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 serve as guards to their Hive's Queen or Empress 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.
With the possible exception of the Predalien in Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem, Praetorians have not been seen on film but have regularly been encountered in the expanded universe, first appearing in the 1999 video game Aliens versus Predator. They have gone on to be a staple feature of the numerous various video games based on the Alien vs. Predator universe.
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 tubes 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 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. Despite this, some Praetorians have been known to emit a deafening screech that will summon additional Warriors to their aid; the Praetorian itself will then hold back while the lowly Warriors attack the target.
There is much speculation on how Praetorians come into being. Arguably the most widely accepted origin is that they evolve from Warriors. The exact manner and cause of this evolution are unclear, although one stated possibility is that the change occurs when the Queen selects a Warrior from her brood to become a Praetorian. The chosen Warrior 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. However, 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. Specimen 6 is seen briefly as a Praetorian at the conclusion of Aliens vs. Predator, before molting into a Queen. There is evidence in-game that Specimen 6 was originally intended to be a Praetorian for at least some of the playable Alien campaign, although this was ultimately dropped.
It is also possible that the Praetorian could be an intermediate stage in a Queen's growth cycle. As a Queen molts from its Chestburster stage, it may mid-metamorphose into a Praetorian, only fully changing into a Queen later depending on whether another Queen is already present. Some sources, meanwhile, simply depict Praetorians as being created from birth by Praetorian Facehuggers, similar to the Queen in Alien3.
It is further debated whether a Praetorian will adopt genetic traits from its host, as with most other Xenomorph castes. To date, every Praetorian seen has looked the same, although it is impossible to say for sure whether all were birthed from the same species of host. If Praetorians evolve from lower castes, as is commonly stated, it seems likely that a Praetorian evolved from a Runner Xenomorph (which is essentially a quadrupedal Drone) would differ from a Praetorian spawned from a human Drone/Warrior. Indeed, it has been theorized that the Crusher from Aliens: Colonial Marines is in fact a Praetorian evolved from a Runner, as it shares distinct similarities with both.
However, if Praetorians are created from birth through Praetorian Facehuggers, it would be equally possible for the resultant creature to have no special variance based on the genetic makeup of its host. This is shown to be the case in the video game Aliens versus Predator: Extinction, where Praetorians are said to be pure Xenomorphs that do not 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 Warriors, Praetorians themselves are often said to evolve into Queens. In the video game Aliens vs. Predator, Specimen 6 ultimately evolved into a Queen from the Praetorian stage.
- 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.
- Due to a Praetorian's head crest resembling that of a Queen, they are occasionally mistaken by some for Queens.
- The Predalien in Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem is speculated to be a Praetorian, and is considered a "Young Queen" by the film's directors.
- The Crusher may be a possible variation of the Praetorian, spawned from a Runner evolutionary line instead of a Warrior.
- Alien vs. Predator (1994 arcade game)
- Aliens versus Predator
- Aliens versus Predator 2/Primal Hunt
- Aliens versus Predator: Extinction
- Aliens vs. Predator
- AVP: Evolution
- Palatine - a larger guard that protects the Queen Mother.
- Carrier - an evolved Praetorian that can fling Facehuggers at enemies.
- Ravager - an evolved Praetorian.