Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Skeleton of the System

I've been away for a while, but I'm still alive, I still exist, and I'm still thinking of things.

Some people have been wondering what sort of progress I'm making on the system and how far I've gotten. So here's an overview of the decisions that I've made so far and some of the decisions that I still need to make on this project.


A character will have 8 Attributes: Strength, Constitution, Dexterity, Speed, Intelligence, Wisdom, Charm and Savvy, rated on a scale of 1-30. Players can roll 3d10 8 times to generate them, though I think a point buy method should also be available.

Skills & Milestones

Starting characters will start with 10-15 skill picks. Each pick gives a 10% bonus to a skill. Skills are based directly on stats now, so putting a pick into a skill means you start with stat + 10% in the skill. You can put multiple picks into a single skill.

Skills improve by being used. Every time you fail a skill roll, you get a skill point. 5 skill points raise your skill by 1%. So skills will grow quickly, then reach a plateau.

I don't have a skill list in mind, because a lot of how things will work will depend on how nicely it plays with the milestone system. You see, every time you gain 10% in a skill, you get a milestone, which is basically a D&D-style feat. (Even the first 10%, so a starting character will get a milestone with each skill pick they put into a skill.) So every skill needs hooks for milestones; It needs somewhere to go. Skills that don't go anyplace will usually find themselves merged with other skills until there are enough milestones to make it interesting.

There will probably be quite a few combat skills, because there are lots of places to go with combat. but science skills will probably be squished into relatively few skills, with specialties being represented by milestones.

One of the challenges of designing the milestones is that I want to keep things from being too artificial. I want players to be able to say "I want to do X" and not have the GM point to some milestone and says "You can't, you don't have the milestone." In some cases that's appropriate. For things like magic and stuff. But if a character wants to try something wacky and difficult, but physically possible, let them try. Maybe put in milestones to make things easier, but avoid creating the idea that "you must be this tall to ride this ride" where it doesn't belong.

Magic & Psionics

I've mentioned before that I want magic to be specialized, while psionics will be crude and powerful. Here's how I plan on implementing that.

Lets say you have the Telekinesis skill. The basic power would be, let's say, spend 1 Magic Point (As I've explained earlier, magic and psionics are the same force with different applications) to lift 1 pound for 1 turn. The next time you pick a milestone, you can increase the amount you can lift or the duration, or some other factor. A maxed out telekinetic might be able to lift tons, carry the weight all day, or make 10 objects dance around each other and pick your pocket without looking. Or some combination of this.

The typical magical skill is a "spellbook"; A list of thematically linked spells. A character can cast every spell in a spellbook they know using that spellbook's skill. Depending on the complexity of the spell, this roll will have a penalty (a Light spell might have a -10% penalty, but a bigger spell might have a -50% or even more). The default milestone will allow you to buy off this penalty for specific spells, so even if two casters have the same spellbook, they can be focused in different spells (Not sure if this will also give you more Magic Points, or if that will be a separate milestone). If you put an extra 10% penalty cancellation (it never turns into a bonus) the spell can be cast with no roll at all. (Since spells in Palladium are cast without a roll, I wanted that as an option, but it still had to engage with the advancement mechanic in order to, you know, advance.)


Most of my thoughts on the mechanics of combat are here. The big wrinkles to sort out are armor and damage scaling (AKA Mega-Damage).

One of the few mechanics that I genuinely like from the Palladium system is how SDC works for armor. It not only added a dose of realism to the system (as compared to D&D anyway) in that armor will not last indefinitely. Attacks that don't beat your armor's AR are held against your armor's SDC until it is gone. Puny little goblins who keep attacking your armor are eventually going to get through to the creamy nougat center that is your hit points. This also made for interesting decisions on the part of a player. "I know this attack isn't going to get through my armor, but should I try to parry or dodge in order to protect my armor's SDC?"

The problem that comes with Rifts is that there's no longer the choice between hit points and armor. Unless you're a Juicer, your hit points will never survive a MD hit. So your armor is your life. So once you hit MDC scale, it seems like your character's gear matters more than the character does. Unless your character picks the right race or class to become innately MDC, at which point it becomes a slightly different arms race, but still an arms race.

Technology and Setting

One of the main things I want out of both the setting and the technology is that they be livable. Rifts Earth as it stands is designed for the convenience of wandering adventurers. The GM trying to run a "stationary" campaign, where the characters have jobs, obligations and roots has their work cut out for them. I want a setting that not only allows for, but encourages a number of approaches.

In terms of technology, I'd like to do a little more extrapolation regarding how the various cool technologies interact with the world. Atomic Ray guns and jet packs are cool, but what about atomic toasters? One of the things that I feel is important in a sci-fi setting is defining what "normal" means. That's how you measure exactly how awesome something really is. If everyone in the setting dressed like they were in an '80's hair metal band, it's Mr Suit who is shockingly different.

I know I've made some posts about a Magical Space setting, and I am planning on using it, but the universe is a pretty big place. Do I put my focus on space itself, making it a fantasy space opera? Or focus on a frontier world with a more Old West feel? Or do I go to one of the homeworlds of one of the races, humans elves, or whatever else I come up with?

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