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.

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