Tag Archives: scifi

Alternity Book Report: Two of Minds

I was looking through my bookshelf and realized that I own five, count them, five old Alternity novels!  As I’ve been playing in Paul’s Alternity campaign for more than two years now, I thought it was high time to root them out and read through them!

The first is Two of Minds, by William H. Keith, Jr. The story features Spacer, a tunnel rat living on the crappy Total Recall-esque mining colony of Lison, who wants a bigger life among the stars. A guy he’s conning gets wasted by VoidCorp (evil megacorp) agents and next thing you know he’s joined up with a typical adventuring party and is headed for the planet of Storm to interface with freaky aliens and get shot at by VoidCorp.

It’s decently written, though a couple times I wished the writing “grade level” was a couple higher. The plot keeps on moving and the characters manage to be just a smidge more interesting than they are flat. They have a couple more main characters than the writer can handle well. Although I was entertained by the Rigunmor guy who basically did nothing but occasionally be a jerk until he sacrificed himself to help everyone in the end – mainly because that’s how Bruce’s Rigunmor character in our campaign is.

Really the main point of interest is how Spacer uses a “holotarot” (space tarot) deck his grammama gave him to interpret and predict events, something the fraal (Grey psychic alien) in the group posits is linked to a latent kind of psychic power. I found it inspiring for Pathfinder games as well, where Harrow (fantasy tarot) decks and use thereof play a big part in the world of Golarion.

It’s also pretty good for inspiration for plots about exploring hostile planets and meeting new aliens in a discovery-oriented campaign. The aliens in Two of Minds are very alien and it definitely reveals the setting as being one where there are some pretty cosmic-scale weird things.

The novel does do a pretty good job of establishing a “look and feel” of the Verge, which is helpful for Alternity Star*Drive players. I would call it cinematically gritty – the Schwarzenegger movie Total Recall is probably the best comparison. The book is an average sci-fi popcorn read in general, but to an Alternity player is definitely worth reading.

Alternity “The Lighthouse” Session Summary 49

Forty-ninth Session – An I’krl ambassador comes insystem suing for peace. We ignore this obvious ruse and send the fleet to lift the siege of Tendril while the B Team takes the Red Queen to figure out what the hell the problem is with Algemron.

Admiral Takashi, my A Team character, enjoyed declaring VoidCorp enemies of humanity.  Those guys have been douches consistently throughout the entire campaign and clearly any ginger handling of them will just come back to bite us. So it’s internment camps for them. We interrogated the VoidCorp admiral who had been passing the Externals our battle plans, and he was ridiculously unhelpful. “Never, I love my new alien masters!” So it was time for roofies and psychic interrogation.

The External ambassador showing up and wanting a cease-fire was also clearly a diversion so that they can regroup after their unexpected defeats at our hands. The Admiral decided he was just there to jerk us off, so after a bit of a chat we sent some diplomats in to waste each others’ time for a couple months while we go to liberate some systems!

After some planned, we decided that the Tendril system, being besieged by an External fortress ship, should get the A Team, the Lighthouse and a big Verge Alliance fleet dispatched for its liberation.

Algemron is a bit knottier. The two planets there, Alitar and Galvin, have been at each other for decades. We have heard rumors about a new drug, whitespike, coming from there with what sounds like gardhyi enforcers, rumors of teln infestation of Galvin leadership, and all kinds of other weird stuff. Galvin has a pretty good fleet. Both systems are ignoring the rest of the Verge while locked in their death grapple. We decided to send the Red Queen, stealthed, with the B Team and a squad of Recon Marines to figure out what is going on and, probably, shoot it.

Interestingly, Markus, my B Team character, was talking with this fraal smuggler on Wreathe, Kiara Mantel, trying to get the lay of the land, and they really started vibing on each other (a routine Personality check to see whether she would deal with him resulted in a critical success). We’ll see what happens when we get back from the weapons drop – when we return, she’s supposed to give us a contact in the resistance on Galvin. Markus isn’t a ladies’ man, and love isn’t a primary motivation for him – as a mutant, he generally feels somewhat alienated from normal peoples’ goings-on. He’s only had two relationships in the campaign, a short unfulfilling one with an unemotional Thuldan engineer and then a more “party sex” one with infamous pirate Captain Cassoval. Upon further reflection, a fraal smuggler does somewhat split the difference between those two. A gruff muscled warlion and a sly frail psychic seems like an odd match, but I guess it worked for Arnold and Maria (well, until recent unfortunate events).

Alternity “The Lighthouse” Session Summary 48

Forty-eighth Session – VoidCorp’s obvious treason becomes unobvious.  Then obvious again. I’m a little unclear because I missed this session, but we cleaned house in Aegis.

From the session summary by Bruce, it sounds like  we pretty much uncovered VoidCorp’s alien-collaborating perfidy, blew up most of their shit, and found out all kinds of top secret stuff.

A separate briefing from Chris indicates things were a bit more cluster-fucky than that, and that VoidCorp both got to warn everyone in the Verge of our crackdown and that we lost 3000 ship points to their 300 (a dint of the simplified space combat system is that if you completely kick someone’s ass, you still lose 5% of your force, so if you attack with overwhelming force, the bad guys kill like 10x their number as they go out).

The session  summary doesn’t mention us actually taking out the N’sss base but Chris said we did.  I’ll assume we did, just because that sounds better.

[Edit: Bruce came through with a completed summary; we did indeed take out the N’sss base and the Externals are suing for peace.]

Alternity “The Lighthouse” Session Summary 47

Forty-seventh Session – While we’re on leave on Bluefall, the B Team decides to go get involved in a troubled film production starring Jack Everstar.  Hollywood style action results!

This was an enjoyable break from our Massive Alien War. Markus, Lambert, and Ten-zil go and involve themselves in a movie shoot where an explosion narrowly avoided terminating promising actor Jack Everstar’s career. We “Burn Noticed” our way onto the set easily.

I was inspired in my depiction of Markus as military consultant by “Fruity Rudy” Reyes of Generation: Kill. In the DVD extras from the HBO series you get to see Reyes, who was one of the Recon Marines that Evan Wright wrote about in his book, both play himself in the series but also train all the other actors in firearm handling, unarmed combat, etc.; it’s pretty cool.  And Markus made sure to take his shirt off at every opportunity in homage. He’s hugely muscled and has a full torso “IX” tattoo from his time in the Ninth Legion.

We broke out the whiskey at the same time our characters were attending the cast party, and as a result the drunken hilarity and shenanigans was partly in the game and partly in our gaming location.We enjoyed the Hollywood sleazeball star party. We didn’t enjoy the second one as much because of the tension of setting Jack up to get him to reveal his dark secret, but then once everyone got arrested we continued to party and trashed his mansion. A couple of us had just watched “Hangover 2” the night before and that contributed to the general debauchery.

Only three players could attend, but that was fine because not a single shot was fired in anger! We rolled some skill checks, mainly for jetski driving and actress wrangling. But in general it was an entertaining, low intensity session that afforded plenty of roleplaying.

Alternity “The Lighthouse” Session Summary 46

Forty-sixth Session – The Externals assault the Aegis system in force, and we have our entire fleet there to prevent them. We tear them a new one. Now we have to figure out what to do with all these weirdo prisoners!

This was an interesting session.  First we spent a good bit of time planning our strategy – we knew the aliens were coming.  Since we’ve teamed up with the Medurr and have access to their drivespace denial weapon, we came up with a plan to trigger it in microbursts designed to spread incoming ships out in a big ol’ line trailing out of the system.  We’d then put our forces in one big ball and roll them on up!

Before they come, we go and get the other forces in the system on our team – some Thuldans and some VoidCorpers. The Thuldans say yes, the VoidCorpers say no.

We were interrupted by a systemwide hack. I thought we had thwarted that back in the day but apparently not.  This took a LOT of rolls to resolve.  Taveer went out into cyberspace to thwart it. The enemy AI pretty much chased Taveer off and back to the station and started attacking us!  Once we got VERA and Captain Takashi into the fight, we finally managed to cut it off.

Then we found out it was a VoidCorp AI behind it all. They had some flimsy excuse but the Admiral pretty much told them they were going to join our fleet or we were going to seize their assets in the system.They gave in.

In an attempt to turn this whole thing around, we took the AI, VORL, and put it on a barge with some External wireless codes to mess with the incoming fleet.

But before the battle – a promotion!  I had actually written that “Letter to the Admiralty” and sent it to our GM Paul  a while back so that when we were in Bluefall and could get some admirals together that we could have a board of review to promote the faithful Martin St. John to Captain.  He was surprised! And in fact, once he was promoted, we talked about a command for him – it hadn’t originally been my plan, but Takashi as an Admiral has been kinda kicked upstairs to do full fleet command tactics a lot of the time, so he offered command of the Lighthouse to St. John, who accepted. Woot!  We put as much pomp and circumstance into it as the GM had patience for (not all that much). Hell, I’d be happy to do a whole session around just the promotion, but then I’m a roleplaying freak.

Then we fought the Externals and pretty much owned them.  Only two problems – one, the second fortress ship got away despite all our efforts to catch up to them (we’re not really sure how that worked, it was GM fiat) and also the rules tended to punish us for being big.  We were using a simple abstract system that uses Space Tactics rolls; that’s where Takashi is a Viking. Well, first round he rolls Amazing and the first bit of the enemy fleet rolls like Ordinary, they lose 15% of their force and we lose 5% of ours – but we are so much bigger we lose about as many ships as they do!  We were like “WTF!” Usually “stacking” all your forces is an advantage but in this ruleset it’s not, so next time we’ll go with small task forces that should get the same effect with fewer losses.

Suddenly we went from most of the Externals being rare “never seen by humans” stuff to “We have a prison hulk full of thaal, what the heck do we do with them?” We spent a lot of time trying to turn the various client races with mixed results. Not everyone is on board with the crazy Scientology religious heart of this war, but many of them are stupes who like their congenital slavery so it’s a hard nut to crack.

The bareem were like this.  We got some sifarv turncoats to command them all to help us, but Chris had the most inspired idea; we’re putting them through Concord Marine training not only to battle harden them but also to try to inculcate them with our values. Once they accept leadership other than the sifarv, and kill sifarv on orders, then they’ll become more liberated dudes, at least that’s the idea.

The A team is going to take half the fleet to Tendril to lift its siege and the B team is going to go RIF the Algemron system, which is probably controlled by teln mind-worms.

Interestingly, I think we kinda all unanimously and implicitly backed off going from one big serious space battle thing to another – after another half hour of roleplaying suddenly the next steps became smaller and closer to home!

We were looking for the N’sss (stealth space jellyfish) we are sure are in the system, and detected the VoidCorpers beaming clandestine messages into the gas giant (where N’sss like to hang out). Admiral Takashi lost his shit. Forget about interstellar diplomacy and weak excuses, this is an act of war and/or treason and he immediately ordered a Marine strike force to load up and assault VoidCorp’s Cloud City. After the AI thing, and finding out that they are trying to stop Old Space from coming to the Verge’s rescue, it was the last straw. They are clearly traitors against humanity and he’s not going to tolerate it another second. Long term consequences can worry about themselves.

Plus, there was a throwaway rumor about problems on the set of actor Jack Everstar’s new movie and suddenly, for no real reason, all the B team (while playing naked beach volleyball on Bluefall, our usual vacation time diversion) decided we all want to meet Everstar and have cooked up a Burn Notice/Leverage style plot to all get onto his movie crew.  Woot!

Alternity to Feng Shui Conversion

Here’s a little something I started working on in the year 2000 (!) and just found and decided to finish off.  It’s a conversion of Alternity to the Feng Shui system.  Feng Shui is the RPG of action movie roleplaying and has a nice fast system, one that it’s easy to teach people at the beginning of a convention game, for example.  Alternity’s system has its charms but it’s heavy crunch and requires time investment to learn. Anyway, it’s a simple stat + skill vs difficulty system, with a positive and negative d6 roll applied (stat + skill + d6 – d6) – fast and reasonably normalized, and you intuitively know you can hit a difficulty equal to your stat+skill on average.

I’d like to hear comments on the conversion and how it could be made better.  Here it is for your reading pleasure!

Alternity: Second Edition

I like Alternity, but it could stand a little cleaning up. You could remove a lot of the complexity from the system by just jettisoning the class system and making a couple skill changes.

Here’s what I’d do with an Alternity Second Edition.  I’d keep the general skill basis and skill check mechanic with the differing quality of results for skill/half skill/quarter skill. Really the main rules are great and need little tweaking; the optional rulesets are where things start slipping.

Remove classes.  They give you so little that it’s annoying – go “full GURPS” with it. Removes one chunk of useless complexity.

Remove levels.  Spend XP as you get them. Removes a second chunk of useless complexity.

More skill points.  Or cheaper costs.  Definitely use at least the “Optional Rule Set 2” skill point values and, since you’re getting rid of classes, maybe just reduce all the skill point costs by one off the bat and tweak from there; maybe another one point drop for all broad skills. “But I always suck” is the main Alternity critique one hears.

Damage and hit locations.  This would go a long way to fixing the armor issues.  Top Secret/S.I. had a hit location/box system I really liked. You’d do this, fix the “lower number of mortal points” problem and the O/G/A weapon vs armor thing to be nicely symmetrical.

General guidance.  There are a couple recurring pain points that are more about how you run the game than the rules as written.  This includes “let any relevant skill work, with a 1 step penalty if it’s a real stretch.” Looking to stop a security computer on a starship from sending an alert signal?  Yes, you can use Sec/Security Devices, Tech Sci/Juryrig, Computer/Hacking, or System Ops/Communications. Not “No, that’s not the perfect one.” Cover and stuff, it’s worthless currently, need a bit more focus on the firefight.

Consolidate and simplify.  No separate GMG with rules players should know hidden in it.  No “weapon accuracy by range modifier” special table. Make it so grenades work faster. Mainly look in the GMG, pull out all the tables, and then delete 99% of them as pointless cruft.

Psionics.  Done once in the mainbook, redone in the Mindwalkers book, still sucky. Our party psis are always really weak – you don’t want to make them uber but currently you end up feeling sorry for them.

Computers. Are tarded. For what should be a sci-fi high tech game, the equipment and especially the computers are boring and stupid.

That’s it really, mostly a “delete all the exception stuff” rampage, and you’d have a terse and solid ruleset. More on specific new rules I’d like to add tomorrow…

Alternity: The Community

Is Alternity a dead game?  Well, of course WotC isn’t publishing it any more, and you can’t even buy the PDFs because of them being huge ol’ bitches.  But between Half Price Books, ebay, and bittorrent, you can get your hands on the materials OK, and there’s still communities out there actively supporting it!

The big one is AlternityRPG.net, or “A.Net” for short.  They host a bunch of great downloads and have some reasonably active forums. If you’re interested in Alternity it’s the place to go.

There’s a lot of fan content too – most notably the two major Alternity e-zines, Action Check and Last Resort! Action Check had folks like Neil Spicer work on it, but stopped in 2002; Last Resort last published in 2009, but you can still download all the extant issues of both.

Action Check E-Zine (16 Issues!)

Last Resort E-Zine

And then there’s the massive Resources list at AlternityRPG.net, with metric tons of player contributed goodness!

There used to be an Alternity mailing list but Wizards discontinued it way long ago.  If you know of a pocket of Alternity goodness out there, let me know!

Alternity “The Lighthouse” Session Summary 45

Forty-fifth Session – The A Team and a fire team of Recon Marines take the Lighthouse back from MINA and a bunch of aliens.  Who’s the leader of the club that’s made for you and me? M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E. Enter a world of shit in this episode of our Alternity Star*Drive campaign, The Lighthouse!

The Lighthouse’s bridge is taken by a bunch of aliens and MINA, the station AI, is compromised (more than usual, of course). A bunch of old plot threads come together pleasingly in the solution.

First of all, we have the hacker Brent Terchyev, the son of the Jamaican Syndicate leader on Lucullus, who we saved from kidnappers and have had on board the station since our last visit.  Now we’re back to free the system from the aliens, and this apparently kicks him out of his normal diet of videogames and Grid porn into action.

Secondly, we have our means of access – the concealed airlock in the back of a massage parlor that our criminal characters have used from time to time. Lambert Fulson was reluctant to narc it out to the station personnel, but with the fate of the station on the line he gave it up.

Third, we have the Concord Marines. We’ve been making good use of these guys, and this time we promote them from faceless NPCs to real personalities. Besides Concord Marine Captain David Chase, who is a named NPC in the Lighthouse supplement, we had along an elite Recon/Marauder unit consisting of:

  • Sgt “Animal Mother”, violent and jaded even for the Marines, largely derived from the character of the same name in Full Metal Jacket
  • Cpl “Klinger”, whose armor is skillfully painted to be wearing a negligee and garter belt, somewhat based on Klinger from M.A.S.H. and Fruity Rudy from Generation: Kill
  • LCpl Wierzbowski (no cute nickname yet), the unit’s grenadier, named after a quickly deceased character from Aliens
  • Pfc “Ludafisk”, a Nordic whiteboy that talks like a gangster rapper, inspired by Evan “Q-Tip” Stafford from Generation: Kill
  • Pfc “Motorhead”, with mottos like “Eat the Rich”  and “Born to Lose” spraypainted across his combat armor, just inspired by a love for Lemmy

They are stock second level NPCs, altered only from the default Concord Marines listed in the Lighthouse supplement in that they have recon powerered armor and a couple more skill points due to our more generous chargen rules – just about everyone who played Alternity used “Optional Rule Set 2” published as part of the Alternity errata that upped skill points by a small but noteworthy margin.

As you may be able to tell, we’ve been watching a lot of stuff like Full Metal Jacket, Generation: Kill, etc. lately.

Back in the day, I had done some work with an ex-Marine on a Concord Marine supplement detailing some Marine TOEs, training, and the like – I’m going to dust that off and publish it here for  your enjoyment! And we’ll be using it ourselves, Paul generously told us we can level this squad to third and customize them up a bit for future supporting cast roles!

Anyway, it took us a while to insert, make our way down the two kilometer elevator shaft, disable our crazed station AI, and then assault the bridge. The Marines burst in and put down the thaal high priest like he was Osama Bin Laden in Abbottabad. It was beautiful – the bridge was full of External bigwigs – the thaal high priest, a bunch of other thaal psychics, superior sifarv bird-men, a gardhyi (or “space vampire” as Takashi calls them), bareem ape-thugs, karaden roach scientists… And our squad of Marines ripped them a new asshole in extremely short order. (Well, it took hours of game time, but short order in game).  The KZ 130 13mm charge machinegun is quite a weapon in the hands of some motivated men. We put the video out on the Grid to demonstrate the lack of invincibility of our heretofore-untouchable enemies.

As Takashi, I alternated between using my Command skill to give our friendies bonuses and the Infantry Tactics skill to mess with our enemies. And I also shot down two bad guys with my little laser pistol – Takashi has way more luck then he has any right to with that thing. For whatever reason, he is really not good at combat by the numbers, but when he finally whips out the pistol and shoots it’s always followed by some alien boss falling with a hole seared in his forehead.

Next time, the fleet goes to Bluefall to defend against the approaching External fleet!

Alternity “The Lighthouse” Session Summary 44

Forty-fourth Session – Back on Lucullus, the Lighthouse comes to the relief of the kroath-beset locals.  That’ll teach them to be such criminal douches next time we need their help. We engage in some large scale land combat and send in the A Team and some Recon Marines to nip the alien leadership in the bud. It all goes well, except those darn psychic aliens teleport up and take over the Lighthouse’s bridge while we’re giving them their whupping! Experience the twists and turns of the latest installment in our Alternity Star*Drive campaign, The Lighthouse!

We spent a ridiculously long time getting the various Lucullan factions on board with the Verge Alliance last time we visited, only for them to totally roll over like bitches for the Externals. All the alien fleet left but has ovipositor-ramming facilities in full swing turning Lucullans into kroath soldiers. Sigh. We put together a joint Verge Alliance and Medurr fleet, using the Medurr riftship to gate in draco-centaur needle ships. Concord Marines, Lucullan Picts that have been on board the Lighthouse, and Medurr all take part in the assault.

I as Admiral Takashi put together the tactical plan. We had our forces feint at the alien domes to lure out their armor as we sent in an infil team (including our command staff, of course) to take out their orbital-capable guns and decapitate their leadership. Then once those guns are silenced, our aerospace superiority would enable us to pound their armor and carry through the assault. I made some great tactics rolls and the larger army action went very, very well for us.

On the micro level, we rolled hard on the aliens and had a lot of success, including killing some of the birdlike sifarv whom we hadn’t encountered in person yet, until one of them downs Haggernak and negotiates for his release.  Admiral Takashi is a naval man of his word type, so he accepts the sifarv’s parole and chats cordially with him, only to discover the other alien leaders had teleported off to take over our space station!  Grr. We’ve tried to set up psychic teleportation detectors with little success and prevention with zero success. Fricking aliens.

I am always a bit worried about going into a lot of battles with Takashi since he is by no means a combat monster. He has inordinately good luck with shots from his laser pistol when it counts, but he is not well armored or really all that skilled. He excels in using his Command skills to inspire other combatants and give them bonuses, however.

This episode also features the continual combat effectiveness of the Concord Marines. We have been continually impressed with these guys; in fact, I’ll do some posts on them in particular as we’ve been inspired to detail them more as they continue to come through for us. Our PCs are not butch enough to go in on assaults without backup, and so we bring them along a lot. For second level NPCs they have performed remarkably!

Alternity: The Settings

Alternity was around for a good while and TSR published a lot of content for it. They had a number of settings for it – two of which were good!


Star*Drive is a far future, gravity age, space opera type of campaign setting. They tried to bundle the feels of Traveller, Bablylon 5, and anti-bug-alien-war (we’ll say Starship Troopers) all in one. Evil megacorps! Stellar nations fitting every major stereotype! Ancient artifacts left behind by progenitor races! Dozens of retiring alien races! Ovipositors waiting to be rammed down your throat!

Star*Drive is pretty good.  The PC alien races aren’t as interesting as my all time favorite, Star Frontiers, but are still fun.  Humans are #1, other PC playable alien races are total minorities. The weren are big furry monstrosities from a Renaissance era planet (Wookiees). The mechalus are genetically cybered by this point and dress like Borat. The t’sa are little nimble lizard men, and the sesheyans are eight-eyed flying bug-bat-men. And there’s the fraal, who are Greys by any other name.

After massive galaxy shattering wars, the dozen galactic nations have been joined by a thirteenth, the Galactic Concord, formed form parts of all 12 to create a peacekeeping nation – like the UN if the UN were an actual country, very The Federation from Star Trek in feel.

Most of the action takes place not in “Old Space,” for that would require work on the part of authors, but out in the lightly inhabited “Verge”, a frontier region. They published thirteen supplements for the setting, including a bunch of alien books.

Our The Lighthouse campaign is set in Star*Drive.


Dark•Matter is a modern day paranormal conspiracy setting, designed to tap into the huge popularity of the X-Files, Millenium, and the 100 other TV series infesting the genre from the late 1990s on. And it war surprisingly good, probably thanks to the skillful authoring of Wolfgang Baur Monte Cook.

I was prepared to discount Dark Matter (I’ll pass on that dot crap from now on), already owning Dark Conspiracy, Bureau 13, Conspiracy X, and other games in the genre, but it was more than  just a me-too effort on the part of TSR.

What sold me was the Dark Matter fastplay adventure Exit 23.  You can download it with background info and sample PCs here from alternityrpg.net. It can be hard to write evocative modern day settings and characters for some reason, but here they nailed it.

Gamma World

TSR is never reluctant to return to the older cows, and true to form they couldn’t resist putting out a new version of the early sci-fi postapocalyptic RPG Gamma World with their new ruleset. A fifth edition!

I never played this.  I hate Gamma World. I like postapocalyptic, but GW is postapocalyptic the way Tomb of Horrors is medieval fantasy. A friend and I actually had Jim Ward run a game of Gamma World for us at a con and it sucked and I refuse to say any more about it.


It’s funny, you would think licensed properties would be good, but TSR always jacked them up.  Like their Diablo supplement for D&D, they put out a Starcraft supplement for Alternity, StarCraft Adventures.  It was more of a separate small game using a fastplay version of the Alternity rules.

Four different game settings!  They were serious about this game, for a while until they got demented by licensing Star Wars and decided to kill it.

Alternity: The Characters

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.

Leveling Up

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.