Alternity: Player’s Handbook... why wasn't this Star Frontier 3rd Edition?
I really have no idea what the business concept behind TSR’s late-run science fiction RPG, Alternity, was. Perhaps they’d long ago abandoned or lost the rights to Star Frontiers, but it seems incredibly odd not to do a revamp of that universe since it already had a strong fanbase and solid universe.
Whatever the case, Alternity was created in 1998 and failed almost as quickly as TSR’s bottom line before being salvaged from the scrap heap by Wizards of the Coast. Although the staff at TSR survived [roughly], Alternity did not, and the game has become more of an oddity for collectors rather than a readily played science fiction setting.
Still, it is a nice window into the late stages of the TSR ‘pit’, as the book features the talents of R.K. Post, Todd Lockwood, and a few other less notable freelance contributors. Still, it was designed by Bill Slavicsek and Richard Baker, with development by Kim Mohan, which should give it some legs to stand on mechanically.
Artistically, the cover is a very, very nice piece by R.K. Post, and we get to see what he was going to bring to the table in his later years, although certainly not as dark as he’s become known for these days. I’m truly inspired by this piece, and I have to wonder what could have been if this had instead been presented as Zebulon’s Guide to Frontier Space Volume Two, because I think Post did an admirable job backing up Parkinson from that original supplement.
Still, the most intriguing thing about the book would have to be the interiors by Lockwood, who I see in the very infancy of his fantasy days after escaping the gulags of advertising art. Lockwood is raw here, and yet you see the foundations of what he will become, which is to say one of the greatest fantasy artists of his generation.
I’m also happy that the old FASA art director Dana Knutson was responsible for ship design, which I think is very apropos considering how much science fiction he helped produce at that rival gaming house back in the 80s and 90s.
In all, this is a very nice looking game, if not a bit artistically lean per page.
Artistic Rating: 3 [out of 5]