David Carter, co-author of Alpha Omega from Mind Storm Labs kindly answered a few questions I had about Alpha Omega and future products from Mind Storm Labs. My previous interview with Tom Mclaughlin, president of Mind Storm Labs focused more on the business side of game publishing. David spoke more to Alpha Omega design choices, the world and upcoming supplements.
Trask: What is "Alpha Omega?" Could you give a brief introduction to the world?
DC: Alpha Omega is a table-top RPG that takes place in a dystopian, future Earth, about 200 years after the apocalypse. Those that survived, sought refuge amongst the remains of the old world and started to rebuild. These societies developed in isolation from one another and all have varying forms of government or corporate governance. Some of these cities grew into towering, vertical arcologies that became akin to city-states, replacing the nation-state system of the old world. Everything in between the remaining cities is known as the Wilds or Freezones. These areas are filled with a variety of nasty creatures of all types (see The Encountered: Volume 1 for more info!) as well as rural societies that have managed to establish a threshold in the dangerous wilderness, despite the harsh, lethal environment. In the setting of Alpha Omega, these cities and civilizations are just starting to communicate with one another, establish trade and of course, fight over natural resources.
On top of that you have two warring alien species, the Seraph and the Ophanum, that have been misrepresented by history as being angels and demons. These species, known collectively as Elim, are about to come back to Earth to wage war once again. This time, however, they find that man is not the insignificant creature they encountered 10,000 years ago during their last visit to Earth. Now mankind may be able to influence the outcome of the Elim’s war due to our technology, but also because some people, namely PCs, are evolving at an accelerated rate and are developing supernatural powers.
Trask: What is your history in the game industry? Is "Alpha Omega" your first professional effort?
DC: I’ve been playing table-top role-playing games since I was a kid. I’ve GM’d D&D 2nd Edition and 3.5 and played in many other games and systems, however Alpha Omega, written with co-creator Earl Fischl, was my first professional effort.
Trask: "AO" has an elaborate mythology. What did you draw upon for inspiration while writing "Alpha Omega?"
DC: A lot of the early developmental work was done by Earl Fischl. He drew from books he read about ancient astronaut theory where extra-terrestrial species visited Earth thousands of years ago and may have played a role in the development of man. We also wanted to create a platform for any sort of near future, post-apocalypitc, horror or high sci-fi role-playing that people may want to do. We established a world and a system that allowed a multitude of popular genres and themes were blended in a single world, which is of course, Alpha Omega.
Trask: "AO" uses the "6-6" system, an original system. Why the decision to go with a new system, instead of something off-the-shelf?
DC: We felt that the systems that currently existed did not have the ability to present a Matrix-like "bullet-time" feeling that the 6-6 system creates. We also wanted a system where players could split their dice pools, allowing them to use more/less dice during each turn as required by the action they were attempting.
Trask: How difficult was it to balance ease of use and the simulation quality of the "6-6" system.
DC: Well, this is always tricky. We tried to use a series of optional rules that could be used to increase realism but made the game more crunchy, or left out to make the game more stream-lined and faster moving but not as strategic or realistic. Although the game appears crunchy at first glance, it plays quite smoothly and simply as the core mechanics of the dice pools vs a difficulty rating is quite easy to grasp.
Trask: What was the most difficult part of developing your own gaming system?
DC: The most difficult part was creating a progressive dice pool system that used all the common dice types, allowing players to get better and better dice as their characters advance while combining this with a combat cycle system that is broken down into 6 segments which allows experienced characters and creatures to act much more often than average humans and therefore providing them with supernatural abilities.
Trask: The art is very impressive in both the core rulebook and "The Encountered," the first bestiary supplement. Did you work closely with the artist(s) on the look and feel of the illustrations?
DC: Definitely. I was very involved in the creation of almost every image in both books. I would write up a short paragraph detailing what the creature.character/scene should look like and then send that to the artist. They would then send us sketches which Tom, Earl and I would review. I would then send our feedback to the artists
Trask: Magic plays a key role in "AO." However, the magic system is a bit unusual. First, please explain how the magic system works and could you elaborate on the reasons you chose not to have spell lists?
DC: Our magic system is known as Wielding. It works by taking one of 6 Wielding Sources and combining it with one of 16 Wielding Intentions to create an Effect. This way players can pretty much use magic to do anything they want as long as the end result affects some sort of statistic or game mechanic.
For example: If a player wants to create a Fireball, they would combine the Elemental Source with the Agony Intention to create a Fireball Effect. The player determines the Range, Damage, Area of Effect or whether it will do damage over time. The more powerful the Effect, the more difficult it is to successfully Wield. In our game world, if a Wielder tries to harness more power than they can control, the results can be disastrous!
We wanted to use Wielding to replace spell lists as we wanted the theme that runs throughout character creation and character development to be one of choice without boundaries or limits. Spell lists restrict what caster can accomplish in a given amount of time or at a certain level of character experience, but Wielding frees them of this, leaving the possibilities and accompanying risks to the player controlling the Wielder.
Trask: What is on the horizon for the "Alpha Omega" world? Are you currently working on something?
DC: Well, we have a variety of modules and short stories that are being created by some established authors. We’ll be announcing these shortly. We are also working on a new supplement that is tentatively titled Prelude to War, which will contain stats and information about the Elim species, particularly the Seraph and Ophanum. This book will also contain rules for a table-top wargame where players will be able to have large-scale battles using a system that is fun and stream-lined. This book will contain information for everything involved in the Evolutionary War and skirmishes fought on Earth when the Seraph and Ophanum arrive.
I would like to thank Mind Storm Labs for their cooperation with this series of interviews.
If you have any questions about the interview for David or myself, drop me a comment or email and I will do my best to get it answered.
Trask, The Last Tyromancer