Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Rethinking Rifts: Mega-Damage

Turning Rifts even more on its head

On the heels of the last round of excellent discussion about the classic Palladium Books RPG, Rifts (both original and Ultimate editions), I thought we might continue that conversation in another vein. Rifts is always a topic that brings with it varied opinions, so it's as good a topic as any to banter about.

In a topic that ties in with our recent discussions (part 1 and part 2) about a potentially insane and worthless, or else inspired and amazing armor/soak/damage mechanic, let's talk about Mega-Damage, what's wrong with it, and how to fix it.


Originally designed for the first edition Robotech RPG, Mega-Damage was used as the ultimate "line in the sand" when it came to damage soak and weapon/armor scaling. Human-sized weapons, objects, and people used conventional Hit Point-scale damage, while giant mecha operated in the Mega-Damage scale. Glossing over the particulars, the relationships ultimately get down to:

  • Mega-Damage weapons and armor exist at the same scale
  • Hit Point/S.D.C. weapons and armor exist at the same scale
  • Mega-Damage weapons obliterate anything Hit Points/S.D.C.
  • Hit Points/S.D.C. weapons are useless against anything Mega-Damage


Over time, most notably with the introduction of Rifts, the use of Mega-Damage crept down into common human-scale armor and weapons, thus creating what many view as a problem. Mega-Damage is so pervasive that it is, in effect, the new Hit Points/S.D.C. Only rarely will a typical Rifts party encounter anything that is not Mega-Damage.

To further exacerbate the problem, while these lethal weapons and impervious armors crept down in scale and into the hands of human-sized characters, the damage outputs and capacities of the giant mecha, tanks, squad-operated weapons, and long-range missiles did not see a corresponding climb in power. In today's Rifts, it's not uncommon for a giant robot or armored vehicle to see its firepower matched by an average infantryman with an energy rifle.

So, you see the issue. Where there was once a huge gap separating scales of combat, that line has now evaporated.

Have your say

We all have our "fixes" for this conundrum, so I thought that rather than immediately launch into mine, I'd throw it to the readers, first.

How do you fix Mega-Damage in your game? Aaaaaand, GO!

UPDATE: Check out the follow-up discussion.


Quim said...

1) Return to the origins: Let only the big Robots, vehicles and supernatural creatures be megadamage. Scale down all the rest to SDC.

2) I have done a MDC/SDC conversion right here, based on the Warhammer 40k RPG. (click on the upper-right translation button for an automatic google translation).

mithril said...

my main fix is mainly to add additional features to vehicle weapons where appropriate. for example, all those "1D6x10 MD" laser cannons on CS vehicles? now they gain pulse firing, so they can do 3D6x10md per attack. projectile cannon? should have access to AP crit effects, or gain a minor bonus to strike due to firing bursts of shells.

the main difference between vehicles and infantry in rifts today is vehicles usually have more ammo than an infantry can carry (unlimited shots due to nukeplants, or much larger ammo bins), and vehicles usually have access to superior #'s of attacks (multi-person crews mean more attacks avaiable, IE pilot pilots, gunner fires..), and usually superior to hit's (onboard gunnery systems combined with Weapon system skill, plus weapon specific bonuses)

the main way we can fix rifts in the regard of adjusting the balance between infantry (including PA) and vehicles is to focus on enhancing these differences. vehicles will already have suprior protection, speed, and endurance..we just need to illustrate better combat endurance and accuracy more.

another thing would be to emphasise the fact that SDC weapons can do MD. yes, a single rifle bullet might bounce off..but fire a gatling's 60 to 100 round bursts and you'll sandblast away some of that armor. satchel charges of SDC explosives can easily damage MD armor..and will usually knockdown infantry, blow over vehicles, etc. and SDC anti-tank rockets, artillery, and other "big guns" would do MD without alteration.

personally, i think the weakness lies not in MD, but in the way SDC is handled. big SDC weapons like tanks, tank guns, missiles, artillery, etc are all signicantly underpowered compared to what they can do in reality. most SDC tanks and tank scale weapons need at least their SDC doubled or tripled and their damage increased by 10x to scale properly. so that 105mm armed M1 abrams isn't "2000 sdc, with a 2D4x100 sd gun", it would be "4000 sdc, with a 2d4x1000 sd gun" this owuld reflect tanks and other such vehicles better. (like the one shot, one kill capability of tank guns vs tank armor..) when used in MDC settings, those straight SDC weapons would then be "40 MDC doing 2D4x10" instead of "20 mdc doing 2D4md". more useful..and frankly, closer to what we see with conventional tank guns in RIFTS.
some of the smaller guns (20mm up through 50mm) would need doubling or tripling under the same scheme. (on advantage of such a change would be that main battle tanks would actually be tougher than large cars...and cars would finally be tougher than people..)

Helmsman said...

My changes have been part of a greater overall update but as far as combat goes I'm incorporating a hit location mechanic and adding penetration to attacks. The goal is still that edgy feel of weapons that can vaporize your limbs if you're not armoured. I'd like to keep the badass terminology of Mega Damage, but I can't find the line in the sand that would delineate it from normal damage yet.

Helmsman said...

Oh... and adding recoil to guns which functions as a cumulative penalty to multiple attacks.

mithril said...

i think a recoil mechanic for multiple attacks would actually be a detriment to the balance. however, adding recoil issues to weapons that really need it (like MG style railguns) would help offset the unbalance. just because your strong enough to carry and shoot a Railgun (using palladium's PS requirments) doesn't mean you should be able to move and shoot with it. especially if you weigh less than a ton. :)

hit location is decent if your willing to handle the extra work. penetration is in a similar situation. personally, i like to give weapons with above average penetration the same critical hit bonus as AP missiles. roll a natural 18 or 19, double damage, 20 is triple damage. you can easily modify this set up to make it even easier for those "punch through armor like butter" weapons..
add in the table for internal damage for vehicles (where just doing damage to the MDC can result in internal system damage and effects) and your mostly covered.

Helmsman said...

@mithril Rifts? Balance? What is this odd B-word you say? I don't understand.

Honestly, from my end the stuff I'm working on is such a full scale overhaul it's not really an issue. I'm trying to keep as much as I can as far as original numbers and game-flow are concerned, but the resolution mechanics and how stats fundamentally interact with the system are different now. Weather or not it'll be any good is TBD but I have high hopes.

Jason Richards said...

I don't know if I've ever discussed it here, but I'm actually anti-balance. Some items/characters/weapons should just blow others out of the water.

Good discussion so far. I'll weigh in this afternoon.

Steve Dubya said...

While I totally agree in making technological MD weapons/armor something that only exists in mechanized warfare (in this case, tanks, robot/powered armors and bigger stuff), that doesn't really address the then problems that magically/supernaturally induced MD brings to the table.

I'm not sure how you would go about adjucating that barring severely powering down the magical capabilities of the world, which would then require quite a bit of setting rewrite.

Jason Richards said...

Steve raises a solid point, the very one that makes me believe that eliminating MDC entirely is not the answer. To me, I think the solution is scaling up the bigtime weapons of war rather than trying to dial down the human-scale stuff, but I'll get into that later. I don't want to steal anyone's thunder.

Helmsman said...

I agree with Jason on the balance thing with one caveat. If something is massively more effective and efficient than it's competition it's a law of common sense that this thing will come to dominate UNTIL the world establishes a counter to it and makes that counter standard-issue.

That means if there's a gun that's head and shoulder's better than all the others, it better be rare as hell, the ammo better be similarly rare, or the world is just going to establish countermeasures against that gun. Then it becomes a race of how-well armoured can you make the holder or mount for that gun so he can withstand being targeted by everyone who wants that gun off the field, and does that armour inhibit the effectiveness of the gun to the point where it's not worth fielding the thing at all?

Brian said...

My own Rifts Reset has done away with MD, and taking a page from Fantasy 1st, only inanimate objects get SDC, living creatures gets HP.

Prior to that I used the "divide by 10" rule I mentioned under the damage soak topic

-Mark said...

Probably the simplest method is to simply reduce all MDCs to 1/10th what they are now, and leave damages the same. If the MDC goes into the single digits, it's actually SDC... just a lot of it.

Jason Richards said...

Good discussion, everyone. Be sure to check in tomorrow to see my full thoughts. In the post, I try to answer three scenarios:

1. Problem: I want a grittier, more dangerous feel for my combat.
2. Problem: Military combat vehicles are too weak.
3. Problem: M.D.C. makes combat too slow and/or boring.

Talk to everyone in the morning, and remember the time you've spent at "Jason Richards cannot be trusted."

icesith1 said...

Well I do the folliwing

- Change the ratio of sdc-mdc to 10-1
- ignore the GI Joe rule of RUE but use common sense that a laser will not completely obliterate a human but will most certainly give them a greivous injury or lop off a limb
- Adjust vehicle weapons and armou as I see fit to where I think they should be (IE Devastator big frakin rifle in my games has Boom gun type damage and range as imo it SHOULD)

After that it has more to do with little nuances here and there rather than an overall fix...


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