Saturday, February 28, 2015

Putting It Together: The Vampire Hunting Campaign

As I said last week, RIFTS has plenty of inspiration out there. One of the best, post-RIFTS, is Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust.

Vampires, mutants, high-tech, specialized anti-undead techniques and tools, silver-as-anti-vampire, cross-as-universal-repellent, post-apocalypse w/ space travel. This is regarded as a RIFTS movie for very obvious reasons.

Go on, watch the film. Here, or elsewhere, or whatever, just watch it. Now imagine this occurring as a campaign in Vampire territory in North America. You can see clearly how this would work in RIFTS, can't you?

No, no rules or mechanics conversion will be done here; you're on your own, and by now you should be able to handle that task without me holding your hand.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

RIFTS and Your Game: Use the Sources as Guides for House Ruling

As I said previously, RIFTS uses geographic separation as the primary means to contain different genres--and different forms of gameplay--in a single line of products. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that RIFTS draws on a lot of source material for inspiration; as much of RIFTS comes from freelance writers' submissions, many writers draw from a lot of media sources for their work (which Uncle Kevin filters in turn when he rewrites the manuscript). Being able to recognize those sources, and them to use those sources for your own purposes, is a useful way to make this trend in Palladium's publishing practices work in your favor.

The most blatant example comes from the first Triax book, where there is a rather obvious lifting from the Mobile Suit Gundam franchise, and many of the other mecha and cyborgs in the book are likewise only a step or two away from their source inspirations in Appleseed, Ghost in the Shell, and similar science fiction works out of Japan originating in the mid-to-late 1980s or so. Another is the Burster from the core rulebook (Stephen King's Firestarter and Pyro of Marvel's "X-Men"). Once you know the sources, you can--and should--investigate them to see how the original material executes the concept and compare it both to what the as-written game version executes it as well as how you want it to work (assuming that it differs).

Digging into this will involve engaging with the mechanics of Palladium's game engine at various points, and that means dealing with math. Have your calculator handy.

Say, for example, you're a big Gundam fan and you want to play this up. Using the Triax Devastator (the not-Gundam), you want to know in playable terms things like (a) how far can it move per round (involves converting real-world measurements into game-playable ones), getting in and powering up (vital for ambush scenarios), speed of reloading/refueling (matters in long engagements w/ nearby resupply, especially if not using an engine w/ practically unlimited fuel), and other concerns that real (para)military pilots should (and do) concern themselves with. Converting all this into a set of data that players (who are NOT pilots, and often lack (para)military experience, and so would not readily think of such thing) can use at the table is necessary tedium. Some similar process is necessary for every other source material analysis you want to make, even if the material is about something so unreal that you're going off game mechanics and hunches.

The purpose for this is simple: by generating the data, you're testing to see if the claim (explicit or implicit) has the evidence needed to back it up. If your robot doesn't perform the way you think it does, then having the data on hand is a good thing. First, you have evidence on hand to disprove the claim. Second, you have a start point from which you can make useful changes to get the result that you want in a manner that will work in actual play and be supportable when (not if) it's disputed. Being the Game Master means mastering the game, and that means mastering the rules; making the rules work to support what results you want out of the game comes easily once you achieve rules mastery. It's worth the effort.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Educate Yourself to Better Your Game

Today, we have the Internet. Self-education today is easier than it has every been. Time to talk about making use of this power.

All tabletop RPGs are dependent upon the quality of the individuals playing and running them- especially the quality of those running them. Just as works of fictions are better when the writer expands upon the base of knowledge employed in creating the artifacts of his craft, so it is that the hobbyist plays and runs better when he does that same expansion of knowledge and brings that to the table. We experience, first-hand, just how this manifests when someone who's too used to thinking in terms of manipulating the rules as if they were the controls of a car sits down as your table and begins to say and do things that no one with such training or knowledge would dare conceive.

Like it or not, this is an element of the medium that cannot be removed without killing it; it is as fundamental as breathing, and we see this in the discourse of forums such as The Gaming Den and its insistence upon making the playing of characters (and the running of games) no different in practice than coding and playing a console or PC RPG. What the regulars at that forum demonstrate by their behavior to be a flaw is, in fact, both a great strength and a limiting factor: tabletop RPGs are, quite frankly, limited in their potential only by the ignorance of their users. This is not so with competing RPG media.

So, how to fix this? Encourage one-another to seek out and rectify gaps in one's knowledge base as said stoppages become relevant.

Now, how many of you play characters that use firearms? How many of you have actually used one? I would be willing to suppose that a great many of you believe a number of wrong things regarding firearms--starting with the error that "clip" means "the detachable thing I use to load the gun" (Nope.)--simply because you don't know any better. Well, thanks to this thing you're using to read my blog, you too can rectify this error and many others.

"But my guy's using a laser rifle!"

That's nice. How about learning how the real ones work? Same goes for railguns; we have real ones now, and they are massive. Competent speculative fiction will extrapolate from real technologies or current developments; we can all do this now, and you are not exempt. Those mini-missiles? Been around for millenia in some form or another, starting with Chinese rockets using blackpowder to deliver arrowheads in massed volleys further than the bows of the day could reach.

"But my guy's using (unreal thing)!"

Your guy's fictional magic? Based upon, to some degree or another, real world systems of magic. You need not believe that the real world stuff is true; you just need to grok how it's supposed to work, and why, and that assumes that the magic system isn't actually (following Asimov) just the Sufficiently Advanced Technology sort of "magic" (as, alas, The Force turned out to be).

Your guy is illiterate? How illiterate? Functionally so, or totally so? This matters--something that even Uncle Kevin fails to recognize, and therefore follow through with--a great deal in how someone thinks, interacts with the world, relates to those with greater power, etc.; this is also true for those who are illnumerate.

Your guy knows multiple languages? Great. How similar are they? When and how did he learn these languages? These questions directly affect how your character perceives knowledge; languages are systematic symbol systems meant to make regular certain concepts that a culture needs to pass efficiently between its members, and different languages symbolize both different knowledges as well as use different schemes of symbolism. You likely has no idea that this is what's going on, did you? Linguists do, and they study the hell out of this now in conjunction with other specialists from other fields using an inter-disciplinary approach.

If you, the player, cannot conceive of something that your character would then you CANNOT play him properly. If you, the player, cannot comprehend why your character CANNOT conceive of a given thing, then you CANNOT play him properly. You are robbing yourself, your fellows, and the game of the fullest possible play experience by maintaining willful ignorance of things that rightly affect how your character thinks, feels, and acts. Embrace that challenge, embrace the suck that will come from realizing just how important what you're learning is to your man, and come out better on the other side for it.

Alone in gaming media, and matched by few others, the tabletop role-playing game offers such opportunities for life-long improvement and transformation by those willing and able to step up to the challenge. This is a medium of virtual experience, almost as powerful as life itself (and compensating for that by allowing you to experience things otherwise impossible), so seize that for yourself, and bring your A-game.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

This Coalition Worship Has Gone Full Retard

So, today I received the weekly email from Palladium Books updating subscribers on what's out and what's coming. I cannot make this shit up.


Rifts® Sourcebook – The Coalition States: Heroes of Humanity The events unfolding in World Book 35: Megaverse® in Flames threaten to change the entire landscape of Rifts® Earth, as the demonic minions of Hades and Dyval seek to bring Hell on Earth and turn the planet into a dimensional gateway to Armageddon!

The Coalition States, along with Northern Gun and Lazlo, take the lead in the defense of North America. Heroes of Humanity explores the good and bad in the Coalition’s efforts to save humanity and send this new threat back to the pits of Hell.
  • New Coalition weapons, armor and war machines.
  • The Coalition States: Are they heroes or villains? Or does it depend on whether you are human or not?
  • Can the CS fight alongside mages and D-Bees if it means saving the world?
  • How is the CS dealing with the Minion War on Earth?
  • One plan to battle the Xiticix and who really pays the price.
  • Adventure ideas and more.
  • Written by Kevin Siembieda, Matthew Clements and other contributors.
  • Final page count and cost yet to be determined but probably 96 pages – $16.95 retail – Cat. No. 889.

What is this I don't even.

But wait, there's more!

Rifts® Secrets of the Coalition States: The Disavowed

“Desperate times require desperate measures. War has nothing to do with morality or justice. It’s all about winning or dying. We cannot bind our hands with high ideals, even our own, or worry about the laws of renegade nations or the rights of alien people. We must fight fire with fire. And you are the match.” – Colonel Lyboc, addressing a Disavowed team.

The Disavowed are so Top Secret that their existence is known only to a handful of the Coalition States’ most elite, top echelon, with Joseph Prosek II the mastermind behind the Disavowed operation, and Colonel Lyboc its shadowy face. Find out who these men and women are. How the Disavowed get away with using magic, traveling to other parts of Rifts Earth and even to other dimensions in pursuit of enemies and strategic information that cannot be had through conventional means. Learn about the secret parameters in which these hard-boiled warriors, secretly hand-picked by Joseph Prosek II, operate, why almost every mission is considered a suicide mission, and why they must forever be the Disavowed.

  • CS operatives so secret that even the top military and political leaders right up to Emperor Prosek know nothing about them. And if they did know, would they condone their activity or condemn it?
  • Are the Disavowed heroes or renegades? Assassins or soldiers? Madmen or super-patriots? Or a little of them all?
  • Unsung heroes who keep the CS safe, or thugs and pawns of a shadow agency within the Coalition government?
  • What role does the Vanguard play in this group?
  • How do they reward their D-Bee “teammates” when the mission is over?
  • What happens to the Disavowed when they have seen or learned too much? Adventure ideas galore and so much more.
  • Written by Kevin Siembieda and Matthew Clements.
  • Final page count and cost yet to be determined, but probably 96 pages – $16.95 retail – Cat. No. 892.

Full. Retard.

We can stop fapping over these techno-Nazis any time now. They're Nazis. Stop trying to make Good Guys out of them, Uncle Kevin. Yes, I do blame you and not the "co-author" whose manuscript you--if you hold to your pattern, and you usually do--suckered out of the guy and then hacked up to suite your sophomoric sensibilities (which haven't matured since the 1970s). Christ, folks! This is just the sort of crap-tastic content that I spent so many posts trying to clean up and make sensible. Bother.