In our previous post celebrating Alternity, I talked about the general core mechanic – the d20 +/- step modifier dice and the triplet theory of results, damage, effects, and qualities.
So now let’s talk more about characters and character generation. As an example, we’ll use my character, Captain Ken Takashi of the Concord space station Lighthouse, at level 1.
As you’ll notice, Alternity PCs have the usual six D&D stats, with Wisdom renamed to Willpower and Charisma renamed to Personality. Fair enough. They are point buy, though, and normally can range from 4-14 though 8-13 is the typical spread. Int determines your number of skill points and this is a skill based game so you really can never afford to go under about 10 in it.
PCs also allegedly have classes and levels but frankly this is cruft bolted on to the system to make it friendly to the D&Ders. The class gets you a bennie at first level and then makes certain skills one point cheaper to buy. Ken is a Diplomat (Tech Op) – diplomats suck enough that they get to take a secondary class to get cheaper skills from, in this case the techie class. Other classes include Combat Spec (fighter) and Free Agent (thief). That’s it in core but you can also become a Mindwalker if you are into psionics. No multiclassing or whatnot, you choose and that’s it, but it doesn’t matter later on except for skill costs.
You have a bunch of calculated values off your skills, including your Action Check (initiative), number of actions, speed, durability, and Last Resort (hero) points.
The heart of the system. Now, the core rules are a bit stingy with the skills. You can only have about 5 discretionary broad skills and about 50 skill points (assuming an Int of 11) when you start. With the Alternity errata, the authors got the hint and immediately published the “optional rules” which are really law in all games – see Optional Rule Set 2 which gives that same character 7 discretionary broad skills and 66 skill points. You are still not uber or anything but you don’t suck so bad.
Keep in mind the skill system is VERY granular. Want to shoot a pistol with a basic level of competence? You’ll need to spend 6 points on the Ranged Weapon, Modern broad skill and then 4 points to get 1 rank in Pistol. That’s 10 points down already. I count 41 broad skills in the game with hundreds of specialty skills.
As you can see, for Captain Takashi I mainly had some basic broad skills at first level. I gave him a point in pistol and in a smattering of space navy type tech skills, a point of Leadership/Command since he’s in charge, and a point of defensive martial arts and intuition to simulate his pastime of Tai Chi. Bang, done! Simple enough, though there’s a lot of point fiddling.
Besides skills, you can buy a couple perks and/or flaws to round things out. I didn’t, at least not at first level.
But there’s no sense in doing the math yourself! Because Alternity has the best fan-made character manager next to Byakhee, the awesome Call of Cthulhu character manager. It’s called the Alternity Character Manager, or Walter to us fans. Download and use it! Some of the weapons listings are messed up but you can edit the XML yourself to fix them easily enough.
Is Captain Takashi too prosaic for you? Want to see how much you can combat-optimize? Well, here’s my other starting character for the campaign, the Thuldan Warlion Markus Oroszlan. He is a mutant who was a shock trooper for the Thuldan Empire before moving to the Verge to find his own way in life.
Note his 16 STR, two points above normal human max, made possible by both mutation and Thuldan origin. He’s not great at shooting normal guns but in melee and with heavy weapons he is hell on wheels. Markus is the go to guy when our group needs to blow the bejeezusfuck out of something.
You get XP, and when you get enough, you get a level. For getting a level, you get skill points, approximately equal to the XP. Why wait for levels? No good reason. Anyway, you get better at skills but you don’t really become much more durable – see Takashi at level 10 and Markus at level 10 to see how much ten levels, the result of a year of playing every other week without fail, looks on you.
And that’s the Alternity character! Not, like Over the Edge simple but simpler than some games nowadays. Not as complicated as GURPS characters but more complicated than Silhouette characters; I’ve played space games with both.