Wow! I actually haven’t believed this day would come, but Sasquatch Game Studio (veteran game designers Richard Baker, David Noonan and Stephen Schubert) is releasing a new Alternity RPG in 2017.
What is Alternity? It was one of my favorite Sci-Fi RPGs, which unfortunately I never got to play, released by TSR around the time it was bought by Wizards of the Coast. It not only featured a pretty cool mechanics but was also a great Sci-Fi toolbox. With Alternity you could easily run any kind of SF game from the near future techno-thriller to a far future galaxy-roaming space opera.
Unfortunately WotC didn’t do anything with Alternity and never made the books available again once they sold out. From the announcement post we learn that they even let the trademark run out. While the original Alternity game is still owned by WotC, Sasquatch Game Studio acquired the trademark and the designers of the original game will help create the new one.
It might not be the same game as before, it will probably have different mechanics, but I hope that the spirit of Alternity will still be alive in the 2017 game. I am wishing Sasquatch Game Studio all the best and I have to admit I am cautiously excited!
TSR’s Alternity Roleplaying Game is one of my favorite games which I never actually played. It’s a generic science fiction roleplaying game which has some interesting mechanics, is somewhat related to AD&D, and powered a couple of interesting settings. If you want to learn more about this out-of-print game, I can recommend checking out AlternityRPG.net or Shaun Welsh’s review here on the blog.
So why am I writing about a rather obscure and out-of-print roleplaýing game today? I guess I am in a somewhat nostalgic mood and I am always thinking about this great SF campaign I want to run someday. When it comes to systems I could use for that project, Alternity is pretty high on my list.
The majority of games I enjoy are rather rules-light but Alternity is an exception. I guess you could call it rules-medium, especially if you add in all the optional subsystems like FX (supernatural abilities like magic etc.), psionics, space combat and so on. In Alternity every weapon causes different damage according to the degree of success of the attack roll, and armor has different armor values for each type of damage (low impact, high impact, energy). For some this might be a tad too fiddly, but I think it fits the genre nicely.
The skill system is also quite intersting with broad skills (think of skill categories) which can only be bought once (and will not be improved afterwards) and speciality skills which allow the characters to specialize within these broad fields. Again this is a bit more complex than my usual fare, but it fits the scifi genre perfectly, especially if you’re favoring realism.
For several reasons Alternity never was a huge success. It had been released at a time when WotC had already been bought by WotC (or shortly before that) and WotC obviously favored a 3rd Edition of D&D over continued support for Alternity. At least some of the elements from Alternity made a reappearance in WotC’s d20 Modern line. Sometimes I wish they would at least make the Alternity books available in PDF form, as they’ve done with older editions of D&D. But I doubt that will happen anytime soon.
Since I am thinking about using Alternity as the rule system for a campaign I want to run in the future, I am interested in your thoughts on the system. Is anyone still playing Alternity? Has the system worked for you so far, or do you houserule a lot? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!
Alternity, by Bill Slavicsek and Richard Baker, is a science-fiction role-playing game released in 1998 by TSR (now Wizards of the Coast). It bills itself as “a framework for all kinds of contemporary to far-future science fiction adventures.” Indeed, its two original settings are Star*Drive, a far-future space-opera, and Dark•Matter, which is a modern-day game drawing much of its inspiration from conspiracy theories and the X-Files. It was also the game that was home to the fifth edition of Gamma World, and the Starcraft Adventures setting, which was a toned-down version of the system used for an RPG based on Blizzard Entertainment’s well-loved RTS.
I consider Alternity the greatest RPG I have never played.
Frankly I’m a little afraid to play it at this point. It has taken on an almost mythic significance in my mind.
I got my hands on the Player’s Handbook back in ’98, but in typical D&D-like fashion it also required the Gamemaster Guide, which I wouldn’t pick up until some time in 2005 along with most of the other supplements from a used RPG bookshelf at my FLGS of the day.
Anyway, let’s get to the heart of the matter.
Continue reading Review: Alternity