Game Review: Altered Earth: Science Fiction Role-Playing in the Far Future by David Caffee from Chaos Trip Studios and Avalon Game Company

Though I have to admit I’ve not been much of a fan of D&D 4e the way it’s been presented in the D&D Essentials line, I’ve been interested in the movement to make 4e work in different contexts. For example, Wizards of the Coast‘s Gamma World release is an update to the post-apocalyptic roleplaying game from TSR first published in 1978. Set after some apocalyptic event, the world is ruins, mutants, and science-fiction elements it shows some of the versatility of 4e. And beyond that, I’ve seen work from C. Steven Ross at DMG 42 about GMing a modern campaign using 4e rules. He recently put together a set of chase rules and other enhancements on the blog, which I think show promise.

And now I’ve had a chance to look at Altered Earth: Science Fiction Role-Playing in the Far Future by David Caffee from Chaos Trip Studios. Though it hits me a bit like Gamma World or the setting from Blood Dawn from SSDC, I think that Altered Earth presents more of a Buck Rogers in the 25th Century approach (late ’70s, early ’80s TV show) with islands of civilization and the remnants of humanity scattered across the world after some apocalyptic event.

From the sample, Altered Earth seems to have a bit of a Fallout-feel, with an open environment and several different groups vying for power in various ways. The Wastes form the majority of what’s “out there,” with a few garrison towns offering some limited military support keeping the population under control outside the Mega Cities. Scattered through that, you have the crazy Green Farmers who want to plant bodies in the ground for some wacky reason.

I think that the focus on Mega Cities is an interesting twist, with completely isolated areas and environments in some of the old metropolises like New York City or Chicago. The remains of buildings and roads would be reclaimed by nature over time if they weren’t maintained by people, so I can definitely see a bit of an urban jungle situation forming with discrete areas and interested parties finding ways to survive. It might become a strange combination of an inner city and the Amazon.

The sneak preview I saw offers about 17 pages of content in a 28 page PDF, with some world overview, sample characters, and a sample adventure. You need the 4e Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, and Monster Manual to fill in the missing pieces, but I think a GM familiar with 4e could easily run the adventure with four players to get a feel for the setting.

The adventure itself pits the five sample characters in a mission to retrieve a kidnapped daughter from one of the wild zones in the urban jungle. With a scattering of encounters and maps to go with them, I can see the adventure filling the space of a few hours anyway.

There was also a limited amount of art in the book and I would have liked to have seen more of the artwork than the sample of the six pictures on page 16 to get more of an idea of how the writers see the world. The maps in the sample were pretty basic, but the black and white drawings showed promise. That said, I understand that this particular book was meant to entice gamers to purchase the full book, so I hope the rest of the book follows through on the promise.

Honestly I’d like to learn more about the setting to see where the whole Mega Cities idea is going. But other than that, I didn’t see much to get excited about. I hope that Chaos Trip does a bit more to develop the setting and perhaps has more campaign and adventure ideas to set it apart from some of the other post-apocalyptic settings.

Check out the Altered Earth sneak peek at RPGNow if you’re interested in learning more about this new post-apocalyptic setting for 4e.

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