Next Saturday I’m going to be running more outer-space adventures at Pasadena’s D&D meetup, using the 4lternity variant of 4th edition D&D I’ve been working on.

In the spirit of the recently announced 5e D&D/D&D Next, here’s a description of 4lternity broken down into modular components.

Module: Gamma World Math

D&D Gamma World showed that you could simplify 4e D&D by fixing the math used on player characters. Instead of scores (defenses, skills, attack rolls, etc.) being based on this:

Attribute + 1/2 Level + Extra Bonuses (feats, items, class bonuses, etc.)

In Gamma World they’re based on this:

Attribute + Level

This gets rid of the need for “enhancement bonuses” on weapons, armor, and neck slot items; for “feat taxes;” for “inherent bonuses;” for tier-based scaling bonuses; and other little fiddly bits.

Module: Alternity Skills

4th edition D&D has 17 skills. Alternity has 40 skills. 4lternity uses the vastly expanded Alternity list for skills, because that’s what a science fiction game requires for distinguishing characters.

The features of the Alternity skill module are:

  • Your race gives you 6 skills for free.
  • Your class gives you more skills, chosen from your list of class skills.
  • You get to choose bonus skills (those which aren’t necessarily class skills) as well, with the number modified by your Intelligence modifier.
  • Each skill has subskills called specialties.
  • You choose your specialties from your list of class specialties.
  • You get bonus specialties with the number modified by your Wisdom modifier.
  • Gamma World math: If you’re trained in a skill, you get Ability Modifier + 2 + Level as your skill roll. If you’re trained in a specialty, that adds an extra +2.
  • Alternity skills aren’t just non-combat, but include skills that you use when making attacks: Modern Ranged Weapons, Primitive Ranged Weapons, Unarmed Combat, Melee Weapons, Heavy Weapons. (This accounts in part for why the skill list is longer than D&D.)

Module: Alternity Classes

The classes for 4lternity are adaptations of the original five Alternity character classes to 4e D&D rules — with the classes primarily built as subclasses or variants of the existing Essentials classes. The classes are:

  • Combat Spec: A variant of fighter, with a defender aura that’s modified for use with ranged weapons.
  • Diplomat: A variant of warlord with a focus on directing the battle, and a free “multiclass” into one of the other classes.
  • Free Agent: A variant of rogue with sneak attack and backstab abilities, plus fast talk for getting into or out of a jam.
  • Mindwalker: A variant psion with a broad range of mental powers based on 5 psionic disciplines.
  • Tech Op: An Int-based martial controller with specialization in a field of technology or science.

Module: Alternity Races

The standard D&D races are replaced with:

  • Humans: as per 4e D&D.
  • Fraal: psionic “grey” aliens.
  • Mechalus: cybernetic pacifistic aliens.
  • Sesheyan: winged jungle-born aliens.
  • T’sa: quick, reptilian aliens.
  • Weren: large furred aliens.

See my player handout Welcome to the Verge for better descriptions of the Alternity races.

Module: Alternity Equipment

The weapons and armor from Alternity actually extend the 4e D&D list instead of replacing it. Stats for “primitive” weapons or armor such as swords, bows and chainmail remain the same as in 4e D&D; the list just expands onward to cover more advanced weapons and armor.

  • Weapons do either “impact” damage or “energy” damage, instead of D&D’s plethora of typed damage. (There’s also “bleed” and “psychic” damage types in 4lternity.)
  • High tech armor provides resistance against impact and/or energy damage.
  • There are a number of new weapon properties such as energized, autofire, and piercing which are used to stat up futuristic weapons.
  • Weapons have an accuracy rating (-2 to +2) instead of a proficiency bonus; the math works out the same but comes at it from a different angle.

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One Response to “4lternity: Modular D&D 4e for Science Fiction RPGing”

  1. 1958Fury says:

    I love this and will probably steal from it. A while back I put a lot of time into my own sci-fi campaign setting, which mostly involved reflavoring everything in 4e but keeping the math the same. Then I discovered Gamma World and decided I’d probably just use that next time I DM. But I like the look of 4lternity.