Exobiology 101

What is an alien?

Until now, when building characters for use in the Costumed Adventurer Simulation Engine, the assumption has been that one is creating a human being. You know, someone from the planet earth like you or me (well, you, at least), whose physiology is, or was at least originally, in line with that of other humans. The main exception to this is when one plays a product of humanity's knowledge, such as a robot.

Those characters who don't fall within this classification are considered alien beings. The complicated thing about generating an alien character is that their origin must include details about what makes them alien, on top of everything else about them that needs to be described. And with some aliens, this can be especially tricky, depending on whatever it is that happens to mark them as an alien being.

And this starts with some basic questions.

Who Are Their People?

The single most important facet of an alien character is the people that spawned them. Sure, the planet, dimension, or even timeline a species was created or formed within or upon definitely matters, and will absolutely shape its society. But while these factors are important components of a people and their story, what matters most to us is what the very point of this alien civilization is.

In other words, why do these entities even exist? This can be as complicated a concern as 'they are the aggressive and occasionally antagonistic society that the players must contend with' or as simple an explanation as 'I wanted to make a cool alien character'. The former is great for games that will last for more than one session, but the latter is perfect for a 'one-shot' tale of adventure.

Whatever the reason this species exists, no matter how much effort has been expended on deciding their purpose in the game, they'll be a permanent addition to its story. As such, the character of this alien society must be determined as well, which assists in both the development of the Judge's story, as well as helping players broadly know what to expect when one or more of its people appears.

Consider human history and society when conceptualizing an alien civilization, and then extrapolate from there based on how far removed conditions where they developed are from what humanity has enjoyed and/or endured. Thus, these new creations may be culturally close enough to humanity to be relatable, or they might be so different from us that they're almost incomprehensible.

At the same time, it's easy to fall into the trap of making an entire society monolithic in nature. One-note cultures are an unfortunate staple of fiction, particularly when there is no intention to actually revisist the beings in question once they've fulfilled their narrative purpose. Sure, such civilizations could be expounded upon at a later date, but building a bit of variety into each society is always a good idea.

Unless ubiquitous conformity to a singular tradition is the intent with a given culture, anyway.

What Are They?

After settling on the purpose of your new alien society, what makes its people different from humanity must be decided. Aliens range from those physically and visually indistinguishable from your neighbors, to entities we cannot even be perceive as living, to sanity-rending horrors whose mere presence may very well induce madness. Figuring out what kind of alien you wish to role-play includes choosing one of the following:

Humanlike aliens are those that are either completely human, or mechanically very close to that state of being. This kind of alien can represent offshoot species of humanity, or fictional species who appear completely human save for some abnormal characteristic such as pointy ears, weird forehead ridges, a particularly stout build, or perhaps green skin. Humanlike aliens may or may not have special powers.

Humanoid aliens are those sharing the same approximate shape as a human being, but have numerous special characteristics that are almost impossible to disguise. They may appear to be human-animal hybrids of some sort, like a satyr or mermaid, alien-human crossbreeds, particularly those of fae or demonic descent, or some other species that only shares the approximate dimensions of humankind.

Inhuman aliens are those who can't remotely be confused for a human being, and probably wouldn't want to be. This can include sentient, enhanced, or evolved animals, intelligent plants or fungi, distressingly large insectoid entities, strange masses of writhing bits whose function ignores the rational, or even oddities of chemistry that are alive, but probably don't register as such to us until they act.

Inorganic aliens are the kind that are way, way off the beaten path. Rarely possessing anything remotely like familiar, biological processes, this form of alien can include mineral entities, fluid life forms, living masses of gases, ostensibly limitless founts of energy, or possibly even vivified artificial, seemingly manufactured objects. In the extreme, these can include sentient locations or phenomenon.

When Did They Originate?

Characters in the Costumed Adventurer Simulation Engine typically hail from the present, even if they're an alien scourge from beyond the stars. But not always! There's no end of temporal rifts, wacky contraptions, or mystical mishaps that can fling a body from their native place in time to another era. And if one lacks the ability to traverse time by themselves, they're likely stuck here as a result.

Mechanically speaking, aside from the threat of being returned to one's native era by the use of spells such as banishment or exposure to the likes of temporal static, there isn't all that much of a difference between adventurers from the past, present, or future. A temporal displacement as part of a character's origin makes for a great story element, however, as well as an explanation for abnormal knowledge they may hold.

Furthermore, it's a great way to rationalize the existence of heretofore unknown posthuman civilizations, whether they can be described as timelost or technically haven't even been created yet! Belonging to an extinct or potential people can also mean less work for both the player and the Judge, as lesser effort needs to be spent explaining why this civilization hasn't previously been heard of in the game.

This all assumes that the setting one's game takes place in what is ostensibly the present, give or take a bit of time. A game can be set in any other era desired, though, whether it involves high magical fantasy in an unknowable past, a period piece set in 1984 near a dormant Oregon volcano, or ship-to-ship space combat in the farthest reaches of our galaxy's post-singularity future.

Aliens appearing in such campaigns need not point out their temporal origins unless they differ from other characters. Which, in the end, is exactly how they're treated in games set within the here and now. (Maybe rework this? feels wrong)

Where Are They From?

Given the purpose and nature of a given group of aliens, players must determine where they come from next. An alien's point of origin isn't normally as important as their physical characteristics, but can be if the laws of physics are so different where they come from that they require special powers to survive in the campaign setting. Places of origin for alien characters can be one of the following:

Prime Earth: all kinds of beings that can be considered aliens come from our very own world. This can include strange offshoots of humanity living in secret societies previously hidden to ordinary man, mutant animals that are just as smart as (or smarter than) an ordinary person, or even inexplicable monstrosities living beneath the crust of the earth. Older media is replete with this sort of alien entity.

Other Earth: on the other hand, variant timelines are a great source of alien species. These can simply be humans native to adjacent timelines, universes where evolution went in a startlingly different direction than that which we know, or possibly even the products of alternate histories where dinosaurs continued evolving uninterrupted by a giant meteor.

Other World: while they are from the same universe as you or I, aliens from other worlds hail from a staggeringly different background than an earth with a somewhat different history. This can cause the evolution of any number of extraterrestrial entities, ranging from the usual science fiction folks with funny foreheads to awful terrors wrought in the crucible of a wildly divergent evolutionary progression.

Other Universe: while the previous assumes characters primarily originating in a space-time that obeys the same laws of physics familiar to humanity, all bets are off when pondering species evolved in other universes. Hailing from higher (or just incomprehensibly different) planes of existence, the creation of such alien species may or may not follow conventional causality or even common sense!

Why Did They Leave Home?

When it comes down to it, aliens are called aliens because they're alien. They're the aeravwe

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And last, possibly most important in a mechanical sense...

How Are They Represented?

Regardless of what the alien is and where they are from, it is vital to properly describe the entity to be cj

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Sample Aliens

One large portion of Exobiology 101 is going to be a roster of sample aliens. This is mostly a showcase for what folks can fight (or play!) during a session of the Costumed Adventurer Simulation Engine. I'll be plugging these in as I modernize them!

Ghouls: like their mindless lessers, ghouls arise due to the intervention of magic, exotic chemicals, or viruses. However, they're stronger and more intelligent, qualities that make them far more dangerous than their zombie 'relatives'.

Zombies: whether raised by magic or chemicals or viruses, zombies are a grave (pardon the pun) threat to humanity as a whole. Though usually mindless and incredibly awkward, zombies can be tenacious in their pursuit, and terrifying in large numbers.


(Yes, we have no bananas, today)


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