The Praetorian, also known as the Royal Guard, is one of the final stages in the life cycle of the species Xenomorph XX121, and arguably the most common and widely-acknowledged form of Xenomorph to emerge from the numerous expanded universe castes. Praetorians are created when a hive population gets over 300 individuals and serve as Queen or Empress' Royal Guard and army commanders and unlike other Xenomorph types, Praetorians rarely operate outside their Hive grounds. They are among the largest and most powerful Xenomorph strains. Visually, Praetorians resemble a Queen, though smaller in size (although they are still far larger than typical Xenomorphs), typically standing at least 10 feet tall.
A Praetorian's most distinguishing feature is its large head crest, similar to that of a Queen, which they will often employ to ram targets in a charging attack. Unlike Queens, however, Praetorians do not possess a second pair of arms on their chest, and their jaws, filled with metallic teeth, are comparable to lower Xenomorph castes. Like Queens, Praetorians typically possess longer dorsal spines that end in a sharp point when compared to other Xenomorphs that possess these appendages. Praetorians are dark in color, typically black but sometimes black-blue and stand over 10 feet tall, towering over their fellow Xenomorphs on the battlefield. Despite this size, they are almost as fast and agile as their smaller Xenomorph siblings, although Praetorians seem to remain in a permanent bipedal position, and owing to their bulk, they cannot scale walls or ceilings.
As is befitting of their size, Praetorians are incredibly strong and their thick skin, known to be bulletproof in some cases, enables them to shrug off damage that would be terminal several times over to most other Xenomorph castes. They are capable of defeating entire squads of human Marines single-handed and are even a match for Yautja in close-quarters combat. Praetorians can spit acid in far larger quantities than other Xenomorphs, and will also use their claws and long blade-tipped tails as slashing and stabbing weapons, making them deadly at any range. In Aliens vs. Predator, the Praetorian's upper jaw protrudes slightly, giving them an overbite.
Praetorians are smarter and more cunning than typical Xenomorphs. However, owing to their size and strength, Praetorians simply have no need for stealth and tactical movement in most cases and will simply attack targets directly. Owing to their role in protecting the Queen herself, they will ferociously combat any threats without concern for their own safety or survival, making them dangerous opponents. Due to their role as army commanders Praetorians have been known to emit a deafening screech that will summon additional Drones to their aid. It is said that killing a Praetorian would temporarily disorient the Drones it coordinates.
When a Hive grows over 300 individuals, the Queen chose Drones from her brood to become Praetorians, the chosen ones are feed by Workers with Royal Jelly until the transformation take place. During the transformation chosen Drones would begin to produce a pheromone that would cause the rest of the Hive to turn against and attack it. This process would result in the deaths of most such individuals, but for those that survived and escaped, the ordeal would serve to strengthen the individual. Now away from the Hive, the pheromone would begin to initiate physical changes in the individual, causing them to grow into the Praetorian form. Once the change was complete, the pheromone would cease to be produced and the new Praetorian would return to their Hive and take their place beside their Queen.
Some sources state that there is an intermediary stage between chosen Drones and full Praetorians, known as Royal Guards, a name which is also used to describe fully grown Praetorians. The Royal Guards are very similar to Praetorians but are smaller and weaker, have a less developed crest, and show more Drone-like features in the shape of their carapace, tail, and overall mesoskeleton. For this reason, it is possible that the Royal Guard merely represents a stage of molting for juvenile Praetorians as their bodies change from a Drone to a fully grown Praetorian and is not a separate caste or evolutionary stage.
It was debated whether a Praetorian will adopt genetic traits from its host as with most other Xenomorph castes, but this unlikely the case as only Drones can evolve into Praetorians. The Crusher is considered to be the "Praetorian form" of a Runner Xenomorph and the product of a Royal Jelly force-fed Xenomorph Sentry, the "middle stage" between a Runner and Crusher.
However, if Praetorians are created from birth through Praetorian Facehuggers, it would seem that the resultant creature haven't any special variance based on the genetic makeup of its host, thus as Praetorians are said to be pure Xenomorphs they are not bound as their lower counterparts to DNA reflex and don't alter their appearance based on the host creature's form, and will therefore always look the same.
Similar to how Praetorians are said to evolve from Drones, if a Hive lose its Queen a Praetorian would molt into a new one so the hive can be preserved and not claimed by another hive, however, if the transformation doesn't occur the hive is taken over and the former Queen's eggs and Praetorians are eliminated.
Specimen 6 is an example of the transformation as, during its journey on BG-386, it absorbed a great quantity of Royal Jelly and molt into a Praetorian. Shortly after in a Weyland-Yutani transport it was seen molting into a Queen, as its one died from the hand of Rookie.
Under certain circumstances, Praetorians can molt and evolve into Palatines, Queen-sized Xenomorphs and protectors of the Queen Mother. Similarly, they can also evolve into specialized offensive and support castes, being the Ravager and Carrier. The Ravager is a hyper-aggressive and durable caste with bladed arms, similar to the Mantis Alien. They do not harvest hosts and are developed to counter heavy hostile weaponry such as exosuits and APCs. The Carrier is the opposite of the Ravager, it has specialized dorsal spines for feeding and carrying Facehuggers, hence its name. The Carrier is not as durable but is capable of defending itself with its scythe-like hooked appendages in place of hands.
- The name Praetorian is derived from the Latin word praetor, the title given to certain high-ranking officials. The Roman Praetorian Guard were the personal bodyguards of Roman emperors.
- Praetorians constitute two of the seven "boss" characters in the video game Aliens vs. Predator (designated by an on-screen bar showing their health during the player's battle with them). The others are Wolf, the Matriarch, an unnamed Predator, Karl Bishop Weyland, and the Abomination. The Praetorians are notable in that they are the only boss character to be fought in more than one of the game's three campaigns — both Rookie and Dark fight a boss battle with a Praetorian. In fact, the Rookie fights a further two Praetorians near the end of the Marine campaign, after his initial boss battle with one, although these latter two are not considered bosses.
- Specimen 6 herself was originally intended to be a Praetorian for at least some of the playable Alien campaign, although this was ultimately dropped.
- The Predalien in Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem is speculated to be a Praetorian, and is considered a "Young Queen" by the film's directors.
- Although never outright stated as such in the actual comics, concept art of the Defiance Alien from Aliens: Defiance makes mention of the creature being a Praetorian.
- The Praetorian's appearance in Aliens: Fireteam arguably marks it as its first 'canonical' appearance within the Alien franchise, despite the caste existing many years prior.
- Praetorians seemingly share several traits with the way real-life clownfish operate in terms of social structure. Clownfish live in groups led by the largest member (who is always female), the second-largest (always male) being the second in command, and all other members (always sexless) being of equal rank regardless of size. If the female dies, the male matures into a female, and the largest sexless member matures into a male. It is unknown whether the writers were aware of this when the Xenomorph Praetorian was first conceived.
- Alien vs. Predator (1994 arcade game)
- Aliens versus Predator
- Aliens: Rogue
- Aliens versus Predator 2/Primal Hunt
- Aliens versus Predator: Extinction
- Aliens vs. Predator
- AVP: Evolution
- Aliens: Defiance
- Aliens: Defiance - Extravehicular
- Aliens: Fireteam
- Palatine - a larger guard that protects the Queen Mother.
- Carrier - an evolved Praetorian that can fling Facehuggers at enemies.
- Ravager - an evolved Praetorian for heavy combat.
- Alien vs. Predator (1994), Capcom [Arcade].
- Andrew E. C. Gaska. Alien: The Roleplaying Game, p. 312 (2019), Free League Publishing.
- Aliens vs. Predator (2010), Rebellion, SEGA [Microsoft Windows].
- Aliens versus Predator 2 - text log
- Aliens versus Predator: Extinction (2003), EA Games, Fox Interactive [PS2]. Cite error: Invalid
<ref>tag; name "Extinction" defined multiple times with different content
- Alien Praetorian UniCast
- Aliens: Colonial Marines (2013), Gearbox Software, SEGA [Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360].
- Andrew E. C. Gaska. Alien: The Roleplaying Game, p. 315 (2019), Free League Publishing.
- Andrew E. C. Gaska. Alien: The Roleplaying Game, p. 314 (2019), Free League Publishing.