Is Anyone Still Playing Alternity?

TSR’s Alternity Roleplaying Game is one of my favorite games which I never actually played. It’s a generic science fiction roleplaying game which has some interesting mechanics, is somewhat related to AD&D, and powered a couple of interesting settings. If you want to learn more about this out-of-print game, I can recommend checking out or Shaun Welsh’s review here on the blog.

So why am I writing about a rather obscure and out-of-print roleplaýing game today? I guess I am in a somewhat nostalgic mood and I am always thinking about this great SF campaign I want to run someday. When it comes to systems I could use for that project, Alternity is pretty high on my list.

The majority of games I enjoy are rather rules-light but Alternity is an exception. I guess you could call it rules-medium, especially if you add in all the optional subsystems like FX (supernatural abilities like magic etc.), psionics, space combat and so on. In Alternity every weapon causes different damage according to the degree of success of the attack roll, and armor has different armor values for each type of damage (low impact, high impact, energy). For some this might be a tad too fiddly, but I think it fits the genre nicely.

The skill system is also quite intersting with broad skills (think of skill categories) which can only be bought once (and will not be improved afterwards) and speciality skills which allow the characters to specialize within these broad fields. Again this is a bit more complex than my usual fare, but it fits the scifi genre perfectly, especially if you’re favoring realism.

For several reasons Alternity never was a huge success. It had been released at a time when WotC had already been bought by WotC (or shortly before that) and WotC obviously favored a 3rd Edition of D&D over continued support for Alternity. At least some of the elements from Alternity made a reappearance in WotC’s d20 Modern line. Sometimes I wish they would at least make the Alternity books available in PDF form, as they’ve done with older editions of D&D. But I doubt that will happen anytime soon.

Since I am thinking about using Alternity as the rule system for a campaign I want to run in the future, I am interested in your thoughts on the system. Is anyone still playing Alternity? Has the system worked for you so far, or do you houserule a lot? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team. In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games. Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.

11 thoughts on “Is Anyone Still Playing Alternity?”

  1. I’m running a Blackmoor play by post powered by Alternity; more science-fantasy than science-fiction, and the system hasn’t broken yet. I’ve tweaked the flavor behind the Grid to fit more of a fantastical element, but other than that, it’s been the core books plus Beyond Science with a dash of Dark●Matter.

      1. I ran an Alternity Dark Matter campaign for a few friends that ran the course of a couple of months. A near-future campaign related to the earth being split into three super-nations with the Americas going completely silent, centred around the recent innovations of graphene to make fusion power viable, which in turn powers world wide desalinisation plants re-hydrating the deserts of the world from the sea,and keeping the sea levels low.

        It unfortunately fell apart, but only due to real life issues.

        I also wrote a conversion of the rules for use in MapTool, but stopped that due to lack of interest.

        Alternity is by far my favorite system, because it has degrees of success, but only three different (ordinary/good/amazing) and it has very inspiring campaign settings.

        Whilst the community for the game is basically a ghost forum, I have always wanted to play a group with other, serious fans, but living in the UK makes that 100x harder.

        More’s the pity.

  2. One of my greatest gaming wants in this world is to run a dedicated Star*Drive campaign. I think Alternity provides some of the best rules systems to run a truly dramatic space opera game. I can’t get my friends nearly as enthused as myself but I will keep trying.

  3. Only once a friend ran a one shot using maternity. At the time I remember finding the way dice steps for skills and things worked to be a bit arduous to use during play. Just my taste maybe.

    That said, the Dark*Matter and Star*Drive seemed like neat settings.

  4. Had this open for ages, but it got buried under other tabs. I really like the Star Drive setting, and thought Dark Matter had some really sweet ideas that I’ve not seen in other conspiracy games.

    I also like a lot of the ideas in the rules: success levels, point based, roll-under system, cool die mechanic, but hate other bits: Good luck getting a broad skill after first level. I’d be tempted to try porting things to BRP, including the mechanical ideas and see what happens.


  5. When it came out we played it for a number of years. Used it for a Sci-Fi conspiracy game. Played a straight Star*Drive campaign. And for a time, I ran a full-fledged Fantasy campaign using the ruleset (including the FX rules for magic). Loved the system. I currently play D&D 5th Edition, and have two campaigns going. But, with Alternity 2.0 coming out this year (2018), I’m seriously considering beginning a campaign in the new rule set. If the new rule set isn’t to my liking (once I see it all), I may run an Alternity 1.0 campaign instead.

    1. I was thinking the same thing. I actually ran some Alternity games after 2000 for my friends. Farscape was popular at the time, so had some players make PCs based on the all white alien woman from one episode. As well as a Tsa merchant named Ka’Ching (of course) 😉
      I wanted to run a psionics based Blake’s 7/Chuck/Cowboy Bebop style game and have trouble deciding between Alternity and my other favorite Sci-Fi game: Aeon Trinity. I like the various powers of psionics from AT, but really like Alternity 1.0 simple roll under skill mechanic, Where you always know what target # to hit. But it’s the situation die that affects the roll,
      Don’t know if I like Alternity 2.0 count backwards roll over system. It’s too much like THACO. I’m afraid they pulled a George Lucas by tweaking too much with what made the original system great.

      1. I could not agree more with your comments. Well, I might feel more strongly. I haven’t gone past the promotional blog posts about the new Alternity because it has lost so much of what I love from the originally, particularly the Star*Drive setting and the roll low mechanic.

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