It is springtime, 1998. A moment that is characterized by a series of eventual disapointments that are later encompassed by something much larger. Lost in Space is released to little fan-fare, and Godzilla will do the same during the summer while Armageddon introduces the world to Michael Bay, master of explosions. Madonna's Ray of Light is bumping in House clubs across the country, but Cher's Believe will ultimately replace is as the homo joint of the year. DC purchases Jim Lee's WildStorm comics, yet on the other side of the street Marvel Comics is purchased by former subsidiary Toy Biz.
WotC has already owned TSR for a year and is using the brand-name for the roleplaying games side of the business. Hasbro will be in meetings to purchase WotC by the end of summer.
Alternity is released as the Science Fiction every-game, from modern to far future. By 2000 it will be discontinued, along with the name TSR. Mostly forgotten by everyone, Alternity is the last gasp of Gygaxian D&D before it is replaced by the 3rd Edition / d20 system of Wizards of the Coast.
It is now an interesting failure partially caused by trying to be everything, including other successful games. At times, it will be like D&D, and the World of Darkness, and GURPS, and Shadowrun, and Forge-ist indie games. In sum, it will be a mess of ho-hum nothing.
( look at this fucking guy. He is so ho-hum about looking out that door to a space of nothingness. He doesn't even care that his hand is all fucked up holding that rifle and for some reason has a helmet attached to the ceiling by a perfectly straight wire. Blah )
Passive Voice. Passive Voice. Things happen to other people. You are an interesting person. Alternity's text is difficult to find entertainment in reading. Want to enjoy it? Its up to you! This is the rallying cry of the game system; want to enjoy it? Well its all up to you , good buddy. Not our fault if it isn't your cup of tea.
This book has a lot of sidebars. They are written with white text on green background and are placed haphazardly throughout the book with no unifying theme other than the same Charolette Hornets / Jacksonville Jagaurs color scheme that infected the late 90s. Important rules, stupid notes? Who knows!
This side-bar, however, is about the definition of Science Fiction. As long as it's founded in a quasi-scientific theory that is internally consistent, you're in the realm of science fiction. So if your game is more Gygaxian Naturalist than not, you are playing a science fiction game.
Now, Alternity is for dirty fucking storygamers. They have referees and do Make Believe to create a group story by narrating actions, and use the rules to halt any disagreements on the story between the players and the GM.
And yet, this is still a Gygaxian D&D off-shoot. The GM decides the plot and background, treating the the game as a director of a movie or narrattor in a novel, and has final say in any situation that isn't covered by the rules. The Player's role is to merely describe how they react to the events going on around them.
All in all, the introduction is not much that is crazy about it. The "fiction" on the side is blase 'imagine your own game', and the art has a hilarious Goatee'd Space Marine with a rape face. All-in-all, a good start to reviewing the game.
notes: should I be doing this in travel-log style or should I dive into subjects? The book is not terribly well organized and goes off the rails by about mid-way through the next chapter, but part of the "enjoyment" is struggling with the text.
Chapter 2: Fast Fast Play Play Rules Rules
ALTERNITY: Using the Game Mechanic.
Truly a modern achievement, TSR has a unified, universal core conflict resolution mechanic. It is really quite simple!
All heroic actions in the game can be resolved by rolling just two dice: a contol die and a situation die. A control die is always a d20; a situation die can be a d4, d6, d8, d12, or d20.
Depending on how hard or easy a particular task is, the result of the situation die is added to or subtracted from the result of the control die, as detailed in the Chapter 1: Fast Play Rules in the Players Handbook
The ALTERNITY game uses two kinds of dice: a control die and a situation die . Whenever the Gamemaster calls for a roll, you roll one control die and one situation die. The numbers that come up combine to indicate a success or failure.
When you roll the dice, in game terms you're making a check for your hero-- in effect, "checking" to see how the dice roll compares to one of your hero's scores.
In any case, you're looking to get as low a result as possible-- the lower the roll, the better the chance that your hero succeeds at what he's trying to do.
- If you're comparing the roll to your hero's action check score to see how soon he gets to attempt his next action, the roll is an action check .
- If your hero uses a skill (comparing the roll to his skill score), this roll is a skill check
- If you're checking against one of his Ability Scores, then the roll is a feat check .
Further, the situation die on any check is designated as either a plus die or a minus die . A plus die, such as +d4, is bad for the roller, because it tends to produce a higher result. A minus die, such as a -d6, is good for the roller, because it helps to achieve a lower result.
- The control die is always a 20-sided die (d20)
- The situation die for any particular check is one of the following: a four-sided die (d4), a six-sided die (d6), an eight-sided die (d8), a 12-sided die (d12), or a 20-sided die (d20)
Add or subtract the situation die from the control die as instructed by the Gamemaster. If the result is equal to or less than the score related to a hero's action, the action succeeds. If the result is greater than the score, the action fails. The degrees of success are explained on the next page.
No, fuck this gay Not-Earth
So you want to be a hero.
Not a protagonist, not a character, not a setting-specific catch-all like Nobles (because HA we don't have a setting), we are in the business of making heros. In a system that has baked-in critical failures 1/20th of the time. yyyyyyuuup!
I'm going to go through character creation because that seems to be The Thing To Do, but I'll try and note the other stepping stones I'm avoiding.
It is really quite simple. Our character is going to be Dr. Matu-Rin, a Fraal (pg. 29) medical officer (pg. 116) Tech Op (pg. 32) who also has secret agent connections (pg. 105) with skills (pg. 64-65) from being a revolutionary (pg 120). Depending on the GM, we will also be somewhat Psychic (chapter 14). A good sample from all over the book!
Sub-systems: The Specieing
In general, ALTERNITY is based on having species as the gateway to associated subsystems, a la White Wolf and most of the Noun: The Gerund systems.
Our character is a Fraal!
Fraal are The Greys, in popular parlance. Part Elf/Vulcan, Part WoD Mage. They almost always have Psi powers, and so by choosing them the GM should allow some into the game. A player choice determining the make-up of the campaign! A radical idea for this time. On the other hand, Fraal are The Best Mindwalkers, so few other specices should even try. Niche Protection!
Setting-wise, The Fraal are supposedly the First Contact and the source of our ancient myths and modern X Files esque urban legends because they got stuck by Sol and didn't leave because v:shoban:v. Further in the future, they are side-by-side partners seeking to unlock FTL tech, and later than that become a Tolkien-esque Elf society half bonding with humans in war half going off to find the lost homeworld.
Quickly, the other options.
MECHALUS The cyber splat. If you wanna be a Street Samurai, this is your race.
SESHEYAN If instead of Vampire Bats, you have Fruit Bats. The "least humaniod" of the species because they have wings and are stereotypical Native American planeteers. Comparing to the Gurps Space stuff rolled in the thread, you can see how un-challenging ALTERNITY really is.
T'SA Space Gnomes/Kender, except a lot more iguana.
WEREN Werewolves In SPAAAAAAAAAAACCCCCCCEEEEEEEEE
MUTANT Homo Superior, X-men, random roll ahoy!
HUMAN: The Boring
Just to say again, this is really really badly laid-out.
Other than natural powers, your species also determines your ability score caps & minimums and your automatic skill selections, which is a blase bonus really.
Coming up next: Hope You Like System Mastery!
(ALTERNITY is real bad, at least as bad as AD&D 2E and not as inherently interesting as the classic Gygaxian break in kill things steal shit paradigm. And my race summaries were one liners with associated emoticons; I or anyone else can get back to the T'Sa and Weren at any time.)
ALTERNITY: Who's Gonna Derive You Home
So we're assigning Ability Scores.
You get your basic Gygaxian Hexaptych, except Wisdom is now Will and Charisma is expanded into Personality. :dtas:
ALTERNITY doesn't have random roll, but also doesn't have a table (wha....?) so instead you are just given a flat 60 to spread one-to-one across all of the abilities, accounting for profession minimums and species limits. Both of these tables are not included with the professions or species that are mentioned, meaning you get to enjoy flipping back and forth between pages to understand a single class or race! Really really poorly laid out book.
"But Gerund," you ask, "What is to stop someone from just dumping stats your character doesn't need?" Don't worry, Slavicsek & Baker solved this by baking in a shit ton of derived stats and non-obvious modifiers.
Another table is tucked away in a 1/3rd column on the edge of pg 32, concerning NPCs and other GM stuff will try to hinder your actions, and your Resistance Modifier is the typical way to alter the GM's roll with a "+x step" penalty or a "-x step" bonus on the GM's roll. Another way to think about it is that you are getting a "-x step" penalty for having a low stat and a "+x step" bonus for having a good stat, but only when the GM is provoking a conflict of some sort. When these actually come into play is explain on page 51 on TABLE P10: SKILLS & RESISTANCE MODIFERS. Except when the GM decides that you shouldn't get the resistance- immobilization is the example used.
It Is Really Quite Simple!
4 or less: -2 steps
5-6: -1 step
11-12: +1 step
13-14: +2 step
15-16: +3 step
17-18: +4 step
19+: +5 step
Where were we? Right, derived stats.
STR + DEX see TABLE P8: COMBAT MOVEMENT RATES pg 39. It is a big table, 2 through 32+. The basic math is that your Sprint and Glide speed is equal to the sum of Dex + Str, divided by 2 rounded down, and then doubled. Run is 2/3rds uh, wait, no.... Walk is even weirder, and then we have Easy Swim that is half of Walk next to Swim which is equal to Walk, and Fly is twice glide.
Okay, whatever, just understand that High combo is faster, at some opaque rate that makes no logical sense. Also, encumbrance, but the GM is told not only make is a deal if "she chooses to enforce a realistic game".
DEX + INT is the "Action Check" aka initiative. T'Sa get an automatic bonus to this score. Going first is pretty cool when you're dealing with grenades and super blaster guns.
CON + WILL is Actions Per Round; you make that many rolls, and compare them independently to your Action Check, and you see how many times you get to play the game compared to everyone else.
Personality gives you free Last Resort points, things you normally spend skill points on (determined by Int, natch) between adventures to recharge, and basically act as ur-Fate points, pushing your results up a grade or so when you want it.
Now, ability scores are basically the way to interact with the game. Again, other than some bits and pieces cobbled from being a Fraal and a Tech Op, 99.9999999% of the time you're using your ability scores for everything. GURPS ain't got nothing on this!
So, we're going to have Dr. Matu-Rin go with
Because A- having 3 actions a round is awesome and B- Personality is always a dump stat, and encumbrance only matters if your GM is a huge douche anyway, and a 16 combat movement rate is just fine whilst Int is a core score.
Next time: "The most time-consuming part of the hero creation process"
Skill Name Cost Armor Operation 7 Combat armor 3 /Powered armor 4 Athletics 3 Climb 2 Jump 1 Throw 2 (specific) 1 Heavy Weapons 6 Direct fire 4 Indirect fire 4 Melee Weapons 6 Blade 3 Bludgeon 3 Powered weapon 4 Unarmed Attack 5 Brawl 3 Power martial arts 5 Constitution skills Cost Movement 3 /Race 2 /Swim 1 Trailblazing 3 Stamina 3 Endurance 4 /Resist pain 4 Survival 5 Survival training 3 Dexterity Skills Cost Acrobatics 7 Daredevil 4 Defensive martial arts 5 Dodge 4 Fall 3 Flight 2 /Zero-g training 2 (specific) 1 Manipulation 6 Lockpick 4 Pickpocket 4 Prestidigitation 3 Ranged Weapon, Mod. 6 Pistol 4 Rifle 4 SMG 4 Ranged Weapons, Prim. 7 Bow 4 Crossbow 3 Flintlick 3 Sling 4 Stealth 7 Hide 4 Shadow 4 Sneak 5 Vehicle Operation 3 /Air vehicle 5 Land vehicle 3 /Space vehicle 5 Water vehicle 3 Intelligence Skills Cost Business 4 Corporate 3 Illicit business 3 Small business 3 Computer Science 7 /Hacking 5 Hardware 4 Programming 4 Demolitions 6 Disarm 4 /Scratch-built 4 Set explosives 3 Knowledge 3 /Computer operation 1 Deduce 2 /First aid 2 /Language (specific) 1 (specific) 1 Law 5 Court procedures 3 Law enforcement 3 / (specific) 1 Life Science 7 Biology 3 Botany 3 Genetics 3 /Xenology 4 Zoology 3 Medical Science 7 Forensics 3 Medical knowledge 3 Pshycology 3 /Surgery 5 /Treatment 4 /Xenomedicine (specific) 3 Navigation /Astrogation, drivespace 4 Astrogation, system 3 Navigation, surface 3 Physical Science 7 Astronomy 3 Chemistry 3 Physics 3 Planetology 3 Security 5 Protection protocols 3 Security devices 3 System Operation 4 Communications 3 Defenses 3 Engineering 3 Sensors 3 Weapons 3 Tactics 6 Infantry tactics 3 Space tactics 3 Vehicle tactics 3 Technical Science 7 Invention 4 Juryrig 3 Repair 3 Technical knowledge 3 Will Skills Cost Administration 4 Bureaucracy 3 Management 3 Animal Handling 3 Animal riding 1 Animal training 1 Awareness 3 Intuition 3 Perception 2 Creativity 4 (specific) 1 Investigate 7 Interrogate 4 Search 4 Track 4 Resolve 5 Mental resolve 3 Physical resolve 3 Street Smart 5 Criminal element 3 Street knowledge 3 Teach 5 / (specific) 3 Personality Skills Cost Culture 5 Diplomacy 3 /Etiquette (specific) 2 /First encounter 3 Deception 5 Bluff 3 Bribe 3 Gamble 3 Entertainment 4 Act 2 Dance 2 /Musical Instrument 2 Sing 2 Interaction 3 Bargain 3 Charm 3 Interview 3 Intimidate 3 Seduce 3 Taunt 2 Leadership 4 Command 4 /Insprire 4 And since it matters: Cost Telepathy 5 Contact 3 Datalink 4 Illusion 3 Mind blast 4 Mind shield 2 Suggest 3 Tire 3