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My group recently began an Alternity campaign and a rather simple disagreement has come up. There are two kinds of bonuses in Alternity.

Straight modifiers are mentioned such as -1, -2, but mainly you see things like -d4, and situation die, which add or take away die depending on difficulty, function the same, in what are called "steps" each step changes the modifier die.

Do these flat bonuses such as -2 actually mean -2 steps, or is this the only case a flat modifier shows up?

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They always mean steps - you never give a numerical bonus or penalty to an action or skill check. See PHB p.12, "A +1 step situation penalty means..." Sometimes they will state something in terms of the final situation die step, but (errors aside) only when it's the final outcome. They don't always bother to say "+X steps" but just say "+X" for brevity, but it's the same thing - see the Mad Dog Morgan example on p.49 where they are showing how to do task checks and refer to him having a "+7 penalty" and showing how that is a +4d20 situation die.

So it makes sense to say a given NPC has a +d8 on a check, but only makes sense to say, for example, that some armor incurs a +3 action check penalty on its wearer (because it could stack with something else, you don't put a +d8 from it along with a +dsomething from another effect - there's only one net situation die level).

Just ask yourself "is this an action check" and if the answer is yes, it's a step. A +1 would be a flat number on a roll that's not an action check, like damage or armor soak.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ There is an achievement "Action Check Increase" which lets you increase your Action Check score by 1,2,3 points, that one isn't a step bonus and similar for the Ability Score increases. Damage dice don't use steps, d4+1 is the normal 2-5 range. \$\endgroup\$ – TerroX Jul 20 '16 at 2:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ Damage is not an action check. A stat bump is not an action check. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Jul 20 '16 at 3:56

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