Alien: the Roleplaying Game

So, bit controversial - I’m not an RPG fan. Just never really got into them.

However recently a good friend bought be the Alien RPG and I’m a huge geek for the lore and world it’s set in. And it’s kind tempted me.

Anyone here play? Any hints/tips or suggestions on how to get a cretin like me into it?


I’m not familiar with the rules of that particular system, but in general I’d suggest trying to bridge the gap between RPGs and boardgames a little and see if that addresses some of your dislikes: use a map and counters or minis when playing. Many RPGs are suited to quite tactical encounters and you can expand on the roleplaying elements as you go.

After all, the whole hobby started with people taking a counter and treating it as an individual with a name and some personality.

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I don’t know the game either, but generally if a game excites you, give it a go. Even if it ends up not being your thing, you have a starting point to go and look for something more fitting your taste.

A (fairly long) side note: I am generally turned down by games with a deep, very specific, very detailed backstory/lore. I find them intimidating (and a bit boring), in the sense that when you have to come up with something while playing, your need not only to ask yourself if that makes sense in the fiction and if it fits the tone of the story, but also if this fits the entire lore to which you have been never asked to contribute. This is particularly bad if somebody is not a lot into the source material, being the game book or the films: in my case it makes me feel like I’m trying to force characters and episodes into somebody else’s world, rather than telling our own story with my friends.
Your mileage may vary, but maybe keep that in mind when inviting people over to play, you might want to be flexible with the canon (or give handouts, which is just as appealing as it sounds…).


I’ve played it as a one-shot at a gaming convention, but have never read the rulebook. It was fast, frenetic and fun. Out of 7 players, only IIRC 2 got off the planet alive. The rest of us got killed by aliens, killed by each other, vapourised by a glowing energy sphere, etc etc.

The game apparently has 2 modes - there is a more ‘cinematic’ version, in which characters panic, freak out and get killed off roughly at the pace the colonial marines do in the Aliens movie. That was the version I played in the one-off game.

There is also a ‘campaign’ mode, where the body count and descent into insanity are slower, so that you can play the same character for several sessions in a row. Since I haven’t read the rules, I don’t know much beyond that.

In the one-shot game, all the characters had personal agendas which (now and then) clashed with other people’s agendas. As the game progresses, you clash more often. This is the game trying to get you to roleplay scenes such as Ripley screaming “These people are dead!” at Burke; Vasquez wanting to beat the shit out of the unconscious Gorman; Burke wanting to use Hicks & Ripley to bring alien embryos back to earth; Ash opening the door to let John Hurt (Kane?) back onto the Nostromo; Ash turning out to be an android, etc.

Some of the agendas or relationships are more ‘soap opera’ - Brett & Parker are allies and both want better pay and conditions. I was hoping to find and save my father from the colony of striking miners.
Other agendas are more ‘crime caper’ - find and steal the valuable shiny thing when no-one is looking.

The game mechanics are quite simple - roll a bunch of d6s. IIRC ones were bad and 4 to 6 was good.


I have the RPG (as yet unplayed, not uncommon for me) and I’ll spin it two ways:

On the one hand, the game was largely built around one-shot/short “cinematic mode” scenarios. You’ll start with a handful of characters (generally more than there are players) and will almost certainly die. Extra characters are NPCs and are handled by the GM until a player dies, at which point control is handed to the (dead) player. Leveling up and long-term character development take a massive back seat here, as the scenarios will dictate many of the decision points, and characters are pre-set with backstories and ulterior motives. Treachery can be expected. You will break from stress and mess everyone up (and sometimes perform amazing feats) due to it. Contrary to what was mentioned earlier, this is very much a roles-before-rolls kind of game. Role playing your characters well is paramount to a good experience and the dice aren’t expected to come out unless something exceptional is going on. This mode is expected to be played over one or a few sessions to completion and is IMO the entire reason to get this game.

On the other hand, as an Alien fanatic, there is the campaign mode, which is entirely free-form including character generation, long term character development and leveling, etc. Ulterior motives, stress, backstories are all expected to play major roles in the game, but they play out over the long term with XP incentives for making meaningful progress toward these goals/ambitions each session. These things can change as the campaign rolls on and they get achieved or become irrelevant. The book is an absolute treasure trove of Alien lore, and a true fanatic will be able to plumb it for endless fun scenarios. I am a die-hard Alien fan, but a casual one at the end of the day, and I wouldn’t know where to begin with an Alien campaign while expecting to keep it tense/scary/interesting. That the mode is there is nice, but the Cinematic mode is the meat-and-potatoes of this one, IMO.

It’s a pretty easy ruleset to understand, with what I think should be a pretty minimal teach for any players at the table (for cinematic mode, anyway). With the scenarios handling the grunt work, and so much dependence on PC interplay, I’d expect it to be a reasonably smooth game for the GM, too. Cinematic mode is a big reason I got this one, as it feels like I might actually have an opportunity to table it.

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