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Vader
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Trying to make sense of "Xenomorphs"

Mon 02 Dec 2019, 11:55

First of all, the term "xenomorph" - what does it actually mean, in the game?

The word itself obviously derives from Greek and translates simply as "strange/foreign [life] form". When I first heard it back in 1986, I just took it as a scientific term for "ET" - any unspecified life form of non-terrestrial origin.

Thus, any "extra-solar species" would by definition be a "xenomorph".

But the game seems to make a distinction between "extra-solar species" in general, and "xenomorphs" in particular; the latter specifically denoting the creatures deriving from the ALIEN mythos?

If so, I have a hard time making sense of it "in-world". In the movie, the establishment - in this case as represented by Lt Gorman, using the term - at the point it's dropped does not believe in The Alien. Gorman is simply stating that the colony has become incommunicado, and it's been suggested that some kind of alien life form (as in animal) could be the cause of this. Cpl Hicks immediately deciphers this: "it's a bug hunt" - i.e. clearing out xenomorphs is something these Marines have done many times before.

So ... why would they make up a term to describe a specific class of extra-solar life form that nobody is known to have encountered, and nobody even believes in?

I know that fandom has in the intervening decades latched on to the word as specific for the Aliens, but looking beneath the surface - as this game has a golden opportunity to do - does it really make sense to jump on that bandwagon?


Second, I'm trying to identify the various "xenomorphs" with the variants we're seeing in the movies.
This is what I'm surmising:
  1. Stages I-III are self-explanatory
  2. Stage IV SCOUT - "dog alien" from Alien3
  3. Stage IV DRONE - "Big Chap" from ALIEN
  4. Stage V SOLDIER - "Warrior" from ALIENS
  5. Stage V SENTRY - "Warrior" from ALIENS
  6. Stage VI QUEEN - "Queen" from ALIENS
Is this correct?

If so, I am again a bit at a loss...:

At the time Alien3 was made, the clearly stated "production intent" was that the morphology of the creature would inherit traits from the host life from; hence, this creature was smaller, had digitigrade hind legs, etc. But this has now been dropped in the game, making that morphology a unique subclass, not merely a "dog-ified" version of the same creature? (If so - good; I'm just looking for confirmation.)
(I was never comfortable with the idea anyway - if the emerging creature lends traits from the host life form, where did the Big Chap's dorsal tubes, barbed tail, six fingers, etc., etc., etc., come from? Or is there something about Kane we don't know...?)

The terminology is also a bit confusing: To me, a "drone" is a male bee whose only role is to fertilise the queen. It has no stinger, has no role outside of the hive, and isn't generally all that capable.
The "drone xenomorph" by contrast, is the polar opposite of that - a solo player, the first to enter any new scene, and arguably the most cunning and dangerous of all the subcategories. Shouldn't this more appropriately be called a "scout"?

The difference between the "soldier" and the "sentry" ... the warrior costumes and props used on-set on ALIENS differed in details, but with no particular intent from the production. Is this an attempt to rationalise these differences into different subcategories, or where does this stem from?
Last edited by Vader on Tue 03 Dec 2019, 15:49, edited 1 time in total.
- They're a bit like Facehuggers, aren't they?
- Face ... huggers?
- Yeah, you know. Alien.
- ...?
- The horror movie, Alien.
- There's a horror movie called Alien?? That's really offensive! No wonder everyone keeps invading you.
 
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Diego
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Re: Trying to make sense of "Xenomorphs"

Mon 02 Dec 2019, 15:50

A lot of interesting points, when I have more time I'll do a bigger write up.

The one point I'd quickly like to pick up on is the matter of the alien taking DNA from the host yet having things the host does not have. This can be attributed to gene driving, whereby certain genetic traits are predetermined but others are left to be picked up from the host. From a bio weapons standpoint it makes perfect sense, you take what you need from the host to function in their environment but keep enough core dna to form the xenomorphs base characteristics..

Incidentally we have a similar technology now and use it to force gender in bovines.
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Vader
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Re: Trying to make sense of "Xenomorphs"

Mon 02 Dec 2019, 17:24

A lot of interesting points, when I have more time I'll do a bigger write up.

The one point I'd quickly like to pick up on is the matter of the alien taking DNA from the host yet having things the host does not have. This can be attributed to gene driving, whereby certain genetic traits are predetermined but others are left to be picked up from the host. From a bio weapons standpoint it makes perfect sense, you take what you need from the host to function in their environment but keep enough core dna to form the xenomorphs base characteristics..

Incidentally we have a similar technology now and use it to force gender in bovines.
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I don't disagree, except insofar as noting that for that to work, both the host and the intruding organism need to have compatible DNA systems that "speak the same language", as it were (a point I do not feel can be taken for granted with xenozoology; at least, outside of Star Trek) ... but my point with the question is, which way is the RPG going with this? Is the "dog alien's" quadruped posture and lack of dorsal tubes due to it having a canine morphology (as the film-makers intended), or is there no such thing as a "dog-alien", and it is in fact a "scout xenomorph" that looks like this irrespective of what host it gestated in (i.e. we are consciously departing from the "design intent" in Alien3)?
- They're a bit like Facehuggers, aren't they?
- Face ... huggers?
- Yeah, you know. Alien.
- ...?
- The horror movie, Alien.
- There's a horror movie called Alien?? That's really offensive! No wonder everyone keeps invading you.
 
Mautew
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Re: Trying to make sense of "Xenomorphs"

Tue 03 Dec 2019, 02:24

I believe that they are refering to previous missions where some of the characters in aliens, specifically Private Hudson and other members of the crew encountered insect aliens, not Xenomorphs in previous missions. And for the second half, I believe that they list two terms for eachs since they could be used interchangably, or could be the different terms depending on the host? Like anything from a quadruped host is refered to as a scout, while bipedial is drone, while the term for queen stays since it's typically an ending point unless including expanded material like Queen Mothers/Empresses.

Edit: Maybe refer to the various Aliens Wiki's for info on stuff like this since they usually have a list of terms along with life cycles, and do remember, they allow you to decide your own head cannon for what you want to do.
 
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Diego
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Re: Trying to make sense of "Xenomorphs"

Tue 03 Dec 2019, 02:46

A lot of interesting points, when I have more time I'll do a bigger write up.

The one point I'd quickly like to pick up on is the matter of the alien taking DNA from the host yet having things the host does not have. This can be attributed to gene driving, whereby certain genetic traits are predetermined but others are left to be picked up from the host. From a bio weapons standpoint it makes perfect sense, you take what you need from the host to function in their environment but keep enough core dna to form the xenomorphs base characteristics..

Incidentally we have a similar technology now and use it to force gender in bovines.
.
I don't disagree, except insofar as noting that for that to work, both the host and the intruding organism need to have compatible DNA systems that "speak the same language", as it were (a point I do not feel can be taken for granted with xenozoology; at least, outside of Star Trek) ... but my point with the question is, which way is the RPG going with this? Is the "dog alien's" quadruped posture and lack of dorsal tubes due to it having a canine morphology (as the film-makers intended), or is there no such thing as a "dog-alien", and it is in fact a "scout xenomorph" that looks like this irrespective of what host it gestated in (i.e. we are consciously departing from the "design intent" in Alien3)?
Well if you put any stock in Prometheus then the Alien DNA should speak the same universal language (which given the engineers, the space jockey, that actually isn't such a far flung idea). But given we have been told in Alien itself that the creature adapted itself to our environment and did seem to take traits from Kane then we have confirmation that by whatever psuedo scientific explanation the Alien is able to use our DNA. Which realistically is further evidenced by it's ability to gestate inside of us and other carbon based lifeforms. After all, if it's self structure was totally unlike ours it wouldn't be able to get what it needs from host.

But then this is also making a massive assumption that it does need to be able to 'gel' with out DNA code. I mean it's 'Alien' it's systems could work in such a way to defy our understanding or expectation. Perhaps it has the ability to work homogeneously with any DNA code and part of it's adaptability is that it can figure it all out on the fly and work with it. Hard for us to imagine but then this creature has been tagged as the 'Perfect Organism', so I'm willing to let fly it's capabilities.
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Vader
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Re: Trying to make sense of "Xenomorphs"

Tue 03 Dec 2019, 11:24

Well if you put any stock in Prometheus
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I don't. None. What. So. Ever.
The "prequels" have no place in my personal canon. 8-)
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But given we have been told in Alien itself that the creature adapted itself to our environment and did seem to take traits from Kane then we have confirmation that by whatever psuedo scientific explanation the Alien is able to use our DNA.
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Could you remind me where this is said? I recall Ash saying something to the effect of "prolonged resistance to adverse environmental conditions" and that "its structural perfection is only matched by its hostility", but I can't remember anything about inheriting traits from Kane...
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Which realistically is further evidenced by it's ability to gestate inside of us and other carbon based lifeforms. After all, if it's self structure was totally unlike ours it wouldn't be able to get what it needs from host.
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Not quite ... two things, there: one, it is quite conceivable that different carbon based life forms evolve independently in different parts of the universe, as the carbon atom is quite practical for the purpose. But it would be extremely unlikely for these life forms to have have compatible genetic structures -- if they even use anything that we'd recognise as a DNA/RNA system, the actual DNA-analogue molecules certainly won't look anything like ours. But as long as the digestive system is able to break down hydrocarbon chains and utilise the stored energy and basic molecular building blocks, that won't matter -- the host can still serve as host.
Two, the above holds true, even if the parasite's base chemistry is non-carbon based -- chemical energy is, after all, just energy, as long as it has some way to metabolise energy stored in whatever chemistry is available in its environment. The life form will need to store (or scrounge) the base raw material in order to generate the building blocks to grow and/or repair itself, but the energy it needs to keep going it can always get from its environment, whatever its base chemistry.

As Ash notes that the Facehugger's outer shell is made from "polarised silicone", it is not unlikely that the entire life form in all its stages is silicone based -- silicone is, after all, the "other" atom besides carbon that is at able to form chains that at least theoretically could be suitable for organic building blocks.
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But then this is also making a massive assumption that it does need to be able to 'gel' with out DNA code. I mean it's 'Alien' it's systems could work in such a way to defy our understanding or expectation. Perhaps it has the ability to work homogeneously with any DNA code and part of it's adaptability is that it can figure it all out on the fly and work with it. Hard for us to imagine but then this creature has been tagged as the 'Perfect Organism', so I'm willing to let fly it's capabilities.
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In "my" canon, that's precisely it -- it is an independent life form that grows into the shapes we see irrespective of the host life form. The adaptability is a question of being able to handle arbitrary host life forms, energy sources, resilience to any atmospheric conditions (including complete lack of one), gravitational environment, radiation ... I'd also assume the adult life form to be quite immune to fire (after all, using fire against it was Ash's idea -- I doubt he'd propose using anything that would actually risk harming the creature, or even succeed in driving it into the airlock)...
- They're a bit like Facehuggers, aren't they?
- Face ... huggers?
- Yeah, you know. Alien.
- ...?
- The horror movie, Alien.
- There's a horror movie called Alien?? That's really offensive! No wonder everyone keeps invading you.
 
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Diego
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Re: Trying to make sense of "Xenomorphs"

Tue 03 Dec 2019, 12:50

Well if it's just personal head cannon then let's go crazy! Clearly the aliens anatomy is made up of small crab like creatures that work together /joking

In more seriousness I will try to respond to each of your points but without quotes as I'm on my phone.

1) yep I ignore the prequels as well we can agree to that.

2) you just quoted the bit where he says how its adapted to our environment, he further says it when suggesting they try fire. He also let's slip that it's taken qualities from kane when referring to it as Kanes Son.

3) we are going to have to agree to disagree on that point, I stand by what I said and refute your correction. If just from immuno responses forcing rejection. The fact proteins break down into amnio acids and that the parasite can only get what the host has so is literally working with the exact same building blocks meaning there can only be so many deviations. So quoting carbon is massively simplifying the components of life. But that brings us onto point 4, that its alien and defies understanding then we are into made up pseudo science and then we can go back to small cells crabs ;p

5 you want to ignore the alien taking characteristics of the host that's fine, you do you. It is ignoring alien 3 and any of the EU stuff but that's ok.
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Vader
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Re: Trying to make sense of "Xenomorphs"

Tue 03 Dec 2019, 14:55

Already in deciding to ignore the prequels, we are deviating from one set of established "canon". Fria Ligan doesn't have the latitude to pick and choose what they incorporate into the ALIEN RPG rule book; instead, they go the route of keeping things somewhat ambiguous, leaving each of us with the freedom to make up our own "canon" ... as indeed we, consciously or unconsciously, must with material so riddled with internal inconsistencies as the total mass of the Alien Mythos - films, games, comics, AvP...
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2) you just quoted the bit where he says how its adapted to our environment, he further says it when suggesting they try fire. He also let's slip that it's taken qualities from kane when referring to it as Kanes Son.
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That the Alien is able to adapt to pretty much any physical environment I feel is an intrinsic ability, not an inherited one...

Interpreting the "Kane's son" line to mean actual genetic relationship ... I believe would be reading far too much into it.
I've always interpreted it as the android's philosophical rumination - in extremely bad taste, from a human perspective - over the fact that Kane, physicallty, "gave birth" to the creature ... similar, albeit slightly more dramatically, to how you might "give birth" to a botfly.
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But that brings us onto point 4, that its alien and defies understanding then we are into made up pseudo science and then we can go back to small cells crabs ;p
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And indeed, from my perspective, that hits the mark: the Alien is, well, alien. The understanding of the biology, biochemistry, and (let's not forget) biomechanik (using Giger's native German word to differentiate it from "biomechanics", which of course is something else) that makes it tick is beyond the sphere of human ken. For all we know, the Alien's enzymes might be able to break down proteins, not to amino acids, but to simple hydrocarbons and chemical elements, and then biosynthesise necessary structures from these.
Besides, applying pseudosience to this universe is inescapable - on the human side of the story, we must already accept artificial gravity, superluminal travel, contragravity, reactionless thrusters ... none of which are one iota less implausible than what I just suggested about the Alien's biochemistry.
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you want to ignore the alien taking characteristics of the host that's fine, you do you. It is ignoring alien 3 and any of the EU stuff but that's ok.
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Oh, and I do, never fear.
But I am curious as to what Fria Ligan's "official" intention with regard to the "dog alien"/"Scout Xenomorph" is, in this regard - are the characteristics inherited canine traits, or specific for a Scout class, irrespective of host -- or is this one of the points left intentionally ambiguous?
- They're a bit like Facehuggers, aren't they?
- Face ... huggers?
- Yeah, you know. Alien.
- ...?
- The horror movie, Alien.
- There's a horror movie called Alien?? That's really offensive! No wonder everyone keeps invading you.
 
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Diego
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Re: Trying to make sense of "Xenomorphs"

Tue 03 Dec 2019, 15:23

The dog alien is one of the key points for showing it does take traits from its host. It is kinda hard to ignore the fact that the two main instances we have of birth and end product shows us one bipedal host giving birth to a bipedal alien and a qua draped giving birth to a quadraped.

Taking into account that, what Ash says (we can agree to disagree on that) and the fact that it even makes sense for the perfect organism I understand why every creator who has made follow up material has gone this route. The xeno is the perfect creature. What better way to perfectly adapt yourself to any environment, than to hijack the Gene's from a creature that has been adapting from millennia.

You can even think about what else they inherit, it likely extends to immunity to pathogens and other parasites. It opens up many doors and I do love the ideas of what other types of demos we can get.

But like I said, we take and leave what we like. I personal am an Alien purist, and likely will ditch the idea of the queen in favor of egg morphing.
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Vader
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Re: Trying to make sense of "Xenomorphs"

Tue 03 Dec 2019, 15:45

The dog alien is one of the key points for showing it does take traits from its host. It is kinda hard to ignore the fact that the two main instances we have of birth and end product shows us one bipedal host giving birth to a bipedal alien and a qua draped giving birth to a quadraped.
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Me point being: those specific "canine" traits - smaller size, quadrupedal posture, etc - being what the rule book points at as specific characteristics of the "Scout" type -- suggesting this type has these traits regardless of what host it gestated in.
Which would suggest, Fria Ligan also is ignoring Alien3.
I am curious to know if this is so.
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You can even think about what else they inherit, it likely extends to immunity to pathogens and other parasites.
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The reverse would also be true -- if you inherit a certain biological paradigm, as it were, you also inherit potential vulnerability to its pathogens.
However, if you are a paradigm all of your own, with no biological links to the organisms around you - as I maintain the Alien is - you will by definition also always be immune to any and all pathogens in it.
- They're a bit like Facehuggers, aren't they?
- Face ... huggers?
- Yeah, you know. Alien.
- ...?
- The horror movie, Alien.
- There's a horror movie called Alien?? That's really offensive! No wonder everyone keeps invading you.
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