Simulation and Narrative

Without getting too deep into RPG Theory, my favorite game, Alternity, would be considered a Simulation game.  Like D&D, it models the world with a consistent set of rules that players use to interact with the fictional world.  Simulationist games can be simple dungeon crawls up through political games where hardly a die is thrown.  Depth of Story and Character varies depending on the table and can be as casual or intense as desired.  In Simulationist games GMs put a lot of work into crafting an environment for the players to interact with.

Counter that with Narrativist games, like Blades in the Dark.  The rules don’t simulate a world the players interact with, instead the rules facilitate the players telling the story.  The role of the GM is toned down, they are not “in charge” of the world and the NPCs.  Instead, the Players have input into what the characters encounter.  In some games players take turns with narrating the events that occur, the twists the plots take and the situations the Characters find themselves in.

Think of it this way, the Characters are approaching a small Keep on the Borderlands:

Simulationist games would have the GM describe the scene (there are 3 guards outside looking through belongings as people enter the Keep), players ask for details, (How thorough are they searching?) then relate their plans and intent to the GM, (I’m going to cause a distraction so the others can sneak by) Then there might be some roleplaying between the distracting character and the guards.

In Narrativist games, the _players_ might decide that the Keep is on heightened alert, so there are guards outside looking through belongings, another might add that they have been on heightened alert for some time and are bored and inattentive.  Another might add that one character distracts the guards while the others pass by with their weapons under their cloaks.  Then there might be some roleplaying between the distracting character and the guards.  The players switch back and forth between adding elements to the setting and adventure and roleplaying through the events.  Narrative games have dice rolls to add that random element we all love so well.  Usually there are more options than a binary pass/fail mechanic, often yielding results such as Yes and, Yes but, No but, and No and.  These push the story forward and prompt GM and Players to improvise.

It might just be me being a grognard, but I enjoy my Simulationist games.  I like the structure, be it as a player or GM.  That said, the newer indie Narrativist games are enticing.  Games like Legacy: Life Among the Ruins and other Powered by the Apocalypse style games come with loads of creative ideas and what looks to be interesting gameplay with the right group.  Next convention I attend I’ll definitely seek some out.,

<<Yes, I’m aware that my use of Narrativist and Simulationist doesn’t necessarily agree with RPG theory.  But I like the terms and think they work for my take on theory.>>

The Sesheyan

The Sesheyan from Alternity

Hi Folks, This is the first post about the Alternity alien species. I’ll make a post for each, then gather them together into a pdf and post it over on

The Sesheyan have long thin tails with a fanned membrane at the tip. the underside of this fan is brightly colored in males. Males also have larger ears with unique markings. The Sesheyan sense of smell is located in pits under the eyes. Their ears are used to fan air across these pits to enhance scent detection.
Females give birth to 4-6 young on average. The births happen in specially chosen communal birthing pools. The young are born in what humans call the tadpole stage, they are about a foot long, with black limbless bodies and a large fleshy tail. The young consume the natal jelly that is excreted as part of the birthing process. As they grow they change to a diet of insects and vegetation provided by the clan. They triple in size over the summer months, they then develop front limbs and dig into the clay banks of the pool where they form a chrysalis and metamorphosize into their adult forms over the course of the fall. The second birth, where they dig out from the clay, occurs at the start of fall. The young are about half the size of an adult Sesheyan, their wings are fully formed and after approximately a month they are able to migrate with the adults to the wintering grounds in the south. Births are communal and the clan raises the young as a whole.

Sesheyan culture revolves around the complex seasons of the hunt. Their homeworld, Sheya, is a moon orbiting a gas giant. The complex orbital mechanics of Sheya and the other moon’s revolution around the gas giant, that system’s revolution around the star and the movements of the planets are well known to Sesheyan shamans. With this understanding and the migrations of prey animals Sesheyan see the universe as a series of cycles. Birth to death, summer to winter, their universe fits well into their cosmology.
The hunt factors into their culture as their wanderlust. They are always hunting new grounds, looking beyond the next valley. Wandering far in search of food or tales is considered heroic. Conversely those that do not return are not spoken of and VoidCorp xenologists translated the term for them into “ghosts”, although the terms is closer to “completed” in the Sesheyan mindset. Sesheyan death rituals take into account the wanderlust. Funeral pyres are set on the highest peak as the deceased is sent on one last journey. The dead are given a new name which is used when invoking their aspect, and their life names only are used when relating tales about their lives.

The wanderlust informs the interaction between clans. There are regular meeting grounds on the migrations where clans meet exchange members and separate. Those that leave one clan for another are given new names, when talking about their time with the original clan they are referred to by that clan name, their new experiences form under a new name.

The concept of cycles influences the Sesheyan way of thinking as well. Ancestors are thought to be part of the mythic. Sesheyans invoke aspects of the mythic to inform their thinking and actions. This triggers a change in the mental architecture and a complex release of hormones. Shamans keep the tales of the archetypes alive and educate the young Sesheyan in those most useful to the individual and the clan. (Many Sesheyan have the Faith perk to represent the calling on the mythic.)

It was purely by accident that the VoidCorp mentality fit with that of the Sesheyan. When the first contact consuls explained that they could venture to the stars, the Sesheyans signed what they believed was an agreement to join the VoidCorp clan. Being given employee numbers was just getting a new name with the new clan. Over time their shamans came to realize they were being exploited and that those who left were not being treated as equals in their new clan. The Sesheyan that are taken are given special ghost names and considered lost to the hunt by those remaining on Sheya. VoidCorp even pledged that those dying off world would have their bodies sent to the nearest star to be incinerated. That is but one of the promises by VoidCorp that were never intended to be kept.
VoidCorp has studied Sesheyan culture and indoctrinates the ghosts into new archetypes of the VoidCorp “clan”. The Good Worker, the Humble Servant and others have been invented to keep the new employees in line. The shamans know of this and make a special effort to equip the young adults with aspects from the mythic that rely on subterfuge and devotion to the Sesheyan species. What’s more, the VoidCorp Sesheyan have begun to craft their own archetypes from their own communities, and even taking mythic archetypes from human culture without the approval of VoidCorp.

Some Thoughts on Gamma World

Legs off, fins on, stick a little pipe through the back of its neck so it can breathe, bit of gold paint, make good … Monty Python

I’ve been a fan of Gamma World in most of its incarnation since the beginning. Something about it, played straight or completely wahoo, has brought me back time and again. I think it’s the Yexils.

C’mon, look at that guy, don’t you just want to feed him a puffer jacket? (Yexils eat clothing, work with me here)

The Alternity version (5th edition) was a little conflicted. The world presented was more serious, and perhaps in that vein there were no rules for mutant animals or plants as player characters. The mutant animals returned in a Dragon Magazine article, and the mutant plants got redemption from Neil Spicer. Robots however, of them there was nary a peep. It was Gamma World, but with the wahoo filed off.
One of the early ideas/hopes with Alternity was that the species in the corebook would be incorporated into the various settings that were produced. That they would become ubiquitous like dwarves and elves. In the Dark Matter setting they showed up, but having that setting set in the here and now, having them as character options wasn’t really…an option. Alternity Gamma World had Weren/sasquatch and Mechalus/androids, but I feel they missed the boat by not bringing the other Alternity species on board. T’sa and Sesheyans fit in Mechanically as written in the Player’s Handbook. The fraal can work as written if you are willing to include psionics as skills in your setting, or as mutants with Contact, Size Change: smaller, Enhanced Mental Ability: intelligence, Physical Change: major, and throw in Telepathic Blast to round them up nicely. Use them as genetically modified scientists from a long-sealed bunker and there you go. Sesheyans as mutant amphibians(?) with wings, and T’sa as little desert dwelling velociraptor wannabees with spears instead of rear talons. Give each a culture in your setting and you are off.

One good use of Gamma World is to provide abilities for alien player character species. Here are a handful of mutants and alien races made with GW mutations:

StarDrive Mutants
Shock Trooper – Hyper Metabolism; Improved Reflexes; Redundant Vital Organs; Reduced WIL – moderate; Physical Change – minor.
Vacuum Mutant – Environmental Adaptation – thin air; Radiation Tolerance; Oversized Arms; Oversized Legs; Increased Balance; Size Change – smaller; Environmental Sensitivity – high gravity – slight; Physical Change – minor; Sound Sensitivity.
Hi-G Mutants – Environmental Adaptation – heavy gravity; Improved Con; Hyper Str, Dermal Armor, Physical Change – minor; Weak Metabolism – moderate.
WarLions – Redundant Vital Organs; Enhanced STR; Night Vision; Natural Attack – claws; Physical Change – minor; Reduced INT – slight, Reduced WIL – slight.

Fading Suns Mutants
Metronym – Metamorphosis; Pheromones; Photographic Memory, Translation, Telepathic Scan; Vascular Control; Physical Change – minor, Temporary Weakness – moderate.
Mentat – Natural Learner; Photographic Memory, Hyper INT; Quick Thinking; Weak Metabolism – extreme.

Traveller Mutants
Aslan – Natural Attack – improved; Night Vision; Increased Speed; Improved Senses; Physical Change – minor; Reduced WIL – slight; Light Sensitivity.
Vargr – Natural Attack; Enhanced Senses; Increased Speed; Life Detection; Psychic Perception; Reduced WIL – slight; Physical Change – minor, Reduced INT – slight.
Zhodani – Pheromones; Enhanced PER: Enhanced INT; Natural Learner; Photographic Memory; Radiation Sensitivity; Thermal Intolerance; Severe Phobia. (Possibly Attraction Odor?)
Kafer – Redundant Vital Organs; Dermal Plating; Radiation Tolerance; Physical Change – major

XXVc Mutants
Asterminer – Dependency – Zero-G environment, Dermal Armor, Ordinary Vacuum resistance, Physical Change – major
Belter – Dependency – light Gravity, Quadro Dexterity, Duality
Cadrite – Thermal Tolerance, Empathic Symbiosis, Skeletal Enhancement, Dependency- hive mind
Delph – Dependency – water, ordinary Enhanced respiration, Cold resistant, Major Physical change
Depthine – Gills, Amazing environmental sensitivity – low pressure, Major Physical change
Desert Runner – Reduced PER, Suscept to heat, Adapt to cold, Enhanced Senses, Suscept to high pressure
Desert Runner II – as DR I, + Natural attack, Obsession 6: Protect pack
Devastator – Light Susceptibility, Color Blind, Night Vision, Armor Plating, Adrenal Control
Europan – Sensitivity to light, Resistant to temperature extremes, Night vision,
Ganyman – Immunity to cold, gills, Extreme dependency –water, Enhanced senses – underwater, Slick skin, Physical Change – major
Lowlander – Resistant- heat, toxins, Night Vision, Increased STR, Reduced PER, Physical Change – major, Armor Plating
Lunarian – Resistance – radiation, Night Vision, Sensitivity – light, Reduction – STR, Enhanced INT, Adaptation – light gravity
Martian – Enhanced PER, Environmental Susceptibility – heavy gravity, Enhanced Senses Adaptation – light gravity
Mercurian – Resistance – heat and radiation, Environmental Sensitivity – cold
Ringer – cybernetics
Sharc – Dependency- salt water, Gills, Dermal Armor, Natural Attack, Physical Change – major
Sidhe – Dependency – light gravity, Telekinesis, Amazing INT, Amazing WIL, Reduced STR, CON
Spacer – Symbiotic respiration, Dermal Reinforcement, Photosynthetic Skin, Physical Change – major
Stormrider – Reduced DEX, Reduced PER, Radio Sense, Toxin Tolerance, Wings, Size Change (x2), Physical Change – major
Talan – Enhanced Senses, 0-G training, Duality, Enhanced Dex, Reduced PER, Physical Change – major
Terran – no change
Terrine – Natural Attack, Dermal Armor, Reduced INT, Reduced PER, Aggression, Major Physical change
Tinker -Size Change – small, Night Vision, Increased DEX,
Venusian – Toxin Tolerance, Environmental Adaptation – heat, high pressure
Worker – Extreme WIL reduction, Amazing STR increase, Good CON increase, Dependency – food supplement, Fade Out

Some notes: Dependency you need to make a CON Feat check to avoid losing 1 fatigue point per day without the substance.

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