Alpha Omega: The Beginning and the End, aka AO, is the flagship game of Mind Storm Labs. It takes place in Earth’s future in the year 2280. After centuries of mother Earth trying to wipe the slate clean, or the face of the planet, the world has become a full of wilderness and wasteland. Humans along with several new breeds of intelligent species have settled in mega-cities. Some cities are free and open, some are walled off, and then some are towering Arcologies, which are mega-cities within a towering building. These other species are all linked to the coming of the Elim, or the Seraph and the Ophanum. These races are basically the angels and demons of religion and legend. They meet every so many millennia to fight a war on Earth. One is due in 3 years, only this time the Elim are afraid of human interaction, seeing as humans have evolved far quicker than Elim expectations. The setting seems to take a lot from the works of such authors as Zecharia Sitchin and Alan Alford. Compared to known TTRPGs AO’s setting ends up with some of the best aspects of games such as Shadowrun, Rifts, Judge Dread, and In Nomine.
The Book Itself
Alpha Omega is a 404 paged landscaped full color hardcover. The production values of this book are unbeaten in the RPG industry. The artwork is spectacular and there is plenty of eye candy all through this book. The unusual landscaping format is a breath of fresh air, and I find makes the book a whole lot easier to use at the table. The combination of all of these things makes the quality of the book so high it makes one wonder what Ophanum Mind Storm sold their souls to, to get the resources for such an amazing looking product.
First there is a title page and then a thank you letter from MSL. These are then followed by a two page table of contents that seems relatively easy to use. One note should be mentioned here. MSL does not number the pages in the normal way. Each chapter and section is marked by sort of numerical code for easy reference. Some may find this annoying, for me I love it. It reminds me of some war games I played in the past, and I personally find I can locate rules and such more quickly with a system like this.
Chapter One: Welcome to Alpha Omega
The first chapter is a very small one that starts with a very short summary of the setting and continues through the usual “What is an RPG?” and” What items are needed to start playing?” sections. It also covers their unique page numbering system and how to use it.
Chapter Two: The Visions of Ethan Hass
Chapter is also a small chapter. Its entirety is a two page piece of fiction on Ethan Haas. Ethan Hass was a 19th century French author who apparently had visions of the Elim’s War and was all but ignored by society except by few under grounders. This all changed when the Elim became known to the world at large. The fiction doesn’t add much to the setting for me personally, but it does link AO to the massively known viral marketing “Ethan Haas Was Right”. For those that don’t know, before MSL released AO they had an online viral marketing campaign that consisted of puzzles and hints to the games content as if in the setting. Somehow this got confused with the viral marketing of the JJ Abrams film “Cloverfield”, which I can only assume brought MSL tons of publicity they hadn’t expected. To this day you can find scads of web sites all about how people try to figure in Ethan Haas into their knowledge of the movie.
Chapter Three: Setting: The World Remade
This chapter is the first large chapter of the book and goes into a more detailed description of the setting. It speaks of Mother Earth’s revenge of volcanoes, storms, floods and other natural disasters that tried, and in all respects save few, to wipe the Earth slate clean. It also talks of the first event that led humans to the knowledge that they are not alone and that for 10,000 years agents and descendents of the Elim have lived with humans on Earth. Centuries have passed and humans have continued to grow, alongside their Elim derived brethren, especially in the fields of medicine and technology. Genetics are the new playground of the sciences.
This chapter includes a three page Lexicon that covers some of the lingo from the AO universe. A few examples include Trust, the currency of AO, and PIDs also known as Personal Identification Devices. PIDs are basically passports in card or implant form that contain info on the person and can also contain bank info, citizenship info and other personal information.
The rest of the chapter covers the types of cities, Freezones, technology and other things that have changed over the centuries on Earth. A large part of this section discusses the advances in technology and sciences. This includes the creation of Artificial Intelligence and Bio-Engineered beings and the morale questions debated and eventually the laws put in place to protect them.
The last part of the chapter gives a very brief description of the Evolutionary War between the Elim. Not much detail is given such as why the war is even being fought, from what MSL has said it sounds like they wanted the core to be free of the Truth and the War would eventually have its own supplement.
Chapter Four: Locations
Chapter four goes into detail about the past and present of specific locations on AO’s version of Earth. It starts with North America. The great Lakes area from Virginia to Chicago to Ottawa has become a wasteland from a barrage of attacks from foreign nations, centuries ago. Most of those who enter the Great Wastes don’t live to talk of their trip. Some of the other locales mentioned for North America are Los Angeles, the AI controlled Loth Foundry in Canada, New York, Sanctuarium the Necrosi capital city in South Dakota, the Valux Corporation’s Arcology located near the borders between Wyoming, Nebraska, and Colorado, and last is Vancouver.
Next covered is Central and South America. The locations covered here are Brazil’s Ciudad-5, Mexico City, The earthquake created island city of Divinus, The Pirate Islands of the Caribbean, Sao Paulo, and Terranova City in the Yucatan.
Europe and Africa are grouped together next. Arcon-C Hell (Arc-en-Ciel) the arcology in Paris, the Spanish Lavana Free City, the Egyptian Citta Santa, and the Ranch in Croatia are the locations covered for these areas.
Asia and Oceania are covered next. This section covers Hong Kong, Triton Island near the Philippines, Oderon City near Karachi, and Russia’s Wlavos Communal Cooperative.
The final section covers bits of the rest of the world. Some major Divides created by earthquakes and Venlu Island off the coast of California are the things covered here.
Chapter Five: Personalities and Organizations
This chapter begins with some of the major named NPCs in the AO setting. This range from the leaders of the Elim’s scout forces to Jet Matheson, the first known non-human to most in human society. It also covers the major corporations, cults, and other groups in the AO world. These range from AI formed armies to religious hate groups to mega corporations running things behind the scenes.
Chapter Six: Character Creation
Ah character creation, we now step into the beginnings of the 6-6 system and what appears to be the largest chapter in the book. Character creation in AO is a point buy system with virtually all aspects of a PC being made from the same point pool of CDP, Character Development Points.
Step 1 is to visualize the type of character you want to play.
Step 2 is to choose the species you want to play. The playable species of AO are:
- Human- Yup we’re still around and we outnumber all other species.
- Necrosi- the Necrosi were once human but have mutated because of gene-altering radiation emitted by meteors making them pale and sensitive to light. They hate humans and love pain.
- Remnant- Remnants are humans who have been mutated due to radiation and the wilderness. They are often called Outsiders because they roam the wilderness and not cities.
- Bio-Engineered- Genetically created human equivalents, once slaves now legal; they often still receive prejudiced attitudes towards them.
- Nephilim- They are offspring of any “Human” species and an Elim.
- Lesser Nephilim- They are the offspring of humans and Nephilim.
- Grigori- These are the soldiers and servants of the Elim.
- Lesser Grigori- They are offspring of humans and Grigori.
- Anunnaki- the Anunnaki are the offspring of two Nephilim, one of Ophanim descent the other Seraph.
- Artificial Intelligence- AI Robots who suffer the same prejudice as Bio-Engineered.
Step 3 is determining you Core Qualities. The Core Qualities are Strength, Agility, Conditioning, Vitality, Discipline, Intelligence and Charisma. Your base starting stats and their maximums and minimums are determined by what species you are. The stats can be changed from the base by spending CDPs.
Step 4 is to average your Core Qualities together in different ways to create your Secondary Qualities, which incidentally is what your skills use to figure their base dice pool. The secondary qualities are Athleticism, Physical Acumen, Fitness, Will, Wisdom, Wit, and Presence.
Step 5 is to figure your Tertiary Qualities. They include Reaction, Physis (genetic complexity), Endurance, Movement Rates, and Defense Rating. Most of these qualities are figured from your secondary qualities.
Step 6 is to figure your Health Pool. Health Pool is your basic hit points.
Step 7 is Abilities and Drawbacks. In this step you can spend CDPs to buy abilities and gain CDPs for taking drawbacks. This ends up like your basic abilities and drawbacks system from most point buy systems coupled with feats of d20.
Step 8 is Genetic Deviations. Terran deviations are mutations that humans may have developed from genetic manipulation or radiation exposure. Elim Deviations can only be taken by those with Elim blood and cover Elim’s wings, horns and regeneration.
Step 9 is to choose skill and field ranks. All skills fall under certain fields. If you take ranks in Fields it cost more than normal skill ranks but gives ranks to all skills under it.
Step 10 is to choose if your character is a Wielder, which is a magic user. There are three types of Wielder: Arcane, Innate, and Spiritual. Each allowing different sources and intentions to be used and having different CDP costs.
Step 11 is to equip your character and conserve any left over CDP.
Step 12 is to write out your characters appearance.
Step 13 is to figure your characters name, languages, personality, and background.
Chapter Seven: Game Mechanics
This chapter explains how the 6-6 system works. The reason behind the name, is that each turn in combat is divided into 6 segments and every character a dice pool of 6 dice (except in low stat cases) to use in that time frame. These dice pools are based on the characters stats and can range from 6D4 of a stat of 12 to the ungodly 6d20 of a stat of 100. Each skill is linked to a certain Quality. So if I wanted to make a History roll, I see it is linked to Wisdom. With a Wisdom of 12 I get to roll 6D4. I roll the dice and add my Art Field ranks and History Skill ranks to the total to try to beat a Difficulty Number.
In non-combat situations you always get to roll your full dice pool. However in combat time everything is split into 6 segments. Based on the characters Reaction, they get to take a turn in so many of these 6 segments, however they must split their dice pool up for these turns, never using more than 6 dice in a round. Combat for the most part is a passive defense, unless the character goes into Active Defense Mode which allows him to make contested rolls against all attacks on him, if an active defender rolls high enough they may even counterattack.
One thing that should be noted for combat is that even though one might split dice for attacks, all weapons can attack so many times in one round with the same dice roll, with the weapons Exertion Rating determining if it hits all those times. Example: (Off top of head not RAW stats) if I attack someone with a Long sword that can hit twice in a segment and has an Exertion Rating of 7, I need to hit a DR of 15 and roll a 23. The first swing hits 23 beats 15. The second swing hits after we add the Exertion to the roll to see if it still beats the DR. 15+7=22<23.
A neat section of this chapter is on Character and Creature States. Basically these are charts that can gauge changes in the states of a being in Size, Speed, Fear, Density, Disposition, Thought and Emotion. It’s a neat tool for a GM to handle encounters and have quick rules for physical changes. The charts show normal state as level 0 and the state can either go as low as -4 or as high as +4. Other than the GM the characters that will get the most use out of state changing are Grigori, who have the innate ability to alter states and Wielders who may have magic to alter them.
Another thing I like about the 6-6 system is the way Armor works. Armor has 3 stats Damage Threshold, Damage Resistance, and Structural Integrity. Damage Threshold is the amount of damage armor can take without any effects at all. Damage Resistance is the amount of damage the armor can take before the rest goes to the wearer. Any Damage that hits Damage Resistance is deducted from the Structural Integrity of the Armor; eventually the armor will be useless. One thing to note is players not use to this type of armor system might forget that the armor very well could out last the character within.
There is also a very detailed Vehicle system. It includes vehicle acceleration/deceleration, vehicle maneuvers, and firing from vehicles. One thing I noticed is that Power Armor works using the vehicle rules, which I like.
The last part of the chapter deals with Wielding. Wielding is the magic of AO and uses a very nice freeform magic system. Each Wielder has ranks in Sources and Intentions. The sources are the type and form behind the spells, and intentions are how it can be used. The sources are Elemental, Energy, Void, Being, Alpha, and Omega. The intentions are broke down into 4 categories each with 4 intentions under them. Some sources can only use certain intentions. The intentions and their categories are: Sancto which includes the intentions of Deliverance, Salvation, Creation, and Inspiration; Bane with its intentions of Agony, Damnation, Nihilism and Malice; Order with Constancy, Clarity, Insight and Control; and the last category of Chaos with its intentions of Entropy, Insanity, Ignorance and Anarchy.
To cast a spell a player decides a source and intention and then using a chart figures their DR based on the effects of the spell such as range, duration, damage etc…..
Chapter Eight: Character Development
This chapter covers receiving CDPs as a reward for playing and spending them to advance your character during or in between play. It also covers evolution, which is the purchasing of higher Qualities maxs, and Ascension. Ascension seems to be a way that the genetic complexity of a character starts to ascend higher and higher reaching levels of power/ascension closer to that of the Elim.
Chapter Nine: Gear and the Marvels of Science
This chapter covers equipment whether it is for combat or non-combat and ranges from the mundane items such as rope and tents to guns and armor. The last part of the gear section are a listing of some basic vehicles.
Chapter Ten: Playing the Game
This chapter is your basic how to GM section. It is a good read and includes several quick stat sections for some basic NPCs.
There is a nice index in the back, a four page character sheet, a GM Combat Matrix for speed of combat play and some of the more used charts reprinted in the back for quick use.
Wow. I know I didn’t cover half the things in the book and that my review is probably very spastic and all over the place, but I can’t help it. Alpha Omega makes me excited. It makes my mind ran at 280mph with ideas and thoughts. It makes it hard to right a review without it all sounding like “ooo this is sweet” and “OMG this!” It excites my mind. One warning I will make. Alpha Omega is a crunchy game. It’s not for everyone, especially those who like very simple systems with minimal charts and sub-systems. While virtually everything in AO uses the same basic mechanic in rolls, there are a lot of “things” to it. I personally have not run a game yet, but am currently talking to some people about perhaps giving it a go online. The ideas of the system seem to become more and more clear with each read, so I figure the more sessions of actual play, like most games it would become much smoother. The setting falls into one of my favorite categories which are seen in Rifts, Shadowrun and the Outlanders novels.
Style I have to give a 5. I mean good gawd you can’t find RPGs with this degree of production and editing. It is beautiful, truly amazing in its layout and artwork. And while the proofing is not perfect I have not seen an RPG with this few mistakes in a long time.
Substance gets a 5 also. This book is a perfect score for me. It’s crammed full of a deliciously crunchy system with loads of awesome setting fluff. It’s of my favorite genre and just sets my mind afire. The only one thing I can see some having issues with is there are no creatures; however MSL has always stated they were making a creature manual, so I didn’t really expect any similar to DnD.