Friday, July 24, 2020

Weird Revisited: A Few of My Favorite Aliens

The original version of this post appeared in 2012...

Aliens species in most science fiction rpgs are of the of the human-body, animal-head variety or just human’s with odd skin color--which might be cool if they gave them so interesting personality.  There are some pretty interesting aliens in games.  Here are a few of my favorites:

From: Star Frontiers
All the species in basic Star Frontiers are pretty cool (Zebulon’s Guide has some clunkers, though) but the corporatist, insect-appearing (though not actually intervebrate) Vrusk are good ones.  They avoided the cliches of evil insectoids and (mostly) hive culture.

From: GURPS Aliens
At first blush these guys are a “warrior race” cliche (okay, not just at first blush), but two me there are a couple of interesting things about them.  One is that their societal structure is based around cadres and avoids the usual “Klingon Empire” thing.  Two, their noseless humanoid appearance reminds me of the Acroyear in the Micronauts comics, who are one of the coolest warrior races ever.

From: GURPS Traveller: Alien Races 2
Horse-like herbivorous sophonts on a holy crusade to cleanse the universe of meat-eaters. Not only due the K’Kree break with typical humanoid alien design, they turn “peaceful herd animal” expectations on their ear.

From: Star Control
These guys are from a series of computer games and are just green-skinned humanoids.  What’s interesting about them is they reference the classic little green men from flying saucers motif.  Their ships are inertialess too, making them unique among the sentient races--and mysterious. The fraal from Alternity's Star*Drive setting are a somewhat similar idea, perhaps better done, but without the cool saucers.

From: Traveller: 2300AD
2300AD had several well done species, but the biotech-using pentapods are my favorite. Interestingly, the pentapods themselves are biotechnology--constructs made by deep sea intelligences on their homeworld.  It’s a set-up that could be easily used for horror, but the pentapods are one of the closest allies of humans.


Dick McGee said...

A fine set of choices, although I lean more toward Dralasites than Vrusk in Star Frontiers (blobs > bugs?). The T2300 Pentapods and their creator species have always reminded me of the Sa'Vasky from Full Thrust. Your mention of the K'Kree reminded me of an old Traveller campaign where their, ah, militaristic attitude towards dietary choices came back to bite them in a rather ironic way - more so than even their abortive hostilities with the Hiver Federation. Did a writeup of the events as I recall them over on my blog which might be of interest:

JB said...

The Acroyears are just about the only "warrior race" from fiction I can stand. Klingons society is a retcon that jumped the shark around the time Christopher Lloyd slapped on the makeup, and other examples are just...sad. They all end up looking like Mandalorians or something.

Um...but is there a Micronauts RPG? Because if there is, I want to own a copy.

I actually like ALL the Star Frontier races quite well. They really beat the pants off most SciFi RPGs which always seem to throw in some form of space elf or cat-person. The cultural personalities are a little cliche, but otherwise they're a really nice mix of sentients with varying physiologies. And the Holloway/Elmore artwork in the SF books is excellent...I always got the sense they really enjoyed a break from the standard fantasy stuff they regularly produced.

Trey said...

Yeah, I like all the Star Frontiers races, too, I just only listed Vrusk so as not to crowd out some other good ones. They are perhaps not quite as alien as some of the best Traveller races, but they avoid the most common cliches. The species in the StarDrive setting for TSR's alternity are likewise pretty good.

Dick McGee said...

You made me look, JB. No idea if it's any good, but here's a link to the first page of a free online Micronauts RPG from about 20 years back:

Just keep hitting next page to read the rest, it's weirdly formatted. If there are any others out there they're eluding a casual search.

If we're talking other favored aliens from RPGs my vote gets split between Fading Suns' Vorox and Barsoom's Green Martians. You may note a theme involving extra arms there, especially given my previously stated fondness for Dralasites. :)

Although to be fair, the Barsoomian Kaldanes and their Rykor "mounts" are also really cool, and arguably more alien.

JB said...

As someone who’s often complained about only having two hands (and needing extras), I can see the love for the multi-limbed.

I dig on dralasites, too, by the way, though I always preferred mine in the 3-leg/2-arm configuration (better base of support). Pity the dralasite characters with a DEX under 30!