Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Why I Like Rifts - Ley Lines, Nexus Points, and Magic

I touched on this in my previous post but I thought it deserved more discussion. Ley lines get occasional mentions in other games but they are a big part of the landscape in Rifts. Here's why:

  • Within a mile of a line caster get extra energy and spells are more powerful (range, duration, etc)
  • Actually being on a line does even more
  • Being at a nexus point (where two or more lines cross) does even more
  • Certain times increase the power of a nexus point as well: noon, midnight, equinoxes, solstices, lunar eclipses, and solar eclipses. 
  • Some of the above times also include a rift opening at a nexus point
Think about the above details. Before we have defined anything about kingdoms or races or other terrain we know that ley lines are where interesting things happen, and serve as paths to where more things can happen. Magic-using characters are likely to seek them out. Magic-hating characters might seek to avoid them, or they may seek them out to hunt demons or wizards or any other spell-tossing threat. Even without knowing much of anything else about the setting we know this is something to look for. 

It also makes the calendar a little more significant. It may make a huge difference if there's an eclipse coming up if a nexus point is involved in one's plans. There are reasons to be in a particular place at a particular time, from traveling through a gateway to crafting some potent new magical item.

Once we do start fleshing things out, they help define the map. A nexus point seems like an obvious place for a wizard to live ...or a demon lord! Many wizards can teleport along a ley line with little effort, and some techno-magic devices can fly along a ley line - that could make it an easy path between cities of a nation or it might be a terrible window of vulnerability that must be patrolled.  

With Magic in general Rifts gets into more details than some games. Magic users can draw energy from outside themselves, typically from another living creature. The available amount is dependent on whether they are willing or unwilling targets, and then the energy doubles at the moment of a creatures death. This gives an in-game reason for why those evil types are always performing human sacrifices and might give non-evil types a temptation in difficult circumstances.

The thing I like about all this is that it grounds magic in the world in a very playable way and gives it some flavor that you don;t find in the typical D&D type game. Sure, you can still play a classic robed, bearded, pointy-hatted fireball tosser but there's more going on in the world than just that. Maybe the reason the warlord is conquering everything in the area like a madman is not because he's evil and that's what evil warlords do, but because his wizard has promised he can bring back the warlord's dead wife if he has control of a local nexus point on the day of the next lunar eclipse. It fits the setting and it's something the players could research and figure out to some degree because it's built into the setting.

It's significant enough that they made a whole class that has powers dealing with ley lines. It's great if you're especially interested in that aspect and it's one of the signature character types of the game. Even with the mechanics change I expect Savage Rifts will spend some time on "Ley Line Walker" as a character type.

So I like the presentation and the flavor of magic in Rifts and I'm looking forward to seeing what Savage Worlds can do with them.

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