Ideas for an Alien RPG campaign can be a bit overwhelming. If you are like me, you want your campaign to be as original as possible and you want to expand on lore that deserves attention. You probably have a ton of ideas floating around in your head but you can’t figure out where to start.
Perhaps I can help guide you in the right direction. I have been running an Alien RPG called Halifax: Precious Cargo betwixt Dragons and Ghosts and the Podcast for a couple of years now so I may have a couple of tips to help guide you in the right direction.
There is one thing to keep in mind. This is an experience for you and your players. If you choose to share your campaign, then the experience is also for your viewers or listeners. Give your audience an experience they will never expect. Be creative and original. Break some of the rules if you have to in order to make an impact. It’s your story and game. Make it work best for everyone.
Type of Campaign
An Alien RPG campaign and all of your ideas begin here. The first step starts with picking a campaign type. There are three campaign types: Frontier Colonists, Space Truckers, and Colonial Marines. Each type of campaign opens up different opportunities for storytelling. However, you can mix and match if your storyline allows for such an opportunity.
Frontier Colonists are secluded on a rock in the farthest reaches of known space. They have limited resources and count on a company or government to provide for them. Dangers come from weather, resources, structure, and unknown forces. Plan to spend a lot of time exploring the rock you are on or completing jobs that are assigned to you by the company.
Space Truckers are busy hauling cargo across the Stars of the Middle Heavens (Alien RPGs known universe). You’ll need a ship with a competent crew to transport cargo safely. Billions of dollars are at stake and the company or freelance organization you work for won’t take no for an answer. You either do the job or get replaced.
Colonial Maries are badasses. They are armed to the teeth with weapons, armor, and technologically advanced tools. The core laughs in the face of danger. They are needed throughout the known universe to carry out orders to protect a colony, answer distress calls, explore unexplored worlds, and deal with deadly enemies.
After you pick the type of campaign you want to write your campaign around, it’s time to get writing.
Write the End of the Campaign First
I already know how Halifax ends and I’ve known since the beginning. As backward as that may seem, I find the approach to be quite rewarding. Since I know how the story should end, I can write a story that leads up to the end I have in mind.
There are a few considerations to keep in mind if you plan to write the end of the campaign first. You must have at least one antagonist fully built. You’ll need a general idea of how many players you need. You should build out the final climatic end.
When you think of the Alien franchise, the first thing that pops into your head is the xenomorph. After all, the xenomorph tends to be the main antagonist in the majority of media out there. The xenomorph comes in many flavors which makes them a well-rounded enemy in a story.
However, Alien has plenty of lore to consider when creating your antagonist. While xenomorphs are an option, there are other entities such as people, androids, governments, corporations, pirates, freelancers, territories, and so much more. To be original, you’ll need to get outside of your comfort zones.
After you choose who the antagonist is, you need to decide why they are the antagonist. Here are some examples:
- Are they after something valuable or important?
- Do they want to protect something?
- Have they lost something?
- Are they searching for or carrying secrets?
- Have they been misguided or manipulated?
- Are they angry or carry a grudge?
- Do they want to watch everything burn for any reason or no reason?
You need to have a general idea of how many players you need to fill out your campaign. You don’t want to overwhelm yourself but you also need enough players to create a storyline that works and makes sense.
There are four players in the Halifax campaign I run. I play two NCPs that help fill out the number of main characters I need from my campaign. I could get some additional players to play the NPCs but four players are enough for me. The NPCs that I play allow me to nudge or steer my players when I find the need to do so.
With the number of players in mind, you can incorporate that number into the end of your campaign. If someone leaves your campaign, you know that you need to fill that spot because your end requires that number of players. The roles of the characters must stay in line with the end of your campaign so if you do need to fill a spot, let the player know the role they need to fill.
The Climatic End
You want your players to eventually end up somewhere at the end of your campaign. When they do, you want an explosive ending that no one will ever forget. Think about your players and their experiences throughout the journey. Don’t forget about any antagonists you have in your story. Bring them all together to create a heart-pounding end.
Filling in the Gaps
You have the end of your Alien RPG campaign and now you need ideas to fill in the gaps. Now, write a story that leads up to the end. The campaign can be any length you want. I write Halifax with three years of play in mind and I am on track to make that happen.
If you can determine the length of your campaign, you can break it down into parts. Halifax breaks down into three parts. Each part takes a year to play and each part ends with a climatic point. The climatic point leaves an opening for the next part.
Give your players some busy work. If you are running a frontier colony campaign, send your players out exploring or repair that damn door that keeps getting stuck. Space truckers are never short of work. Cargo always needs to get delivered. Colonial Marines need to train to keep in shape or help a ransacked colony get back on track.
Busy work sounds boring but you can use these opportunities to create a sense of achievement, which should be sparse. You can also use these sub-plots to give information or provide direction in your campaign. It’s not just busy work if you can find ways to sneak in bits of the main plot. Creativity and subtlety are key.
Downtime sounds even more boring than busy work but you can use this time to take care of all sorts of things. Character development comes to mind. A character can choose to do something on their own or with someone else. Either way, you can grow a character when there isn’t a bunch of distractions.
You can also use this time to do some administrative work. Your players may need to update their inventory or study important information. Take them to a restaurant where they can play games, socialize, eat, or get drunk. Improve characters with training. There is always something to do during downtime.
Introduce the Antagonist
At some point, you need to introduce the antagonist. You can give hints throughout the campaign but if you can keep the mystery alive for some time, you can do something incredible when the time comes to reveal who or what is behind everything.
This is how I introduce my main antagonist:
All Alien RPG Campaign Ideas need Tools
Not only can I offer advice but I have put together some tools as well. This is a project that I have been working on for some time and I will continue to add to it when I deem it necessary. Follow the link and you will find a planet generator, homebrew content, and resources.
The Conclusion of my Alien RPG Campaign Ideas
I could go on and on but you only want to read so much. If you want to bounce any ideas off of me, Discord, Facebook and Reddit are your best bets for reaching me. In the meantime, check out Halifax or the Halifax Podcast for some inspiration.