Follow TV Tropes


Tabletop Game / Alien: The Roleplaying Game

Go To
In space, no one can hear what's creeping up behind you...

Alien: The Roleplaying Game is a tabletop RPG developed by Free League Publishing to allow groups of players to roleplay in setting of the Alien franchise.

There are two broad modes of playing, "campaign" and "cinematic". Campaign games feature the Player Characters going from one scenario to another, usually in a role as something like long-haul space transporters, Colonial Marines, or colonists on the frontier. By contrast, cinematic mode games are focused on short self-contained scenarios that can be completed in a few sessions, but have a much higher lethality where not all the player characters are expected to survive, with a heavy focus on dramatic horror.

See also the parent Alien franchise, which this game obviously inherits many tropes from. How those tropes apply to this game are described below. Beware Late Arrival Spoilers for works in the franchise this game makes direct references to.


The game provides examples of:

  • Anyone Can Die: The game is structured with the express expectation that Player Characters will die across a campaign, or even during a single session game. Thanks to certain kinds of gameplay mechanics, the game is lethal on the statistics. In cinematic gameplay modes, it's not uncommon to have one player character be the Sole Survivor. The rulebook recommends having Non Player Characters around not necessarily as Red Shirts, but rather to have replacement PCs already in the story to be picked up by players who've had their characters meet a gruesome end already so they can continue playing the game.
  • Artificial Human: Comes in more than one variety:
  • Auto Doc: In keeping with the trope naming parent franchise. A lot of insurance coverage for spaceships and colonial ventures mandate the presence of an auto-doc of some kind as a liability mitigation measure, so auto-docs are quite common. However, "common" doesn't mean "good", and their quality and reliability can be variable depending on how much money is being spent on one and how much their maintenance gets deferred. The most expensive varieties are nearly self-driven advanced surgical suites, but the majority of them are "economy" models that require supervision and programming by a qualified med-tech and are only built to handle basic operations.
  • Breather Level: The rulebook recommends the Game Mother incorporate these as story beats during a session where the crew can be out of immediate danger, take inventory, and try to form a plan. This is a time for things like administering medical aid and helping reduce each others stress levels, before they move into danger again. The benefit in particular is that having opportunities to let out some of the tension gives other opportunities to wind it back up.
  • Disco Tech: The rulebook notes that the control systems for Engineer technology primarily relies on patterns of carefully delivered notes to activate and direct them, usually delivered via a flute-like control mechanism. It's a kind of blurred state between issuing commands and playing music. It is difficult, but not impossible, for humans and androids to reproduce the noises that such commands require using one of those control flutes, but since there's no known "Rosetta Stone" for the Engineer's command music and no known instruction manuals, it's also highly improbable.
  • Canon Welding: Downplayed. The RPG attempts to fuse the lore created in the original Alien trilogy with that of Prometheus, Alien: Covenant, and even Aliens: Colonial Marines. Additionally, elements created for rejected scripts for prospective Alien sequels which have long been known to fans are included and expanded on to give Game Mothers more options for spinning scenarios.
    • A specific example is some of the disparate accounts of the xenomorph life cycle. The script for the original Alien called for its adult form to turn captured victims into more of it's eggs, and while that made it into the novelization and director's cut, it was omitted from the theatrical release. Aliens, on the other hand, posited that the eggs were laid by a queen. This RPG takes both as being true, with victims being injected by a xenomorph with a variant of the black goo from Prometheus that causes them to "ovamorph". Eggs made by this method are less robust than laid eggs, but also have a higher chance of producing a "royal" facehugger which will in turn produce a queen. At that point, their reproductive rate can increase and they enter the hive stage of their development.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Character death is quite likely in this system, and when those deaths involve xenomorphs, they're rarely quick or painless. The rulebook notes that horrific deaths at their hands are a big part of the source material, and encourages the Game Mother to play up the gruesome details of them for drama when it happens...
  • Death Is Dramatic: The game is undoubtedly lethal, and Game Mothers are encouraged to be "brutal- oh so brutal". However, it does include advice that, should circumstance force a character death, the Game Mother should fudge the specifics a little to make such a death more dramatically satisfying. The example given is that, in the event a xenomorph queen makes an attack who's table results would be taking a character's head clean off with a single swipe of her bladed tail, a Game Mother might instead elect to rule that the attack takes off the character's leg. The shock and blood loss will still result in the character's immanent death, but they might have the opportunity to detonate an explosive they were carrying in the queen's face before they expire, injuring her, driving her back, collapsing a roof, or some other thing that would give that character's companions an opportunity to fall back and escape the potential Total Party Kill she represents.
  • Death World: The rulebook includes several different worlds that players may visit, but it also applies a special note to a few of them that landing there is tantamount to suicide:
    • LV-223: The planet that Prometheus is set on. The combination of uncontained black goo that spread among the local biosphere, along with an excavation shuttle piloted there by colonists escaping from the fall of the nearby Hadley's Hope colony that, unfortunately for the former crew, contained xenomorphs. Those xenomorphs have reacted with the black goo, mutating them into new and even deadlier forms. The evolution on the planet is out of control and virtually everything there is highly aggressive.
    • G-435: A planet overrun with xenomorphs who've reached a state of ecological balance with the local lifeforms. Flat and arid terrain spotted with shallow brackish seas, the only major topographically distinct things there are xenomorph hive-complexes. The fact that the xenomorphs have reached equilibrium with the indigenous lifeforms gives an indication of how deadly the local lifeforms can be. The local xenomorphs have adapted to this, and there are forms of them present here which occur nowhere else, and there are literally thousands of them. Chances of humans surviving there is practically negligible.
    • O'Bannon's World: A world of immense and dark jungles, and the site of a major battle during the Dog War. The trees are tall and thick, the predators are deadly, and even some of the vines are hungry for warm animal blood. The magnetic field of the planet's moon interacts with the planet's own to create an ionosphere that's hard for electronic communication to penetrate without large stationary relays, meaning anyone who goes down there can't easily call for help. However, it says a lot that this planet is one of the more downplayed examples in the setting.
  • Effective Knockoff: The RPG goes with the stance that the Xenomorphs are Bioweapon Beasts created by the Engineers, and that the Xenomorph variant from Alien: Covenant — given the official name "Praetomorphs" — is David's imperfect attempt to replicate them. While this was the case in early drafts of the script and the official novelization, Ridley Scott has stated in interviews that he decided last-minute to make David the Xenomorphs' creator rather than the Engineers, something the RPG ignores.
  • Fun with Acronyms: The first major sourcebook, the Colonial Marines Operations Manual, abbreviated CMOM. The fanbase is certain this was entirely intentional.
  • Game Master: Titled the Game Mother in this game, regardless of the Game Mother's gender, in reference to the Nostromo's MU/TH/UR Master Computer in the first film.
  • Gossip Evolution: The Sole Survivor of the Fiorina 161 prison colony wrote a tell-all book of his experiences titled Space Beast, linking the delay in rescue to Weyland-Yutani's prioritization of capturing a live alien "dragon" over saving lives, and linking them to the destruction of the Hadley's Hope colony on LV-426. Weyland-Yutani has denied these allegations, and most dismiss the account as the paranoid rambling of a madman. The official story is that the prison facility was depopulated by a disease brought on by the escape pods from the Sulaco, and the delay was due to observing careful quarantining procedures. Yet the fantastical book does fit the facts, and fits into other rumors of strange incidents across the frontier. As a result, some very limited knowledge of the xenomorphs is common, but they're considered simply one among many tall-tales told in frontier barrooms to scare greenhorns and few people think they're actually true.
  • Human Aliens: Arcturians, the only extra-solar intelligent species humanity has acknowledged contact with and who, seemingly inexplicably, have a genetic code close to (but not completely) identical with humans. They live in a narrow band of habitual land on a planet with extreme axial tilt. Their indigenous technological development seemed to be mostly Neolithic, but they also have mathematics, astronomy, and even quantum physics knowledge so developed that humanity had things to learn from them. They claim this knowledge was imparted to them by the "Star Teachers" who are prophesized to one day return. They're graceful and often beautiful by human standards, and exclusively gender fluid (at least by the way humans reckon gender.) Wayland-Yutani had a survey claim on the planet at the time they were discovered and has leveraged that into control over who among humans is allowed to visit, ostensibly to "protect" the Arcturians from exploitation... by anyone else.
  • Human Popsicle: Per the franchise, going into metabolism-slowing hypersleep is common for passengers making interstellar journeys. This is to conserve resources, to reduce the likelihood of cabin fever over a long trip, and to prevent the development of Neurological Distortion Disorder, a condition caused by the effect of faster than light travel on human perception which can lead to paranoia, epilepsy, and psychotic breaks. Interestly, people can still dream while in hypersleep, with the metabolism slowing effects stretching out the dream such that months in hypersleep are perceived as a single night's worth of dreaming. Commercial devices are available which encourage and shape these dreams, allowing hypersleep to be one of the more pleasant parts of interstellar travel.
  • Improvised Weapon: Unless the players are Colonial Marines, odds are they won't all be armed and yet find themselves desperately in need of protection. However, there are plenty of commonly used tools which can be repurposed into weaponry in a pinch. Cutting torches for emergency ingress through bulkheads or carve up scrap metal, bolt guns used to apply self-expanding bolts for securing patches over hull breaches, long maintenance jacks for manually overriding sealed airlocks with mechanical leverage, harpoon launchers for latching together otherwise uncontrolled objects in free-fall, etc. They're unlikely to make a determined xenomorph do more than be a little more careful about when it engages, but they're still better than going up against one completely unarmed.
  • Killer GM: Permissible and even advised in some scenarios, where the Game Mother is allowed or encouraged to simply place PCs in unavoidably fatal situations to ramp up tension, drama, and horror. Whether or not a Game Mother should go full-tilt No Saving Throw to whittle down the party to one survivor should probably be heavily dependent on how well the GM and players like and trust each other, and if the players are understanding of this mode of GMing in this genre of game. It is a horror game based on a film series which traditionally plays Dwindling Party utterly straight, but that doesn't necessarily give the GM free reign to be a jerk.
  • Magic Countdown: Getting a Face Full of Alien Wing-Wong is practically a death sentence, with the gestation and birth of a Chest Burster simply a matter of time for the poor victim after that point. However, while the rulebook gives a range of probable times this can take, it also encourages the Game Mother to fudge the time a bit until a suitable dramatic moment for the "birth" to occur. This is justified by the explanation that certain factors present in an individual host, such as a resistance to or predisposition toward cancers, can either slow or accelerate the process.
  • Mega-Corp: Giant conglomerates dominate much of human economic life, and are technically transgovernmental but often more powerful in their own way than the governments nominally in charge of them. Some examples:
    • As per franchise standard, the Weyland-Yutani corporation is a major overarcing presence. Based in the Three World Empire, they maintain a monopoly on atmospheric processing technology among other things, which has given them an enormous amount of long term profitability and cache among major governments. Unbeknown to many, WY is aware of the presence of xenomorphs and has been attempting to secure surviving specimens of them for a long time, a clandestine quest it is still actively pursuing.
      • The Interstellar Commerce Commission isn't quite a megacorp in the traditional sense, but it is a non-government body that attempts to regulate interstellar trade across companies. They issue licenses to transport goods and conduct cargo inspections and customs control. Their formation was the result of governments becoming concerned by incidents of things like biological contamination, and the ICC was formed by Weyland-Yutani as a show of "good faith" in corporate self-regulation without mandated government oversight. Many governments simply accepted this as "good enough" since imposing outside regulation would lead to a very ugly political fight. Of course, while the ICC is nominally an independent entity, it is still technically a subsidiary owned and operated by WY...
    • Lasalle Bionational is a relatively new company formed after WY laid off major sections of its bio research department, and the department head left to seek startup funding and hired many of the let-go researchers. Some of their more lucrative products include genetically modified crops to better grow on extrasolar planets, as well as engineered blights that could be used to destroy them. Consisting of mostly ex-WY biological researchers, they are aware of the xenomorphs and are in an arms race with WY to find and secure them for bio-weapon development.
    • Seegson has long been Weyland-Yutani's shadow, distributing their own tech to other companies to keep WY from having a complete dominating effect on the market. They lack WY's massive funding and lavish R&D spending, and remain in the market by offering lower-cost alternatives to common WY product lines. Their most notable and successful product is their line of "Working Joe" androids, which while much less advanced than WY androids and requiring a centralized control system to be fully functional, have nonetheless cornered the market when a large, cheap workforce is required and human laborers would be too much trouble for whatever reason.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • The developers apparently really liked the Aliens (Steve Perry Trilogy).
      • Planet G-453, where Xenomorphs have struck an ecological balance with the local wildlife, as well as housing a massive "Empress" who keeps order among the competing hives and their Queens, is reflective of both Alien homeworlds visited.
      • Lesalle Bionational is also a nod to the name given to the Company in that series, Bionational, attempting to acquire and exploit the Aliens while preventing anyone else (including the government) from doing the same.
      • Cryosleep protecting the human mind from deleterious effects of hyperspace travel was also mentioned.
      • The Church of Immaculate Incubation, mentioned as a possible unsavory religion cropping up on the frontier, was the name of the Alien-worshipping cult in the first book. The cult's leader in that book, Salvaje, is alluded to but not named.
      • A sidebar on gravity drives, which were the FTL tech used in those novels, describes them as very expensive and experimental, but otherwise having all benefits and drawbacks the books attributed to them (faster, the gravity envelope around the ship is a Deflector Shield, but add or subtract a few kilos and you'll end up catastrophically off course).
      • Third Base, home of narcissistic sociopath General Thomas AW Spears, is detailed as a classified location in the Sol Sector. The Khadaji system was also mentioned in the Trilogy (Steve Perry shouting out to his own work), and elaborated on here.
      • The possibility that Alien Queens communicate with their hives telepathically, and that particularly sensitive humans can pick up on these transmissions, was a plot point.
      • The Colonial Marines Operations Manual mentions the similarities between Hadley's Hope and Rim. Rim was the world Wilks and Billie encountered Aliens on when the characters had to be changed from Hicks and Newt to original creations. Wilks is actually given an NPC writeup that is exactly the backstory of the Trilogy, including mention of Billie and turning to substance use (verging on abuse) to deal with the PTSD.
      • The same book details the Artificial Womb Soldier program, which was the backstory for General Spears, who's also given an NPC writeup, though as a Colonel (though with hints that reaching General and leading bioweapons projects are in his near future).
    • Morse, the sole survivor of Fury 161, wrote a book about the event which was quickly banned. In the novelization of Alien: Resurrection, Call states she read the banned histories, "I read Morse." Morse's book in the game is called Space Beast, which is similar to the initial working title of Alien, Star Beast.
    • Devices to encourage and shape dreams in hypersleep recalls the opening of Alan Dean Foster's novelization of Alien, which contained extensive description of the concept of "prodreaming," shaping one's dreams then having them recorded for entertainment, and how unsuited Nostromo's crew were to the occupation, which is unfortunate since they spend so much time doing nothing but dreaming. Recorded dreams as entertainment are mentioned in a sidebar.
    • Arceon is slightly different take on Vincent Ward's "Wooden Planet" plans for Alien³.
    • The Chigusa Corporation is mentioned. This was the Company in Aliens vs. Predator. One of the female sample names for a corporate agent is "Michiko Nogumi," very close to comic's protagonist Machiko Noguchi.
    • A Royal Facehugger is described as being darker colored and having webbed digits (seen in the Alien³ Assembly Cut), armored and with claws to defend itself (certain comics), or with spines on its back and spots on its air bladders (Aliens vs. Predator comic).
    • While the core book leaves open the possibility of Aliens possessing telepathic communication, it also speculates they communicate with sounds, body language, and pheromones, which has been suggested previously by numerous other works that didn't go with telepathy.
    • The Horde of Alien Locusts from "Reaper," second story of the Aliens: Bug Hunt anthology, is given stats as a potential hazard the characters could face.
    • Berserkers, cyborg power armor suits that are fantastically powerful but near-fatal to pilot, appeared in various Dark Horse Comincs, and given a full writeup in the Operations Manual.
    • The Goreburster first appeared in Dark Horse Comics Aliens: Kidnapped, before being adapted for use in the game.
  • Non-Lethal K.O.: When a character is reduced to zero Health, they are considered Broken and must immediately roll on a Critical Injury chart. A Broken character can be helped back up by a comrade, or if left alone for a while will eventually get up on their own. However, any further damage they take while Broken can cause an additional critical injury, and some of those critical injuries are fatal. A character suffering a fatal injury must make Stamina rolls turn-by-turn to avoid dying, and can only be saved by someone applying immediate first aid.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The advice for the Game Mother encourages employing this, particularly in the early parts of a scenario before major confrontations have started. A slow burn of hints and things that happen just out of the players' sights is essential for building tension before all hell breaks loose.
  • Outside-Context Problem: Across the frontier, along the regions where the United Americas and the Union of Progressive People's areas of influence butt up against each other, many colonies have been destroyed following the same pattern: ships arrive from FTL impossibly close to a planet, disable all nearby hardware with a powerful EMP attack, and then drop biological weaponry on the colony that causes a rapidly reproducing virus-like condition that ends with the afflicted mutating and then disintegrating into a vapor, before disappearing back into FTL. The UA blames it on undeclared attacks by the UPP, the UPP blames it on undeclared attacks by the UA, and these so-called "Border Bombers" have escalated the Space Cold War between them into a dangerous stage if cooler heads on each side don't prevail.
  • Red Herring: The rulebook recommends that the Game Mother sprinkle these throughout a scenario. The game is written on the assumption that everyone playing has seen the main Alien films and possibly more media from the franchise besides that, and will be thoroughly familiar with the tropes therein (hence why they're playing.) However, recreating the experience of those films will require filling the players with uncertainty, doubt, and dread about what might come next. Dropping hints that might throw them off track only to surprise them later is good for keeping the right atmosphere.
  • Resources Management Gameplay: The rulebook encourages the Game Mother to make a point of this by limiting the kind of resources the players have to work with. This is less for the challenge of it and more to increase the tension of the horror by making the players feel less secure. For example, a group of colonists or space truckers might have fewer purpose-made weapons than they do people who might use them, or a group of Colonial Marines might find themselves cut off from ammunition resupply by too many xenomorphs for them to be confident that they can gun down...
  • Retcon:
    • The RPG retcons certain elements previously established by the 2014 Alien: The Weyland-Yutani Report guidebook, such as disregarding the guidebook's statement that smooth-headed Drones and ridged-headed Warriors are variants of the same caste in favor of canonizing the long-time fan-theory that the Warriors are a metamorphosed form of the Drones.
    • Ridley Scott has stated in interviews that David created the Xenomorphs in Alien: Covenant — admittedly a last-minute change; with the novelization and early drafts of the script originally had the Xenomorphs be created by the Engineers, and David attempting to replicate their work. The RPG disregards Scott's statements and goes with the latter stance, dubbing Alien: Covenant's Xenomorph variant "Praetomorphs" and establishing that they metamorphose into the Drone-like Stalker caste, lacking Soldier, Praetorian, and Queen cognates.
    • The rulebook notes that the Colonial Marines Technical Manual is now out of canon, but the book still recommends it as a resource for information a Game Mother might want to know about the Colonial Marines.
  • Sanity Meter: The game tracks this by giving players "Stress Levels". Seeing horrible things, "pushing" rolls, or realizing the desperation of a situation will increase character's stress levels. This becomes a double-edged sword, for every stress level the player gets to roll and additional dice to see if their character can succeed at something (desperation fueling their effort) but each stress die rolled also has a chance of producing a Critical Failure. The players can do a few things to reduce their stress level, like get a momentary respite after finding some (apparent) place of security, but generally stress levels cause all the stakes of every risk to gradually raise the further on a particular scenario goes on.
  • Sequel Hook: The core rulebook points out several scenarios from the movies that could be expanded on by a Game Mother to spin other scenarios out of. Some examples:
    • Alien / Aliens - The colony of Hadley's Hope on LV-426 was destroyed when the generator powering it's primary atmospheric processor overloaded. However, "the Derelict" the Nostromo crew originally found was on the far side of a mountainous ridge, which would shelter it from the worst of the detonation. It may still be intact, though it may also be buried as the ground cracked and shifted beneath it...
    • Alien³ - Two of the prisoners and the warden on Fiorina 161 were taken by the xenomorph there and remained unaccounted for by the time Michael Bishop and his crew arrived. Weyland-Yutani sent several search parties through the facility, but they weren't told what exactly they were looking for and had a lot of territory to cover, so it wasn't as through a search as it could be. The facility was subsequently put up for sale as scrap. Those prisoners were likely subjected to ovamorphing and there may be a small clutch of eggs hidden somewhere in the bowels of the facility, waiting for whomever buys the rights to disassemble the place to stumble upon them...
  • Settling the Frontier: A big part of the setting, and in fact one of the archetypes for campaign play is for the players to be early-in colonists. The frontier is where new mineral deposits are tapped, new worlds are scouted for potential colonization, where the hard work of initial terraforming is done, and where a lot of material needs to be moved back and forth. However, it's also a place of potential danger and discovery, and the place where humankind is most likely to run into something left behind by those who preceded them. Most campaigns are assumed to take place in part or in whole out on the fringes of interstellar human civilization.
  • Sheep in Wolf's Clothing: The Rhodes Vaccine, a difficult to synthesize medical compound with a formulation known only to a few, when injected into a human will cause them to register to a xenomorph's Bizarre Alien Senses as being already implanted with a Chest Burster for period of a few hours (or until when deemed dramatically appropriate by the Game Mother for the illusion to be up.) The aliens will ignore such a person unless they present a harm to themselves or to the aliens, at which point they will attempt to non-lethally subdue to the individual and restrain them in a cocoon. However, the Rhodes vaccine is a derivative of the Engineers' black goo and repeated use of it in a short period of time can have it's own problems...
  • Signature Team Transport: In both Colonial Marines and Space Truckers campaign modes, the player characters will typically be living primarily abordship, and will typically be operating and directing it. That doesn't necessarily mean they have complete freedom though, as Colonial Marines need to respond to redeployment orders and Space Truckers need to complete delivery contracts. These also make for excellent adventure hooks for a Game Mother to pull, as keeping a ship maintained and fueled is an ordeal in itself and can be used to drive the players forward, even if it means putting themselves into a situation that smells a little risky...
  • Sliding Scale of Villain Threat: The Xenomorphs and related bioweapons can be divided up in a few categories based on where they're at in their respective developmental cycles, with them generally becoming a more serious threat the more they're allowed to grow without being stopped:
    • Neomorph: As seen in Prometheus, the neomorphic stage begins with tiny egg sacs, which in turn release motes, which infect victims, which grow into bloodbursters that quickly grow to maturity. Their ability to infect hosts is rapid, but preventable with sealed environmental protection, and even adult neomorphs go down quickly to concentrated weapons fire. However, their metabolism and growth is so quick that, if simply contained, they'll often die out themselves in a few days.
    • XX121: The classic and best known variation. It goes from the egg to facehugger to chestburster to adult cycle, though there is considerable variability:
      • Praetomorphs are the variant seen in Alien: Covenant. Compared to other xenomorph types, they are more aggressive, but less cunning, displaying a more animalistic intelligence. Their aggression makes them dangerous, but also predictable and that can be exploited to, for example, bait them into traps. They also lack the more advanced forms of the main Xenomorph strain, merely metamorphosing from the Imp chestbursters to the Drone-like Stalkers.
      • Scouts are the variant seen in Alien³. They lack dorsal tubes and typically move on all fours. Compared to other types, they're quite a bit faster, and are more willing to range across wide terrain. It's believed that this is behavior meant to seek hosts and locate good locations to build hives. As with the Praeomorphs, they can be baited into leaping before they look.
      • Drones are the most-common variant, first seen in the original Alien. Compared to the Praetomorph and Scout, they're much more cautious and subtle, being expert ambush predators who pick off lone victims as opportunity permits and absconding with them to an isolated nesting location of some sort to subject them to ovamorphing. They're much harder to pin down than the other forms due to their evasiveness, but if their nest can be located they can be caught sleeping and destroyed or contained.
    • Early Hive: Once a queen is born, she produces pheromones that cause other xenomorphs around her to mutate and grow into new forms and adopt new behaviors as they move into the hive stage of their development, as seen in Aliens. Military-grade munitions and area of effect weapons are recommend for containing them.
      • Soldier is the evolved form of the Drone, first seen in Aliens. Also called "Warriors", their carapace hardens, their head dome develops ridges, they grow blades on their arms, and they're known for attacking anything which threatens the hive en-masse. Their tails are tipped with sharp blades that produce a paralytic neurotoxin that allows them a non-lethal option to subdue creatures so they can be taken back to the hive, cocooned, and subjected to a facehugger.
      • Worker is another form evolved from a drone, which causes it to shrink and become less aggressive. Also called "Weavers", their bodies are adapted to produce more of the resin-mucus that hardens into their hive structures. Their hands are delicate and dexterous, used for moving eggs about and feeding and caring for the queen in her harness. Compared to other forms, they're more evasive than aggressive and will prefer to run away from danger rather than fight it.
      • Sentry is the evolved form of the scout, which produces a drastic shift in behavior. Also called "Defenders", their carapace grows more armored and they spend most of their time stationary, remaining watchful at entrances and places the hive needs defending such as the queen's chambers. They're still extremely fast though, and when the hive signals danger they move quickly to neutralize it.
    • Evolved Hive: If a xenomorph hive is allowed to grow and thrive, in addition to being more populous it also begins to grow new castes of xenomorphs which generally require anti-vehicle weapons to seriously threaten:
      • Praetorians are aptly named as the queen's chosen defenders and champions. Workers feed Warrior-forms royal jelly and they mutate to be much larger in size with a more elaborate head crest similar to their queen. They are everything the Warrior-forms are and more, defending the places the hive needs the most protection to and taking point when among the xenomorphs going on the offensive.
      • Chargers, also called "Crushers", are the evolved form of the Sentry-form. Like the Praetorians, they are feed royal jelly in addition to raw metals for weeks before secreting a resin cocoon and undergoing a metamorphosis. They're quadapedal with a thick head crest and can no longer climb or jump as easily, but are capable of a Foe-Tossing Charge that includes light vehicles in the scope of things it can knock over and trample, which it does like a blood-crazed rhino.
      • Queens: Technically present at the earlier stage of a hive's development, they cluster as a classifications alongside Praetorians and Chargers in threat level. They spend most of their time in a resin cradle laying eggs, but their most dangerous ability is to coordinate the actions of the xenomorphs around them. Its widely believed that this is done by a combination of pheromone secretions and subsonic vocalizations, but there's some evidence that there may be a psychic phenomena at work as well. Regardless, every group of xenomorphs is made significantly more dangerous by the presence of a queen in their midst. The advice the rulebook gives for taking them on is, "Don't."
  • Space Cold War: The sourcebook expands a bit on ideas from Aliens and some of William Gibson's unpublished alternative script for Alien³, transposing the Cold War into space with rival superpowers competing across the frontier. Unfortunately, the tendency of incidents involving the xenomorphs to both leave virtually no survivors and be covered up by their respective authorities often inflames the tension between these powers, with things like the destruction of Hadley's Hope and the Fury prison colony triggering speculation about covert attacks. Many of their respective intelligence agencies are aware of the xenomorphs and most are trying to find some way to weaponize them under the assumption that if they don't the other powers will do it first and use it against them while denying their rivals information about them. Some of the relevant powers:
    • Three Worlds Empire: Formed from a confederation between the Commonwealth of the United Kingdom, Japan, and a few others, the Three World Empire pioneered much of the early space colonization efforts based largely on the technical and industrial prowess of the Weyland-Yutani corporation, which is based there and incorporated via merger shortly after it's formation. It lacks the size of some of the other powers, but what it does have is very prosperous. Given its importance to the TWE, the WY corporation wields considerable political influence here.
    • The United Americas: A merger of many North, Central, and South American states into a single body to compete with the rapid expansion of the Three World Empire, The United Americas have undertaken a massive project of expansive stellar colonization. They also boast the largest military force of the major powers, and even the other powers sometimes petition them to deploy the Colonial Marines on their behalf. Like with the Three World Empire, corporations have major influence here, though not to the extent of the Three World Empire.
    • The Union of Progressive Peoples: A coalition power formed from places like Russia and Vietnam, the UPP is a major socialist bloc that claims a massive swath of space. However, they were able to claim that space with minimal contest due to it being relatively resource poor. They disallow corporate influence within their sphere, which has earned them the ire of companies like Weyland-Yutani. Lacking WY's atmospheric processing technology, most of the UPP's population lives in densely populated sealed environments on extrasolar planets. They compensate for this with an extensive espionage program and a dedicated fighting force that can rival the United Americas Colonial Marines.
    • The Independent Core Systems: A loose alliance of several of the older and wealthier extra-solar colonies. Part of the alliance's charter involves each world being able to maintain its own independent government. In theory this gives them sovereignty, but in practice it often ends up with those governments being the purview of major corporate influence, with some of the governments being owned by corporate masters outright.
  • Space Madness: Neurological Distortion Disorder, or NDD, is a side effect of the conscious mind traveling faster than the speed of light. The symptoms include paranoia, epilepsy, amnesia, and psychosis. It gets worse the faster the ship is and the longer you spend outside hypersleep.
  • Space Western: The game leans this direction, which seems odd considering the franchise, but nevertheless fits. The core rulebook outright compares the situation on the frontier worlds to the Wild West, since proper authorities may be weeks or months away, colonies will have to do for themselves much like frontier towns. A perfectly acceptable campaign idea could essentially Firefly, with 60% less witty banter and 80% more visceral horror.
  • Special Attack: Xenomorphs tend to have exceptions to the rules of combat (where human Player Characters and human Non Player Characters ostensibly follow the same rules.) Among other things like acting more than once per combat turn, instead of directly doing damage with a successful attack a xenomorph rolls on a variant-specific table, each option of which is some kind of special attack. Sometimes this might just be menacing their potential victim, sometimes they do potentially serious damage, and sometimes it's a horrific One-Hit Kill.
  • Subsystem Damage: Comes in two varieties:
    • Characters who are Broken have to roll on a Critical Injury table. These range from just having the wind knocked out of them at the low end, and having their heart perforated at the high end. Most of them fall somewhere in between, and can result in the character having debilitating injuries. Fortunately common medical tech is relatively reliable and most characters can recover from these in a matter of days, given appropriate facilities for treating them.
    • In spaceship combat, if a ship suffers damage in a single hit less than half that of it's Hull Rating, it suffers minor Component Damage. If a ship suffers damage in a single hit equal to more than half its Hull Rating it suffers major Component Damage. All these things can interfere with the performance of, or even completely disable, certain functions on the ship and put it further at disadvantage in combat. Crew typically have to run about the ship during turns in combat affecting emergency repairs or manual overrides to overcome this damage, with full repair typically happening later outside of combat.
  • Terraform: A common venture on the frontier, small communities of first-in colonists doing the hard work of setting up the infrastructure needed to gradually shift a planet into a more Earth-like atmosphere and eventually biosphere, to make it suitable for later, much larger, waves of colonists to further develop it. The atmospheric processor technology that makes the process take a practical amount of time (though still on the order of decades to fully complete) is patented by Weyland-Yutani (a patent who's protection they ruthlessly enforce) so virtually any major terraforming effort will either involve them as direct sponsors or a sponsor that has a strict technology licensing agreement with them.
  • Three-Act Structure: Adapted here as a way to drive and escalate fear, the rulebook recommends structuring scenarios with this pattern:
    • Dread: The sense that something is wrong and things will get worse, but no one is sure exactly what is wrong or when things will go worse. The players should still feel like they're in control of their fate, but they should feel uncertain about whether their actions are moving them deeper into danger or further away from it.
    • Terror: Things are clearly wrong and the players are in deep, but they don't know when the worst of it will strike. The players should be at their limit, with their path to survival unclear and feeling overwhelmed by their situation.
    • Horror: The climax, where whatever they were afraid was going to happen has happened. The players should be most active and engaged by this point, but also have themselves committed to a potentially desperate course of action that might allow them to survive.
  • Used Future: As per the source material, most the the technology that the Player Characters will interface with and depend on to survive out in space will seem like an extrapolation of 1970s technology, with lots of extruded plastics, bulky monitors, and command-line interfaces with mainframe computers. The rulebook notes that sleeker and more compact technology does exist in the setting, but that's typically the purview of Earth, older and more well-established colonies, and the corporate elite. However, for those living out on the frontier, the characteristically bulky and clunky technology is more robust and easier to maintain away from more advanced service centers.
  • Variable Player Goals: A major component of the roleplaying is that while every Player Character will know their fellow Player Characters in broad strokes, every player has their own individual agenda which is not generally known among other players. More often than not this is something benign, like helping someone out or trying to see a family member, but more sinisterly it can be something like ensuring corporate interests are secured... whatever that takes. In any case, it's typically something extremely important to the motivation of the individual Player Character that may introduce unnecessary dangers to the group as a whole.
  • Zombie Infectee: At least a few of the Non Player Characters that players encountered in some of the official scenario have already been facehugged or infected with spores and are either in denial or unaware of exactly what happened to them. While the players themselves probably suspect what's going to happen, it's unlikely that their characters do and will have to deal with it when that happens. If the players are incautious (or unlucky) it can happen to them too.