Sunday, December 17, 2017

Fifth Game of Christmas 2017

Previous Games of Christmas: Traveller, Heavy Gear, Exalted, Mutants & Masterminds

Do you love robots? D'you love skeletons?! How about Magic Spells?! Dragons? Rocket Bikes? Mutants, Time Travel, Spaceships, Alien Invasions, Fighting Illinois Nazis, Dinosaurs, Jedi, Cowboys, Green Lantern(But with magic swords), Lasers, Rail Guns, Demons, Monsters, A Gargoyle Empire, Vampires, A Living Planet made of Cthulu, SO MUCH STUFF!!! Holy Crap! I do not think you are ready for this. I don't think I am ready for this. But let's get t it, yeah? Lets dig into....

RIFTS

This was the first game I played. I had been running games for about a year, but I had never managed to play in one yet. I managed to run into a friend of mine who was thinking of starting a game of Rifts and I was able to get in. I was very exited, in my mind I was going to be so in character that method actors would be coming to me for tips. In reality we herded dinosaurs and fought giant robots, so...not sure how in character I needed to be for that. I played Yukon Cornelius an escaped Coalition Dog Boy who smoked a pipe and wore a sombrero. It was pretty awesome. There are technically two editions of the game, but the mechanics have no serious changes, and all the changes were pretty bad(except for the perception rules, though I think there is a simpler way to do that). As that is the case it doesn't really matter which edition you use. Unlimited Edition has a bunch of clarifications on the rules, but it lacks the GM section of the original which had a random monster creation tool as well as some short form monsters and villains, which are super handy. Kind of a toss up, but I like the original a bit more.

Peritextual Elements
It is kind of a glorious mess. Two column format, Times New Roman font and back and white line art throughout. The art is very evocative and sets a cool tone for the game. However nothing is organized in any logical fashion, there is no index, and the table of contents is slid, but if you don't know what you are looking for it is very difficult t find. Even if you know what you are looking for it can be very, VERY, difficult to find. The books are perfect bound large form paperbacks, but the laminate n the cover starts to peal after a bit and it can curl with time. While it is not the worst I have seen, it is not a selling point. I recently went back through and reread all my books attempting to get the sense of how I learned to play, and for the life of me I cannot figure out how I learned to play this game.

Mechanics
There is no core mechanic for this game. Combat is handled one way, skills are handled another, vehicle combat is handled another way, and there is no real instruction on how best to have these subsystems all interact with each other. Combat is a series of d20 rolls. Attacker rolls to strike, defender rolls to defend, if they fail defense they can try to roll with the punch t take less damage(sometimes), If the attacker hits he then rolls damage which is based on the weapon and then the next person goes. Damage is either normal(SDC) or Mega Damage(MDC). SDC weapons do no damage to MDC targets. MDC damage dos one hundred times damage to SDC targets. Everyone starts withe MDC weapons and Armor. This leads to odd moments of Emergent play that I think were not anticipated by the designers. I say this because a lot of the add on rules and rules explanations in later books would attempt t explain why anyone would ever need SDC weapons or armor and often the designer would wonder why people kept asking the same sort of questions about MDC.  Initiative is broken down int 15 second rounds where each person gets a number of actions, sometimes things take up several actions to do, and it rotates through from highest initiative  to lowest for the first action, then back to the highest again and it rotates around. Dodging uses up an action, parrying doesn't. The rules for dodging bullets is arcane and really confusing, I think you take a -10 to your roll plus any dodge bonuses you have, but it might be a raw die roll -10, r it might be impossible. There has been a lot written on the subject and none of it has ever made any sense to me. Skills are a bit funny. They are a percentile roll, and I assume you are supposed to roll under the percentile of your skill. I say, "I assume," as there is no instruction on how to use skills in the book. It is just assumed you know how they work. Also there are 305 skills(According to my last count, there are probably more now). There are almost no social skills. This game has a serious amount of skill bloat, especially as how skills work and how long it takes to do a skill and what is possible within a skill are all kind of nebulous. Vehicle combat is combination of Combat and skill usage, but it doesn't fully explain how that works or what you are rolling t hit. Like there is a Vehicle Weapons skill that is percentile based, do you use it to hit the opponent with your vehicle weapons? What do they use to defend? How does defense work? It is all very confusing. All that said, there are answers to these questions, but they are buried all around the books. The main problem with the Palladium house system is not so much that it sucks, or that it is complex, but that it is probably the worst organized I have ever scene in a big name game. Finding anything can be a real chore, and I have been playing since 1993. The game is quirky and fun, but it needs some serious streamlining and reorganizing.

Setting
Um...yeah, the setting is everything a 13 year old from the eighties loves. The basics are as follows. Some pint in the near future there is a major technological revolution that leads to all sorts f cybernetics, human augmentation, and genetic engineering. At the peak of this golden age, a nuclear war of some sort starts and all the mass death reawakens the magic of the earth and tears reality apart a little, magic, demons, and extra dimensional creatures of all sorts roam the land. It is now four hundred years after this event and the world has rebuilt itself a bit. Magic has been harnessed by some and by other technology is the key. The big bad of the setting is the Coalition, basically future Nazis living near the ruins of Chicago. They hate everything non-human and magical, and they have a massive technologically advanced army. Also the magic level is ridiculously high and s the Earth is linked t other dimensions through rifts that periodically pop up. There are loads of books on the various parts of the world and on other worlds that are filled with cool adventures. You don't need a whole lot to make the setting books work, just the main book and the book for the area you are in(if you want it) My favorite dimension and world books are: Underseas, Phase World, Lone Star, New West, and South America 1 & 2(South America  is probably my favorite of all the Rifts book bar none). Atlantis and the Vampire Kingdoms are also pretty good for giving you big villains to fight. You might also want to get the Conversion Books, as they are far closer to a series of Monster Manuals than anything else.

Thus endeth the Fifth Game of Christmas. Tomorrow...

Hunters of Aexandria