Friday, March 28, 2014

Blowuppability


Along with the presence of magic, one of the big things that sets Rifts apart from the rest of the far-future, post-apocalyptic RPG pack is its inclusion of mecha. The game itself never uses the term "mecha", preferring the more unwieldy nomenclature of "robot vehicles" and "power armor". It seems that Palladium has reserved the word "mecha" for the Robotech RPG (and its related games, Robotech II: The Sentinels and Macross II, both long out of print), which is a shame, because it's a lot easier to write than having to say "robot vehicles and power armor" over and over again.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah: giant robots. Rifts has them. Lots of them, in fact. I'd say that at least half of the vast amount of books published for the game have a back cover blurb that proudly announces that yes, this one has new mecha in it. It's fairly unusual for game set in a post-apocalyptic world to emphasize mecha as strongly as Rifts does. Since Rifts is a setting where almost any enemy you encounter is able to deal incredible amounts of damage, armored vehicles (including the robot kind) are a basic necessity for most human characters, if they expect to survive.

Don't get me wrong: I love mecha, and I love that Rifts includes them even when it doesn't always make a ton of logical sense to have them stomping around all over the place. My problem is with the way the game handles them; more specifically, they generally have a ton of M.D.C. (Mega-Damage Capacity). They slow combat down tremendously, because the only way to take them down is to whittle away that M.D.C., which usually takes many, many attacks, most of which are actively and individually defended against.

In other words, Rifts mecha have too many "hit points". There are optional rules that cause malfunctions once 60% of a particular piece of the mecha's M.D.C. has been lost (did I mention that they have M.D.C. by location?), which is a nice thought, but also means that you have to crunch numbers during play to figure out, say, what 60% of this particular mecha's right arm M.D.C. is. It's fiddly, clunky, and overall quite unlike the fast-paced mechanized action that I think the game needs. The worst part is that I don't have any good ideas on how to fix it, because I don't want the mecha to blow up too easily. Just more easily.

13 comments:

  1. Occam's Razor would suggest reducing their M.D.C. totals would accomplish what you're looking for.. but perhaps there's something I'm missing? :)

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    1. That might be the way to go. It apparently worked okay in D&D 4th edition, which I felt had the same issues.

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  2. When I first picked up Triax and the NGR, I was tremendously excited by the Kevin Long comic at the back. "A Rifts comic! How cool!" Reading it, I noticed that in the mecha battles he had targets getting taken out with a single shot. My excitement turned to nerdrage when I flipped back and spot-checked the damage vs. MDC numbers and realized that even with a critical hit, there was no way that the given weapon could take out the given mecha with a single hit...or even several successive hits!

    In my BRP conversion, I basically set up damage to armor ratios such that combat between mechas would generally reflect tank combat--it was actually likely that a mech would get taken out with a single hit (although not guaranteed), so priority shifts to who can get into a position to take the first shot. But I totally understand not wanting to go to that extreme an end.

    Maybe having critical hits versus robots and power armor go "direct to hit points" rather than just doing double damage? You could have the mech's "hit points" be some derived number (maybe a tenth of main body MDC?) and if that derived number is reduced to zero, the mech is rendered inoperable. Or it could be damage done directly to the pilot compartment MDC rating (if it has one) or to the pilot himself (if there's no protective compartment).

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    1. I remember being amazed that one of the characters in Long's comic yelled "SHIT!" at one point. Profanity in a Palladium Books product! Mind... blown!

      Tedankhamen posted some house rules where missiles had the potential to cause even nastier damage vs. mecha than usual, which I liked. (Armor piercing missiles, for example, had a good chance to harm the pilot.) I could probably extrapolate those into something more comprehensive. I especially liked his idea that hand-to-hand attacks against mecha are more likely to damage the pilot than ranged ones.

      Your idea about mecha having "hit points" that shut down the vehicle when expended is actually pretty similar (in practice) to the optional rules I mentioned. It's not necessarily a bad idea.

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    2. Oh yeah, the profanity! Truly Rifts was a game for mature gamers...

      The trick, really, is to come up with something that will be easy to figure out on the fly, since there *are* so many damn mechs. You don't want to have to go and generate some weird percentage for every single hit location, as you pointed out.

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    3. Exactly. I also don't want mecha to drop too easily, like I mentioned. I'm not necessarily opposed to using one set of rules for chump opponents and another for hero PCs (or important badguys), though.

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    4. Identify the power source location on the mecha. If that location takes more than 50% damage, the mech shuts down and/or blows up.

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  3. A couple of things I can think of that might improve RIFTS mecha combat:
    Make mega-damage 10 times rather than 100 times SDC.
    Divide mecha into heroic/villainous and mook/grunt tiers.
    Have mook tier mecha have only main body MDC, no hit locations.
    Critical hits deal damage straight to mook tier pilots' SDC

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    1. At one point, I thought about adding a tier of damage between S.D.C. and M.D.C. called Heavy Damage, which would have been ten times S.D.C., and recategorizing most hand-held M.D.C. weapons as H.D.C. But as neat as I thought that was, it would probably just make things more complicated, not less.

      The problem with giving "mook" mecha only main body M.D.C. is that it would make it harder, not easier, to kill them in some ways. For example, you couldn't just make a called shot to a power armor's head (which in many cases, like the SAMAS, would instantly kill the pilot if destroyed).

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    2. That's what I get for not reaching over and checking main body MDC figures. I still that for mooks a single hit location would be "better" in that if they are mooks in the large number of inconsequential filler badguy flavor, I wouldn't want to, or even subject my players, to playing "snipe the head or mobility kill the mooks one at a time."

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  4. You know, they're going to add a new word to the Scrabble Dictionary. They could, and almost certainly will, do worse than "Blowuppability".

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  5. I've felt the same and used the following rules with some benefits :

    Rule a :For each impact that does more than a certain amount of MDC beyond armor the pilot must make a PE roll : base roll is 3D for 10 unabsorbed damage, 4D For 20, 5D for 30. Missing the roll means getting shocked inside the machine and not acting anymore that full round.it's like the German crews of ww2 koenigtigers hit by a su152 shell the machine may be intact more or less but people inside are dazed enough to give the enemy another strike chance.

    Rule b : Each MDC beyond armor is a flat 1% chance of a critical system failure. To ease things up my table (à simple combination of Rifts special damages tables) used the %age rolled itself with grievous effects like explosion at the bottom and minor cosmetic troubles at the ceiling of the table. So a 6 MDC unabsorbed damage is a 6% chance of major mishap and the 01 roll is instantaneous explosion. The 02 is a major hydraulic failure, the 03 is a complete sensors jams etc

    Rule c : at half MDC points left there is no roll or whatever : thé mecha or mecha part Just stops functioning BUT IS STILL REPAIRABLE afterwards. Practically speaking each mecha has half MDC and loosing 'em all means loosing the mecha beyond repair or scavenging.

    Just my two cents from Lyon in France.
    8')

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  6. I've felt the same and used the following rules with some benefits :

    Rule a :For each impact that does more than a certain amount of MDC beyond armor the pilot must make a PE roll : base roll is 3D for 10 unabsorbed damage, 4D For 20, 5D for 30. Missing the roll means getting shocked inside the machine and not acting anymore that full round.it's like the German crews of ww2 koenigtigers hit by a su152 shell the machine may be intact more or less but people inside are dazed enough to give the enemy another strike chance.

    Rule b : Each MDC beyond armor is a flat 1% chance of a critical system failure. To ease things up my table (à simple combination of Rifts special damages tables) used the %age rolled itself with grievous effects like explosion at the bottom and minor cosmetic troubles at the ceiling of the table. So a 6 MDC unabsorbed damage is a 6% chance of major mishap and the 01 roll is instantaneous explosion. The 02 is a major hydraulic failure, the 03 is a complete sensors jams etc

    Rule c : at half MDC points left there is no roll or whatever : thé mecha or mecha part Just stops functioning BUT IS STILL REPAIRABLE afterwards. Practically speaking each mecha has half MDC and loosing 'em all means loosing the mecha beyond repair or scavenging.

    Just my two cents from Lyon in France.
    8')

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