Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Rifting Back Through Time




By C.N. Constantin

I love Rifts.

I love the sheer gonzo of the environment, the use of the familiar and the fantastic and the enthusiasm that the environment creates.

I have had many a campaign through my own gaming career that I have played the night away

However, despite my love, the game system is showing its age.

Part of the reason I created Dark Revelations – the Role Playing Game was to make a “Rifts that makes sense” without destroying the magic that made Rifts one of the most popular rpgs of all time.

The reason I picked d20/ogl as a base is, for all its faults, it emulates that give and take that Rifts tried to create within their system.

In particular, it was to address the following:

1.        Front Loaded Characters:  with the exception of spellcasters and psychics, most Occupational Character Classes (O.C.C.s) are defined at 1st level.  Despite a system of gaining experience and rewarding for “clever ideas”, most changes of characters were based on going to the store to buy new toys.
I picked ogl/d20 so we could show this personal progression using feats and talents.
2.        Duplicate classes:  There are at least 6 military classes in Rifts that are essentially minor tweaks on a base class.  This is where Builds come in handy: they define the class/path without changing the overall rules. 
3.        M.D.C. – this is a great idea that I seriously considered using, but ultimately rejected because its main purpose (showing an enemy is particularly tough) is already built into the CR system.
4.        Power Creep:  Nothing stinks more then somebody bringing a shiny new book to the table that either. breaks your game, or is unused and becomes a waste of money.  We saw this after Rifts Atlantis, and it showed the difficulties of building a group together.
This is why I’m going to use the following metrics for new material:
                                                               i.      Can it be built using existing rules and classes?  If so, it’s a build and/or reskin of previous rules.
                                                              ii.      If it needs new material, can we work our way up from feats, talents, paths and then race/class as necessary? 
5.        Duplicate Equipment: There is a ton of equipment within Rifts that does more or less the same thing.  While I enjoy thumbing through the various arms company’s products, and the art associated with it, a ton of it will never be used.
As we expand our equipment and material, if a weapon has the same stats, it will be a reskin with some color text.  This is to provide a consistent gaming experience. 
6.        No Spine:  Despite being a level based system, there is little rational on how giving a rough idea of what sort of opponents would be challenging while avoiding either a player curb stomp or a tpk.   For all its faults, the 3.5/ogl has a clearly defined spine that once refined really allows for consistency.
7.        Magical Quirks:  Magic in Rifts had this swingy affect that either made it all powerful or useless.  When I was playing Rifts in the late 90’s/early 2000s, spellcasters were suddenly nerfed.  Not only were spellcasters suddenly not allowed to wear environmental armor, but their casting times became unfeasible for real time combat.  While this has been rectified in later editions, it is a lesson that hit home for me when I ended up creating my own variation of spellcasting for Dark Revelations - the Role Playing Game.   Namely, a spellcaster should be able to cast spells in battle.

8.        Races Definition.  As stated in the previous blog post, I like monstrous races, but while Rifts allows a wide range of options, it doesn’t always consider problems in playing such a race without house rules.  For this I always use one of the sillier races in Rifts.  Cactus People.  I like them, but they have some serious flaws for playing as a pc:
a.   sdc in an mdc world. This is not a big deal per say, if it weren't for the next point.
b. They require ultraviolet light to live, making it really difficult to setup a means of wearing armor, in spite of being S.D.C. creatures in an M.D.C. world.  You would have to house rule a piece of equipment in order to get past this first issue.
c.       They have a packet of skills that allow for little change.  This means you need to house rule them to allow them to take an O.C.C.
This race cemented in my own game design belief that any race available for P.C.s should be clearly defined. While we are saving our plant races for the upcoming Book of Arrogance (also known as the book of Cats, Dragons and Rock and Roll), it was my insistence that we have it well defined so any number of concepts can be easily played.

I fully intend to do this to maximize racial options while still having a consistent game.

9.        House ruling:  I don’t think I’ve ever played a Rifts game where something wasn’t house ruled.  To be fair, it was a product of its time.  It was created and evolved during the Dungeons and Dragons 2nd edition area and it did a lot of things that were innovative for its time.  However, if your players come up with some sort of crazy idea, it’s easier to “wing it” and dole out the experience based on feel, then it is to figure out the rules for allowing the crazy plan.  D20 wasn’t much better in this regard, so I ended up creating a Skill Montage system of which I will go into in more detail in future posts (or you can read the rules in Dark Revelations – The Role Playing Game – Player’s Guide for the details).
10.     Defining something before you destroy it.  As a species, humans get attached to things.  This attachment has been used to push and drive stories since the dawn of time. 
Rifts have this bad habit of trying to destroy their role playing environments before they are created.  My favorite two examples are Rifts Africa where they dropped the four horseman of apocalypse on a continent that wasn’t even defined before then, and Siege of Tolkeen, that didn’t even give us a map until it was up in flames.

One of my goals for this project is unless it already starts as background, to generate material that people get attached to and letting the G.M. decide whether it needs to be destroyed.

To conclude, while I like Rifts, it didn’t fulfill my needs and this rpg is an attempt to address what I find as flaws within the system.  Here’s hoping it scratches that particular itch.

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