Showing posts with label horror. Show all posts
Showing posts with label horror. Show all posts

Thursday, May 30, 2024

Larina Nix for Alternity Dark•Matter

 It's time to put everything together and see how it works. Since this is a modern horror sci-fi game, I'm going to use my standard character for these things. But first, I should at least talk about how I'm going to do it all.

Alternity Dark Matter books

I knew I had to use both the Alternity Core rules as well as the Dark•Matter campaign setting. I also looked into two of the other books I have here, Mindwalking: A Guide to Psionics and Beyond Science: A Guide to FX. Both books are good, but they are designed with Star*Drive in mind. Plus the rules for Psionics and FX, in particular Arcane and Miracles, have been updated in the Dark•Matter book. The designers even mention there are differences. So as fun as those too books look, I am going to not use them for this build.  

Now, one of the things I have had for Dark•Matter, well, forever, it seems, is this download on Witchcraft FX. While I am not 100% sure where I got it originally, it can still be downloaded from the site. 

I like it. I have liked it for many years now*, and I really wanted to use it. Instead of explaining it, you can download it for free yourself.  Here Witchcraft is a Faith-based FX. I like this. It tracks with what I was doing with Larina and all my witches at the same time. My own 1999 Complete Netbook of Witches & Warlocks had witches as a type of priest using wisdom. 

I began my base stats for Dark•Matter Larina using her AD&D 2nd Ed stats as a base. I used the guidelines in the Alternity Gamemaster's Guide for conversion. For her "back story" well, I used the version I was using at the time in WitchCraft. Here she is, a 29-year-old divorcee living in Chicago and working in the library of a major university. She is a librarian and linguist by training but an occultist "by night."  This gave me a good idea of who this Dark•Matter Larina was going to be.

Larina "Nix" Nichols
Larina "Nix" Nichols

Human Female, Age 29 (1998)
Height: 5'4"  Weight: 125 lbs

Level: 10

Profession: Diplomat
Career: Occultist

Motivation: Find the truth
Morals: Ethical / Just
Traits: Curious

Allegiance: Independent

Strength 8  (Res. Mod. 0)
Dexterity 9  (Res. Mod. 0)
Constitution 9
Intelligence 14  (Res. Mod. +2)
Will 14  (Res. Mod. +2)
Personality 14

Stun 9
Wound 9
Fatigue 5
Mortal 5

Last Resorts 3

Action Check Score
Marginal 13+
Ordinary 12
Good 6
Amazing 3

Combat Movement Rates
Sprint 8
Run 6
Walk 2
Easy Swim 1
Swim 8
Glide (8)
Fly (16)

Armor: None

Special Abilities: Witchcraft (Faith) FX

Perks: Great Looks, Second Sight

Flaws: Obsessed (+2)

Social Class: Middle Class

Contacts: Scott Elders (Psychic), Heather McHael (Seer). 

Enemies: Eric MacAlister (ex-husband, former IRA operative)

Attack Forms
Unarmed 4/2/1 LI/O Personal d4a/d4+1s/d4+2s
Athame 8/4/2 LI/O Personal d4w/d4w+1s/d4+2w

Skill Points Spent: 91  Stored: 6


Skill    CostAbility RankScore
Vehicle Operation3DEX
Land Vehicle3DEX11052
Lang. English1INT31784
Lang. Latin1INT31784
Lang. Greek1INT31784
Lang. Hebrew1INT11573
Lang. Russian1INT11573
Medical Science3INT11573
Physical Science7INT11573
Social Science6INT11473
Conspiracy Theories3WIL11573
Occult Lore3WIL21684
Psychic Lore3WIL11573

Bolded skills are Free. Skills in Purple are from Dark•Matter.


Cast the Circle2WIL21684
Earth's Harvest2WIL31784
Part the Veil4WIL31784
Ward of Protection3WIL21684
Call Familiar3PER11573
Crone's Curse4PER11573

I went ahead and gave her Glamour even though it is not on the witchcraft list—it should be.


So I REALLY like this build. A few notes.

Levels in Alternity are treated differently than they are in *D&D games. In D&D games, you gain a level, and that helps define how powerful your abilities and skills will be. In Alternity, it is the other way around; your skills and powers help determine your level.

So Larina here would be a lot more skilled if she had dumped all of those skill points she spent on FX  (65 total) on more skills. 

She is not a combat person. She has no combat skills to speak of, and I am not likely to add much more to her for that. She can read a lot of languages and is a good researcher. More importantly, she has magic. I should give her some sort of blasty magic, but she is a support character for the most part. 

She compares well to her WitchCraft and AD&D 2nd Ed versions. I should get her WitchCraft version up sometime.

I will admit this build took me a while. A lot of it was my unfamiliarity with the system. It still took a bit. Going between multiple books is never really ideal. But this is a character I would play.

Now, if I were to get serious about Alternity Dark•Matter, I would likely work up my go-to psychic character, Scott Elders. He is a good choice since it would allow me to use all of the Mindwalking rules. He has alternates in AD&D, Modern times, and the Far Future so that also makes him a good fit.

*In the process of re-reading this to post today I found my original Dark•Matter sheets for Larina AND the printout of the Witchcraft Faith FX.

I started working on her back in March of 2000.

Original Witchcraft FX

Larina's first Dark•Matter character sheet

It only took me 24 years to finish.

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Review: Alternity Dark•Matter

Alternity Dark*Matter
 Ah. Now, this one is hitting me where I live. By 1999, Alternity was already interesting to me. I had, of course, seen bits of it online and knew about it from the internet and talking to other gamers. But it was 1999's Dark•Matter Campaign Setting that REALLY got me interested. 

Dark•Matter came out at a time when Dark Urban Fantasy was my drug of choice, and I was an addict.  I had played Chill off and on (mostly off) through the 80s and I had picked up a new copy of Chill 2nd Edition. It didn't have enough magic in it for me. Oh the Art and the Evil Way were fun, but I wanted something more.

I will get into what was going for me in 1999 a bit later on and talk about how Dark•Matter almost made the cut, but didn't. But first lets talk about what it is and what was good about it.

Dark•Matter (1999)

by Wolfgange Baur and Monte Cook. Full-color covers and interior art. 288 pages.  Wizards of the Coast logo.

Like all the books in the Alternity line, Dark•Matter is out of print and not available on PDF.

By this time, the Alternity line has given over completely to Wizards of the Coast, with the TSR logo only seen in ads on the back few pages.  Reading through this book, its layout, and its art make me think of the early d20 Modern books and the d20 Call of Cthulhu book Wizards would later do. They share some artists. 

Ok stop me if you have heard this one before, Dark•Matter takes place on Earth, but not the Earth we know. This is an Earth with a hidden history where monsters, aliens, psychic powers and even magic are real. 

Now I freely admit, I love the name. It is sci-fi and yet spooky at the same time. I mean what is not to love really?

Chapter 1: An Introduction to Dark•Matter

Like our previous books, this is an introduction and some fast-play rules with a sample adventure. Nice way to do it. Maybe it is because it is Baur and Cook, but this seems a little more readable to me.

Chapter 2: Welcome to the Hoffmann Institute

Ah, now we get into some in-world background on what is going on. The Hoffmann Institute is our BPRD, our SAVE, our SPC, our Sanctuary, our in world organization to help our character push back against the night. 

Chapter 2: Welcome to the Hoffmann Institute

Unlike Star*Drive, which didn't grab me, this grabbed ahold of me pretty hard. I remember reading websites on the Internet dedicated to the Hoffmann Institute and thought it was great. Yes, I had read similar things about SAVE back in the days of Chill, that doesn't matter. The fact was this stuff was new and it was out there and I was enjoying it. This fluff, as much as anything else made me want to play this game more.

Chapter 3: Heroes of Dark•Matter

This is our hero creation chapter. The rules for hero creation are still in the Alternity Core rules, this just adds some additional skills, perks, flaws, and careers. As expected most of the high tech or advanced sci-fi stuff is out. No alien heroes, no cybertech ( But Mindwalking is now a "core" profession. 

Chapter 4: Arcana

Now this is something new! In the Dark•Matter world, magic is real. There new FX rules here that replace the FX rules from Alternity and the FX book (more on that). There is Arcane Magic in the form of Diabolism, Enochian, and Hermeticism. And Faith magic in the form of Monotheism, Shamanism, and Voodoo. Really fun stuff. Magic FX is taken like a broad skill with skill-specific "spells" chosen under each one. The spells are powered by a limited resource of FX points. So, magic-using characters will not be the magical powerhouses seen in D&D, or even Mage or WitchCraft, but they are more powerful than the ones found in games like Chill.  Honestly, this worked GREAT for me since my own home campaign was based on the idea that as we approached, the new Millennium magic was going to increase. 

Chapter 4: Arcana

Chapter 5: History of the World

Dark•Matter was released between two great paranormal TV shows; The X-Files and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It manages to capture the zeitgeist of both of them well. This chapter feels like it could have come from the series bible of either show. 

Chapter 5: History of the World

There is a timeline of the world that manages to incorporate some sort of malignant, evil force, the arrival of aliens, and the rise and fall of Atlantis. There is the expected involvement with the Egyptians, and then later the Olmecs, Mayans, Aztecs and Incas. Tesla gets name-dropped, as do the Templars and Masons. Nazis, Roswell, New World Order. It's like we all read the same books! Even the rising "Dark Tide" to the new Millennium. I would say I read it here, but it was something I was doing in Chill 2nd ed. 

There is no "game" information here, but it is a great read.

An aside: I wonder how this timeline tracks with the one from TSR's Masque of the Red Death. I have no expectations they are the same on purpose save that they both are drawing from the same sources of information. It might be fun (yes I said fun) to see how they line up. 

Chapter 6: The Illuminati

With conspiracy theories, the Illuminati will inevitably be brought up. This covers a bunch of topics related to the Dark•Matter world. We get a bunch of groups that are vying for control of knowledge of the world. These include The Free Masons, the Rosicrucians, The Hidden Order of St. Gregory, The Invisible College, the Knights of Malta, The Final Church, The Bilderbergers, and of course the Hoffmann Institute. All of these factions are trying to control and all of them will either try to stop or recruit the heroes. There are also plenty of governments, the UN, and other organizations involved. 

It reads like a who-who of conspiracy theories. 

Chapter 7: Places of Interest

A trip around the globe starting in Africa and giving the Congo, Sahara, and Egypt their due. Lots of locations in America. I was happy to see a local favorite while growing up, the Cahokia Mounds, get some good ink as well as a place more local to me now, Lower Wacker Drive in Chicago. All the expected sites are here. Groom Lake (Area 51), Rosewell, Los Alamos. Moving on to Asia, Australia and Europe. There is even coverage of Atlantis, Earth Orbit, and Mars. 

Chapter 7: Places of Interest

Chapter 8: Xenoforms

Or our Monster chapter. We get all sorts of creatures here including aliens, demons, trans-dimensional travellers, Elohim, Ghosts, Men in Black, Sasquatches, and Yeti just to name a few. No vampires though. 

Chapter 9: Running a Dark•Matter Campaign

This is all pretty good advice for a lot of modern supernatural/conspiracy style games. Non of this is game specific and would work well for WitchCraft, Chill, Conspiracy X, and yes even NIGHT SHIFT.  There is a huge list of topics on page 240 that is a fantastic starting place for any intrepid Game Master. 

Chapter 10: Campaign Options

This chapter covers various ways to see up a campaign and give the characters (and players) a focus. There are even nots here on playing a Grey, Kinori, Mothman, Sandman or even a Sasquatch hero. 

Chapter 11: Raw Recruits 

This is a sample adventure where the characters are new recruits to the Hoffmann Institute. 

Thoughts: 1999 to Now

1999 was a pivotable year for me and gaming. I wanted a new modern supernatural game. I had flirted with Vampire: The Masquerade off and on for years. I played Chill 1st Ed, and had made the drive out to Mayfair Games (which was now local to me) to buy one of the apparently "hundreds" of Chill 2nd edition books they still had laying around. But neither Vampire nor Chill were giving me what I wanted. 

Enter the Dark Trio.

WitchCraft, Dark*Matter, and Mage

Around the same time, I discovered Mage: The Ascension (and Dark Ages Mage), C.J. Carella's WitchCraft, and Dark•Matter.

All three of these games can do very similar things. They all draw on a lot of the same history, myths, and legends. In my mind, all were very good games.

I love Mage. But there is a lot going on there. Dark•Matter had nearly everything I wanted, but at the time, I had a new baby on the way and not a lot of readily disposable cash to drop on three hardcovers to play a game. WitchCraft though. Man, that game hit me hard and never stopped. 

You can play the same game with all three rule sets. I think even that each of these has Roscrucians, Hermetics, and stats for the Comte de Saint-Germain.

Dark•Matter is excellent. It really is, but it also suffers from the same Alternity system that bogs it down. Also, I am partial to Roll-Over Mechanics and not Roll-Under. Mage is Dice-Pool. 

A lot of these arguments against Dark•Matter go away when you consider the 2006 d20 Dark•Matterreleased by Wizards of the Coast. But that is a discussion for next year.

All three are at least thematically compatible with each other. You can move characters between the games with some effort, and as expected, I have done so. 

Let me restate it. Dark•Matter is excellent. It is a wonderful game that, in the end, fell just a little short of perfection. At least for me. In another world, a world where I didn't find the Unisystem WitchCraft, I'd still be blogging about this game today.  I am looking forward to covering the d20 version next year when I take on the 25th Anniversary of the d20 system.