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fmitchell
10-31-2007, 04:22 PM
Anyone know any good sources/ideas for aliens that are truly alien? Not humans with rubber foreheads or green-skinned space babes, not anthropomorphic dogs/cats/lizards/insects/plants, not bug-eyed monsters conquering the universe for no good reason, not the typical "ascended being" which is essentially a spirit or god from an FRP with different terminology ... but something with truly strange but plausible physiology with a mindset to match.

Examples: the Vorlons from Bablylon 5 (arguably "ascended", but truly mysterious in the first few seasons), the Elder Things from the Cthulhu Mythos (OK, the physiology is a bit whacked), the Nunclees from Traveller.

Riftwalker
10-31-2007, 07:20 PM
I remember finding a really good open-content science fiction world with a slew of well-thought out different concepts and definitions pertaining to the different types of life that could exist in the universe. I just spent a few minutes searching the web for it and can't find it though. But it's out there, somewhere. I remember it having an AI/futurism slant to it, with different words/concepts for:

- Life that evolved "naturally"
- Life that was created artificially via biomolecular programming
- Intelligences of different levels
- Simulated life vs. "real" life

and a ton of stuff. I remember reading through it for about an hour thinking: there's a lot of conceptual exploration that's been done to put this together.

If someone does find it (I don't even know what it was called--I should have bookmarked it...) please post!

fmitchell
11-01-2007, 01:29 AM
For that matter, there's "Atomik Aliens" on Drive Thru RPG and elsewhere, which starts with prokaryote/eukaryote/silicate/artificial and works up from there.

However, I was looking for finished examples. For that matter, I'm looking less for detailed biological underpinnings and more for unusual concepts and mind-sets. Maybe I'm setting the standard too high ... nobody's met an alien (anal-probe wielding Grays not withstanding), so we fall back on familiar patterns: humans, animals, plants, mythological creatures, etc.

Moritz
11-01-2007, 08:42 AM
Awe come on, you know the only real aliens are the ones that have funny looking foreheads.

Riftwalker
11-01-2007, 08:49 AM
Awe come on, you know the only real aliens are the ones that have funny looking foreheads.

(sings) Everybody wants prosthetic foreheads on their real heads.

Inquisitor Tremayne
11-01-2007, 12:20 PM
There are a few in Star Wars:

http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Celegian

These guys are pretty unique even though they are bipedal:
http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Givin

Or shapeshifting force sensitive plants:
http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Neti

How about this question, is it even possible for us to imagine what a TRULY alien species may look like? Would our instinct that forces us to instantly compare an unfamiliar object to a familiar object kick in. Thus there could never be something TRULY alien because it would "always look like something" to us?

Could we even deal with seeing something we couldn't comprehend?

PhishStyx
11-01-2007, 05:37 PM
Dralasites from Star Frontiers?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dralasite

spotlight
11-01-2007, 05:44 PM
Years ago, I got involved in a Play by snail mail game that had rules in it for designing your own race. Although this was not pre-fab as you asked for, it was well thought out. Several of the player's races that I meet were truely original and unusual.
I have tried several times to locate that particular rules pamplet, but have not found one yet. It was printed in 1975, WAY before internet-play.
I also wish I knew of a site that had pre-fab aliens. but I got a dozen of my own, even if most are just humanoid versions. After all, doesn't two hands and two feet make more sence than any other form?

spotlight
11-01-2007, 05:53 PM
Hey, Inq, I just looked throu your Star Wars. wikks link and down thru it I found a mention of "The Ultimate Alien Anthology", i think i spelled it correct. I have seen this book a couple of years ago and enjoyed it. It has quite a few aliens listed in it and might just be what f/m is looking for.

Inquisitor Tremayne
11-01-2007, 07:43 PM
Hey, Inq, I just looked throu your Star Wars. wikks link and down thru it I found a mention of "The Ultimate Alien Anthology", i think i spelled it correct. I have seen this book a couple of years ago and enjoyed it. It has quite a few aliens listed in it and might just be what f/m is looking for.

Well if he is looking for something that doesn't resemble something that we recognize, human, animal, or the like then I wouldn't recommend it.

However, it is filled with TONS of aliens all of which have made an appearance somewhere in teh Star Wars universe and they are all pretty interesting.

The Ultimate Alien Anthology is a great book. It is filled wih the history of each species, characteristics of each, and their game stats and I think it even lists what a commoner of that species stats would be like.

fmitchell
11-01-2007, 11:20 PM
Forgot about Dralasites, and a couple of the Star Wars critters looked interesting. Some good suggestions so far.

For some context, I'm thinking about a hard-SF setting where nearly all sapients are humans or Earth-derived life forms, but a few "true aliens"
exist on isolated worlds or (in one or two examples) as interstellar civilizations as advanced as humans, if not more so. A genetically enhanced octopus is your brother compared to beings who evolved under a different sun (if it was a sun ...).

Moritz
11-02-2007, 07:48 AM
(sings) Everybody wants prosthetic foreheads on their real heads.

Yep, you know you're a nerd when you recognize someone quoting "They Might Be Giants"...

I'm going to go kill myself now :)

Riftwalker
11-02-2007, 07:49 AM
I'm glad someone did! I was beginning to lose hope...

Moritz
11-02-2007, 07:50 AM
There are a few in Star Wars:

http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Celegian


Number 1 looks like a jellyfish, and the rest are bipedal humanoids.

I doubt we can conceive such alien-aliens. Just because our only point of reference is Terran, albeit we do have some really strange looking things on our planet.

fmitchell
11-02-2007, 12:46 PM
I doubt we can conceive such alien-aliens. Just because our only point of reference is Terran, albeit we do have some really strange looking things on our planet.

Hm, maybe what I'm really looking for are tricks to make creatures seem mysterious and strange. Some examples:

The Encounter Suit: An alien requires exotic life support; humans see only an alien's space suit or personal vehicle. Examples: Vorlons, Daleks.

The Unspeakable: Humans who see the alien go mad, or at least can't make sense of what they're seeing. Example: Medusans from Original Trek, most Lovecraftian creatures.

The Unseen: Extending the Encounter Suit, humans only know the alien from their spaceships, probes, and radio contact. Example: "vanished species", Tholians (to an extent).

The Blob: An alien is naturally amorphous. Examples: Nunclees, Dralasites.

The Masters of Disguise: Aliens can reshape themselves into human forms. Examples: most "infiltrator" aliens, Neti, the Ophiuchi from John Varley's Ophiuchi Hotline

shilar
11-03-2007, 02:28 PM
Can't find my manual right now but see if you can find anything on the races from masters of orion 3. They had a couple of species from gas giant type planets. Really out there compared to most of what you find.

fmitchell
11-03-2007, 03:58 PM
Last night I pulled out my copy of GURPS Uplift, and found a couple of strange ones:

The "Zang" are the *most* accessible gas-giant dwellers (hey, shilar!) in the Uplift universe. However, they don't get stats, since humans need massive life-support systems to visit them (or vice-versa); breach containment and somebody's just dead. Plus, electronic translators have a hard time translating "Zang" to small-worlder speech (and vice-versa).

The Jophur aren't born; they're assembled from "rings", presumably derived from their pre-uplift ancestors. Depending on the number and type of rings, a Jophur could be an unimaginative drone, a skilled technician, or a charismatic priest of their theocracy.

In a way, though, I think you could make something suitably alien just by taking lesser-known older life forms and "evolving" them: starfish, cuttlefish (imagine them with legs instead of fins), even trees if they're sufficiently tree-like. (A photosynthetic organism would need a canopy of "leaves" or the equivalent to maximize its usage of sunlight.)

Even venerable "insectoids" might be revived if their only resemblance is an exoskeleton. One idea I had was the "Helicals", creatures who evolved only a single row of limbs along their backs plus vertically arranged heads and mouth parts. When they left the sea for land, their central columns twisted like a helix to give them four walking limbs, and (in the sapient version) three manipulating limbs. (Or maybe the manipulating limbs actually evolved from mouthparts ...)

Also, Wayne Barlow's Expedition imagines a world where the camera eye never evolved. Natives have photosensitive spots along their back, often more sensitive in the infrared region, but an entire planet where no creature has eyes is kind of creepy.

Moritz
11-08-2007, 07:09 AM
So what Frank is saying is that there are no true alien-aliens because we've already imagined or un-imagined (implied) their design.

Thanks to Carl Jung and his collective unconsciousness.

PhishStyx
11-08-2007, 01:27 PM
"I'm just trying to make a smudge on the collective unconscious." - David Letterman

spotlight
11-08-2007, 05:23 PM
Shilar, You like MOO3? Hot Dog and all. Have you checked out Space Empires V? Nicer (and Woreser) looking aliens. I think I'm in love with the Feline race.

shilar
11-08-2007, 10:11 PM
No I haven't but I might have too. I liked the original MOO better than the sequels. Not as nice looking but played smoother. Playing MOO3 right now as a harvester. Kind of fun being the bad guy.

Grinnen Baeritt
11-09-2007, 10:48 AM
A good rpg for aliens is "Mechanical Dreams RPG" by Steam Logic (Out of Print)... it's a non-standard rpg setting (no humans...at all) with one of the oddest and most interesting premise for a campaign setting I've come across.

You also might want to try the :

Aliens & Artifacts supplement for Spacemaster (I.C.E)

Xenoforms supplement for Alternity-Dark Matter (TSR)...

kipling
03-17-2008, 02:07 PM
(Thread necromancy!)

Also, not quite what f/m was asking about, but GURPS Traveller First In has a nice set of tables that talks about strategies for doing things rather than the actual body parts. I was writing an article on alien design and then I saw this, and thought, "Why bother? It's here."

fmitchell
03-17-2008, 03:13 PM
GURPS Traveller First In has a nice set of tables that talks about strategies for doing things rather than the actual body parts. I was writing an article on alien design and then I saw this, and thought, "Why bother? It's here."

For those of us who don't have the supplement, and don't want to shell out $80+ to acquire it, could you summarize?

kipling
03-17-2008, 08:19 PM
Is it out of print already? (Okay, the copyright date is 1999. I haven't kept track; did Steve Jackson Games let the license lapse?)

Looking at it, there's an awful lot to explain. I think the best thing to do is find the old article beginning, dust it off, and write it, acknowledging that GURPS Traveller First In did it first and better.

So I'll find the beginning....

fmitchell
03-17-2008, 09:07 PM
did Steve Jackson Games let the license lapse?

No, but they've let a bunch of 3rd Edition stuff go out of print, particularly in the Traveller line. Whether that's part of the shared license with Mongoose, or simply their focus on their cash cow Munchkin over GURPS, I don't know.

UPDATE: Oh, wait, it's available as a PDF from e23 (http://e23.sjgames.com/item.html?id=SJG30-6605). I guess it's more of a money-saving move after all.

UPDATE 2: I bought the e23 version, and skimmed it briefly. From what I can tell, their approach is to rate entire civilizations by law level, social characteristics like "aggression" and "pragmatism", political structure, and so forth. (I've seen something like this in other space games.) It's almost the exact opposite of what I was looking for in this thread, but I'd still use it to create human and near-human planets.

kipling
03-18-2008, 08:47 AM
Well, I'd be concentrating on the biology end. I'm not sure my sociology is up to describing a civilization.

EDIT: I haven't thought about it much--how would you go about it?

nijineko
03-18-2008, 09:18 AM
i strongly recommend that you read the shifter trilogy by julie e. czerneda. the first in the series is "beholder's eye". she has an excellent grasp of how biology and mentality interact. as well as how species differ.

isaac asimov's robot series is also an excellent source of "differing mentality".

in general, reading books by authors from other countries can also yield nice insights into other ways of thinking and being. the assumptions are different, at the very least. ^^

kipling
03-18-2008, 10:53 AM
Heh. Julie Czerneda was a lab tech when I was in university studying biology. Nice lady...I've met her. (And, of course, she has her original degrees in biology; she might have more, now.)

nijineko
03-27-2008, 05:33 AM
i believe i could find it in me to be a bit good-naturedly envious. ^^ i'm rather fond of her writings.