The Astronaut and the Aliens - first rough thoughts

Started by mrteapot, April 07, 2012, 12:19:07 PM

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I think that my game is going to be a game about a human astronaut who has crashed on an alien planet.  There's a native culture, which most of the players play while one player is the astronaut.  The astronaut is trying to fix his/her ship while each native has their own goals and desires for the astronaut and for the native people.

An important part is that language is a barrier.  The astronaut can't speak the native language.  The native can't speak english (or whatever the astronaut speaks).



Galaxy Quest
Return of the Jedi
(just the initial movie)
Fish out of water comedies
Pandemic and Forbidden Island
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, especially the bit about the Sandwich Maker.
Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K LeGuin
Alien 3 (? Ripley is an astronaut stranded on a planet with weird rituals and a problem to solve).
Lost and other stories about castaways.  Probably I should read Robinson Crusoe and Swiss Family Robinson and rewatch Lost in Space.  Some of the more scifi-y episodes of The Twilight Zone go here too.  Probably a few Star Trek episodes while we're at it.
Language as a barrier.


Very interesting ideas.  I like the concept a lot. 

I think I'm also looking at something where there is one protagonist.  I'm not sure if I want the protagonist played by multiple players (and then on top of that how I would work it mechanically/narratively) or if I want one player to be the protagonist and the others to have specific roles in playing the world around him.  I'll probably start my own thread today.


It kind of feels like I'm designing two separate games that intersect.  I want the rules for the native people to be very different from the rules for the crashed astronaut.  Consequently, there will probably be two booklets written in entirely voices explaining portions of the game.  The two sides will both use the same deck of cards, but in different ways.


For some thoughts on how one game can be two games (which can still turn out to be one game after all), see


Totally cool idea.
That space of misunderstanding is really fruitful - also a hilarious meta-commentary of a probably universal early experience on The Forge.
Stoked to watch it grow!
sure of ourselves, aren't we?


I had not considered the game as a satire of the Forge, but it would work really well for that.



I'm sticking to the four word based ingredients.  Mimic is the strongest, as the astronaut will only be able to communicate with the aliens through gestures.  (I think that the astronaut will have to speak in gibberish while the natives get to speak English, purely as a logistical issue.  But I my try to see if we could reverse that or something.)

Doctor, Coyote and Lanterns all form the baseline for the native culture.  The native culture will have a few bits predefined, but most of it will be defined at start of play.  Anyway, the Wise Healer is symbolic of learning, peace and understanding.  A native coyote like animal (biologically it is closer to a large frog or something) is symbolic of misunderstanding and trickery.  These two will be two of a limited set of cards used for basic resolution of the game.  The cards define how much the natives understand and cooperate with the astronaut and each other.

Lanterns tie directly into the premise of the game. During an annual festival, the native launch "lanterns of the dead" (flying paper lanterns) into the sky which led to the astronaut's ship crash.  She flew in to check out the weird floating lights and accidentally sucked one into the port thruster and, well, it worked out poorly.  Possibly used some other way, I dunno.


Crazy idea to tie the game into the theme:  Make the game into a language learning exercise.  The natives all speak one language, while the astronaut is only allowed to speak a different language.  Once you can communicate well enough, the game is complete.  You can't play again because the astronaut/natives now can speak the language.

(Probably this means that the astronaut is bilingual and teaching the natives, but that isn't necessarily the case.)


At the moment, I'm really pleased with how the native culture stuff is working out. The crashed astronaut stuff... not so much.

Jonathan Walton


Quote from: mrteapot on April 09, 2012, 07:16:29 PM
At the moment, I'm really pleased with how the native culture stuff is working out. The crashed astronaut stuff... not so much.

Where are you getting stuck?

I really like the idea of language barriers in RPGs, but I can see how it would be hard to design around.


I love the idea of a language barrier being central to the game.

The two sides can be given different goals... Aliens want to know what is beyond the moon, who teh astronaut is, the meaning of life.. esoteric stuff that is hard to communicate. Some may be hostime.

Astronaut wants to know very simple things.. where can I find a beryllium sphere?

Trying to devise a language to communicate while under duress and threat of danger could be a very interesting story.


Quote from: PeterBB on April 09, 2012, 08:08:03 PMWhere are you getting stuck?

I'm not really sure how to structure the astronaut's character/situation creation system.  I want it to create drama and problems guaranteed and lead to interesting stuff in play.  I felt like I had a solid outline for how it should work, but then I went to write it out and it all fell apart.  Like I was suddenly uncertain what role the astronaut was playing and how to structure their half of the story and what exact problems they would need to solve.  I've gone through several drafts of what sorts of questions the astronaut needs to answer and what choices they have to make, but I wasn't really happy with any of them.

I'm hoping that tomorrow's writing spree will sort it out better.


What the heck? I work all day yesterday writing my Game Chef game and add like 200 words onto my existing 1200. That leaves me well within the 3000 word limit. I write for an hour today and I'm nearly over my limit. If the astronaut is to have any rules at all, I need to be less verbose.