Sunday, April 12, 2020

It's Cold Outside, There's No Kind of Atmosphere...

As has been noted many times before, both here and elsewhere, Horror and Humor RPGs share many of the same attributes and pitfalls.

In fact, one could easily submit that the two genres are alternate sides of the same coin. Dark Humor can sometimes disturb, while poorly executed Horror often has value in that it is ridiculously funny. 

In point of fact, I myself prefer the two genres to be combined, giving us things like the Ghostbusters franchise and comic books like Hellboy and The Goon. 

It was this train of thought and the announcement of a new made for TV movie special that led me to my latest hysterically terrifying idea.

You know what IP would go great with the ALIEN RPG rules by Free League Publishing? 

Free League please for give me...

In Space, No One Can Here You Royally Smeg Up!

Hear me out...We start with two universes, that of Alien and Red Dwarf, where the baseline technology level is strikingly similar - space travel is possible though slow and cumbersome over great distances, there are androids, AI computers, hypersleep chambers / stasis booths, no known extraterrestrial lifeforms except what Humanity has wrought upon the universe, and a mind-numbing, possibly maddening knowledge that we may be the only reasonable sentient life in a hostile, godless, unfeeling void of endless blackness.

Enter a small group of interstellar blue collar workers - Space Truckers, Miners, Technicians - who brave the dangers of space travel for shares and maybe a little excitement in the form of a few nights at a casino on Titan. 

Honestly one of the major catalysts for this idea was in the first episode of Red Dwarf - Seriously, Episode 1, Season 1 - where Dave Lister is informed that if he doesn't turn over the cat he smuggled aboard he will spend the next 18 months (the length of the Red Dwarf's current tour) in Suspended Animation and lose all his shares. What were Parker and Brett worried about on the Nostromo? That's right you gimboids, shares! 

After Lister re-emerges from Stasis and learns of the fate of the Red Dwarf and its crew, he and the rest of the Smegheads on the 'Dwarf encounter a variety of space/time anomalies, GELFs (genetically engineered life forms), Sentient Holograms, and Rogue Synthetics (We prefer the term 'Artificial Gits' thank you very much). About the same type of horrors one might face in an ALIENS game, no? Just look here...

A Humanity hating Simulant
A genetically engineered Polymorph

The latter one...Hmmm...

The best part of all is the Stress Dice and Panic Mechanics from ALIEN are perfect for simulating the Red Dwarf Crew's propensity for freaking out and caving in to their, shall we say, less desirable character traits.

It is this subsystem of the ALIEN RPG more than any other that is the key to its effectiveness and success and the element that really brought home how well the game might work with the Red Dwarf setting.

For Technican Second Class Arnold J. Rimmer, who is a unholy amalgamation of self-importance, anal-retentiveness, cowardice, and bitterness over his continuing failure in all things 'life' (even after his death and resurrection as a Hologram), his Stress could result from his assuring the rest of the group that he is well versed in proper flight protocols and procedures only to receive a Panic result that causes him to leap up and leave the pilot seat when an insistent red light begins flashing, accompanied by an annoying 'Whooping' sound. 

Kryten, the Red Dwarf's Series 4000 Mechanoid would then remind Mr. Rimmer, as politely as possible, that those lights and sounds were indicative of a collision alarm just as their shuttle, The Starbug, bounced uncomfortably off a mountain side and crashed, even more uncomfortably, on the surface of a barely livable planetoid. 

Doing some digging into my copy of Red Dwarf, The Role Playing Game by Deep7 (released in 2003), there was a Fear Factor mechanic and chart there not unlike the Stress Dice and Panic Table found in ALIEN.

Red Dwarf, The Role Playing Game by Deep7, 2003
Excerpt from Page 44

ALIEN. The Role Playing Game by Free League Publishing, 2019
Excerpt from Page 105

If that weren't enough to convince you all of the shared DNA of these two games, consider that the Red Dwarf RPG also had a chart for Space Madness, while the ALIEN RPG has charts and rules for Mental Trauma and Neurological Disorders created by extreme cases of Panic.

And surely, Weyland-Yutani and the Jupiter Mining Corporation have absolutely nothing in common right? Riiiight.

Give it some thought Smegheads and ALIEN fans and tell me what you think. Am I on to something or am I as crazy as Welsh miner who finds the local pub closed on payday? Let me know!

Barking Alien


  1. I just can't believe this, I've been having the exact same thoughts on compatibility of settings. I even dusted down my Red Knight Chronicles campaign blog to see if there was anything I swipe for my planned Alien game.

    1. First, thank you for all the mentions, links, etc. regarding this post. I'm really glad you liked the idea.

      Your Red Knight concept is interesting and I'm going to give it a full read through but from what I have seen so far it seems like it's a cross between Red Dwarf and Star Trek or The Orville more than ALIEN. Nothing wrong with that at all but I wonder if adapting a Panic Mechanic to Star Trek Adventures might be more in-line with what you're going for.

      Too crazy?

    2. No problem. I believe in credit where credit is due.

      As to The Red Knight Chronicles, that was originally created long before the Alien RPG was mooted and is more my spin on the original Red Dwarf.

      However, I always planned to introduce a "harder edge" to the reality of the game, as can be surmised from the range of influences I propose for the game.

      While Alien - and similar horror films - are cited as inspirations for the campaign (, it is only in recent weeks that I had begun to consider the possibility of actually blending the two games systems (as you would suggest).

      Please do have a poke about the site, it's one of my "campaign thought experiments" that I'm most proud of... which is why I keep returning to it.

  2. You are correct, sir. Red Dwarf is a perfect satire of science fiction horror, and I regret to this day that I delayed buying a copy of the RPG when it was in print.

    1. I can totally understand that. Luckily it is obtainable in PDF format from DriveThruRPG. With ALIEN a currently produced game from Fria Ligan/Free League Publishing, one need only grab a digital copy of the Red Dwarf game to have an awesome time three million years in the future.

      It's funny...InSpecters in a more than spiritual successor to the West End Games Ghostbusters RPG, but by combining the two together I've made a Ghostbusters game that's resulted in some of the best RPG sessions I've ever had. What each was missing the other perfected.

      I feel the same might be true of Red Dwarf and ALIEN. ALIEN would be the baseline system but perhaps a stat here and a subsystem there from Red Dwarf would create a game even greater than the sum of its already very impressive parts.

    2. I couldn't find the Red Dwarf RPG on DriveThruRPG, but I did find it on Scribd.

  3. My apologizes. It looks like it isn't there anymore. How sad.

    I am glad you were able to get a copy. If interested, there is another book in the games' series called The Series Sourcebook. It breaks down every episode of the TV show for all 7 standard seasons, going into great detail on the characters, equipment, vehicles, GELFs, and such that appear in those adventures.

    Really useful if you are looking to get the right feel but also expand the concepts with your own creations.

    If you do end up running a Red Dwarf game, please share! I'd love to hear about it.