Advance Scout

Guided by his dimensional compass, the Scout roams the infinite universes, ever treading from world to world and plane to plane, seeking the latest tidings of new RPG-related releases...

Welcome to the first installment of Advance Scout, a brand new area here in the RPG Forum in which I, the RPG Scout, will bring you reports from far and wide on new and upcoming releases in the world of role-playing games. Here you'll find a monthly list of RPG releases from a variety of game companies, as well as a more detailed description of a different item or two each week. As this area is just starting out, your comments and feedback are especially welcome. If you know of any cool new role-playing games or game-related items that the Scout doesn't mention, e-mail me and let me know, as I'd like this area to be as comprehensive as possible.

All of the items in the monthly list over to the left are scheduled to be released sometime during the month of May, although a couple of them at least have already hit the shelves as of late April. As you may already know, game companies' schedules can sometimes be rather ... flexible, to say the least, so if the game set for May you've been waiting for doesn't show up by the end of the month, well, try not to panic. Be patient, maybe dust off your old Top Secret boxed set or something. If you want to complain about release dates, contact the game companies, not the Scout. I don't write the schedules, I just pass them along to you. :)

This week's featured item is actually a combination of two items: one has been in stores for a couple of weeks and the other is due out next month. I'm talking about the first two releases in TSR's new science-fiction role-playing game, ALTERNITY. (For some reason, every time the company mentions ALTERNITY, they use all capital letters. I guess they think it looks better than "Alternity." Hmmm, they might be right.) Anyway, ALTERNITY debuted in April with the release of the ALTERNITY Player's Handbook, and coming in May is the ALTERNITY Gamemaster Guide. These two books will make up the game's core rules, and the information in the two of them should be all that is needed to play the game, although soon there will be plenty of additional published material available as well, in the form of campaign settings, sourcebooks, adventure modules, novels, and so forth. And while this marketing strategy may seem reminiscent of TSR's treatment of a certain famous fantasy-oriented RPG, the company is quick to point out that ALTERNITY is not simply AD&D set in space. Although some similarities exist between the mechanics of the two games, there are some significant differences as well.

So how does the game work, you ask? Well, for starters, player characters (referred to in ALTERNITY as "heroes") have six Abilities: Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Will, and Personality. Players receive a set number of points to assign as they wish to the six Ability scores when creating their heroes, and the starting total points can vary depending on the type of campaign the GM is running. Players then buy Skills for their heroes, keeping in mind how they distributed their Ability points: a high Strength is good for athletic feats, a high Personality is helpful in alien first encounters, and so on. If you've played Shadowrun, then you know what a skill-based system is like. ALTERNITY heroes also have a Profession (a broad category such as Combat Specialist, Diplomat, Free Agent, Tech Op, or Mindwalker) and a Career (more specific, like mercenary, explorer, doctor) which provide certain benefits and help save on the cost of purchasing Skills. In addition, heroes can be fleshed out with Perks and Flaws, Roleplaying Attributes, and Motivations, to provide more detailed and well-rounded characters.

ALTERNITY was designed to have a unified game mechanic, in other words, there is one basic dice rolling method for determining the outcomes of a wide variety of situations. Essentially, this process involves rolling two dice; one is the "control die" and is always a d20, and the other is the "situation die" and can be anything ranging from a d0 (no die at all) to a second d20, depending on the situation. The situation die is added to or subtracted from the control die, depending on how easy or difficult the situation is. A player rolls both dice and compares the result to the relevant score that his hero possesses; if the number rolled is lower than the target number, the hero succeeds. Low rolls are generally what you want when playing ALTERNITY, except, of course, when you're rolling damage. :)

TSR wants ALTERNITY to provide a basic framework for science fiction role-playing that can work regardless of the type of sci-fi game the players and GM want to create. The makers suggest that any genre from modern techno-thrillers to far-future space opera (and anything in between) can be played with the ALTERNITY system, similar to the way in which a wide variety of fantasy genres (Dark Sun, Al Qadim, Ravenloft, etc.) can fit into the framework of the AD&D core rules. The first campaign setting for ALTERNITY, called Star*Drive, is set in the 26th century and is scheduled for release in a few months. Also set for release in the coming months are a Campaign Kit (which includes character sheets and a GM screen), an Alien Compendium, an Arms and Equipment Guide, a Dataware sourcebook, and more.

As I mentioned, the ALTERNITY Player's Handbook is already in stores, and it looks pretty sharp. I'm looking forward to checking out the Gamemaster Guide next month, as well. I hope that if you have any opinions about ALTERNITY, especially if you're playing it, you'll e-mail me and let me know what you think. The Scout is always glad to get feedback from other gamers. Right now, though, my dimensional compass is warning me that the portal's about to close, so I've got to go. Check back next week for a new article, and always remember to have fun! Scout out.


Wish you could tell the Scout what you think of this area? Ala-kazam, just e-mail me. Since this area is just starting out, any comments or suggestions you may have are especially welcome. You can send the Scout mail if you want to see a particular game covered here, or if you have a complaint, or even if you just want to say hi.

Scott Watkins
RPG Scout