It would be far to say that much of the material released for Alien: The Alien Roleplaying Game was focused on the original trilogy of films (Alien, Aliens and Alien3), plus Alien: Resurrection to a lesser extent. However, that all changed with the latest sourcebook, Building Better Worlds, which feels closer to Ridley Scott’s more recent Alien films (Prometheus and Covenant).
As the name implies, Building Better Worlds focuses on terraforming alien worlds. This is a mammoth book; coming in at nearly three hundred pages.
The source book is split into two sections; the first section, containing the first five chapters, is focused on general information that characters will know and will be useful for players to read. These chapters cover life in the colonies, creating colonist characters and the equipment necessary for colonising alien planets.
The second, much larger section is purely for games masters. This section is dedicated to the running of games based around colonisation and alien planets. Building Better Worlds delves deeply into the outer colonies of the Alien universe, as well as providing an ‘extrasolar species catalogue’, which is exactly what it sounds like – different types of alien life for characters to encounter.
There are also rules for creating new colonies, including an appendix for an expanded system on generating planets for players to explore. Many of these are presented as a series of charts, where games masters can choose the different planetary conditions and geography either by choice or by rolling a series of six-sided dice (as a D66).
The final two chapters of Building Better Worlds is The Lost Worlds campaign. This campaign is quite different to previous published scenarios for the Alien roleplaying game. These have been ‘cinematic scenarios’ that recreate the mood – and lethality – of an Alien film, but The Lost Worlds campaign offers a different experience.
The Lost Worlds campaign is seven interconnected adventures with sandbox play style, in that the pacing is informed by player decisions. The campaign could be dropped into an existing ongoing campaign, but the excellent background campaign offers fantastic storytelling opportunities.
The campaign overview provides all the necessary guidance for running an extended sandbox campaign, including session zeroes for initial character creation and downtime – the time between sessions for players to pursue minor storylines. There is a lot of information to be absorbed, but it is well worth a read for even the most experienced games master.
The scale and scope of The Lost Worlds campaign is designed for experienced games masters, due the sheer breadth of the storyline. Novice games master who are new to Alien: The Roleplaying Game, would be advised to develop their familiarity with the game using cinematic scenarios and shorter campaigns before attempting to run this game.
As this is by Freeleague, Building Better Worlds looks amazing and has an aesthetic that is utterly in keeping with the Alien setting – it just oozes atmosphere and much of the background material will inspire storylines that could be run. The artwork is crisp and evocative, with much of the equipment having their own images, which is incredibly useful when describing vehicles and items to players for the first time.
Overall, Building Better Worlds is a fantastic addition to Alien: The Roleplaying Game and an essential component for anyone wanting to run games in the exploratory style of the more recent Alien films.