Monday, January 3, 2011

Palladium Game Mechanics: What Shall We Discuss?

Time to dissect. Scalpel, please.

As a long-time freelancer for Palladium Books, I spend at least some time every week over at the Megaversal Bulletin Boards. It's not a requirement, but I do feel that I should have at least some presence there to answer questions, or throw in my two cents when I feel it's warranted. Luckily, the fancy Freelance Writer title doesn't come with any administrative powers or responsibilities.

As often happens, topics come in waves over at Palladium's boards. We go through the "Rifts should be a video game" phase, and then the "If they don't create more PDF books I'll drown this puppy" stage. It's all frightfully dull and repetitive for those of us that have been around forever, but it's only natural that with new users discovering the boards all the time, that many of the same issues should arise over and over again. Recently, the favorite e-screaming matches have turned to Palladium's game mechanics, what people love or hate about them, and crazy fantasies about new editions. While I know it's hard to imagine, it seems that gamers on the Internet have strong opinions on these matters, and are fully ready and willing to openly ridicule and put down the subjective opinions of others, spelling and grammar be damned. (These same fanatics are now undoubtedly scouring this post for such errors, and I'm sure there are some to be found. Enjoy.)

During these maniacal affronts on the English language and common decency, bits of interesting perspective and wisdom do occasionally shine through. I try to be dispassionate about these sorts of things, which I think I can do mostly because I enjoy the mechanical side of game design, and ultimately I feel that systems for rolling dice aren't nearly so important as to allow them to get in the way of having a good time. So, I always enjoy trying new things in this regard, and don't get too emotional about them, one way or another.

In that spirit, and due to the recent upswing in interest in debating Palladium's systems, I thought it might be a fun way to ring in the New Year. Why not spend some of our time together over the next few weeks analyzing bits of the inner workings of Rifts, Beyond the Supernatural, Dead Reign, and the rest? Sounds like fun to me.

So now, really, it's up to you. I have a few things in mind that I'd like to bring up, but are there any topics that you can anything about? Anything you might like to have a real, genuine Freelancer address? Any questions or thoughts or general inquiries? You can post them in the comments here, hit me on Twitter or Facebook, or shoot me an email. I've also thrown a Formspring box on the blog, so you can just type in questions there. These things are always more fun if you, the readers, are involved.

Let's do this!


Lonnie L. said...

Here's a topic: Why are people so damned upset about a game mechanic that is solid enough to work with but also allows oneself to tailor rules or ideas to your own while still being functional to run a game?

I know many have given the statement that 'the rules aren't there for (insert situation).', but that's where the GM comes in. It's not a system of rules so bogged down you roll percentile to piss on the wall or miss and hit your foot. (This is how I feel D20 is. Too many rules.)

In effect, I like Palladium's rules because they do tend to mirror life in a way. Just like life, there are rules for living (like gravity, math, north/south, etc.) but there is also room for evolution, luck, and the unexpected. Sometimes when you walk down the street, you foot goes the wrong way.

Is it perfect? No.
Is it the best? Probably not.
Does it work? Yes.

I'm sure these three questions are answered the same for damn near every game system....

With exception of anything written by Aten, who needs the genius of Mr. White to guide his scattered thoughts. :D

Jason Richards said...

That's probably a good starting point. Well, two starting points: 1) What are people so upset about, and 2) Why should anyone care? Unfortunately, the blanket cry of "These rules are clunky" or "these rules are outdated" aren't super specific, and encompass a lot of different complaints, ranging from the layout to which dice are used.

Lonnie L. said...

And to that I must add: why does such a 'hinderance' cause such an effect? The rules are there to keep players playing and the GM's in control. The dice are the medium of direct effects one makes on the world. Dice can be removed to simple coin flipping if one wanted to.

In the end, you're playing in make-believe. You're in someone else's dream and have to conform to their rules. All Books have rules and all GM's have the power to change them.

I don't know. This whole issue could be the same difference as why one eats either Chunky or Smooth Peanut Butter, why drink Coke or Pepsi, etc.

Tarus said...

I LOVE Rifts, I truly do, and I have most of its published material. However we don't play it. Ever. Why? Let's see:

1) It takes forever to make a character. Yes, I know what Siembieda said about it (I have the Ultimate Edition) and I totally disagree. I don't want to spend several hours working in the MECHANICAL aspects of a character.

2) The Attributes don't matter, and their values are irrelevant unless they are above 16. Yes, we describe and roleplay a 4 PS character in a different way than a 15 PS one. But it's our choice, MECHANICALLY they are almost the same (please note I'm using PS just to make a point, the other Attributes have the same problem).

3) Old and conflicting rules. "Perception" anyone? Please check its use (which, BTW, was non-existent in the previous edition) against the "Stealth" ability. Ouch.

4) Two characters of the same OCC are almost identical. Yes, both can have several different abilities (not many, the bonuses are there to make sure of that), but two Level 4 Juicers will have a very similar list of abilities with almost the same values (+ or - 5).

5) The mechanics of raising a level are just bad. EVERY ability increases between a +3 and a +5% (more or less). It doesn't matter that you haven't used it, or that you've been practising it all day. +5%. Next one, please.

6) How many experience points lists does the game have? Dozens. Hundreds even. For heaven's sake the GM Book has A LOT of pages with list after list of them! And the differences are not so dramatic as to need so many of them.

And that's it. Those are several of the reasons why even when I love the game I can't play it. Damn. :(

Helmsman said...

The parts of the systems I'd like to address are (in no particular order):
Semi-unified mechanic system (so no percentile for skill-checks but D20 for combat. The advantage to this is that players don't have to do combat OR do skill stuff. There should be a more seamless transition between these things.
Attributes influence skill rolls (and not just super-high IQ). I personally like the idea that exceptional attributes offer exceptional capabilities, but I also think that every attribute should be influential at the medium levels.

Those are the big things for me. I'm sure Mega Damage overhaul is at the top of most everyone's list, but you've offered some pretty neat solutions for that in previous blogs that I like.

Also, it would be neat to explore the topic of what it would mean to Palladium in terms or revitalizing the fan base and game lines to release a new system and start releasing new supplements under that system. I know this is the standard business model (and an irritating one) for a lot of game companies, and in some ways I respect Palladium for keeping their "tried and true" system, but it would be neat to explore the pros and cons of this idea.

Josh Hilden said...

My problem foe years has not been the foundation of the rules, it's the house of contradictory cards that has been built upon it. Furthermore how can collating and editing everything into a Core Book do anything but help the company in the long run?

Anonymous said...

Combat is inconsistent. Swords allow you to add your pp (eye hand cordination) but guns do not is one example.

Getting in a robot or PA where you have to pull leverl and push buttons suddenly makes you faster than human thought by allowing you to pull the trigger faster than the guy pulling the trigger of his gun. is another

Attribues having next to zero meaning as a whole is another.

Is it a completely mess? No.

Does need cleaning up, clarifying and adjustments to be made more cohesive? Definitely.


Brian said...

I can only echo the comments about collecting all the rules and publishing a core rule book.

-Mark said...

Personally, I find the necessary time to make a character to be a big obstacle. I've been playing and reading Palladium books since the early 90s. Making a character in Palladium STILL takes me hours, even when I go in with OCC and race in mind.

I made a character in d6 Space within an hour of getting the book; sure, I had a base familiarity with the system (it's largely similar to the Star Wars 2e R&E), but it's still a significant difference.

There are other things I would like. I've got systems to make attributes matter more, to reduce the number of skills, and to allow defaulting to attributes and such. But my main issue is that the game takes too long to start up.

Jason Richards said...

Good thoughts, all. Lots of points that I'll be sure to talk about. Skills will be the next subject covered, I think. We'll talk about the role of skills in a Palladium game, the number and scope of skills, the establishment of percentages for base and advancement, and get into the often-maligned percentile system as opposed to D20 resolution. Lots of pros/cons there; I'll try not to spend two whole pages talking about Boxing.

In the meantime if you have quick comments or questions, be sure to use the formspring box in the upper right of the page.

Shini said...

I don't have any problems making characters, sure when I first started it probably took me a long time, but now I can bang them out in 15-30 mins depending on what OCC/RCC.

I also don't really have a problem with the mechanics. There are some rules and skills that could use some clarifying, but I don't think the system needs a complete overhaul.

I also agree with the idea of putting out a core rule book, I think it would help with some of the confusion in the rules and of where to find what rules.

Jason Richards said...

A core rule book would be a boon, for sure. I wouldn't even sell the whole book, but release a few free pdfs with the basic ruleset in them. One for all the basics like character building and combat, one with basic magic, and one with basic psionics. Include an OCC or two with each, and some sample characters for illustration.

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