Awhile back, I wrote about having access to the new Alternity RPG that was kickstarted not too long ago. It’s currently in beta testing and I was looking forward to trying it out. Yesterday, I got a chance to try it out. Before that, I got to read a bit deeper into the book. I’m liking the game, although I do believe it has room to grow. Last night’s game was a blast and, not surprisingly, fully of blasts.
How did the Alternity RPG play?
The game itself uses a roll over variation of the Alternity RPG from TSR in the 90s. At its core, it’s still d20 based. However, instead of static modifiers like +2 or -4, it uses dice to modify rolls. So, everyone enjoyed getting a +d6 or +d8 to the roll, but was understandably nervous when a -d6 or -d8 came up. I mean, hey, what were we getting stressed over? Even on a -d20, it could mean we’re only subtracting 1 from our original d20, right? … Right?
Still, it’s a fun system. At first, there were a few misses and failures. That led to hilarity rather than death. And, rolls later in the game, with the same negative modifiers applied ended up succeeding. So, we were at the fate of the dice more than a few times and the scales seemed to have a nice curve to them.
One big difference that seemed to exist between this most recent version of Alternity and the OG version is that things were more difficult back then. This was supported by our GM, +Jon Henry. However, I am sure there are some math nerds in the crowd who can mathematically prove or disprove that statement. Please, feel free to hop in any time.
This latest incarnation of Alternity seemed to lend itself better to big budget action sci-fi, near superhuman heroes, big bangs and better chances of success. That’s not a complaint. In fact, I often enjoy those types of games.
The game seems–or at least our GM ran it–fiction first. Don’t worry about what’s on your character sheet. Just figure out what you want to do, THEN look at the sheet and figure out the best way you can do it. One of the things here was it appeared there was a lot of overlap. Not only did our characters have a lot of the same skills even with radically different concepts and backgrounds, but the skills themselves could overlap. When my character leapt to his feet and fired off his thruster belt to drag his comrades out of a room full of bullets and explosions, he could’ve roll acrobatics or extreme sports or athletics. To get the annoying shuttle alarm system to disengage, should it have been engineering or mechanics, security, or even profession (thief)? Any of those would’ve worked. In a number of cases, not only did one of our characters possess at least one of each of those skills, multiple characters often possessed more than one of those skills.
What was missing?
I think I mentioned in my earlier, short Alternity review, it seemed everything was leaning toward combat in the game. After a more thorough reading and now playing, I believe this even more. When we were reading over some business documents, what should’ve worked? Academics? maybe. Profession (business)? Sure. Maybe Science, because there was a lot of math involved? Perhaps a bit of stretch, but….maybe.
Look at the Talents–special abilities your characters get at creation and as they advance. Everything these is combat focused. I guess that’s a lot like Feats in Dungeons & Dragons or Pathfinder, but even those games have abilities to bolster a variety of skills. I think this is further exemplified with how they handle Mutant and Psionic characters.
I also recommend considering carefully what sort of play aides you will use in your games. We were playing online and the GM was rolling our attackers attacks against their skills. He didn’t have any sort of marker to remind him of my character’s difficulty increase to be hit, because that’s how the Dodge skill works. None of us took damage, so not sure if people read up on their skills like Resilience, but that sort of thing can make a big difference in the midst of combat.
Overall Outlook for the Alternity RPG
I’m not sure it was better than Cats, but I will play it again and again. However, if they don’t add some more non-combat support to the game, I will be disappointed and surely lose interest in it sooner rather than later. Our game was full of pithy one-liners, Monty Hall style GMing, and a good time for everyone. That, though, was due to the people involved moreso than the game. I’m hoping it turns out to be more than what it currently is, although it is undoubtedly fun to play as is. Maybe it’s going back to that style of D&D I grew up with where rules handled the combat and everything else was more or less just off the cuff. Maybe newer games with more depth have spoiled me. I’d be interested to hear others’ thoughts who have had a chance to look at and even play the Alternity RPG.