Monday, August 13, 2012

Is There In Truth No Beauty?

Commenter Jayson called this one for sure. I came up with the title of this post simultaneously with that of the previous post, 'Who Mourns For Adonais?'. I don't mind telling you all I'm having quite of a bit of fun going all Tangent Comics on these old Star Trek episode titles.

Now, we've sort of established that most people want to have an attractive character or, if less concerned about Human appearances and concepts of attractiveness, a character with good stats or cool abilities. This is a bit of the old school D&D mentality creeping into our Star Trek but it must be said that for the majority of players that is the starting point that leads to them liking their character, caring about it and giving it personality. This last part is the element I am most interested in for the purpose of this post.

If looks aren't a factor, what is? Bonuses to attributes and perhaps special abilities. After that, do we have an interesting alien? In my opinion no but we do have something to work with.

Matt Celis made the following comments on the subject of aliens in Star Trek...

Possibly in response to my query,

"Why is it, with tons of undeveloped and cool looking aliens in the Federation to make your own, does everybody and their brother want to come up with some crazy backstory so they can play a Klingon Starfleet Officer. Geez."

"Probably because most aliens in Star Trek are exceptionally boring: what weird ridges will they have on their heads to make them nonhuman?"

He also wrote...

"I think it's also, in Star Trek, a factor that many alien races are seldom seen and have no real background or character except for Vulcans, Klingons, and Romulans. Most are just weird face attachments to make them nonhuman, but nothing more."

Ah! This is where the development of a cool alien PC in Star Trek begins.

My good friend Allen, who I have mentioned here before, is, in my humble opinion, the absolute master of playing in depth, well developed, extraterrestrial freaks.

Allen can correct me if I'm wrong, but whenever the opportunity arises to play in a setting with non-human, allied/friendly species (at least in Science Fiction), my good buddy jumps at the chance to take an obscure alien and turn it into a PC species every bit as developed as Vulcans, Andorians or Klingons. In the process, he gets to add to the game's world building by coming up with specifics on the biology of his chosen alien as well as its environment and culture (and in most cases these elements influence each other to some extent).

Given the nature, length and breadth of Star Trek, anyone with the above mindset is in luck, as strange and barely fleshed out aliens abound in the background of many scenes. While I too grew very weary of the bumpy-head-of-the-week alien, there are many interesting and underdeveloped aliens just waiting for an enterprising (heh) and creative player to make them their own.

I, and a good number of people I've played Star Trek over the years, see the large number of seldom seen aliens with little to no canon background as a blessing rather than a curse, an opportunity rather than a flaw. How can I create an alien race that fits into the Star Trek universe and yet still make something original? I know! I can take that odd metallic looking dude from the bar scene in Star Trek III, or perhaps his female companion with the strange brow ridge, and completely design their peoples' whole deal from the ground up.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. As such, there is in truth beauty, anywhere you choose to see it.

Barking Alien


  1. Yeah! While I only ever played two FASA Trek characters (a Vulcanoid and an Andorian), as a group we made sure our campaign's ship was crewed by a variety of life forms. The Star Trek IV Sourcebook came in quite handy there.

  2. Ah yes! That book is indeed a favorite among myself and my players.

    By Vulcanoid do you mean old term for a Vulcan or an offshoot species?

  3. Oh, just a startlingly original Romulan/Vulcan hybrid. It took place slightly up the timeline from Star Trek IV. The captain was a Gorn. Yes the campaign was a bit overpowered.

  4. A Gorn captain! You sure don't see that every day!

    1. You took the text right outta my post. ;)

  5. Oh yeah. The follow-up campaign wherein I played an Andorian CMO was downright back-to-basics by compariso: Vulcan Captain, Human XO, and assorted (but Vulcan-leaning) crew.