Metamorphosis Alpha

Metamorphosis Alpha
Metamorphosis Alpha
Designer(s) James M. Ward, Slade Henson (2nd edition)
Publisher(s) TSR (1st edition and 2nd edition), Fast Forward Entertainment (3rd edition - also known as the 25th Anniversary Edition), Mudpuppy Games (4th edition), WardCo. (1st edition revised pdf)
Publication date 1976 (1st edition)
1994 (2nd edition)
2002 (3rd edition)
2006 (4th edition)
2007 (1st edition revised pdf)'
Genre(s) Science fiction
System(s) Custom (1st edition), Amazing Engine (2nd edition), 3d6 (3rd and 4th editions)

Metamorphosis Alpha is a science fiction role-playing game. It was created by James M. Ward and originally produced by TSR, the publisher of Dungeons & Dragons. It was the first science fiction role-playing game, published in 1976.



The original edition of the game takes place on a generation spaceship, the starship Warden that has been struck by an unknown cataclysmic event that killed many of the colonists and crew. Thus, the characters must survive their missions in this ship (which they believe to be a world) where they no longer understand the technology around them and they encounter numerous mutated creatures. In essence, Metamorphosis Alpha is a dungeon crawl in space.

Players can opt to create a human, a mutated human, a mutated plant or a mutated creature as their character. A number of articles in Dragon expanded upon these options to include clones and robot characters as well as adding rules for cybernetics. There are five common player characteristics: radiation resistance, mental resistance, dexterity, strength, and constitution. Human players added a sixth characteristic, leadership potential, while mutated humans and creatures add a random number of mutations, both physical and mental. Metamorphosis Alpha's combat rules are very similar to those used in the original edition of Dungeons & Dragons (D&D).

Metamorphosis Alpha is the intellectual pre-cursor to Gamma World (1978), also produced by TSR.

Science fiction or science fantasy?

Metamorphosis Alpha has an emphasis on super science and an element of science fantasy (as confirmed by creator James M. Ward in 2006), leading to some confusion as to how the game should be classified. Metamorphosis Alpha was written and marketed as a science-fiction game, before the distinction between science fiction and science fantasy was made. Ward has stated that the game is not "hard sci-fi". Some minor debate over Metamorphosis Alpha being classified as science fiction has taken place,[1] but the inspiration for the game (see below), the statements of the author, and the marketing of the game itself favor science fiction.

In 1980, TSR released AD&D module S3: Expedition to the Barrier Peaks. The module was based on the idea that a starship such as the Warden (though not the Warden itself, according to TSR founder Gary Gygax) becomes marooned in a D&D universe. In the module's foreword, Gygax writes that the module was written to introduce Metamorphosis Alpha to the wider D&D audience and to demonstrate how one might undertake science fiction/fantasy crossover.


Ward, the game's author, stated that the original inspiration for the game was Brian Aldiss's classic science fiction novel Starship (aka Non-Stop) (1958). In the British RPG magazine, White Dwarf, issue 1, Ian Livingstone wrote a review of the game and published his own additional rules for playing Metamorphosis Alpha on Aldiss's ship. However, it is often suggested that the game was inspired by Robert A. Heinlein's 1941 novel Orphans of the Sky.[2][3] James M. Ward has stated that he was not familiar with the 1973 Canadian TV series The Starlost, a show with a similar concept, and that Metamorphosis Alpha is not based upon that series.[4]

Ownership and rights

The rights to Metamorphosis Alpha are owned by James M. Ward. Ward also owns the rights to all Metamorphosis Alpha material previously published in Dragon. WardCo. (Ward's publishing business) has been granted permission by Steve Jackson Games and by Judges Guild (the estate of Bob Bledsaw Sr.) to host and republish some material. In 2008, Ward requested via public forums that sites hosting pirated copies of his original rules and the material previously published in Dragon magazine remove them, as they were a breach of his copyright and directly competed with products that he is selling. All permissions to host the Metamorphosis Alpha rules and the Metamorphosis Alpha Dragon Magazine articles, other than those being sold on behalf of WardCo., at sites other than at the official homepage have been rescinded.[5] In 2010, Signal Fire Studios acquired the rights to produce a new edition of the game based upon Hasbro's 4th edition D&D.[6] In 2011, Ward announced that he had negotiated a deal to produce a graphic novel of Metamorphosis Alpha.[7]

Editions and supplements

Metamorphosis Alpha was first published in 1976 by TSR. It was written by James M. Ward and illustrated by Dave Sutherland III.

In 1981, Ward announced plans to rewrite the game as Metamorphosis Alpha to Omega, a supplement for the 1st edition Gamma World rules (Anon 1981). The Gamma World supplement was never completed, but in 1994, TSR used the title Metamorphosis Alpha to Omega for an Amazing Engine supplement (ISBN 1-56076-851-7) written by Slade Henson.

In 2002, Ward's company, Fast Forward Entertainment, published a new version of the game, entitled Metamorphosis Alpha: 25th Anniversary Edition. It was designed by Ward himself.

In 2006, Metamorphosis Alpha 4th Edition was released by Mudpuppy Games (ISBN 0-9763601-2-8). This edition contained original material by Ward and additional new material and photography by Craig J. Brain. The book cover and interior illustrations were painted and drawn by Jim Holloway with most of the cartography by Ryan Wolfe.[8]

In 2007, WardCo. released an official errata sheet for Metamorphosis Alpha First Edition, which is available from the official website and released a revised edition of the first-edition rules through OneBookShelf as a PDF.

In 2010, WardCo. released "The House On The Hill" adventure module (ISBN 145360412X) for Metamorphosis Alpha (1st edition) as a PDF through OneBookshelf and the printed edition through Amazon. The adventure was written by Craig J. Brain, with bonus content by James M. Ward. The illustrations for the adventure were by Lee Smith and Dave Sutherland III.[9]

See also



External links

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