Thursday, November 11, 2010

A random thought

Yeah, I've kind of broken with my planned monthly update schedule. Largely because Project BTR has gotten to the point where I need to get past thought experiments and actually get something serious put together in order for it to advance. And that is difficult for me right now.

One thing that I can talk about is my thoughts on the role of randomness in character generation. Most Palladium games involve lots of die rolling in the character generation process. You roll 8 stats on 3d6, unless you roll well enough to get a re-roll. Then you roll to see how many hit-points you get. Then you roll to see if your character starts with psionics. And that's before you make the first real choice about your character.

This does have the ability to make a character interesting. Like figuring out how to play a character with a 6 P.B. and a 23 M.A. But poor rolls in the wrong places can make a character into a total gimp. And Palladium acknowledges this to a degree, by allowing players to take physical skills to bump up those stats that came up poorly. At least, those that matter in the dangerous worlds that Palladium publishes.

Though the real humdinger comes when they try to balance completely unbalanced options by giving them an incredibly low chance of appearance. Like randomly determined psionics. Sure there's a massive chance your character won't have psionics at all, but there's also the small chance that your character will roll "major psionics" and have not only awesome psychic powers, but the ability to take an O.C.C. as well. Put that psychic in a Glitter Boy or some other powered armor and all bets are off.

So I face another decision point in BTR. What role should randomness play in BTR? I'm thinking of making sure that you can roll your stats, though offering a roughly equivalent point-buy. Rolling hit points and power points are definitely on the table, again with non-rolling equivalent options.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The 5 Minute NPC

An extremely late September blog, but here it is.

One thing that is pretty darn essential in any game that I run is the ability to write up an emergency NPC in about 5 minutes or less. If my PCs start a fight that I hadn't planned for, or I need to know what a particular NPCs skill chance is, I should be able to come up with that quickly, before play gets too bogged down.

Now, I'm sure that you Palladium GMs have this all figured out. You probably have a huge binder or similar full of NPC stats ready to whip out at a moment's notice. But it took you a long time to build up the material in that binder, didn't it? Whether you rolled up that binder all in one go, or it slowly accumulated as you planned for session after session, or some combination of the two, that's a notable chunk of your life that you'll never get back.

In GURPS, the 5 minute NPC is the order of the day for me. For the average mook, I just assign four stats and a skill level or two, do a little math (these steps are pretty quick for me because of my experience with that system, but they're not killers for the rookie), look up the Strength table to see his damage capability, hit the weapon and armor tables to determine what I want him to wield, and go. Non-combat NPCs are even easier, as I only need the first step.

One of my goals with BTR is to allow for the 5 minute NPC. Getting rid of classes and levels is a good first step, as they create extra layers and steps that makes things take longer. And most NPCs do not need to be built using the same rules as PCs. The same mechanics, yes, but not the same rules. Basic mooks might only have stats and a couple of skills with the success chances they need to threaten the PCs, but not much more than that. A notable fight might include an NPC with a milestone or two. Master villains will most closely resemble PCs, but only because they deserve the most detail. Even then, they will not typically be built using point, skill picks, or dice rolls, but based on the needs of the campaign.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

In the Beginning...

... there was alignment. And it was ... meh.

Alignment was the first real step toward character definition in RPGs, encouraging characters to take a side in the grand battles between good and evil and law and chaos. It gave players a hook to hang some roleplay on, but it wasn't very well defined and occasionally contradictory.

Palladium took the next step and defined alignments more rigorously. Detailed lists of common alignment-defining situations and how each alignment should respond. And let's not forget the oft-reprinted rant against "neutral" alignments.

The real question I'm facing as I try to bootstrap this into a modern design is: Is alignment still valid in games these days? Even the grand-daddy of all RPGs, D&D doesn't use them much anymore. The 4th edition of that game reduces alignment to a spectrum, rather than its classic grid configuration, and also allows PCs to be "unaligned", with no inclination towards good or evil.

One thing I am considering is a system of "behavior tags", in which players define things that their character would never do, must always do, will risk to achieve and so on. More like Beliefs, Instincts and Traits from Burning Wheel than FATE Aspects.

Something a little broader would encompass the old Palladium insanity rules. Like most of the Palladium system, insanity worked fine when it was first introduced (in Beyond the Supernatural, clearly intended as a competitor to Chaosium's Call of Chthulhu), but after getting bolted on to a dozen games, it becomes less relevant and even a little silly. Particularly amusing is the Crazy Hero tables added in for Heroes Unlimited. Though most of what that does is try to cover up the fact that Heroes Unlimited didn't really have a robust power system. Especially the "Power by Association" table. "Green Lantern doesn't really have a magic ring. He just has a delusion that the ring given to him by the Guardians of the Universe gives him his powers."

One thing I will NOT do is create a disadvantage system. At least not for mental status. That just makes the system a little too easy to twink, as you can get points back for all of your insanities and then do your best to make sure the GM never notices exactly what it says on your sheet. If disadvantages exist in this system, they will have direct mechanical implications, but more on that in a later post.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Setting idea

Here's one thought for an interesting setting:

The corebook describes a human colonization effort on a new planet. The planet has unusual heavy metals that the colony hopes to one day exploit. These rare earths also seem to be increasing the prevalence of psionic powers amongst the colonists, especially among the native-born.

The first setting supplement details another continent on this planet, which is actually a fairly typical fantasy setting with elves and orcs. There is even a human kingdom here, which started when one of the colony ships crashed on this continent. I was tempted to put in something completely different and fantastical, but I had a really cool idea of an elven mage piloting a tree like a mecha/treant and fighting against a human, purely technological mecha and I want that in the setting somewhere. This supplement will contain all of the magic rules and suggestions for what happens when the colonists move to this continent and interact with the fantasy races there.

Second setting supplement is a slightly more distant colony ship that landed near a particularly concentrated deposit of heavy metals. This colony is somewhat more established because some of the people have been developing unusual physical abilities which have helped immensely in terms of construction and resource gathering. This setting is much more urban and (you guessed it) has superheroes and villains among the population.

From here we can go off-world to see what sort of galactic culture exists, what alien races are out there and what sort of adventures can be had in this universe.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Magic and Psi

(Sorry about the late post. You'd think I could keep up with a monthly schedule, but my life had to go and be stupid on me.)

Now to get into the magic and psionics rules. This is still an area that I am feeling out, but here are my ideas so far.

The major necessity is that is fit together much better with the system that surrounds it. So magic and psionics will both be skill-based, allowing them to improve with use, and will feature milestones in their advancement.

But what will make them different? In most cases, it's not much of an issue, as a game will often feature only one or the other. But universal games, or those with "kitchen-sink" settings often find magic and psionics butting up against each other. And they often suffer for it, typically because the systems are so similar that there's little point in differentiation, or different for the sheer sake of being different.

One conceit that's been used in modern fantasy fiction is the idea that magic and psionics are largely the same thing. People with reliable intuition, poltergeists, medium abilities, and such are simply untrained wizards. This first came to my attention in Simon Hawk's "Wizard" series, but has also shown up in the more recent and more popular "Dresden Files" novel (notably "White Night").

But those stories present psychic ability as a lesser form of the power, and if you're going to be anything, you become a wizard. Trade in your intuition for divination spells. Telekinesis gets channeled into apportation magic. Which is no fun from a gaming perspective. Players want their psionics to be a valid, equal and interesting choice, not a lesser option.

So let's take that split and refine it. Psychic powers are crude, but powerful. Magic spells are specialized, but efficient. When faced with a locked door, a telekinetic can reach into the lock with his mind and jiggle the parts around until they unlock. A mage in the same position can simply cast a knock spell.

Also, magic is very precise, while psi is flexible. That knock spell is very useful against locked doors, but useless when you're trying to pick up a weapon from across the room. Or trying to move boulders out of the way to save people from a cave-in. It all depends on how many Power Points you're willing to invest in it (Yes, I'm planning on using a Power Point system for magic and psi, in keeping with the source material).

While I've got a good portion of the psionics system figured out (it was actually my initial inspiration for the milestone system), magic is much trickier.

First of all, how are spells learned? Should a milestone grant a number of spells available for casting? Or maybe learning a magic skill gives you access to a specific spell list and you can try to cast any spell on that list, but at a penalty, and milestones allow you to buy off that penalty. And should there be a point at which a skill roll is not needed for the casting of a spell?

I'm sure actual spell lists will come as I develop the game further and get more into the setting.

The next challenge is spell resistance. Rolling against a stat makes a degree of sense, but in a percentile system, chances are pretty low. So someone with a pretty good Dex score (say 25) has only a 25% chance to save against a fireball spell. And once we factor in the contested action mechanic (blackjack percentile rolls), it becomes even more bleak, since a caster can have an 87% chance to cast the spell, and if he rolls anything over 25, that high Dex means nothing.

One potential to this is allowing either resistance skills that can be improved or making milestones available that provide bonuses to magic resistance.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


While I mentioned the use of an armor divisor system to represent mega-damage in my first post, an idea that would save me some math has recently occurred to me, though it does have something of a catch.

The catch is, you'd have to give up all of your polyhedral dice and rely solely on the d10.

What I'm proposing is a damage-scaling system (sort of like how MDC works, but smaller so it's not as cheesy) where the next tier up isn't 100 points of damage, but only 5. And the reason that you'd have to leave all your other dice behind is that the average roll of a d10 is 5 (5.5 for those detail minded folks out there), so a 1d10 damage die could simply be averaged to 5 points of damage, or 1 point of damage on the vehicle scale. And rolling 5d10 damage against a vehicle and then dividing by 5 could be simplified to rolling 1d10 vehicle scale damage.

So this scaling mechanic has the ability to save us from the "buckets o' dice" problem of human-scale weaponry vs. heavy vehicles. It also grants the armor-like property of mega-damage to things that probably should have it.

For example, in the Rifts system, a car has about 200 SDC. An untrained mook does 1d4 damage (average roll 2.5) with a punch and has 2 attacks per melee. So at an average 5 damage per 15 seconds (I'll let someone with stronger math skills factor in the 15% miss chance due to the fact that he could miss his roll to hit), that car is useless after about 10 minutes of some guy (nobody special) punching it. A combat trained character could do it faster.

Under a x5 scaling system, the car has only about 40 vehicle scale hp, but it takes 5 points of human-scale damage to cause 1 hp. If an untrained human still does only an average of 2.5 damage per hit, that converts to 1d10-3 (it gives a larger range, 0-7, but retains the same average). Since only results of 5,6, and 7 (8,9, and 10 on the die) would damage the car at all, that's about a 30% chance of doing 1 point of damage on a successful hit. That feels a bit more realistic to me.

So here's the question, guys: This feels a lot cleaner than the current MDC system and seems to produce more realistic results. Is it worth giving up all of those funny little dice?

Bonus question: Am I doing my math right? Do I only think this works like I say it does?

Saturday, May 1, 2010

A System Worth Fighting For!

Now we get into the nitty gritty of the combat system, what makes it tick, what we want to keep and what we want to get rid of.

Initiative and Actions

Nothing is wrong with the initiative system as written. The main change that is going to come here is from the movement to a d10/percentile system.

Clarity and intuitiveness is a goal as well. I've heard stories of things going horribly awry due to misunderstandings of the rules. In one story, each player takes all of their actions at once, so Player 1 takes their 3-5 attacks, then Player 2 attacks 3-5 times, etc. until the last player in the initiative gets so mad at having to wait so long and having most of the enemies defeated already that he uses his 3-5 actions to attack the other PCs!

Probably the simplest way to set up an initiative order is to make a die roll and add it to an attribute (probably whatever I use to represent speed). 1 or 2d10 for granularity and interest. Not too much more or randomness will overwhelm character ability. I definitely want character ability to matter much more than it does in the current iteration of Rifts.

One possible solution to the action situation is to implement "initiative passes." I saw this in at least one version of Shadowrun. Initiative is rolled and everyone takes one action in initiative order. Then 10 is subtracted from everyone's initiative and anyone who still have an initiative above 0 can act again. This cycle continues until no one has a positive initiative total anymore. Then initiative is rerolled for the next round.

Another option is "tick-based" initiative, which has notably appeared in the second edition of Exalted and the Feng Shui RPG. Every action that a character has a cost which generally reflects how long the action takes to complete. Small quick actions may be taken multiple times while another character who takes more involved actions must wait much longer until they can act again.

I'm not firmly decided on which option to use quite yet.

Combat Movement

One thing that definitely needs clearing up is combat movement. In Rifts, movement is governed by the Speed attribute, but it is not well explained. There is a table detailing running speed in miles and kilometers per hour, but no real explanation of how it governs movement over a combat round. While some gamers are content to play out battles using only their imaginations, or simple sketch-maps, there are those who cry for the minis and gridded battle mat when fights break out.

Also very important, it should work for both descriptive combat and gridded combat. One thing that I hated about Savage Worlds is their use of the "Savage Worlds inch." You are assumed to be mapping everything out, so all measurements are given in inches (representing 1 inch on the tabletop). This wouldn't be so bad, but this "inch" translates into two yards. Meaning that when my players asked about distances, I had to take the time to convert 1 inch into 2 yards. Usually just a doubling or a halving, depending on which way the conversion was going, but it still took away from my valuable game time. D&D's 5 foot square or GURPS' 1 yard hexes are far more intuitive.

Attack and Defense

Now we get into the actual dice rolling. Combat will be resolved with percentile rolls, just like every other die roll in the system. Attack and defense will be a pair of "blackjack" rolls (roll as high as you can as long as it's below your skill %). So if the attack is successful with a result of 48, the defender must roll higher than 48 but less than their defending skill % in order to avoid the attack.

This does a pretty good job of mapping the Palladium combat dice flow to a percentile system. It will also serve as a model for opposed actions outside of combat, a mechanic that Palladium has been sorely lacking. The recent addition of the Perception roll makes this all the more obvious. Especially since the rolls it opposes are percentile rolls (like Prowl) and the Perception check is made on a d20.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Variations on a Theme

As much fun as it would be to publish BTR setting-free and let you use your old Rifts books with it, there are people who would be turned off by a setting-less system. And since the BTR mantra is doing things Better Than Rifts, it would be fun to see if I can extend that to setting design.

While the Rifts setting has a lot of cool things going for it, it conveys very little in terms of consistent theme. Consistency is lacking within the sourcebooks at times, even. Just look at the Vampire Kingdoms sourcebook. It spends quite a bit of space detailing the vampires and the Vampiric Intelligences, then veers off into these small communities in Mexico that don't really support the vampiric theme, and concludes with rules for traveling shows and circuses. Useful material, all told, but it doesn't feel like it belongs in the same book.

Does the Rifts setting have a theme, even if the individual books don't?

Rifts Earth is in the grip of evil forces. Not just the chaos that is to be expected from a setting where all of civilization has been stripped away, but the advancement of supernatural evil. The setting avoids being dark largely by adding layers of gonzo and tech porn. Whether it's the Coalition, the Splugorth, or Vampiric Intelligences, evil abounds.

The only things that stand in the way of this evil are the PCs. The forces of good are small and nowhere near as entrenched as evil. For every Cyber-Knight there are probably 100 demons or undead or other evil minions.

Which brings up an interesting point. If the forces of good are so small, they must be rather powerful to stand up to all that evil. Which brings us to all of the things that Rifts characters can do to themselves in order to stand up to the forces of darkness. Crazies, Juicers and Borgs are some of the most common to appear in the source material. Palladium writer Jason Richards goes into some depth on this.

So we can look at the theme of Rifts as "Sacrificing your humanity in order to protect humans from the inhuman."

The challenge is: If I were to focus on this theme in the BTR setting, it would not be very comfortable to many Rifts players. For them, the charm of the game is that, if you were to list the various character types of a typical party, would sound like the the beginning of a joke where the first sentence ends in "... walk into a bar."

What do you think? Should I design around a dark theme and make a very dark game? Or should I focus on the gonzo element and come up with a setting and theme that enables that?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Give Me That, Stat!

One of the major issues facing me as I work on this project is what attributes I should use. The Palladium uses a set of 8, six of which are readily identified as the same ones D&D uses (Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma). Physical Beauty is equivalent to the Comeliness score used in earlier editions of D&D. Speed is its own thing, elevating a character's movement rate to the status of a rolled stat.

What's the logic? There are 3 mental stats and 5 physical stats. At least that's how it looks, since Physical Beauty is nominally a physical stat, even though it doesn't provide bonuses to physical stuff.

They actually make a degree of sense if you look at them as a series of Attack/Defense pairs. Strength and Constitution are the "physical" pair. Strength (P.S) has to do with dealing damage, while Constitution (P.E.) is all about resisting and surviving damage. Dexterity (P.P.) and Speed are the movement pair, with Dexterity being the basis for weapon skills and Speed attaching itself to dodging ability and a few other things (for those Palladium nerds out there who remember when high Speed gave a bonus to Dodge). Intelligence (I.Q.) and Wisdom (M.E.) form the mental pair.

That just leaves Charisma (M.A.) and Physical Beauty (P.B.). While they can be considered the "social" pair, they really are an odd couple. But then, many old school games (which Palladium certainly is) do not have strong support for social interaction in the mechanics. Adherents insist that it's part of the charm of these games, that the inability to simply "roll for it" fosters roleplaying and thinking in character.

So what do you think, guys? Should I bring this game fully into the 21st century (or at least the 1990's) with detailed rules for social interaction? Or should I drop all social mechanics and let players resolve it at the table, old school style?

Comments are open!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Airwolf Missile Rule - explained!

Some of you may have heard of this or run across it: Up to 3 missiles may be dodged, but any salvo of 4 or more missiles hits automatically.

This has become known as the "Airwolf missile rule" after the '80's adventure show Airwolf. In one episode, much is made of a weapons system that fired 4 missiles at once, because "nobody could dodge 4 missiles." Of course, the Airwolf helicopter winds up dodging all four missiles. So why can't you?

The answer: Playability. Since each missile requires an attack roll, then a dodge roll, then a damage roll, a large salvo of missiles has the astonishing ability to bog down play. So while this rule feels like a wallbanger (and is), it does have a reason to exist.

Lesson learned: BTR will need to have a mature and playable set of autofire rules for quickly and easily resolving multiple-projectile attacks.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Leveling the Playing Field

One of the big buzzwords that appears in a lot of the Rifts material is how "realistic" the system is. While it might be more realistic than AD&D, it is still full of wallbangers. The big one is the explanation of how "realistic" the experience and level system is. [sarcasm]Sure, it's realistic for you to become a better chef by killing monsters. Or get better at killing monsters by cooking gourmet dinners. [/sarcasm]

The problem with most level systems is that everything tends to level up, even the stuff that doesn't really make sense. While I could go with a simple point-buy XP system, there are a couple reasons not to:

1) I cut my teeth on GURPS, and it has a large impact on my game designs, especially on an ambitious project like this. I don't want to simply "default" to the GURPS solution. I want to challenge myself as a designer and explore other options.

2) It's not really Rifts. If I can come up with an advancement scheme that encompasses all the malarkey about "there's nothing like experience to teach you something", I'd rather use something like that.

My proposed solution: An advancement system in which skills advance as they are used.

Every failed skill roll earns a "skill point." Each 5 skill points earned grant a 1% bonus to the skill. This allows a beginning character to achieve competence rather quickly, but still requires a good deal of time to become a master.

The next step is the interesting part. Every 10% of skill a character earns, grants them a "milestone," something akin to a d20-style feat which typically relates to that skill. Note that since every skill starts at stat +10% (see last post), each skill a character starts with includes a milestone.

Since the system is largely skill-based, milestones are the primary means of character differentiation in the game. Two characters with Martial Arts 60% can have widely divergent milestones, and might even have different numbers of them. While milestones for the combat skills will provide combat powers, other skills will also have appropriate milestones, much like Exalted has charms for every skill.

But wait, you say. How can such a game be balanced? Without levels or other indicators, how will the GM know how powerful his group is? Even point systems like your beloved GURPS have point totals that the GM can use as a guideline.

But as someone who has actually played and ran GURPS, I'll let you in on a little secret: Points don't matter.

More accurately, they matter when balancing characters against each other. 100 point characters all have 100 points of effectiveness, but will likely have spent them in different ways. So one character can put all of their points into being a bad-ass fighter and another into an ace accountant. The accountant will likely get creamed early in any fight, but he's the guy you want at your back should you ever get audited. The fighter might be able to save you from terrorists, but he probably can't do his own taxes. So while each character has their own specialty and spent the same number of points on it, it's not the same specialty and neither one crosses over very well.

So, as we see, points balance characters, but they're not useful for balancing encounters. For that, you're actually going to have to look at the character sheets. See what the characters are actually capable of and plan adventures around that. (Some of you over in Palladium-land might be doing this already.)

Monday, February 1, 2010

A Measure of Skill

One of the things that I've always thought was odd about the Rifts system is the fact that there are three different skill systems. There are percentile skills, resolved on a D100, combat skills, which provide bonuses to d20 rolls, and physical skills, which simply add stat bonuses.

The Palladium system is, at its heart, a D&D-alike (also known as a "fantasy heartbreaker"), which is where it gets the first two skill systems. The physical skills are a completely Palladium innovation. And they make sense, in their own way. Since character stats are rolled completely randomly, the ability to improve a sub-par score at the cost of a skill selection is actually pretty cool. The problem is that there is a tendency for the typical character to be a phys. ed. major: highly trained, but only in physical endeavors. Especially since it takes significant effort for a stat to affect anything in game (bonuses don't start to appear til a stat hits 16, which is very tough to do on a straight 3d6 roll)

This seems to work fine for the game, but it's not very consistent. In order to roll against one skill, you roll one die and want to roll high. Another skill uses another die type and favors low rolls. Another skill isn't used at all and sits on your character sheet once you've added its bonuses.

Another, related, issue is the fact that attributes seem to only exist to provide those bonuses to the 17+ crowd or to meet the requirements for certain OCCs. While the creative GM can find uses for the stats, there's no support for it in the rulebooks.

My proposed solution: Move the entire system to percentile. Skills start at stat + 10%. Stats are rolled using 3d10 (to bring the system fully over to d10s and because the attribute tables in the Rifts books reach up to 30) or via a point buy which produces the same average result.

Fairly short post this month, but next month should make up for it. I'll be talking about levels and advancement and how skills fit into all of that.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Importance of "Getting It"

I'm prepared to admit that I'm not a very creative guy. My previous project was an RPG based on the Oz stories of L. Frank Baum. Derivative works just ooze from my pores.

If there's one thing that separates me from any other schmuck out there is that I get it. Or at least, I try very hard to. Some people, when you mention the idea of "Better Than Rifts", they will say, "Sure, there are lots of games that are better than Rifts." So my job isn't that hard, right?

Wrong. Project BTR isn't about making a game that's better than Rifts. It's about making a game that does everything that Rifts does and does it better than Rifts.

There are a lot of licensed games out there that fall short of the mark. One that stands out is the Red Dwarf RPG. Yes, there was a RPG based on a British sci-fi sitcom. And it was a very traditional RPG, with combat rules and gear lists (derived from the show, at least) but no real support for comedy gaming. No wonder I picked it up in the bargain bin. The guys who wrote it may have loved the show, but they didn't get it and they weren't able to convey it to their readers.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Mega-Damage is Broken!

Thank you for tuning in to the first post on the Project BTR blog. In case you haven't figured it out, BTR stands for Better Than Rifts. If you don't know what Rifts is, you suck. If you do know what Rifts is, you know how much of an overhaul the system needs. This blog will detail my thoughts and progress toward designing an upgraded system.

To avoid legal snafus, note that Better Than Rifts is a preliminary name that serves as a convenient descriptor of my design goals. The final product will have a different name, though finding a way to keep the BTR acronym would be fun.

The easiest thing to point out as broken in the current iteration of the Rifts RPG is the concept of Mega-Damage. Each point of Mega-Damage represents 100 points of regular (SDC) damage. When this was introduced in Palladium's Robotech RPG, it made a degree of sense. It was a clean way to delineate personal combat from mecha-scale combat. When a mecha-scale attack came at little ol' you, you're toast and a human-scale attack had to be huge in order to even dent one of the giant robots.

Rifts didn't really keep with that split (and some say it didn't work too well even in Robotech). Personal weapons and armor appeared that interacted on the Mega-scale. Meaning that anyone had the ability to wield a weapon of mass destruction and survive attacks from same.

While this does the job of separating heroes and villains (with MDC weapons and armor) from the average joe (who operates solely on the SDC scale), the break between the two scales is too extreme to hold up believably for any extended period. If everything worthwhile is MDC, why waste skill selections to max out your SDC potential? Why does the SDC scale even exist?

One solution used by some Rifts gamers is to reduce the MDC scale to 10xSDC rather than 100xSDC. This still allows for MDC characters to be a cut above, but not to the point that it's ridiculous. It makes SDC much more viable, as a normal PC will often have 20-30 total hit points (counting innate SDC) along with whatever is provided by SDC-scale armor. This translates to 2-3 MDC hit points. Better than 1, certainly.

My proposed solution: Armor Divisors. This does mean stepping away from the traditional Palladium conceit of "armor takes damage for you" and into the idea of "armor stops damage" that is prevalent in many other RPGs. While it might be fun to incorporate an armor damage mechanic, it would have to require minimal bookkeeping (and be another post, anyway).

The idea is that super-powered weapons are more likely to penetrate armor rather than simply render the wearer into chunky salsa. It also helps control the "buckets o' dice" that tend to come out with very large damages. Here's how it works: Say you have some armor that stops 10 damage. Now we take a pistol that does 1d10 damage. That's not scary at all, is it. The armor is going to stop that attack every time. Now let's take that 1d10 pistol and give it an armor divisor of 2, so that any armor it goes up against is divided in half. Now your 10 armor points will only stop 5 points of damage. Gets a little scarier, doesn't it? If we upgrade the armor divisor to 10, that armor is only going to stop 1 point of damage from that pistol. See how it works? And we're not radically increasing the amount of damage done, but we are affecting how the hypothetical player would respond to the attack.

Another component of the problem is that weapon damages (especially Mega-damages) are assigned by pure whim. While this works from a given perspective (the designer says "I need a weapon that's about this scary"), each designer winds up using their own contradictory formulas or notions, making the whole thing even less logical. Any attempt to create consistency from all of this just muddies the waters even more, as exception after exception pile up.

My proposed solution: Guns Guns Guns! A publication of BTRC, it is designed as a generic weapon creation system, with a focus on detail and realism. While a setting like Rifts has all kinds of wacky technologies, having a solid, consistent base to draw from can make the wackiness that much more believable.

See you next month for more fun taking Rifts apart and making it truly awesome!