Monday, December 31, 2012

Psuedo-Quasi-Intellectual review of Alternity

Psuedo-Quasi-Intellectual review of Alternity Science Fiction Roleplaying System

Alternity. The final roleplaying system to emerge from TSR (much of the supplementary material was printed under the TSR, a division of WOTC trademark) was crafted from the start to be a classless, skill based science fiction set from the modern era to the far future. With the addition of material in Dragon Magazine the system could actually be pushed back to the 1800s, potentially even as far as the Renaissance era if you tried, and out into horror and b-movie genres. There was even material to convert D&D Characters, monsters and gear to and from the system.

Published Settings
  • Darkmatter - Take X-Files, make the heroes work for a non-profit with no governmental sanction and youre looking at the basis of DarkMatter.
  • StarDrive - Space Opera in the 26th century, on the newly reopened frontier. This was actually the most supported of all the official settings.
  • Gamma World - Poor Gamma World, yet again the red-headed stepchild of the family, the game only ever had the core setting book printed and one Dragon article that I know of printed.
One of the coolest features of the ruleset was the degrees of success. Instead of merely a binary result you had the possibility of; critical failure, failure, ordinary success, good success and amazing success. This allowed for one of my favourite systems for handling firearms Ive encountered. Striking a bargain between heroic action like D20 where gun shot wounds can be laughed off and the realism of Gurps where bullets flying gets people dead real fast, Alternity allows for dangerous but not automatically deadly combat. Wounds degrade your ability to act successfully, without the binary status of up and acting or down and bleeding out that HP systems are notorious for.

Tying into the levels of success was an innovative die mechanic that took in account difficult of task without changing the target number. Instead of moving the target number around to show different difficulty, a control die was changed. With the goal to roll low and the player always rolling a D20, adding or subtracting dice to the roll was a straightforward idea, supported by a great diagram.

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