently running a kickstarter for a massive old-school map – you can take a look at the S’rulyan Vault here!