Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Random Esoteric Aliens

The theories for positing life not-of-this-world (both extraterrestrial and extradimensional) are numerous and omnipresent in popular culture, scientific discourse, and everywhere in between. Astrobiologists believe they've only scratched the surface when it comes to presupposing the type, incidence, and morphology of non-earth life, as well as the definition thereof. They've turned their focus back on Earth for new perspectives. From undersea smokestacks to Martian meteorites, it's presumed that alien life could take just about any form--large or small, complex, or single-celled. In recent years, the discoveries of exoplanets have forced many theories to be continually discussed, challenged, and revised--owing to even greater diversity of hypothesized life and it's prevalence in the universe. In the previous century through today, science fiction writers have expounded on all manner of life and how we might encounter and interact with it. It's time science fiction gaming caught up.

So here's a "what if?" scenario. What if EVERY encounter with alien lifeforms in a campaign were randomly created? Now I'm not talking "no pre-gens," but let's say for a second that aliens were created using the Random Esoteric Creature Generator by the esteemed James Edward Raggi IV. What I'm thinking here (and it's by no means an original thought) is anything extraterrestrial could/would/should have completely sporadic biology. I'm also not meaning "intelligent" life--but definitely "fightable"!

Part of me wonders if the RECG even goes far enough--things like horns, claws, etc. are still all based on the anatomy of earthly organisms (and for good reasons, which I think should be obvious) but it would be neat to see something sprout up in the OSR that's even more "sci-fi" in it's approach. Not to say that the RECG doesn't do an excellent job in the first place--it does and there is quite a bit of diversity in that little book! But, well, here's a few other possibilities for lifeforms cruising the great void:
  • Silicon-based lifeforms (also mineral/crystalline life)
  • Astral (non-necrotic or undead) beings
  • Mechanical, electronic, or nano-tech lifeforms 
  • Liquid, ooze, vaporous lifeforms
  • Mega-sized, single cell organisms
  • Living starship, organic mecha or vehicle-based lifeforms
  • Parasites/symbiotes
That's off the top of my head, I'm sure there are plenty I've missed, but you get the general idea. I know a good many of these are obvious, and I'm sure they're covered in a many RPG supplements in a variety of formats. But I've noticed not one true beastiary among the sci-fi RPGs besides an aliens supplement in Star Wars or a few others centered on humanoid-type aliens. (And there might also be a Cthulu Tech book out there, but you get what I mean....) To my knowledge, there's not a true sci-fi "Monster Manual." So the creature generator gets my vote, because as we all know aliens should--as a rule--be weird as hell.

I should also note just briefly, that James' includes all kinds of attack types and whatnot in the generator to flesh creatures out and make them combat-ready. So I'm not just talking about an encyclopedia, it's got to be a product for encounters both combat and otherwise.

So what do you think of my half of a thought here? Is there room or need for a Sci-Fi Random Creature Generator out there? What kinds of creatures would you want your PCs to blast into atoms? And what about using as mounts? Vehicles? Familiars, pets, or sidekicks? Let's not forget playable PC templates!

So, thoughts? Feel free to educate me as well (I'd never claim to be an expert about the wealth of resources out there!). Discuss!

More thoughts about:
Extradimensional planes (no, I don't get it either)
The Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence
Xeno/Astrobiology, also


  1. It's a great book, I've been using it to make up mutant beasts for my Mutant Future games.

  2. Jay, you are aware of the random alien creature generator in Traveller? Seemed relevant to this post.

    I would absolutely love to see a "Science Fiction" OSR bestiary. Sandworms, Green Martians, Morlocks, Kzinti, etc.

  3. Blair, is that a table or a book? Can you point in the right direction? I'm having no luck with Google (and I'm usually a pretty good googler).

  4. It's a table in teh original Traveller rules.