A More Interesting Life

Recreating life as I go along

Tag: Aliens

RPG Inspiration: Skyline

This time I am going to talk about Skyline. It is one of those movies that I wanted to like, since it had so much potential, but the script should have been a lot tighter.

Skyline Poster

Skyline is a 2010 movie, directed by Colin Strause and Greg Strause starring  Eric Balfour, Donald Faison and Scottie Thompson (IMDB page)

Use tricks wisely

The movie starts off in media res, then flashes back to 15 hours earlier. I have seen this technique used numerous times, and I normally like it, but here it fell flat for me, and I have figured out why., there are two reasons.

  • The times I have seen it work has normally been in a series, normally once I have already gotten to know the characters, which makes me actually care about their plight.
  • The other thing is, the events preceding the event should somehow explain it, show how the characters have gotten themselves into that situation. In this case, the alien invasion had nothing to do with the characters actions during the preceding fifteen hours, so why show them to me?

Skyline Party


You could let the players to get to know the other characters at a party. Just a time to roleplay what the characters do in their down time, without it necessarily tying into a deeper plot.

In a fantasy or historical setting, you could play through a couple of quick scenes from a spring festival at the village.

Know when to end a scene

This is more a what not to do example from the movie. It spends a lot of time setting up conflicts which turn out to be completely irrelevant to the main story. A couple of short scenes to get an idea of the characters are really useful, but don’t over do it.

Of course, in an RPG situation, if the characters are really having a blast at the party, then let them, but most of the time, you can just move on.

Skyline deadly light

Don’t look at it!

I really like the idea of a weapon that will do harm when you just look at it. Something about it also brings the idea of Lovercraftian horrors to mind, where just seeing something may be enough to drive a character insane. How do you fight something that you cannot even look at?


This is the traditional trope of having somebody die horribly early on to show how dangerous the situation/villain is.

In order to do this, you need to have some NPCs hanging around with the characters, preferably ones that the players are not too attached to, but that they will still react when they meet a horrible end.

Other people are doing things too

At times it seems like the characters seem to be the only ones doing anything in the whole world. Sometimes, just for variety, make sure that they see other people trying to act as well. Perhaps they are not the only adventurers going to slay the dragon?

Of course, those other characters will fail, possibly in a way that will highlight the danger, or give the characters a clue how to defeat the evil.

Put the characters at the centre

For most of the movie, the main characters are hiding, while the battles are being fought by others.

Most of the time, you want to avoid this in an RPG… Put the PCs in the center of the action. Don’t let them be just observers, unless it is as a change of pace.


Sometimes the characters have nothing to do, perhaps they are waiting for a contact, hiding out, or are on a long ship voyage. It is easy to gloss over these times “After four days, you think it is safe to come out”. There is nothing wrong with this, but you can also use those times to highlight the characters, and let them do just short snippets of roleplaying.

Skyline Mothership

Coming back to life

This is a classic trope, which I have not seen often enough in RPGs. The players have just killed the Big Bad, when he suddenly pulls himself back together. I think it could be really effective during the final battle, or perhaps during what the players think is the final battle, until the dragon gets back up, forcing them to rethink their tactics.

Skyline Mutate

Acquired Immunity

It seems as if surviving the initial exposure to the light gave the character some sort of immunity later on. I have always liked the idea that surviving an attack gives you some sort of immunity, or perhaps some type of additional ability.

You can use this in a fantasy game, the classical werewolf would be a good example of gaining extra power by surviving the initial attack… Perhaps surviving a dragon’s breath would give you immunity to it?

Skyline Alien

Alien Aliens

I really liked the aliens in this movie, they did not explain what they were doing, and just collected people for reasons which are not entirely clear.

I think that aliens should be alien, both in how they look and in the outlook they have on life.


RPG Idea: Alien Robot Conspiracy

Robot Face

The core of this idea is that a species has access to some sort of gate technology, which allows them to cross vast distances, but that need to have a receiver on the other side. The receivers in question are not trivial to build, and require a fairly advanced civilization to build them.

So, the species in question sends out probes to planets likely to have or develop life. Each probe contains a factory. Once it arrives on a planet, it waits until it detects a civilization has started developing around it. The vast majority of the probes just sit there waiting, until even their rugged systems wear out completely, but a couple of them have managed to find life.

Once a civilization develops, the probe begins manufacturing units that resemble the natives, and using them to infiltrate. It will also start manipulating radio and other wireless broadcasts to further its agenda.

So, in this game, one of these probes has been waiting on Earth for a long time, and awakened with the discovery of radio. It has since then been subtly guiding humanity into building the gates.

Variant ideas

Perhaps the probe works differently, seeding planets with the potential for life, hoping that they will develop the gates? This would work for a more Lovercraftian feel, with humanity just being a construction system.

Also, there is no reason why the aliens would have to be invaders, perhaps this is the only way that they can establish contact?

For a twist, in a different setting (perhaps fantasy), the characters discover a similar conspiracy, with the descendants of modern day humanity on the other side of it?

RPG Inspiration: High Plains Invaders

High Plains Invaders PosterHigh Plains Invaders

High Plains Invaders is a 2009 movie, directed by Kristoffer Tabori and starring  James Marsters, Cindy Sampson and Sebastian Knapp. (IMDB Link)


This is actually a very fun movie, and deserves more recognition than it gets.

About to be Executed

At the start of the movie, the main character is in a cell, awaiting his own execution. I think it is a great way to start a story, or even a campaign. Perhaps all of the characters are on death row, which is how they meet.

A Hanging

The Gallows is Town Business

Soon afterwards, we learn the the gallows is the driving force behind the town’s economy. This is something that is not explored in the movie, due to the aliens invading, but is an interesting concept. It is something I would love to add to a campaign, just as a bit of background colour, if nothing else.

Interrupted Hanging

And of course, the hanging gets inevitably interrupted (I guess this would count as a spoiler for somebody who has never seen a western).

Another scene I would love to use in a game… Have a character get captured and sentenced to death, just so the other characters can rescue him in the nick of time.

Dealing with the Wounded

A large part of the problem that the protagonists have is the fact that one of them is wounded, and therefore needs special attention.

In most RPGs, damage and injury is abstracted, it would be interesting, both in story terms, and in strategic terms, if the actual effects of injury are treated more realistically.

Material Science

Finally, the day is saved due to one character’s understanding of material science. This is just a very good example of how normally ignored skills could still save the day in the right situation.

High Plains Invader

Dung Beetles

The aliens in this movie are compared to dung beetles, in the sense that they extract and concentrate the Uranium from their food.

This could work very well in a SciFi game. Perhaps the characters encounter a planet which uses animals for purifying materials in this way? Smelters get replaced by herds.