Original SA post
Welcome to post one of two for this book with a rather interesting-looking cover. Do you remember the conspiracy genre boom of the 90s? I do. RPG developers sure as hell do, to the point where it was extremely difficult to figure out what thing I wanted to cover first in the genre, even with the caveat of “no starting on a setting with further sourcebooks below it before Cerulean Seas is done”, which eliminated Conspiracy X and a few others right off the bat. The conspiracy theory has been around for far longer in both reality and fiction, of course – the book
is a good introductory look at conspiracy theories from Victorian anti-Freemason sentiment up to modern Trutherism if you are into that – but the Clinton years seemed to have a perfect storm of the sentiment that fuels conspiracy theories and squeezed the genre into fiction in a big way with media such as the X-Files series and the rather bluntly-named film Conspiracy Theory.
My original plan was to review 100 Conspiracies and 100 Conspirators by James Desborough, who you are probably familiar with if you read the Grognards.txt thread, but the constant repetition of the same “[conspirator] wants to kill [person], players protect them” plot points repeatedly sapped my will to live before I could actually get to the creative or stupid/offensive parts. So what made me choose this particular title to start off with instead Well, this sourcebook is special because it has the involvement of actual conspiracy theorists. Developer David Jarvis looked to the amazingly insane minds of Ground Zero radio, including its creator Clyde Lewis (whose
you should read, it's fucking amazing), as creative consultants.
Our introduction to this title is through the eyes of Clyde Lewis, who tells of his supposed encounter with a Man in Black who tried to kill him in a car bombing later. The author labels this in the table of contents as 'introductory fiction', which both amuses me and makes me wonder if that angered Lewis doing the creative process. The whole thing is a gold mine, but the ending paragraph definitely helps set the town for the title.
Chapter 1: Alien Invasion Campaigns
“Introduction by Clyde Lewis” posted:
I know what I know and I am not afraid of the future. I am not fearful of the Men in Black because I have met them. I don’t wait for UFO’s because I have seen at least two. DEA agents fly black helicopters. God is an extraterrestrial and the more I see what is going on in Washington, I can only speculate using circular logic that the aliens have landed on the White House lawn. They may even be hanging out in your local desert, smoking a cigarette and swapping girlfriend stories with your red-blooded American G.I. Joe. If you’re lucky, they may even pose for a photo. Just don’t go telling everybody that you have a picture of an extraterrestrial. It just alienates people.
The first question asked by Alien Invasion is the rather important one of what type of extraterrestrial campaign you want to run. The assumed campaign type is
– this is the style of the X-Files and the like, wherein aliens have had contact with Earth and may even have agents and shapeshifters on the ground, but their overall current actions are on the down low.
is a similar but bleaker campaign type wherein the aliens have already taken over Earth in disguise without any struggle and the player characters are basically playing Rowdy Roddy Piper in
The other two campaign types both have aliens out in the open but on different ends of the spectrum.
has the extraterrestrial forces doing what they feel is best for humanity in the long run (though that may end up coming in unpleasant ways, such as forced artificial insemination or peace by force), while
is the beginning of a full-scale military invasion.
History of Aliens in Our World
This segment is exactly what its name implies, and starts by diving straight into old school Von Daniken with the ancient astronauts/aliens as gods concept. The pyramids worldwide? Aliens. Nazca Lines? Aliens. The moai of Easter Island? You guessed it. And top it all off, the greatest creation of the aliens is humanity, created as a slave race by the Elohim of planet Nibiru. The Elohim eventually lost Earth due to their own stupidity, deciding that the best way to stop a growing human rebellion was to flood the whole planet. The humans survived in an ark submarine (!), while the Elohim bases were wiped out and they headed back home after deciding the whole effort wasn't worth it.
Apparently nothing interesting at all happened between ancient times and now, though, as the timeline hops straight to 1942 and the “Battle of Los Angeles”. This is a real event in that on February 24, 1942, something airborne spooked the Army enough to light up the sky with anti-air fire. In real life, of course, this was most likely a stray balloon that was exacerbated by post-Pearl Harbor paranoia, but here it is a genuine alien craft. The inability to knock the UFO down is seen as an embarrassment and a sign of weakness, which leads to the creation of an anti-alien military unit known as the Interplanetary Phenomenon Unit (IPU). The IPU later goes on to nab the debris from Roswell and replace it with a torn up weather balloon, as well as capture and vivisect the Grays that were piloting the saucer. This is where the “history” technically ends. The rest of the 20th Century is covered, just farther on in the chapter for no apparent reason.
Where's the evidence? It's all around us, the text proudly claims, we merely need to be able to identify it. And identify it we can. The main check is a Forgery check, whether or not the evidence is real. If the evidence is hoaxed, the Forgery check is the investigator's Forgery check versus the hoaxer's original Forgery check to prove it is false, while actual evidence has a flat Forgery check DC of 20 and success equates you realizing it is actual evidence. Specific forms of evidence can be scrutinized further for details – a Knowledge (Art) check can be used to determine the speed, luminosity, and composition of a photographed UFO, Knowledge (Technology) can pinpoint the specifics of radar scans, Knowledge (Mechanical) is used to identify anomalous equipment malfunctions caused by a UFO's presence, and Knowledge (Earth and Life Sciences) is a big grab bag that lets you uncover various physical evidence ranging from magnetic anomalies in the soil around a UFO landing site to anomalies left on a living being.
This section is a UFOlogy 101 lesson on the “encounter scale” designed by J. Allen Hynek. In the time after his work on Projects Grudge, Sign, and Blue Book, Hynek designed his six-point encounter scale. This scale is nocturnal lights (lights seen at night), daylight discs (daytime visual confirmation from 500+ feet away), radar visual (radar confirmation), close encounter of the first kind (UFO clearly seen less than 500 feet away), close encounter of the second kind (UFO interacts with the physical world, like torching plants or leaking radiation), and the ever-famous close encounter of the third kind (a seemingly living and animate being is encountered).
Various UFOlogists after Hynek decided that the close encounter of the third kind just wasn't cutting it. Under this methodology, the third close encounter is limited to when the occupants of the UFO are seen but not interacted with. Anything further is reclassified as close encounters four through seven.
Close Encounter of the Fourth Kind:
The aliens abduct you, maybe scan and probe you, but don't engage in any activitiies beyond that.
Close Encounter of the Fifth Kind:
The alien speaks to you, be it verbally or telepathically. You don't have to understand what it's saying for it to count as this kind.
Close Encounter of the Sixth Kind:
Something gets killed. A cattle mutilation, human killing an ET, or an ET killing a human are all sixth kind encounters.
Close Encounter of the Seventh Kind:
There is an exchange of human and extraterrestrial genetic material.
Oh, and this can also include mutations instigated by aliens.
These have no real bearing on the mechanics, but it's nice to have a lot of fluff to back you up sometimes. Having your crazy conspiracy guy be able to spout off specifics of the case at hand certainly helps add to the feeling of the session.
Welcome to Close Encounter Four. Aliens are stated to not actually like to abduct people too often, as humans are a species "intelligent and prone to violence". Their paralysis fields have a Fortitude save DC of 20, so it's not exactly easy to break free, but they'd rather not risk having their scrawny gray asses kicked here to kingdom come if they can help it. Assuming that you don't have that great a Constitution score (which most average Joe NPCs don't), the routine is simple: get blood and tissue samples taken, have an unwanted proctology exam, and if you are really unlucky you may have aliens that are sick fucks rather than the usual sort.
Alien Invasion posted:
Abductees might be subjected to sexual intercourse with aliens or other abductees while under observation. The partners might even appear disguised as a spouse or celebrity.
Depending on the motivation of the aliens, they might even witness other humans undergoing experimentation. Sometimes corpses are routinely mutilated and stacked in piles, a threat of what will happen to the abductee if they don’t cooperate.
the violence-prone species?
Rather unsurprisingly, there's a chart of side-effects that can happen due to these horrific procedures. None of them are exactly pleasant, but some are definitely more actively harmful than others. Sure, having a 20% miss chance in dark areas or having fatigue-inducing nightmares if you fail a DC 10 Will save may be unpleasant, but others are far worse. 9 to 17 on the percentile dice roll? Your nails grow so fast that you have to spend a full round action to clip them once every
, lest you suffer a -2 penalty to Dexterity-based skill checks. 60 to 64? Congratulations, you have a permanent 50% reduction of your movement speed due to bone and muscle deformities.
There's also a high likelyhood that the aliens may have put an implant in your body during the procedure. These are all from d20 Future, but since you may or may not have read that, I'll note that the implant types are
(+2 bonus to one skill),
(you cannot be stunned/paralyzed),
(you gain a free feat that meet the prerequisites for),
(+2 to Initiative),
(+2 to saving throws against mind-affecting effects),
(go into a Barbarian rage once per day), and
(Wild Talent for free, congrats on your psychic powers).
There are also two somewhat out of place notes here. One is for using a Knowledge (Behavioral Sciences) check to psychoanalyze an abductee, which seems like it would have made sense to put under the "Documented Evidence" section further back, and the other is NPC stats for a farmer (a Rural occupation human Tough Ordinary 1).
Well, two of them, at least. Both of the alien cults given pages of profile info here are real, though obviously they have been embellished for a world where they are completely and totally correct about aliens existing.
is the more magical half of the pair. This UK-based alien cult conveniently answers to an extraterrestrial race known as the Interplanetary Parliament. Members of this Parliament include Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, and Aetherius, the guy who the society takes its name from. Aetherius contacted founder George King back in the 50s and was all "hey man, you're fucking up the planet with all your capitalism and pollution, be Magic Socialist Planeteers in our service". And became Magic Socialist Planeteers they did. Most of the activiities of its members involve prayer, meditation, and supporting green movement ideals such as nuclear non-proliferation and anti-pollution efforts. Aetherius Society members get access to their own spellcasting advanced class, the Aetherian, which is described later in the book.
On the other side of the coin are the
, a psionics and superscience-themed organization. They revere the Elohim - you know, those guys who flooded the planet when they got huffy about humans having a slave revolt - and have received their secrets of perfect cloning technology because they apparently changed their mind about the whole "wipe out humanity" thing some time in the past millennium. The ultimate goal of the Raelians is a world ruled by the smartest people and genetic manipulation on a mass scale to please the genius nature of the Elohim. They also have a lot of free love, because what's an alien cult without at least one hippie trait? As with the Aetherius Society, the Raelians get a namesake advanced class that won't be covered until later.
Why do aliens mutilate cows? Why, for science, of course! To be more specific, cattle and other large mammals apparently have the right chemical and physical composition to grow special organic devices that can be used to filter out pollution and stabilize (or imbalance) hormones. That rage implant you got? Came from a cow. It's also used by Grays in experiments to try to figure out how to make themselves fertile again, as they are completely sterile and have been for a long time.
There are also stats for a cow as a CR 1/2 Large Animal. The d20 Modern Core Rulebook already had generic herd animal stats said to be applicable to cows, but apparently the authors of Alien Invasion thought that CR 2 was too high for cattle. I've been around cattle enough to disagree, but fair enough.
Messages from outer space? Not quite. Crop circles are, in fact, just the footprint left behind by a saucer landing. A footprint that happens to be crazy-radioactive, admittedly, given that the text states that for 1d6 hours after the landing a crop circle is three times more radioactive than the normal ambient radiation of the area. The strangest thing about this radiation isn't that it's left by alien spacecraft, though, so much as it doesn't act like normal radiation. Rather than use the standard d20 Modern radiation rules, the crop circle instead requires a Will save rather than a Fortitude save and does not cause radiation poisoning. Instead, creatures heal at twice the normal rate while in the crop circle's radiation if they succeed the save, and are either shaken, dazed, nauseated, or disoriented depending on how much they fail the save. I guess this is meant to be "psychic radiation" or something rather than gamma radiation.
It turns out that the conspiracy exists entirely because of H.G. Wells and family. The famous Orson Wells radio drama of "War of the Worlds" was actually a test to see whether we could handle the truth of extraterrestrials, and we failed big time. This incident ensured that the powers that be would not trust the truth of aliens to be revealed to the masses, which was further compounded by the fact that the powers that be are assholes:
Alien Invasion posted:
Finally, conspiracies help reinforce the superiority of those in the know, ushering in the few who know the full conspiracy into an elite group that can sneer at the unknowing populace (sometimes called “sheeple”).
This also happens to be where the rest of the timeline disappeared to. Why isn't it all just under the "History of Aliens in our World" section? Hell if I know. In any case, the story picks up with the fallout of Roswell. The Air Force and CIA got into a slapping match over who had the rights to UFO parts, which was settled by Truman going "fuck both of you" and creating the NSA as the premiere alien snoop group. The Bilderberg Group was created soon after to insure that both sides of the Cold War would similarly get along when it came to extraterrestrial threats. he big breakthrough, however, was after Eisenhower came into office.
In 1953, Eisenhower met and negotiated with the leader of the Gray aliens, Omnipotent Highness Krill. The terms of the treaty were that the Grays would provide their technology to the US and the US alone, and in exchange the US would turn a blind eye to abductions and mutilations. Of course, both sides were full of shit. The Grays were secretly negotiating with the Soviets as well, and the US was prepping a squadron of secret soldiers called Majestic 12. Majestic 12 were put to use both to dissuade the Grays from pushing their luck and to keep the conspiracy a secret. They assassinated Kennedy, they forced Nixon to resign, and controlled the flow of information to purposefully leak certain key ideas into the media.
The present day is more or less the near completion of the escalation between both sides. The Grays are implied to be the cause behind widespread rage virus outbreaks spread by infected chupacabras, while Majestic 12 prepares to engage in massive ethnic cleansing of anyone with extraterrestrial DNA before conquest of the Moon and Mars. Why is the ethnic cleansing needed? I dunno, I guess everyone's potentially a species traitor or something.
It's been pretty fluffy going so far, but it's going to get teeth-breaking very soon in the second half of Alien Invasion: the Crunchening! Big Gubmint, player character options, and aliens from Ataiea to Zeta Reticula await.
Original SA post
Chapter 1 Continued
Yes, the first chapter takes up so much of this book it continues into the second half of the review.
Where would conspiracies be without Big Government poking its head up? Unsurprisingly given the timeline stuff from earlier, the first (and, in fact, only) government institution discussed is Majestic 12. All extraterrestrial-related US government business immediately bypasses other government institutions and goes straight to these guys. On top of having moles inside of all government institutions from the CIA to the FDA, M-12 has four of its own special divisions.
retrieves UFOs and handles coverups, ]
reverse engineers alien technology,
(AKA the Men in Black) do the dirty work of dealing with people who Know Too Much and guarding top secret facilities, and
are the nerds who obsessively catalog all of the information about extraterrestrials. And how is all of this funded? Not by taxpayer dollars, but through
“Alien Invasion” posted:
This special fund is directly financed by the world’s illegal drug trade, actively encouraged and generated by Majestic agents who net millions (if not billions) each year from the flow of drugs in and out of the U.S. There is nothing Majestic-12 agents can’t have, including alien technology, if Majestic-12 feels the need is sufficiently warranted.
Where exactly the War on Drugs comes into this is unexplained. False flag? Do the confiscated drugs just go back into the system, even though it seems like a waste? I'm probably overthinking this crazy conspiracy theory plot.
The usual MO for dealing with people who Know Too Much is either browbeating them into silence, psychologically torturing them until they commit suicide, or skipping straight to the killin' time. Particularly persistent cases, however, are dealt with in more “creative' ways, such as using psychic powers to transform them into a meat puppet called a horlock or “recruiting” them into M-12 specifically to put them on the front lines of a mission that is 99% likely to fail.
There are also some convenient stats for generic members of M-12. The
Pounce agent (Tough Hero 2/Smart Hero 2/Dedicated Hero 2)
is a somewhat tanky skill monkey with an emphasis on Spot and Computer Use, the
Redlight engineer (Smart Hero 6)
pumps all of their talents and feats into boosting most types of Craft skill to bonuses that you'd usually see on a 10th level or higher character,
Aquarius scientists (Smart Hero 3/Dedicated Hero 3)
boost both Craft and Knowledge skills equally,
Delta security guards (Tough Hero 3/Strong Hero 3)
are tanky fight-guys who have Damage Reduction and Ignore Hardness to hammer in damage while taking less of it themselves, and the
Aquarius medics (Dedicated Hero 3/Strong Hero 3)
are really strange in that they have Ignore Hardness as a talent on top of their myriad healing buffs in spite of the fact that they use no weapons.
If there are any organizations in other countries similar to M-12, which presumably there are, they aren't given any of the spotlight here. The contents of this section after the low-down on the organization and its members are purely a list of US extraterrestrial-related projects, from the real and rather unimpressive Blue Book to the crazy Excalibur, wherein the ingenius conspiracy guys' plan is “strap x-ray laser beams to a nuke and see what happens when it goes off”. I don't know about anyone else, but x-ray laser beams seem like overkill when you are already nuking ET.
As part of the “Black World” project, M-12 has made a bunch of underground cities that they utilize in their quest for supremacy. Black World cities are made using a nuclear-powered laser drill that melts through the ground quietly and without creating any tremors, allowing them to be made without any fuss, and are populated with both human and alien occupants. The largest bases are New Berlin, a pair of massive cities beneath Antarctica that are run by a human-Reptoid coalition. There are also eighteen bases scattered across Canada and Scandinavia, five bases in Australia, and forty-five small bases in Mexico. The number of bases in the United States itself? Forty-five, spread over twenty-one states. There are nearly as many bases in Mexico alone as there are in the United States, for this United States government operation. I can only assume that America is literally the World Police for alien life, and that's why there was never any mention of other conspiracy organizations outside of the Soviets in the Cold War and no other conspiracy organizations object to bases being built all over the place.
If you aren't an alien or a fed, you're here. There are four fringe elements listed, each with its own generic NPC stat block.
are the hoi polloi who believe in aliens but don't delve much further, represented by a lowly Dedicated Ordinary 1 who is completely unremarkable and shoved most of their skill points into Knowledge (Popular Culture).
are more actively involved in the community but aren't exactly amazing either, being Dedicated Ordinary 3 NPCs with most of their ranks pumped into Computer Use, Knowledge (Popular Culture), and Knowledge (Arcane Lore).
are the chronicles of “credible accounts” and “scientific” in their methods – Dedicated Ordinary 6 for them, again with a heavy focus on Knowledge (Popular Culture). Finally, you have the
, the people who in real life are not insane and include SETI researchers. The Exoscientist, fittingly, is a Smart Ordinary 3/Dedicated Ordinary 3 rather than straight Dedicated Ordinary, and focuses on Knowledge (Earth and Life Sciences) and Knowledge (Physical Sciences) over pop culture.
Ground Zero Radio
This the last portion of chapter 1. The least, though? Hell no. This is the part where we get to see how real conspiracy theorists who had a hand in the project chose to let themselves be represented. The entirety of the book is Open Game Content, too, including this section, which means this may be the only d20 book anywhere that has OGC stats for still living people.
“Alien Invasion” posted:
Ground Zero is broadcasted to over 200 low-power FM radio stations, short-wave stations and worldwide thanks to Omnisound Streaming Media in Miami, Florida. Ground Zero Radio is heard all over the world and is recognized as one of the most entertaining talk shows by industry magazines like Radio & Records and Rolling.
Through its news arm, News at Ground Zero, Ground Zero Radio continues to have an important presence in alternative news today. News at Ground Zero radically overturns much of the accepted paradigm within the current news media. From parapolitical affairs, to science and pseudo-science, to paranormal activity, to religious and spiritual matters, money, entertainment, health and well-being.
...And that, presumably, is why most RPG's
have stats for still living people.
, he of the amazing Wikipedia page, is up first. Clyde was an actor in
Citizen Toxie: the Toxic Avenger Part IV
according to his intro paragraph, but that's far less relevant than the fact that he apparently has Raelian-bought clones of himself for when the Reptoids attempt to assassinate him. He's mainly “the man against The Man”, though, using Ground Zero Radio as a platform to reveal the horrible secrets of M12, who are apparently incapable of dealing with the problem of a man who they can't kill. He's a Charismatic Hero 3/Personality 3, meaning he's got plenty of ways to emotionally manipulate people. He also has a whopping 20 Charisma – yes, he has literally inhuman levels of Charisma – to fuel those abilities. Both of the other members of GZR don't have any ability scores that pass 16, so congrats on the honor, Clyde.
Second in command is
. Unlike Clyde Lewis, Duran seems to only be a colossal dork in real life as opposed to a man who believes in Men in Black, crisis actors, and Birther shit. Here in fiction land, however, he is the “bulwark against the vagaries of the web”, defending GZR from cyber-attacks and uniting bloggers against the conspiracy. He's a Dedicated Hero 3/Charismatic Hero 3, but the writer apparently forgot to give him any talents as if he had Ordinary rather than Hero levels. Whoopsie!
(no Wikipedia page) is the last part of the trifecta, being the “smart, honest, and sexy reporter” who can “disarm anyone with her sense of humor and charm”. In game-terms, this translates to being a complete class-dipping clusterfuck of Charismatic Hero 2/Dedicated Hero 2/Smart Hero 2 to get skill emphasis on Investigate and Gather Information plus the Fast-Talk talent for that whole humor-disarming thing. Oh, and she has Wild Talent, giving her the psionic powers
. A telepathic, telekinetic reporter is certainly useful to have around!
Chapter 2: Character Creation
Two new occupations introduce us to chapter 2, the character rules chapter. The first of these is the
. As you could probably ascertain, the Abductee occupation reflects someone who defines a lot of themselves by the fact that aliens abducted them. The occupation grants two permanent class skills out of Autohypnosis, Concentration, Decipher Script, Knowledge (Arcane Lore), Knowledge (Popular Culture), and Psicraft, a free cybernetic implant, and a +1 Wealth bonus increase. How being abducted by aliens makes you wealthier is beyond me, but whatever.
is the other new occupation, and it's just as obvious as the first. Its boons are two permanent class skills out of Computer Use, Decipher Script, Forgery, Gather Information, Computer Use, Knowledge (Arcane Lore), Knowledge (Popular Culture), Knowledge (Technology), Research, and Spot, one free skill out of Gearhead, Low Profile, Meticulous, and Studious, and that strange +1 Wealth bonus increase again.
As the designers apparently hold fast to the philosophy that good things come in pairs, there are two new advanced classes here.
The advanced class for the Aetherius Society. With d6 HD, average Base Attack Bonus, Will and Reflex save, Defense, and Reputation progression plus a good Fortitude save progression, the Aetherian effectively looks like the Acolyte from d20 Modern core with its bad Reflex and good Will progressions evened out to both average. The comparison isn't hurt when you notice that the first ability other than spellcasting,
Eternal Flame of the Logos
, is turning but with creatures of the Alien subtype rather than the undead. This is upgraded at level 8 of the class to
Turn Black Magician
, allowing the Aetherian to use turning on arcane spellcasters.
After getting the standard d20 Modern core rulebook caster standby of
at level 4, the Aetherian gets the feature
at level 5. This allows the Aetherian to create what is effectively a magical mine filled with one person-targeting spell the Aetherian knows, expending a day of focus, lots of money (purchase DC 20 plus both the Aetherian's caster level and the spell's spell level), an experience point cost equal to the purchase DC paid multiplied by the spell level and caster level, and a Craft (Electronic check) that is 15 plus the spell level and caster level. This may seem like a lot of work, and it is, but the payoff is a magic item that gets fifty charges of whatever was put into it. That many free uses of something like
wouldn't be something to sneeze at.
The two remaining levels that aren't the bonus feats that get granted at levels 3, 6, and 9 by almost every d20 Modern advanced class ever are, alas, both pretty boring. Level 7 nets the Aetherian
, which is a Sense Motive check against a Bluff check. No bonuses or anything, just literally something anyone with Sense Motive can already do. And level 10?
, another generic thing d20 Modern core caster classes both got.
The other cult-specific advanced class. It has d6 HD, good Base Attack Bonus and Will save progression, average Defense and Reputation bonus progression, and shitty Fortitude and Reflex save progression. Mostly normal for a non-combatant class, save for that unexpectedly strong BAB. Also rather strange is that the Raelian's bonus feats are at levels 2, 5, and 8, breaking the aforementioned mold of nearly every other advanced class.
Class feature-wise, expect a lot of skill checks.
at level 1 grants the Raelian a bonus to Diplomacy checks equal to half their levels in this advanced class,
at level 3 lets the Raelian make Gather Information checks without spending money if they are gathering info from a non-hostile organization, and
at level 6 grants a flat +5 bonus to Computer Use checks made to bypass computer security and to Research checks.
grants a +4 bonus to Reputation at levels 4 and 7, which is useful given that the big skill-related class feature the Raelian gets at level 9 is
. This lets the Raelian select a number of people equal to their Reputation bonus to become "Raelian consuls", which in game terms means they gain the benefits of the Information Access and Restricted Access class features even if they don't have the Raelian advanced class. And, of course, Raelians wouldn't be Raelians without that cloning angle, and the level 10 class feature is indeed just that. As soon as the Raelian dies, their consciousness goes into a clone body and awakens 24 hours later. The only time this fails is if the character does something suspicious, such as die too many times in quick succession, at which point the Elohim say “stop being a fuckup” and cut off the psychic brain transfer.
Reprints of the Alien Weapons Proficiency, Planetary Adaptation, Starship Operation, and Xenomedic feats from d20 Future. Since d20 Future is part of the Modern SRD, I'm not sure why these are reprinted without alteration, so let's quickly move on.
As the text of the book says itself, aliens are often associated with psychic powers, so it's not surprising to get new psionics out of Alien Invasion. All of them except one (
, specifically) are explicitly stated to be for alien or NPC use rather than human player character use. There are few enough that I can do a full rundown without going on for multiple paragraphs, so let's get right to it.
Activate Organic Portal (Telepath 3)
An organic portal is activated. What is an organic portal? Well, you'll need to wait a little longer for that.
Aura Sight (Telepath 3):
Basically a psionic version of the
detect magical aura
spell. The main difference is that it is keyed in on specific types of character. Humans, organic portals, horlocks, and extarterrestrials all have different auras that can be picked up by the power.
Cloud Mind (Telepath 1):
The target becomes blind to the manifester's presence, effectively rendering the manifester invisible unless they actively engage in a threatening act or alter the environment around the target in a very noticeable way.
Cloud Mind, Mass (Telepath 5:
The above, but with as many people as the manifester has caster levels rather than a single target.
Correspond (Telepath 3):
AKA extreme telepathy.
has no range limit at all, but instead has the caveat that it can only be used on a target that the manifester has actively had mental or physical contact with in person before.
Create Horlock (Telepath 5):
activate organic portal
, this one does exactly what its name says. Also in common with that power is that the horlock is a template we'll get into soon rather than right now.
Demoralize (Telepath 0):
The manifester imbues the target(s) with crippling self-doubt, leaving them shaken. This is stated to be used by hostile aliens to make abductions easier, but I can just as well see psychic M-12 members utilizing it to deal with those who Know Too Much.
Detect Hostile Intent (Telepath 1):
Actively hostile individuals within a 30 foot radius are identified and cannot surprise the manifester or catch them flat-footed for the duration of the power.
Disable (Telepath 0):
Any living thing (undead and constructs are exempt) with 4 or less HD are given the false sensation that they were just dropped to 0 HP, and fall unconscious accordingly.
Empathy (Telepath 0):
Thanks to sensing the emotions around a 30 foot radius, the manifester gets a +2 bonus to Bluff, Diplomacy, Intimidate, and Sense Motive checks on the round after they stop concentrating to keep the power up.
Mental Disruption (Telepath 1):
Will save or the target is dazed for a round.
Mind Probe (Telepath 4):
Psychic interoggation. The manifester gets to ask one question per round (the power lasting for a number of rounds equal to their manifester level), and the target must make a Will save or answer truthfully. If the power is manifested on a sleeping character, their privacy is immediately violated and the truthful answer is attained immediately, with the Will save instead being to wake up from the sudden intrusion upon the target's slumber.
Psychic Vampire (Telepath 3):
This power's main ability is to siphon away power points from a psionic foe, but it has a creepier secondary use. If used on a target that has no power points (be the all expended or simply not psionic), the power drains 2 points of an ability score depending on what the manifester is doing with the target at the time – Constitution damage if just in the target's proximity, Intelligence if intimidating or seducing the target, and Wisdom if having sex with the target. This can only end in
Read Thoughts (Telepath 1):
Congratulations, you are capable of picking up basic surface thoughts.
Remote Viewing (Telepath 3):
A spell that lets you view things...remotely!
You have to have at least some passing knowledge of what you are looking for, but otherwise the spell has no effective limit, being capable of viewing even across dimensions.
Tongues (Telepath 1):
The same thing as the spell of the same name.
Spells far a lot less better than psionics. There are six new spells, but five of them are literally just Aetherian-themed versions of the
cure light wounds
cure critical wounds
spells – renamed “light radionic healing” through “critical radionic healing” – each being one spell level higher than it would take for an Acolyte to cast the same cure spell. The only purely new spell is
, which bathes an area in holy light that gives a +3 bonus to the Aetherian's Eternal Flame of the Logos class feature and induces a -1 penalty to attack and damage rolls as well as saves for any creature of the Alien subtype in the 20 foot radius blessed by the spell. The bonuses for
are doubled if they are cast on one of the “holy mountains” of the Aetherians – Holdstone Down, Brown Willy, Ben Hope, Creag-an-Leth-Chain, Old Man, Pen-y-Fan, Carnedd Llywelyn, Kinderscout, and Yes Tor in the UK, Mount Baldy, Mount Adams, and Castle Peak in the USA, and Mount Cosciusko, Mount Ramshead, Mount Wakefield, Mount Madrigerfluh, Le Nid d'Aigle, and Mount Kilimanjaro for the rest of the world.
The final part of chapter 2 is a collection of new templates. This sort of baffles me, as the playable alien species and monsters are both in chapter 4, so you'd think these would be there as well.
Hybrid (+1 CR Template):
A human-extraterrestrial hybrid, refered to as “Homo noeticus” or “star children”. Even the arguably kind aliens that participate in this practice use pretty horrific methods. While the alien hybrid baby starts out in an artificial gestation bag to make sure its genetic aberrations don't go too out of control, it is then forcibly inserted into a non-pregnant woman's uterus after she is abducted and experimented on. The foster mother has to carry the baby, go through labor, and then usually gets abducted
so that the aliens can take the baby back. It's not explained exactly why the artificial gestation bag can't be used for the whole pregnancy, so this ends up coming off as another reason why Majestic 12 are probably right in their eventual plan to backstab the ETs. Stats-wise, the hybrid gets a +2 to Wisdom and Intelligence, as well as one mutant power. This is selected between either
(the hybrid can temporarily boost their Strength or Dexterity by 1d4+1 points once per day),
(a telekinetic field that provides damage reduction 3/- but shorts out any worn electronic devices),
(+4 to Bluff, Diplomacy, Handle Animal, and Intimidate checks as long as the target is within a 30 foot radius),
that requires focus to maintain),
(pretty self-explanatory, range of 100 feet), or
Ultra Immune System
(+2 to saves against disease, poison, and radiation that presumably stacks with the feat of the same name, as it's not stated to be a bonus feat).
Activated Organic Portal (+1 CR Template):
Organic portals are literally soulless sheeple, and make up over half of the human populace. Because they had the misfortune to not get a soul from the Elohim's Soul Matrix at birth, organic portals think of nothing more than food, sex, and the corporate machine. Their lack of a soul also results in a lack of empathy that is stated to be the cause of all “mob mentality” issues that have ever plagued humanity. Once the psychic power
activate organic portal
has been used on one of these beings, however, they gain this template and the status of Activated Organic Portal (AOP), effectively becoming traitors to their own species as they seek to manipulate others and perpetuate the status quo. The template confers +2 to Charisma but -2 to Wisdom, a hive mind with all other AOPs within a 50 mile radius that prevents them from being flanked or caught flat-footed, the ability to manifest the
power once per day, and a further +4 bonus to Charisma-based skill checks due to their manipulative and flattering natures.
Horlock (+0 CR Template):
While AOPs are designed to eschew the paranormal, the Horlock template is an active player in the conspiracy. The horlock is effectively an extraterrestrial zombie, its original psyche ripped away in place of a psychically implanted consciousness mirroring the alien (almost always a Reptoid) that created it. Its actions are that of its master, effectively puppeted by the faux consciousness implanted within it, and is used as an extension of that alien's agenda. The template induces a -2 penalty to Charisma, but grants at-will
, a +2 to Will saves, and a +2 bonus to damage rolls against creatures with souls that increases by a further +2 for every 5 class levels the horlock has.
Grisi (+1 CR template):
More or less rage zombies. Those with this template are afflicted with grisi siknis, space-rabies that came to Earth with infected chupacabras. This happens to be the only of these templates that can be applied to non-humanoids, though said creature must have the Alien subtype to be afflicted nonetheless. A grisi has its natural HD boosted to d12 in size, +4 to Constitution and Strength, a +2 bonus to Fortitude saves, a further +5 to Fortitude saves specifically made to resist massive damage, a strong slam attack if the base creature didn't already have natural attacks, damage reduction 5/-, an immunity to mind-affecting effects, and three bonus feats (Improved Damage Threshold, Blind-Fight, and Toughness). A grisi also, of course, carries grisi siknis. The Fortitude save against it is DC 16, and those who are infected sufer 1d6 and 1d6 Charisma damage on failed saves, as well as getting the grisi template if it's applicable of course. This ability damage means that if the disease ever bypasses their boosted Constitution, a grisi will eventually end up going into a coma and dying even if some plucky band of heroes doesn't kill it.
Chapter 3: Alien Technology
Confidentiality and Weapons
Standard d20 Modern has five ranks of item restriction: None (+0), Licensed (+1), Restricted (+2), Military (+3), and Illegal (+4). Alien Invasion decides to take that up a notch, however, turning it up to 11. +11, specifically, as that is now the maximum the scale goes with the new levels to it that have been added. Confidential (+5), Secret (+6), and Top Secret (+7) are real world classification, but beyond that you go into the above Top Secret ranks. Sensitive Compartmented Information (+8) is clearance for top secret projects worked on by only a few individuals, Special Access Program (+9) is for alien technology that is eventually planned to be leaked down to the military and then the civilian populace, Unacknowledged Special Access Program (+10) is for technology that is known only to the knowledgeable inner circle of the political elite, and Black Project (+11) reflects stuff that even the elite don't know the conspiracies are working on. Hilariously, even black projects can be bought on the black market, just with a long waiting period and expensive price tag.
To show these new restriction ranks off, there are three new weapons. The particle beam pistol and particle beam rifle are both Special Access Program projects that deal fire damage (2d10 for the pistol, 3d10 for the rifle) through unspecified atomic particles launched at an enemy, their technology gleaned from the Roswell crash. The other device, the Joshua beam, is a Black Project pistol that deals only 2d6 damage – comparable to that of an average modern pistol, just in sonic rather than ballistic damage – but also forces a DC 15 Fortitude save to prevent the target from becoming deaf and shaken for 1d4 rounds.
The aliens have to get here somehow, and the stats are indeed provided for a number of their craft. Before any actual ships stats are given, though, there is a list of completely new engines to power them. The electrogravitic (electricity based anti-gravity), magnetogravitic (same, but with magnets instead of electricity), ununpentium (the enigmatic “element 115”, which conspiracy theorist Robert Lazar claims was used to power the Roswell craft), and quantum (space is folded because quantum happens) engines are all a bit more esoteric than the more or less hard sci-fi engines such as ion and induction engines found in d20 Future. As for the ships themselves, there are few enough of them that, like the psionic powers, I can cover them all in brief list form.
The classic large (250 feet wide) flying saucer. It is lightly armored and weaponless abduction ship, and has been appropriated by M-12. The human version is called the TR3-A Pumpkinseed due to the fact that it glows orange for some reason.
Immense “cigar” motherships, 2,000 feet in length. It has no weapons of it own, but that doesn't matter because it has ridiculous defensive measures and an armada of ships to defend it. They are unsurprisingly extremely rare to see.
40 foot long egg-shaped one-man craft. Like the saucers, they have no weaponry, and are presumably meant to be utilized as scout vessels.
The triangular UFOs that began to displace saucers in pop culture and UFOlogy around the 70s. It is the first ship on the list that is actively armed, having a pair of fusion beams and a pair of CHE (conventional high explosive) missile launchers.
M-12's very own brand of terrifying, this recon fighter is designed to drop nukes wherever it feels like, since it can fly through space.
A smaller type of saucer than the alien variety, designed as a fighter that carries double particle beams.
A super-juiced version of a standard NASA orbital shuttle, designed to quickly whisk M-12 agents to the super secret international space station farther out in space than the actual International Space Station.
Northrop Quantum Teleportation Disc:
Effectively a better version of the alien saucer, with quantum engines supplementing magnetogravitic ones.
Imagine a Blackbird that can go into space and has both heavy laser weapons and a MIRV missile launcher. That's effectively the TAW-50 in a nutshell.
In a book that already has “
but in space”, the XH-75D somehow still takes the cake as the strangest space ship. This thing is a space flight-capable
, using electrogravitic engines to covertly whisk Pounce teams to UFO crash sites.
For no really apparent reason, this section also reprints another piece of material from the Modern SRD without any alterations – in this case, the alien probe (CR 5 Small Construct), renamed the Airborne Remotely Operated Device. Long story short is that the alien probe/AROD is effectively a smarter version of an Earth drone, capable of teleportation, psionic powers, electrical blasts, and creating a sickening aura. I kind of planned on doing the d20 Modern Menace Manual in the future, which is the part of the Modern SRD that ended up getting noted here, but I guess it doesn't hurt to note it early.
Just what it says. There's an add-on to armor that laces it with stealth camo nanomachines, another add-on to give armor a personal antigravity field, a neural computer interface that lets you do Computer Use checks in half the usual time, an aircraft trait that increases its speed by making it pliable and aerodynamic to a supernatural extent, a Tricorder with the serial numbers filed off, and super healing gel in a can.
From left to right: Ataien with an incorrect number of arms, Dwarf, Elohim, Gray, and Reptoid
Chapter 4: The Alien Agenda
The “playable” species of Alien Invasion are finally here. I emphasize those scare quotes because the idea, of course, is that you're supposed to be a crew of conspiracy theorists rather than aliens if you are playing the campaign setting "correctly". Indeed, this chapter is intended to be cordoned off as a Game Master-only zone, which even the stuff on Majestic-12 wasn't. Either way, we have seven new species to get acquainted with. All of them, of course, have the Alien subtype.
Ataien (LA +0 Medium-size Humanoid):
Human-sized grasshopper men from space. If you think these guys were put in just to take up some extra space, you're actually dead wrong. While some aliens, such as the Grays and the Reptoids, have had true cultural staying power, it is best not to forget that there have been many "waves" of specific trends in supposed alien encounters. From floating brains to space mummies, there have been a lot of weird things said to come from space. The aliens referred to as Grasshoppers, Mantises, or Insectoids are one such strange trend that quickly came and went in the 1960s and 1970s. Perhaps directly as a result of how little they were ever discussed, the Ataiens here are not given much backstory at all: they sometimes abduct people, but beyond that they are inscrutable. An Ataien character gets a +2 to Intelligence and Wisdom but -4 to Charisma, +3 natural armor bonus to Defense, the typical bonuses associated with having four arms (+4 to Climb and grapple checks, extra hands to hold stuff with), and the same hive mind trait that AOPs have.
Dwarf (LA +0 Medium-size Humanoid):
The Dwarves, sometimes more specifically referred to as Hairy Dwarves, were almost entirely limited to the start of the Cold War as far as purported sightings go. Their appearance is that of a short, squat, and hairy humanoid figure with bulging eyes and wide mouths. Reports of these aliens always described them as effectively being the unstoppable labor force for some other alien species, mining out ore and shrugging off any attempts to harm them. Sadly, while the flavor has been changed, the playable species stats here are just a reprint of the standard D&D/d20 Urban Arcana fantasy dwarves, just with the Alien subtype tacked on.
Elohim (LA +1 Medium-size Humanoid):
The Elohim are the representatives of one of the longest lasting archetypes of alien, the "Nord". These blond-haired, blue-eyed space brethren have been floating around since the 19th Century, though their biggest popularity boom was in the 1950s. They Elohim are protective of humanity and are afraid of the coming interstellar war, and have attempted to use the Raelians to prepare the best of mankind for what's ahead. Stats-wise, Elohim are pretty damn impressive: +2 to Strength and Constitution and +4 to Charisma without any ability score penalties, as well as access to the psionic powers
mass cloud minds
three times per day.
Gray (LA +0 Small Humanoid):
One of the most famous aliens from the '50s onwards. You know these guys – gray skin, short, big heads, big eyes, tiny nose and mouth. In the world of Alien Invasion, Grays are not actually their own faction. They were actually engineered by the Reptoids as a slave race, incapable of breeding or feeding on their own. With +4 to Intelligence and Wisdom but -4 to Strength and Constitution and -2 to Charisma, the Grays are basically tailor-made to take levels in Telepath and spam psionics. They even have some natural psionics right off the bat, being able to manifest
at will and
once per day
Man in Black (LA +1 Medium-size Humanoid):
On top of the Majestic-12 agents referred to as Men and Black, there is also this entire species of aliens referred to by that monicker, which I'm sure won't get confusing at all. MIBs all resemble adult male humans with angular facial features, all of them drive all-black vehicles, and they all have monotone voices. They have no particular allegiance to any other alien species but nonetheless have a driving obsession with keeping the Conspiracy upheld. Stats-wise, the MIBs have +2 to Strength but -2 to Charisma and a potent set of psionic powers –
at will and
false sensory input
three times per day.
Reptoid (LA +1 Medium-size Humanoid):
Popular since the 1980s and the go-to guys for conspiracy theorists such as David Icke, the lizard-like Reptoids of Alien Invasion take the role of head honcho. The horlocks and Grays are their slaves, they hire mercenaries from the dwarves and the ataiens, and they have been manipulating Earth governments to move toward a one government New World Order that they plan to rule. Humans are seen as potential slaves and food sources, nothing more, and all alien negotiations Majestic-12 has undergone have been plots engineered by the Reptoids to steer humans away from the benevolent extraterrestrial species and into their waiting claws. Reptoid characters get +4 to Strength but -4 to Charisma, darkvision at an above average range of 120 feet, and psionic powers (
false sensory input
mass cloud minds
thrice per day). A larger winged subspecies of Reptoids known as the Dracos have a fly speed of 20 feet with poor maneuverability and +6 rather than +4 Strength.
Ultron (LA +4 Elemental [Fire]):
These fellows are the radiant beings that oversee the Aetherius Society. They're a ridiculously powerful species, to the point that the “average” Ultron hero is a Dedicated Hero 3/Acolyte 10, but somehow haven't succeeded in just wiping out the Reptoids in the wars between them. Even at level 1, though, an Ultron would be pretty imposing. They get +4 to Wisdom and Charisma, a void Strength score with Dexterity score filling in for melee attacks as if they were incorporeal (they're not, just gaseous), 60 feet of blindsight, damage reduction 10/+1, and immunity to electricity and fire damage.
Anomalous Biological Entities
The less advanced extraterrestrial species. As with the player species, all ABEs have the Alien subtype, naturally.
Chupacabra (CR 3 Small Humanoid):
You know these guys. While they are referred to as looking like a cross between a Gray and a Reptoid, it's unknown whether this is literally what they are or whether they have some other origin. Regardless of their murky origin, chupacabras on Earth are a dangerous invasive predator. With the ability to camouflage themselves in any environment, glide, leap long distances and pounce atop prey, sprint at cheetah speeds for limited durations of time, rake with vicious claws, expel quills that do as much damage as a knife blade, or straight up go for their namesake blood-sucking attack, these reptilian monstrosities have a rather wide arsenal of tools to use against foes.
Goblin (CR 3 Small Humanoid):
These guys are based on the famous Kelly-Hopkinsville encounter, an incident that ended up being popular enough that it was the inspiration for the Spielberg movie that would eventually heavily mutate into ET. Alien Invasion flavors them as being space hitchhikers that stow away on ships and float down into Earth's atmosphere to cause mayhem. They aren't really dangerous so much as inquisitive, and find scaring people to be an amusing game. They have damage reduction 10/blugeoning thanks to their metallic skin, as well as an eerie glow that illuminates their bodies.
Iken (CR 3 Small Humanoid):
A hardier, hairier version of the goblin, with a high Strength score to back up powerful claw attacks. These guys are actually more in line with the Hairy Dwarf aliens in UFO lore than the actual Dwarf stats earlier, right down to having that damage reduction 10/bludgeoning, and I wonder whether or not that might have been the intention.
Sasquatch (CR 3 Large Humanoid):
The big guy with the big feet. Shy and unwilling to engage in combat, sasquatch prefer to live peaceful existences in caves deep in the wilderness. To help them with that end, they are capable of manifesting the
detect hostile intent
mass cloud minds
psionic powers. I'm also fairly sure this is the only time I've ever seen d20 Bigfoot stats that didn't have the Giant creature type.
Few times do I have so many “it's good, but...” moments as when I look over roleplaying game books I like – Alien Invasion isn't really an exception. Its greatest sin is in its organization, which is kind of a mess. Chapter headers and section headers within a chapter have the same font size and color, and multiple points exist where I do a double-take as to why something is in one section over another that seems to make more sense. The bestiary is also really poor. Only four monsters, but all have the same Challenge Rating and creature type? Not exactly a great idea. It would have been nice to have some more of the really out there and different monstrosities of UFO lore like the Flatwoods Monster or the radioactive giants of Imjarvi. It also would have been nicer to have more character options than just the two cultist advanced classes. There was technically an Alien Hunter advanced class released as a one-off cheapie PDF supplement for the book, but I cant' rightfully count that as a pint toward the book if it's not in it.
The flipside of this is the wealth of weird that comes from having an actual conspiracy theorist as your creative consultant. Not only do you get to see the sense of what it means to be the hero of your own narrative, but there is also the surreal feeling of seemingly contradictory plot points weaving together. The alien player species are also very useful. In Wizards of the Coast's Menace Manual, almost all of the extraterrestrials were adaptations of the species from Alternity's Star*Drive setting, including the
Fraal, so seeing some Open Game Content stats of purported UFO occupants is nice. And best of all, the only one that doesn't really work (in my opinion, at least) are the Dwarves due to their whole reprint nature. The spaceships are also really nice, even if they aren't my “thing” personally. Short of having an official conversion of something like Conspiracy X, I can't imagine a much better extraterrestrial intrigue sourcebook for d20 Modern to have.