Booktalk: Hail Mary (and WIP game)

In the last few weeks I’ve had extra reading time, so I burned through Steakley’s Armor, Weir’s Project Hail Mary. Both were good reads for different reasons. I’ll put Armor in a different root post. Hail Mary has some similarities to the Martian - stranded protagonist “sciencing the shit out of” his problems. The difference in this one is that (very very mild spoilers ahead) he is on a mission to save humanity and he must deal with an alien intelligence.

When I read books I often wonder how they impact/can impact my RPG life. This one is a clear mystery game. I think it doesn’t matter that there’s only one protagonist - meaning I think it could be a game with multiple PCs. But I think the primary challenges would be a) meaningfully presenting challenges of a scientific nature and b) communicating with something alien.

One at a time:

Scientific challenges - the challenge is that the GM and/or the players might not be a scientists. Is that a deal breaker? It isn’t in Star Trek. They conjecture a “sciencey” (fictional) problem - like transporters creating clones - and they then let the solution be equally fictional - someone creates a Heizenberg compensator. This really just comes down to a series of challenges and rolls and some imagination - like anything else in an RPG - but is it satisfying?

Alien communication - This is basically a specific type of science challenge. How do you as the GM play an alien intelligence and what game process is used to represent communication mishaps and breakthroughs? I backed, but haven’t even read Dialect, but that one comes to mind as a game that might solve this problem.

I’m interested to hear anyone’s thoughts on how a game like this would be run - and especially anyone who has done anything in the same realm.

Sidenote - I once designed and play tested a game in which you are one of the early animals sent into space in the 50s and 60s and you encounter an alien intelligence. It’s a two player game. Oddly, I totally forgot about it until I typed this post. Here is the draft, if you want a look. Filename indicates I was doing this in Sep. of 2018.

“Atro- is a two-player story-telling game in which a test
animal, sent up in a rocket in the mid-20th century,
encounters an alien presence. First contact, and the
interactions that ensue as the alien ‘probes’ the astro and
evaluates its responses, leads to a summary judgment of all
species on Earth.”