The game had four basic "Professions", which roughly mapped onto the D&D character classes, but without the fantasy feel. In the absence of magic, Wizards were replaced with Tech Ops (technical operatives; all kinds of scientists and engineers) and Clerics were roughly replaced with Diplomats (in concept, but not in role; The Medic would be a Tech Op). Fighters were renamed Combat Specs (specialists) and Rogues became Free Agents. Optionally, there were also Mindwalkers in place of Psionists. Because these Professions were generally broader than the clear archetypes of D&D classes (sci-fi versions of Barbarians and Paladins, for example, would still be Combat Specs), the game gave the players greater opportunity to customise their character than 2nd edition D&D.
The core product line gave general rules for various different kinds of sci-fi genres, but like D&D, Alternity offered players a variety of premade campaign settings. Four were published:
- Star*Drive, a Space Opera universe designed to show off almost all of Alternity's features.
- Dark Matter (1999), a modern-day setting of Conspiracy Theories and Paranormal Investigation.
- Gamma World, a remake of TSR's classic Post Apocalyptic RPG.
- StarCraft Adventures, a licensed adaptation of Blizzard Entertainment's popular video game.
Alternity was discontinued around the same time as D&D's 2nd edition. Because Wizards still owns the intellectual rights to Alternity, some of its elements have cropped up in later products, including remakes of Star*Drive and DarkMatter in d20 Modern and another new edition of Gamma World based on D&D 4th edition rules.
Currently a new edition is in planning stages, and taking funds on Kickstarter.
Tropes found in Alternity
- The Alternet: Supplement Dataware. The Grid is the Earth's worldwide network of computers, telecommunications (including television, fax. email, etc.) and online service providers.
- Life Energy: Beyond Science: A Guide to FX. The Necromancy school works by manipulating Life Energy.
- Remote yet Vulnerable: Beyond Science: A Guide to FX. Can occur when a shaman rolls a Critical Failure on their skill check when performing a miracle.
- Real Event, Fictional Cause: In the campaign setting Dark*Matter core rules, when a Grey spaceship on Earth was close to being discovered by humans, its commander followed standard procedure and re-directed a comet to impact and destroy the landing site. He made a mistake, and the result was The Tunguska Event.
- Weakened by the Light: Beyond Science: A Guide to FX. Vampires takes two points of wound damage each phase they spend in sunlight.
- When the Clock Strikes Twelve: Beyond Science: A Guide to FX FX device the Infernal Toad. If a cup of human blood is poured into the Toad at midnight, it summons a least demon.