- The stress/panic system seems to excel at encouraging the sort of horror situations particularly in the first Alien movie. From what I could tell, all my players in both sessions had a blast even when the panic situations were screwing them over since it fit into the narrative so well. With that said, I still think I can do better to offer as much as I can for situations where a) players aren't unfairly given stress and b) determine 'breather' areas where they can recoup. Admittedly in one-shots like these, there's really not appropriate room for that, and if anything, my second sessions i think went better because I was less afraid to dump stress on them, even though I was following the module pretty much minus even the additional extra/optional scenarios.
- Despite not being good with the numbers and 'crunchy' part of a given RPG (at least running them), I do find the Alien RPG system increasingly simple to use, which helps me focus on facilitating player action and narrative and whatnot. I find rolling for Alien behaviors in particular to be nice as it makes them seem more "alive" than if I had to decide on my own. I'm not having to make judgement calls on what's "fair" or "fitting" or "sensible", or rather, the tables help me focus more on adapting the results to a narrative framework. in the Hope's Last Day one-shot, for instance, the drone that primarily confronted the players ended up continually grabbing and dragging them to another nearby place and later 'played' with them twice in a row, which made that particular alien feel like it had a more 'playful' personality, which would be funny if it wasn't so deadly (incidentally, I play something akin to that when playing games like AvP2 as an alien).
- The secret agendas in particular I think really help the players have a personal goal that, because it's secret, also adds a sort of 'realism' to the game. The players aren't just some uniform swarm of murderhobos but have unique wants that could conflict with each other. While any RPG can have personal agendas and some facilitate that more than others, I've found this to be a fairly straightforward and effective means in this game, particularly since they're characters the players didn't make themselves.
- I don't think this is specific to this RPG (other corebooks I have often have similar issues, some more than others) but particularly for the one-shots, not having all the relevant information in one place made things difficult. This came up more with my Chariot of the Gods session, but that's only because for Hope's Last Day, I ended up copy/pasting my own version to print out that also had the relevant information not in that section (such as xenomorph stats). In a corebook, particularly with a physical copy, I don't expect there to be much done on this, but it does slow the game a lot.
- The maps are confusing to the players, and I can empathize. Largely, this comes into play when determine which ladders go to which parts of a given upper/lower level, which doesn't seem that clear. There's other situations that don't seem clear though either, such as certain thin hallways, possibly mislabeled sections (the beginning of Hope's Last Day has an intercom tell survivors go to the storeroom, but there's no "storeroom" on the map, so I made a call that it was actually the mass living area in the basement since that matched the description of the fallout), and not explicit descriptions (I was unsure exactly where the sentry was meant to be found, even in spirit).
- I don't know if this should be 'errata' or if it was something I missed, but there seems to be no knife stats despite one of the characters having one -- I made up stats for that. I also don't know what to do for improvised weapons, which became a point in the Hope's Last Day session, so I had to, well, improvise stats for that too. I know RPGs can't spell every possible thing out, but at least with the knife, I'd expect that to have stats since it was explicitly provided. EDIT: I was, in fact, blind and missed the table they're in. Incidentally, I made up the exact same stats for the knife, so there's that!
- I'm definitely going to need to get markers, since it's otherwise a mess to figure out where monsters and such might be on the map.
- I think I'm still messing up exactly how combat is meant to play out at times, which I need to read up on more. I'm never quite sure when opposing rolls should be made and if so, what kind, and that's not even getting into if they do something special like blocking or grappling or whatnot. When I ran Chariot of the Gods, I almost entirely avoided mechanical combat because of it (and because I was less certain from what I had from the pre-order than from the core book) and pushed largely for skill rolls and made up other rolls for the few combat situations that did come up. When I ran Hope's Last Day, I was much more confident and felt I could mostly do the basics at least. For context, while i've played my fair share of TTRPGs, I've generally only ran rules-light (and often even co-GM) games such as, say, Dread, so I still feel I'm constantly juggling rules. Fortunately, I improvise well enough, and I don't think my players noticed/cared what went on behind the proverbial curtain so long as it felt fair.
- Despite my challenges, I really enjoy playing with this universe setting, with the pros far outweighing the cons, and I'm confident I'll learn the rules well enough soon to be able to run things even smoother.
Chariot of the Gods focused largely on the skills they generally had to make (traversing with limited air, fixing the air vents, etc.) with all the "monsters" basically appearing briefly only to disappear, which succeeded at putting the players on edge but I definitely didn't put enough stress on their characters. While the key bloodbuster scene happened, the largest conflict ended up mostly being their own paranoia and, ultimately, bringing in the pirate crew in the last act (since I was far more comfortable with human mechanics in a conflict) with the monsters serving as more a background threat -- more I suppose original Dawn of the Dead than its remake in that aspect. Were I to run it again, though, I think I could be more confident in the use of the monsters on the ship, though I think the players I have would prefer HLD over this one since it's more "OG" Alien franchise (first two movies as opposed to the prequels) as far as the threats and setting go.
Hope's Last Day largely played by the book, though the players were having enough problems as it was so I didn't feel the need to add additional xenos or the intercom call from the one NPC. Just showing a blip on the motion tracker was enough to prod the players to keep moving when they lingered for too long. I probably could have still been even more strict and threw a xeno as the module suggested at times when they were figuring things out, but since this was a relative group of strangers playing that were roleplaying their characters well enough, I didn't want to punish what I think would be unavoidable player conversations needed. With that said, they did bear witness to a chestburster scene, and soon after, confronted a (different) xeno Drone, and they roleplayed their characters doing the awesomely suboptimal things like the scientist trying to still collect xeno material even when it put him in more danger (as opposed to awfully suboptimal things because the players are dumb). I was probably kinder to the group towards the end when basically all the xenos were ganged up on most of them (who rolled panic so bad that there was very little they could do) and so I had ALL the xenos go with one that was dragging a dead PC "back to the hive" so the remaining living players had a chance to actually grab the keycard off another dead PC to escape, though I did have the xenos go back to chasing them once they got that (it made a bit more narrative sense in context).
I look forward to making my one one-shots and/or campaign-y scenarios soon! Though heck, depending on if I have new players, I'd run Hope's Last Day multiple times. I might run Chariot of the Gods again depending on the players, though I do think Hope's Last Day is just inherently more approachable.