When you think of Alien, you may be thinking that there isn’t much of a place for comedy. I know I don’t. I generally don’t care for the cheesy one-liners and poorly written comedy that doesn’t complement the setting. One recent example of bad comedy in a action/horror movie is Underwater. I thought the movie was fantastic but every time T.J. Miller was on screen, I cringed. His cheesy one-liners and poorly written comedy simply ruined those moments for me and pulled me out of what immersion I had in the movie.
In contrast, Aliens did a fantastic job in blending comedy with action/horror. We all have to give the late Bill Paxton credit for his brilliant delivery of comedy in Aliens. There wasn’t too much comedy and when comedy happened, it felt right. Hudson (Bill Paxton’s character) was a big talker but cowered under pressure which caused him to lean on comedy for his shortcomings. That doesn’t mean Hudson wasn’t an effective marine. He just has his way of coping with stress and panic.
Bill Paxton delivered his comedy with such perfection that I cannot find anything comparable in any other action/horror movie. Can you think of one or more? Simply put, the world of Alien can have a place for comedy if done right and sparingly.
If you are like me, you probably don’t want all that much comedy in Alien, if any at all. However, I chose to use a bit of comedy in the second episode of The Halifax – Precious Cargo Betwixt Dragons and Ghosts, a homebrew Alien RPG campaign that I am currently running. My hesitation to use comedy kept going up and down. After all, this is only the second episode but I felt something creeping up in the campaign that I needed to address immediately.
My choice to use comedy early on in the campaign became clear when I felt that some of my players were overwhelmed with information. I believe the reason is that some of the players know more Alien lore than others and some enjoy survival horror more than others. That shouldn’t stop anyone from enjoying themselves. It is my job as Game Mother (Alien RPG’s gamer runner) to keep my players in the game. As a gamer, it is my job to introduce anyone to new games of a genre that I am passionate about.
I know the feeling of not knowing enough about the lore. I have been in campaigns for other RPG tabletop games where I don’t know enough of the lore. However, the game runner acts as if everyone does. That makes it hard for me to make some choices and get fully immersed in the world the game is taking place in.
I’m not saying that comedy is the only measure to take off some of the pressure. There are all sorts of techniques but comedy is the method that I chose to use since we are in a world where things tend to go wrong all the time and there is never time to laugh. We are only on episode two and things are only going to escalate as we go.
My comedic relief started when I introduced the character Andromeda in episode two.
I introduced Andromeda in the first quarter of episode two. She is an Android that will replace the android that Halifax lost in episode one. Weyland-Yutani brands this android as a standard issue. Her purpose is to inherit all of the responsibilities Halifax’s previous android took care of before his untimely death.
And Andromeda looks tough. If you didn’t know she was an android, she looks like someone you really don’t want to get into a fight with. Since you know she is an android, you definitely don’t want to get into a fight with her. Her features include unkempt hair that is dark, almost black, and combed over to the right side but the left side of her head is shaved. Her left ear has many piercings. There are tattoos covering every bit of skin you can see. Some tattoos look like they are covering or accenting scars. Her mirthless eyes and rough hands compliment her flannel button-up shirt, baggy jeans, and black steel-toe boots.
I didn’t create Andromeda to become comic relief. In fact, I didn’t intend to introduce comedy at all. I never wrote it in my notes. I made it up on the spot and I did it because I felt like I had to. The timing felt okay, too. It’s early in the campaign so there isn’t too much in the way of introducing comedy. With all that said, I feel like my technique worked some.
Here is a clip from episode two that showcases the effect of comedy early on in my campaign:
The kicker is that she says that she is only 17 days old. Weyland-Yutani built her specifically for Halifax but what is really going on with Andromeda? Her personality doesn’t quite line up with the androids we are familiar with.
The Future my Alien RPG campaign and Comedy
I believe it would be in everyone’s best interest to keep an eye on Andromeda. There are plans in place to make her shine. However, I don’t want to give too much away. My players might read this article and you won’t have anything to look forward to. All I can say is stay tuned.
As far as comedy, I’m not sure what my future plans are with the campaign. I think I will keep it on an as-needed basis. I don’t want much comedy but if I feel the need for some relief for my players, I’ll give it to them. The world of Alien is rough and anything can go wrong at any time. When there is time for a laugh, one should really take a moment and appreciate that time. Who knows when you’ll get a chance for another laugh.