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Old 07-12-2022, 03:29 PM   #1
SydneyFreedberg
 
Join Date: May 2019
Default [Space] [Racial Templates] Really Alien Aliens

Here be... well, not dragons, but some really weird things for your game. These alien races are written with a specific background in mind (it emerges through the "description" text) but should fit in any space-operatic background and even some relatively realistic ones. I've avoided magic and psychic powers for that reason. I'd love suggestions on how to improve these designs!

I've played around making aliens in GURPS since the original Aliens book came out, and one thing I've always tried to do -- and which GURPS 4e is especially good for -- is have them make biological and evolutionary sense in a genuinely alien way. Have I succeeded? How can I do better? I'd love feedback on that too.

I'll be posting more as I go, but first up are the first species to achieve Faster-Than-Light travel (in my setting; in another setting, they might have simply carved out a local empire and first-contacted a bunch of pre-FTL races): the Trinocs.

Details are in spoiler tags to prevent Wall Of Text.

Trinocs
Skittish but brilliant, they once conquered the galaxy in a fit of panic.

Description:
Spoiler:  


[EDIT: I've extensively revised the racial template to reflect some very helpful feedback from this thread -- click here for the final version of the Trinocs.]

Racial Template: Trinoc (18 points)
Spoiler:  

Last edited by SydneyFreedberg; 08-11-2022 at 09:25 PM. Reason: linked to revised template
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Old 07-12-2022, 03:35 PM   #2
SydneyFreedberg
 
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Default Re: [Space] [Racial Templates] Really Alien Aliens

And to continue, here are the races that dominate my setting in the "present," the Quartet -- four species with one intertwined history & society, and five different templates because one species has marked sexual dimorphism (and it takes two posts because the description is long):

The Quartet
Four closely allied species that live & work together: exuberant Triphibians, meditative Sessiles, stealthy Armstrongs, and above all the towering Striders.

Description
Spoiler:  
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Old 07-12-2022, 03:39 PM   #3
SydneyFreedberg
 
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Default Re: [Space] [Racial Templates] Really Alien Aliens

The Quartet Today
Spoiler:  




Racial Templates

[EDIT: I've revised these templates in response to the great feedback in this thread -- click here for the final versions.]

Female Strider (133 points)
Spoiler:  


Male Strider (137 points)
Spoiler:  


Armstrong (62 points)
Spoiler:  


Sessile (26 points)
Spoiler:  


Triphibian (26 points)
Spoiler:  

Last edited by SydneyFreedberg; 08-11-2022 at 09:26 PM. Reason: added link to revised templates
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Old 08-01-2022, 10:27 AM   #4
ericthered
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Default Re: [Space] [Racial Templates] Really Alien Aliens

comments on the races I find the most interesting first:

On Sessiles:
  • +2 IQ is a pretty big deal, based on just how broad Gurps IQ is. It benefits social skills, academic skills, and crafting skills like fishing. It also effects will. I find racial templates are generally better if the broad bonus is traded in for a more specific one, and if they really call for additional IQ, +1 is usually enough.
  • The extra arms of the sessiles could use some work. In Gurps we buy the effect, not the description. I find most tentacled Aliens shouldn't have an arm for each tentacle: the exception is if they really are that good at grappling. The sessiles are obviously not: you came up with a custom limitation to indicate they can't grapple with all of their arms at once. This would also indicate that they don't really have flexible. so They might just have extra arms 2 (short -50%) [10], arms (short -50%) [-10].
  • Which brings up a build issue: you need to modify the existing arms as well as the extra ones.
  • The seven extra mouths is an interesting case: the creature has them, and while they don't breathe, they do all bit and speak... though it seems they bite poorly. I feel like this should have a solution, but I'm not sure what it is. I certainly wouldn't want to pay 21 points for the ability to speak in 8 different voices if I somehow acquire that many copies of compartmentalized mind.
  • Invertebrate is a weird combination with Sessile. Sessile kind of makes invertebrate irrelevant.
On Triphibians:
  • Is absolute direction a necessary part of the build? I can see it as a fun little add on, but the sort of thing that fades when you live in a civilization. Changing it to something that is common but not required would be nice.
  • Shouldn't Triphibians have one arm, if they're just picking things up in their mouths?
  • They're very mobile. You've refference waterfowl, but they can run faster, swim faster, dive deeper, and fly just as well. You could remove pressure support and enhanced move (water), and buy down their ground move by 1 (I usually do that or more for creatures that crawl) and you'd still have a very capable mover.
  • Giving the whole race curious and impulsive is very strong and potentially crippling. I'm drop that to quirks, and stick the full version in "common traits". Same for Chummy.
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Old 08-01-2022, 12:16 PM   #5
Pursuivant
 
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Default Re: [Space] [Racial Templates] Really Alien Aliens

Quote:
Originally Posted by ericthered View Post
[*]The seven extra mouths is an interesting case: the creature has them, and while they don't breathe, they do all bit and speak... though it seems they bite poorly. I feel like this should have a solution, but I'm not sure what it is.
I created a Limited Extra Mouth Perk with several different variants. It might be useful in this case:

Limited Extra Mouth †‡ (Physical, Exotic)
Code:
	
You have one or more orifices or other body parts which can perform one function that a fully functional mouth can, even if the main mouth is blocked or damaged. You may take multiple levels of this perk to represent multiple orifices. You must specify the location of the extra body part(s) when you take this perk. Options include:

Biter: You have a tooth-lined mouth-like organ which you can use to make a Bite attacks, just as if it was your regular mouth. You can’t swallow things you bite off, however, meaning that your biter can be blocked if you can’t spit them out. Unless your biting part is located in a head or limb, or you take this perk with the Born Biter feature, you have an extra -2 penalty to hit.

Extra Digestive Intake: You can consume soft food and liquids through this orifice, but can’t bite or taste using it. It can suffer the effects of Retching and can ingest Digestive poisons and similar damaging items, just like your regular mouth.

Extra Respiratory Intake: You can breathe through this orifice. It can be attacked with Choke or Strangle attacks just like a normal mouth or throat, however and can suffer from Coughing and Sneezing, as well as respiratory poisons and hazards.

Extra Tasting Organ: You have a tongue-like organ you can use to taste with. It can be affected normally by materials which blind or overwhelm your sense of taste. Since it is separate from your digestive intake(s) however, you can’t be poisoned by digestive toxins you taste.

Extra Vocal Processor: You can speak using this orifice just as if it were a normal mouth and throat. It can be affected by attacks and hazards which limit your ability to speak, but isn’t affected by hazards which just affect the respiratory system. This is similar to Accessory (Speaker or Voder).

Multi-Function Orifices: If you can combine multiple functions into a single orifice by buying multiple versions of this perk. For example, an orifice which you can only use to bite, taste, and ingest food and drink with would be worth 3 points. In effect, each “missing” function is a -20% limitation on the cost of Extra Mouth.
Cost for these perks depends on effect, rather than actual number. For example, if you have 8 vocal processors, but you must use them in sets of four to properly speak, you just have one level of the Extra Vocal Processor Perk.

Alternately, apply each missing mouth function as a -20% limitation to Extra Mouth.

Apply Weak Bite as an overall disadvantage, regardless of how many mouths are affected. If it applies to only half of your mouths or less, buy it with a -50% limitation.

Last edited by Pursuivant; 08-01-2022 at 12:24 PM.
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Old 08-01-2022, 07:54 PM   #6
SydneyFreedberg
 
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Default Re: [Space] [Racial Templates] Really Alien Aliens

Very helpful comments — thanks to you both. Sessiles definitely gave me the most trouble , and I’ll rewrite them with a less literal application of “extra mouths,” “extra arms,” and “invertebrate.” I’ll ponder Triphibians too; though I quite like them all having Absolute direction, I can see the mental disadvantages might be overdone.

A question about Striders: Is there any way to depict a large herbivore like this without buying up ST so high? I didn’t see another way to do it but it’s an odd use of points for a race whose role is really “highly social Lawful Good/neutral organizers and diplomats.”
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Old 08-02-2022, 11:00 AM   #7
ericthered
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Default Re: [Space] [Racial Templates] Really Alien Aliens

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pursuivant View Post
I created a Limited Extra Mouth Perk with several different variants. It might be useful in this case:
Limited Extra Mouth †‡ (Physical, Exotic)
That's some nice thought... it still doesn't deal with the fact that the second extra mouth is a great deal more useful than the tenth, or the 100th. At some point you reach the equivalent of "you can't disable my mouths without disabling me", and that's the actual value of the advantage. Which I suppose means that a limitation on "unbreakable bones" might be appropriate.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SydneyFreedberg View Post
A question about Striders: Is there any way to depict a large herbivore like this without buying up ST so high? I didn’t see another way to do it but it’s an odd use of points for a race whose role is really “highly social Lawful Good/neutral organizers and diplomats.”
This is a long and involved topic, and there are a fair number of suggested solutions, but none of them are really official or without their own problems.

Gurps ST tends to go down in effective value with TL. Or at least that's the side of the debate I fall on, and there is a debate.

  1. Officially, ST is worth [10] all the way from animals at TL 0 to TL12^, and there are a fair number of people who stand by that claim.
  2. Some people suggest that the value of ST drops with TL, but suggest different values for its value. Officially, Power-ups 9 has a table of ST adjusted by Tech Level, along with a discussion of when it is or isn't appropriate. Its a fairly recent book, so a lot of other schemes exist.
  3. Some people say ST is worth 5/level at all TL's.
  4. Some people say its not about TL, its about game style, and in some games you drop to some discounted value (5/level is not uncommon)
  5. There is a pyramid article for logarithmic ST called "Know your own Strength", but its a touch fiddly and is really designed to make concepts that call for really high ST viable, not to make ST20 aliens cheaper.
  6. In the past I've also advocated for treating high ST by giving the alien legal enforcement powers for wearing "power armor" that happens to be their body.
  7. I've also had settings were I gave a massive discount on aspects of a racial template that technology renders "less relevant"
I've used 3,4, 6, and 7. None of them is perfect. 7 requires a fairly strong GM hand-waving, 6 requires a little handwaving and some care (found out in my last campaign it works great for battle-suit level stuff, but not for mecha-level, unless you insist they have a mecha-level frame instead of being superman), and of course 3 and 4 may be too little for the effect you want.


When leaning into "peaceful herbivore", there are a pair of tricks you can use to make their ST less expensive and act like you want it to.

  • Buy lifting ST and HP rather than ST. This makes them big and strong without being able to hit things like a gorilla.
  • If they have small and relatively delicate manipulators, buy their ST with temporary disadvantage "No Fine Manipulators" for -30%. This means they can only fire normal sized guns like everyone else instead of firing a machine-gun from their face. They can still CARRY the machine gun and all its ammo, but it reduces the cost.
As a final note, most large herbivores are not "peaceful". They tend to be aggressively territorial and are quite good at winning fights. People talk about the lion being king of the savannah, but under most circumstances the elephant beats the lions. As do the Hippos, the Rhinos, and even Cape Buffalo. All four of those species are considered "bad tempered", which is to say they attack humans rather than running away from them. Giraffes have a little better reputation, but its still wise to give them a wide berth. Big herbivores are mean.
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Old 08-02-2022, 11:08 AM   #8
Pursuivant
 
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Default Re: [Space] [Racial Templates] Really Alien Aliens

Are the Sessiles truly rooted in place or otherwise mobile only with major surgery or engineering?

If they can be moved relatively easily, just not under their own power, Sessile might turn into No Legs (Portable) worth -30 points. (This disad is from GURPS 3E Transhuman Space and possibly more recent supplements.)

If they can be moved with considerable effort, they might be "semi-portable." This can be treated as a -20% limitation to Sessile or its own version of No Legs.

Here's my House Rules version:

Semi-Portable (-40 points)
Code:
This is similar to Sessile, except that you can be moved with effort, and can move about using a large, heavy portable platform. You have Basic Move 0 in all environments and get no extra points for this; furthermore, you can’t have traits that imply movement-related body parts such as legs, wheels, tracks, fins, wings, or jets.

You aren’t anchored in place, however, you can be picked up and moved with considerable effort (at least 500 lbs. mass, or otherwise difficult enough to move that at least two people, or special equipment, are required to lift you). Your shape and size let you be ride on or in a vehicle, although you’ll count as encumbrance, unless you’re carried in Payload. You might even be able to pilot the vehicle yourself

If you have manipulators, you have no penalty on fine work, but you get -6 DX on tasks that require the stability provided by legs, unless you’re anchored to an object with at least 10 times your mass. This includes combat, with the sole exception of firing vehicle-mounted weapons.
If they're filter feeders that must constantly pump water through their bodies like a sponge in order to feed, they might have the Slow Eater disadvantage and possibly Susceptible (Ingested Poisons).

Their "milk" production might count as a Perk if it provides enough nourishment to count as a meal for a Triphibian. (Essentially, Accessory (Rations) with one level based on the number of meals they can produce, perhaps 1, 3, 9, etc.).

Edit: It's cheaper to buy the Create advantage (from GURPS Powers) if you're going to produce food in bulk.

They might require Increased Life Support (Pressurized) if they can only survive in deeper waters.

As the founders of the Quartet, and primary administrators, they might have optional disadvantages like Code of Honor (Professional Ethics or similar), Intolerance (Non-Quartet Species), Overconfident, Sense of Duty (Quartet, Herd, etc.)

Finally, how do they communicate? If they're sessile and aquatic, they might have the Penetrating Voice quirk, some version of Telecommunication, or Vibration Sense. Alternately, chemical signaling might be a form of Detect or its own advantage.

Last edited by Pursuivant; 08-03-2022 at 11:10 PM.
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Old 08-03-2022, 06:31 PM   #9
SydneyFreedberg
 
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Default Re: [Space] [Racial Templates] Really Alien Aliens

Some really great suggestions here for Striders and, even more so, Sessiles.

I envision the Sessiles as “speaking” fairly normally underwater, by making sounds. I love statting up their “milk” and filter-feeding, and the idea of making them “semi-portable” fits beautifully with how I imagine them interacting with other species: They don’t go jogging or anything, but they get carted around in big water tanks to be “installed” in office buildings and spaceships for various jobs. Seeing as they’re SM 2 (blob-shaped, so roughly 6’ by 6’ by 6’?), that’s a major undertaking.

As for Striders:

Quote:
Originally Posted by ericthered View Post
When leaning into "peaceful herbivore", there are a pair of tricks you can use to make their ST less expensive and act like you want it to.

  • Buy lifting ST and HP rather than ST. This makes them big and strong without being able to hit things like a gorilla.
  • If they have small and relatively delicate manipulators, buy their ST with temporary disadvantage "No Fine Manipulators" for -30%. This means they can only fire normal sized guns like everyone else instead of firing a machine-gun from their face. They can still CARRY the machine gun and all its ammo, but it reduces the cost.
As a final note, most large herbivores are not "peaceful". They tend to be aggressively territorial and are quite good at winning fights. People talk about the lion being king of the savannah, but under most circumstances the elephant beats the lions. As do the Hippos, the Rhinos, and even Cape Buffalo. All four of those species are considered "bad tempered", which is to say they attack humans rather than running away from them. Giraffes have a little better reputation, but its still wise to give them a wide berth. Big herbivores are mean.
Good thoughts. Striders ecology and psychology are modeled on real-world elephants , so while they’re less ornery than “peaceful” herbivores like the Cape Buffalo or hippopotamus (who will kill you for getting too close), if Striders decide you’re a threat to the herd, especially their young, they WILL stomp you flat.

And the current build — ST20 for the average female — does let them do that. Plus it gives them enough hit points a single hit from a blaster pistol won’t drop them. So ST20 means they are less likely to get mugged in bad neighborhoods outside the spaceport, a non-negligible advantage for a spacefaring race.

The current build also gives them human-normal “arm” strength (ST10 average female, ST8 average male) because their prehensile tongue has the “weak” limitation. So no wielding .50 cals or zweihanders.

Now, EricTheRed’s idea of buying up ST with a “no fine manipulators” limitation would save a lot more points than putting “weak” on a single limb. But since they do have ONE fine manipulator, I’m not sure it’s legal…unless I’m misunderstanding how that works as a temporary disadvantage?
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Old 08-03-2022, 09:48 PM   #10
SydneyFreedberg
 
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Default Re: [Space] [Racial Templates] Really Alien Aliens

PS: I just realized — if the Sessiles are filter feeders, and they feed through their tendrils (the upside down jellyfish part), why did I give them mouths? Oops! Well, that simplifies part of the template….

Last edited by SydneyFreedberg; 08-03-2022 at 09:52 PM. Reason: Clarification
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