I just had a question I wanted to throw out to all those RPG designers and publishers who are on this forum for your input. Let's say you walk to a shelf and bought a book called "Alien Races". What do you expect to be in that book about each race for your game?
Off the top of my head:
A) What makes them different from Humans (Ex. Wings/Flight,)
B) What they share in common with Humans (Ex. 2 Genders, Male & Female)
C) General History (Ex. Achieved Spaceflight in 1492 AD - Earth Time)
D) General Technology Level
E) General Cultural Attitude(s) toward other species.
G) Religious Belief Systems
H) Major Economic System(s)
I) Major Governmental System(s)
J) Internal Politics (ie. Governments A & B generally work with each other, they are suspicious of C, barely sustained cease-fire with D, etc....)
K) External Politics with Other Species
I'd just add another question; how do they think? Being aliens, they don't have to think like humans at all, and probably their languages aren't even fully understable because of that. Just imagine if your languaje is translated as a 5x5 matrix of words!
I recommend reading C.J.Cherryh's The Pride of Chanur to get some ideas of different alien mentalities.
As I was watching the birds and squirrels at the feeder this morning, your question about xenobiology/sociology came to my mind. Specifically, I was thinking about the non-binocular vision of this animals adapted to a more full-circle vision usually seen in browsing prey animals. Binocular vision is more typical of hunting animals (such as predators and hunter/gatherer specias like humans). How would the world "conceptualization" be modified in a high sentience species by its morphological world "perception"? The mental processes to decode two eyes' sights of independent views must be rather than two eyes with slightly different views of the same objects -- talk about seeing both sides of an issue! What about a world view based on scent of events and objects that were here but, for a sight, sound (echolocation in an extreme), or tactical oriented species, are gone from current perception of the surroundings?
This is sort of a combination between "what makes them different than humans" and "how do they think". It is perhaps the human explanation (attempt at empathy) of "why do they think that way". How would a species evolutionally "designed" to be a non-predatory grazing herbivore develop into world-dominant sentience and how would its defensive (pacificist?), panoramic vision, migratory, whatever mentality shape its society? Did it abandon (overcome) some part of its biological makeup (like Vulcans rejecting their emotional nature), for example, to become an agressive/offensive species?
Vermonster wrote:This is sort of a combination between "what makes them different than humans" and "how do they think". It is perhaps the human explanation (attempt at empathy) of "why do they think that way". How would a species evolutionally "designed" to be a non-predatory grazing herbivore develop into world-dominant sentience and how would its defensive (pacificist?), panoramic vision, migratory, whatever mentality shape its society? Did it abandon (overcome) some part of its biological makeup (like Vulcans rejecting their emotional nature), for example, to become an agressive/offensive species?
At an evolutionary level one can look at the tasks that any individual species would be required to perform, and move from there into the general states in which reality would be perceived. Consider a solitary top predator, defined as one which has nothing that eats it. The tasks that those would be required to do is hunt, and protect territory from others of the same species. Both of these have different sub sets, hunting would be broken up into finding prey, stalking prey, and finally killing prey, at which point one eats. Protecting territory consists of vigilance, driving away others of the species, and killing others of the species that don't stay away when driven out. Provided that intelligence develops, one can expect certain traits. The species would be highly goal oriented, as emerged from hunting, as well as having conflicts between itself. However, the instinct to run from things bigger than it didn't exist, meaning that the capacity to cut losses probably isn't meaningfully developed, meaning that they think in a very linear method, pursuing goals while maintaining "territory", which probably consists of influence, material goods, and possibly information. What this also means is that in interactions with other species they will be highly aggressive, as they never really developed the notion of entities so dangerous they must be fled.
Now consider a prey animal. They work around the tasks of grazing, avoiding predators, and fighting when cornered. Grazing is a very gradual process, which leads this species towards continual gradual development. Other entities are either other "grazing" entities, or those that eat them, meaning that their thoughts tend towards escaping, with the acknowledgment of a "cornered" condition. This could transfer into giving up easily, or transitioning to new methodology once obstacles are encountered. This all changes once the "cornered" condition is perceived, at which point all the stops are pulled out and everything is tried at once. Its worth noting that the cornered condition doesn't mean physically cornered, merely that it appears they are screwed for whatever reason. This could even be a corporate environment, in which case it would manifest through a sudden flurry of attempts, suggestions, ideas, etc. none of which are all that thought through.
Obviously both of these just scratch the surface. Other traits that one would expect are easy to think of, the prey animal for instance would likely have a strong sense of self preservation, and think little of abandoning those that can't keep up. The predator would be prone towards not cooperating to begin with, and neither of these attitudes would be well understood by an evolved pack hunter (such as humans, which are somewhere between herd and pack animals who developed civilization).
The [-] die.