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Thousand Suns — Designer Notes — Calling All Aliens

August 24, 2007

I need some non-humanoid aliens.

As I’ve mentioned before, in Thousand Suns I’ve made the decision to exclude humanoid aliens from the examples I’m including in the rule book. Humanoid “aliens” will be represented by genetically engineered clades, like the oft-mentioned Myrmidons and the Delphic. The problem is that design of playable non-humanoid aliens is difficult. Traveller, the gold standard for playable SF RPGs, had no major races that were both non-humanoid and playable. The hexapodal Hivers, while very non-humanoid, were also very alien in thought patterns; in my experience, no one ever wanted to play a Hiver, even the GM, and so were reduced to a curiosity of the setting rather than an actively used element of it. The K’Kree (aka Centaurs) were just as alien psychologically and, really, who wanted to play claustrophobic, militantly herbivorous herd creatures? Admittedly, the problem with both the Hivers and K’Kree was more psychological than physiological. The forms of both species could make for very fine non-humanoid aliens if their psychologies were a bit less deviant from the human norm.

Still, I must confess: I am very poor at coming up with interesting non-humanoid forms. Anyone have any suggestions or pointers from contemporary SF? Bear in mind, I’m looking for playable species, which is to say ones whose physiognomy is compatible with a human-dominated galaxy and could thus reasonably serve as crewmen aboard a cramped free trading vessel or put on some battle armor and heft a plasma rifle in battle.

Thanks.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Phersu permalink
    August 30, 2007 2:50 pm

    You must already know some classical Non-humanoid aliens like the Pierson’s Puppeteers from the Known World (who must have been the inspiration for the Hivers), or even in the Golden Age with the Velantians from Lensmen.

    You can find very alien beings in Vinge like the Tines who have a collective emerging sentience, individual organisms (who look like dogs) are not sentient but the pack is an intelligent ego. The Jophur in David Brin’s Uplift are made of different living ring segments.

  2. James Maliszewski permalink
    September 6, 2007 3:35 pm

    I’d forgotten about the Velantians for some reason, but I will admit freely that I’m not a big fan of the Lensmen series.

    The Tines are a bit too alien for my purposes. The Jophur work, though. Thanks for reminding me of them.

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