Thursday, March 1, 2012

Rifts: The Elephant In The Room

"GOD, I love my work..."
I suppose I would be remiss if I didn't start out by addressing one of the more compelling, annoying, and over-the-top mechanisms of the Rifts RPG, and of the Rifts Megaverse as a whole; Mega-Damage.

For those who aren't familiar, "Mega-Damage" was first introduced in Palladium's Robotech Role-playing game system.  Essentially it represented the awesome firepower and damage absorbing capabilities of the mecha (and aliens) within that world.  When Rifts came along, Mega-Damage just got...obscene.

Basically Mega Damage was this; 1 point of Mega-Damage equaled 100 hit points.  So if you got hit by a laser pistol dealing 1d6 points of Mega-Damage, you took the equivalent of 100-600 points of damage.  I'm running a few Star Wars games right now and the PCs are just now hitting level 9 and 10, and only now are cresting 100 hps for the more martial trained characters.  Were I to institute a similar damage ratio into this game, a PC would be annihilated by the relatively low-damage blast.

According to Kevin Siembeda (creator of Rifts), this is "working as intended". 

No, really, this is a handgun...
When I was sixteen, Mega-Damage was the most awesomest thing in the world of Awesome, crafted by awesome men wielding awesome pens and making awesome things.  After ten years of gaming, I had come to the conclusion that I was an idiot when I was sixteen, and Mega-Damage was a needless mechanic brought on by an era of ridiculously large firearms, over-borged cyborgs, and huge breasted women with unnaturally small ankles (I'm looking at you, Liefeld).

Now that I've got twenty years of gaming under my belt (Christ, I'm old...), I can look back and see that Mega-Damage, while hokey and excessive, was an important aspect to the feel of the Rifts Megaverse.  RIFTS is supposed to be over the top, with guns that shoot through schools, forests, and shopping malls. So how does one capture the feel of Mega-Damage for a D20 setting without going way overboard?  We use the tools that Rodney Thompson gave us in Star Wars Saga Edition; Damage Multipliers and Condition Track Movement

Mega-Damage in RIFTS SAGA

Many weapons in RIFTS SAGA will have the "Mega Damage" quality.  Additionally, many vehicles, armors, spells, and psionics will grant Damage Reduction to Mega-Damage (DR/MD).

If you are hit with an attack that has the Mega-Damage quality, and you are not protected by with something that grants DR/MD, the attacker doubles the damage dealt.  In addition, you move one persistent step down the condition track.  This is in addition to the (likely) condition track movement caused by the damage.  Only the Condition Track Movement caused by the Mega-Damage quality is persistent.  If the attacker has any other effects that move the subject down the condition track, or the damage result is higher than the target's Damage Threshold, those can be recovered normally.

The persistent step can only be removed with a Treat Injury check for surgery (DC 20) and 8 hours of rest.  In the case of a vehicle, weapon, or piece of equipment; a DC 20 mechanics check and 8 hours of work is required to get the persistent condition removed.  This assumes the item survived the double-damage hit.

The reasoning behind the persistent step has to do with the descriptions of what happens when a character is hit with a mega damage attack in Rifts.  Laser weapons are slicing off limbs, or burning clean holes through the target.  Ion Weapons are not only destroying tissue, but also cooking the flesh and organs around the impact point like a micro-wave.  Particle-Beams disintegrate, or "mist" the body at the point of impact, and plasma...yeesh...cremate and incinerate at the point of impact and cause third-degree burns to most everything else.  Those certainly sound like persistent conditions to me, and not something you're going to take 6 seconds to catch your breath from.

It's important to note that this is not a critical hit, just double damage.  Some talents and feats trigger effects off of critical hits, and if a critical hit is actually scored with a Mega-Damage attack the poor sap is now taking four times the damage (or possibly even six, if the attacker has the Triple Crit feat).

Mega Damage Armor

If you're wearing Mega-Damage protective armor, or fully enclosed in a vehicle that has Mega-Damage armor, or use the Armor of Ithan talent to grant yourself DR 10 (and provides DR/MD), you're not only protected from the nasty side effect of Mega-Damage, but you're also better protected against more mundane weapons.  If you have DR/MD and you take damage that does not have the Mega-Damage quality, you subtract the armor's Armor bonus from the damage of the attack as if it were Damage Reduction.  If the effect does not normally provide an Armor bonus, you subtract your Heroic Level from the damage (this represents your skill with magical or psionic power protecting you from mundane damage).

Putting It All Together

So what happens if you're wearing armor that provides DR/MD, and are hit with a weapon that has the Mega-Damage quality?  It's treated like a normal attack.  Damage is taken normally, the armor stops most of the nasty stuff and you're left with the lingering effects of micro-wave energy, supersonic projectiles, psychic crushing force, or mystical fire (or whatever the incoming attack is).

I think this is going to capture the essence of Mega-Damage, and make it palpable to the SAGA system.  No idea how it will test, but we'll see how it goes.

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