I’ve already mentioned in my Star Wars D6 and Revised RECON posts some of the memories I have of gaming in high school, but I wanted to mention one of the most immersive and exciting sessions I ever took part in.
Back in the 90’s, the Aliens franchise made a huge comeback where I lived in Australia (and I believe in the UK as well, at least), through the release and first television broadcasts of “Aliens: The Special Edition”, and the tidal wave of Dark Horse Aliens comics that were coming out at the time. My friends and regular gaming group were all gripped by “Aliens fever” too, it seemed!
Around the same time, Leading Edge published the Aliens Boardgame and the Aliens Adventure Game. The former was a tabletop tactical game (see here) while the latter was an old school pen and paper roleplaying game. Leading Edge’s main RPG systems at the time was Living Steel, based on their miniatures game Phoenix Command, and both were very rules and detail intensive (“crunchy”), so some of this rubbed off on their Aliens Adventure Game. While my gaming group preferred less “crunchy” games (like West End Games’ Star Wars D6), our fervor for anything Aliens-related saw me instantly by this game and we played a few sessions with it.
Character creation was fiddly and long-winded, and the rules never really felt great or easy to implement (there are lots of tables for combat, see here for an amusing example), but the lore and world building in the rulebook was fantastic (especially since they clearly only had the license for Aliens and that movie contains little in the way of exploring a wider universe). It’s a testament to Leading Edge’s creativity that a lot of material that was created solely for their Adventure Game has now found its way into Free League’s new Alien: The Roleplaying Game as background material.
Of the few sessions of Leading Edge’s RPG that my group played, the one that stands out for me was the rainy afternoon we gathered at a friend’s house for, where we roughly recreated the events of Aliens but with the player’s own Marine team, a kind of “what if”. The early darkness, howling winds and storm that eventually kicked up outside as we played made things very atmospheric, even more so when it started causing the lights to flicker and for about half an hour, caused the power to fail completely, leaving us to play by torchlight! Huddled around that upstairs table, trees whipping against the windows, it felt like we were all really trapped on that desolate colony!
Our love of Aliens couldn’t eclipse what we saw as a not-particularly-enjoyable RPG system, though, so after a few sessions we returned to the games we loved most (Star Wars D6, Paranoia, RECON, etc.). Those Aliens Adventure Game sessions, however, remain among my fondest gaming memories from my teenage years.