'Barbarism is the natural state of mankind,' the borderer said, still staring somberly at the Cimmerian. 'Civilization is unnatural. It is a whim of circumstance. And barbarism must always ultimately triumph.'

-Robert E. Howard
Beyond The Black River

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Alien RPG: Colony & Station Layouts.

The Basic Framework

The Core book states that Alien is generally played out on a map of a space station, a colony or similar structure or location, but where do we get these? There are certainly a few around on the internet and many get posted to the Facebook group "Alien RPG by Free League". Despite these excellent resources the time will come when you run out, or simply want something original. This article aims to give us an easy way to quickly whip up a colony or station. Colonies and Stations are fairly similar in their internal components: Power, housing, control, repair, engineering, food etc, however their physical construction will be considerably different. Let's start with the basics...

The map is divided into zones. A zone is typically a room, a corridor, or an area of ground. How big a zone is varies—from a few steps across up to about 25 meters. A zone is generally smaller in a cramped environment than in open terrain.
-Alien RPG Core, Page82

Another consideration is how fast characters and opponents move in the game.

In one Turn, you can move two zones on the map and explore them, scanning for enemies and getting a superficial description of these two zones from the GM.
-Alien RPG Core, Page85

We should also note that the Xenomorph moves twice that fast, so a map with 12 zones in it isn't going to provide a very long cat and mouse chase.

With these two basic factors in mind, we can give our map some thought.

The Components

For game purposed a station and a colony are not all that different, one is ground based and one is floating in space. certainly the structure between the two will change, such as foorprint vs height and the ability for ships to dock.

Looking through the internal modules on page 171 and the Novgorod station on Page 360 we can start to put together a list of areas in our new map.

Colony/Station Modules
Cargo storage
Corporate suite
Emergency escape vehicle
Landing pad/Docking bay or Docking Clamps
Mess hall
Med Lab
Science Lab
Machine Shop
Central Control
Power Supply
Defense Armaments
Security & Jail
Exterior Access
Maintenance Corridor

The final question I would ask would be what is this thing for? Is is a mining colony or a repair station? This can help flesh out some final ideas.
Main Use
Black Ops

The Layout

So now we have some idea of areas within our structure and maybe an idea of what it is for. We can finally start laying out our ship or colony, this is where we really need to know what we are building. Here we may see some design differences between a colony and a space station. Colonies are generally going to be flatter and wider, while stations are going to be more compact and taller.


We can look at Novgorod station in the RPG as an example of what they call the "Tapering Spire" design, and we see similar in Isolation with Sevastapol station. Gateway station provides another look at a potential design, and although I am unsure to the scale, it is best described as a grid of office towers in space.


Colony wise we don't have a large subset, but we can tell from Hadley's Hope that they are probably not going to be the highest end of facilities, especially in the beginning and they will be built largely from modular components. As we get our first looks at Hadley's Hope we see a set of low structures that could be a frontier town anywhere, complete with a neon sign advertising "bar". The colony is, of course, mapped out in detail within the Core RPG as it provides the setting for the adventure included with the rules.

Building the Colony/Station

You can choose from the lists or roll d66 to determine your outcome.

Step 1: Select the structure type

RollStructure Type

Step 2: Determine the structure's size

This will tell us the basic size of the complex and it's initial components as well as how many rooms or zones are present in each of these components.
ie a small colony has the following modules: Central Command, Power Supply and Exterior Access. Each of these are 1 zone large. In addition the structure will need to house and feed its crew.

RollBasic Structure
SizeBase modules & Layout MarkersBase Zone SizeAdditional Modules
1-26SmallCentral Command (CC), Power supply (PS), Exterior Access x2 (EA)12
31-46MediumCentral Command (CC), Power supply (PS), Exterior Access x2 (EA), Med Lab (ML), Landing Pad (LP)26
51-66LargeCentral Command (CC), Power supply (PS), Exterior Access x2 (EA), Med Lab (ML), Landing Pad (LP)312

Step 2a: Determine the structure's population and housing needs.

Knowing the a zone consists of a single room we can assume a barracks style might house anywhere from 4-6 people in bunk beds, or 2-4 people per zone in a more colonial/family setting. Once we have a total population we can divide the population by the style of housing to get a total number of zones required for housing.

SizeBase PopulationAdditional Population

RollBunk StylePop/zone

Step 2b: Mess Hall

Assign 1/4 of the housing total to mess hall zones for the structure, ie if we have 9 housing zones, we need 2 mess hall zones. These are probably in one large area adjacent to housing but could be spread across the structure in smaller sizes. When it comes to station layout, simply use MH as the initials.

Step 3: Determine the structure's makeup

All stations or colonies must contain the following to function: Central Control, Power Supply, Mess Hall, Housing and Exterior Access Everything else is optional.

Make a number of rolls on this table based on the Colony size determined in Step 2. You should re-roll duplicates.

RollModuleLayout Marker
11-12Cargo Storage
13Corporate Suite
14-16Landing Pad
26-31Science Lab
32-34Med Lab
35-36Machine Shop
65-66Emergency Escape Vehicles

Step 4: Determine the zones in each Module

Simply roll 1d6 for each module rolled above and add the following modifier to it.


Step 5: Colony/Station Shape

Colonies and Stations will look considerably different from each other, so this step is divided into two sub-steps, one for colonies and one for stations.

The concept here is the same, roll or pick from the chart to get the number of divisions present. Divide your total zones by this number to get an idea of how big each section will be.

ie If we are building a massive sprawling colony that has 60 zones, within an L shaped layout, simply divide the zones by the divisions, 60/5=12, to get a total of 12 zones per section. If you were building the same station with 60 zones and rolled a single spire we would divide the 60 by the 3 zones per spire level to get 20 levels. Generally speaking a station spire isn't going to have any more than 10 levels per spire. Divide the total levels together to get the number of spires on the station, in our example this would be 2.

If you don't have an even division, which is common, simply take the remaining zones and hold them in reserve and add them onto the layout as needed.

Step 5a: Colony Shape

Roll on the table below to get the basic layout for the colony.


Step 5b: Station Shape

As in all things the exact layout of a section, or an entire level is left to your discretion this is simply to give a quick basis to allow the generation of a station.

RollBasic ShapeDivisions/level
11-24Tiny Spire
25-36Small Spire
41-53Medium Spire
54-66Large Spire

Mapping the Colony/Station

Step 6: Division Layout

The easiest way to approach this is going to require a pen and a piece of paper.....OR Google Slides. As we continue through this section we will assume we are building a small square colony with standard dorm housing (4 people per zone).

  1. We will start by drawing out the number of zones in a division in as close to a square as possible. Once you have an idea of the size and shape of the area, you can draw the remaining divisions.

  2. Next, go through the zones and start populating each zone with its layout marker, based on the rolls in step 3. If you want to have a multi-zone mess hall, simply place the MH marker in adjacent zones. Add the extra zones onto the layout as makes the most sense.

    If you find you have a zone module that doesn't make sense, move it to a place that does. This article is a guideline on building a system, not a totally random chart based generator.

  3. Now take your zones and combine the ones you want to to make larger rooms as well as adding some shape character to the rooms to aid in narrative descriptions.

  4. Now we have a basic layout but we need to link them together in a sensible fashion.
    • People should be able to get from housing to the other areas without going through other housing areas.
    • Do we want people to have to go through Central Command to get to the rest of the base, or should it be off on its own for security?

  5. Now that we have a basic map we need to place some doors. As a rough guidline place a door at the junction between two modules or a module and a corridor. Finally split the larger rooms into their component zones. It is a good time to denote any doors with extra security levels on the map as well. I used red for high security, orange for special security and green for general access. This gives us a fairly complete colony or station. Only one step remains....

Step 7: The Underbelly

What Alien scenario would be complete without having a network of vents and sub basements?

1-36Air Vents
61-66Air Vents & Sub-basement

Step 7a: The Air Vents

No matter the roll, the structure is going to have some system to allow air to move to the various places in the station. This roll represents air vents large enough for a human to enter in a crouched way, think of them about the same size as we see in ALIEN. Except in extreme cases these vents are going to require characters to follow the crawling rules.

We now have a map which we can use to figure out how the vents look using a few simple guidelines.
  1. Place a marker representing a vent entry in any room you think makes sense.
    • I generally place one per room/module excluding airlocks.
    • Larger rooms might have multiple vents.
  2. Connect your vent entry points with the actual air vents.
    • Redundancy is good.
    • Follow hallways where possible.
  3. Make any marks on the map that denote secure hatch entries at vent junctions, or entries that require some kind of key access.
    • It is helpful to use the same color key as we used for the door in the previous step.

Step 7b: The Sub-basement

Ok, technically a sub-basement is a basement below a basement, but frankly it just sounds cooler than basement, so we are going to go with it. If you like, it will allow you to include a basement level should the plot suddenly require it.

I am viewing these areas as maintenance and possibly storage for the facility, and as such I picture them generally to be below the main base structures, but probably not below housing.
  1. The first thing I do is mark out the areas and shape I would like the sub-basement to be. Here I had drawn sub-basements below the main power generator, the garage and the storage area.

  2. Once we have the basic layout we can add corridors and doors onto the map, after all we don't want our sub-basement to be completely open.

  3. Now make note of the security levels you would like on the doors. I used the same color key as I have been using. You also may want to keep in mind how your main level security works and mirror that below. Although it might be an idea to use high security on the upper levels to force players into the sub-basement for some reason....

  4. Finally make note of the access hatches that lead into the sub-basement. I color coded these as green, just to note there wasn't additional security on these hatches.

Step 8: Additional Areas?

Like Hadley's Hope, these structures could have additional areas separate from the main colony or station. On a world, this might be represented by a refinery or atmosphere processor. Is there a direct corridor from the main colony to this structure or is it simply reached by crawlers and tractors? Perhaps it is part of the maintenance level?

On a station, there might be another spire that hasn't been defined yet or perhaps another smaller, separate orbital facility reachable only by shuttle. What is it for? Is it a dry dock, or perhaps just mineral storage.

Either way, referring back to those original questions we asked will help to flesh out this area of the structure which you may or may not decide to map out depending on how important it is to the story.

Step 9: The Completed Map

And now that we have walked through the set-up we have a complete map for a small colony or station complete with main level, air vents and a sub-basement.

Final Thoughts

As always these articles are meant to help you as the GM of your game produce ideas and stories for your table. They are not meant to be an end-all method of playing or creating. Please use these ideas and build on them or even think to yourself, "Wow that is dumb.", and go about it in another way. The basic layouts and lists of modules are ideas, add your own, take some off, whatever works for you.

If you have some time and need a colony or station this system can help you produce something that makes some amount of sense, but leaves you in the driver seat to build the structure that works for your game.

AND as always please leave me a comment and let me know what you think. Share the page with your groups and social media if you find it useful. This is a hobby for me, a way to give back, but I enjoy my hobby more when I have more people access the content here and on YouTube.

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