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  • Writer's pictureFrancois DesRochers

The Bazaar #42: OCC Overview – City Rat

Updated: Jan 5


INTRODUCTION


General. A rather unique class, the City Rat is specific to the relatively few major settlements across Rifts Earth. These individuals are the seedy and in many ways criminal part of the civilization, those that work and live in the alleyways, the grimy underbelly of the mega-city. For many, they are the ones forced into the life, while others slip into this space as a way to rebel against the oppressive regime or authorities that rule over them. Of note, there is no real specificity on what percentage is this OCC is composed by D-Bees, but as one could easily imagine, this is one OCC that would be relatively wide open for most species.


Type of Characters. Very clearly, without any magic or initial psionics, the relatively non-martial aspect to the Class Abilities or OCC Skills, this class falls within the Scholars and Adventurer segment. Given the fact it starts with a fairly limited number yet wide-ranging set of skills, it certainly leans away from the ‘Scholar’ part of that group – LOL. This probably the first OCC reviewed that is more a thematic and conceptual start point (set in a city or slums) than that of a function (e.g. Juicers are chemical super soldier, LLW as baseline mage). They are what would stereotypically be considered the criminal trouble makers or rebellious anti-government types, the gangs that roam the streets. Whether this is an Errol Flynn heroic sort of character (e.g. Robin Hood), or a villainous criminal or gang member sporting a Guy Fawkes mask (e.g. V is for Vendetta) is certainly a Player and/or GM perspective. This class can really be developed into a wide array of characters.


Key Characteristics of the City Rat. The City Rat is a very malleable OCC; they could be completely illiterate and combat oriented types, very literate and technologically inclined, or anywhere in between. This OCC is not one that presents as a very targeted skill jockey, but can be designed to create something similar (e.g. you won’t get a super assassin, but you can get something close; you won’t get a super computer hacker, but you can get something close). They are very reliant on and use cybernetics as a status symbol of sorts, which means they can select some pretty interesting gear to supplement their skills and abilities. It’s also one of the few OCCs that also presents a detailed scheme for career changes and selection of a second OCC. A key characteristic not quite explicitly spelled out is the requirement of this PC to remain in the urban setting they began adventuring in. Once they leave, they incur “retirement penalties,” meaning the GM needs to consider the impact of keeping the adventures tied to that one urban setting. There are ways around this, but requires the GM and Player to have that off-table conversation.


Relevant Books with Updates. A selection of comparable OCCs of similar design:

  • Sourcebook 5: Bionics. This is the one book that really provides the “glow up” for the OCC. It is basing the Archetype on the RMB version of the OCC, however. It does provide some variants to the class, including:

o Hero City Rat. A self-styled vigilante.

o Hacker Rat. Computer hackers extraordinaire.

o Maze Rat. Couriers from one region/Burb to another.

o Pack Rat. Basically a group of kids that join “the life” together.

o Gutter Rat. Typically a criminal and limited as a villain NPC class.

o Roof Rat. Basically a spy/informant City Rat.

o Cyber-Snatcher. A cut-throat criminal (literally) and limited as a villain NPC class.


GAME CONTEXT


How I Would Play This OCC. I’m not a big fan of the cliché the OCC is clearly based on. That said, the OCC has a lot of potential in the setting. I tend to lean towards cybernetics and skill jockey characters, so the Archetype, Hacker or Maze Rat is intriguing. In my opinion, they also provide the most flexibility to meet whatever the GM throws at us. Unless we’re all playing the same kind of characters, this would be the party specialist in guiding others through the myriad threats and encounters available in the ‘Burbs or a mega-city setting. Certainly not the brains of the operation, or the most combat capable, they have a niche role. I’d also likely really double-down on the cybernetics, which I suppose makes my PC a viable target for cyber-snatchers. So long as you know it’s a risk, you can role-play around it, or right into it as required by the adventure, I guess. The City Rat can be a take-charge kind of character, or sit back and function in a more supportive role, which is something I like in an OCC.


The City Rat in Context

  • All Human. Regardless the cityscape setting, this is where the City Rat can really become a clutch character. Providing support or advice to the Party Group, the PC has the inside scoop on the setting and possible threats the party may encounter. This means they can almost be an extension of the GM, which might be a little tricky (you don’t want the GM controlling the PC). If playing in the ‘Burbs of Chi-town (or something similar), the PC is in its element. They are relatively middle of the road in terms of threat in any gun fight or knife fight, not necessarily outperforming other Adventurers or Scholars, and obviously less a threat than pretty much any Men-at-Arms class. Otherwise, they can be pretty impactful.

  • With the Big Boss(es). If the adventure remains within the urban environment, they can still provide a hefty supporting role to the party as a whole, leveraging skills and abilities the heavy hitters likely do not have. The City Rat can easily blend in unless visibly acting like a guide to the ‘tourist PCs,’ who likely sticking out like a sore thumb. If any combat occurs they are definitely in a supporting role and can effect some damage, but the majority of the heavy lifting here is by the Big Bosses – no surprise.

  • With the Demi-Gods. So, we’re likely playing a squishy SDC or very low MDC character compared to the others. We also likely can’t escape the ‘tour guide’ issue I presented earlier. I mean, how does a PC of demi-god capabilities hide in a crowd? Don’t get me wrong, it can be done, but it requires some GM manipulation. This is one of those contexts that does not function as well as adventuring across the wilderness/Megaverse, which then robs the City Rat of its benefits and also imposes some hefty penalties. They can still “do the do” though, meaning this character may impose a greater role-playing tax on the Player than the others, who are most definitively geared towards a more combat-oriented dynamic.

Rifts Main Book (RMB, or Grey Book) to Rifts Ultimate Edition (RUE). The information presented in Sourcebook 5: Bionics carries the OCC forward a little bit, while the RUE seems to have restructured the Archtype Class and given it a bit of a boost. The new list of OCC Skills and updates to the categories (and skills available) with the new skills presented throughout the library. The OCC Bonuses gives the City Rat a really decent glow-up and updates to match most other OCCs. Oddly the ability to use TW devices is specifically baked into the extra PPE roll; I thought this a bizarre choice given the negative impact at age 22, and the effect cybernetics have on PPE. Otherwise, equipment, money and cybernetics entries are largely unchanged and perfectly in line with expectations.


FINAL THOUGHTS ON THE CITY RAT


When I look at the City Rat, I see a fairly wide-open OCC that allows Players and GMs to make a really impactful character. I also get the clear indication that this OCC was initially based on the vibe from both Bladerunner and that of the 80s punk rock scene in England and Germany. The idea of running this OCC is a little limited to a city-based campaign or adventure, which can be a really interesting change to the wandering adventurer. Not that the OCC can’t be played in these adventures, but they lose class abilities and may force a new OCC on the Player. The one limitation, applied in Sourcebook 5, is the impact of the City Rat leaving the influence of its “gang region” or they choose to retire (most likely through imprisonment, death, or presumed flight from the law). I find the dynamic for changing OCCs in any Palladium Books game is an extremely clunky – not at all unintuitive. I don’t see this a reason not to choose the OCC, particularly if the GM intends to keep you in a single role-playing “sandbox” that sticks to one urban setting or region. It’s an interesting class that has no clear or exceptional combat capabilities, which means most Players will gravitate to other choices – which is fair. I can see this really being a great NPC, but also gives a Player some serious opportunities.


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