Thursday, November 19, 2015

Rifts House Rules - My Combat Cheatsheet Part 3 - 2015 Edition

Most of this page is taken up with the two critical hit tables - one for humanoid, one for vehicles. I spent a lot of time working these out and tried to come up with some concrete effects that could be fun in the game and give players a chance to decide when enough was enough and it was time to retreat. It also gave a parallel path for driving off NPC bad guys beyond just mowing through hundreds of MDC and many minutes of playing time. If you can blow out the power plant or kill the fire control or the main weapon systems, then the fight may well be over. It also gives a chance for some characters to shine by getting damaged systems back online - "Scotty I need warp power in 3 mniutes or we're all dead" just made the fight that much more interesting than yet another session of shaving down 500 MDC on that Northern Gun Explorer Bot.

The E-clip section is there because I don't like the pricing structure in the main book. I also wanted options for bad things to happen in combat and some specificity in charging up e-clips in the field.

The Armor Goop is my own creation from back in my first campaign in the early 90's. In a mega-damage world, your body armor effectively becomes your hit points, as no normal character can withstand even a single point of MD. Considering that a typical rifle does 4d6 MD per attack and a fairly standard set of MD Body armor has 50 points, with 80 being a "heavy" suit, it only takes one firefight to shred your armor. The armor repair rules in the book are limited and ridiculous and make no sense as far as field repairs so I decided we needed a "healing potion" for body armor, ala D&D. Thus, armor goop: It comes in a 1-meter tube (like a toothpaste tube)  about 6 inches in diameter and there's a spreading tool attached to the cap. After opening the cap the user can squeeze out the goop and spread it around with the tool. It takes about an hour to fix one suit of armor and the goop sets in about 4 hours. It fixes all but 1d6 of the damage to the armor, so the 50-point suit will have from 44-49 points after being "gooped" If it's gooped again before being repaired in a shop, it loses another d6.

The whole point of this is to allow players to have more than one combat before heading back to town to buy new armor, or having to haul around multiple sets of it. It does still put a clock on the players in that it's not a 100% fix, so they will eventually have to get some work done, but it prevents the momentum-killing post-combat regroup and retreat - instead the party just patches up overnight then continues.

Anyway that's the end of the Rifts bit for now. If anyone is interested I can put them up on a file site if they need a better copy. As you might guess I really do like a lot of the ideas in Rifts I just don't like the mechanical execution and expression of some of those ideas. Even when I'm not running or playing it, the ideas never stop for long. I've recently been re-reading the old Marvel Super Heroes RPG (FASERIP) thinking about using it as the introductory supers game for the apprentices, and it struck me that it might  be worth a shot at converting RIFTS to FASERIP. I'll let you know how that goes.

PDF link is here.

2015 Notes

I was pretty proud of "armor goop" when I thought of it. It solved a lot of problems.

The critical hit system is one more element aimed at making combat more than just an auction of people shouting numbers and throwing dice. It gives crits a meaning beyond "hey I did double damage" or something similar. Plus it can make a situation that looks like foregone conclusion a lot more interesting when the enemy's fire control is blown out due to a lucky shot. It can require some interpretation in some cases, but that's part of the fun, right? I would probably have refined it more given more time but it was a solid starting point.  

I also might have tried a fate point/force point/bennie like system that (among other things) would let players invoke a crit automatically - or fix one if they needed to. It would take some tinkering to get it right but it would help offset the worst  parts of the random side of the game. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Rifts House Rules - My Combat Cheet Sheet Part 2 - 2015 Edition

Page 2 of the Cheatsheet covers the ranged attack modifiers, size modifiers (something else Rifts really needed), then the Defense and Damage process and tables.  So someone shooting will mainly look at page 1 while someone being shot will mainly look at page 2 - the goal was to not have to flip back and forth a whole lot.

A lot of this is purely my own addition to the game, and it can look like a lot but it's really not bad once a player has been through the sequence one time. Plus it's a lot more organized compared to the by-the-book system. Additionally my players like to know where they hit that giant robot - cockpit, gun, arm, leg. I have also found that hit location sometimes helps a fairly lethal game - it's better to lose an arm than the whole character most of the time, and in a world of magic and super-tech replacing it isn't all that hard. 

I will say that looking at it now that the DR/armor piercing thing might be a little more detail than I would want if I started a new campaign tomorrow. It is cool, but it is one more step in resolving combat that might be better left out. I wanted vehicles and robots to have more to them than a big gun and a 500 MDC main body, so detail was what I was looking for at the time - it might not be everyone's cup of tea. 

There's also the system damage section it makes more sense with page 3 which has the crit charts. More on that tomorrow.

PDF link is here.

2015 Notes

By section:

  • Ranged Modifiers - these are from the d20 SRD
  • Size Modifiers - also from d20
  • Defenses - mostly from Rifts with some details added in
  • Damage - Rifts + an Armor Penetration system. These used to be a fairly common mod for Rifts but I don't see them as much anymore.  
  • Hit Locations - mostly Battletech
  • System Damage - mostly homebrew with elements of multiple space combat games as inspiration

The AP system does add a level of complication to the game but I wanted to give certain weapons a reason for being "better" than a comparable weapon that did the same or more damage. Now there is a reason why railguns and plasma cannons are so widely referred to as "heavy weapons" in the game. Also, it makes magic and psi  that much better than the standard game and in my experience they needed some help. 

The System Damage ... system came about in an effort to make combat more interesting than just blowing off chunks of MDC. That makes for a boring fight. it is more to keep track of and it can get hairy for the DM if he has multiple vehicles and bots in play but that's what tracking sheets are for! This lets opponents knock out weapons and sensors and propulsion systems the way things happen in modern sci-fi shows and movies where people need to "get things back online" in the middle of a fight. It makes all those system, engineering, and repair skills useful in combat. It forces interesting decisions - if the robot's big gun is knocked out do you a) stay back and concentrate on fixing it, b) retreat, or c) stop worrying about it and charge in with giant robot fists? That's much more fun than "there's another 75 MDC". 

Main sources here: d20 SRD, Battletech, various Traveller space combat systems, and Rifts Ultimate Edition.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Mid-November Superhero TV Update

  • I finally have had a chance to start catching up on Agents of Shield Season 1 and I can report that everyone else was right - it does get quite a bit better! Episode 13 is where it took off for me and started feeling both as smart as it should have from the start and like it was trying to get somewhere - like it had a point. I'm looking forward to finishing it and moving on to Season 2 now.
  • The Flash is continuing to be good - really good - and before watching tonight's episode, or any future episodes I am going to predict that Zoom will turn out to be Barry's dad or mirror-dad. Not sure why, and I've never read much Flash, but that's my shot in the dark speculation.
  • Supergirl - Like it so far, hope it continues to arc upwards. The main actress is growing on me and now seems to really fit the part. It has a lot of promise, but a crossover with Flash would blow the whole thing wide open and make the show a thousand times better. Fingers crossed. 
  • Ash vs. Evil Dead - What can I say? this is a show that looks like a game I would run! Maybe some games that I _have_ run! I have no criticisms so far. It's Ash! The Boomstick! Deadites! On movie-cable TV! Just the fact that it exists makes me happy.

Rifts House Rules - My Combat Cheat Sheet - 2015 Edition

Having settled the ability score issue, I decided that initiative was getting to be a problem as it's not unusual for characters to start with 4 to 6 attacks and for creatures and NPC's to have just as many. If you just cycle through them one after another then having multiples doesn't really make a difference. If each character gets all of their attacks at once they can explode for horrendous amounts of damage before some characters get a chance to act. Plus either approach can get fairly chaotic with an 8-player group which was what I was running for at the time.  This was unsatisfactory and demanded a better solution.

I looked through my numerous books and decided that the minion of splugorth had the most attacks of any creature they were likely to run into at 15 - that's 15 attacks per 15-second melee round. I dusted off the Hero system Speed Chart, extended it from 12 segments to 15 and there I was. For my Rifts, # of attacks was now = to Hero's Speed stat and I had a nifty chart to go along with it. Since I was going to have to hand it out to my players anyway I decided to go ahead and make it a full-blown combat cheatsheet, which is what you see here.

By section:
  • Initiative is just explanatory
  • Movement is 100% Rifts, I just added the formula for figuring MPH vs. in-game speed
  • Attacks is a checklist to make sure no modifier is left behind
  • Other Actions is to remind players there are things to try besides pulling a trigger
  • Attack Actions spells out the process for Melee, Single Shots, Bursts, Missiles, and called shots, because sometimes it's nice to have a clear list of these kinds of things and people tend to forgo them if they aren't sure how they work. 
PDF link is here.

There is more to the cheatsheet - more on that tomorrow.

2015 Update: There's not much here I would change if I was still going to use the original system. Like any set of house rules this is seasoned to my personal taste and I'm sure additional playing time would have generated some additional changes. That said it puts just enough sanity, or enough "system" in place over the base Rifts system that it was comfortable for me and my players to use. 

I had considered going even further into the Hero system adjustments and incorporating specific combat maneuvers with set modifiers  (Block, Move Through, Haymaker, etc) but I decided not to at that point. For anyone interested in adding more "system" to the game, that might be a direction to consider. 

Main sources here: d20 SRD, any Hero rulebook, and Rifts Ultimate Edition.

One note from experience - you can use a grid to show relative positions in combat but much like a superhero game the speed and ranges involved in a typical Rifts combat mean that heavy/tight usage of the grid is pointless. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Rifts House Rules - Ability Scores - 2015 update!

2015 note: Ok this part really hasn't changed but it's important for understanding the posts that will follow so i wanted to put it up first.

Rifts and house rules are inevitable in my mind. It feels a lot like the old days for D&D when systems were much more malleable than 4th or even 3rd edition. There are several areas where I feel  some changes make for a better game. One of the changes I have made is to ability scores.

Rifts has always been confusing as far as stats, bonuses, and when they apply, plus the method for rolling is odd. Humans roll 3d6 for each stat but if they score a 16,17, or 18 then they get to add an additional d6. I scrapped this for 4d6 drop the lowest. Rifts actually has some skills (Physical Skills) that can be selected to add to certain attributes, so if you want a Physical Strength of 20 it's easily accomplished by rolling a decent score and then choosing weightlifting, boxing, etc.during skill selection. One problem solved.

Nonhuman races roll differing amounts of dice  - Ogres might roll 4 or 5 dice for strength, Orcs might have 4d6 for Physical Endurance, Pixies might only roll 2d6 for strength - I'm fine with that approach and leave it as-is.

Now that stats are a little more "regular" let's get some decent modifiers for them. I pretty much adapted the d20 ability score modifiers wholesale. My players and I were familiar with them and they do make the full range of scores count for something. So PS of 10-11 = +0, 12-13 = +1, 14-15=+2, etc. A Physical Strength of 40 now has a +15 modifier - but to what?

Rifts has a somewhat arbitrary division when it comes to combat, the infamous "Mega-Damage".  The ideas is that some super-high-tech weapons and powerful magic just operate on a while different scale than conventional weapons like guns and swords. It's an important part of the setting as characters cause superhero levels of damage without technically having superpowers.

For some reason though it was decided that mega-damage guns don't work the same way as regular ones so the Physical Prowess bonus doesn't count when using MD weapons. This makes little sense to me and additionally it makes character abilities like a high Prowess  less important than equipment bonuses like a +1 for a laser sight. The game also forbids adding character strength bonuses to MD melee damage, instead referring to a chart for punching damage based on strength number and type - yes there is "regular" strength, "augmented" strength, and "supernatural" strength - which all kind of matrixes together to tell you whether you do 1d6 or 2d4 or some other slightly different amount of damage.

I scrapped all of that.

  • PS (Physical Strength) adds its modifier to all HTH combat damage. 
  • PP (Physical Prowess) adds its modifier to all to-hit rolls and dodge and parry rolls. 
  • IQ (Rifts version of Int) and PP both affect initiative rolls.
  • IQ adds to the base percentages for skills
  • Mental Endurance (ME) adds to saves vs. fear and magic
  • Physical Endurance (PE) adds to saves vs poison etc.
  • Mental Affinity (MA) [Charisma] adds to reaction adjustments

Pretty much what you would expect them to do based on D&D style modifiers.

One reason for adding the strength bonus to all damage is that a mega-damage sword does about the same damage as a D&D sword but the MD armor you have to cut through starts at about 50 points for almost anything and rapidly scales up from there. Rolling 1d8 to beat down 50 points takes a long time. Considering that many PC's will be in the 20+ strength bracket, adding a +5 or +10 to that really helps keep the game from dragging and actually promotes the more frequent use of HTH combat that the game background seems to suggest. It's also one less fiddly rule to worry about.

Adding the PP bonus to all to hit rolls also ensures that hitting isn't much of a problem when you have the 30 PP Juicer going against the 10 PP mercenary. Rifts uses opposed d20 rolls in HTH as the attacker rolls to hit and the defender rolls to parry, high score wins. Classes, skills, equipment, and race can all add various bonuses to attack and to parry so adding in one more bonus from PP doesn't really upset things.

In the end it was more natural to my (then) 3rd edition D&D crew to use these modifiers and it kept combat flowing a little more smoothly. I still wasn't satisfied though as combat  still confused some people as all PCs end up with multiple attacks and hit locations were still causing trouble. More on that tomorrow.

Rifts Update Week

I've received a fair number of requests for a better version of my cheat sheets for Rifts and though I do not have the original files any more I have finally re-scanned them at a much higher resolution and turned them into PDFs. To get them back to the front of the blog this week I am re-posting and annotating my original entries from five years ago. It should be fun, and hopefully will make them more useful for anyone who is interested in a usable copy of them.