Ripley: ‘It’s a metaphor’ – Alien3 as a systemless roleplay

Alien 3 Rebooted: It's time to do it right. (The Alien in our poster is a 3D model rendered by John in DAZ Studio).

RIPLEY: “It’s just down there, in the basement.”

AARON:  ” The whole place is a basement.”

RIPLEY: “It’s a metaphor.”


Conventions both exhaust and inspire you. In the aftermath of Phenomenon, Pip and I have decided on our major joint writing project for 2012. We’re going to tackle an rgp reboot of Alien3, the deeply confused successor to the SF classics Alien and Aliens. Cyberpunk author William Gibson did an early script for Alien3, but the project went through production hell with multiple writers and directors, changes of direction, and massive interference from Fox Studio.

We love the Alien series (though lets not talk about AVP), we respect Ripley. and we’re not going to kill off Hicks and Newt in the first thirty seconds as Alien3 did. Our reboot takes the William Gibson draft as our inspiration, though of course an RPG game has to be very different to a movie script, and we have a few ideas of our own.

The Alien series of films exhibit a high degree of self-awareness, typified by the Ripley quote above. We think the challenge plays to our design strengths: an atmosphere of constant, gritty  fear and tension; character insight and development; and a chance to ask and play out a whole series of ideas about gender, embodiment, moral courage, and … parenthood! All with big guns and flashing emergency lights.

Pip and I will be posting on the module’s  development over the next few months, and using it as an example of how we design a systemless game. While we won’t be giving away spoilers, we can share ideas knowing that everyone is familiar with the game background and genre. For now, we’re watching the movies and reading Dark Horse comics, the Colonial Marines Technical Manual, and a host of critical books and essays from cultural and film studies.  One particular inspiration is Stephen Mulhall’s On Film: Thinking in Action, which explores how the Alien Quadrilogy  grapples with a host of issues surrounding human identity.

Note: The poster above is a work-in-progress.

About nysalor

By day, John Hughes is a social sciences editor and e-publisher at the Australian National University. By night he is a roleplaying author, 3D artist, and cognitive anarchist. His digital homepage is

Posted on July 3, 2011, in AlienZ, rpg, Xenomorph and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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