Saturday 30 November 2019

Games just for me!!!!!

The Alien RPG is out soon. There's a Dune RPG coming out in a few months.

Have I fallen through a wormhole into 'RPGs-I've-wanted-for-ages' world? It's exciting, and the perfect time to start getting a whole new gaming group together. New worlds, faces, adventures, and friends.

ALIEN RPG Interview with Tomas Härenstam

I've made no secret of it - ALIEN is my favourite movie of all time and the fact that there is an ALIEN RPG hitting the shelves makes me excited in ways I can't describe.

Having played the Coriolis roleplaying game and enjoying it immensley, knowing that the new ALIEN game would share the same mechanics was great news. When I got my hands on the Cinematic Starter Kit earlier in the year I was more than happy; the tone, the design, the atmosphere the game was creating. I was satisfied that the whole thing was in safe hands.

I grabbed a few words from Tomas Härenstam, the game's director and rules designer.

The ALIEN franchise is a huge one; how did you manage to land that license? Was it something you actively sought out?

ALIEN is really a dream franchise for us to work on. It started as a brainstorm about which licenses we would like to work with if we could wish for anything. We ended up with a list of five an ALIEN was definitely on the list. Shortly after, I got in touch via Joe LeFavi at Genuine Entertainment via a mutual acquaintance. Joe works with licensing in Hollywood and has all the right connections - and it turned out he's also a big fan of Free League games, particularly Tales From the Loop. We started discussing ALIEN, Joe took it to 20th Century Fox, negotiations followed and a few months later the agreement was signed. It's really been an amazing journey, and Joe and Fox have really been great partners.

I've been a fan of ALIEN since 1982 - it's my favourite movie ever - and it has influenced me in all kinds of ways in my gaming. What is your history with the movies, from ALIEN to ALIEN: COVENANT and everything in between?

All of us at Free League are huge ALIEN fans as well, and the movies have influenced our work in RPGs for sure, particularly Coriolis which is also a sci-fi game. For the ALIEN RPG, we brought on sci-fi author Drew Gaska who has been an ALIEN franchise consultant for Fox and is a true expert on the universe. Working with Drew and diving deep into this universe has been great.

The different movies, games and other media vary in their approach to the source material and universe of ALIEN. Was there a specific atmosphere you wanted to create, or did you just want a huge melting pot where groups could bring their own preferences? Was there a specific movie you focused attention on?

For the tone and style of the game, we have focused on the first two movies, and the game also takes place a few years after ALIENS. That said, we do bring in source material from the prequel movies as well as from novels, comics and other games. The core rulebook really works as a huge resource book for the entire ALIEN universe, useful also for people who are not roleplayers I think.

What was the support from 20th Century Fox like? Were there strict conditions or were you given free reign to include/create what you wanted?

It's been great to work with them. We have to stay within canon of course, but I wouldn't say they gave us very strict conditions, no. They have of course examined and approved everything we have done, but I must say it's been a smooth process. I think it also helps to have Drew on board, as they know him from before.

The system has been widely discussed and showcased in the Cinematic Starter Kit released earlier in the year and everyone has their favourite aspects to the game. What is your personal favourite part of the game, and what are you most proud of?

Hm, as the rules designer I'd have to say the stress mechanic with the Stress Dice. I think they help create the right mood at the gaming table, in an easy and accessible way that doesn't slow the game down. Beyond that, I'm super proud of the work that the others in the team have done on them game, particularly Drew Gaska, Martin Grip (lead artist), John R. Mullaney (vehicle and ship art) and Christian Granath (graphic designer).

The timeline covers the key moments of the ALIEN universe. Are there any plans to expand beyond that timeline? How much leeway do you have to add whole new material to the lore?

For now, we're staying around the year 2183. We might move forward a little bit in time in future supplements. As for new material in the lore - we're adding new stories and storylines for sure, but we're doing this in synch with Fox and their other licensing partners.

I have heard rumours of a few tasty sourcebooks; what do you have planned for immediate future releases to support the main game?

Yep! First up is actually a boxed Cinematic starter set, that we aim to launch in late spring. Then, in August, we plan to release a Colonial Marines sourcebook and a new Cinematic scenario, Destroyer of Worlds by Drew Gaska.

ALIEN is my favourite movie of the franchise and my preferred sequel is ALIEN ISOLATION. There will be a lot of attention on the primary sequels, such as ALIENS, but are there any plans to release material for these smaller stories and locations, such as the Seegson company or the Sevastopol Station? How much material will you include from the multiple sources, such as the novels and the comics? 

We do have quite a lot of references to material from novels, comics and other games in the core rulebook, including mentions of Seegson and Sevastopol station. There will surely be more of that in coming supplements. We want to be part of developing a larg, shared ALIEN universe!

You must have had access to a lot of, if not every, piece of material in the ALIEN vault so, on a personal note, what was your favourite thing about working on the license? Did you discover or realise things about the franchise you didn't know or consider before, and how will you include those discoveries in the game? 

Oh, for sure - diving deep into a franchise like this really means you'll find lots of information you were not aware of. Even fairly basic stuff like how space travel really works in the ALIEN universe - I don't think I had a very clear idea of that before working on the game and creating rules for it - that required a lot of research!

What was the hardest part of working on this license?

Hm, probably that we need to make sure we truly hit the right tone and style for ALIEN, and meet, or hopefully even exceed, the expectations of the community. That can sometimes be hard, but also very rewarding.

This game must be one of the most anticipated games of the year. How excited are you about releasing the ALIEN RPG out into the gaming community? 

EXTREMELY exited! I'm personally going to PAX Unplugged on December 6-8 in Philadelphia to launch the game, really looking forward to that!

Friday 29 November 2019

Action heroes need love too

Do you know which action hero doesn't get enough attention?

Rick O'Connell.

Yeah, the guy from the three Mummy movies.

He's a great action dude in a great trilogy of movies, fights when he has to, has one-liners, really takes some beating and is just as cool as heckers. I mean, look at his fight on the riverboat in the first film, he just totally kicks arse and even has time to be funny about it. He's the kind of character I'd like to play in a pulp adventure game.

I think he's even up there with Indiana Jones as that exasperated action hero who isn't afraid to be terrified of the things he faces off with. He just gets past that and gets on with what he knows ie: shooting and punching lots of bad guys.

It helps that Brendan Fraser is a hero of mine, just an all-round decent dude and a great actor.

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Alien RPG thoughts

I've made some notes on the kind of game I want to run with the new Alien RPG, and most of them have nothing to do with the creature at all but the machinations of the companies trying to profit from them.

Also, I've decided that the 'big bad company is bad' angle doesn't work for me, and I'm looking at creating secret organisations within the firms, or just really ambitious individuals trying to line their own pockets using company resources, to add a layer of threat. I think it will add depth to the story and dissuade the players from going after the big guy to expose  their lies in some misguided cyberpunk/Shadowrun mission.

The Alien itself will have a showing, but as the finale to a campaign. I'm imagining the game building up to a huge adventure with the monster, like a build-up to the events on Sevastopol where everything comes together.

I've also created a new company called Omega Centauri, who buys patents and copyrights decades out of date and produces them at cut prices - 'Reliable Technology From A Reliable Time'. They're looking to make the big time...

All notes. I need to get a game on!

Wednesday 27 November 2019


Picked Pandorum up today for 50p, and it's the cool 3D cover one with some decent extras. It's not a bad film, a little silly in parts, but it's pretty solid scifi horror.

I do like the way it's shot, apart from the monsters - the way they're filmed is annoys me a bit, but not enough to ruin the whole film.

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Tuesday 26 November 2019

Dune on my tabletop

I am so excited about the upcoming Dune movie - after the stunning Blade Runner 2049 I listed Denis Villeneuve as one of the (many) directors who I'd be happy with directing an Alien movie, but Dune? Damn it, that's gold.

I love the Lynch movie but I think I love the design more than the way it treated the story. If the new film has that sense of skewed reality that's fine by me.

I'm also excited about the upcoming tabletop roleplaying game from Gale Force 9 and Modiphius, as gaming in the Dune universe has always fascinated me.

Dune is coming to my two favourite mediums. It's an exciting time!

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Friday 22 November 2019

One Page RPG

Can't remember if I shared this or not - it's a single page RPG I might put to use at some point in the future.

I just wrote a quick adventure for it, too.

Thursday 21 November 2019

The War of the Worlds - new ideas

This is how much I'm thinking about 'The War of the Worlds' at the moment; 5:00am condensation art, while I was waiting for a bus. I'd previously drawn the Alien, but this time I had a bash at a Martian Fighting Machine.

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And now I'm having game design ideas...

I'm toying with that Fighting Machine design, and I did this on my phone's Sketch app on the bus back, based on the sketch I did in condensation. I'll do some proper sketching when I get the chance.

Also, Audible's 'The War of the Worlds' adaptation is excellent. The Jeff Wayne music, of course, is great even if the rock opera feel kind of intrudes on the period, but the new arrangements are exciting and really good listening.

Sheen is amazing - the drama is just wonderful and it's really creepy to listen to. Great stuff.

Tuesday 19 November 2019

Tiny Frontiers

Look at what arrived!

It's a great game with really cool content. I'm looking forward to seeing what I can do with this and I already have an old scifi action campaign setting that I designed in mind.

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Sunday 17 November 2019

Tilda Swinton as Elric of Melnibone

I'm still pushing for Tilda Swinton to play Elric of Melnibone.

Could you imagine that as a TV show? Jesus, it would blow minds clear out of the water.

'Game of Thrones was brutal!'

'Hold my beer'.

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Saturday 16 November 2019

Interlude #1: The Take - From Gallant Knight Games

My new mini adventure for Aliens & Asteroids has just been released. It was an absolute pleasure working for Moebius, and there's more to come!

Interlude #1: The Take
From Gallant Knight Games

Once in a while, every campaign needs a small adventure that can be run between other adventures in an ongoing campaign. The Take from Jonathan Hicks offers a glimpse into the gritty, criminal underworld of the Aliens & Asteroids universe and introduces us to a new threat from within the Dominion: The Black Circle.

This is an adventure for the Aliens & Asteroids RPG and requires the A&A core book. It includes information about the Dominion Defense Service (DDS), which is the Dominion's version of the FBI, including a couple of new professions, new traits, and a background!

Thursday 14 November 2019

Alien Fanboy Thoughts

I have huge love for Alien Isolation and it's my preferred sequel to Alien, my favourite movie. Sadly, though, I feel Amanda's character has been kind of ruined by subsequent stories. She wasn't so bad in Alien Blackout, but Alien Resistance turned her into a gun-toting action hero, fighting against 'the nasty bad corporation who are nasty and bad'.

I much preferred her character when she was determined, resilient and clever in the face of danger, as she's depicted in the game and the novel, but now she solves problems with pulse rifles and tough Colonial Marine friends who have been shoehorned into her story.

I suppose I had other ideas as to where her story would go after the bleak horror of Isolation, but I guess I shouldn't be surprised that they chose this path. The ass-kicking heroine was profitable for her mum so there's no reason why they wouldn't try to duplicate it with her. It seems to be what the audience wants, or at least expects.

I'm probably just having a fanboy entitlement moment.

Monday 11 November 2019

Alien Blackout

So Alien Blackout, the sequel to Alien Isolation as... a mobile game.


Look, it wasn't a bad game and had some decent atmosphere - watching the crew on the cameras was creepy - but it just got repetitive, a little boring and really frustrating. I know that sometimes games make you angry and there's a part of you that says 'That's not fair!', but there's moments in this game that really weren't, and it felt like the Alien just turned up randomly, no matter how you planned it.

And as a sequel to such a great game? Really lazy. It's not what I wanted, and not what many other fans wanted, either.

Still, it killed an hour or two and it's really cheap on Google Play right now.

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Sunday 10 November 2019


In my quest to find fun rules-lite games I can do something with, I just picked up Simply6 - it's a cracking system that's so fast that I knew how to play it before I actually read it.

The presentation is excellent, too, and there's enough material to keep a group going for a long while.

Friday 8 November 2019

Observations From A Gamer's Chair

I've written a lot of gaming articles about different things over the years; my first one was accepted for publication in 'Arcane' magazine (who sadly closed their doors before it got published), some appeared in my old e-zine 'ODDS', I tried to self-publish a book about them and I featured them on my blog.

Right now they're appearing in a serialised column on and they cover detailed thoughts to simple observations; in fact, once I realised that my articles were just me talking about what I've experienced in the hobby, and conclusions I've come to because of those observations, that's what I named the column; 'Observations From A Gamer's Chair'. They stopped being about hints and tips and became more about me sharing my experiences.

There are 48 articles available to view at the monent with another ten to come. It'll be a shame when the column is finished, but I've had a great time writing them and venting/sharing/exorcising my thoughts and feelings on all kinds of gaming subjects. I have no intention of writing any more as I focus more on game design and creating adventures rather than writing about playing them.

Maybe there's a game design column in there, somewhere. I need more experience first.

Simply6 Campaign Setting - 'TITAN GATE'

I've just released this under the WOIN Community Publishing Syndicate using the Simply6 system. It's an old setting of mine I never found a home for, but then Simply6 reared it's head and I found it to be the perfect fit; I could create a setting and not get too hung up on the rules.

I'm rather pleased with it, and hopefully it'll do well enough for me to be able to give the setting more support.


'A galaxy on the edge of civil war...

The stirrings of revolution...

The rumours of persons with incredible powers who will lead the oppressed to salvation...

A simple science fiction setting for the Simply6 roleplaying game, including:

A future history of the human race up to year 4799.

Information on the the Prime Gate Houses and how they are slowly bleeding the known galaxy.

Life under the Gate Houses.

Player and GM guidelines.

Adventure hooks

A short adventure 'Rumours'.

All things must change, for that is the nature of the universe.

The Risen are emerging.

Requires the Simply6 core rules and the Spaceships supplement for play.'

What am I writing? Take a guess.

I had a really productive week of writing adventures for dark science fiction adfventures.

I think my desk layout tells you what kind of writing mood I was in...

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Thursday 7 November 2019

Not doing my own art

I'm working on a D12 thing and it involves lots of scifi fighting. I'm having a go at some basic illustrating (I have no intention of illustrating it myself) but liked the roughness of this.

The game Mothership has some fantastic art in it, I love the look of that game. I'm wondering if that style would work for mine.

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Blade Runner RPG - in Spanish

A lovely gentleman contacted me recently and asked if he could translate my unofficial Blade Runner game into Spanish. Well, I wrote it about 10 years ago and I don't own the IP, so I said hell yeah, go for it, as long as he's not making money off it.

I wrote it using my fledgling SKETCH System and it was designed to be played using the basics of the Blade Runner universe. I'd still love to see an official Blade Runner RPG - although there are dozens of games that could emulate it easily - and this was my first step in visualising it.


Wednesday 6 November 2019

Alien Isolation novelisation

This was a good book. It gave Amanda Ripley an interesting background and gave a bit more depth to the events on the Sevastopol.

I still don't like other characters from other stories being shoehorned into Amanda's story or her going on to be an action freedom fighter revenge hero, but this is a solid book.


From birth, Amanda Ripley’s life is riddled with hardship. Her parents live on the edge of poverty, so her mother—Ellen Ripley—seeks off-world contracts that lead to a position aboard the commercial hauler Nostromo. Then when the deep-space vessel disappears, Amanda passes into adulthood focused on discovering one thing.


Amanda’s quest pulls her into the underbelly of society, where few can be trusted. On Luna she meets someone who seems the exception—Private Zula Hendricks of the Colonial Marines—but their relationship is short-lived. Just as Amanda appears to hit rock bottom… a lead appears.

To follow it, she must travel to the remote Sevastopol Station. There she hopes to find the answers she seeks. But the station is in ruins, and death stalks the corridors in the form of a deadly alien the likes of which she never could have imagined.

Tuesday 5 November 2019

Moons of Madness

This looks like my kind of game. Science fiction and cosmic horror? Yes, that's ticking a few boxes already.

Sunday 3 November 2019


I'm trying to envision a post-apocalyptic Mad Max style universe but spread across a dead stellar empire, so instead of cars people are getting around on starships and trying to exist across hundreds of dead and dying worlds, moons and stations.

I'm trying to find an art style that suits it but other than straight forward wacky out-there standard Mad Max weirdness IN SPAAAAAACE! I can't put my finger on a specific style.

Do I really want that Mad Max look, or just desperate survivors in a sci-fi hellscape looking to survive? Do I decide on an aesthetic first and then break it down to how it would look after a major collapse? How about Star Trek but all screwed up? Or a devastated Expanse?

I just can't get a visual. I know what I want to from the rules for the skirmish wargame, the starship battles game and the tabletop RPG side of things, but I just can't get a visual design down.

I've only just designed the game, to be fair, but I usually come at these things with a specific design in mind. This is what happens when you have a bonkers dream on the Saturday night and get up at 6:00 on the Sunday morning to get 4,000 words down to exorcise the ideas I had. I rushed into it, I think, and thought more about the concept and the game mechanics than I did about the overall package.

I want to complete the rules and get them playtested, and for now I'll use the 'Mad Max IN SPAAAAACE!' tagline to get my basic idea across. I'm sure the overall design and look of the game will come later.