What We Give to Alien Gods (2021)

What We Give to Alien Gods (2021) is quite the zine. Again, as with most Mothership scenarios, the basic building blocks will feel familiar — anomalies, ruins, a stranded survivor, horrible monsters — but their configuration here feels entirely new, unsettling and unfathomable. It is also, for all its beauty and intrigue, a little difficult to parse and, probably daunting to run.

The central premise of the scenario is the discovery of alien ruins — a kind of temple. An NPC is committed to unlocking the temple, which might also be a prison. The means to assist in this, or foil the scheme, is in deciphering a visual triform glyph language used by the non-verbal civilization who built the temple. Another entity can also introduce a second xenolanguage to decipher. These, and the temple itself, are intriguing, atmospheric puzzle boxes, made more so by the fact that Mothership doesn’t have aliens (so discovering them is kind of a big deal) and the way the new Conviction system imbues events with a sense of imminent revelation. Something important is going to happen! Something that is probably beyond the comprehension of everyone involved.

Including, maybe, the folks playing the game. It is A LOT and it asks a lot of players, requiring a group to really want to play this sort of scenario. I think the end result is amazing, but it is really only going to appeal to a specific sort of player. And they are going to have to tolerate Scientist characters being the center of all the attention — they alone have the skills to directly interface with the mysteries (sort of like Decking in Shadowrun).

Whether or not it is broadly playable, it is a gorgeous experiment. Just reading it conveys a sense of doomful profundity. That’s a rarity, and worth the price of admission alone.

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