You've been on a giant worldship this entire time. Oh, and you're going to crash into a star. Good luck!
Oh, and it's written by Drawmij himself. So that's nice. I wonder if he can make the game rules appear in his hand as a free action?
It turns out that what one might think one wants can easily turn out to be something that one doesn't really want at all, and that, as it happens, is the case with Metamorphosis Alpha. I think I like the idea of this game much better than it's execution. I feel like if I were to do this sort of a game, my emphasis would be focused more on the culture, society, and world inside the ship and have much less to do with all of the cool ray guns and robots located on the storage levels.
I will say though that, in the game's defense, it was made in 1976, where the focus on games was quite a bit different than it is now. It's forgivable, but I don't think I could run this game without significant rewriting.
It also doesn't help that the rules feel more than a little bit slapdash (the errata in the back doesn't help). There's not a lot of them, but I definitely get the feeling that some of them are missing somewhere. It doesn't help that the book's layout is crude and kind of all over the place.
Still, I was able to make a pretty interesting character. Here's how I did that.
As per usual, I went in with no preconceived notions. There are six stats (Radiation Resistance, Mental Resistance, Dexterity, Constitution, Strength, and Leadership Potential). Frustratingly, the list of stats is given in that order, but the paragraphs describing the stats are arranged in a different order. Oh well.
I learn right off the bat that True Humans get all six stats, while Mutants of varying stripes only get the first five. I think making True Humans the only charismatic people in the game is one of the ways that they balance the fact that humans don't get awesome powers, but it still feels like not quite enough of a boost.
I decide that I will be a mutant, because that sounds fun. I do the roll and place in order, giving me an average character who is very clumsy and who has an almost statistically significant Constitution. I'm not getting much from these stats, but there's still more to do.
I should probably explain the stats at this point, as well as how secondary stats are derived from them, since they're somewhat unique among RPGs.
Radiation Resistance is the likelihood that I will resist dangerous radiation. A failure means that I will either die horribly or mutate.
Mental Resistance is my chance to avoid psychic attacks and mental mutations. Unlike the other stats, it is strengthened by use, provided I survive an attack that harms me.
Dexterity determines when I act in combat. So I'm not necessarily clumsy, but I am slow as balls. Interestingly, my Dex doesn't seem to impact my movement speed at all, from what I can tell.
Strength indicates whether and if I do any extra damage in combat. I don't.
Constitution determines the number of hit points I have and how likely I am to be poisoned. Since I have a Con of 11, I get to roll 11d6 to calculate my hit points. I roll reasonably well and get 45.
Because I am a mutant, I am allowed to have mutant powers. I get to roll 1d4 to determine how many physical mutations I have. Then I get to roll 1d4 again to determine how many mental mutations I have. It also says that my mutations are hand-picked by me, and not randomly rolled. Considering that there is quite a wide power range between powers (for instance, one of them allows me to control time or set up an aura of death around my body), this seems unwise. On the other hand, it's much easier to build the character you want.
The GM then gives me a physical or mental defect, so that I do not become god upon the Warden. If I have five or more mutations, I get both a physical and a mental defect.
I rolleth forth my d4s and get 3 physical mutations and 2 mental mutations. Since I have five total, I get two defects. Fun!
Here's the point where my character starts to gel. I decided that I would not game the system, instead choosing powers based on a core concept. I am given further guidance by the rulebook telling me that all mutants start in the forest level of the ship with no equipment.
Okay. So what do we have so far? A slow-moving, reasonably tough, arboreal mutant. Let's see if I can pick things to complement this.
Heightened Dexterity: Despite the name, this does not improve my Dexterity in any way. My AC is 1 (equivalent to the best armor listed in the game), as long as I am not encumbered. Since no one plays by the encumbrance rules anyway, I should be fine.
Physical Reflection: My skin reflects one type of damage away from my body in a random direction. One of the damage types listed is Radiation, so I'm going to powergame the shit out of this and choose that one.
Quills: I grow quills along my arms and legs. Anyone grabbing me takes dagger damage. I can also throw them 1-10 feet away from me.
Heightened Intelligence: Unlike Heightened Dexterity, this actually does modify my intelligence. I need it if I'm going to be a mutated plant or animal to have human-like intelligence, and I have to take it if I rolled a 4 on mental mutations. Since no Geoff character is complete without improved intelligence, I decided to purchase it despite neither of those things being true. It adds +4 to my Mental Resistance (to a max of 18) and allows me a better chance to operate devices found on the ship.
Intuition: Taking a page from the Jewel songbook, I have grabbed this mutation. It gives me limited precognition, which translates to a +1 to hit, +3 damage, and am never surprised. The power notes that it cannot work if any of my other powers are active, but, since my other powers are either passives or automatic, I don't think I need to worry about that.
I tried to pick defects that would make sense for my character, learning later that the GM could simply roll randomly and assign the defects to me. The defect tables don't make it obvious that a random roll is allowed (there's 6 physical and 10 mental defects, but the chart lists all the mutations in a group in order from 1-47, so you won't notice it unless you count). I managed not to cheese it, or hurt my character too badly, and picked the following.
Skin Structure Change: My skin has been altered significantly. The examples that are given are scales that reduce my movement (but not my Dexterity) and that I cannot bear heat above 76 degrees F. I decide to reverse the second one, taking one die of damage per hour if I am stuck in temperatures of 40 degrees or lower. I don't know if that's cheesy or not, but the book doesn't give much in the way of boundaries or examples.
Fear Impulse: I am afraid of certain objects or animals. I can't look at the thing (whatever it is) without feeling total fear and running away from it. Since I'm little more than a forest creature at this point, I decide that I have a fear impulse to "Uncontrolled Fires." Campfires will make me nervous. Forest fires will make me run screaming.
Since I don't have any equipment, I can safely ignore the majority of the equipment section. However, I do need to figure out how to calculate damage for my quills. Metamorphosis Alpha has an interesting way of doing this: Armor has a Class rating (which, I think, is different from AC), and weapons also have a Class rating. The higher the class of weapon, the better damage it does against armored opponents.
I thought this would be more descriptive. Like I have an Organic Dagger, which might be pretty good, but a Plasma Dagger would be way better. I'm going to have to wait a few decades to get something like that, though, because the determination of Class is a bit more byzantine and less free-form than that. I do find out that daggers of any type are a Class 3 weapon and do 1d4 damage against opponents.
Nav the Arboreal Mutant
Radiation Resistance: 9
Mental Resistance: 9 +4 = 13
Physical Mutations: Heightened Dexterity, Physical Reflection (Radiation), Quills
Mental Mutations: Heightened Intelligence, Intuition (Follow Your Heaaaart)
Physical Defect: Skin Structure Change (Take 1d6 Damage/Hour at 40 F or Less)
Mental Defect: Fear Impulse (Uncontrolled Fires)