• Francois DesRochers

The Bazaar #28: OCC Overview – Coalition Grunt


General. So if you were to look at this OCC, one could be excused for wondering what the draw would be. Your baseline infantry soldier for the Coalition States, there a player has two things to contend with: 1. the fact you are playing one of the nameless dregs of the military machine that doesn’t give you a whole lot of bells and whistles as an individual character class; and, 2. the worldview that this military machine has espoused. The first point is the primary concern of this post; the second one delves more into the character background and interactions with the GM and other players that are hyper-specifically dependent on the gaming group. So, without further a-do, let’s talk about your basic CS Grunt.

Note: Please consider your comments and in light of the fact that this post primarily examines point 1 above. I'm willing to discuss point 2, so long as it remains in the context of the framework of discussing the OCC itself.

Type of Characters. Quite obvious, this is one of your generic Men-At-Arms style of character. When compared to the others in this segment, it demonstrates the fewest bells and whistles going, and by a long shot. They have a fairly limited skill set at the OCC level, with a middling number of Other skill selections. There isn’t much here, but this is largely reflective of the baseline requirements being mostly about “spirit to fight for humanity” than that of the Attributes you rolled. Alternatively, one could easily point to this class as a way for petty criminals to divert themselves from suffering hard labour as a punishment for said crimes. Certainly not the elite of the elite of here, the class is pretty much delivered as the Coalition States’ version of the 'basic soldier' a player would encounter from another city-state or mercenary company.

Key Characteristics of the Coalition Grunt. How does one qualify the lack of special abilities or skill sets as a positive characteristic? I suppose one could go the route that, as one of thousands of other Grunts in the Coalition States military, the adage of “quantity has a quality of its own” is going on here; I suppose there is a certain ‘charm’ a player could derive from this. For players not looking to play a godling or the GM is trying to accomplish a Low Fantasy style campaign, this could be a place to start. The OCC Skills give a baseline level of competency for an infantry class, interestingly given Robot Combat: Basic without any OCC skill choices to select a model or robot or power armour they would have learned to pilot. There is a relative plethora of skills between Other and Secondary (15 in total), which allows for players to start and tailor the character; just don’t look for any substantive bonuses outside of Military skills. I suppose one could make a generic Infantier, a heavy weapons specialist, a power armour pilot, what have you. Surprisingly, the class allows a player to make the character literate, which somehow seems a bit of an oversight, or at least cutting against the grain.

Relevant Books with Updates. Not really applicable. There have been books that updated the narrative, but none that really gave the Coalition Grunt any kind of boost. Let’s be honest, did you really think they would? The closest we get to an update is the RUE version, which adds a couple of skills to the OCC Skills list, but then taxes the Other and Secondary skills a little.

How I Would Play This OCC. Having personally gone through basic officer training and then qualified as an Infantry officer, I have a pretty good basis to imagine what this character would have gone through. As a relatively unskilled and non-specialized character, I would probably make him a generalist. Throw in some power armour and robot pilot skills, perhaps upgrade to Robot Combat Elite, the remainder a mishmash of choices to round things out. We’re not playing anything close to the flashiest character you will likely have in the group, but I’d at least try to make them have something to offer, if nothing else as a competent shot in a firefight. When and if ever possible, I’d likely look to getting some kind of cybernetics to upgrade their capabilities.

The Coalition Grunt in Context

  • All Human. I certainly don’t expect to be the leader of the pack, short of the remainder of the group entirely made up of Scholars and Adventurers. Even then, there are loads of scenarios where the ‘dude carrying the gun in the background’ simply presents as such. Maybe that’s one of the qualities to exploit. Nothing flashy, just a guy in armour with an E-rifle, or the pilot of the power armour/robot supporting the group. With the advent of the upgraded classes in RUE, the Coalition Grunt can do a surprisingly fair amount, but nowhere near as well as most others. Unless you are piloting a robot, power armour or some snazzy APC, just do your job supporting the group, and when it’s your turn at the table to eat, ask them to pass you the ketchup, because that’s about as spicy as you are going to get.

  • With the Big Boss(es). When played within the context of a few heavy hitters, the Coalition Grunt just ends up playing a supporting role. They can produce some combat capability, mostly ranged, and will likely find a role in support to the group as a whole. If given the opportunity to pilot a robot or power armour, players may find themselves having more of an impact. You may be able to role-play some pre-encounter interactions, but as a whole, skill checks are not necessarily your forte, so let the skill jockeys and specialists handle that.

  • With the Demi-Gods. A squishy SDC soldier in armour with less MDC than a demi-god’s toenail? Yeah, seems rather unlikely to me too; I’ve seen weirder group dynamics. Are you going to end up playing much of an active role in the group, either in non-combat or combat situations? Likely not, which places the GM in a position to really stretch the scenario to meet Player’s needs to be actively engaged. Not impossible, but it is a thing to consider.

Rifts Main Book (RMB, or Grey Book) to Rifts Ultimate Edition (RUE). This OCC only saw several subtle changes between the two publications. The RUE version saw a couple of additional skills, traded off for slightly fewer choices in Other and Secondary. One of the more impactful changes would be the movement of the Language and Literacy skills from Technical up into Communications, but both those groups now benefit from a +5% bonus. Aside from that, there really was negligible changes to the OCC. That said, what were you expecting when RUE came out?

Final Thoughts on the Coalition Grunt. Certainly not my favourite OCC, the class is an example of the Player looking to play one of the nameless cogs in the machine. Sure, there may be an attraction to that element of the role-playing experience, but we do have to address the elephant in the room, the second point I brought out in the General section up above. The worldview of the character, how they accept the world outside the CS (and to some case within the CS) is something the both Player and GM will likely need to sort out in Session 0; I know some GMs out there want nothing to do with Coalition Player Characters, which is certainly their prerogative. For many the CS Grunt is simply their version of the Red Shirt, simply an encounter villain for the party to destroy. As a class though, the Coalition Grunt is your basic Rifts soldier, without any bells or whistles. It is definitively the class that most easily sets itself up as the proverbial “dog to kick” in gaming sessions, and the Players may need to navigate the role-playing dynamic. That said, it *does* present that dynamic as something that can be leveraged for campaign ideas and inter-PC exchanges. Take it as you wish, but the Coalition Grunt is certainly not going to outshine most other classes for their innate capabilities.

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