Ask the readers: Original alien races for your RPG?

If you read my post here in the blog regularly you’ll know I have been planning a sci-fi game for the longest time. I’ve written about it, even posted a possible campaign background. Whether I end up using that, a variation or something completely different, there is one thing I love about sci-fi, aliens! You might love then or hate them but they are definitely a staple of the genre.

I have played games like Star Trek and Star Wars with their myriad, seemingly endless, litany of race. My latest campaign ideas call for a very human centric campaign. There will still be aliens but very few and mostly in the background. But whether I go big or small, whenever I begin to design a campaign I run into the same stumbling block, the aliens.

Yeah I know, it’s a love hate relationship… Here is my rationale. I love designing my own campaigns and dislike pre-packaged settings. In a sci-fi setting I love designing alien cultures because they give me a chance to explore a wholly different outlook, build new societies. However I am a big believer in pictures speaking louder than words, so I typically need to find an image to represent the new alien race.

If you think my writing skills could be better, you haven’t seen my drawings! I am incapable of illustrating the alien races in my mind. I have tried some workarounds, adapting aliens from other media like comics, TV, film, even video games, but I typically find that if the players know them they immediately associate the characteristics from their source of origin rather than the ones I’ve developed for them.

I’ve tried using images found online (for personal use, no copyright laws where hurt writing any campaign!) but typically there is one image for the alien, and I love having NPC images during games and it is really hard to believe ALL aliens of the species look exactly alike. So there is my conundrum, I want original looking aliens I can insert into my campaigns. I’ve thought about commissioning some artist, but wonder if the campaign warrants the expense.

So what do you do for your sci-fi campaigns? Do you like aliens in them, and how many? Do you repurpose existing aliens or create your own? Are there any artist reading this willing to do commissions? Dear reader I’d love your input on this…

12 thoughts on “Ask the readers: Original alien races for your RPG?”

  1. I too love creating aliens for sci-fi settings. Often, my aliens are either mildly similar to humans, or radically different. For the mildly similar I can just describe the difference. (like humans, but with really long necks, long jaws & snake skin)

    For the really nonhuman aliens, I just draw them. I’m not skilled enough to be an “artist”, but good enough to make a line drawing that conveys the basic idea.

    If you have a unique alien needing an image, I could do a drawing for you. I enjoy reading about others’ creations, & it’s been a while since I drew to someone else’s specs, which would be fun for a change.

    1. Thank you very much, I will take you up on the offer, after this hectic two weeks of classes, work and life pass by I will contact you!

    2. I’m revisiting the post because the campaign is taking form and since you offered to help I was wondering if you’d still like to help me design some of the aliens for the campaign…

    1. I’m also contacting you since you offered and was wondering if you’d still like to help me design some of the aliens for the campaign…

  2. Any more skill in modding or sculpting miniatures? Even if you don’t use miniatures otherwise, a prototype of an alien might work for this purpose.

    Browse star wars or clix (or D&D or whatever) miniatures in a singles store, find one that looks easy to mod and go for it! I haven’t posted it yet but I created a Pak’ma’ra from an aqualish Star Wars miniature for my future B5 game, which was quite simple.

    Btw, what kind of are aliens in your game? Humanoids, something completely weird or something between these (or few of both)? Humanoids are easier this way, but there are also a lot of non-humanoid miniatures.

    1. My skills with minis is likewise limited… I do have a lot of minis, and have recently begun to fancy paper stand ups.

      For the current campaign I’m envisioning two humanoid, reptilian races, one non humanoid race, furry with six limbs that can manipulate objects, one slightly humanoid warlike feline-like creature and light beings who have no solid form…

  3. I am always grateful for the generous community of readers this blog has, thank you everyone who has offered help. I will contact you about this…

  4. My first exposure to aliens was watching Star Wars, and since the cantina scene I’ve always felt that the more aliens the better 🙂

    An awesome source of both inspiration and pictures is Barlowe’s Guide to Extraterrestrials. When I was in the 6th grade my teacher brought it in to class and it completely blew my young mind. I had absolutely no familiarity with the source material but my friends and I immediately started using it as a kind of Monster Manual for our games of D&D.

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