Recently I saw a discussion on either The Miniatures Page or one of the Traveller Yahoo groups where a poster was asking after an article on alien construction that appeared in Dragon Magazine back in the 1980s. I remember the article, and I think I actually have a copy of it in my box of RPG stuff. It was quite an innovative article for its time in some respects, in that the physical characteristics of an alien race were defined by a series of dice rolls on a sequence of tables. The idea was to get away from the Classic Star Trek aliens ‘with latex brow ridges or different coloured skin paint’, and generate aliens that were, well, alien.
Of the Classic Traveller alien races, the Zhodani were just tall, turban-wearing psionic human, the Vargr were dogmen (and usually played as anarchic sociopaths), the Aslan were mock-samurai catmen and the Droyne were little guys in rubber lizard suits. No one really played K’kree in my group and it is only in retrospect that I discover they were fanatical genocidal vegetarians. Only the Hivers were truly alien in both appearance (giant starfish) and motivation (cliques of manipulators). Now this all sounds a bit harsh, and I’m still very fond of the Traveller Major Races but, back in the day, that was how things were.
I’ve just finished reading Flynn’s Guide to Alien Creation by Jason “Flynn” Kemp, a little, ‘compatible with (Mongoose) Traveller’, product put out by Samardan Press and available from Lulu.
Using a 14-step checklist, Jason examines homeworld factors, ecology, size, movement type, senses and alien traits and uses these to round out an existing alien concept, as well as create an alien race from scratch. At $US 4.99 for a PDF, a booklet of this quality is a bargain. I am very impressed with this product and cannot wait to begin using it to define the alien races in my Traveller campaign.
Jason puts in an occasional appearance on the SFRPG boards where you can also find his very excellent Stellar Reaches fanzine if it isn't available from his site.