Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Knights in Shining Power Armor

Sometimes, something fun springs from a single phrase, idea, or concept. For one game that I ran at the 2009 Palladium Open House, it was the "knight in shining armor." The idea of the armor-clad knight, stalking through a dungeon on a quest to save a young woman kidnapped by monstrous bandits is a classic that convention players can grab hold of immediately without needing to be brought up to speed, so it's perfect for a one-shot adventure. Still, I wanted to do something to turn the concept on its head. Seeing as I was going to be running this game at the home office in Michigan, I wondered, "How can I Rifts this up a little bit?"

Mega-Damage, Glitter Boys, and Boom Guns? Yes, please.

Now in the Downloads section (or by using the "downloads" keyword), you'll find a module for this game.

As this is a convention game, limited in time and with unpredictable participants, I hope you'll forgive the setup being simplistic. That's just how it has to be. My intent is to paint a clear picture, clearly define the roles of the characters, and establish an authority over them that can direct them on whatever mission will ultimately present itself.

Here's how it runs down.


If you're not familiar with Chaos Earth or Rifts, suffice it to say that in 2098, magic came rushing back into the world, collapsing civilization as it reached the peak of a Golden Age of science and technology. This particular game module is set 100 or so years into the ensuing Dark Age. Small patches of civilization persist, fueled by the last remnants of technology that they can keep functioning.

This particular setting revolves around two communities, linked by trade and governed by a single feudal lord as a rudimentary kingdom. One community, cleverly named River Town, is a fishing village along some unnamed river. Three days' travel by wagon will bring you to within sight of the fertile black soil of its sister village, Field Town, where some rudimentary crops are grown, and livestock kept. The land between is barren, unfit for habitation. The towns, as well as the caravans back and forth, are protected from the monsters and raiders and dark wizards that roam the land by a small company of loyal knights who wield the last remaining bits of pre-Rifts technology still available to these people. These are our player characters.


What sort of technology does this small island of civilization have at its disposal? At the most basic level, they have vibro-knives and basic body armor for each character. There are also a number of basic energy rifles, enough for every character to have one. To round things out there is a simple motorcycle or two, a flatbed truck, and communications equipment enough to go around.

That's a pretty substantial haul for such a small, isolated group of humans in the great Dark Age that has covered the Earth. Beyond that, however, this small-time kingdom has a real crown jewel: a small squad of Chromium Guardsman armored suits, better known in Rifts as Glitter Boys. This shining armor is laser-reflective and is known for its powerful primary weapon, a massive rail gun, or Boom Gun. It was the pinnacle of weapons technology at the time of the Great Cataclysm, and this group of protectors has access to four of them.

Sort of.

The Wrinkle

The truth is that time has not been completely kind to even these highly-advanced machines. They have been cannibalized and repaired and rebuilt so many times that none of them are completely whole. Each armored suit has its own identity and capabilities:

-- The Crusader: This suit is, when fully equipped, 100% as good as the day it came off the assembly line.
-- The Black Knight: Slightly damaged, in order to be repaired it had its laser-resistant armor replaced with more conventional metals, removing its trademark silver coat.
-- The Squire: This suit has been stripped down for increased speed, at the cost of its strength and armor.
-- The Old Man: Once belonging to the leader of the knights, it has been damaged beyond complete repair. While most of the systems function, its locomotion is shot to the point that it can't even walk.

Over the years, these armored suits have been rebuilt time after time, kept functioning by cannibalizing other suits and rebuilding individual components. To help accommodate this, a generation ago the suits were modified to have a number of modular components. Time is catching up, however, and there are no longer enough of these components to fully outfit all four of the Glitter Boys. At the outset of any mission, the squad must decide how to outfit each suit of armor. Does the group fully-outfit one or two of the armored suits and leave the other suits at home? Or do they try to portion things out so as to give a role to each knight wearing a suit?

Between the four suits, only the following components are available:

-- Optics (1): Provide advanced vision, targeting, and other battlefield advantages.
-- Jump Jets (1): Allow limited flight and increased mobility for these walking tanks.
-- Boom Gun (3): The massive rail gun.
-- Recoil Suppression (2): Without this, firing the Boom Gun in combat is extremely risky.

Ammunition is limited as well. A total of 50 rounds of energy rifle ammunition are available, and only 12 rounds of Boom Gun ammo. This, like the components of the Glitter Boys, must be rationed. To help supplement the armaments available to the powered armor, all have available large shields and vibro-swords that may be used when not wielding a Boom Gun or energy rifle. These additional weapons are available:

-- Energy Rifle (all): As many of these weapons are available as there are player characters, and they may be used by both those in power armor and those not.
-- Energy Rifle with Laser Targeting (1): Same as above, but with a bonus to strike.
-- Energy Rifle with Telescopic Sight (2): Same as the basic energy rifle, but with far greater range.
-- Giant Vibro-Sword (5): Only wieldable by knights in powered armor.
-- Giant Shield (6): Only wieldable by knights in powered armor.

Modify the availability to fit the number of players in the game, and what you feel is appropriate.

The Characters

All of the characters are loyal knights of the realm, deeply devoted to their lord. They are all practical soldiers with field experience. Any may pilot the power armor up to its full capabilities, but each have differing areas of expertise. Among the characters should be one or two scouts, a medic, a communications specialist, an officer, and a fair amount of foot soldiers. Characters may wish to specialize in a particular weapon, vehicle, or other skill. The Game Master may choose to include a psychic or mage, though it certainly isn't necessary. Ultimately the group should be constituted like any normal adventuring party, making sure that the bases are all covered.

The Hook

A caravan traveling from River Town to Field Town was ambushed by raiders, who made off with a large amount of supplies, but more importantly with a number of women and children as captives. The player characters have been called to hunt down the raiders and rescue the captives.

Pretty simple, right? This sort of a hook allows for players to jump right into their roles. If they are experienced, they'll have an idea where things are headed, and will hopefully enjoy the change of pace of the modern touches to an otherwise standard fantasy setup. New players shouldn't have trouble picking up on the idea of the scenario, as it's familiar enough from any number of movies and television shows.

Play the raiders as something from a fantasy game, having them be a typical monster race such as Orcs or Trolls. They are likely equipped with scavenged armor and weapons of their own, but nothing as powerful as Glitter Boys, though their chief may have some advanced plaything to level the field for the final battle. Their lair is found to be a system of caves a couple of days away, or else some sort of natural, hidden citadel, concealed by the terrain or supernatural methods in the side of a mountain. From this point begins the classic dungeon crawl, or infiltration and assault against superior numbers. Use some favorite archetypical fantasy map for the dungeon or the castle, and let the players scheme and fight for victory.

Conquer the horde, save the day, and ride off into the sunset!

What's In the Module

In the Downloads section, you'll find a link to a PDF entitled "module - Knights in Shining Power Armor." In addition to the basic story setup, you'll find a number of equipment cards that list the stats of each item. These are the handouts that I used to represent the limited supplies available to the player characters. Simply print out as many of each as you need, and put them in a stack in the middle of the table. The players must then physically distribute them so that they know who has what.

The four Glitter Boy armored suits are in the package as well, to be handed out to whoever is going to pilot them. Each has the stats of the suit printed on the card, as well as a graphic of the armor with several areas "grayed out" to represent the lack of universal Optics, Jump Jets, Boom Guns, and Recoil Suppression Systems. In order to have access to these features, they must be distributed using the corresponding cards.

How It Went Down

I'll save this for later in the week, but suffice to say that they came up with some things that I never would have dreamed up. That's the fun of playing these one-shot convention games, with people that you have only just met. You can never know what they'll do.

More on Friday!


Zachary The First said...

That is just about too awesome for words!

I'd really like to do a Rifts-with-the-serial-numbers filed off campaign soon...

Quim said...

Cool!! I'm gonna run this! for sure!!!Thanks! :D

Jason Richards said...

Thanks, guys.

Oh, one note. I wasn't happy with a couple of things in the writeup, so I'll probably tweak this a little bit when I give the update on the actual game session tomorrow. Nothing major, just FYI.

Nobody's having trouble with the downloads from Google Docs, are they? That seem like a decent way to do this?

Quim said...

I'll wait for the update then. No prob at all with GoogleDocs.

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