Thursday, January 6, 2022

RIFTS: Wilderness Scout And... Skills

Once again I open the year with Palladium...

In between ideas, looking for a book to flip through... of course I grab from my Palladium shelf...

RIFTS: Ultimate Edition.

This time, I flip to the Wilderness Scout...

Low powered class, one of the mere mortals of RIFTS Earth, basically a tracker with nice bonuses to survival skills. RIFTS: Ultimate Edition adds three special abilities:

  • Trail Blazing: The ability to cut and mark trails for others to follow.
  • Cross-Country Pacing: The ability to pace your journey.
  • Cartography: The specialized art of mapmaking.
Except, these are not special abilities at all, they're just, well... skills. And they're basically just fluff story skills that would rarely come up during play and can really be summed up under Land Navigation, which already exists.

Every class, in every game system, should have abilities that make them valuable to the team, and I'm not talking, balance, I'm talking usefulness, like, "Holy shit, am I glad we have a Wilderness Scout right now!"

Something like this would make this class a little cooler...

  • Group Camouflage: Basically, mass stealth. With a successful roll, the Wilderness Scout can hide his entire team in wild terrain as if they all made their stealth* rolls. If time-keeping is important to you, it takes 1d4 minutes per person. If launching an ambush surprise attack, every member of a Wilderness Scout's group gains one extra attack during the first round of action. A failed attempt means that it's time to roll for initiative. Base Chance: 35%, +5% per level.
    • *Oddly, with the plethora of skills available, there is no actual Stealth skill in RIFTS: Ultimate Edition, the closest thing is Prowl
    • If you're a fan of critical failures and successes, which for me equals rolling doubles on a success or failure, a critical success grants two extra attacks to everyone, and a critical failure gives initiative and one extra attack to the other side.

Anybody familiar with this blog knows that I love Palladium Books regardless of inconsistencies and contradictions in the rules over many books and sometimes within the same book. I mean, who cares, especially from an OSR, DIY point of view? Yet, I would agree that changes could be made. They won't be, which is understandable, because there's too big of a catalogue that could made obsolete. So, we make these changes ourselves.

The three barriers preventing people from enjoying Palladium Games, as far as I see it are:

  • Character creation takes FOR-EV-ER! Skill selection is a drag. I never write down that a character can speak his native language at 95% or can do basic math at 85%. These things are simply not worth recording.
  • M.D.C./S.D.C. My solution, as I've stated before: Scrap M.D.C. Mega-Damage weapons would simply get a multiplier, be rare and dangerous to use.
  • No ready-made monsters and NPCs. And they just released a very nice Bestiary, but you still have to build EVERYTHING, which is fine, but, simplified ready-made stat-blocks would be incredible.

 So, using the Wilderness Scout as an example, here's how I would present character creation:

  • Roll your Attributes as normal.
  • Roll Hit Points/S.D.C.
  • Record Special Abilities.
  • Record automatic skills, then roll for others (see below.)
  • Roll starting money.
  • Ignore the listed starting equipment, because, holy shit that list is extensive! Just take the important things. You don't need to record that your character has a hat or a pair of sunglasses.
  • Choose alignment.
So, Skills... Looking at the Wilderness Scout O.C.C. Skills (pg. 99), the ones below are the only ones I would bother with as automatic to the class:
  • Athletics
  • Climbing (+15%)
  • Horsemanship (+20%) this includes exotic animals.
  • Hunting (+20%) percentage taken from Track Animals which is essentially... Hunting.
  • Land Navigation (+20%) This includes the 3 special abilities from above.
  • Pilot (+10%) motorcycle or hovercycle.
  • Prowl (+15%)
  • Radio: Basic (+10%)
  • Wilderness Survival (+20%) Identify Plants would be combined with this skill.
  • W.P. Knife, Archery, Rifle, Handguns
  • Hand to Hand, I love the idea of rolling this randomly, 25% chance for either Basic, Expert, Martial Arts, or Assassin.
    • Actually, for this class I might make it:
      • 01-50: Basic
      • 51-70: Expert
      • 71-90: Martial Arts
      • 91-00: Assassin
To make life easier for you, assume all skills start at a base of 35% and don't forget to add a possible  I.Q. bonus.

Now you could (and probably should) stop right there and not worry about what follows, but...

Normally, what comes next are some O.C.C. related skills followed by several secondary skills. The real drag here is all the page flipping back and forth between the class page and the section on skills. Because you get to choose all of these new skills, you're obviously going to search for the best ones. Not too painful if you're familiar with the system, but this is an enjoyment barrier for new or even occasional RIFTS fans. 

Another nuisance with such skill-based systems (in RIFTS case, it's a pseudo skill-based system, combat is d20 based) is that upon leveling up, you need to go down your character sheet, skill by skill, and this will easily be 20+ skills, adding 5% to each one (not to mention all your weapon proficiency and special ability bonuses that come at various levels.)

What I would rather do, after recording your automatic skills, is roll randomly, say, 10 times on a custom skill chart (or series of charts) containing mostly related skills and the automatic ones, but also including some possible outliers to see what other skills you have. If you roll an automatic skill, you get a further 5% bonus every time you roll it. If you roll a new skill, you get it at the base 35% and a further 5% bonus every time you roll it again. If you roll a physical skill that you already have, you get those bonuses a second time (e.g., if you roll Athletics and you already have it, now you have Athletics x 2.) If you reroll a weapon proficiency you get an extra +1 bonus.

Then when you level up, at even levels add 5% to all of your % skills and at odd levels add +1 to any weapon proficiencies. Also each time you level up, you get to roll on the class skill chart 4 or 5 times, or 1d6 times (for further randomness.)

Special Abilities improve at the listed rate or at the same rate as % or +1 skills (even and odd levels.)

Unfortunately, designing these charts for every class would be beyond tedious, so this dream really is dead on arrival.


You turned the already existing skill lists in random roll charts and said something like: Roll 3 times on your Automatic Skills chart, Roll 2 times on the Rogue Skills chart, Roll 3 times on the Wilderness Skills chart, once on each W.P. chart, and twice on a randomly determined chart. 


I'm a dreamer, but like I said earlier, take the obvious automatic class skills and stop right there! 

Just Saying...