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A Weird Dungeon Crawl… IN SPAAACE: Metamorphosis Alpha Deluxe Collector’s Edition

Tuesday, February 12th, 2019 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

Metamorphosis Alpha reprint

This oversized volume arrived in the mail last week: the Deluxe Collector’s edition of Metamorphosis Alpha, the first science-fiction roleplaying game. Originally published by TSR as a slender booklet in 1976, it’s essentially a weird dungeon crawl … IN SPAAACE! … taking inspiration from Brian Aldiss’s novel Non-Stop (which I love, BTW).

Its combination of radiation and mutant people/animals later formed the basis of Gamma World, one of the most out-there RPG settings ever. This volume contains the original Metamorphosis Alpha manual, an interview with creator James M. Ward, playtest notes, and all the supplemental material and errata published in Dragon and other RPG magazines of the time.

So why did I buy this? I’m one of those people who rarely plays RPGs (I don’t know enough people around me who want to) but enjoys reading RPG books as entertainment. I’m also interested in RPG history, since I came of age right as they did, during the advent of AD&D in the late ’70s. The only game system I would ever play is Fudge, the best universal system ever and wonderfully flexible, but that only makes it easier to read about other games and sourcebooks — they can all be run in Fudge!

You can order the Metamorphosis Alpha Deluxe Collector’s Edition directly from Goodman Games.

Here are some pictures of the interior of the book.

Metamorphosis Alpha reprint pages

Metamorphosis Alpha reprint pages2

Metamorphosis Alpha reprint pages3

Metamorphosis Alpha reprint-back

8 Comments »

  1. Yes, Metamorphosis Alpha was distinctly “out there” and unapologetically so! Curiously, its successor, Gamma World tried to be more serious but became, in consequence, even weirder at its core.

    And you are very correct, Mr. Harvey, to say that anything/everything can be run with Fudge. I have run a Tekumel campaign using Fudge and even got a Harn player to admire the “realism” of the game.

    Comment by Eugene R. - February 13, 2019 1:20 am

  2. “So why did I buy this? I’m one of those people who rarely plays RPGs (I don’t know enough people around me who want to) but enjoys reading RPG books as entertainment. I’m also interested in RPG history, since I came of age right as they did, during the advent of AD&D in the late ’70s.”

    That sounds awfully familiar …

    Comment by Joe H. - February 13, 2019 8:35 am

  3. I remember reading about this game in Dragon magazine. sounded cool then and still does. Also seem to recall TSR trying to launch a universal system “The Amazing Engine” I think and Metamorphosis Alpha was slated as one of the settings to be dusted off and revamped. Not sure if it ever got off the ground.

    There was an indie game setting I read about years back. Think they even advertised in Dragon, called The World of Synnibar which struck me as a kind of influenced by Metamorphosis Alpha almost Rifts predecessor attempt. Don’t think it was well received generally.

    Comment by Tony Den - February 13, 2019 2:21 pm

  4. Wasn’t there a connection between M:A and Skyrealms of Jorune?

    Comment by Joe H. - February 13, 2019 2:46 pm

  5. There was an Amazing Engine version of M:A that was called Metamorphosis Alpha to Omega:

    https://www.amazon.com/Metamorphosis-Alpha-Amazing-Engine-System/dp/1560768517

    Comment by Ryan Harvey - February 13, 2019 4:10 pm

  6. Joe H.,

    Yes, Andrew Leker, the creator of Skyrealms of Jorune talked about the origin of his game in his fanzine Sholari #1. He was running a Metamorphosis Alpha game during his sophomore year in college that eventually shifted to Earth (ala Gamma World) and then to his own planet, Jorune.

    Comment by Eugene R. - February 14, 2019 12:23 am

  7. “So why did I buy this? I’m one of those people who rarely plays RPGs (I don’t know enough people around me who want to) but enjoys reading RPG books as entertainment. I’m also interested in RPG history, since I came of age right as they did, during the advent of AD&D in the late ’70s.”

    This sounds like me too! I wonder how many of us middle-age and older farts fit this description?!

    Comment by James McGlothlin - February 14, 2019 8:52 am

  8. Skyrealms of Jorune is another one of those “bought to read as entertainment” games. Such amazing art …

    As I recall, it came up in a Dragon Magazine review where it was paired with Talislanta and Empire of the Petal Throne (the Different Worlds reprint) — that was a fairly important set of reviews for me personally, at least.

    As for M:A, I never got it back in the day — I came into RPGs just a little too late, with the Holmes blue box basic D&D and the first Gamma World boxed set — but always wanted to check it out, so was happy to back the Kickstarter.

    Comment by Joe H. - February 14, 2019 10:57 am


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