Modern Yeerk (Alien Parasite) Invasion
September 20, 2013 6:02 PM   Subscribe

I'm planning an RPG for a group of friends, using the Animorphs series as inspiration. I'd like to set the game in the modern US, the modern world. I need to at least sketch out how an alien race able to parasitically take over human bodies (gaining access to their thoughts and memories in the process) would plan out the first stages of an invasion. Their eventual goal is to enslave all humans as hosts. During the first months and year of the invasion, trying to keep the invasion under wraps, who would they target and infect, how would they spread their numbers and influence?

The weakness of the aliens:
- The parasite body itself is very weak, like a large slug
- In their larval state, they must be kept in a nutrient-rich chemical bath under intense synthetic radiation
- Once a month (not every 3 days like the book) the parasites must abandon their host to bathe in that same chemical bath and absorb the radiation
- When they leave the host, the host regains full-functionality, but has only vague memories of their actions while infested with the parasite.
- The organization of the parasites is highly militaristic, but there are competing factions within the invading forces.
- It's the beginning of the invasion and they don't yet have a good sense of human society/politics/psychology

The strengths of the aliens:
- No procedure is necessary for the alien to infect the host -- they simply enter through the ear and the human mind has no defenses once they're inside
- They gain full control of the host body immediately and access to all of the host's thoughts and memories. The host mind becomes weak and listless while the body is occupied by the parasite (unlike in the books).
- They have higher tech than human beings including:
Inter-stellar travel, faster than light using 'Null-Space'
Cloaking tech beyond what any tech on earth can pick up
The one-shot-kill Dracon beam as a weapon
The computer tech to hack any system on earth
Undetectable, faster-than light communications tech, again using 'Null-Space'
posted by ch3cooh to Grab Bag (15 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
they would look for large groups of weaker humans to infest and spread through first...a group where odd behaviour would go unnoticed for a long time. Old folks homes/retirement communities. bonus: creepy killer grammas. double bonus: eggs/larvae concealed in bowls of solidified ribbon candy.
posted by sexyrobot at 6:28 PM on September 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

I like the model proposed in the '78 remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers - first outcasts, then cult-ish leaders and members (preferably those on the margins of mainstream acceptability), then conformists. People who won't be missed or attract much attention, then those in whom iconoclastic group-think seems in character, then those who are easily influenced once a groundswell is underway.
posted by ryanshepard at 6:32 PM on September 20, 2013

The threat is that uninfected humans will notice something awry, therefore the alien's best, safest arrangement is isolated populations where all humans are infected, and there is little contact with other humans - the aliens are safe together without risk of detection, and any detection events would happen in an area they control completely and are strongest. This is also the best scenario for horror and thriller.

So I would envisage them starting in small isolated homes (farms), moving into small isolated towns (remote northern Alaska, northern Norway oil towns, remote islands, PNG jungle tribes etc), basically spreading where humans are scarce and thin and have little contact with each other.

Once there is a massive population unnoticed in the fringes of humanity, cities would be targeted, and those would be hit as fast as possible, because of the risk that humans are going to be able to notice and communicate things extremely rapidly.

In places like the USA where there vast armies of homeless people, the homeless would be targeted first, because no-one notices if homeless person is acting weird, and no one pays any heed if lots of them are doing something they normally wouldn't be doing, and anyone who did notice and care, wouldn't be paid attention to.

Maybe it turns out that the aliens screwed up - the tight-knit communities of rural life notice the change in people very quickly, while in the cities everyone looks the other way and ignores everything, and the aliens learn that their master plan was all ass-backwards!
posted by anonymisc at 6:34 PM on September 20, 2013

There's a rather old-fashioned Robert Heinlein book called The Puppet Masters that has sort of a similar concept, although some of the details are different (Heinlein's aliens were pretty large - visually noticeable if they weren't intentionally trying to hide themselves inside an article of clothing or even a purse).

In Heinlein's book, the aliens start by (IIRC) crash-landing in a remote, rural town in the US (and likely other countries as well). By the time authorities suspected something hinky was going on, the entire town had already been infected (infect the first responders to the crash, then use your host's knowledge to figure out the best way to get others into a position to be infected). Visitors to the town would be infected and be given a box of larva to bring back to their home base - it spread like a virus after that.

If your aliens can't or don't reasonably imitate their host, they'll have to be a bit more careful.
posted by muddgirl at 6:36 PM on September 20, 2013

For the periodic leaving of the host, the host wakes up in "hospital", they're told they've been in a car accident and had a head injury, then they're kept sedated until the alien is ready to return.

Buildings are converted to faux hospitals, with no facilities, just endless ward rooms, like a farm of wards, and even those rooms just a veneer.

Maybe that's part of the adventure - looking for an injured friend and ending up at the "hospital" where the medical equipment doesn't appear to be functional, and the reception staff seem intent on getting them to leave.
posted by anonymisc at 6:46 PM on September 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

You know that someone already wrote this RPG, right? It's called Burning Empires. And there are wikis and other online resources with some pretty good advice. Luke Crane knows his stufff.
posted by seasparrow at 8:05 PM on September 20, 2013

Your aliens would routinely check in with a central authority at regular intervals. They would start by observing patterns of human movement - they might not understand the nuance of our culture, but they could see how we travel around the planet. Then, they would infiltrate travel hubs. In other words, they would infect flight attendants and make sure that a handful of people were infected on each flight. Their infection numbers would skyrocket. If they really wanted to be evil, they could engineer headphones which would allow a parasite to slide into a person's ear, meaning everyone who watched the in-flight movie would become infected. They would land in metropolitan areas and continue to spread - loved ones, friends, anyone they could get the drop on for a moment. Within a matter of days, people would be infected en masse. Aliens would then check in with the central authority, with any information gleaned from their hosts' memories which seemed relevant. Sooner or later, they would understand how government works, and that they now controlled entire voting blocs. From there, it's really up to them. At that point they are already effectively in control.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 8:29 PM on September 20, 2013

Another approach: go for a a single, specific subculture whose members are generally believed to be such total yammering weirdos that most people wouldn't be surprised at anything from them. Ideally it would be a subculture that's just hit that pivotal moment where everyone in the mainstream is vaguely aware of them but nobody really knows much about what they're like or what to expect from them.

Basically, any group that's ready to be the epicenter of a good old-fashioned moral panic is ready to be taken over by aliens. Punks in 1978. "Hackers" or the Robert Bly men's movement (or punks again) in 1990. Burners or Juggalos or polyamorists in 1999.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 8:51 PM on September 20, 2013

- It's the beginning of the invasion and they don't yet have a good sense of human society/politics/psychology

Then you've got carte blanche for them to use non-optimal strategies.

I would spend some time before you start working on factional differences, and seeing what juicy synergies and conflicts emerge. Different factions will have different obsessions. Some ideas:

* A faction that basically takes its cues from their first "acquisition" -- pick one person's interests, worldview, and social group and imagine what it would be like if aliens took it as the One True Way to perceive the world. They could focus on something as conventionally effective as "suburban police," something quirky like "local baristas," or something a bit odder like "soccer hooligans" (which could make an awesome opening set piece)

* A grab-bag faction that just won't "settle down" on any particular target, whose diversity is its greatest strength and deepest weakness. This one will be the easiest to deploy on your PCs' families, regardless of background.

* At least one faction that uses social networks to its advantage. This is almost a given nowadays.

* Rank-and-file traditionalists, the least covert and most militaristic faction. Clear hierarchies, structured missions, bases, et cetera. Most likely to end up in a firefight with terrestrial authorities. Could insinuate themselves into an existing conflict -- gang skirmishes, local insurrection, full-scale revolt, even a conventional war. Masking the real crisis (alien invasion) with another crisis (collapse of the old neighborhood, a rash of bombings in $FORMERLY_PEACEFUL_COUNTRY, Cuban Missile Crisis 2013) could be a lot of fun, and place the PCs in danger that isn't clearly of alien origin.

* Field researchers dedicated to further development of their already awesome technologies. Think dangerous prototypes, horrible experiments, et cetera. Could be a good one to lead with, given the overlap with traditional invasion narratives.

I'm a big fan of the FATE system's advice about campaign creation, so some of the following is probably paraphrased:

1) Figure out the scale of the campaign (this could be the story of one town's struggle against the invasion, or the whole planet's)

2) Set up key locations, organizations, and characters. My personal instinct is to hold of on the aliens at first.

3) Deploy the bad guys according to whatever rules (or lack thereof) you've set up for them. When do the factions emerge? Maybe a few existed before the invasion, maybe a few develop afterwards. Let the scenario run for a couple of "turns," make notes of people/places/organizations that are Faction Strongholds, Besieged, In Conflict, and Alien-Free.

4) Figure out where you want the campaign to start.
posted by lumensimus at 8:52 PM on September 20, 2013 [3 favorites]

They could hijack drones, and ride around on them into people's homes. The drones would dig tunnels into their basements. This would start in Long Island, and gradually make itself into the city.
posted by oceanjesse at 8:53 PM on September 20, 2013

If the aliens can read the minds of their hosts, I'd imagine they'd be able to pick up on human society very quickly. In fact, they'd only be at a disadvantage by preying on marginalized / mentally ill people.

And if their first hosts cannot provide this information, they could have their hosts ask a popular Q&A site what the optimum strategy for infiltrating society would be.
posted by modernserf at 9:26 PM on September 20, 2013 [5 favorites]

"And if their first hosts cannot provide this information, they could have their hosts ask a popular Q&A site what the optimum strategy for infiltrating society would be."


Anyway, I think I have a solution. Lumensimus is right, that my focus isn't just creating a successful invasion, it's creating a good role playing environment. In a real invasion, the parasites might be aware of their weaknesses, but, for sake of a balanced game environment, in my design, the warring of the internal factions needs to play a significant role.

I see different factions going after different target populations. Outside of the US, one faction rapidly corrupts the government/elite class (china?), another corrupts the military (russia?). But in the US, a faction with a long-term outlook is going to go after...



Elementary school through college-aged vessels. And in the first stages of the invasion, a few thousand adults to help streamline the process of bulk-infecting the young. The justification is that the worst thing that could happen if the invasion is discovered is that humans attempt to wipe out all who are infected. The aliens find that we might be unwilling to do this to children, so that is their chosen bulk-infestation vessel for their own young. In the early stages of the invasion, hospitals, teachers, a few well-chosen government officials, and the police force will be slowly collected to help streamline the process.
posted by ch3cooh at 7:25 AM on September 21, 2013

Nasty and brilliant, perfect for a role-playing game.
posted by stoneegg21 at 1:19 PM on September 21, 2013

Even with knowledge of human society limited to what's on broadcast television, the best strategy is obvious: take over the Vatican.

1) It has a very small population: 839 residents. That's small enough that a coordinated rush could take in the entire population. In fact you wouldn't even need to do that at first because...

2) The entire population consists of members of a secretive, eccentric, hierarchical organization. One priest's memories will give you all the knowledge of the hierarchy you need. The initial covert attack could be aimed at taking over one small building to set up a breeding pool and irradiation facility. A cardinal's residence (complete with a possessed cardinal) would be ideal. With that much institutional authority, who's going to ask questions? Stealthily introduce more and more parasites into the population until step 1 is complete.

3) Owning a sovereign state opens up so many possibilities. With full control of the security forces (Swiss guards) and the border, moderately large scale facilities can be set up without any chance of international detection. (although perhaps your role-players might include a scientist who's detected unusual neutrino emissions coming from central Italy...) Now you've got the resource base to go international.

4) Tourists will be one way of spreading out to whatever countries you like, but the better option is to use existing church facilities. Churches would work, but the wiser choice would be monasteries and abbeys. Isolated, closed to the general public, and open to the local Bishop and his staff who are dropping by for a visit. Now you've got secure, secret bases of operations in dozens of countries.

5) Hospitals should be a taken over prior to spreading out. They're full of weak, vulnerable people, including powerful people and their friends. More importantly, from orbital viewing of House and Grey's Anatomy the aliens will be aware that CAT scans exist, technology that could detect parasites in-head. Infected civilian and military medical technicians could falsify and obfuscate, making it far harder for humans to notice and understand the stage 6 until it's too late.

6) one faction rapidly corrupts the government/elite class (china?), another corrupts the military (russia?) No. If the aliens have watched our television and movies they will know that large governments are notoriously paranoid. The most important advantage the aliens have is that no one knows they exist. Even if the odds that a possessed high level official will be detected are 0.01% per month, a strategy of targeting a few thousand leaders will be exposed far too soon. Once even one parasite is unambiguously detected major governments will begin cat scanning their leaders for parasites, successfully unless step 5 is in place.

That's why taking over large governments is the endgame. The aliens would be wise to move very fast, having spawned millions of parasites before making their move. The goal would be to move from not even being an urban legend to takeover of whole countries in weeks or even days, infecting exponentially more people every day as the newly infected spread parasites to others. At some point during this stage the invasion will be discovered and will be undeniable. The goal in the endgame should be to control not only leaders but whole infantry divisions (only 10-20 thousand people, and used to receiving inoculations on command). By the time the invasion is common knowledge, the uninfected populations will be opposed by the entire apparatus of their governments.

As an RPG, your party will uncover evidence of 3, 4 or 5, and thereafter become aware that the clock is ticking on doomsday scenario 6. Skip 1-4 if the idea of a Vatican conspiracy is too cliche, but it would be the best way to do it.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 2:25 PM on September 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Taking over children would also dovetail nicely with lumenismus's suggestion that they should pick up their hosts' beliefs and biases and worldview. Because kids have ideas about the world that are very skewed in a lot of ways, and watching aliens trying to run shit based on that point of view would be fascinating.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 4:48 PM on September 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

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