Sunday, May 26, 2024

The Call Of Palladium...

A Cyber-Knight drawing her Psi-Sword... makes you wanna play doesn't it?

And so it calls, this crazy system of games from ages past and present.

The mother of all tool boxes.

The sum of all genres.

Rules upon rules, systems upon subsystems, flaws upon flaws, coolness that knows no bounds. A deep-dive is akin to an RPG acid-trip, you awake hours later on the floor, perfectly-bound soft-cover books and character sheets scattered about, your head ringing inside, police sirens in the distance... Is this the greatest system ever or the worst? Where have you been all this time? How many hours? How many days? To play this game straight or to hack? Hacking is a must. Contradictions and the fog of war demand it. But to pull one thread... does it unravel? No matter, down the rabbit hole you go. One thread at a time. Akin to reading the God Damn Necronomicon -- a sanity check will follow...

  • Only one attack per round. Special maneuvers that use two attacks are made at -4. Full round actions are made at -8. OR... roll 2d20/3d20 and keep the worst. This also means higher level spells will take 2 or 3 rounds to cast. We could introduce a casting roll...
  • S.D.C./Hit points/A.R.. No M.D.C.!
  • O.C.C related skills are rolled randomly. A multitude of class-tailored charts are required, or one standard, weighted with precursors and bonuses (like below.) How much time do you have? And so, no spamming physical skills. Secondary skills are ignored. For example, the Cyber-Knight's O.C.C Related Skills list would read:

2 rolls on the Physical skills chart
3 rolls on the W.P. charts (3 rolls total between ancient and modern)
7 rolls on the chart below... (followed by rolls on the specifically rolled or chosen skill chart)

01-05  Communications
06-10  Cowboy (+10%)
11-15  Domestic
16-20  Electrical
21-25  Espionage (+5%)
26-30  Horsemanship (+10%)
31-35  Mechanical
36-40  Medical
41-45  Military (+5%)
46-50  Physical (+5%)
51-55  Pilot (+5%)
56-60  Pilot Related
61-65  Rogue
66-70  Science
71-75  Technical (+5%)
76-80  W.P. Ancient
81-85  W.P. Modern
86-90  Wilderness (+5%)
91-00  Choose

  • Weapon Proficiencies give a one-time bonus of +2 to strike/parry. If rolling randomly, you get a +2 every time you roll that weapon. This makes leveling up much simpler.
  • Rolling a percentile skill you already have gives you a bonus of 10%.
  • Paired Weapons roll 2d20 to attack. You can counter-strike, parry one, or both if also fighting with paired weapons.
  • All spells and psychic powers rolled randomly. More tables that don't exist, but could without too much work.
  • And speaking of tables... random tables for every single spell and magic item in the RIFTS Book of Magic and random tables for every single item listed in the Game Masters Guide. Every place you explore should produce random "somethings" to salvage and/or sell. A man can dream! Not impossible though...
  • Each skill based on the sum of two stats, e.g., Pick Locks starting percentage is the sum of I.Q. and Prowess. Perhaps +10. Lots of work, maybe too subjective. Not crucial. Not necessary. Probably simpler to start every skill at 30 or 35%. Most of them already do.
  • New skills should be less frequent, maybe 1 every 3 levels. Randomly rolled on your class chart like above. These are skills you are learning "off-screen" -- no need to explain. Perhaps have level-up instructions like 1 W.P. and 1 random skill. This way martial types will always improve combat in some way other than their hand-to-hand style. Or, add +1 to a W.P. of choice or roll randomly which results in +2 to whichever weapon skill is rolled.
  • When you level up add 5% to all skills... or roll 1d6 -- more time-consuming, but more interesting. Even if you've never used the skill, it's assumed you're using them "off-screen."
  • Hand-To-Hand styles are re-written to be more concise as to what you can and can not do and you CAN NOT trade up from Basic for a mere skill or two. 
  • Or... combine all combat bonuses and maneuvers onto one chart and depending on your O.C.C., you get so many rolls on this chart per level. So, in effect, everyone has their very own combat style. Something akin to this... 

01-05  +1 to strike/parry
06-10  +1 to dodge
11-15  +1 to roll with punch...
16-20  +1 to pull punch
21-25  +1 to disarm/entangle
26-30  +2 damage -- melee
31-33  +2 damage -- ranged
34-36  +1 crit range (e.g., 19-20)
37-38  K.O./stun on 20
39-40  Deathblow on 20
41-44  W.P. ancient (+1 to current or +2 to random new one)
45-48  W.P. modern (+1 to current or +2 to random new one)
49-51  +1 to initiative
52-54  +1 to perception
55-56  +1 save vs curses
57-58  +1 save vs Disease
59-60  +1 save vs poison
61-62  +1 save vs Drugs/toxins
63-64  +1 save vs Circles
65-66  +1 save vs horror
67-68  +1 save vs insanity
69-70  +1 save vs K.O./stun
71-72  +1 save vs spells/rituals
73-74  +1 save vs psionics
75-76  +1 save vs wards/fumes
77-78  +10% vs coma/death
79-81  +1 M.E.
82-84  +1 P.S.
85-87  +1 P.P.
88-90  +1 P.E.
91-93  +1 SPD
94-00  Choose

  • Bionic characters (Heroes Unlimited) roll bionics randomly and total value comes from that, which might determine how badly they want you back... are you hunted?
  • No difference between punches and kicks, all are strikes that do normal strike damage or power-strike damage (2 attacks, see above.) Can't have worlds where knights in plate-mail are walking around trying to karate-kick dragons.
  • Cyber-Knights' Psi-Swords start at 3d6 and crit on 19-20. Perhaps damage or bonus damage depends on the value of their M.E.?...or... they do 2d6 ignoring armor. They are PSI-Swords after all.
  • XP based on monster hit points and finding stuff. This incentivizes action and exploration, not "story-telling." Long live the OSR!
  • Critical Hits damage A.R. by one point. Death Blows by two.
  • Spell-casting penalty for wearing armor for each point of A.R. over 10. This is added to the target's save/dodge or subtracted from the caster's strike roll, whichever is appropriate.
  • "Mega-Damage" weapons simply get a multiplier: x5 or x10.
  • When all else fails, play the game exactly as it is... except... M.D.C. must go, and XP is as described above, and no spamming physical skills, and... you see, rabbit holes inside of rabbit holes.
  • And so on and on...
  • But seriously, the game is fine... except for M.D.C..

RIFTS Ultimate Edition is so crammed with information that every time you read it, it's like you never have. The only other book that does this is the original AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide. RIFTS is wildly overwritten and often contradictory. And that is why you get pulled down the rabbit hole. You can not escape the gravity of this. And, do you even want to? Despite the madness, you love it.

Is this the book I would take to an island?

The ultimate game exists here... somewhere.

Honoring Memorial Day: To those patriots who fought (and fight) for the stars & stripes, I salute you.


  1. I probably spent almost as much time trying to fix Rifts as I spent tweaking D&D. The point I always fail at, I believe, is trying to keep MDC (at least in some capacity), because it just feel so Rifts... even though I know it causes way too many problems.

    1. M.D.C. does feel "Rifts" that's why I keep the term as a damage multiplier. Another option I forgot to mention is to change A.R. to D.R. (damage reduction, which is the most logical form for armor to take.) For example, a Glitterboy might have A.R. 30 or 40 which practically mandates the use of "M.D.C." weapons against them. But, I would also like M.D.C. to come with a price, such as they're radioactive or prone to malfunction.

  2. I can totally relate; every time I pull my Rifts books off the shelves I get a similar experience. But I Love the setting!


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