• Francois DesRochers

The Bazaar #27: OCC Rationalization (Men-at-Arms) - A Follow-up

GENERAL


In a follow-up to last week’s post (The Bazaar 26: OCC Rationalization (Men-at-Arms)), I thought I’d take a look at the Men-at-Arms OCCs and their inherent design space, specifically what they are looking to accomplish. After this is done, I’ll present my suggestion for moving forward with a new mechanism for Character Classes, all in order to facilitate what I’ve termed as a Rifts Renaissance (a.k.a. Rifts 3.0). Bear in mind I have no idea what Sean Roberson, Kevin Siembieda and crew are working on behind the veil; last time I checked, I have no magic ball, nor access to behind-the-scenes information. This is all on me. Strictly speaking though, if Sean or Kevin want to give me a shout, I’d be more than happy to have a chat.


OVERVIEW


There are significant differences between the OCCs found in either the RPG and RUE compared to those in the World Books, particularly the newer ones. Newer releases include a host of additional bonuses and whole Skill classes the older ones are missing, while certain skills have shifted categories (Languages from Technical to Communications). There is some wholesale and relatively pedantic housekeeping to be had here, along with ensuring the bonuses to the Character Classes are normalized. That being said, after reviewing over 200 entries for Men-at-Arms alone, my analysis boils down to what I would envision as a follow-up to a refresh of the core rules, meaning a slight tweak to the mechanism for how OCCs could be updated to clean things up.


NEW MECHANISM FOR CLASSES


How This Works. First of all, after studying the trends the OCCs have taken over the years, comparing copious lines of OCC skills, then comparative analyses of bonuses and special abilities, a few things popped out; not just the rampant duplication of the actual OCCs skill tables, but also along the lines of bonuses and abilities. Looking back at the earlier OCCs presented in the RMB (and then RUE) and earlier books, we find newer books mostly replicated the same thing, propped up by more in-class benefits - otherwise essentially doing exactly the same role. Boiled down, Men-at-Arms demonstrated several common characteristics. The mechanism I propose to Palladium Books is to tweak the OCC paradigm into what I term as the ROC (Role - Occupation - Class) system:

  • Role. The role of the character is simply what the primary function of the character would be: Men-at-Arms, Psionic, Practitioner of Magic, or RCC (your D-Bees, et al). This provides a wide-sweeping classification that could be exploited in a new rules concept. Specific rules could apply across the swath of classes without having to duplicate them in each entry (e.g. Attacks, Saves, negative impacts to cybernetic implants, starting SDC). Better still, any updates to the specific Role then has a trickle-down effect on the entire series. For the purposes of this post, all are filling Role: Men-at-Arms.

  • Occupation. What was once the OCC is now termed the Occupation. These I have presented below as an amalgam of several OCCs into a single entry that covers all the bases. The Baseline Occupation would have the common OCC Skills (and Other Skills selection criteria) as well as bonuses and special abilities. The skill list may be relatively small, but they are shared amongst all within the Occupation. The example I present catches the copious OCCs across the books that all accomplish the same effect (pilot stompy robots), Occupation: Power Armour & Robot Pilot. Other Occupations could select skills to pilot and do combat with robots and power armour, but none so effectively as these elite characters.

  • Class. What was once the MOS, I suggest we now call a Class. Each Occupation has a Baseline Class, which is essentially the most common and “representative” of the Occupation. In each Occupation, the Baseline Class has a greater flexibility and availability of Class Skills, which I would suggest also includes maybe some higher initial bonuses to skills; they are the jack-of-all-trades for the Occupation. After this, a number of suggested Classes provide players a choice of specialists in a niche element of the Occupation. Continuing the example from above, under Occupation: Power Armour & Robot Pilot, we find Class: Glitter Boy, the only Class with access to Elite pilot and combat skills using this power armour.

Characteristics of the Role: Men-At-Arms. Classes that fall into this category have several common characteristics that cut across them all. I don’t go into specifics about Skills and Class benefits, as these are keystone considerations for any core rule design changes. What I’m interested in is presenting a possible landing zone for any new updates or rules within the ROC mechanism.

  • Combat Capable. These are the rugged roughnecks that get into the dirt and get the job done. The martial archetype for Rifts, they are designed to be capable in a ranged and/or close-quarters combat scenario. This is reinforced through their Hand-to-Hand skills, possibly Pilot skills (Power Armour & Robots specifically), as well as Weapon Proficiencies; one would expect them to have more of these skills than Adventurers and the more esoteric classes. They are often fairly straightforward, and often easiest for new players to understand. This doesn’t necessarily make them the easiest to develop through character generation, it just reinforces their more targeted design.

  • Technology Based. For the vast majority of these classes, leveraging the use of technology is their edge in the Rifts world: from the full conversion ‘Borg toting bionics and cybernetics, to the Juicer and Crazy benefiting from super augmentation by way of technological augmentation, to the Grunt that relies on body armour and an energy rifle to save the day. These technological advances are all inherently meant to try and level the playing field against the multitude of supernatural monsters and foes out there. There are a few that may develop psionic capabilities or rely on something more esoteric, but this is a secondary nature to the OCC’s specialization.

  • Reliance on Skills and Equipment. Unlike Psionics and Practioners of Magic, both of which rely on inherent qualities of their integral capabilities, the Men-At-Arms place a greater reliance on use of their skills and training to meet the demands of their missions. This means cybernetics either replace or augment natural capabilities, electronics and computers for communications, mechanical solutions to mobility (e.g. power armour, robots and other vehicles), and fabricated weapons for defense (e.g. energy rifles, neuro-maces).

RIFTS MEN-AT-ARMS ROCs

Occupation: Cyborg. Essentially this Occupation covers all Cyborgs across the Rifts universe. I suggest Baseline Class as a mercenary version, allowing players to create custom construction of bionics and cybernetics, with a skill list that is a little more wide open to allow for regional/dimension differences. There would be a military versions under the Class: Combat Cyborg, with more regimented skills geared to what larger militaries would train them for, and they would defer to the standard bionic conversions versions presented in their respective WBs. The Megaversal Destroyer from WB 9: SA2 was removed as an otherworldly outlier.

  • Baseline: Cyborg

  • Class: Combat Cyborg

Occupation: Crazies. There were very few alternate Crazy OCCs found, most of them basically just retooled versions of the classic. The Wired Gunslinger was the sole stand-out as relatively unique, yet I would suggest it be merged into the Crazy Hero making a single Class. The Gunslinger abilities provide something to stand out versus their Juicer counterparts.

  • Baseline: Crazy Hero

Occupation: Cyber-Knight. Surprisingly, there were no subordinate OCCs discovered. The one element that requires significant updates are the Zen Combat rules; the current model is a nightmare of book-keeping during combat for players and GMs alike. One of the few OCCs that made it through to RUE without adding any variants, perhaps in the new version there could be something more to this Class that might make it more of a draw for players to role play.

  • Baseline: Cyber-Knight

Occupation: Headhunter. One of my personal favorites from the RPG, the OCC saw some specializations over the course of Rifts publications. These guys really exploit technological augmentation, yet retain enough of their humanity to not be considered a Cyborg. They also rely more on their varied skill sets and abilities than the full conversion characters. I would suggest the following:

  • Baseline: Headhunter Techno-Warrior

  • Class: Headhunter Assassin (from WB 20 – Canada)

  • Class: Anti-Robot Specialist (from WB 20 – Canada)

  • Class: Techno-Hound (from WB 20 – Canada)

  • Class: Momano Headhunter (from WB 20 – Canada)

  • Class: Super-Spy (from Rifts: Mercenaries)

Occupation: Juicer Warrior. Modified to be under two streams of conversions (Standard or Alternative). The Standard includes the Baseline Class, along with the Class for Military Juicer (e.g. CS, FQ). Each of the Alternative conversions have the same unique bonuses presented in WB 11 – JU, updated for new rules, along with a likely modified list of fewer Class skills as befitting their conversions.

  • Baseline: Juicer Warrior

  • Class: Coalition Juicer (more Military skills)

  • Class: Phaeton Juicer

  • Class: Psycho-Stalker (Psi-Stalker Juicer)

  • Class: Hyperion Juicer

  • Class: Titan Juicer

  • Class: Mega-Juicer

  • Class: Delphi Juicer

Occupation: Mercenary Soldier. The one that started it all, this is the “choose your own adventure” kind of class. A series of MOS Specializations allowed players to create a more tailored character. Unfortunately there were a number (like, lots....) of classes that did pretty much exactly the same thing. I’ve consolidated the various Specializations into the list below. The Baseline is your basic Mercenary Soldier Grunt, specializing in a multitude of weapons and combat in general. The other Classes trade off combat capability for more technical trades. Most smaller kingdoms would employ these Occupational soldiers as their defense forces.

  • Baseline: Mercenary Soldier: Grunt

  • Class: Communications/Sensors/EW

  • Class: Pointman/Scout

  • Class: Aviator/Pilot/Driver (primarily non-PA/Robot vehicles, but not restricted)

  • Class: Field Medic

  • Class: Animal Wrangler

  • Class: Mechanic/Electrician/Robot Mechanic (allows a choice of specialization)

  • Class: Lore/Technical

  • Class: Artilleryman/Demolitions

Occupation: Military Technical Soldier. Essentially the same idea as the Merc Soldier, this is the catch-all Occupation for soldiers in the larger militaries (e.g. CS, NGR, Geo-Front, Sovietski, New Navy). The Baseline Class is your basic Grunt, again specializing in a multitude of weapons and combat skills. The other Classes are geared for more specific trades, in support of the vast battalions of Grunts. Due to their more regimented training, I would suggest some slight variations to things like Class and Other Skill availability.

  • Baseline: Mercenary Soldier: Grunt (starts off illiterate, because, well, the Coalition)

  • Class: Communications/Sensors/EW

  • Class: Pointman/Scout

  • Class: Lore/Technical

  • Class: Artilleryman/Demolitions

  • Class: Field Medic

  • Class: Mechanic/Electrician/Robot Mechanic (allows a choice of specialization)

  • Class: Aviator/Pilot/Driver (primarily non-PA/Robot vehicles, but not restricted)

Occupation: Power Armour & Robot Pilot. Something akin to the Mercenary Soldier, these boils things down to the basics; we’re playing a character that pilots power armour or robots as their raison d’etre; the location and background is something players and GMs can shape as they see fit, the class open enough to allow it. I would prefer to see Pilot: Robots & Power Armour split into two discrete skills (Pilot: Robots and Pilot: Power Armour). From there, making a Robot Combat: Elite skill (RC: Elite), and a new Pilot Armour Combat: Elite skill (PAC: Elite) would provide more definition to the character creation process, particularly if we restrict selection of PAC: Elite (Glitter Boy) to a single MOS. This OCC needs be designed with the flexibility to be implemented in any setting (i.e. Pilot Power Armour: Choose 2, Power Armour Combat: Basic, Power Armour Combat Elite: Choose 2) in order to completely remove multiple redundant OCCs.

  • Baseline: Power Armour Pilot

  • Class: Robot Pilot/Gladiator (merge the NG2 OCC with the RUE one)

  • Class: Glitter Boy (only class permitting Power Armour Combat: Elite – Glitter Boy)

Occupation: Mutant Animals. This one irked me. Just about all the different mutant animal OCCs throughout the books were *basically* on-par with similar skills, primarily leveraging animal-specific bonuses. Let’s just make it what it is already, a Class system like the Juicers, whereby the Class specifies additional skills and bonuses based on what animal the player has selected. Whatever the setting, whatever the reason, your basic genetically modified animal character starts here.

  • Baseline: Mutant Animal (one of only two OCCs that I suggest does not have a Baseline MOS)

  • Class: (DogBoy/NTSET Psi-Hound)

  • Class: Kill Hounds

  • Class: Serpentoid

  • Class: Mutant Capybara

  • Class: Equinoid

  • Class: Condoroid

  • Class: Falconoid

  • Class: Neo-Human

  • Class: Ursa Warriors

  • Class: Battle Cats

  • Class: Kill Cats

  • Class: Monkey Boy Warriors

  • Class: Monkey Boy Techs

  • Class: Rats

  • Class: Bats

Occupation: Military Specialist. This is another segment that catches a slew of OCCs. Originally presented as a CS OCC, I would suggest we make it a generic mercenary army version of a special forces soldier as the Baseline Class. Skills would be open-ended enough to allow for application across a variety of settings and player style; the Baseline would have access to more varied skills but not to a targeted degree as the other Classes. When we examine these others, this is where you find the special forces, commandos, and military intelligence officers employed by smaller kingdoms and larger militaries alike. They have specialized roles and additional training (bonuses and special abilities) that the Baseline Class does not necessarily have access to, or at a reduced bonus.

  • Baseline: Special Forces

  • Class: Intelligence Officer

  • Class: Commando/Special Forces

  • Class: SEAL/Nautical Specialist

  • Class: Deep Insertion Specialist

Occupation: Renegade. Another mash-up of several classes to create a general, far more encompassing OCC that can then be used across multiple settings. These are your informally trained (not formally educated) soldiers and warriors one would find out in the more lawless expanses of Rifts Earth. Some benefit from some additional special skills, but at the heart of things they live by their wits and drive to survive.

  • Baseline: Bandit/Raider (your Highwayman/Cossak/Pecos Raiders)

  • Class: Gunfighter/Gunmaster (WP Sharpshooter)

  • Class: Sheriff/Lawman

  • Class: Native Tribal Warrior (Indian fetishes)

Occupation: "Oriental Warriors." To be honest, these are simply too complex to really justify mashing together. They are unique in their own right, which really is a testament to the design of the class in relation to the setting. One could likely assemble a Baseline OCC with selected skills that translate across the others, but those special abilities are simply too discrete from the others. Akin to the Juicer, each Class is unique from the other.

  • Baseline: Oriental Warrior (a Baseline of a few common skills and bonuses; much like the Mutant Animals, relies primarily on Class benefits and skills)

  • Class: New Empire Samurai

  • Class: Mystic Ninja

  • Class: Bishamon Monk

  • Class: Yomabushi Priest

  • Class: Demon Queller

  • Class: Jian Shih (Warrior of Celestial Court)

  • Class: Chun Tzu (Philospher Martial Artist)

  • Class: Nei Chia Wu Shih (Meditative Martial Warrior)

  • Class: Wai Chia Wu Shih (Open-Handed Martial Artists)

  • Class: Chi-Gung Seng Ren (Monk of Internal Energy)

CONCLUSION


Well, after lumping all the duplicates together and ignoring them moving forward, the analysis shows that we could very well draw the Men-at-Arms OCCs down to a base of twelve Occupations, with a number of subordinate Classes that now replace over 200 entries. Each Occupation is based around the Baseline Class, that allows the player to make a more generalist version with its own specific bonuses and likely more generous skill selection options. The subordinate Classes are specialists, building them with additional skills and benefits that make them more unique, but still a version of the overall Occupation. These all need to be rebalanced, advancing the older OCCs with benefits and skill selection options that more closely matches the newer dynamic a new rules set would present.


With a possible Rifts Rennaissance(TM) coming, I would very much like to see Palladium Books take a serious look at tightening the core rules, and then ensuring the Classes (whether they remain OCC or something akin to my ROC) dovetail properly into these changes. I don’t envision much of a possibility that Sean Roberson and Kevin Siembieda could update the rules without seriously considering an OCC scrub-down. I present this and my previous post on the subject as proof-positive that it can: be accomplished; and, still retain the “look and feel” of the post-apocalyptic environment we know and love.


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