Alternity by JamieTheD
IntroductionOriginal SA post TSR's Last Gasp: Alternity (Introduction)
The first sign the artwork is a labour of love. Is the game as cool? Mostly.
In the dying days of TSR, some bright sparks got together and said “Okay, we largely own fantasy roleplaying now, and we tried our hand at western (Boot Hill) and post-apocalyptic (Gamma World). Let's try modern day/sci-fi!”
And so, Alternity was born. Cleaving to the usual “PHB, GMG, Setting Books, Splatbooks” model, Alternity actually had a system that wasn't a direct ripoff of AD&D's mechanics. No, instead it was altered to be slightly less confusing in combat, and slightly (slightly) less confusing in general. In a very real sense, this was proto D20 as we know it today.
Unfortunately, that, and the fact that roleplaying was going through one of its regular slumps, meant that Alternity, as a line, was killed before it could grow to the massive proportions it deserved. Because it's genuinely not a bad system. Flawed? Yes. But actively bad? Hell no! Well, except in one, maybe two areas that definitively and objectively suck. But they're mostly optional rules anyways...
It spawned two unique settings, Star*Drive and Dark Matter, and also resurrected the shambling corpse of Gamma World under its new system. I'll be exploring the core books, and then I will be exploring Dark Matter and Star*Drive, the two (interesting) settings for the game. And you know what else it had? Look at the covers for the core books. You know who that is? RK Post. For reference, here's an old gallery of his. He is awesome, and his work definitely lights up many of the books this system has.
See you next time, for the first actual update!
Making Folks (Races/Chargen Part 1)Original SA post
I say Apocalypse... but then, I love me line finishers...
Fossilised Rappy posted:
The best art for any Alternity book has been and always will be Facepalm Priest from Dark*Matter.
And you can guarantee he'll be in there when we get to it, along with everyone's favourite Screaming French Canadian Diabolist Trucker!
Alternity – Making Folks (Races and Chargen Part 1)
Those of you who own the Alternity books will notice I've just skipped two whole chapters, the intro, and the Fast Play Rules. This is because the Fast Play rules don't really explain much (they never do), and the introduction, beyond the breathless bubbliness of Bill Slaviscek and Richard Baker (they were really excited about the game, and it shows!), doesn't really say much we haven't heard before. So let's get straight to the meat and potatoes... making a character. I'm going to eventually make two characters, one to demonstrate how the system can trip you up, and one to demonstrate how a good (read: at least semi-broken) character is made.
In any case, first up is not, as you'd suspect, picking your stats, but your class and race. The default races in Alternity are all based on the Star*Drive setting, but as we'll demonstrate in the GMG later, it's quite easy to build your own. Let's deal with the races first.
Bill Slaviscek Really Enjoys His Research
Humans. Why am I spending time on humans? Because, as in many RPGs, humans form the baseline. Stats go from 4-14, and their skills... oh, yes, I'd forgotten about this. One of the quirks of the game is that races get a free Broad Skill (think of it like a skill package) in at least four of the six stats (They're basically the AD&D stats renamed). For humans, it's a generic set: Athletics (Strength), Vehicle Operation (Dexterity), Stamina (Constitution), Knowledge (Intelligence), Awareness (Willpower), and Interaction (Personality). The only mention I'll make now of those skills is whise the races differ.
Of course, as with any setting, humans' main ability is to breed like rabbits, expand everywhise, and generally make life interesting (read: fucking chaotic) for everyone else. At least RPGs see humanity right, even if we don't!
But seriously, they get an extra free Broad Skill, some more Skill Points, and that's yer lot.
Oh, Dem Greys...
The woman's hat does d4w/d4+1w/d6m...
The Fraal (Fr-ahl) are the first race mentioned (humans are something like fourth), and, as you might have guessed, they're basically Greys. Not the needlessly anal probing kind we all know of, but the wise and benevolent types you'd expect if your only source of knowledge about Greys was something as biased as Von Daniken. Naturally, they're psychic, which means they get Telepathy (Personality) instead of Athletics, and Resolve (Willpower) instead of Stamina. They're physically frail, but are smarter than we are, have stronger wills, and are generally nicer folks.
In the Star*Drive setting, thise are two groups: Builders (Who live like Eldar in generation ships, except that they did this to escape something they completely forgot about, instead of from space-demons) and Wanderers (Who are basically nomads). The two groups are not mutually antagonistic, and Builders quite freely become Wanderers and vice-versa. We'll touch on them more when Star*Drive rolls around, but suffice to say, they are actually important to the metaplot of the game (although this is not immediately apparent)
One nice touch that I will mention, however, is that the race section gives short guidelines on how to fit each race into a modern game, a near-future game, and a far-future game. For the Fraal, that's respectively “First race to contact humans”, “The Fraal are Humanity's mates”, and “The Fraal are still Humanity's mates.” Fascinating.
Their favoured class is, predictably, Mindwalkers (psychics).
We Used To Be Bastards, But Now We're At One With Dell
Alienware's Sales-Reps of the Future!
The Mechalus (Mek-Ah-Luss), or Aleerin, as they call themselves, are near-humans. The difference, as you may have noticed, is that they are cybered to the gills from birth. They used to be a warlike race, but they have (mostly) discovered peace and harmony via the wonders of cybernetics. Didn't stop them almost destroying their homeworld before they trawled the Interwubs though.
Their basic abilities involve cybernetics and computers. As far as computers go, they get a -1 “Step Bonus” (basically, -d4, in this case... lowballing is good in this system) to using computers, and... a Good Nanocomputer in their heads, two slots in their heads for programs, and what is essentially that well known game-changer, Wired Reflexes. Skill wise, they replace Interaction with Computer Science (Intelligence). So they're athletic goons. However, like the stereotypical goon, they have comparatively low willpower and personality.
In a near-future or contemporary campaign, it's recommended to use them as a First Contact scenario, with all the awkwardness that usually follows such stories, whereas they're buddies with humanity in the Far Future.
Also predictably, they prefer to be Tech Ops.
There Had To Be A Colonisation Metaphor Somewhere...
I am really liking the nod toward sexual dimorphism here, btw.
...and the Sesheyan (Sesh-Ey-Ahn) are that metaphor. A winged species somewhere between bats and reptiles, with 6 eyes and an animistic belief system, the Sesheyan are only in space because humankind got them there, and it's up to you as to whether this was in a good or a bad way. Star*Drive pretty much goes the “We abused the Amerindians” route, as VoidCorp ( Ltd, the Stellar Nation) “own” the Sesheyan homeworld of Sheya, keep most Sesheyan in ignorance, and the rest in lifetime indentured servitude. Obviously, not all Sesheyan like this.
Their skillset switches out Athletics for Melee Weapons (because Primitives) and Vehicle Op for Acrobatics, because they can fly. Oh, did I mention that, having wings, they rather sensibly are able to fly with them? They also have night vision (not darkvision, just night vision), act as though they have level 1 in Acrobatics: Zero-G Training, and never suffer fall damage if they can use their wings.
You can pretty much guess the history section, and statwise, they're weaker, quicker, not as smart, but have high willpower.
Stereotypical Sesheyan are Free Agents (the game's equivalent of rogues)
Hyperactive Geckomen From SPAAAAACE!
See? Not like Kender At All
The T'Sa (Tuh-Sah) are the last but one race in the base selection, and some people compare them to Kender. At first glimpse, this is perfectly true: They speak fast, they live fast, they think fast, and they're curious to the point of stupidity about technology. But, and this is the important point, they're not kleptomaniacs that lie about being kleptomaniacs, and, so long as you keep them away from big red buttons marked “DO NOT PUSH EVER” in big complicated machines, they're not going to annoy you, get you into trouble, or cause TPKs, unlike Kender. So, in general, a massive improvement.
Skillwise, they switch out Vehicle Op for Manipulation (sleight of hand), and statwise, they're weaker, much quicker, and slightly more likable than us talking monkeys. They have natural body armour (seems equivalent to a lighter version of a SWAT suit), get a -d4 bonus to their initiative (known as an Action Check), and a -d4 bonus to juryrig skill checks.
Historically, first contact was friendly, and they've been friendly ever since... they're pretty chill guys, as a species.
Stereotypical T'Sa is either a Free Agent or a Tech Op. And no, they're still not space-kender.
Every RPG Needs A Big Guy
Weren Don't Screw Around. Nuff Said.
The Weren (Wear-Un) are the Big Dumb Guys of Alternity (and, by extension, Star*Drive). They live on a planet called Kurg, and, in the Star*Drive setting, live in a tribal society that's been culturally uplifted (the Weren were already intelligent) by the Orlamu Theocracy (who believe in some Big Space Daddy called the Cosimir). This jibed quite well with the Weren's spiritual beliefs, so basically, they're murderous, but highly spiritual wolf-bear things. Just think of them as Big Dumb Guys, it's slightly easier.
Unsurprisingly, stat-wise, they're stronger, dumber, slower, weaker willed, and less personable. Also unsurprisingly, Weren swap out driving vehicles for Unarmed Attack, and that's about it. However, it's their special abilities which really cement their Big Dumb Guy status: Weren have 1.5 x Durability (Hit Points, basically), retractable claws, natural camouflage, and they get a +d6 penalty to using things that are above Progress Level 4 (Early Renaissance Period)
Weren only get a Far Future option, because they're primitives, but they basically learn new stuff readily, while not ignoring their homeworld's culture. I'll go more into them when we get to Star*Drive, because they do actually have a characterisation beyond Big Dumb Guys.
If you didn't guess that they like hitting things (and are thus best in the Combat Specialist class), I don't know how to help you.
Well, that's the races! Next time, we'll go into classes, stats, and buying skills! After that, we'll start making those characters!
The Other Half of the Equation (Chargen Part 2)Original SA post Hardware Repaired...
Reconnecting to Gridspace...
"Hello, Mr. TheD, Welcome Back To FATAL & Friends!"
Alternity: The other Half of the Equation (Chargen Part 2)
Yeah, this is where it deserves to be... but sadly not...
So, now that we know what races we can pick from, let's go take a look at the stats and classes, shall we? As mentioned, there are six stats, and the human baseline for them is between 4 and 14. They're largely self explanatory, being renamed versions of the six D&D stats. And you get 60 points to split between them, making the average for a hero 10 (average human is 9). However, like AD&D, classes have stat requirements to them. So let's go into the classes, then derived stats, and then the end of the update.
The classes are nearly all self explanatory, but each has a special ability. In the order they appear, they are:
Yes, this game has power armour... and it's not bad...
Combat Specs – They hit things, shoot things, and kill things. They're not complicated. They get a +3 bonus to their base Action Check skill (yes, initiative is handled like skills in this game... but you can't improve it except with cybernetics, psychic powers, or other arcane means), and they can pick one weapon or armour skill which they get a -d4 bonus to rolling. As we'll see, though, they're even more limited once you get to skills than usual for warriors, and that can get awkward. They need minimum 11 Strength, and minimum 9 Constitution.
Diplomats – These are the talky guys, but they also double as the “spy” class for the game. In the James Bond sense, not the “rogue” sense. Interestingly, it is this class that has the greatest skill freedom, not the Free Agent class, because of what I consider their primary special ability: They get to pick a second class, and get cheaper skills for both the Diplomat class, and whatever other class they picked. They also get a +1 to their Action Check skill, and start with either Contacts or Resources as a talent. Considering the focus in Alternity is very much on skills, these guys are the secret power-houses of the game. They need minimum 9 Willpower, and minimum 11 Personality.
Free Agents – Free Agents are basically rogues. there's not much else to say about them, except that they're luckier than any other class (1 extra Last Resort Point, which is basically Luck, and they can spend 2 on any roll as opposed to everyone else's 1), can pick a stat they're better able to oppose people with (adds a dice step to the penalty of anyone trying to beat that stat), and get +2 to their Action Check skill. They're kinda middle of the road. They require 11 Dex and 9 Will.
Cyberpunkin': Tattoos Not Optional.
Tech Ops – Short for Technical Operatives, these are, obviously, your techy guys. Their special ability? To learn quicker than other people (More skill points per level). Their skill focus, obviously, is on techy stuff, and they get a +1 to their Action Check. Gots to have 9 Dex, 11 Int.
and finally, there's Mindwalkers... except, because Psionics is an optional rule, they're not described as a class until Chapter 14 of the PHB, and only their stat requirements of Con 9, Int 9, and Will 11 are shown in the classes section at the beginning. Skipping forward, we find... they have a +1 to their Action Check, and can pick one psychic Broad Skill to have a -1 step bonus on... which is potentially a much sweeter deal than the Combat Spec's skill specialisation. But we will get to why when we get there...
So, we've got the stats, we've got the races, we've got the classes. What's next? Well, if you're using optional rules, gotta work those out (the base set are Mutations, Psionics, and Cybernetics, all three of which are default in Star*Drive), and then you have to sort your skills out. We'll mainly be dealing with skills when they come around in the book (after basic rules), but for now... we'll note that it makes the “mistake” of relating skills to intelligence. Specifically, you can buy INT/2 Broad Skills, and (INT-1) x 5 Skill Points worth of stuff overall. Now, I will say that I actually like intelligence based skill systems, but it does often lead to min-maxing, and I can perfectly understand why many people dislike them. We'll leave it at that, and move on to the next steps, and the next complaint people have against Alternity.
See, when it says Player's Handbook, it's really not joking. Much like AD&D, and a lot of systems before and since, the Player's Handbook is entirely filled with precisely two things: How to make a character (90% of the book), and the resolution system (10% of the book). As such, this means there's a lot of page flipping if you want to make a character, and, much like GURPS (which has a very similar pair of corebooks), it's point buy, which means making players takes time, and that puts a lot of people off. Again, I can perfectly understand this, but I happen to like it myself, due to the fact that, unlike many other systems, it really doesn't fuck around. So what's left?
This is evidence that the book is not amazingly well organised, being in the chargen chapter. Also... No Shit, Sherlock!
Perks and Flaws (Chapter 5), Motivation, Moral Attitude, and Character Traits (Chapter 6, or do what most experienced players do, and just skip them by writing a decent backstory that tells us these things), sort derived stats (in the chargen chapter), and sort out your starting cash and kit (Chapters 9-11).
So, let's look at the derived stats. Last Resort points are basically Luck Points. They modify rolls, and we'll deal with them in a couple of updates time, along with the rest of the system. Action Checks, however, allow me to give a little preview of it...
Skills have three levels of success: Ordinary, Good, and Amazing. Action Checks, because they're basically initiative, also have a Marginal level of success. How is this calculated? Well, in the case of skills, Ordinary is the associated stat + skill level, Good is half that, and Amazing is half that (rounded down). In the case of Action Checks, the stat is the average of your Dexterity and Intelligence (rounded down... always rounded down), and Marginal is anything highis than that. Obviously, you want to lowball to win. All actions in a phase happen simultaneously.
The next derived stat is Actions Per Round. That's right, you can act more than once, if you're good enough! This is derived by (CON + WILL)/8... all togethis now... rounding down. Finally, the highis your Strength and Dexterity are, the quicker you can move in combat, which makes perfect sense. Finally, we come to Durability. Which is, to me, an interesting set of stats.
Essentially, you have four types of hit points: Stun (which K.Os you if it goes to 0), Wound (which seriously fucks you over if it goes to 0), Fatigue (guess), and Mortal (0 = You're dead). Wound and Stun are both equal to your Constitution, while Fatigue and Mortal are half that, rounded... up. Yes, that's right, I lied. Some things round up. But not often. Finally, if you're strong, you do slightly more damage with melee and unarmed, and if you're not, you don't.
there, that was relatively painless, wasn't it? So let's talk about the rules next time, and start making those characters the update after, a'ight? See ya then!
Wait, I Roll What? (Rules)Original SA post
Can't sleep, so have a big honkin' update!
Alternity: Wait, I Roll What? (Rules)
The images, you may have worked out, are sorted by "Rule of Cool", as opposed to relevance.
I mentioned before that Alternity has an odd way of doing things. And a surprising amount of people have trouble with it, despite the fact it's relatively simple. So let's start by repeating how skills are calculated.
Essentially, you have two types of skills: Broad Skills, which allow you to do anything that doesn't need specialist training in a certain area (like Computer Use, or Unarmed Combat), and what I call Proper Skills, which actually have levels, unlike a Broad Skill, which you pay for once, and never upgrade. So why buy Proper Skills? For two reasons. The first is that, as I just said, you can never upgrade the skill-score of a Broad Skill. It will forever be “Your Stat/Half Your Stat/A Quarter of Your Stat”. Secondly, it gets a +d4 penalty to your die roll, unlike Proper Skills. So, as an example, with a CON of 12, you could have a Stamina Broad Skill of 12/6/3 (+d4), and, picking a sensible number out of the air, a Stamina - Endurance (2) Specialty of 14/7/3. The three numbers are for Ordinary, Good, and Amazing success levels, and you want to lowball. Simple.
“But Jamie, what is all this talk of plus and minus various dice?”
The Most Important Diagram In The Book.
Well... let's use an example skill. Let's say Ranged Combat – Rifles, at a level of 12/6/3 (a perfectly average skill level). Now, if the person who has this skill is shooting a rifle under standard conditions at medium range, it's a pretty simple roll of 1d20, and they want to roll as low as possible (because Good and Amazing successes lead to better things happening, for obvious reasons). However, the GM might turn around and say “Well, overall, that's a 2 step penalty”. What does that mean?
It means that they roll a second die (in this case, a d6), and add it to the roll. Bonuses go from -1 (-d4) to -5 (-d20, aka “Nobody's ever giving you this bonus” or “Oh God, don't bother rolling, you win!”). On the other hand, penalties go from +1 (+d4) to +7 (+2d20, aka “I asked you five times whether you really wanted to do this!”... also rarely given, for obvious reasons.). So, for this average rifle skill, this ranges from nigh 100% chance of success, to 60% for +0 steps, to perhaps less than an 8% chance at the very top end of the penalties. However, there is a flat 1/20 chance apiece for either a critical success or a critical failure, regardless of the total value of the dice. A natural 1 on the d20 always succeeds, while a natural 20 always fails. Of course, if you don't like criticals, you can always leave them out, I find. Assisting characters is basically a roll to see how many steps up or down you shuffle the player doing the thing he's rolling for, doing two things at once is a straight +2 step penalty on the main action, and a +4 step penalty (+d12) on the secondary action, and, obviously, both actions must be physically related (IE – things you can actually do at the same time).
Simple, right? So now, let's talk about initiative and damage. We mentioned how Action Checks work before (a failure isn't a failure, it's the fourth phase of Initiative, actions are simultaneous in a phase, and it's just like rolling a skill), but what we didn't mention is postponing actions and more than one action in a round. If you have more than one action a round, you actually have the chance to lose actions in a round, because there are only four phases. Your average character has 1, maybe 2 actions a round... so if a 2 action character got a Good Action Check, they act on the Good phase, and can then act in either the Ordinary or Marginal phase. But if they rolled a Marginal initiative, they don't get a second action. Obviously, if you got a good roll on your Action Check, you can delay your first action too... but what if you only have one action, and want to go first next round?
Well, then, you have to roll at least an Ordinary result, and spend the entire round doing fuck all, and, next round, you'll have an Amazing Initiative. there are situations where this is useful, but... generally, just be happy with the initiative you got.
Damage wise, we've already mentioned what going to 0 on your four health bars does... but we didn't mention how damage and armour works. there are three types of damage: Low Impact (LI, generally melee), High Impact (HI, generally ranged), and Energy (EN, pew-pew or fireball), and they usually have either an “s” (Stun), “w” (Wound) or “m” (Mortal) after the damage (which is usually [dice]+[number], and comes in Ordinary, Good, and Amazing flavours). Armour, unlike weapons, uses all three type ratings (LI/HI/EN), and blocks the damage rolled. If the armour is better quality than the “firepower” of the gun, it can also downgrade damage (turning mortal damage into wound damage, or wound into stun). Once all that's out the way, there's then secondary damage.
I like to call this one "Yes, We Have A Swim Speed!"
Obviously, when a weapon hits you, the damage isn't restricted to making you more dead: It also causes pain. And when somebody's knocked you out, they can keep kicking shit into you until it actually translates into organ damage. So, in order:
- Stun damage bleeds over into wound damage at a rate of 2 stun to 1 wound once you're K.O'd.
- Wound damage bleeds into mortal damage at a rate of 2 to 1 once you're K.O'd (yes, 0 wounds = K.O'd too), and for every 2 wound damage caused, you also take 1 stun (rounded down)
- Mortal damage doesn't bleed into anything, but for every 2 mortal you take, you also take 1 stun and 1 wound (round down again)
- Fatigue damage doesn't bleed into or onto anything... you just knock yourself out if you push yourself too hard for too long.
As far as healing goes, Stun damage disappears at the end of a scene regardless, Wound damage can be partly healed with a successful Resolve – Physical Resolve check (but failure adds a wound) once a week, or can be sorted with medical care, and Mortal damage needs medical care. It doesn't heal naturally, and when you have any Mortal damage, it might get worse if you don't make a Stamina – Endurance check. If you get to 0, obviously, you are dead, game over. These checks happen at the end of a scene, and once every hour thereafter, until the poor dumb bastard gets some medical help. PS – First Aid and normal medical stuff don't help Mortal damage, only the Surgery skill can help. As you might be able to tell, it's a system where death is but a heartbeat away.
In each combat phase, you can move and act, but certain types of movement give you a penalty. So that's alright. Before we finish the chapter (because the usual rules of Impact, Radiation, etc, are here, and are not much different from any other RPG), let's deal with Last Resort Points. Characters with LRPs can use them to upgrade or downgrade a skill check by one degree per point spent. Only Free Agents can spend more than 1 a round, nobody else can use an LRP on that check once it's been declared, and it has to be declared between the die being rolled, and the result being applied. This is, obviously, not a large window. Obviously, they can't make impossible things possible, they don't create critical successes, and they can only turn a crit failure into a normal failure. LRPs can only be replenished by buying them between sessions with skill points. RAW-wise, this isn't a great thing in general, and you could probably ease up on the “after rolling” restriction. But since LRPs are rarely used (or needed), it's no biggie.
Next time, we start making characters!
That's The Way To Do It! (Chargen Part 1)Original SA post Alternity: That's The Way To Do It! (Chargen Part 1)
The Future Of Customisation... Robots Cuttin' Your Head Up
So, making characters in Alternity is, sadly, not without its pitfalls. We're going to explore some of those now, with two fictional goons, PlaidXII and TheDextrousWaffle (any resemblance to goons living or dead is purely coincidental, and are not light hearted ribbing of said goons. Also, I have pieces of the Brooklyn Bridge for sale.)
PlaidXII is a sensible roleplayer, with one major quirk: He really loves bug-dudes. Mantis-dudes, cockroach-dudes, it doesn't matter, they fucking rawk. Unfortunately for him, the Alternity PHB doesn't have bug-dudes, or anything with a hive mind, so he decides to go for the next best thing: A T'Sa. For class, he's going to go for a Diplomat-Tech Op, because talking and toys sounds like a good idea.
TheDextrousWaffle , on the other hand, likes things that kill shit. He likes things that kill shit hard. So, rather naturally, he goes for a Weren. Because they kill shit. Hard. Because they also kill things hard, he rather predictably goes for the Combat Spec class.
Statwise, PlaidXII looks at the requirements: WIL 9, PER 11. That's just fine, he wasn't planning for an overly physical character anyway. Starting with an average of 10 in each stat, he adjusts up and down to eventually get STR 7 (moderately beefy for a T'Sa, but still weakish), DEX 12, CON 8, INT 12, WIL 10 and PER 11. His character, Fred The Gecko , is a friendly, moderately smart chap who is nonetheless not too good at these whole “fisticuffs” or “physical effort” things. As a result of this, he gets an action check of 14+/13/6/3, a bonus from being a T'Sa of -d4 every time he rolls that, 8 Wound and Stun points, 4 Mortal and Fatigue points, 2 actions a round, 2 Last Resort Points (his maximum), and he can get 6 Broad Skills and can spend 55 skill points. He's happy with this. He also notes that he has natural armour of d4+1 LI/d4 HI/d4-1 EN. It doesn't have a quality listed, so he assumes it's Ordinary. Finally, he notes down his free broad skills, and resistance bonuses.
TheDextrousWaffle , on the on the other hand, immediately puts max points into the physical. Killey dey ass, survive to the end. For a Weren, that's 48 points, and the GM points out that that might be a wee bit much . No fucks are given, and the stats of STR 16, DEX 12, CON 16, INT 4, WIL 4, and PER 4 are noted down. Dumb as rocks, angry at the world (and unlikable for it), and about as perceptive and strong-willed as a cauliflower. Just the way he likes it. he gets an action check of 12+/11/5/2, and immediately bitches about it. The GM sighs. He then gets to sigh even more, as Grr'Arg (Waffle's character) gets 0 LRPs, 2 actions a round, 24 Wound and Stun, 12 Mortal and Fatigue, and can take a total of... 2 Broad Skills, with 15 skill points to go around. Waffle then realises that Weren can't use far-future bangtubes and pewsticks without penalties, and starts to cry about it. The GM reminds him that he's also harder to hit at range, and has natural weapons that do d4w/d4+2w/d4m (LI/O) (that's d4 wounds on an Ordinary Unarmed check at one end, and d4 Mortal on an Amazing on the other). Waffle bitches some more, and it is the GM's turn to give no fucks.
Meanwhile, some random goon makes a human, and nobody cares, because in base Alternity, humans are good, but neither interesting nor amazing. He sits in a corner, unaided by the GM, and talks to his hands.
Moving onto skills, the two goons see... a table. A big two page spread. With lots of pretty numbers and letters. They ask for an explanation. The DM then explains that skills come in two flavours: Broad Skills, which are general categories like Heavy Weapons or Life Science, and Proper Skills, which come in lots of flavours, and can be upgraded, unlike Broad Skills. You need to buy a Broad Skill before getting a specific skill, the ones marked with the same first letter as your class are one point cheaper, and it costs (cost+current level) to upgrade a skill.
TheDextrousWaffle starts weeping openly, as they realise they can only afford two Broad Skills and two specialty skills, at best. They also notice that space tactics are only available cheaper to Tech Ops. Finally, they notice that none of the gun skills explicitly mention weapon maintennance, and definitely don't include weapon repair. The GM mollifies Waffle (slightly) be saying that they take weapon maintennance as sort of read for someone who knows how to use a weapon. So Waffle, still a little teary-eyed, buys the broad skills Melee Weapons [STR] and Ranged Weapons (Modern) [DEX], which start at 16/8/4 and 12/6/3 respectively, and take 10 of his 15 skill points. For specific skills, he takes one level each in Blade Weapons and Rifles respectively, which wipes his out. The GM reminds his of the -d6 penalty to pretty much all of the latter, and Waffle screams in rage.his 13/6/3 is now effectively a 10/3/1 on average. For any skill he doesn't have, which is allowed to be used untrained, he not only uses half his stat as the base (so Primitive Ranged Weapons would be 6/3/1), he also takes a -d4 penalty for not knowing the skill (as if he had only the broad skill). This is most of them.
PlaidXII , meanwhile, is delighted to find that, while nearly all the combat and physical skills are normal price, pretty much everything in his favoured stats is cheaper than normal. However, he finds himself spoiled for choice, with only 6 Broad Skills to pick. He eventually decides that he wants Modern Ranged Weapons (6 points), Vehicle Operation (3 points), Business (3 points because it's a Diplomat skill), Navigation (5 points), System Operation (4 points), and Technical (6 points). He was tempted by the interpersonal skills and Law, but has to drop them in favour of his core idea: A space-trader. But at least Interaction as a Broad Skill was free! This still leaves him with 28 points, and there are certain things he absolutely needs. For example, Space Vehicle is trained-only, so he buys a rank of that (4 points). The same with Drivespace Astrogation (3 points). 21 points left, and he can potentially get a lot. Because he gets a racial bonus in it, he gets Juryrig (2 points), and because he wants to trade, he gets Bargain and Charm (2 points apiece). He then gets Small and Illicit Business (2 points each), Pistols (4 points), and, to round things off, he gets System Astrogation (2 points), Engineering (2 points), and Intuition (3 points) to round it all off.
So, the character sheets so far:
Fred The Gecko STR: 7 (+0 steps) WOUND: oooooooo MORTAL: oooo DEX: 12 (+1 step) STUN: oooooooo FATIGUE: oooo CON: 8 (+0 step) INT: 12 (+1 step) Action Check: 14+/13/6/3 (-d4) WIL: 10 (+0 step) PER: 11 (+1step) SKILLS STR Athletics 7/3/1 (+d4) DEX Manipulation 12/6/3 (+d4) Ranged Weapons, Mod. 12/6/3 (+d4) Pistol 13/6/3 Vehicle Operation 12/6/3 (+d4) Space Vehicle 13/6/3 CON Stamina 8/4/2 (+d4) INT Business 12/6/3 (+d4) Small Business 13/6/3 Illicit Business 13/6/3 Knowledge 12/6/3 (+d4) Navigation 12/6/3 (+d4) Drivespace Astrogation 13/6/3 System Astrogation 13/6/3 System Operation 12/6/3 (+d4) Engineering 13/6/3 Technical 12/6/3 (+d4) Juryrig 13/6/3 (-d4) WIL Awareness 10/5/2 (+d4) Intuition 11/5/2 PER Interaction 11/5/2 (+d4) Bargain 12/6/3 Charm 12/6/3 WEAPONS DAMAGE (O/G/A) TYPE RANGE Fisticuffs (Marquis of Queensbury Rules) d4s/d4+1s/d4+2s LI/O Personal ARMOUR LI HI EN Quality Natural Armour d4+1 d4 d4-1 Ordinary
Grr'Arg STR: 16 (+3 steps) WOUND: oooooooooooooooooooooooo MORTAL: oooooooooooo DEX: 12 (+1 steps) STUN: oooooooooooooooooooooooo FATIGUE: oooooooooooo CON: 16 (+3 steps) INT: 4 (-1 steps) ACTION CHECK: 13+/12/6/3 WIL: 4 (-1 steps) PRE: 4 (-1 steps) SKILLS STR Athletics 16/8/4 (+d4) Melee Weapons 16/8/4 (+d4) Blades 17/8/4 (-d4) Unarmed Attack 16/8/4 (+d4) DEX Ranged Weapons, Mod. 12/6/3 (+d10) Rifles 13/6/3 (+d6) CON Stamina 16/8/4 (+d4) INT Knowledge 4/2/1 (+d4) WIL Awareness 4/2/1 (+d4) PRE Perception 4/2/1 (+d4) WEAPONS DAMAGE TYPE RANGE Punching Shit Hard d4s/d4+1s/d4+2s LI/O Personal Clawing Faces Off d4w/d4+2w/d4m LI/O Personal ARMOUR None!
Skills, Perks, Flaws, and Guff (Chargen Part 2)Original SA post
While my temporary PC isn't good enough to LP on (boooo!)... I can still F&F with the best of them!
That's right, it's time to go back to...
Alternity: Skills, Perks, Flaws, and Guff (PHB Part 5, Chargen Part 2)
Dissecting the rules like we would greys, awww yeah!
Skills, as noted in previous updates, are pretty easy to understand. But there is one more thing to mention about them: Many skills have bonuses available to buy for getting them to certain ranks (usually in incremements of 3 or 4). For example, at rank 4 of a melee skill, the character gains a new maneuver, and again at ranks 6 and 9. Every 4 ranks, the resistance bonus for strength goes up by 1 when using that particular type of melee weapon. It must also be noted that the deck is heavily stacked toward Intelligence, as the vast majority of skills are either there or in Dexterity. Of course, this is because the Intelligence skills are nearly all very specialised, and only about a third of them have combat applications. So it all balances out.
Perks and Flaws are pretty much normal, and, if anything, are a little sparse for a generic system. They cost or give skill points, and you can take 3 of each. there are, however, a couple of notable ones. Alien Artifact, for example, can be taken as either a perk or a flaw. What this means is that, if it's a perk, it's mostly good with some bad things, and if it's a flaw, it's mostly bad with some good things. Considering some of the bad things that can be chosen or rolled from the GMG section on artifacts, you'd be a chump to take this as a flaw. Then there is Filthy Rich and Dirt Poor.
Tell me folks, how would you like some extra random in your starting funds? Both Filthy Rich and Dirt Poor provide this in spades, as they're a perk that's also a skill, and if you take them, you can either get 10 to 100 times more starting cash (Filthy Rich), or -25 to 90 percent of your funds for Dirt Poor! Wheee!
Actually, pretty much any perk marked as “Conscious” requires a sort of skill roll to use, while flaws are nearly always a step penalty to a skill, resistance modifier, or attribute. But, beyond that, there's really not a lot to say about flaws. So let's move on a chapter!
Chapter 6 (out of 15) is a collection of career templates. You spend a certain amount of skill points, get signature gear into the bargain, and it's generally a useful idea to at least start with one of these. Amusingly, this is also the chapter where the writers openly admit that the money system doesn't allow characters to get most of their starting gear. We'll go into this problem in more detail later, but suffice to say, it is a genuine flaw in this game, and allowing people to just take signature gear for the occupation closest to their concept is probably a very good idea. Especially since it gives some careers a ship and a waiting plot hook in the form of massive bank loans.
"Perks & Flaws needs something... I know, dude freaked about the bullet-hole in his hand! Perfect!"
Finally for this update, we have Chapter 7, which is rather confusingly called “Attributes”. Remember I mentioned Motivation, Morality, and Character Traits? This is where the PHB dumps them. I'm basically going to say that you're better off writing a proper background than relying on these, and then digress into something worth talking about : The artwork.
Alternity brought in some top guns for the artwork, and, while the colour scheme of their books isn't great, and the layout isn't always great either (it took me a while to realise that Intelligence skills were the top half of the second page, instead of noting Engineering as a Willpower based skill... no mattter how amusing and often-accurate that may be...) But one thing that definitely stands out is the artwork. Lemme mention a couple of names...
R K Post (nearly all the art we've seen so far).
Brom (we'll come to his art later).
And Todd Lockwood (The diplomats, among other pics). Of the three, I least prefer Lockwood's work, but as you can see, they contribute a unique style to the game, one which definitely gives it a good feel.
And, on that note, next time, we'll be looking at experience, goods, and why you can never get what you want!
Expanding Your Horizons (PHB Part 8)Original SA post Alternity: Expanding Your Horizons (PHB Part 8)
She found ultimate enlightenment. How are you going to level up today?
Alternity, it must be said, is not without its flaws. But there's one flaw that many players think exists in Alternity... When it actually doesn't. Namely, the idea that once you've bought your INT worth of Broad Skills, you can't buy any more. Let's flick back a bit and apply some basic logic, shall we?
”PHB, Page 33” posted:
Intelligence is particularly important to every hero because it determines the number of Broad and Specialty Skills he starts with
Okay, now that that's out of the way, let's talk about levelling up. Levelling up is a matter of getting 5 + Your Current Level in achievement points, then you get the same amount of skill points, and any leftover achievement points go toward your next level. So for level 1, it's 6 points, but from level 1 to 3 is a further 15 points (7+8). Simple enough. Seeing as you can afford most broad skills in your class for 6 points, or a new level in a specialty skill plus a cheap new one, this doesn't seem too bad. Until you realise all the other natty stuff you can get, and stuff you have to pay for.
This is one of the areas where Alternity gets complicated, because everything except skills has a minimum level requirement... that's different for each class. For example, let's say Fred the Gecko and Grr'Arg want to up their stats. Let's say it's Willpower, because you can't level up already maxed stats, and they both suddenly feel they need it. You can improve a single stat twice, so long as it doesn't go over the racial maximum, but, to use our example characters, the first chance they'd get for Willpower would be levels 3 and 7 respectively. If it were Strength, it would be 6th and 3rd level for the first. Then they can do it again 3 levels later, if they so choose.
One thing that isn't mentioned on the whopping table, however, is Last Resort Points. Remember how you couldn't regain them naturally, you had to buy them back? Well, I hope you were paying attention to the book, because the cost is actually in the chargen section. Luckily, if you derp out, it does mention where to look (page 38). Also, something I forgot to mention, and the book only mentions it in passing in the Skills chapter. Remember I talked about natty skill rank benefits? You have to buy them.
Does this extra book-keeping and points drain detract from the game? A little. But at least the experience system isn't too harsh: Between 1 and 3 points per adventure (longer adventures are either cut into parts or give more achievement points... they're not monsters!), and then there's an extra 1 point apiece up for grabs for good roleplaying or doing something amazing. So, for the first few levels, you're generally levelling up every few sessions, and it's only at levels 10 and above that things slow down. That, of course, is compensated for by the higher SP bonus, so, overall, it's not actually as bad as you'd think.
The only crappy art I've found so far. No, it's not cell imaging, guys, it's a shitty Photoshop filter...
Now, with that done, we move on to starting kit. This, ladies and gentlegoons, is a definite flaw... specifically, the starting money. On the low end, a Mindwalker starts with between 5 and 30 dollars (it uses dollars even when creds are more appropriate, just assume the usual “x monetary units” thing most RPGs do). At the high end? Diplomats, who get between 12 and 60 dollars. Yes, you heard that right: The highest amount you have to start a character with is 60 dollars (not counting the unreliable Filthy Rich bennie). You know what that will get you? A Briefcase. Or one day's cheap lodging, with 10 creds left over.
It will come as no surprise that many Alternity Gms either give signature kit or multiply this some for actual starting kit. In any case, there's nothing particularly noteworthy in either the kit or the weapons and armour chapter, so next time, we'll finish character generation for our two fictional goons, and take a look at how the core book deals with computers after that.
Beep Boop! (PHB Part 9)Original SA post
In answer to the OctaNe question, multi-Role characters were indeed removed. But now... a re-write.
Alternity - Beep Boop! (PHB Part 9)
"Wait... How many children did I have to sell into slavery to get this again?"
Now we come to Computers, which shows the balancing factor behind Tech Ops. Yes, Tech Ops by their very nature have a lot more freedom of skill choice (and skills) than a Combat Spec, but they pay for it with specialised equipment. Never is this more apparent than the section to do with Computers.
For Progress Level 5 (Modern day, and, obviously, when computers are first canonically used), using a computer is relatively simple. None of the bullshit we're about to see, just Hacking rolls for hacking, Software rolls for programming (which, in PL 5, has limited applications, rules wise), Computer Operation for using the Internet to research, and Hardware to fix the damn thing when it inevitably breaks. Once we hit Progress Level 6, however, we have... The Grid.
The Grid is a middle ground between Shadowrun or CP2020's "Hacker's Separate Adventure", and nearly every other system's abstractions, and it feels kludgy . I think one of the reasons I like Alternity so much is that, since I either ran Star*Drive without all this Grid bullshit, and Dark*Matter (which uses PL 5 rules), I never actually had to deal with it. But it's a mess, and there's lots of reasons why. The first is that, RAW, it's going to need Cybernetics (we'll get into Cybernetics next time). The game gives you the option of using "A light version of the Cybernetics rules" if you don't want to cope with Cykosis (the game's nickname for the good old "Six Million Dollar Crazies" we've known since the days of CP2020, possibly before) and Cybernetics in general, but the computer stuff alone is expensive, and, as mentioned, kludgy.
First off, you have to get a computer. Even a shitty Marginal PL6 Dataslate (Basically, a tablet computer) costs $300. This has space for 1, count that, one Program. Let's take a look at the basics for Grid Combat and Hacking, shall we? Oh wait, no, you see, most computers , while existing on the Grid, don't have the capability to access the Grid, especially not the humble DataSlate, which is so unbelievably shit that it requires you to buy 3Ds (basically, holochips) which you then put programs on (2 Program Slots a 3D, 5 for an X-3D, which are $10 and $25 at Marginal... There is no reason I can find to buy above marginal, because it's the Computer's rating that matters for processor speed, not the storage media's. Also, there is no written benefit to buying Ordinary or above. Whoops.)
No, what we'll need, at minimum, hardware wise, a GridCaster ($2000 minimum for a Marginal, 3 Program Slots), and an NIJack ($500, only comes in Ordinary flavour, although PL7 has Subdermal and Wireless at Good quality for $700 and $1000 respectively). Wire comes with it, obviously. So that's between $2500 and $7500 (Marginal to Amazing) for the absolute minimum you need to go play with the big boys on the Grid. Hardware wise. It also doesn't specify if we can use a Mainframe (most powerful), Microcomputer (okay, and less expensive), or Nanocomputer (technically Cyberware, and only allowed with GM permission from PL 7 onwards) to hack the Grid. Great.
A 3D. You will be sick of these quite quickly. But your life will depend on them.
Yes, I stressed Hardware-wise, because we still have our Programs to buy. Only between 3 and 10 (if we're using the Gridcaster as our prime example) Programs can be installed at any one time, depending on quality, and you definitely don't want a Marginal one, because we need more than 3 Programs. Just to start with, we need a ShadowForm. Well, we don't need one, but it's a damn good idea (For reasons that are never adequately explained). Even a basic ShadowForm program takes... 2 slots of the three to run. And pretty much everything is done by Computer-Science - Hacking rolls. If you're good at Hacking, you can improve one of the three stats your ShadowForm has (STR, DEX, CON) by half the skill rating. By the way, those stats are mostly for HP type things and Resistance Modifiers to being attacked. Everything is Hacking. Everything is Hacking. I cannot stress this enough.
So, you've got a Marginal Gridcaster, and have just used 2 of your 3 slots to... Start doing anything. But guess what, to even scan data in the Grid, you need a Program! That takes up your other slot! And most of the programs you can't use, ever , with a Marginal Gridcaster, because you can't run ShadowForm and the other Program at the same time! Also, you've spent... Between $600 and $2400 for... The ability to go on the Grid, and what is basically Foxit Reader. Congratulations, you've hacked the Gibson! So let us just leave this little segment behind with the note that nobody I've ever met who ran Alternity used the Grid. Ever.
Nope, this isn't a GridCaster. Nor is it an AI. Neither are ever pictured in this book.
Let's talk about AIs, instead! AIs turn up around PL 6, and from there, generally only inhabit Mainframes until around PL 9, where they might inhabit smaller stuff (but the most powerful AIs still need the big guns.) They're rated on the same Marginal to Amazing scale everything else is, and, assuming the same kind of system and AI level, will have exactly the same basic stats. No, you don't have one AI slightly smarter or less perceptive than another, and, for obvious reasons, don't have physical stats (they can control robot bodies, but afaik, this doesn't turn up till the sourcebook DataWare... Which we will eventually deal with.) Again, nearly everyone I've met houserules the shit out of this when it applies to their campaigns.
Spaceship computers come in three flavours, all of them barely mentioned: A stock mainframe with a Marginal processor that runs the systems in general, dedicated computers for various Systems that are generally only Ordinary in PL 6 (Good and Amazing are PL 7), and, at PL 7, a dedicated AI Supercomputer that is neither denoted by quality, or price in this section. This is, funnily enough, my favourite part of the entire Computer chapter, because it has little to no faff. Little to no rules , either... But you've already seen what specific rules have gotten us.
Finally, we have Robots. Don't bother with the Robot section in the PHB, it is crap. Robots are the purview of the GMG and DataWare, Citizen, and anyone who says different is obviously not working out that creating stuff is the purview of the GM, and the GM alone!
Next time, we deal with Cybernetics, and why that, too, is often houseruled and optional. FATAL & Friends: Reminding you that systems you love are because you didn't stick to RAW.
Finishing Up (Chargen Part 3)Original SA post
Man, first thing I see is a RIFTs post. It's like I never left... Anyways, some of you may remember I was writing up Alternity, and mysteriously vanished. That writeup will continue, and we shall finally see the ending of the saga of
... May God have mercy on their fictional souls...
(For the previous chargen bits, go here and here )
Alternity: Finishing Up (Chargen Part 3)
TheDextrousWaffle is displeased at how chargen's been going...
IMPORTANT NOTE: The links are Orokos dice-rolls. So now you know what some of the pretty numbers are.
So, last we left off, TheDextrousWaffle was weeping into his coffee, while PlaidXII was already poring through the perks and flaws chapter. Unsurprisingly, Fred The Gecko decides to take Filthy Rich as his sole perk, getting a Filthy Rich score of 12+/11/5/2. To balance this out, he decides to spice the challenge up with Bad Luck. Remember doubling the crit range in D20? This doubles the crit fail range, so if PlaidXII rolls a 19 or 20 on the control die, his character's going to fuck up spectacularly . This applies to the Filthy Rich as well.
TheDextrousWaffle , meanwhile, still has his mind on one thing (Making someone really killy), and buys Reflexes and Tough As Nails as perks (adds +1 step resistance to DEX and STR respectively), balancing it out with... an Alien Artefact and an Ordinary Enemy, leaving him a spare skill point, and the GM rubbing his hands with glee. Alien Artefacts as flaws, naturally, have more bad than good.
First up, it's a carried object (EDIT: As an aside, it's perfectly possible to roll a building as your artefact), in the form of a small tool . Wow, really helpful (We'll assume it's a sonic screwdriver of some kind). Its primary purpose is... Transmutation . Oh dear. Secondary purpose? Thankfully nothing . But that still leaves a transmutation power, and, of course, the drawbacks to the tool. A single d8 roll reveals 2 ordinary powers, 2 M drawbacks, 1 S drawback . Looking ahead reveals that S is for a Slight drawback, while M, obviously, is for Moderate. The GM rolls the powers: a 3 and a 1 ... The artefact can convert 10kg of one element into another (or 1000 cubic meters of gas), and, with use of the Pistol skill, can damage inanimate objects by oxidising/reducing them (IE – burnination) to the tune of d4w/2d4w/3d4w, of Good firepower. PlaidXII grits his teeth, and so does the GM. Unless the drawbacks are really nasty, this isn't really going to be a flaw... Good Firepower will get through a lot of things.
Rolling for all three at once, the GM gets 3, 1, and 8 . That's Blackouts, Damping Field, and Infamous Device. The GM thinks for a minute, and then makes the Infamous Device the slight drawback... after all, burnination isn't exactly worth infamy now, is it? As such, the GM rules the Blackouts are caused by either getting a crit fail on the burnination roll, or using the element conversion power on gas (that just about adds up to the “once per session” a Moderate flaw has...). The damping field is cut and dry, and rather nastier: Thise's a 75% chance, every time it's used, that it will shut all powered devices within 20 meters off for an hour. The GM secretly resolves to only rarely let this happen when TheDextrousWaffle actively plans to use a power for the purpose of triggering that flaw. Of course, lots of things can be within 20m, especially on a small ship (Life Support, Gunnery, and Shields, for example), so this is definitely the flawed artefact it's meant to be. And, while it's not RAW, it's generally accepted that Flaw Artefacts somehow stick to you like the stink on a monkey's finger.
The GM then lets the players pick their motivations, morals, and two character traits, if only to see what their concept is adding up to. Fred The Gecko is apparently all for Helping Others (motivation), is Honourable (moral), and is Flippant, yet Compassionate. Somewhere, a hollywood writer gets a feeling like somebody walked on his script. Grr'Arg , meanwhile, is unsurprisingly, is all about being the best ever at making things very, very dead (Winning is Everything), is Anti-Authority (Alternity's equivalent of Chaotic Stupid), and is Aggressive and Ominous. The hollywood writer suddenly feels like he needs a session with his shrink, because he feels like the buddy movie he's planning has been copied, and he knows that shouldn't matter!
Finally, we come to kit. In TheDextrousWaffle 's case, the GM takes pity, says that the starting money is “walking around money”, and gives him the starting equipment for a soldier: Assault rifle, pack of rations, battle jacket, and survival gear. He gets a whopping 15 dollars . Good thing the GM was nice, eh? PlaidXII eagerly awaits, knowing that he's going to get a spaceship and a cool pistol and...
The all-important "Rich/Poor" table.
...the GM tells him to make his filthy rich roll, and buy kit from that. The spaceship is a given (complete with high interest loans to pay off), but everything else has to be sorted by Filthy Rich. PlaidXII blanches. He rolls 1d20 + 1d4, and... blanches again . He's going to have to cope with only 10x starting funds. Luckily, diplomats have 5d12 for starting wealth, so maybe... but no , he gets quite a few lowballs, and ends up with 230 dollars. To compare this with what he would have got, that's 170 less than for half the remaining signature kit (a 9mm charge pistol, costing $400), and seven hundred and seventy dollars short of the natty armoured trenchcoat he could have got. TheDextrousWaffle sniggers, and PlaidXII mutters that he didn't want the god-damn charge pistol anyway. He buys a .38 police special ($100), 2 “clips” worth of bullets ($30), and a toolkit ($100).
We may end up seeing Fred The Gecko and Grr'Arg again, but next time, we'll be dealing with computers... And the economics thereof.
BIG OLD EDIT
Ahahahaaa... Alternity's layout has actually tampered with this F&F entry. See those pretty numbers for money? Multiply all of them by 10. This isn't noted in the big black text box with "$$$" as a header (and the dice rolls you see above). Nor is it mentioned in the big greenish-grey textbox about "not going hog-wild". It's mentioned in one line under the header in the normal text of... "Spending Money". Therefore, PlaidXII actually comes out smelling like a rose with 2300 dollars , and TheDextrousWaffle ends up having kit and money totalling 3245 SpaceDollars. Not counting the ship, it was still a better deal to have starting money + starting kit, but kit costs are less of an issue than I've been making out. Although not, as we'll see for the Computer post, a non-issue .
The Most Expensive Part of the Book (PHB Part 10)Original SA post
Kill it with fire? It's almost like you read this section of Alternity, mate! Oh, wait, you're talking about RIFTs. Whups.
Alternity: The Most Expensive Part of the Book (PHB Part 10)
All the toys you can't actually afford. Fuck you too.
NOTE: This is technically hugely out of order, as Cybernetics is Chapter 14 (the final chapter) of the PHB, while Computers are Chapter 10 (Inbetween are Weapons and Armour, Mutations, Psionics, and Starships). You'll understand quite quickly, though.
Cybernetics... in many other systems, they break the game over its knee. In Alternity, they're points and money better spent elsewhere. The cybernetics system is a definite flaw in this game, and I'm fairly certain many people house-rule it. So, you want to be a cybernetic superman, huh? Well, first, you need a nanocomputer installed in your body, before anything else (except cosmetic shit). That'll be 10 skill points and between $2000 and $4000, please!
Oh, you don't want to spend what is, on average, a third of your skillpoints and more money than a starting character sees in a quarter for the basic cybernetic requirement? And you definitely don't want to spend $3000 for a +3 to your strength? Thank you, come again, and don't come back, you min-maxing shit, we're dead serious about cybernetics, we are!!!
Oh, and let's not forget that, after chargen, there's at least two chances for you to not actually get what you paid for. There's a check (varying between a single roll for between adventures or chargen, to an extended check in-adventure) against the Surgery skill... Which can not only fail, but cause Mortal Damage if it crit fails... And, in some cases, there's a CON check to see if the body accepts or rejects the implant. You've lost the money regardless. This, specifically, is when you've installed enough implants (based on their Size) to push you over half your CON score (or CON + 4 with Mechalus, because they love that shit). If that second check fails, as noted, you still lose your money, and you take a Mortal point in damage too. Keep in mind, that's anything up to 5 Mortal Damage in total, and 5 is, coincidentally enough, exactly the amount needed to kill someone with an average (10) CON. If you're genuinely enforcing that cyber-surgery check in chargen, this is the only way I know of to kill characters as they're being generated. And that's one “only” too many.
I freely admit, the Cybernetics section is definitely not great, and I really wouldn't mind if somebody dragged Bill Slaviscek or Richard Baker here to explain exactly why Cybertech is so god-damn expensive. Although, to be fair, for the +3 strength, it's actually a great deal, because that can take you over the stat maximum, and costs less than it would to actually buy improved stats, then improve the stat over play (more to the point, it's not actually possible to raise a stat 3 above the max). But RAW... It's really not worth the hassle.
What I'm basically saying is, cybernetics is mostly terrible unless you spend big, and cyber-hackers have to spend silly points (10 SP!!! A minimum of $2500!!!) just to be able to use their special GridCasters to their full potential (yes, in addition to the other $4000 or so they already spent.) As we'll also see, Telepaths with Datalink blow cyber-hackers at first level out of the water. But that's for later.
Next time, we'll be looking at combat in a little more detail, just to demonstrate how potentially deadly it is... Oh, and looking at (mentioning) some of the fun guns and stuff the game comes with while we're at it.
Wait, That Does WHAT? (PHB Part 11)Original SA post
Rushing a bit, but that's because I want to get to GMG hilarity at
point this month.
Alternity: Wait, That Does WHAT? (PHB Part 11)
So, before we go into kit, and an example of combat using our old friends and some creeps from elsewhere, let's recap on the basics of combat, armour, and wounds.
- Everything is skills, except initiative, which is action checks, and damage, which is based on how well you did (on the usual OGA scale).
- Weapons and Armour both come in two sets of flavours: Type, and Quality. Type is Low Impact (Melee), High Impact (Bangtubes), or Energy (Lazors), while Quality follows the OGA scale. Armour blocks some damage, only downgrades damage type if it's better than the weapon's Firepower Quality, and Amazing armour is reserved for Vehicles.
- There are essentially four types of damage, but only three are common: Stun, Wound, and Mortal. Stun and Wound are based on CON, Mortal (and the rarely used Fatigue) based on CON/2. Run out of Stun, you're KO'd. Run out of Wounds, you're down. Run out of Mortal, you're dead. Run out of Fatigue, and... Eh. No, really, I so rarely see Fatigue damage overflow that it's not worth mentioning.
- Healing is pretty slow, so please try not to get shot up real bad, mmm'kay?
A brief selection of the higher level melee weapons
So far, so simple. So let's take a brief look at guns and ammo. Everything is sorted, as is usual, by Progress Level. Unlike Computers, the Surgery skill, or technical skills, you don't have to worry about Progress Level compatibility, because weapons aren't generally based on PL unless you're running some very interesting settings. No, weapons in Alternity remain as simple as the basic system.
Melee wise, we start off pretty simple. Not as simple as a rock, but close enough, the humble club. Like all but a few of its Melee brethren, it does Low Impact damage, and is Ordinary (so Good armour will downgrade the damage, and Ordinary armour will only block its LI rating). Looking at the pretty numbers, we see that it's bog standard in accuracy (Less than a third of the melee weapons have any sort of accuracy modifier, and it's never more than -1 step (good) or +1 step (bad). They're also where you'd roughly expect them to be.), has a range of Personal (means its a Melee weapon, doofus. What, did you think you'd have reach?), uses the Bludgeon skill, and does d4+1s/d4w/d4+1w. What this means is, on an Ordinary, it does piddling Stun damage, on a Good, it does piddling Wound damage, and on an Amazing roll, it does still piddling Wound damage. Well, piddling in terms of this game (you'll rarely see anything do less than 1d4-2 (minimum 1) damage.)
As we move up the table, we see other fun stuff, but PL 6-8 is the stuff that makes me grin. Chainsword? Yup, got one of those at PL 6! Light Sword That Isn't Called A Lightsaber? Yup, PL 8, obviously, it does the best damage of the melee weapons. Powerglove (It's so baaaad)? Yup. But two weapons in particular (PL 6 and 7 respectively) give the game its own flavour: The GravMace and the TriStaff. The latter doesn't have a second set of stats about cost, mass, or hiding accuracy, and this is a misprint... But a hilarious one, considering it's meant to specifically be the weapon of a specific group in Star*Drive (the space opera official Alternity setting.) So what do they do? Well, the tri-staff is also sort of a ranged weapon, and is basically a polearm with energy abilities, but the GravMace has a small gravity generator inside it that... Briefly and suddenly makes the tip of the mace much, much heavier as it hits. Doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but, as you might imagine, it hurts . And, like much of the higher PL stuff, requires Powered Weapon skill to use. Yes, they thought of that.
Guns, honestly, don't have a whole lot of major interest, being... Well, guns and lasers and plasma, big fricking woot.
...Okay, okay, the heavier weapons are fun, because they include things like everyone's fave, the Railgun, plasma, a lightning gun (PL 7), Quantum Minigun (don't ask) and portable Black-Hole guns (they're called Mass guns, and fire gravity distortions, but basically, they fire mini Black Holes.)
Armour, however, has not only the usual assortment of crap (Hide, Plate, Armoured Trenchcoat, blah blah blah), but has a very interesting method of handling shields (they add +1 to certain categories, ending with the Riot Shield at +1 to all), but Powered Armour (in both “slightly exo” and “This is basically a human-sized tank” flavours), ablative and deflection “harnesses” (Shield-Belts, ala Dune), and our old friend, the StealthSuit all exist, and add some flavour. Of course, there is a tiny worm in the Garden of Eden here, as weapons by PL8 have almost all become at least Good (and, in a couple of cases, Amazing), while Armour remains, by and large, Ordinary, with a few Goods here and there. Remember, this is a system where damage is very bad , and guns that have better Firepower than the armour has Quality just go straight through. Even the best armour items only decrease the chance to get hit, as opposed to block damage. Don't get shot at high PL's, folks... Speaking of which, let's return to TheDextrousWaffle shall we?
In this brief example, we shan't worry overmuch about Action Check (the game's initiative), and simply have Grr'Arg try to attack his very own Klick (a bug alien that we'll be dealing with in more detail when we get to Star*Drive, but, for now, just think of them as “Intelligent, malicious Ticks with special lasers”), and the Klick, in return, will try to shoot them in the face.
A Klick. Looks like a dumb bug. Isn't.
TheDextrousWaffle is going to use his action to melee a dude with his awesome claws, because... Awesome claws! Let's just remind ourselves of those, shall we?
Clawing Faces Off d4w/d4+2w/d4m LI/O Personal
The first is that Klicks have d6+1 Low Impact armour (assumed Ordinary, because most natural armours are), and that's between 2 and 7 damage it could block. It would still take between 1 and 3 Stun (Because secondary damage isn't blocked... That shit hurt, yo!)... But it wouldn't be very wounded at all. Also, there's the other ability Klicks have... A bio-weakness field that needs a Stamina-Endurance check. Failure means d4-1 Stun damage (minimum 0). That's every round. He fails, and it stings. Now it's the Klick's turn.
The Klick has a Blacklaser Pistol (En/O, d4+2w/d6+2w/d4m, -1 Step Accuracy Bonus), and is shooting in melee (+1 Penalty). Waffle's okay DEX means the Klick also gets another +1 Penalty (Reaction Modifier... Not to be confused with the Social Reaction Modifier), but still manages an Ordinary result. The Battle Jacket Grr'Arg wears is also Ordinary, but only blocks... d4-1 points when it comes to Energy. So that's 0-3 versus 3 to 8. It's not looking good for our Weren buddy, who's now lost anything up to 2/3rds of his Wounds, and maybe a quarter of his Stun (more with the bio-weakness field). Maybe he should have tried the assault rifle?
There are really two takeaways from this: The first is that Unarmed Attacks without Martial Arts to buff it is a bad idea against anyone even vaguely armoured (and the Klick is fairly well armoured). The second is that fights are generally over very quickly, and they end, straight shooutout wise, with the winners being the ones who picked the right armour for the job. And yes, there is armour that is better against one type over another, so that's always a consideration. I can't say this enough: Alternity is a deadly little game at times.
Next time, we're going to talk about Mutants and Psionics.
Brotherhood of Racist Assholes (PHB Part 12)Original SA post Alternity: Brotherhood of Racist Assholes (PHB Part 12)
Ah, Mutations and Psionics. These two words have always struck fear and disgust into the minds of roleplayers, because we know all too well how easy it is to be shit about writing them. But fear not, mutations and psychic powers are actually passable in Alternity! I'm not going to say great, because that would be a blatant lie. But passable, verging on good.
First off, let's get one rule I really don't like out of the way: Mutations are a Homo-Sapiens Only Club. Psychic powers are available to everyone, but mutations? Nope, humans only, fuck you. In fact, mutants are basically Humans with a random table of powers and no extra skill points. One could easily argue that a whole extra Broad Skill and 4 Skill Points is not an expensive price for potentially game breaking power. Well... We'll see.
First off, the player has to either roll on their Mutant Origin or (with the Gms permission) pick it. Regardless of the roll, there will be Mutation Points, and a slightly lesser (or equal) amount of Drawback Points. These go between 1 (absolute minimum) and 7 (absolute maximum, maximum drawback points is 6), depending on background, and with those points, you can, at most, afford 1 Amazing Mutation, 1 Good Mutation, and 1 Ordinary Mutation (4+2+1). As far as Drawbacks go, this can be, worst case scenario, 1 Extreme and 1 Moderate Drawback. No, you don't get to pick how many points in each you get, you roll them d4s, and if you end with more Drawback than Mutation points (even though you're designed, and thus low risk), well boo fucking hoo. Nah, just kidding, it depends on your GM, and how lenient/houseruley they feel.
From here on in, you pick or roll your mutations, and, while rolling is a d20 roll, it's literally pot luck whether you get the best of that category, or one of the (relative) stinkers. For example, Flight (a double edged sword of an Amazing Mutation) is right next to Hyper CON (Straight +3 to your CON score) in the table. This is because it's organised first by category, then alphabetically. The same with Drawbacks. As far as Mutations go, they're all largely beneficial (some, like Flight, have slight downsides such as lowered STR due to hollow bones and skill requirements to use), but none are truly game breaking. Some, however, are in the wrong damn category. Good example, Dermal Reinforcement (Ordinary, gives lowish armour that can be layered) is, by the very nature of the beast, actually a better move, ruleswise, than Improved Natural Weaponry (gives you claws that do Low Impact/Ordinary Wound damage). As an aside, you can't take more than one Mutation of the same “type” (so no Improved and Enhanced STR). In any case, the discussion of mutation placement is just quibbling on my part. Drawbacks, on the other hand...
...Drawbacks hurt . These are what makes you doubt whether being a Mutant is a good investment, and there are no “good” picks. There are, as usual, better picks in the same table (Slight Environmental Sensitivity, for example, is definitely a better idea than Reduced Ability Score (Slight) or, god help you, Weak Immunity... Which is actually Slightly Weak Immune System), but everything in there is a penalty that, sooner or later, will bite you in the ass. And if you think that taking One Extreme Drawback is better than two Moderates, you'd be horribly, horribly wrong. Extreme Drawbacks go from things like Physical Change (you are quite obviously a mutant, and suffer a +4 penalty to social skills as a result) to Highly Susceptible To [Damage Type], which adds 3 damage to anything of a certain damage type. There is little room to game the system here.
Burninating the towns... Burninating the Villagers...
Psionics, meanwhile, is a fair bit more balanced, I feel. Mainly because, while Mindwalkers (the optional class for Psionics) are good at Psychic stuff, and psychic stuff can be damn useful, it's also going to be the majority of what they do. Psi uses, as 2nd Ed AD&D did, Psionic Power Points, or rather, in this case, Psionic Energy Points. In Alternity, these are based directly on WIL if you're a Mindwalker, half WIL if you're a Diplomat who happens to be a Mindwalker too, and the same if you're a Psionic Talent (IE, another class who also wants a psychic power). If you're a Mindwalker, you can buy any of the four Psionic skills, and that's fine, but if you're a Talent, you're restricted to one. These skills are not cheap, and even the specialities will cost you a fair amount of your SP allotment. Let's briefly sum them up, and why they're good, but not game breaking.
Every time you roll one of these skills, you lose PEP (hehe, just noticed that) according to whether you used a Broad Skill, Speciality, or you Crit Failed (regardless of type). These points are taken off whether you succeeded or not, and going from speciality to crit fail, it's 1, 2 or 3 points. Recovering points is an hourly Resolve- Mental Resolve check at the end of any hour when the character wasn't using a psychic power, and sustainable powers cost more PEP to maintain. So even with a high WIL, you're not going to be able to keep that shit up all day every day. Now, the four Types, each using a different stat. Yeah, it pays to know what type of Psi you want before you start...
Biokinesis [CON] , or body control, is mostly extended powers like Control Metabolism or Heal, all fair. It does, however, have a little gem in Body Weaponry. In AD&D, Body Weapon was a bit poo. In Alternity, it has potential if you roll really well. While it's extended (and thus expensive in PEP), the damage type is based on the success quality, so if you somehow make an Amazing roll with it (With your average CON of 11, and 3 starting skill ranks in it, a roll of 3 or less on a d20), the club or staff you make out of your hand does between d4 and d6+2 Mortal Damage. Yes, even an Ordinary attack with your ClubHand would do d4 Mortal. Fuck. Yes. It also has shapeshifting of a sort, which, since it's also Extended, ain't broke.
ESP [INT] not only covers the usual “I see different places and times” schticks, but, for some bizarre reason, has “Mind Reading” here. Guess it's due to passive v active, but whatever. Most of its powers aren't extended, with the exception of Battle Mind (which gives between a -1 to -3 Step Bonus to combat rolls while it's active... Not bad, but, like all extended powers, has to be maintained at a PEP a round, and whether that PEP is spent has to be declared right at the start of a round...), and all of them are plot useful, to one extent or another, but, with the exception of Battle Mind, not great in combat.
Telekinesis [WIL] doesn't just cover kinetic energy, but also electricity, light, and FIRE. Of the skills, Electrokinesis is a bit wet (requiring two skill checks, and taking at least two phases to fully use), but the damage isn't bad for the low price and fizzle chance. Kinetic Shield adds up to +4 armour, but requires maintennance, doesn't block Energy damage, and gives a +1 Step penalty to everything else while it's maintained. Levitation's fine, Photokinetics is the Light spell, and thus nigh useless (1 PEP a combat round, remember?), PK definitely isn't bad (but definitely a utility thing), while Pyrokinesis does what it says on the tin, doesn't require a second skill check, and, while less damaging, is meaty for what it is.
Finally, we have Telepathy [PER] , and this is, for the most part, utility and mind tricks, as expected. However, there are two exceptions here, and both are interesting. The first is Mind Blast, which, on the one hand, only does Stun Damage, at a maximum range of 40 meters, but, on the other? Bypasses armour completely. The other is Datalink, and, while extended, it allows you to mentally enter and interface with computers. Yes, it means you can hack without all this Grid bollocks, and, providing you've focused on that as your main Telepathy skill, means that you can do what they can do, with your own damn stats instead of a Shadow, and Programs are just things you do. Telepathy rules.
Wow, we're actually almost done with the PHB, but there's one last thing we have to deal with. Vehicles and Spaceships. After that, we're into the GMG, and the meat of the tools for creating ships, aliens, and other fun stuff!
Playing Chicken (PHB Part 13)Original SA post
I remember Psionics and mutations being the only good Alternity subsystem because the only long-running game we had was essentially Gamma World crossed with Star Trek.
Of the optional systems in the PHB, only Psionics/FX and Mutations really got a fair deal with their respective crunch-books (Beyond Science and Gamma World for Alternity), with the revised Starship system in Warships being... Kinda eh, and Dataware doing the usual thing of making an already complicated fucking netrunning system more complicated fuckdammit... (Because what we all need in our Cyberpunk style games is fifty million ways of making things more rules heavy... )
The best thing about Alternity is that the four presented "power" types (cybernetics, superhacking, psionics, and mutations) map directly to the Galaxy Rangers.
Three of those I see, but Mutations? Wasn't the main dudebro's laser arm just... Well, a cybernetic arm? Ah, doesn't matter, all the mooks have 6/3/1 skills at shooting anyhoo. But y'know what? That's as good a segue as any to finish up the PHB with... The Vehicles and Starships chapter, yay!
...The PHB portion isn't actually so bad... But after this is the GMG, and that opens up a whole new bag of Fun.
Alternity: Playing Chicken (PHB Part 13)
What your example spaceship looks like before you inevitably destroy it...
Vehicles, statwise, are actually a nice little selection. Their armour goes the whole spread (Canoes have Ordinary, your average Speedboat has Good, Tanks and Shuttles have Amazing, to name a few examples), there's a good selection of basic categories throughout the ages, and, of course, it allows you to use some silly choices with the use of the Daredevil skill, such as Jetpacks, Ultralights, and... Bicycles? Okay, that one's a very odd choice for the Daredevil skill. Bicycles.
Seriously, I can't make this shit up...
No, the vehicles are fine, and are mostly statted quite sensibly. It's vehicle combat that gets interesting. Because it does require some thought. Y'see, everything is, unless combat is set in a Destruction Derby or something, already moving, and most of the vehicles themselves, for obvious reasons, don't have guns. It has four Phases, as usual, and the driver, regardless of his initiative, can undertake Routine Maneuvers every Phase. These are simple things like braking, accelerating, swerving, turning. Shit to make sure they don't crash. Passengers act on their own phases, and do whatever damn fool things passengers do during a vehicle fight (generally, if I remember right, this involves leaning out of the windows with LAWs and SMGs, firing wildly.) But it's when the respective drivers get their own turns that shit gets real.
See, then, they can attempt either a Moderate (tight turns, reversing direction, ramming, regaining control, and driving Routinely in rough conditions) or Extreme (zigzagging wildly, bootlegger turns, using a Moderate Maneuver while doing something else) Maneuvers, use car or ship systems (like, y'know, the guns they generally don't have, or the super cool oil-slick droppers, etc), or use the Tactics skill (which generally gives you a small edge). Fuck up a Moderate or Extreme Maneuver though, and you'll, at best, spin out. This is generally the end of a chase scene, because you done fucked up. Well, maybe. See, we also have the fact that combat is based on relative ranges and intentions.
Okay, so I lied, there are better cases... But still...
There's a whole slew of these cases, but basically, if you both wanna close, you both close (and god help you if you unintentionally ram each other!), if you both wanna back off, you do that, and so on, except for a Break (which is one or the other trying to end the combat by gettin' the hell out of Dodge). If that one succeeds without interruption, bam, fight's over, go home. All well and good, and yes, ramming's fine here.
Starships, however, are a different story. We won't get to see Starship Creation rules here (that's for the GM, doofus!), but we do get the idea that running a spaceship (not just piloting it, but everything else) is hard. That's sort of given away by the table I'm going to give you below.
Soooo... Many... Skills...
Notice the amount of skills you would need. Also remember that a single pilot can only do so much in a round... Some ships have many of these consoles either automated or shoved together, but you're still under the “multiple actions are harder” rule, so unless a Fighter pilot is good (As in “What a Guy” good), single pilot ships are automatically going to be at a disadvantage against larger ships. Also, I'm going to mention this now, but anything below a Corvette hull in the GMG's creation rules? Is gimped to hell and back. Don't say I didn't warn you when we get there.
Otherwise, it's much the same stuff, relative distance, pilot can do Routine Maneuvers all the time, opening v. closing v. breaking v... Oh, wait, no Ramming. Yes, there is even a little sidebar saying “Yeahno, the possibility of you ramming a ship in space is so god-damn small we don't consider it a real rule... And if you somehow manage it, congrats, you're probably both dead!”
Another change from normal vehicle combat is that ships... Are big. Therefore, you don't attack the whole ship, you attack the compartments of a ship (a core part of the creation rules, by the way). So picture it like a fight in FTL, because, essentially? That's exactly what it is. Even down to crewmembers running back and forth desperately trying to repair Life Support, you cruel, cruel bastards. It even has different rules for what Stun, Wound, and Mortal damage do to a compartment (Give it a penalty, give it some more penalties, and finally... Give it hefty penalties for use, force a check for “Does it break?” for every point of Mortal Damage, and finally, destroy the compartment, with all the fun effects that might have. The PHB, however, is oddly silent on what else happens when a Compartment is destroyed. I'm pretty sure that's left up to your (evil) imagination.
The last art example from the PHB... The very definition of
So that's pretty much the PHB! Next time, we'll be moving onto the GMG, where we'll have the insanity of the creation rules, which vary from handwavey to... Psysplode territory. You have been warned.
The Other Problem With Alternity (GMG Part 1)Original SA post Alternity: The Other Problem With Alternity (GMG Part 1)
Interesting cover. The contents? Bit Dry...
There has, F&F Readers may have noticed, been a long delay in writing up the GMG for Alternity. This is because, honestly, it's hard to write about. Most of the time, it's dry as hell (they have a table for how rare a 14 in a stat is, and the median roll of the various difficulty dice, to give you some idea), and this, in and of itself, creates a problem, both as a F&F reviewer, and as a GM. It's mostly the same problem... I don't particularly want to slog through specifically for gems of good/bad design.
The GMG, in short, is not a book you familiarise yourself with. It's a book where you flick to the relevant section, and, in a sense, this is bloody useful, because it takes pains to let you know how hard a roll is, how to use the three act structure and how to compartmentalise scenes into things like Interaction, Combat, and Puzzles. In a much more important sense, this is half the reason I don't spot too much rules crazy in the core books... Because the book, itself, makes this bloody hard.
Click to enlarge some obvious advice...
Good example, Creating an Alien. At a first glance, this section seems like four and a half pages of time wasting handwavery. On a closer inspection, it's less handwavey than it first appears... Still lots of “It is encouraged not to do [X overpowered thing]” and “You need to balance out [no guidance on how ...]”, but, between those two sentences is something like an hour of re-examining .
So I hope you'll forgive me if I sum up 90% of the book, and go into detail on only some parts.
Most of the advice it gives is actually good. As with any system that's somewhat attached to its modifiers, it spends a lot of time establishing, with tables, how distance+fog+the other guy running really, really fast = Haha nope, get some better modifiers, scrub and the like. This is to be expected, as the core mechanic of combat is not, in fact, standing out in the open letting dudes shoot you with their incredibly lethal armoury , but making sure you aren't in a position to get shot in the first place. It gives advice on precisely how special your PC snowflakes really are (Did you know that even the SAS only has a special few Combat Specs?), which, admittedly, is kind of at odds with how hilariously easy it can be to die in full body armour.
Alternate Caption: Did Not Stack Modifiers, F-
But a large portion of this, like any generic system, is shit you can, and will handwave. Visual range, for example... Yes, on the one hand, with Slight visibility, I should only be able to make a roll to spot Mount Plot Device at 2KM. On the other, no sane DM is going to check this with any regularity .
No, the first chapter where we get any sort of interest or satisfaction is most of the way through Chapter 3...
Let's talk GRAPHs
The GRAPH system, in essence, is like that long string of Base-16 (not, as previously noted, Base-12) you wrote down every time you wanted to know what a planet was like in Traveller. On the other, it's simplified, because it only covers 5 things: Gravity, Radiation, Atmosphere, Pressure, and Heat, aka, the important stuff . So let's see how hilariously screwed your player could be by the universe... 2 is the normal.
So, Gravity is fun, and there are two grades below normal (0-0.2G, 0.2-0.8G), which have their own funtimes. Zero gravity, obviously, has a movement modifier of Special. Why? Because movement in Zero-G is special, in that any sudden movement you make can leave you arse-over-tit, vomitting wildly and wondering why the hell you even chose to get up in the morning. Light gravity, on the other hand, is only bad for us talking-monkeys (the baseline, naturally) in big doses (it weakens our bones, muscles, and cardiovascular system. All of these things are important). It does, however, add a +1 penalty to doing things if you're not used to it.
Heavy gravity, on the other hand, is where you will get shit on quite heavily. It goes from 1.2-2.0G (slows you down by 25%, make an exhaustion check every day... Exhaustion checks? Those are to do with Fatigue. Y'know, that thing you never use? ... Adds a +1 difficulty mod to doing things), to 2.0-4.0G (Add another difficulty step, make that -25% move a -75% move, exhaustion checks each hour just for doing things), and then, there's 4+ G... A total of +3 steps of difficulty, you cannot move without special suits, and you make an exhaustion check each minute . Life does not tend to evolve on such superheavy worlds.
Most of this makes sense. 0 Radiation rarely exists, and is generally artificial. Radiation is generally bad. R2 and R3 are mostly sorted by soft suits, R4 by hard suits, and R5 is basically "You are on a Pulsar, at Ground Zero, or somewhere very hot. Even spaceships can't completely save you here."
Yup... That'll give me R4 protection, alright...
Atmosphere 0, or Vacuum, is a "look elsewhere" (Pressure, in fact). Atmosphere 1 is Inert (bring your own air), 2 is normal, 3 is Toxic (Bring filters), 4 is Corrosive (Wear a suit), and 5 is "Your spaceship will dissolve in six hours." The vast majority of alien worlds in sci-fi fit into the first three (plus Vacuum.)
This one's definitely linked with Atmosphere, for obvious reasons, as it represents how much air there is, or rather, how dense it is. But it's nice to see, under Vacuum, they don't repeat the "Cold Depths of Space" bollocks. It is recommended to have something that covers your skin in P/A0, because while space isn't inherently cold, it does depend on your surroundings. PS - Your surroundings are often radioactive in space. It doesn't go into decompression, but if you won't tell, I won't either. Thin air (P1) means a risk of altitude sickness and easy exhaustion, 2's slightly better, 3's normal, but 4 and 5 are interesting. See, dense atmospheres apparently cause vascular and respiratory damage, who knew? Crushing (P5) is basically "You are in a gas-giant's lower atmosphere, you are fucked without a spaceship." I'm starting to see a theme here...
It goes from absolute zero all the way up to +1000 Centigrade. If I need to spell out for you what cold and heat does mechanically, you're probably in the wrong thread. 0 and 5 are, naturally, ultra-bad.
But here's the fun part. It doesn't give guidance for aliens who, say, evolved on a G4 environment (who would consider G1 to be super, super light.) It just goes straight into skill mechanics. Which means another few chapters skipped ahead...