Wow. Got a little busy there for a while. Just caught a breather though and finally have some time for another post!Right now I’m running a Science Fiction game and as such I got to thinking about aliens. To my way of thinking there are many different ways of depicting life in the universe that I have decided to break into three groups: Star Wars/Star Trek/Babylon 5/etc, Red Dwarf, and 2001. Star Wars/Star Trek/Babylon 5/etc: Aliens exist, but for the most part they are really just humans in costumes. Some forehead ridges, some allusions to weird mating habits, maybe the occasional specimen with a non-standard method of communication or number of limbs, but nothing beyond a human’s ability to cope with and live beside. Red Dwarf: No aliens. All life in the universe is either human, human made, or the descendants of one of the previous two groups. Otherwise the universe is lifeless and empty. 2001: Aliens are rare and largely unknowable for humans. What we see/understand of them, if anything, is nebulous and/or vague. The idea of coexistence as any kind of community is laughable. In my opinion every setting I’ve encountered is some variety/combination of one or more of these. For the purposes of a game I believe that the best method of mixing these setting types is to pick one of the first two and lightly flavor with the third. In this way you get the normal setting with the occasional odd experience to liven things up. I think the third setting is a little too, well, nebulous and/or vague to be very interesting as a main dish. In a book it is fine, but for a game setting you need something that your players can exercise a little control over. Monoliths and giant floating space babies are hard to do this with. For any of you who have read the Ender series (Orson Scott Card, highly recommended) you know that the author breaks aliens up in to five groups he calls the Hierarchy of Exclusion. I have found this idea to be very useful in describing the differences between alien types. They are Utlanning (same species, same world, same culture, different city), Framling (same species, different world and/or culture), Ramen (different intelligent species with which full communication is possible), Varelse (different intelligent species with which, for whatever reason, communication is in no way possible), and Djur (different species in which no intelligence is detectable). In my game, as with most Science Fiction television series, the bulk of my “aliens” fall into one of the first three categories with a smattering of species out there that are in one of the last two categories. These last two categories seem to cause the most confusion though so let me describe them a bit better. The forth category, Varelse, would be like the Xenomorphs in the Alien series. They are clearly intelligent (make intelligent decisions, capable of understanding threats, recognize complex situational dangers, plan for the future, etc) but there will never be any communication or peace possible between them and the humans. The species differences are too great. An example of a Djur species would be the Sarlacc on Tatooine in Star Wars; just a big hungry beast. Thinking about this I realized that most Varelse aliens that I can immediately think of are described as “bugs.” Aliens, The Ender Series, Starship Troopers, and even the Wraith from Stargate Atlantis are all “bugs” of one variety or another. Why is that? Are insects really the most alien things we can think of? Anyone have an opinion on this? Oh, and one more thing. PAX is this weekend! It’s mostly video gaming rather than real gaming, but it is still going to be fun. Hopefully something there will provide me with an interesting post topic for next week!