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The Iktomi and Other Alien Thoughts?

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ardent_seeker ardent_seeker's picture
The Iktomi and Other Alien Thoughts?
The iktomi are spider like, but other than that...what do you think they look like? I suppose the book is deliberately ambiguous. Perhaps to get us to use the old noggins....I mean after all... mysterious aliens are much more scary. That said, how should GMs approach the aliens and creatures of EP to create the maximum amount of horror...because after all, post-apocalyptic space "horror" is the name of the game. I know as a GM I really want to draw out that horror aspect...especially in the alien department. So, how can we do that via alien and other creature/ encounters? Does giving a long description and picture of the alien, in both the source books and during in-game encounters, destroy too much of the mystery and the fear factor? Or should GMs, at least, have access to this info or more (after all GMs tend to be info addicts)? All of that said. I am just getting into EP and still reading the book. I know the two new source books are coming out soon (I hope!)...and "Gatecrashers", at least, should have some more aliens and creatures, ect. Do we need more? Is there enough? Can you ever have enough aliens? So lastly, What kind of alien menace do we have access to? Maybe I'm just missing something (or perhaps on to something!) let me know what you think. Describe what you know and/or give your own ideas on alien/ creature/ encounters in this thread ( ie; culture, habitat, intelligence, physical and other descriptions, fear factor, whatever). Or maybe...invent some aliens/creatures/encounters...
"I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure." - Ripley, "Aliens"
TBRMInsanity TBRMInsanity's picture
Re: The Iktomi and Other Alien Thoughts?
I always pictured the iktomi to look something like this: http://tremulous.net/w/images/e/ec/Tyrant.jpg But maybe with opposable digits. I think (with the exception of uplifts) that most sentient species in existence will have a couple of similar attributes: * A creative mind (so that they can think of ways to create tools to solve problems, and then use those tools to create tools to solve new problems (and so forth till you have civilization). * Opposable digits or some other means of fine manipulation. * A diet that promotes brain growth (usually with lots of meat (for the protein)). * Social animals (to communicate ideas and improve on each other's ideas). * A way to communicate complex ideas (may or may not include spoken language). * An ever present hostile environment with easily identifiable threats that are external to your group (including other groups of the same species). This provides a constant stream of problems to the species and encourages the growth of civilization. Uplifts would be the exception to these rules as it is possible for uplifts to overcome the natural barriers that most species need to overcome to be come sentient. But I would argue that an uplift species would need to be sufficiently rebellious to allow them to overcome their uplifting creators and become their own separate sentient species with its own (and not adopted) culture. This also holds true for artificial sentient species (ie AGIs).
Jovian Motto: Your mind is original. Preserve it. Your body is a temple. Maintain it. Immortality is an illusion. Forget it.
Arenamontanus Arenamontanus's picture
Re: The Iktomi and Other Alien Thoughts?
A really good scary alien species is found in Peter Watt's *very* EP-esque "Blindsight". Sometimes the truly frightening thing about aliens is what they imply about the world or humanity, rather than that they are scary in themselves. One (rather cerebral) variant of this is the Wang Carpets of Greg Egan's "Diaspora" (and the short story called Wang's Carpets). My own most successful creepy aliens were the Dragons, a global biological internet between bacteria in the Earth's crust. The Dragons seeded life on Earth 4 billion years ago, added backdoors to DNA so that they could use cells as processors and then set up the lithoautothropic ecosystem as a slow but vast biological internet. Some cells mutated and became a biosphere on the surface, but to the Dragon civilization that was of little concern. Until they ran into some kind of trouble and needed to escape. At that point they began to upload themselves into the biosphere using their root access to all terrestrial life. A simple plasmid signal and any biomass - coral reefs, jungles, algal blooms, humans - could be turned into whatever they needed. So they set out to remake the biosphere into a dracosphere. See this and this for more information. I'm also rather happy with the To’ul’h that I introduced in Orion's Arm (and was subsequently developed by others). They are jet-black, look like something between bats and vampyrotheutis squid, have mandibles and various echinoderm features, and live under the dark clouds on a Venus-like planet. Seriously scary when first met. But underneath these superficial differences they are pretty humanoid in mindset. Which of course doesn't preclude ordinary humanoid treachery or stupidity.
Extropian
TBRMInsanity TBRMInsanity's picture
Re: The Iktomi and Other Alien Thoughts?
Personally I think that we have a better chance of killing off any similar tech level species out there due to human nature. I think the movie Enemy Mine shows this perfectly ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enemy_Mine_(film) ).
Jovian Motto: Your mind is original. Preserve it. Your body is a temple. Maintain it. Immortality is an illusion. Forget it.
ardent_seeker ardent_seeker's picture
Re: The Iktomi and Other Alien Thoughts?
I agree TBRM...I would sooner face a similar tech level species than face Arenamontanus' dragons any day. The dragons are down right diabolical. Under their hidden regime, we are no more than shells waiting to activated for an almost...biologically sinister purpose. I think that what is most fearful about the dragons is...the moment of discovery, the moment a character realizes that all life as he knew it has been, and is being, infected and brutally used for an ancient life form's darker purpose. I think it is scary to be presented with an altogether superior, instinctual, evolutionary creature. Instinctual creatures defy our human reason because they themselves do not reason! They merely react to stimulus. There is no emotional answer for instinct it seems. There is something very fear-striking about an instinctual creature, blindly methodical, brutally reactionary, no remorse, no regret.
"I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure." - Ripley, "Aliens"
Sepherim Sepherim's picture
Re: The Iktomi and Other Alien Thoughts?
I think that one of the keys for a horrific alien creature is to deny the possibility of communication, either because they don't understand our language or because they are too alien (Solaris comes to mind). That is the starting point of negating our chance to understand them. And the more difficult and alien their mind really is, the harder they are to our minds to accept, and the more horrific they are. If you tie them with our own being, like the Dragons mentioned above... coctail is served and terrible.
TBRMInsanity TBRMInsanity's picture
Re: The Iktomi and Other Alien Thoughts?
There are already the TITANS and all the horrors they have unleashed on transhumanity. I don't think you need to create an alien species like the Dragons that where laying in wait. That being said a bioware-addicted race that needed new biological stock for their alien bioware augmentations would be a sufficiently evil race to make contact with (through a gate of course). Or even more sinister if you took the idea from the movie "I Come in Peace ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Come_in_Peace ), but take out the alien police (ie you come across an mob run alien species that harvest pure adrenaline from "lesser" species to sell as a drug on some alien black market) that would be horrific in its own right. I think in EP any horrific alien encounter should be through the gates, or a first contact in the Oort Cloud ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oort_cloud ).
Jovian Motto: Your mind is original. Preserve it. Your body is a temple. Maintain it. Immortality is an illusion. Forget it.
ardent_seeker ardent_seeker's picture
Re: The Iktomi and Other Alien Thoughts?
I think that non- communication with the aliens/creatures/ encounter is paramount. The less we understand, the more we become fearful. Fear is born from ignorance. Non communication itself is alien to us. It defies our reason. I also play Dark Heresy. In DH horror comes from religious notions, or more so from the idea of duality. In the WH40k universe there is good and evil. Sometimes the line is blurred but the horrific beings of the universe are typically evil. Then there are the xenos like the tyranids…they act in a wholly different manner. In EP hard science is god. Religion plays a back seat. That makes creating horror a little more challenging in fun. You can't just default to... this thing wants to kill you because it is evil. Still turning our ideas into something that is actually horrific in an rpg is a totally different ball game. I think that we have touched on some good elements so far… 1) Non-communication, lack of communication, and having no clear way of understanding the alien/ creature/ encounter. 2) No reason, alien/creature/ encounter is not reasonable, its motivations actions and reactions defy our knowledge of reason, and/ or we cannot emotionally explain (it is not acting because of rage, anger, greed, jealousy, ect). 3) Ignorance is fear, the less we know of the monster, the more fear The questions are…How does this translate in terms of an rpg? What are the other elements?
"I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure." - Ripley, "Aliens"
Arenamontanus Arenamontanus's picture
Re: The Iktomi and Other Alien Thoughts?
I quite agree with the fearfulness of a species that one cannot communicate with. Either because it is too alien, or because it is instinctual. Karl Schroeder has some ideas about this in "Permanence", where one of the chilling ideas in the setting is that intelligent species tend to evolve towards post-intelligence. Once they have mastered their own situation all intelligent species tend to create environments they are perfectly adapted to, or remake themselves to fit their environment. At that point there is no longer any pressure to remain intelligent, and they tend to evolve into something else. Robin Hanson has a scary paper, "Burning the cosmic commons" where he gives an evolutionary argument why a species spreading across interstellar space will evolve towards what is essentially a locust swarm using all available resources to spread. His argument (in a very simplified form) is that in the long run the descendants of colonies that colonized a lot will be the most numerous. If the tendency to colonize is inherited by daughter colonies with some variation, then there will be an evolutionary pressure towards extreme colonization. So maybe all species that go interstellar will turn into replicator swarms... unless the ETI stops them.
Extropian
ardent_seeker ardent_seeker's picture
Re: The Iktomi and Other Alien Thoughts?
I've been doing some research about the elements of horror in rpgs and I can find very little that doesn't have something to do wit "evil". I'm interested in finding something that is more primal and more related to "survival" horror...even so, most of the info I get is survival from evil related. I mean, just because something wants to wipe you and your entire species out doesn't make it evil...does it? Maybe it 's just me...hmph.
"I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure." - Ripley, "Aliens"
Sepherim Sepherim's picture
Re: The Iktomi and Other Alien Thoughts?
No, it doesn't. Take Babylon 5 for example, neither the Shadows nor the Vorlon are evil, even if they could very well wipe out all living species in their games.
King Shere King Shere's picture
Re: The Iktomi and Other Alien Thoughts?
Horror telling In my Schooling. 1. Ambiguous is the key word & Tools for Horror. Having the PC check everything due to paranoia & the GMS ambiguous description is good horror. Crude Example "The room seems empty" vs "the room is empty". "It looks murky, but the instruments still claim the water is within tolerance levels, " vs "the water is clean & drinkable" 2. http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/NothingIsScarier 3. Scary music. But play it (with moderation)in normal situations, so its not becomes a spoiler. Current Favorite "alien" of mine (of my creation) Sponge Fungus, Its sponge ability is only activated when it feels threatened (or thirsty); then it swells and spreads spores, otherwise its mostly dormant. Now imagine its in the drinking water. Or on corpses.
Sepherim Sepherim's picture
Re: The Iktomi and Other Alien Thoughts?
Another source of horror are the primitive nothingness and force of "natural" things. Terrorific things. An earthquake, a typhoon. All of those relate to one important element of the terror feeling: the feeling of hopelessness and helplessness. Doesn't matter where you go, or what you attempt, it will be over it and destroy you. There is no sense in even trying to fight it. All that's been said here ties into probably what makes the most terrorific movie of all times (In my opinion): Alien. The Alien film is set in a place where there is no escape (opening the door to helplesness), and is always dark and oppressive. You don't get to really see it all, there are always shadows and turns, and mysterious places where things could hide. And yet, it is well lit, and camaera doesn't focus on those elements, so they don't "jump to your eye", they are in the background, causing rising paranoia for apparently no reason. Music plays in this too, for even in the quiet and tranquil parts, it always has strange hints in it, making it a little unsettling for apparently no reason (the Silent Hill OSTs are always very good for this too). A thing to take into account is that it is a "safe" location where it takes place: a ship in space where nothing "magical" can happen. A techonological place, where people feel safe, because they feel they control the universe around them through that technology. A ship they've known for long. And even the look of the ship represents that apparently non-notorious scenery: even though it has shadows, they are not formed by odd turns, but by pipes and other elements one would expect to be present in a mining barge. So, at first, they all feel safe and tranquil, and both things will be slowly taken away from them, increasing the feeling of loss and lost control. And taking control from the characters is a key element for making them helpless. Second, the alien itself is always a mystery. It looks like an egg, a spider, a worm, and finally the alien itself. Each time you seem to know what he can do, or get to see him, he elvolves into something completely different and all your knowledge of it is wasted, useless. And all of its forms are perfectly adapted to the situation, and completely lethal. You, again, are helpless, and hope shines one step further away. Third, you can't understand it. It won't communicate. And yet, it is ancient, it was made a prisoner by a more ancient (and probably advanced) race, to who's fall it survived (an Iktomi, maybe?). And yet, even though it is ancient and un-understandable, it seems primitive and primal: it feeds. It knows no fear, but it seems to plan and act intelligently, even if not by human-logical parameters. It is a force of nature, destruction itself, a reaper without morality, nor good nor bad, simply hungry. Finally, it seems to feed on terror as much as it does with flesh. It could have fallen on the center of the group and devoured them all at the same time... and instead, it hunts them one by one, when they are alone, when they are afraid. Leaving Ripley increasingly alone, increasingly chased, hunted, by something she even doesn't know what it is. In the end, they are not fighting an alien at all, they are fighting death itself... something all humans know will triumph in the end.
Thunderwave Thunderwave's picture
Re: The Iktomi and Other Alien Thoughts?
Take a look at Timothy Zhan's Conquerer's Trilogy. First book starts off with First Contact...and humanity promptly gets it's ass kicked like there is no tomorrow. The rest of the book shows the start of the war from the human side of things. Book 2 starts about 6 months before the first one ends...and flips sides. Shows things from their point of view and continues the plot. Book 3 flip flops between the two sides as things draw to a close. Good work all around on his part. "Spinneret" might be another good book by him to read. A little more aliens in it then EP, but the payoff is more then worth it.