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clarence

Odd Soot - Sci-Fi Mystery in the 1920s

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Designing aliens is hard. 

By turning to an unexpected source, I found a way to by-pass my own ingrained notions of what aliens look like. 

As I mentioned in an earlier thread, Odd Soot is my upcoming game set on an alternate 1920s Earth. In that universe, a plague torments humanity and starliners trudge between planets populated by aliens. They differ greatly from humans and to find the right tone, my design process took an irregular path. 

Read more about the design process here:

My Graphic Frankenstein Method for Genuine Aliens

 

Download a Preview of Odd Soot!

I’ve created a 28-page preview PDF to give you a better feeling for the game:

http://odd-soot-preview.strikingly.com/

In the preview, you will find the introduction to the game, a star map from the 1920s and sample aliens among other things. You also get a link to download the introduction scenario for free.

 

The alien below is an l'sesenaugh, living in The Sinking City on Sisymbrium.
Among other things, they act as guardians and librarians in The Dream Library.

325988274_lsesenaughsmall.jpg.2648fd601bd35c0211c3458253178b2a.jpg

 

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Yes, the species on the cover is a bit cthulhoid in appearance but it’s simply shaped by the oceans it lives in. The other aliens look quite different. 

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The 1920s reference and visuals do give of a Cthulu-esque vibe, but in the context of a potential market this is not a bad thing. The setting detail and premise is quite original though, and it's married to a strong system and appealing layout, as well as the art (which is quite inspired). Looks really promising to me. 

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The process of creating aliens for Odd Soot started out pretty shaky. But after several tries, I finished my first successful montage of a vintage alien.

To my astonishment, my friends found it truly disgusting. A sentiment I took as encouragment. 

Read more about the design process here: Thankfully, My Friends Hated the First Drawing

 

5-Day Launch Discount

On Monday Odd Soot will be released! It feels great to finally get the book into your hands and hear your thoughts about it. The response I’ve gotten so far has been amazing.

To show my appreciation of your support during the last years, there will be a 15% discount on Odd Soot the first five days. Make sure you don’t miss it. I will post a purchase link on Monday.

In the meantime, check out this review on EN World:

http://www.enworld.org/forum/content.php?5659-Dusting-Up-Some-Odd-Soot

Also, I’ve added more of the alien species artwork to the Odd Soot webpage:

www.frostbytebooks.com/denizens

Edited by clarence
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So many of these look aquatc.  If they operate in an atmospere do they stand and move via telekinesis?  I can’t see them getting around on those delicate cilia in regular gravity on land.

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Two of the species spend parts of their lives in water: aygaan and nuveri. The other species are land based. 

The l’sesenaugh species, with its thin, springy legs, originally lived buried in quick-soil, using their legs sparingly. To allow them to have such thin limbs, Sisymbrian evolution has come up with particularly strong building materials. If it is natural or engineered is up for debate in-game. 

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Looks cool. I'd love to see a step by step process of your montage method.

As a side note, it seems the link to the other OS aliens is broken.

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I've thought about putting up something on YouTube. I'll see what I can come up with.

The links above work for me. One of the links in my last email was broken though. 

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Thanks! Excellent article. The idea that natural selection is a universal principle for all life seems reasonable. That’s one of the few things we can know about aliens.

And that any eyes will be at the front. 

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21 minutes ago, clarence said:

And that any eyes will be at the front. 

What's a front? 🙂  Although Lovecraft was no scientist, I thought that his giving the Elder Things radial symmetry was a brilliant stroke.  It's just so...weird.

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Also note that there's no reason to think our notions of cyber-enhancement, genetic engineering, and "transhuman" tech (which can easily go asymmetrical) might not have "transalien" cognates ...

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What makes you think that there has to be vision? Why not have a species actively emitting pings of whichever nature and taking in that scan of their environment to create a model of their universe, a bit like the classic model of sight (with sight beams emanating from the eye) worked?

If you have a planet in synchronous rotation around a flaring sun, then the goldylocks zone on the dark side is the only environment where life has a chance at survival. Their main modus of passive perception might be the echoes of the solar flares they receive, which might be how they learned of other bodies in their system (tidal forces of a moon might be another indicator, though - no idea how probable the presence of a moon around a tidally locked planet would be, though).

Such an organism might be one of many symbionts or parasites of a huge host body rather than inhabiting the raw surface of the planet. Once these organisms develop technology, they would take host bodies and a selection of co-symbionts/co-parasites with them in their vehicles with which they cross interstellar distances. The host bodies or some co-symbionts/co-parasites might serve as their cultural memory, too, and communication with other cultural groups might resemble an act of mating between host bodies where copies of such memory-bearers are exchanged.

Now imagine the first contact situation as your own vessel is sexually approached by this weird hybrid of organism and technology...

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I think there is a difference between alien life and playable intelligent alien life.

Sure, we can have all kinds of alien life, as the equivalent of animals or plants. Why not have something that is just a blob, with no sensory organs and moves by being picked up by another creature? It wouldn't lend itself to be playable.

For me, having an intelligent playable alien means:

  • Mobility - It has to be mobile
  • Tool Use - It has to be able to use tools
  • Sensory - It has to have senses that go beyond touch
  • Communication - It has to be able to communicate with its peers

 

 

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2 minutes ago, soltakss said:

I think there is a difference between alien life and playable intelligent alien life.

Sure, we can have all kinds of alien life, as the equivalent of animals or plants. Why not have something that is just a blob, with no sensory organs and moves by being picked up by another creature? It wouldn't lend itself to be playable.

For me, having an intelligent playable alien means:

  • Mobility - It has to be mobile
  • Tool Use - It has to be able to use tools
  • Sensory - It has to have senses that go beyond touch
  • Communication - It has to be able to communicate with its peers

Sure - and apart from first contact problems, a species like the one I described above would fit the description when seen in connection to its host organism. It would be tool using (or the space encounter with the armored/upgraded host organism would be impossible), and it would be tool using to communicate with others. It might be possible to break the host organism down to "environmental suit" size, allowing interaction with individuals (or very small collectives) of this species, that would be playable. It wouldn't be any worse than the tripartite symbiotic race encountered by Nicholas van Rijn and David Falkayn encountered.

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46 minutes ago, Joerg said:

Sure - and apart from first contact problems, a species like the one I described above would fit the description when seen in connection to its host organism. It would be tool using (or the space encounter with the armored/upgraded host organism would be impossible), and it would be tool using to communicate with others. It might be possible to break the host organism down to "environmental suit" size, allowing interaction with individuals (or very small collectives) of this species, that would be playable. It wouldn't be any worse than the tripartite symbiotic race encountered by Nicholas van Rijn and David Falkayn encountered.

Sorry, Joerg, I wasn't commenting on your excellent description, just making a general comment.

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7 hours ago, soltakss said:

I think there is a difference between alien life and playable intelligent alien life.

Sure, we can have all kinds of alien life, as the equivalent of animals or plants. Why not have something that is just a blob, with no sensory organs and moves by being picked up by another creature? It wouldn't lend itself to be playable.

For me, having an intelligent playable alien means:

  • Mobility - It has to be mobile
  • Tool Use - It has to be able to use tools
  • Sensory - It has to have senses that go beyond touch
  • Communication - It has to be able to communicate with its peers

I think some aliens -- even intelligent aliens -- should NOT be playable species, for whatever reasons (just as nobody expects to play an Ent or Balrog in Middle Earth); they are part of the setting.

Also, I'll depart from your list of must-haves.  Communication is the crucial one, or the player can't RP the character interacting with other PCs & NPCs.

But mobility (specifically self-mobility) isn't a must-have, IMHO; neither is tool-use (though in intelligent sci-fi/alien who's NOT a tool-user is a bit of a genre stretch ...  😉  

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I also like to add a few aliens that are ‘too weird.’ Most of the species have to be easy to relate to, as per @soltakssdefinition, but throwing the inexplicable at the PCs once in a while is fun. 

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6 hours ago, clarence said:

I also like to add a few aliens that are ‘too weird.’ Most of the species have to be easy to relate to, as per @soltakssdefinition, but throwing the inexplicable at the PCs once in a while is fun. 

I am particularly minded of C.J.Cherryh's "methane-breather" species in the Chanur novels, or even the "Overlords" from Clarke's Childhood's End &c...

 

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Interstellar space travel relies on a technology left behind by an advanced alien species called luminarians, which fled The Soot 200 hundred years ago. They used a device that unfolds curled-up dimensions, transferring the ship into extra-dimensional spaces. As space-time works differently there, a spaceship can travel vast distances without moving. The devices are ’black boxes’ for the remaining species and they have almost no idea how they work. Repairing them is impossible. 

Regular space travel is powered partly by rockets, partly by the energy released by partial unfolding. 

Edited by clarence

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On 10/21/2018 at 1:35 PM, g33k said:

I think some aliens -- even intelligent aliens -- should NOT be playable species, for whatever reasons (just as nobody expects to play an Ent or Balrog in Middle Earth); they are part of the setting.

Wait, wait!  I could have played an Ent???

Quote:  "I am Groot!"

GM's major complaint:  Player's wooden delivery

Disadvantages:  Fear of Japanese beetles

I see your point with Balrogs, however ...

"No, Azaroth!  You may not help staff the party's fireworks stand."

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