Xenotransplantation – System Agnostic Medical Procedure for RPGs

Content Warning: mental health, self-harm, general “body horror” themes.

Xenotransplantation is the medical practice of transplanting tissue across species. Commonly used to refer to transplanting non-human tissue into a human host. For this document, we will be using it to refer to the specific practice of transplanting from a sentient race into a human host, for the purpose of enhancement.
For the purposes of explanation, we will be using a default setting of modern day, and default sentient race of “The Greys”. An alien race, with advanced technology.


Xenotransplantation is beyond the current technological ability of the human race. It is only possible through technology and understanding granted by The Greys. Finding or assembling a suitably equipped operating theatre should be a significant test of the character’s resourcefulness and contacts.

The Preparation

The difficulty of the operation should be set very hard, even for an experienced surgeon. Bonus’s can be given for taking the following actions:

  • Studying The Grey’s anatomy
  • Studying the accounts of previous operations (if there are any)
  • Having staff assisting during the operation (bonus per person, max of two)
  • The assisting staff studying the above information

Studying the required information should additionally come with a damage to a “mental” stat, or other appropriate penalty.

Available Procedures

The following procedures are currently available:

Subcutaneous photosynthetic implant
An implant is cultured in-host which covers the body, just below the skin. This prevents the absorption of toxins through the skin, and is near bullet proof.
Side effects can include photovoltaic symptoms, which disrupt the hosts nervous system.

Lymph gland and bone marrow transplant
Additional lymph glands are implanted in the neck; and bone marrow in every bone is transplanted fully with alien tissue. This significantly reduces / eliminates susceptibility to nuclear, biological, and chemical attacks.
The process is very long, and incredibly painful. Side effects can include Lymphadenopathy which, along with the normal complications, can result in production of pheromones outside of the hosts control.

Genetic therapy
Alien genes are inserted into the host cells, creating a more true “hybrid” of the two species. This is significantly faster (and more palatable) than “the Innsmouth way”. The effect is to allow the host to alter their appearance at will (though are constrained by the amount of mass they have to work with).
The process of “shape shifting” is debilitatingly painful, and the more it is performed, the more difficult it is for the host to literally hold themselves together. Eventually, the host collapses on a cellular level into mulch.
Side effects can include cannibalistic tendencies.
The character can never go to a hospital ever again.
Ongoing feelings of self-disgust, depression, Body Integrity Identity Disorder, Body Dysmorphic Disorder, self-harm, and withdrawl from society are all very common is successful transplantation procedures. In addition to this, weird dreams and visions of alien landscapes are uncommonly reported.

Guide to Alternative Settings

Science can pretty much be pallet swapped for magic here, and “aliens” for any sentient race. Effects can either be altered, or explained as emergent properties of combining the two species.
“Hard” / Far-Future Science Fiction
Medical practices and cyber augmentation are likely to have outstripped the benefits detailed here. The Greys should be swapped for an anathemic race, or very pure/rare race, and the benefits adjusted such that they are above what would normally be attainable.
*blank*punk / non-alien setting
If you would rather not add aliens to your setting (I’m looking at you Deus Ex: Invisible War), alien tissue can be swapped out for a variety of antagonist-related material. Industrial waste, genetically modified material, dinosaur DNA, holy oil, etc etc.
Family Friendly
Remove penalties and references to mental health, unless that’s a topic you are confident you want to specifically explore.

This article was written for RPG Talk‘s February 2017 Design Contest, which was to design a medical practice. 

Describe medical practices in your campaign. How are the practices performed?Is there a qualification needed to perform medicine? What materials are needed? Is the practice invasive?How successful are the practices? Entries are limited to 1,000 words and should be game system agnostic.

Credits and references:
Delta Green RPG created by Adam Scott Glancy, Dennis Detwiller, and John Scott Tynes

District 9

Overcoming the barriers to xenotransplantation: prospects for the future

New life for pig-to-human transplants

The main image is An Experiment on a Bird in an Air Pump, from 1768, by Joseph Wright

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