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Author Topic: [Strange Alias] Being human is hard  (Read 4370 times)
Bailywolf
Member

Posts: 729


« on: May 05, 2006, 05:57:14 AM »

Oddly enough, this game idea came from my efforts to learn Photoshop.  I was compositing and image… here, :

this one

Basic image concept- ‘when cheap holographic projectors and flash photography meet’.

I got to thinking about a game of really inhuman creatures- giant bugs, aliens, zombies, sapient compost heaps- who can ‘pass for human’ most of the time, and who have some stake in remaining undetected- and agenda which demands they keep their cover.

Rather than the usual exploration of losing humanity, it comes at it from the other side- what does Humanity look like from the outsider’s perspective?  How much work would it take for the giant mantis to really fit in?

The game’s tone would be satirical… I’m seeing something like Office Space meets Men in Black meets I Married a Monster from Outer Space- mundane situations made extraordinary or perilous by the nature of the characters themselves.  Situation would often be quite ordinary, but something as simple as keeping your job at Starbucks becomes an adventure when you constantly struggle to grasp the complexities.

Outsiders can recognize each other- seeing through the illusions making them appear human- and so sometimes congregate… friendly faces (or… whatever) and sympathetic ears (or… whatever).  Become too human, and you run the risk of forgetting what you really are.  Go the other way, and you might be revealed as the giant bug you are- failing in your Agenda and inviting a mob of angry cubical workers to pummel you to goo with staplers and World’s Best Dad coffee mugs.  Fail to meet your Agenda, and you might get yanked from Earth and reassigned somewhere less… convivial.

Mechanically, I’m thinking diceless and blind betting- with pools for variability and effort and traits for fixed free bid.

Hrm…  this was a bit ramblier than I intended, but that’s the basics for this conceptual design.

Right off, is there enough meat on these bones to make this worth exploring, or would this better be rolled into a broader ‘tool kit’ type game?  Is there an existing game that can already do this out of the box? …no point reinventing the wheel.  Is comedy and social commentary death for a rpg?

Thanks,

-Ben

linked fixed by me at Ben's request - RE
« Last Edit: May 05, 2006, 02:16:20 PM by Ron Edwards » Logged
Clyde L. Rhoer
Member

Posts: 391


« Reply #1 on: May 05, 2006, 06:40:11 AM »

Hi Ben,

What I find most interesting about this idea is that players will actually have to take on an alien mindset, and then have to consider how this mindset would see them.

How do you get to that alien mindset though? Perhaps you could have traits of weird animals and cultures with different values than ours and assign those in character creation. For instance it might be hard for your spider-typed-alien to grasp nurturing of children. Imagine her views on the opposite sex as something other than useful when needing to procreate otherwise is a valuable food source. "I say miss, are you trying to eat that gentleman?" So maybe... "I don't nurture children," and, "Men are only good as a food source and occasionally for procreation but immediately revert to a food source after procreation is achieved,"... perhaps these could be two traits. Maybe they could be a call on trait for other players to get each other into trouble... I mean into interesting situations. For example, when the spider waitress takes food to a table of Men. Player A says, "What are you doing? You don't give Men food, you eat them!" This could initiate a challenge for Player B who is playing the spider waitress.
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Bailywolf
Member

Posts: 729


« Reply #2 on: May 05, 2006, 06:56:09 AM »

Hi Ben,

What I find most interesting about this idea is that players will actually have to take on an alien mindset, and then have to consider how this mindset would see them.

How do you get to that alien mindset though? Perhaps you could have traits of weird animals and cultures with different values than ours and assign those in character creation. For instance it might be hard for your spider-typed-alien to grasp nurturing of children. Imagine her views on the opposite sex as something other than useful when needing to procreate otherwise is a valuable food source. "I say miss, are you trying to eat that gentleman?" So maybe... "I don't nurture children," and, "Men are only good as a food source and occasionally for procreation but immediately revert to a food source after procreation is achieved,"... perhaps these could be two traits. Maybe they could be a call on trait for other players to get each other into trouble... I mean into interesting situations. For example, when the spider waitress takes food to a table of Men. Player A says, "What are you doing? You don't give Men food, you eat them!" This could initiate a challenge for Player B who is playing the spider waitress.


Ah- I like that.

A heck of a lot.

Define some 'assumptions' for the outsiders on relevant social axis, mores, and manors.  If challenged (by GM or another player), points are wagered, and some determination is made (either with randomizers or based on blind betting), and this determines which half of the character sheet the player can draw from when handling he situation- whether they can use their hard-won human skills or resort to their familiar alien ones.  Perhaps some kind of master-score might be in order… or I could rob a page from Deplorable, and make it more a question of “what is it worth to you to get your way here?  Would you risk revealing your nature to see things go your way?”

With both risk and reward in these complications, I can see them being pretty amusing.

This is something excellent to think about. 

Oh yes, this is shaping up in me brain…

-B
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Castlin
Member

Posts: 31


« Reply #3 on: May 25, 2006, 07:15:59 AM »

Since it would be hard (if not impossible) for a player to assume a completely alien mindset, you could assume that whatever method of camouflage these creatures are using also alters their minds enough that they can fit into human society. Conveniently, this also means that it becomes a lot easier and plausible to be playing a hive-minded swarm of hamsters stuffed into a business suit, since it is thinking a little like you and you are thinking a little like it.

Might I also suggest a panic mechanic? If you get into a situation where you just can't handle it, you might temporarily drop your disguise (both physical and mental) and revert to your normal nature. I know a lot of games have this, but I've always enjoyed it, and it adds another element of risk.
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knicknevin
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Posts: 105


WWW
« Reply #4 on: May 25, 2006, 10:04:01 AM »

I have a game in development on my Yahoo! group about monsters disguised as humans in 30s America; in that game, the idea is to redeem yourself by hunting down other monsters without blowing your cover and exposing yourself to the real humans. A basic summary of the mechanic used is that you have a Humanity trait and a Monsterhood trait: when you use one, the other gets weaker, e.g. a PC who goes around transforming into a giant bat and ripping peoples head's off will find it very hard to understand human laws, conventions and tools. Typically the traits start at about 8 and you can either roll 1d12 to see if you can roll under the trait level to succeed OR you can burn a point of the opposite trait to succeed without rolling. There's more to it than that, but I don't want to take up the rest of this thread with my rules!
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TonyLB
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« Reply #5 on: May 27, 2006, 06:18:09 PM »

Ben, there seems to be plenty of meat on these bones, to me.  Is it really a game about being alien, or is it a game about how strange it is to be human?

I like the idea of equipping everyone with alien beliefs, but I'd almost be tempted to turn it around and highlight the human beliefs that the player wants to examine.

Like, instead of "Men are a food source" as a positive belief, what would it be like to play a character that simply didn't get the notion "There are two sexes, and they are different in lots of nonsensical ways."

A waitress who forgets not to eat the man at the table ... well, it's hard to expose human folly through that.  A waitress who simply has no clue which of the two people sitting at the table "should" get the check is social commentary.
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cognis
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« Reply #6 on: June 07, 2006, 02:30:19 AM »

I've been working with similar ideas, to test the creativity and flexibility of a system I am a part of designing.

One piece of advice: Watch the animated show "Invader Zim", EVERY episode! I use that show as a mental, spiritual and (im)moral guide to the whole concept of alien PCs in fake human bodies and societies.
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 10459


« Reply #7 on: June 07, 2006, 07:58:13 AM »

What Tony said. People frequently posit games about playing alien mindsets. But in the end, it's only interesting to we human players to the extent that we can find something interesting in the material that we can relate to. I won't even go so far as some to say that it has to allow for commentary on the human condition per se. But I will say that it can't be solely about what's fascinating to an alien, because, by definition, that's not neccessarily interesting to us.

All of those players who I played Traveller with who wanted to play a Hiver to investigate what it meant to be a Hiver, inevitably were bored out of their skulls.

Mike
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ironick
Member

Posts: 68


« Reply #8 on: June 12, 2006, 03:20:00 PM »

Wasn't there a movie like this?  I think it was called The Appleton's, or something like that.  I seem to remember Ed Begley, Jr., being in it, or someone who looked like him.  I can't seem to find it on IMDB, or I'd post a link.

Nick
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ironick
Member

Posts: 68


« Reply #9 on: June 13, 2006, 11:01:17 AM »

Here it is, Meet the Applegates: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0100129/
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