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Episode 1955: The Danger Must Be Growing

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People tend to use humanoid species as characters in games because that's what were most familiar with from fantasy and science fiction. Ultimately that stems from two converging facts:

  1. We can more easily relate to beings who more closely resemble ourselves, both in appearance and psychology.
  2. Making TV shows or movies with actors in make-up or wearing suits has long been easier than producing convincing looking creatures of wildly divergent appearance.

In essence, the vast majority of fictional fantasy races and aliens are more or less just human beings with a cosmetic make-over. Harder science fiction often eschews the "all aliens are humanoid" thing—indeed that's one of the reasonably reliable diagnostic indicators of hard science fiction—but hard science fiction is not so much in the popular consciousness as soft science fiction and science fantasy.

Of course, in a roleplaying game, be it fantasy or science fiction, you have a choice of which way to go. Light or mainstream type of settings will have the usual cast of humanoid PCs: elves, dwarves, orcs and so on in fantasy, or Vulcans, Klingons, Wookiees, Time Lords, and whatever in science fiction. To really mix things up, try allowing truly weird species as player characters.

Existing examples of weird creatures in games mostly tend to be "evil aberrations" or enemy type monsters. For example, the inscrutably alien aboleths from Dungeons & Dragons, or shoggoths from Call of Cthulhu. But imagine recasting something that looks like that as potential PC material, with the capacity to do good deeds and work with a team of heroes. A roleplaying challenge to be sure, but certainly an interesting one.

Commentary by Keybounce (who has not seen the movie)

The first three panels, for all the "step step step" annotations, seems to be just the camera pulling back. They don't actually seem to be moving.

Panel 3 looks very interesting. We've got what looks like a blue-clothing-wearing character. Looking over the party, the only person that might fit that is Han. So either there's another person on-ship that has been cut out of the story so far, or Han looks different from the back than I would have thought.

Now, I notice that all of Bala-Tik's many minions (mini onions?) are in red-themed uniforms. They won't be a serious threat.

Alien NPCs that are not human? Well, give George Lucas a hand then, that is what he was going for on Tatooine, especially in the Cantina scene. And maybe the Episode VI space fight scene.

Yea, it's hard to find good examples of non-human aliens. It's not like Babylon 5 had loads, or even Star Trek or Doctor Who with their "human wearing a cheap costume" non-humans, or movies like Dark Crystal. And I didn't grow up with Sleestak, or Sigmund and the Sea Monsters, etc. Or heck, Lidsville. Yep, non-human aliens are so exceptionally rare :-).

At least this octopus creature wasn't trying to chew the power cords while they hid inside a space worm.

Commentary by memnarch (who has not seen the movie)

"My tongue has feet of clay!" ....... *ahem*

I'm with Sally here; this is rather disappointing to see after the previous... alien creature in the window. Maybe that's the boss of the gang, and like Jabba the Hutt was, they're too big to fit inside these hallways. Bit of an odd choice by the GM and the movie directors to have things play out this way though with a bait-and-switch.

The helmeted goons are quite the unique design. The lighting is rather poor here, so that's detracting from the appeal somewhat as the red coloring is spotted with the light reflections. The eyeball-like design though; I can't think of anywhere that's used a design like that for armor. The closest use anywhere I can think of all that the eyeball design is used would be from bird scarer balloons, which is an amazing source of inspiration for a scary helmet design.

Now I'm hoping in-universe that the goon helmets are based on the tentacle alien outside. Assuming that was actually a real alien and the boss of the gang, what better way for a crime lord to show how powerful they are by having all the underlings wear something that looks like part of themself? It'd be like saying to anyone the gang tangles with, "the boss is always watching you"! And of course now that they're all faceless goons, narratively this means that there won't be any problems beating them up or disguising as a few of them if it comes to that.

Transcript

Kylo Ren: I like what you’ve done with the Guavians. Good to see well-developed alien NPCs that aren’t all humanoid.
GM: Er. Another door up the corridor opens.
[SFX]: shwoosh
GM: A squad of armed men enter.
[SFX]: step step
[SFX]: step step step
[SFX]: step step step
[SFX]: step step
Bala-Tik: I’m Bala-Tik, of the Guavian Death Gang.
Kylo Ren: Wait a minute. Strike that. Reverse it.


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Published: Tuesday, 09 February, 2021; 01:11:05 PST.
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