RPGs that influenced me II – Alternity

I’d been playing some D&D 2e for a while, and I knew that 3e was on the horizon. In the meantime, something popped up online from TSR that piqued my interest.
I’d played Warhammer and 40K for years at this point, so seeing a sci-fi roleplaying game, I wanted to see what new fun things I could do as a hero in space, instead of in a dungeon.

I read through the Alternity fast play rules, and tried showing them to friends, but I was the only one interested. There was a lot of ‘but I like D&D’ and ‘maybe when the books come out’.
Yeah, annoying.
So the books came out and I picked up a player’s handbook and immediately read it and… yeah, that’s pretty much where the story stopped.

The art was fantastic, after a few weeks I started to get my head around how the dice mechanics worked, but I wanted to actually have a go at playing to figure things out better (that’s how I tend to learn new RPGs anyway).
No one was interested. And so I sort of resigned to the fact that I had this cool book that I couldn’t do anything with.

It wouldn’t be the last book that had that fate, and a few years later I managed to pick up the gamemaster’s guide and a bunch of setting books for next to nothing.
Seems I wasn’t the only one stuck with this game.

But it did have an ongoing influence on my gaming.
I now had an experience of a different rules system and dice mechanic when I’d barely been playing games at all.
I now had knowledge of the hoops I’d have to jump through to find people willing to play a new game, and that some games aren’t for everyone.

And I had the Weren and the Sesheyan.

Alternity gives some great ideas for alien species (so good that they got re-used for d20 Modern a few years later), and by leaps and bounds my favourites were the Weren and the Sesheyan.

The Weren were basically the game’s versions of Klingons – they were these hulking, angry warrior-poets that looked like bigfoot or a kzin, if you’re a Larry Niven fan.
They’d been contacted by interstellar societies at about the time of their industrial revolution, so they’re all rocking these low-tech gunpowder weapons and huge tusks.

Meanwhile the Sesheyan were these six-limbed, bat-winged, eight-eyed really weird aliens that humans encountered barely after they’d reached the stone age.
They really hit home the different levels of progress alien societies could be at when confronted with the weirdness of humanity.

Weren and Sesheyan both made their way into my d20 Modern games as aliens encountered by my PSI government agents (because who doesn’t love a good Bigfoot or Batman reference).
They even made it into my D&D settings – Sesheyan were even one of the main races inhabiting Cambria when I first played around with it in the mid-2000s.

Alternity seems to have recently made a comeback, with a second edition now available. The rules seem to be the same, the setting options seem to be intact. I should really go and buy this…

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