After completing our Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) campaign – Descent to Avernus – we will most likely be shifting over to a new sci-fi survival horror system – Alien RPG. We usually take a sci-fi break every so often between D&D games which is always welcomed. In this post I will offer a quick analysis of the system and provide a way to use Fate Core‘s amazing storytelling tools to help drive and maintain the game driving forward and to increase the depth of storytelling.
Quick Analysis of Alien RPG
Learn About the Alien RPG
- Official Site
- Free League Links (publisher)
- Facebook Links
- Other Links
I will take a few moments to comment on Alien RPG from the standpoint of the Fate Core system and storytelling in general so you know where I am coming from.
Alien RPG, a sci-fi survival horror RPG, is a narrative system that is a bit more crunchier than Fate Core System. It uses dice pools and opposed rolls too. Character creation has been kept easy due to potential character deaths happening more often than not.
Character Traits Thoughts
- Career – The career acts as a beginning skill/talent package and has has NO mechanical impact after initial character creation. Although, this career should be expanded into the character’s high concept for role playing and narrative benefits.
- Attributes – works in tandem with skills to create dice pools for rolls
- Skills – similar to fate skills, although much fewer and are tied to attributes
- Talents – similar to Fate talents
- Agenda – This acts as a role playing aid which can also create intergroup drama and conflict. This should be turned into a character aspect also.
- Rival/Buddy – Similar to Agenda, this is also a role playing aid to create conflict and drama. We may want to turn this into an aspect too.
- Signature Item – This is a small role playing and narrative aid which does provide a mechanical benefit once per session. (pg 104)
- Appearance – purely narrative
- Gear – alien RPG is a slightly more crunchy system than Fate, so we need some gear. (pg 171)
Mechanical Traits Thoughts
- Story Points – gained at end of session for working towards their agenda. May have no more than 3 (pg 31 top; pg 61 bottom). These are primarily for Cinematic Play, although I think we can adapt this for Campaign play too, to act as a sort of a Fate Point and role playing driver too, which would create characters who are not as prone to death. We shall see.
- Zones – very similar to Fate’s
- Ranges – like FFG’s amazing Star Wars narrative dice system
Overall, I really like the core tools the Alien RPG has available for GM’s in order to jump start their campaigns and game play. Through their Campaign Frameworks the GM has a lot of useful tools of randomly generating adventures.
They have campaign frameworks (pg 327) which breakdown the campaign types into thematic sub-genres for easier play and for organizing GM tools.
- Space Truckers
- Frontier Colonists
- Colonial Marines
They said they will release more frameworks in the future. I look forward to seeing these.
Random Table Overview
Here are list of those random generation tables which conveniently mirror their campaign frameworks:
- Cargo Runs (pg 342)
- Military Missions (pg 344)
- Expeditions (pg 348)
- Target Area
Campaign Independent Tables
We also have general and framework independent random tables for:
- Story Tools
- Scenario Hooks (pg 339)
- Job Types (pg 341)
- Plot Twists (pg 350)
- star systems (pg 330, pg 340)
- planets (pg 331)
- colonies (pg 336)
- Random Encounters
- in system (pg 352)
- planet-side (pg 353)
- colony (pg 354)
Most of these tables will come in handy to the GM as he is putting the crunchy parts of a scenario together.
However, the Complication and Plot Twists are useful tools to assist with the 5 Act Structures layout. The Complications table works well to raise tension during Act 2 (Raising Tension) whereas Plot Twists can help during Act 3 (Raising the Stakes). These can be powerful tools to develop the story and to keep your players riveted to the game.
A Suggested Process
So, here is the process I am suggesting for an Alien RPG campaign and its parameters which will use Fate’s amazing tools to drive the storytelling and roleplaying forward while still utilizing Alien’s amazing tools too. There are a lot of amazing tools there with both systems working together, so let’s get started:
There are 3 phases to this process:
- Campaign Creation
- Character Creation
- Story Creation
1. Campaign Creation
First, we will start with the first bunch of steps (1-5) prior to the crunchy parts in my Campaign Creation Primer (CCP) that way we can really give the GM some amazing Fate-powered storytelling tools to work with to:
- get player investment
- create elements inspire players and to tie their characters into the world
- make the GM’s life easier by creating a plethora of story and campaign assets
We will also have to insert a new step – Campaign Type – which is specific to Alien RPG’s Storytelling Frameworks.
Because the beginning of the Fate Core campaign creation process is really system neutral, tacking it on to our Alien RPG game will provide us with some powerful storytelling tools not just for the GM, but also the players. Some of the amazing tools you will get out of this process are the Campaign Aspects:
- Legacy Issue – This is used to flavor the narrative with what happened in the past and may have lead to the campaign’s current circumstances or will significantly affect the narrative.
- Current Issue – This is the first arc for our game. Most likely the first one will be short just to get the players acclimated to the system, their characters, and the campaign.
- Impending Issue – The first real campaign issue that will drive the game forward once we have dealt with the intro arc.
- Thematic Aspects – These 1 or 2 optional aspects may be used to reinforce campaign themes not only for the GM narratively, but also for the players narratively too throughout the campaign, especially when we are using the Story Points.
You will also generate an incredible amount of campaign elements:
- conflict points for organizations and places
- people with some defining traits
All of these will make life for the GM so much easier, provides known anchor points for character histories, as well as provides powerful tools for storytelling and role playing for everyone.
Here are the modified steps of this Fate Core based process for Alien RPG storytelling:
- Campaign Creation Overview
- Genre – just fill this part out since you have already selected this by choosing to Alien RPG , although a discussion might be desired
- Scale – just fill this part out since you have already selected this by choosing to Alien RPG, although a discussion might be desired
- Campaign Type – Here we will insert a new step specific to Alien RPG. For each step here you will want to have a conversation about the possibilities and with what sort of campaign you want to play.:
- Campaign Framework (pg 327)
- Space Truckers
- Frontier Colonists
- Colonial Marines
- Self-made Group or Sponsored Group (pg 236)
- Company Men – working for and paid by:
- Specific Employer – choose your specific employer if you have one.
- Career List – negotiate your career list
- Spaceship – Decide on your starting ship
- Campaign Framework (pg 327)
- Campaign Issues
- Filling Out Your Campaign
- Thematic Campaign Aspects (optional)
2. Character Creation
Here we are going to create Fate based aspects for our characters and then create the Alien RPG stats that way the Fate aspects can guide the final crunchy elements such as career and other mechanical selections.
I have even created a rough custom Fate of Alien RPG Character Sheet in Google Docs for you to use that contains the Fate Core character aspects. You may want to make a local copy so you can adjust it as needed.
Fate Aspects for Alien RPG Characters
Ok, now that we have the campaign and its assets from Phase 1 made let’s increase the narrative power of your campaign and characters with some Fate aspects which will guide your role playing and the rest of your character creation process.
If you want more general guidance on this process see my guides for more info:
Now, we are going to create the Fate aspects for your character:
- High Concept: Create your High Concept like you would normally for Fate while taking into account the career and various campaign assets created in the first phase. You should have plenty to inspire your character creation process at this point. For this you will want to include your employer or ship into it or something else like that.
- Trouble – Create an personal trouble aspect which can create a role playing problem for your character.
- Unresolved Issue – Create an aspect which is an unresolved issue to help give the GM more tools to work with and to provide a campaign driver and complication for your character and team. See the following entries for more information on making this sort of aspect.
- Signature Item – Write down your signature item
- Rival/Buddy – write down your rival and write down your buddy
Agenda – Designate either your trouble or unresolved issue as an your Agenda.
Crunchy Character Creation
Here, we will just walk through the basic Alien RPG character generation process just like it is with no changes needed. Just use your Fate aspects to guide you in the mechanical manifestation of your character:
- Choose your career.
- Spend points on your attributes.
- Spend points on your skills.
- Choose your career talent.
- Choose your name.
- Decide on your appearance.
- Decide on your Personal Agenda.
- Choose your Buddy and Rival.
- Pick your gear and a signature item.
- Roll for cash
3. Story Creation
Review Your Current Campaign Assets
With the Campaign Creation process completed you know your campaign’s first arc from the Current Issue. You will also know what the next arc will be from the Impending issue so that will tell you what your current and future story will be about.
Also, from that process you have additionally created some narrative flavorings with your Legacy Issue and your Thematic Aspects if you chose to use them which will help you to flavor your narrative and role playing aspects.
You have also created a stable of organizations, places, and people that you can use, not only from the Campaign Creation process (Phase 1) but also from the Characters Creation process (Phase 2) too. Soooo much great stuff to make a GM’s life easier.
Creating the Story
Take a look at my Storytelling and Campaign Planning Guide (a work in progress) from this point for assistance in creating your story and to assemble your campaign – arc by arc and act by act.
You will also have access to the many random tables for mission generation in Alien RPG as well as the Complications and Plot Twists to spice up your game by increasing the tension.
Just drape your Current Issue over the 5 Act Structure and fill in the blanks as you go while using the Alien RPG random tables.
Expanding Your Game
Story Points Expanded
I will update this later on, but will be looking at increasing use of story points to power more role playing in a Fate like manner, but are concerned of giving PC’s too much room to succeed with additional story points per game. This is especially concerning because this is NOT meant to be a heroic game. You characters are going to die which is a necessary part of the survival aspect of the survival horror genre, right, although a slightly higher level of survivability might be appreciated so players can actually have a chance to advance their characters.
Stable of Characters
You may want to have a group of NPC’s available for the players to pickup when their character eventually dies. At character creation you may just want to have them create 2 characters to start so they have one to grab at the right moment. The stable of spare characters can be resting or working back the ship or station, etc.
Creepy ambient music sounds like a great idea for this game and could really ratchet up the suspense. I have almost all of Darkraven Soundscapes to look through. Although, there are many, many other options out there too.
- Long Background Tracks
- Nostromo Ambient Engine Noise (Ship from Alien for 12 Hours)
- Alien Isolation │ ASMR / Sleep Aid │ USCSS Torrens med bay ambience
- ASMR – Spaceship Ambience, Sci-fi, Sound Effects, Ominous
- Server Room 188 | Quiet Cy-Fi: Ambience
- Haunted Space Station| Ambience | 2 hours
- 8 Hours Sci-Fi Space Ambient – Alone in The Space Station
- Space Plane White Noise | Sci Fi Ship Ambience for Relaxation, Studying or Sleeping | 10 Hours
- search for: Sci Fi Ambient Ship Effects
- Long Background Tracks
- Darkraven Soundscapes (suspense/horror)
- Deep Madness Gold
- they also have other suspense horror soundscapes too
- Darkraven Soundscapes (sci-fi)