Let's Read the ALIEN RPG

Malleustein

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Young and stupid me wanted Alien3 to be more dudes with guns shooting aliens on Earth. But I did like the film we got, though I wasn't savvy enough to why it was the way it was. The years have revealed a lot about the nightmare production was, making the end result all the more impressive to me. Fincher went through hell making it, and the film has a certain anger in it. As I said upthread, it's like the angry punk reaction to the more conventional Aliens.
 

CRKrueger

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That's been my feeling going all the way back to the '80s. I generally hate it when sequels are a retread of the plot of the original. The first two Alien movies gave us a sinister corporation, space marines, remnants of alien civilizations. There were plenty of things to do in the setting besides fighting bugs again.

It's as if when Tolkien sat down to write a sequel to The Hobbit, he started from the premise that it absolutely had to be about another group going after a different dragon's treasure.
It’s interesting you bring up Tolkien, because the biggest difference in the two franchises is what Tristam mentioned earlier...world building. If we take the Alien movies together, you have Weyland-Yutani, Colonial Marines, Xenomorphs, Engineers, androids, and Arcturian poontang. There’s hints of a greater whole, but no real attempt at world building, as the prequels raise more questions than they answer.

This severely limits what the Alien RPG supports other than Xenomorph one shots. The GM is going to have to do a lot of heavy lifting to do a Space Truckers, Exploration/Scout or Colonial Marines campaign.

I know supplements are coming, but the main rule book is woefully inadequate at setting up a framework for campaign play. To make a analogy to the Shadowrun RPG, the Alien RPG shows us how you can raid Mitsuhama’s Fort Lewis research park, again and again, without all the other setting information.

Yeah, Rule Zero, but this is a licensed RPG.
 

Fenris-77

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I'm fine with the fact that the core book doesn't support those other campaign styles in any depth. One, I can run that if I want to without feeling pressured, two, supplements are coming, and three, perhaps most importantly, I'd prefer a core book to one thing really well rather than three things moderately well, and the Alien core book does do its one thing really well. YMMV of course.
 

Voros

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I find Alien 3 an interesting failure and Alien Resurrection a fascinating trainwreck.
 

TristramEvans

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I find Alien 3 an interesting failure and Alien Resurrection a fascinating trainwreck.
The accumulation of talent on Resurrection is fascinating, considering how it ended up.

The director of one of my favourite foreign films of all time? check.
The writer of three of my favourite TV shows of all time? check
A cast incuding some of the greatest character actors of my generation? check

I'm not sure what ingrediant was missing, but it feels like there should have been a masterpiece in there somewhere
 

Ladybird

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I just hunted down that article. What amused me was how much it resembled Scorsese's controversial statements about comicbook films last year.
I really didn't understand why what Scorsese said was so controversial; his underlying point made perfect sense, he wasn't being abusive or really denigrating comic book movies, they're just not For Him and he wants something different from cinema. I like dumb films about people resolving their problems through violence, but the fact that he doesn't and would like to see more cinema-as-experiment isn't taking anything away from me.

---

As I read through the Aliens RPG I am always wondering how well it would work for a Terminator game, post-Judgement Day, as resistance members.
 

Nobby-W

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[ . . . ]
The accumulation of talent on Resurrection is fascinating, considering how it ended up.

I'm not sure what ingrediant was missing, but it feels like there should have been a masterpiece in there somewhere
It was a bit like Avatar in that it should have been a much better film, as should the third one have been. However, it suffered from different things.

Avatar really suffered from a hackneyed script. If it had been done instead of Aliens in 1986, it would probably have gone over a lot better. It was essentially flawless execution of a significantly flawed plan. The script was just bad enough to be annoying.

The third Alien film suffered by ditching most of the key characters from the second for no good reason and trying to give the film a different monks-in-space theme. I think Alien 3 would have been better off having nothing to do with the Alien franchise and just being done as an indie horror film with some other monster.

The fourth Alien film really just used too many horror film cliches. It was directed like a B movie and came across like one. Some of the scenes like the white alien critter being sucked out through the hole were just silly. On the other hand, it managed to depict bestiality and incest in the same scene (with the same two participants, no less) and get that past the ratings board, so I guess it's got that going for it. Overall, it suffered from too much schlock to really fit with the franchise.
 

TristramEvans

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The tone was certainly off. In that regard it seemed to be pre-anticipating the AvP films.
 

Majestic

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Ripley's primary nemesis in the series is obviously the Wyland-Yutani corporation, not the Aliens themselves which are more of a force of nature. It's the corporation as represented by Bishop in the first film, and Burke in Aliens. Having the human inspiration for Bishop be the face of the corporation in 3 wasn't a horrible idea, but his role is completely neutered in comparison as he only shows up at the end, and all her sacrifice does is inconvenience them, it ultimately doesn't do anything to stop the corporation, it simply keeps one xenomorph out of their hands. Obviously other xenomorphs are out there for the corp to eventually get their hands on, she simply delayed the inevitable.
I think you mean Ash here, unless I'm missing something.

I have to admit that - as big of a fan of the movies as I am - I had no idea about the various corporations as depicted in the RPG. It's fascinating to see the various factions/corporations that have expanded their territories out into the stars, and I think a lot could be done with that, pitting one corp against the other (as the Chariot of the Gods scenario has going on in the background).
 

Séadna

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Brief comment. The Stealth and Combat systems are kind of like Space Hulk or even more so Space Crusade if you have played either of them.

Zones and Stealth:

Zones:

A very important part of the combat system is the notion of Zones. A zone is an abstract region of the map, but in typical games is either a room or corridor. Other examples might be a landing bay or starship hanger. Anything bigger than about 25 meters should probably be split into two zones. Official scenario maps always have their zones delineated.

Zones can have Features which affect skill checks or other rules within them. For example a Cluttered Zone requires a Mobility check enter them, failure meaning you fall/trip. Dark Zones give a -2 to the dice pools for Ranged and Observation checks and also mean your fire cannot reach beyond the Zone, such as shooting into the outside corridor from within a dark room.

Zones also control Range. Short is anything in the Current Zone, Medium being adjacent Zones and Long being 2-4 Zones away. There's also Engaged for being right up next to somebody/thing.

There's also Line of Sight, but this is "logical" in how it works rather than handled with game mechanics.


Time:
Time is handled differently depending on whether you are in Combat or Stealth mode. The former uses Rounds covering 5-10 seconds, the latter uses Turns covering 5-10 minutes.

Stealth Mode:
The purpose of Stealth Mode is for when one is moving through a hostile or unknown environment.

Here the PCs move through two zones per turn, allowing them to pick up the basic details of the rooms. More detailed actions such as staying in a room to hack the cameras require a turn or more (GM adjudication).

The major elements of this mode are the Enemy States, the Detection mechanics and if relevant the Motion Tracking system.

Enemy States are active and passive. Basically either actively looking for you or not. The GM does not indicate the positions of enemies on the map and either has a second copy of the map (published scenarios tend to have this) or keeps track some other way.

Passive Enemies are automatically seen if they are in the same Zone (fairly obvious) or in Line of Sight and you make a Observation vs Observation roll to sneak past them or get a sneak attack in. Sneaking past/up to them has modifiers based on your initial Zone distance.

Active enemies however are basically doing the reverse. Looking for you and making Mobility rolls against your Observation to sneak past you or get the drop. Again seeing you is based on Line of Sight or being in the same Zone.

If you have a Motion Tracker then it will allow you to register moving enemies up to four Zones away (Long distance), say by placing tokens on the map.

Now just to say something about the Aliens themselves. Basically they're masters of Stealth mode. They have peak or beyond human Observation and Mobility dice pools meaning they are very hard to spot. They move through four to six zones per turn, double or triple the human rates. In the next post you will see they get much worse than this as each type has special skills, instant kill attacks and skin more heavily armoured than marine combat armour. If you're not clever a single adult form alien can easily TPK even an all marine group.


Doors:
The typical colony door has 10 Health in order to be torn down. Sturdier doors have more and may also have an armour rating (See below) to resist damage.
For comparison a shotgun deals 3 damage per shot.

Summary:
  1. Distances and Ranges measured in Rooms and Corridors, in general called Zones
  2. You can move two Zones per turn. GM adjudicates how long more complex actions take, but typically 1 turn.
  3. Zones can have special rules reflecting being Dark and so on
  4. Stealth is based on Line of Sight and Mobility vs Observation checks
  5. Motion tacker gives a read on moving enemies within four zones

Combat:

So I'm not going to detail every single option available in the combat system, I will more so state the basic elements. However this is a prep post. I think it's more effective to see all the elements we'll have established working together. So in the next post I will give a sketch of the Drone Alien, the one from the first film, and then after that I will go through a scenario where three PCs try to repair a Comm Tower on their starship while being hunted by a Drone.

I also won't go into Vehicle combat right now.


Initiative and Actions:
Initiative is based on drawing cards from valued from 1-10. Obviously you can also just roll a d10 although note that by default people are not meant to get the same score. This is the initiative for the whole combat, it's not redone round per round. However one can trade initiative with an enemy.

On their turn a person can do either:
One slow action and one fast action
or
Two fast actions

There's a big table of what is slow and fast but again it's all pretty obvious stuff. Slow actions tend to involve skill checks, e.g. putting on a space suit (the only action not typical in other RPGs) is a Mobility check. The main bread and butter "To Hit" combat rolls for melee and ranged combat are slow actions.

Blocking is a fast action that lets you oppose an opponent's Close Combat roll, so Melee characters have that dynamic of saving a fast action for this reactive action.

Overwatch is a fast action that basically prepares you to shoot in a given direction. Anybody advancing on you can be shot at out of initiative order. However it still costs a slow action to shoot.

Run is a fast action allowing you to move one Zone or into Engaged distance within your Zone.

Combat Essentials:
Both Ranged Combat and Close Combat/Melee are simple skill checks no different to any others. The dice pool has modifiers coming from Range, that is Zone distance as well as modifiers from the weapon itself. For example a Smart gun gives +3 to the dice pool.

Most weapons have static damage, no rolls. For example the Shotgun deals 3 damage. For comparison the typical human has 3 Health.

Armour works via a dice pool. There's an armour rating indicating the size of the Armour pool. Roll and every success cancels 1 point of damage. If you look at most sources of damage an unarmoured human is fairly vulnerable.

Finally an important aspect of the Combat rolls is the way additional successes beyond the first can be spent.

Extra successes can give:
  1. 1 point of extra damage [Multiple]
  2. Pin down an enemy making them miss their next slow action. Causes Panic in other PCs however [Ranged only]
  3. Swap initiative
  4. Make them drop their weapon
  5. Knock them down or push them through a door/airlock (latter is Ranged only)
  6. Enter a grapple (Close Combat only). Keeps opponent pinned until they best your Close Combat roll.
Anybody who performed a block (a reactive fast action) can use each success to
  1. Cancel a success of their opponent [Multiple]
  2. Perform a counter attack. This instantly deals your weapon damage but you can't spend successes to up the damage
  3. Disarm
cuyjk6prpc631.jpg

Summary:
  1. Initiative is d10 based. Fixed for the whole combat.
  2. You get either a fast and slow action or two fast actions
  3. The run action lets you move one Zone per round
  4. Basic skill check for Ranged or Close combat. These main combat actions are slow actions
  5. Weapons do static damage
  6. Extra successes can be put into more damage, swapping initiative, some form of pinning or making a foe drop a weapon
  7. Melee characters may want to hold a fast action to block, which allows counterattacks and success cancelling on their opponent
  8. Ranged characters may want to hold a fast action for Overwatch letting them shoot out of Initiative order
 
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TristramEvans

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You know, I just realized the last time I watched Aliens was 1998.

I saw it so many times growing up that there was simply no point in rewatching, but seeing the HD scene clip above, I think enough time has finally passed I could enjoy seeing it again.
 

Baulderstone

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You know, I just realized the last time I watched Aliens was 1998.

I saw it so many times growing up that there was simply no point in rewatching, but seeing the HD scene clip above, I think enough time has finally passed I could enjoy seeing it again.
Last time I tried to watch it, all I could find was the inferior directors cut.
 

EmperorNorton

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The accumulation of talent on Resurrection is fascinating, considering how it ended up.

The director of one of my favourite foreign films of all time? check.
The writer of three of my favourite TV shows of all time? check
A cast incuding some of the greatest character actors of my generation? check

I'm not sure what ingrediant was missing, but it feels like there should have been a masterpiece in there somewhere
Honestly I've felt the largest problem with Resurrection is that I don't think Joss Whedon and Jean-Pierre Jeunet fit together stylistically. Outside of a few visual shots, it ended up feeling much more Whedon than Jeunet in the end... and I don't think that did the movie any favors (I like a lot of Whedon's work... but I don't think his quippy style works for Alien)
 

Malleustein

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Honestly I've felt the largest problem with Resurrection is that I don't think Joss Whedon and Jean-Pierre Jeunet fit together stylistically. Outside of a few visual shots, it ended up feeling much more Whedon than Jeunet in the end... and I don't think that did the movie any favors (I like a lot of Whedon's work... but I don't think his quippy style works for Alien)
I like most of Whedon's work, but I'd never pick him as the guy for an Alien movie either. His strengths lay elsewhere, the same for Jeunet.

It's interesting that Alien3 is still a major talking point, with heated arguments about it's quality and worth, but defenders of A:R are few and far between.

As a fan of Alien3, specifically as the final instalment in a trilogy, I find nothing of value in Alien Resurrection. It's only contribution to the Alien universe is the dumb looking newborn hybrid and reducing the 'drones' to even more simple cannon fodder. Weaver and Dourif aside, it is forgettable and most seem content to do so.
 

TristramEvans

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I was just thinking about Jeunet. I was a big fan of both City of Lost Children and Delicattessan - and I've realized I've completely lost track of him since AR. I'm going to have to look him up. But the script - the very premise was completely wrong for him. I don't know if he's capable of horror. His stuff was more dark absurdist, but I could see him being a good director to pair with a Metal Hurlant comic adaption - something by Moebius or Aspiri. And in that way, I think it's possible there migt have been a version of Alien that may have worked for his style, but nothing so Hollywood as what he was thrust into.

But it did make me think about how far an Alien film could be pushed in that direction. Something completely non-Hollywood. And I suddenly remembeed the Brothers Quay. The Brothers Quay became famous for a series of experimental short films in the 80s and early 90s. Most people would recognize them as the primary inspiration (Curt Cobain even said blatant rip-off) for Tool's "Sober" music video.


Obviously it's absurd to think anything like this could happen, Aliens is a multi-illion dollar franchise for Fox (now Disney I guess). But I can envision an incredibly awesome Alien film that combines that sort of dark and disturbing industrial dystopia with Giger's techno-organic aesthetic in my mind. Brutal and horrifying, yet philosophical and ambiguous. Something where the film and setting is as alien as the creatures themselves.

Anyways, just another thing that will only ever exist in my daydreams.
 

TristramEvans

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Oh, lol, just looked up Jeunet and discovered he directed Amelie. I never made that connection.
 

Séadna

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ezgif-5-36782afc230f.jpg

Okay so just for reference for the post with the Comm tower scenario here are the stats for the Drone Alien. This is the creature from the first film and the 2014 Alien Isolation game. The Drone is called a Stage IV alien, so not as lethal as the Soldiers from the second movie (Stage V) or the Queen (Stage VI).

Basic Stats:
Speed: 2 (Humans have Speed 1)
Health: 7 (Typically 3 for a human)
Mobility: 10 (Human limit possible only for advanced characters in some careers unless under significant Stress)
Observation: 8

Armour: 8 (4 vs fire)
Acid Splash: 8 (Explained below)

Abilities common to all Xenomorphs:
  1. Zero Health doesn't mean death. You roll a D6. 1-3 it survives with 1 health. A 4 gives it a final attack before death
  2. Cannot be blocked unarmed
  3. Abilities specific to Xenomorphs:
  4. Sprint. Doubles its speed in combat to four times human speed.
  5. No heat signature and no respiration
  6. Immune to cold and vacuum
  7. Essentially immune to falls. An alien has to fall roughly 24 meters to be hurt at all and such heights rarely come up in the game.

Calling these two out specifically:

Acid Splash:
The GM rolls a pool of Acid Splash rating + Damage taken. This then deals the number of successes + 1 damage to anybody in Engaged range of the Xenomorph. Armour can stop this damage but each point blocked takes away one from the Armour's rating as it is eaten through. This Acid Damage pool is halved on each subsequent round and rolled again until either it does no damage or falls below a single dice

Multiple Actions:
Have a number of actions per combat round equal to their Speed. In the case of the Drone this means it acts twice.

Drone specific ability:
Silent Assassin. The Drone is so silent that all Observation rolls to spot it are made at -2

Drone habits for the GM:
Drones follow a routine in their behaviour. You could implement this as a patrol route of sorts which I'll do for ease in the example scenario.
Drones spend most of their time hibernating in warm places such as near reactor cores

The final point sort of links in with the Alien's biochemistry which is quite fully explored in the Colonial Marines manual and the old Anchorpoint essays with the RPG often making use of their conclusions without discussing the "theory". There is quite a cool explanation of why they don't eat, generate heat or breathe and is a good example of using a bit of real world science to get out further useful implications. However I'll be going into that later when I go back on the setting material.

Stage IV attack table used by Drone:

D6 RollAction
1HYPNOTIZING GAZE: The Xenomorph, eyeless as it may seem, stares deeply into the soul of its victim. The victim is mesmerized by the dread beauty of such a beast. They stand in awe of what nature, or god, or the devil has created, get +1 STRESS LEVEL and must make an immediate
Panic Roll.
2PLAYING WITH ITS PREY: The Xeno attacks, but not to kill. The target is knocked to the ground and drops all hand-held items, but otherwise takes no damage. The Xenomorphstands over them, taunting its prey to run so the game can go on. The victim gets +1 STRESS LEVEL andmust make an immediate Panic Roll.

3
DEADLY GRAB: The beast launches through the air, grabbing its victim. It attacks with ten Base Dice, Damage 1. If it hits it immediately drags them into a neighboring zone, dumping them on the floor. The victim is prone, drops all hand-held items and must make an immediate Panic Roll.
4READY TO KILL: The Xenomorph grabs its victim, its inner jaws poised to strike. Roll for the attack with ten Base Dice. If it hits, the victim counts as grabbed (see page 93) and needs to make an opposed CLOSE COMBAT roll against ten Base Dice to break loose. The victim and all friendly characters in the same zone must make Panic Rolls. Unless the victim breaks free, the Xenomorph will use a HEADBITE attack against them on its next initiative.
5CAPTURE FOR THE HIVE: The Xenomorph attacks with its venom-spiked tail, with ten Base Dice, Damage 1. If the attack causes any damage, the Xeno pulls its punch so only one point of damage is inflicted, and the paralyzing venom takes effect. The victim must make a STAMINA roll—the number of successes rolled is the number of Rounds they can stay up, then they fall unconscious for one Shift. The paralysis can be removed with a shot of adrenaline (a MEDICAL AID roll using a Medkit).
6HEADBITE: The Xenomorph opens its outer jaws wide, and the deadly inner jaws lean out, gnashing in anticipation before snapping forwards. The attack has a strength of nine Base Dice, Damage 2. If it causes any damage it automatically inflicts critical injury #64, killing the victim in one dreadful blow. However, should the GM wish it, the victim remains just alive enough for the Xenomorph to initiate the ovomorphing process.
 
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Skywalker

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Its worth pointing out that Xenomorphs get 2 actions per round and also roll on a table to determine which action is taken. This adds a lot of unpredictability into the alien which makes them a lot more scary in play.
 

Malleustein

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I loved that game but never finished it because I suck.
It isn't easy, that's for sure. I finished it, but not on anything beyond the standard difficulty. I'm in the middle of trying to finish it without killing any Humans... Not doing well.
 

Séadna

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Its worth pointing out that Xenomorphs get 2 actions per round and also roll on a table to determine which action is taken. This adds a lot of unpredictability into the alien which makes them a lot more scary in play.
Can't believe I forgot that :shock: Thanks Skywalker.

For anybody who wants to review I've put the Action table into the previous post and placed what Skywalker mentioned about their combat actions after the Acid splash part.

Xenomorphs of the same Stage all share the same action table, so the table is the common Stage IV table.
 

Malleustein

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Just think of the fun the referee can have with the Drone's non-lethal option on the heabite attack. After fending off/killing the beast, the players have to put their lobotomized crewmate out of his/her misery. That'll do wonders for morale.
 
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