Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Would you play that, too? (Introducing Angry Little Aliens vs. King Arthur)

When my good friend Mark asked me for inspirations for a new setting, I went a bit crazy about it. The result had been four proper settings I'd really like to play (or make a game out of) myself. But won't for a long time, I guess. So I thought I'd share them here with some ideas about the design I'd go for. I had shared one of those already last month (see here). This is the second, very different take ...

Pitch: Aliens strand on medieval earth, King Arthur's times and try to get off planet asap. However, King Arthur has nicked the mothership and they have no immediate way to get it back. Instead they have to collect the resources and bide their time until they are ready.

 Players will play groups of angry little aliens that will try at every turn to spoil the Arthurian legends. Kill the knights or sabotage their quests, trick Merlin into giving bad advice while getting ready for REVENGE! But the aliens are really small, die easily and lack resources, so all of it is a challenge. Should be light-hearted fun of evil mischief with a lite-rules system. This is:

Angry Alien vs. King Arthur

Log Book Entry 12.5k9 (by R4k1 Z)

Imagine that: you travel through multidimensional space and some IDIOT manages to park your ride in a stone substance on a primitive linear planet. Then some other IDIOT, an ugly warty hairy inbred from that dirt ball of a planet, somehow claims ownership of the mothership by touching it and merging his dirty DNA with it, using it to club things ever since. Made it a whole enterprise, fooling everyone around him to think he's a bigshot. Won't give it back, too.

We should OBLITERATE THE FOOL. Problem is, the escape algorithm was somehow fucked as well, and we ended up being too big to reclaim the ship, but way too small to conquer this reality.

Argh! To be surrounded by idiots!

Then yet another fool appears, alien to this planet as well, running his own scheme with the crowd here. Says he's a diplomat and will help us if we do his bidding. Slaves we are now! The insolence! Yet we cannot deny him and must play along with his stupid "wizardry". But the name Merlin will be cursed for generations to come, be sure of that.

So we are stranded here, planning our revenge. No resources, with ridiculously short life spans and everything here tries to eat us or breed us. But we will NOT surrender to this fate! We will persevere and they will know our WRATH! Eventually ...


Design ideas

This should be a quick and silly game with light rules, I'd say. Beer 'n Bretzels all the way. The "enemy" (King Arthur's court) should be full of dubious and funny characters the group can interact with. Something like this:

KING ARTHUR - The bigwig. He's the worst, stealing the mothership and all, making dents into it, too! There is no easy way to get to him directly, as he merged with the mothership and its AI protects him. Until we have the resources needed to hack our way back into the ship, we'll have to sabotage everyone around him instead! Maybe we can get him when he's lonely and weak ...

MERLIN - Big alien bastard. Has his own racket running on the planet. Maybe he had sabotaged our landing! One can only speculate. He knows about us and acts as if he's a liaison between us and what they call the "court". Bullshit, we say. Calls us "fairies" for some reason. For now we do as he tells us, but if we can subvert and undermine his plans and machinations, we sure as Slob will do so!

SIR LANCELOT - Best buddy of this Arthur guy. He is gullible as a Glblygith AND lusts for the King's female bitch. Lots to work with and he gets the most favorable quests, too. Good opportunities to make ALL OF THEM look bad.

SIR GAWAIN -They call him "the perfect knight, but he is not the sharpest kltrad in the shtiff. Well hung, too, it seems. Unfortunately very loyal, however. And he is capable, we must admit. Very much a worthy target when engaged in moonless nights. Would be a good ploy to make him hate another knight.

SIR GALAHAD - Bastard son of Lancelot. Doesn't touch the females, it seems, and can be quite stubborn about not giving up. Set on the right path, he could unknowingly become a devastating force for the cause as he won't stop running in the wrong direction, too, as long as he believes in the purity of the quest. [Galahad appears later in a campaign and his conception should be a quest where the Aliens help Lady Elaine to bed the guy disguised as her Queen]

SIR GERAINT - Very much under the spell of his female, maybe becyause he'd killed the male that fathered or fornicated her (we are unclear). Either way, there is easy conflict to be made. Too rightous for his own good and easily lured into showing off bravery.

SIR BEDIVERE - Old brute and a cripple, eager to prove himself constantly. Worships that fraud of a king like a dog. Maybe Arthur has some dirt on him. Could be one of Merlin's puppets as well. This guy is a tool, better to be avoided.

SIR BORS THE YOUNGER - Pretty face but will not touch human females. If we could lure him into mating one, it would for sure make him all sad and stuff.

MINOR KNIGHTS OF THE ROUND TABLE - Idiots, all of them. Sometimes they gain important quests and we gain an easy win when we SPOIL THEIR PLANS AND MAKE THEM SUFFER. It is fun, too.

LADIES OF THE KNIGHTS OF THE ROUND TABLE - Menaces, all of them, happily helping our cause out of boredom alone. Also like glittering things and are easily impressed throughout. But beware Merlin in all cases, as he very much runs the same game around them.

MORGAN LE FAY - She has beef with the king just like us. A bit on the cruel side and greedy, but we can make this work for us. If we can make big promisses, she can bring some pain to the court. Something to work towards. [Should appear in second half of campaign arc]

THE GREEN KNIGHT - He is fun and definitely an opportunist willing to help the cause on a favor for favor basis. Might not be human, too.


Something like that, I guess. It is those NPCs that populate the missions the group has to engage in to make a dent into the Arthurian legends of old while Merlin schemes to barter the mothership away to some third party to get off the planet himself (or something like that).

The King is not amused ...
General idea is to have some very angry and frustrated, but rather powerless aliens trying to mess up the affairs of men and collect enough resources to get their ship back and TAKE REVENGE. But it happens against a clock, of sorts, as the Arthurian legend runs counter to that (at the end of which Merlin gets to make Sir Bedivere give the ship to the entity know as "Lady in the Lake", maybe an arms dealer of sorts).

As far as the missions go, I'd re-utilize a tool I'm using for years now (and which readers might be aware of): The Random Narrative Generator for Lost Songs of the Nibelungs (can be used as is, but I'd rewrite it a bit f I were to publish it). The reason for that is simply that it provides exactly the quest notes Arthurian knights would go on and enough angles to make spoiling the quest something the aliens would attempt to do! So the GM would roll up a quest or two to see what the court is up to these days and throws the group some bones as incentives to intervene. 

Let's test this. Example (dice say 28,6,4,2,2):

28. Exposure A villain is about to be exposed and the Court is summoned to help enforcing it. The exposure is initiated by a Force of Tradition that is mean and aims for trouble.

Interpretation: Well, what do we have here? Someone addresses King Arthur's court to help enforcing some law. It is something the King would have to address "because of the law", but the "force" initiating it does have mean intentions and is out for trouble, so it won't be an easy task for the Knights dealing with it, and it implies all kinds of useful angles for Aliens to exploit, maybe even escalate.

Okay, "force of tradition" could be an abbot of a monastery asking for help. "Exposing a villain" would be about someone breaking the law, maybe not paying tribute to the king by claiming to be poor. Let us say we have a little baron here that acts poor but actually sits on lots of wealth, hiding it from all. The abbot gets wind of this, and since he has an eye for some of the baron's land (there are the mean intentions), he snitches to the king, forcing him to act against the baron.

Something like this. So we have the mean abbot snitch, the greedy baron eager to keep his wealth and some knights in the middle trying to enforce the king's law. The aliens get wind of the abbot's claim and have a chance to get to the location and look into it before the knights appear. If they don't interfere, it happens what the prompt says: the baron gets exposed with the knight's help and the abbot gets his way. But there are several ways to spoil that whole affair for ALL involved, from getting the (minor, for sure) knights killed by escalating the conflict, by stealing the treasure before the knights arrive, making the abbot and the knights look stupid ... Anything the group can do with that premise and sounds fun will do. 

So that's that. Characters next.

Character Generation

A bit of the nitty-gritty here. Basic idea (in my head) is that each player plays a GROUP of aliens, each of which is one aspect of a "alien collective". So one alien would be strength, one agility, one wisdom and so on. A bit like the smurfs (which is one obvious inspiration, of course), but they have to work together as units to be "whole". The combination of aliens and the available options are what makes this system, I think, so it needs lots of fun of those, and enough to make choices meaningful.

The group now, consisting of several of those "alien collectives", is what the players have to work with, so each player should decide for a group of aliens that make their individual alien collective as specialized as they want or the group needs. Maybe one AC (Alien Collective) focused on physical skill, one build focused on brainy stuff, one one sneaky stuff, one with a tech focus (they are aliens, after all), maybe a "management" build would be nice (helping the collectives work together), something for fighting, maybe ...

You get it.

What it comes down to is that a players dice will act like pets. They'll fight, too. Say, a big guy makes a mistake (roll of a 1). Damage would be that this die is downgraded one size (say, from d10 to d8) as a punishment. Now I imagine a rule that if a smaller die was used for the task as well, that die gets punished instead. Because that little asshole was laughing his ass off, and the big guy is not having it ...

Or a "bystander rule": instead of damaging a die used for a task and losing it (becvause downgrading a d4 would be a d0), another die of the same collective, not used for the task could take a harder hit instead (two downgrades ... you won't do that often). So that little asshole sees he made a mistake, but it is only a d4 and he'd be gone to the nursery and out of the game if downgraded. He won't take it, so he hides behind a d8 of the same Alien Collective who had nothing to do with it, and the d8 gets the punch but also falls pretty bad, and is now a d4 (two downgrades).

Using dice with equal value would have them bicker if one fails and they would be locked for the next task because of it (I imagine they get locked until the highest roll from a follow up task roll is used to unlock them and only the second highest is used towards the task difficulty ... something like that).

The game will have several synergy effects like this. Positive ones, too, obviously. Doubles and triples will automatically count towards the difficulty. Those dice just have fun working together. Big dice performing very well could allow for re-rolls of smaller dice to have them at least behave. Something along those lines.

Advancement would go the obvious routes of adding dice (recruiting), growing dice (genetics) and adding tools (extra little dice rules, basically) from the resources tree (won Mission Dice can be divided between spending them for advancement of collectives or for resources ... aliens want laser weapons, so make itr happen!).

The rest is ... ORWELL again?

Yeah. Doubles and triples do something, tasks are rolled against a difficulty, players take the highest result of the dice they used but can "buy" additional dice  by making the DM stronger, the works. But (just like in part 1), a light version of it, mixed with other little twists that would fit that specific kind of game.

So instead of having a elaborate little system for the DM to gain and spent dice, he will get a pool of dice that the players basically fight for to get xp and resources (I call them "Mission Dice"). So if a DM wants to set a difficulty for a task, they offer dice from the pool as award (the dice offered make the difficulty). Menial tasks might just be a roll of the whole collective to see if they behave. Which means: roll over a certain limit that differs from die to die ... dice could have "moods" or "humors", too, now that I think about it (so get a higher die, but with a disadvantage that it is moody and misbehaves more easily).

If all behave, great, shit just works. If they outperform, they might get a boon for it, too (like minor healing of a damaged die, for instance, if the damaged die rolls its maximum). If half or more misbehave, shit doesn't work and might even produce problems if they underperform badly!

Cute little fucker ... but moody!
 Antagonists (as outlined above) would represent additional rules that apply when they are involved in a mission, usually making things more difficult, but offering little loopholes as well (as per the legends of old, I imagine ... certain weaknesses make certain things easier with certain antagonists).

Mission is over when the dice pool that came up for the mission is gone (I'd go and take the d6 results from the RNG above ... 14 dice for the mission outlined above, for instance) or the Alien Collectives openly challenge the remaining pool for a showdown by claiming the mission is over (as in: the mission as outlined seems over and done with, but there are still dice left, so unforeseen circumstances make themselves felt ... I'd just add another roll of the RNG without adding the d6 as a follow-up of that story).

You could already play that, but would you?!

Alright, this is already at a level where I would feel comfortable to test run it. If I invest a little time into writing and layouting and throw some artwork at it (some of it you have seen here in the post), this could be done pretty soon, I imagine (and given how fast I managed to gobble Rebellion together!).

It would be a shame at this stage to not make it happen. Actually has potential for a series! ANGRY LITTLE ALIENS versus BILLY THE KID, anyone? [edited as I had some more ideas like: versus NERO or versus DRACULA! So much fun could be had] But the question remains: would you play that? Would you like to see any of that?

Thoughts and impressions are very welcome.