Monday, March 5, 2012

Rifts: Mind and Magic, Part One

One of the aspects that set Rifts apart from other post-apocalyptic and cyberpunk games (well, except for Shadowrun) was it's inclusion of Magic and Psionics.  In the original book there were four magic-casting classes, and in addition to the four purely psychic classes, anyone in the game had a chance to possess some psionic ability.  Power levels between the classes were varied, as were the powers and spells themselves.  With the conversion of Rifts over to SAGA Edition, there comes with it a few hurdles, many pitfalls, and a lot of monkeying around to be done to get it all to fit together into the SAGA System, but still feel like Rifts.

The Easier Path

If you thumb through the Rifts core rulebook, you'll find Ley-Line Walkers, Mystics, Shifters, and Techno-Wizards.  These are the four most prevalent magic-using classes in Rifts, especially in North America.  Sure, there are others, even a casual glance through extended source material reveal Warlocks (read as "Elementalists"), Witches, Battle Magi, Druids, Elemental Fusionists (don't ask, kinda neat, but don't ask), and a host of other spellslingers.  But usually the magic users in Rifts fall back on one of the four originals.

Looking at SAGA Edition, the easiest and most natural fit for the spellslingers is to make Magic work a lot like Force Powers do.  You get a skill, based on Charisma called "Use Magic".  This skill will allow you to perform a series of minor magical effects.  You can use this skill untrained as long as you have the Magical Sensitivity feat, allowing you to Detect Magic and conjure a Globe of Daylight.  If you're trained in Use Magic, you can also use a Wizard's Assistant ("move a light object") and Sense the Supernatural.

In addition, the Magic User can learn talents from a variety of sources that utilize their magic skill in other ways.  Here's a two of the talents from the Ley Line Walker Talent Tree:

Ley Line Travel: You gain flight speed 4 while on a Ley Line.  You may travel effortlessly along the Ley Line without growing tired.  As a Standard action, you can teleport yourself and your belongings anywhere along the ley line you are currently on, and at any altitude within the line (most ley lines are a ½ mile high).

Ley Line Rejuvenation: Once per encounter, you can spend a Standard Action and instantly heal hit points equal to your character level x your Charisma bonus (minimum of 1) if you are within 10 squares of a Ley Line.  If you are not near a ley line, you heal your character level in hit points.

Ley Line Rejuvenation is a standard power all Ley Line Walkers get in Rifts, and only works when they're on a Ley Line.  I didn't want to front load all the class abilities with the Archetypes, just the really Iconic ones.  I wanted talents that would allow characters to grow and gain neat abilities.  This power would be nigh-useless as a Talent in SAGA Edition if it only worked on a Ley Line, so I gave it an ability to allow a Ley Line Walker to get a mid-combat heal.

"But DarthGM!", you cry, "If it's once per encounter, won't that mean I can just pop it all the time out of combat and always be at my full hit points?"  That's up to your GM, but I'd say "HELL NO."  Once per encounter means you need to be in an encounter to use this ability.  You're in a battle, people are dying around you, releasing mystic energy as their spirit leaves their body (Rifts world-mechanic, don't blame me).  You're gathering that as it releases and quickly empowering yourself, recovering some of your resolve and strength.  You're not going to just pop this off while shopping around the Burbs. 

Unless a Coalition Patrol happens by; then it's an encounter!

There are a lot of talents that will mirror Force Talents from Star Wars; Damage Reduction, Deflect, Battle Mediation.  Abilities that you would expect mages to be able to use repeatedly and often.  They fit in well, and I think they fit in nicely.

Spelling It Out

Once you're Magically Sensitive, you can take a feat, let's call it "Magical Training", and you get a number of Spells equal to your Wisdom Bonus +1 (minimum of 1).  This represents the number of spells you can cast per Combat.  You can choose a spell more than once, and thus be able to throw the spell twice per combat.  You can also spend an Action Point as a Free Action to recover a spent spell.  If you roll a Natural 20 when casting a spell with your Use Magic skill, you get all your spent spells back.

But what about the spells themselves?  I was planning to do over a mostly direct port from Star Wars to Rifts SAGA, just rename the abilities where needed.  That was until GM Chris had his playtest for Legends, and his Fantasy edition of the SAGA rules set.  It gave me the Mage class, a class where the hit dice are lower than a Jedi, but gave access to may of the Jedi's Force Talents (and gave them more wizard sounding names).

Chris also came up with a balance point for Light-Side and Dark-Side powers; he gave them the Taxing descriptor.  Now if you want to cast a lightning bolt (Force Lightning), or a healing spell (Vital Transfer), you move one step down the condition track when you finish casting the spell.  If the spell is sustainable from round to round and has the Taxing descriptor (Like Force Grip), you move 1 step down the condition track each round you sustain the spell.

But I wonder if this method removes some of the versatility of spellcasters in Rifts.  And for discovering and learning new spells.  Should the Magical Training feat earn you "Spell Points" that you can spend on spells you know, however you wish.  And how do you determine what spells you know in the first place?

As you can see, Magic is a work in progress. Next time I'll go over Psionics; from the overly complex to the underwhelmingly useless and some of the powers in between.  As a teaser, it's gonna look a lot like magic, just with a different description.

Until next time; 20 side up, 1 side down.

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