Thursday, March 29, 2012

Alternity. The Most Important RPG Of The '90s You Never Played!

Alternity, by TSR, was a phenomenal game. It was the first RPG I ever played that was not Dungeons & Dragons or a derivative (I go back to 1e). It was my first setting other than Greyhawk, the largely generic fantasy default setting for D&D. Honestly, it was my first dose of sci-fi other than Star Wars.

I didn't know it at the time, but TSR was wobbling on its last legs at the time Alternity came out, but still the game was a beautiful piece of work, with production values you only see nowadays on FFG tomes costing twice as much. The gameplay mechanics were smooth and innovative (to a guy who had only played D&D, anyway). Our first game of Alternity in the generic Star Drive setting, which reminds me a lot of Mass Effect, saw me playing a human for the first time, a rogue VoidCorp operative trying to free Sesheyan 'employees' from their Company imposed indentured servitude.

I can see, in retrospect, that a lot of what made Alternity so great went into the making of the subsequent, and more successful d20 system. Wizards of the Coast, TSR's successor in spirit and practice, even went so far as to include the Stardrive setting in d20 Future. Sometimes, though, I miss the original system. Alternity characters had a fragility and inherent mortality that is missing from the d20 games. You never became bulletproof in Alternity the way you can in d20.

Anyhow, this was likely brought on my a combination of my Halo d20 future gaming, as well as playing too much Mass Effect 3, which as I said, reminds me a lot of Star Drive. Maybe when the Halo campaign is done, I can nag the group into some Mass Effect Alternity? I think I can still lay my hands on those books.

Until then, power up your 10mm charge rifle, and may your StarFalls never be black!


Alex said...

I played the Dark Matter expansion for this, it was good game

Dave Bone said...

Alternity was awesome! I got that stuff as soon as it came out, back in '98 or whatever.

Have you thought about collecting the stuff on ebay and putting it through it's paces today?

Out of print games are still good.

CounterFett said...

@ Dave, honestly, when d20 came out I ditched Alternity and never looked back. I played a lot of 3e D&D, so the d20 system is pretty intuitive for me. D20 modern, for all it's faults, works pretty well for me, without a lot of modification, and it's easy for people to pick up when you are part of a pretty fragmented gaming group.