Signs of Alien Abduction

Our Strange World offers up fifty-eight potential indicators of alien abduction.1 My favorite is the very last: “Have many of these traits but can’t remember anything about an abduction or alien encounter.”

Running a scenario centered around alien abduction can be tricky. You can go the X-Files route, with the players acting as investigators looking into a strange occurrence. It’s the traditional tactic, I suppose, but one I’m leery of. I like to have outright fantastic elements in my modern games, rather than dancing along the “is it genuine or something mundane?” line that The X-Files liked to play with. Asking players to putz around interviewing characters is more procedural than seems interesting to me. That and my ability to improvise their half of the conversation tends to peter out after the second exchange, leaving it down to interaction skill rolls, which isn’t terribly fun for anyone.

An alien abduction adventure that I ran would have to be more situational than interaction-based. “Here’s the premise of the situation. Now poke around and try to achieve a goal.” Which is why I like the set up of Tri Tac Games’ Incursion. Player characters are alien abductees, kidnapped to serve as slave labor elsewhere in the galaxy. But they escape their captors and must not only defend their planet from further predations, but first find it. It’s Lost in Space meets Communion II: Communion Harder.

Moreover, I’d put more moving parts in the adventure, things the player characters can experiment with, or at least take advantage of. A lot of archetypal X-Files episodes involved Mulder and Scully fumbling around in the woods, looking for things or avoiding things. A roleplaying adventure would need to be more tactile, in a mental sense: a spaceship to explore, alien widgets to brandish unwisely, agents to strive against and confound.

My mind keeps going back to an adventure written for West End Games’ Ghostbusters game, Hot Rods of the Gods. It played with UFOs, ancient astronauts and, of course, how they might tie to modern perceptions of paranormal phenomena, all with a cheesy sense of humor. I wish I hadn’t accidentally traded that away with a stack of Teenage Mutants Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness books.

1 I’ll point out a lot of these indicators also apply to older beliefs about faeries, their tendency to abduct humans and changelings.

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