Saturday, April 27, 2013, 4:50 AM
I was just looking at my previous post, intent on moving on to the Alternity DMG when I noticed I gave a rather broad overview of the game system itself rather than a look at the PHB. So, here's a closer look at the Alternity PHB, and the goodies contained therein.
As my post claimed earlier, at the time the Alternity books were the most colorful game books to date. What's neat was the covers of the two core books created a larger mural.
The book starts with the obligitory "What is Roleplaying" section that most people who play RPGs would skip over.
A formating note; Most RPGs have two columns at most per page. Alternity used three columns. This reminded me of the early red box set D&D games. It's a nice touch, but too often words are broken. If the word can't fit the line, it should have been moved down to the next line. The more I look, the more noticeable the breaks are.
After the introduction is Chapter 1: fast play rules. I've covered much of this from the previous post. The fast play rules were a quick introduction to the most basic elements of the Alternity game. The GM book has the corresponding adventure, also as Chapter 1.
The fast play rules contained pre-generated characters. It was also available in an "intro to Alternity RPG" box. And if I remember right, the fast play game was also an insert in Dragon Magazine.
Chapter 2 covers Hero Creation. It introduced a few "races" (Aliens) that players might want to try out. The idea of playing just a human, when most folks were used to playing dwarves or elves seemed boring at the time, I suppose.
Chapter 3: Heroes in Action covers the basics of how to play, how damage is handled and so on.
Next up is the chapter on Skills. Skills can be broad, or specialty. You must have a broad skill before you can specialize.
The rest of the book covers standard RPG things such as perks and flaws, equipment, vehicles, weapons and armor, and computers. Alternity PHB also has a chapter on mutants, cybernetics, and psionics.
Saturday, February 23, 2013, 5:31 AM
1998 saw the release of Alternity, a Science Fiction Roleplaying game from Wizards of the Coast under the TSR banner. While the cover says "Science fiction", it's interesting to note the inside cover page states "Rules for modern to far-future roleplaying games."
When it came out, it had the highest price point for an RPG to that date. At $29.99 each for the PHB and the Gamemaster's Guide, the books were also the most colorful. The production value is very high for the core books.
Alternity can be seen as a pre-cursor to d20 and even d20 Modern, (the latter which would include story elements, characters and settings from Alternity.)
The dice system for skill checks and such was a bit funky. You rolled a control die of d20, and then added or subtracted a situational die. The problem with the system was the goal was to always roll low. Traditionally, rolling a 20 on a d20 was a good thing and rolling a 1 was very bad. Here, rolling a 1 was desireable. The control die and situational die were rolled and added together, and compared to a target number.
Worse, because of this setup Alternity had the same problem some mechanics in early versions of D&D had was that a "bonus" was subtracted rather than added, and penalties were added. It's counter intuitive. If your boss said you earned a bonus this year, you wouldn't expect him to take money out of your paycheck.
The situational die could be adjusted by steps as well. You could improve a d4 to a d6 if the GM thinks you have a situational advantage (or bonus). Likewise, you may end up rolling with a step penalty, in which you'd look down the table a number of steps. Say the bad guy has good cover, the GM might rule you have a 3 step penalty to hit. Now instead of a -d4 bonus, you might end up with a +d6 penalty.
In addition, there's a degree of success. There are five degrees. Most of the time the positive three were noted. Ordinary, Good and Amazing. If you hit with an attack, depending on what you rolled, you could roll for more damage. A D&D short sword may be 1d6 for everyone, but in Alternity, if you roll well, you could end up doing more damage, and if you rolled an Amazing attack, still more, and may even change the catgeory of damage. (Short sword in Alternity, on an ordinary roll, d4 wound damage, on a good result d6 wound damage and on an amazing attack roll, d6+2. (I say here again, a plus in this instance is a good thing, but most of the time it's bad. Very confusing.)
There are three types of damage in Alternity, Stun, Wound and Mortal.
As you can see, it can get complicated rather quickly. But, let me throw in one more stat example to show how it flows.
A character has these as skills:
Modern Ranged Weapons 13/6/3
Pistol Rank 1 14/7/3
Now, if the character uses any sort of modern ranged weapon such as a shotgun, they would roll a d20 and use a base situational die of +d4. Using a pistol, however, only a d20 would be rolled as the specialty in pistols would have a base situational die of d0.
The first number before the slash is to get an ordinary result, the middle for a good result and the third for amazing.
Let's say this character uses a pistol. A roll of 15 or higher is a miss. 14 or lower is an ordinary hit, 7 or lower is good and if the roll is above a 3, it's an amazing result.
For a pistol, (.38 revolver) damage is listed as d4w/d4+1w/d4m. The letters indicate what type of damage (stun, wound, mortal) is done.
BLAM! A 5 is rolled in the first round, a good result, so d4+1 of wound damage is done.
BLAM! A 3 is rolled this turn (The dice think they're playing D&D and are rolling low on purpose!), good enough for an Amazing result, and d4 mortal damage is done this round.
That's the basics of the game mechanics. The PHB has plenty of other topics as well.
The first part has fast play rules to get into the action. Character creation follows and introduces a number of "new" races. Sure, one can play a human, but RPGs allow other races to be played.
Since it's a science fiction game, fantasy races such as dwarves and elves won't do. Aliens are introduced as playable characters.
The skill system is flexable, but unfortunately some key rules are burried in the paragraphs, rather than clearly laid out. There are broad skills, and specialty skills, which can be improved.
The PHB also covers everything from vehicles to computers, mutants to cybertech to psionics. Almost any sci-fi setting can be played. Indeed, many of the Alternity books are inspired by elements from popular sci-fi shows and books.
Thursday, November 12, 2009, 1:58 PM
I once got in a rather loud argument with a video game store clerk. The usual deal is if you buy a new game, you can get the game's cheat book at a discounted price. One game I got, I felt I didn't need it, so I said nicely "No thanks, I don't need a cheat book."
He was very insulted. "It's not a cheat book. It's a strategy guide."
Yeah, well... It tells you all the secrets of the game so you don't have to figure out anything on your own, thus it's a cheat book.
It went back and forth for a bit, but my wife jumped in just to get us out of there.
I'm not against such cheat books. Once I defeat a game I like to play it a second time, and pick up everything I missed.
And I don't get it for every game. Just games I really like. I've got a couple of GTA cheat books. I also have Oblivion and Fallout 3 cheat books.
And now I finally have Dragon Age's cheat book. It's not the game is difficult at all, but my wife and I really like the game. So, we've got it set aside for just in case we get really stuck.
It was a real pain to locate, however. I went to about five different stores, including aforementioned un-named video game store. I couldn't find the cheat book rack in any of them. You'd think they would be fully stocked with most games, but if you're lucky, there's two or three cheat books for games on systems you don't own.
Such was the case for this one. There used to be a whole rack of cheat books at this game store, but now the only cheat books (a total of five) are at the counter.
Is the cheat book on it's way out?
Thursday, September 3, 2009, 10:29 PM
I was in a bookstore the other day checking out the D&D selection, when I glanced over to the left. The rest of the entire wall was nothing but vampire novels.
While I will gladly beat up Twilight, I should admit that I've so far been lucky enough to avoid seeing it, and I certainly won't read it. However, my wife is my "authority" on vampires, since she's a huge fan. So when she says it's terrible, I take it at face value that it's terrible.
She''s a huge fan of True Blood, and currently waiting for the next book to come out. In the meantime, I suggested she pick up another vampire novel (NOT twilight. I like my food untampered.) while she waits. Enter aforementioned wall of vampire novels.
You'd think with such a wall there would be at least something interesting and non-Twilighty. But no- all of them were Twilight knock offs. And that's saying something.
There's been quite a bit of vampire activity in popular culture. My wife is watching Blood Ties- and without knowing anything about it my guess on what it's about is an old vampire doing good by being a cop/detective. I'm sure I'm not far off the mark.
I did like Angel, even if it was campy. But Angel didn't pretend vampires (in general) were not monsters.
Which brings me to my point of Twilight and other "That's not really a vampire" ilk. I can allow for some deviations from "standard" vampire lore. Surviving in sunlight (assuming one has enough blood) as in Vampire: the series (Based on the roleplaying game.) is one example, because it explains why.
But it seems the movement of turning vampires into wimps has been going for some time. Angel, while he could be dangerous was still just a big teddy bear. Forever Knight was another vampire detective show where the main vamp wasn't scary or dangerous.
Vampires are supposed to be big scary monsters. Folklore about them might not be true or serve more as warnings than actual powers/restrictions. (I.E. Vampires can't enter unless invited may be nothing more than just a warning not to open the door to strangers.) But they certainly aren't lovers. The romantic aspect was more hypnotic to keep the prey from escaping rather than "Let's fall in love".
One doesn't fall in love with one's lunch.