Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Jim Ward, Creator of the First Science Fiction RPG, Needs Your Help

Jim Ward is one of the founding fathers of the role playing game hobby and the creator of the first Science Fiction role playing game, Metamorphosis Alpha. Ward's 1976 SF creation didn't merely extend the boundaries of roleplaying beyond the simulation of Fantasy novels, it offered a different style of play altogether.

Metamorphosis Alpha wasn't a game of far flung galactic empires or post-apocalyptic Earths. The game was set in a universe where interstellar travel was possible, but the game's action takes place on a single space craft. As the game's introduction describes it:

Mankind's urge to explore and expand its frontiers finally caused another push into the vastness of space -- first interplanetary, then interstellar. By the 23rd Century a great migration wave was spreading from Old Terra to the hundreds of inhabitable worlds which had been discovered in the Milky Way galaxy. During the next hundred years colonization ships of all types and descriptions went out to the stars, bearing seedling colonies seeking a better life. Many found their new homes -- for better or for worse -- but for one reason or another scores of these starships never reached their destination. This game is based on just such an event, the fact of a colony ship which became lost...

Ward's creation was more than a mere emulation of the fiction of Heinlein, Van Vogt, and Asimov, it contained it's own narrative ideas. These ideas allowed for a new experience in the role playing game genre. Players were still exploring multi-leveled complexes, dungeons if you will, but their reason for doing so was different. Instead of glory and wealth, the characters might be seeking mere survival or knowledge of a lost time.

Ward has contributed much to the hobby. He was the founding editor of Dragon Magazine, the creative force behind the Gamma World role playing game (a post-apocalyptic offshoot of Metamorphosis Alpha), and the Spellfire card game.

Sadly, Ward has been diagnosed with a serious neurological disorder. The condition is treatable, but the costs are significant and he needs the support of the gaming community. Visit the Friends of Starship Warden and do your part to help one of the original gamers.
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