Saturday, May 12, 2012

Shifting Gears

I got distracted over on my other blog, so I haven't updated in a while. But here's a teaser of the sort of things I'm thinking about in terms of BTR.

On thing that many people complained about regarding earlier editions of D&D (Anything before 4e, that is) was its tendency towards Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards(Warning! TVTropes Link!). And it's true, if all you're looking at is the class tables in the PHB. A wizard constantly gets new abilities, while a fighter's power is only slowly doled out (and is nowhere near as cool).

But what this comparison fails to account for is gear. Equipment. Weapons, armor and all that jazz. Fighters may not get a lot of power from their class, but they have much better opportunities to improve themselves with gear. +1 flaming ax? Fighter loot. +2 plate mail of spell resistance? Fighter loot. Scroll of fireball? Okay, the wizard can have that one. So while the wizard is building a "golf bag" of spells, the fighter is building a "golf bag" of specially enchanted weapons and armors.

Gear balance is equally important in Rifts. Actually, it is absolutely vital. Many critics will point out how great a divide it is between the SDC and MDC tiers. Put a dragon up against a Rogue Scholar, and it's very clearly a curb stomp battle. The dragon wins because it can deal 100 SDC on a hit even if it rolls a 1 for damage. That poor SDC wimp doesn't stand a chance.

But what they fail to notice is that the MDC gap is one that be readily bridged. That Rogue Scholar is very likely to have access to some sort of MDC body armor. The most protective armor in the core Rifts rulebook (not counting powered armor) is the heavy Dead Boy armor with 80 MDC. Just by slipping that puppy on, our Rogue Scholar just made that confrontation a bit more fair. Add an MDC weapon of some kind, and this fight suddenly becomes interesting.

If there's a balance problem here, it is that a Rifts character is overly reliant on MDC gear to compete. Rather than the game being about the character underneath all of that weaponry, it can readily become a contest to see how much stuff can be piled on a character.