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


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.)


Hi everyone, I haven’t updated this site in a long time due to some personal issues, but now I’m trying to get back into the swing of things.

Lately I’ve been playing WotC’s new D&D Gamma World game, which is based on 4th edition D&D and the old Gamma World setting. It’s full of fun and crazy all in a boxed set, and has actually overtaken 4e D&D as the favorite game around here.

Here are the character sheets I made up for Gamma World:

I’m also one of the more active posters on the Gamma World forum on the WotC community site; stop by there for some pretty good discussions with other players and GMs.


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.)

Last Friday, during the middle of RinCon, I got a great idea for a D&D one-shot that I wanted to run — “DragonSlayer”: a one-shot with Epic-tier, level 26 characters. Sadly, due to a lot of bad luck and an outbreak of serious depression, I never got to run the game, but I may do so sometime in the future; I still have the character sheets.

One thing I discovered was that level 26 characters don’t necessarily have that many more powers than other characters — sure, they’ve got 17 powers (roughly) compared the 4 at first level, but level 13 characters have 13 — but they’ve sure got a heck of a lot more things you’ve got to look for. Conditions that may or many not apply, powers or feats that trigger off of certain situations, times you need to check not what you are doing but what an enemy or ally does as well.

Even in the regular campaigns I play in or run, which are levels 2, 4, and 6, we’ve got multiple instances of players simply forgetting to use a power when they could have. Our bard in last night’s game did this quite spectacularly well, including forgetting to give us temporary hit points and bonus on healing surges spent during a short rest.

e at Geek’s Dream Girl describes a similar situation she had last weekend, playing level 27 characters:

Will it be hard to keep track of everything my character can do?

Short answer – yes.

Long answer – as a Leader, there were a lot of things I could do that added bonuses not only for myself, but for other members of the party. Some of these affected those next to me (for example, I bought an armor set), some affected those next to my battle standard (which I only used in one out of the three encounters, and not to any great effect), and others affected those next to my spirit companion. To top it off, I had one that affected me, but only for the first round of combat before I was attacked. What’s my AC? F- if I know!! Hahaha!

I think it would be much easier if I had “grown up” with BigByrde rather than trying to run her at 27th level. It’s easier to remember things when you’re only adding them a bit at a time.

And here I was expecting people to sit down at the convention table and run level 26 characters they’d never seen before and didn’t even create themselves? Madness!

So here’s what I did.

I went through each pre-gen character’s sheet, page by page, feat by feat, class ability by class ability, power by power, item by item — and I created a table in OpenOffice that listed each thing that each player had to keep track of in combat.

Here’s the example for Nalla, the level 26 Goliath fighter pre-gen:

An enemy marked by you…
…shifts. Make a melee basic attack against the enemy, if adjacent to you. If you hit, you do an extra +6 damage. Combat Challenge (fighter), Potent Challenge (feat)
…makes an attack which doesn’t include you. Make a melee basic attack against the enemy, if adjacent to you. If you hit, you do an extra +6 damage. The marked enemy takes a -3 penalty on attacks against anyone except you. Combat Challenge (fighter), Potent Challenge (feat), Daunting Challenge (feat)
You attack with…
…an opportunity attack. +2 on the attack roll. If you hit, the target’s movement ends. You push the target 1 square, whether you hit or miss. Combat Superiority (fighter), Knock-Back Swing (feat)
You miss with…
…your hammer. You do 6 points of damage. Hammer Rhythm (feat)
…an opportunity attack. You push the target 1 square and do 6 points of damage. Knockback Swing (feat), Hammer Rhythm (feat)
You successfully hit with…

…a melee attack.

You can use the Encounter power on your Giantkind Gloves. You can use the Daily power of your Belt of Giant Strength. Giantkind Gloves (item), Belt of Giant Strength (item)

…a 19 or 20.

You score a critical hit. You do +5d6 damage. You make a saving throw against one effect that a save can end, with a +5 bonus. You can use the Daily power of your Legendary Craghammer. You can use the Encounter power of your Citrine Solitaire. Bludgeon Mastery (feat), Legendary Craghammer (item), Amulet of Double Fortune (item), Citrine Solitaire (item)

…an attack granted by Combat Challenge.

You do an extra +6 damage. Potent Challenge (feat)
…an attack that pushes or knocks the target prone. The target takes 6 damage. Trample the Fallen (Iron Vanguard)
…an attack that drops your foe to 0 hp. You regain 6 hp. Enduring Warrior (Iron Vanguard)
…an attack that adds a condition a save can end. Your enemy takes -2 on the saving throw. Thunder Hammer (feat)
You spend an action point…
…to take an extra action You gain +4 to your defenses until the start of your next turn. You regain the use of an Encounter power you have already expended. Ferocious Reaction (Iron Vanguard), Martial Mastery (feat)
An ally…
…is adjacent to you. The ally gets +1 on Armor Class. Phalanx Warrior (feat)
…rolls initiative, within 5 squares of you. The ally gets +2 item bonus on initiative checks. Helm of Battle (item)
You are…
…hit by an area or close attack. Immediate Interrupt: You can use the Daily power of your Dragondaunt Shield. Dragondaunt Shield (item)
…hit by a critical attack by a non-minion. Gain a +6 bonus to damage rolls against that enemy until the end of the encounter. Tattoo of Vengeance (item)
…roll an Athletics check to jump or climb. Roll twice and use either result. Powerful Athlete (Goliath)
…make a saving throw. For the first saving throw in an encounter, roll twice. Markings of the Blessed (feat)
…drop to 0 hit points. You can spend an action point to take an action, and you gain +4 to your defenses until the start of your next turn. You can use your No Surrender daily power. You can use the Daily power of your Ring of Invigoration. Enduring Warrior (Iron Vanguard), No Surrender (Utility 10), Ring of Invigoration (item)
…make a Strength check or a Strength-based Skill Check. You can add +10 to the result, once per day. Unending Strength (Eternal Defender)
…use your Stone’s Endurance power. You gain 19 temporary hit points. Unyielding Stone (feat)
…spend a healing surge. You gain 6 temporary hit points. Grit (feat)

Nalla’s tracking table was the simplest; some, like the warlock’s, were pretty damn crazy when certain synergies started piling up on top of each other:

You successfully hit…
…with a roll of 20, a Large or larger dragon affected by your Warlock’s Curse with an attack while concealed due to Shadow Walk and you have combat advantage against that enemy, which is also the target of your your Immortal Curse:

You score a critical hit. You do an extra 13+5d12 damage. The target grants combat advantage to you and gains vulnerable 5 fire, until the end of your next turn. If you deal your Warlock’s Curse extra damage to the target, you do an extra 30 damage. You gain 1 action point that must be spent before the end of your next turn. You ignore any resistance to fire the target may have.

I still need to work out how to generalize this solution and come up with some sort of form, chart, reminder tool, or other physical artifact to create something like this that doesn’t involve just opening a word processor — but for now, this is an approach I’m probably going to use on my own characters in the future so that I actually can keep track of what I can and can’t do in any particular situation.


Here’s the Obsidian Portal page for Qi, my hybrid (rogue|sorcerer) changeling in Jeremy’s Wednesday night Eberron game.

She’s kind of … crazy. She has this annoying tendency to believe her own lies, like some sort of method actress gone horribly wrong.

So far she’s convinced herself that she’s a drug addict, a college student, and a gnoll.

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


Target is knocked…what now?

Last night in my D&D game, the party fought a green dragon. I used the base stats from the D&D Adventure Tools monster builder, which is pretty good. (Added a few abilities to make it a fey green dragon.)

Here’s the stats for a green dragon, as per the Adventure Tools:


As we discovered last night, there seems to be a typo in the young green dragon stats. Specifically, this:


Group consensus was that the party’s fighter, who got tailswept on the first round because he didn’t move, clearly was knocked to his hands and knees, facing away from the dragon, ass in the air and with a sultry, come-amd-get-it look in his eyes as he looked back at the dragon over his shoulder.


Pork is a nice sweet meat

So, Berin Kinsman declared this dude the Best. D&D. Mini. EVAR.:

Farmer mini

As it turns out, I know this mini quite well! One of my friends uses this as his character miniature in every game, no matter what he’s playing. It’s been a dwarf, a human, a genasi, a half-orc; a swordmage, a warden, a fighter, a barbarian.

Just in case you get an inkling to use this miniature, here’s what you need: stats for a 1st level beastmaster ranger with a pet pig and a meatcleaver on his belt:

====== Created Using Wizards of the Coast D&D Character Builder ======
William Hoggett, level 1
Human, Ranger
Build: Beastmaster Ranger
Fighting Style: Beast Mastery
Beast Companion Type: Boar
Background: Occupation – Farmer (+2 to Nature)

Str 16, Con 11, Dex 10, Int 8, Wis 18, Cha 10.

Str 14, Con 11, Dex 10, Int 8, Wis 18, Cha 10.

AC: 13 Fort: 15 Reflex: 12 Will: 15
HP: 23 Surges: 6 Surge Value: 5

Dungeoneering +9, Nature +11, Athletics +7, Endurance +4, Heal +9, Perception +9

Acrobatics -1, Arcana -1, Bluff, Diplomacy, History -1, Insight +4, Intimidate, Religion -1, Stealth -1, Streetwise, Thievery -1

Human: Beast Protector
Level 1: Vengeful Beast

Bonus At-Will Power: Circling Strike
Ranger at-will 1: Predator Strike
Ranger at-will 1: Hunter’s Teamwork
Ranger encounter 1: Synchronized Strike
Ranger daily 1: Driving the Quarry

Halberd, Hide Armor, Handaxe
Raise Beast Companion
====== Copy to Clipboard and Press the Import Button on the Summary Tab ======

I named his boar “Babe the sheep-pig” and described it as “little pink pig who misses his ma.” The character’s first name comes from my friend William, and his last name is, of course, another reference to one of my favorite movies.