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.

I recently picked up the Madness at Gardmore Abbey boxed adventure for 4th edition Dungeons & Dragons. It’s better than I thought it would be and looks to be lots of fun. I’m running a weekly game based on Gardmore Abbey at Game Empire Pasadena on Monday nights.

After playing through most of this season’s D&D Encounters, I decided the game would be more fun if characters in Gardmore Abbey had specific hooks into the game, like the character themes introduced in the Neverwinter Campaign Setting book.

So then, here are my homebrewed themes for Gardmore Abbey:

Errant of Mithrendain Questing eladrin knight
Gardrin’s Heir Descendant of Gardmore’s founder
Guild Organizer Field agent for adventurers guild
Iron Circle Deserter AWOL mercenary
Pawn of the Eye Driven mad by a cult
Pelor’s Faithful Devoted to the light
Reclaimer of Saruun Khel    Restoring the Golden Temple
Tigerclaw Seeker Following a vision quest
Valthrun’s Apprentice Student of the prescient sage
Vile Rune Survivor Family was murdered by orcs
Wild Card Crossed paths with the Deck of Many Things
Winterhaven Regular One last mission for the town guard

Complete descriptions for each theme can be found in the following PDF file.

Download Gardmore Abbey Themes Now!

Update: Here’s my post-session-one report on session one of Gardmore Abbey, at

I’m starting up a home game of Al-Qadim using the 4th edition rules, here in Alhambra, California. These are the download files for use by players in my campaign.



Hi everyone, my current project is a series of documents for adapting the old Alternity science fiction RPG to 4th edition style of play. My take on the system is modeled in part on the Gamma World rules, and is also designed to keep as much of the tone of the Alternity system intact (and the books still usable) as possible, while using a more familiar rule system.

You can look at what I’ve got so far here:

I’m going to be running a playtest in Pasadena, CA, next Saturday at the D&D Meetup. I’ll probably be making revisions up to and during the game session. :D

I love the old Alternity game to pieces (and 4lternity reflects that, and my affection for 4e D&D as well), but it’s hard to go back sometimes. (Especially with the rather funky dice mechanic in Alternity.)

Here’s a high level solo to challenge your entire group in a Gamma Heroes game.

Download stats for The Visitor

Many players of D&D Gamma World have noted that the game isn’t much different from a superhero roleplaying game; the origins and powers are quite similar to those found in superhero comic books.

These house rules tell how to adapt the D&D Gamma World rules to use in a contemporary setting as a campaign of superheroes.

Download Gamma Heroes now!

Update: I just put together a one-page character sheet (use power cards for novice/utility/expert powers) for Gamma Heroes:

Download Gamma Heroes character sheet

Updated! I’m running a campaign of Alternity — TSR’s late, lamented science fiction game from the end of the 1990s — and so I whipped up a character sheet for the Star*Drive setting. You can download it, if you want:


7 Nov 2501 2009: Newly updated to include better layout for skills, enough durability boxes for werens, the Stealth skill (which was accidentally left out), and a footer with the download URL.


I keep thinking that my next 4e D&D game should allow only these classes:

  • Fighter
  • Paladin
  • Ranger
  • Cleric
  • Druid
  • Wizard
  • Rogue
  • Assassin
  • Monk
  • Bard (via multiclass feats only)

And these races:

  • Dwarf
  • Elf
  • Gnome
  • Half-Elf
  • Halfling
  • Half-Orc
  • Human

None of these “dragonborn” or “eladrin;” no “sorcerers” or “avengers!”

Of course, your race determines which classes are open to you:

  • Dwarf: Fighter, Rogue, Assassin
  • Elf: Fighter, Wizard, Rogue, Assassin
  • Gnome: Fighter, Wizard (illusionist build only), Rogue, Assassin
  • Half-Elf: Cleric, Druid, Fighter, Ranger, Wizard, Rogue, Assassin
  • Halfling: Fighter, Rogue
  • Half-Orc: Cleric, Fighter, Rogue, Assassin
  • Human: Any single class

A few hybrid classes would be allowed — based on your race, of course:

  • Dwarf: Fighter|Rogue
  • Elf: Fighter|Wizard, Fighter|Rogue, Rogue|Wizard
  • Gnome: Fighter|Wizard (illusionist build only), Fighter|Rogue, Rogue|Wizard (illusionist build only)
  • Half-Elf: Cleric|Fighter, Cleric|Ranger, Cleric|Wizard, Fighter|Wizard, Fighter|Rogue, Rogue|Wizard
  • Halfling: Fighter|Rogue
  • Half-Orc: Cleric|Fighter, Cleric|Rogue, Cleric|Assassin, Fighter|Rogue, Fighter|Assassin
  • Human: no hybrid classes

…but maybe this is getting a little too silly.

(Oh, and also, I’d only use monsters that appear in the 1e Monster Manual.)

For those of you who are interested, here’s the campaign background information on the countries in my current D&D campaign, The Tide of Summer. We game weekly at my place in Tucson.

The backstory that isn’t in this document: About 17 years ago, there was a world-wide event known as the Feystorm, in which the Feywild and the Natural world basically crashed into each other. The fey (eladrin, gnomes, elves, and others) are the bad guys of this campaign [1], and are part of Summer Queen Tiandra’s army, the Tide of Summer.

[1] or at least, so they appear to the player characters