General. When Rifts Ultimate Edition came out, one of the few new additions to the line-up for O.C.C.s was generally thought to cover an oversight in the original release. As one of the multiple Men-at-Arms characters, they provide a discrete entry point into the game, with a relatively clear indication of what they hope to accomplish. From that perspective, the O.C.C. does a smashingly good job of filling a niche. Until then, robot pilots were generally relegated to specialist O.C.C.s from World Books or leveraging other RUE Classes that were arguably not as good at the job by comparison (with one exception). Personally, I never quite understood the need for the O.C.C. as a stand-alone choice, but they went and included it, so let’s power up the fusion engines, prime the weapon systems and double-check those sensors systems before moving on.
Type of Characters. As a Men-at-Arms class, it does present with a fair amount of skill specialization options. From the outset, we are presented with two MOS options: Power Armour or Robot. I like how they differentiated the two, making the subtle differences between the two a little more noticeable; the skills presented for each MOS is also a bit of a tweak in either direction. Because they pilot technological marvels, the skills available are on the upper side of the scale; they start with roughly twenty OCC/MOS skills, and a small set of O.C.C. Related and Secondary Skills. Not quite the Rogue Scientist, it still provides the character with a plethora of skills to leverage. Based on the MOS and what the GM allows in terms of starting PA or Robot, the Player Character can find themselves making very large impacts on the game state.
Key Characteristics of the O.C.C. As mentioned before, this in one of the few Men-at-Arms that comes out like a beast with relevant skills. Aside from that, the reality is that the O.C.C. is a pilot not just specialized in either Power Armour or Robots, but also with a surprising variety of other platforms. Looking deeper, there really is more to this Class than “pick Power Armour or Robots.” I found it unusual that the PA Pilot would start with an NG-Samson power armour (illustrated on page 84 and detailed on page 271 in RUE) AND another power armour suit of choice (subject to GM and market you are playing in) – that’s a lot of hardware. For the Robot pilots, take your pick of any commercially available robot in your region. Want to pilot a NG Bigfoot (worth a cool 49 million credits)? You got it! Perhaps a Triax Forger? A steal for 22 million credits. Frankly, aside from the gear options, this O.C.C. is a more than adequate pilot of various other vehicles, and something that could be replicated in several other classes. The Robot Pilot O.C.C. is a little forgiving on the skills but provides little much else.
Note: One thing I found REALLY odd in the MOS Power Armour was the skill selection choice between Basic Mechanics (+15%) or Acrobatics. I mean, really?
Relevant Books with Updates. Given that many of the World Books and Sourcebooks are all choc-a-block full of various updated power armour suits and robots, this O.C.C. finds itself in the enviable position that most of the library is up for grabs as an “update.” Of course, this also presents the problem that most of the entire library is up for grabs in terms of selecting a second suit of power armour or a robot. Some obviously provide more than others, so a non-exhaustive list of some of the better choices are as follows (omitting some of the earlier books with entries repeated in later publications):
World Book 5: Triax. Certainly, applicable while playing in the European sphere, several of the suits are available across Rifts Earth on the Black Market.
World Book 11: Coalition War Campaign. The CS gets a big push forward with a whole new line of robots and PA.
World Book 17: Warlords of Russia. Some region-specific pieces.
World Book 31: Triax 2. Years since the first exposure to the NGR, they come back, with even more big, stompy robots.
World Book 33: Northern Gun 1. As the major producer for mass market power armour and robots across North America, one could imagine much of this selection is available elsewhere as well. Mostly robots for selection.
World Book 34: Northern Gun 2. Provides a plethora of power armour suits a Player may choose from. (review forthcoming)
Titan Robotics. Several power armour and robot designs up for grabs.
How I Would Play This OCC. This is almost the story of two separate O.C.C.s. The difference between a power armour and robot, aside from the baseline cost to the vehicles they might be using, leads into myriad other concerns: maintenance, re-arming, maneuverability, durability, and others related to the remainder of the party. For several reasons, I would lean to the power armour side of the O.C.C. They get several more rounded skill choices versus their robot piloting cousins, and choice of two systems to pilot. I also find the power armour MOS is a little more versatile, and dovetails into most other Player Characters’ abilities. Typically, I prefer mobility and versatility to raw firepower and durability, and stomping around in a big shiny robot just screams for attention or scares it away/into hiding. Playing a big stompy robot certainly gives some great Pacific Rim vibes, but if you ever have to go into an urban landscape (ruined or not), you present a liability; any time the party needs to “sneak and peak” or explore something you have exit and roam around in ‘just’ your body armour.
The Robot Pilot in Context
All Human. While the remainder of the party is playing squishy characters in body armour, perhaps a ‘Borg or a Juicer, the Robot Pilot is safely ensconced in the relative safety of a suit of power armour or a robot vehicle. This makes the character one of the primary damage dealers and/or targets for the group. Pretty much any system they select to pilot will provide a good stand-off distance for fire fights, not to mention the sensor suite to pass information along. As the likely crux for any combat engagement, they can play a crucial role. In settings where they need to disembark, however, this O.C.C. finds itself quickly on par with most other Men-at-Arms or Adventurers, which is a bit of a weird dynamic.
With the Big Boss(es). Remains a heavy hitter among heavy hitters. Much like the Glitter Boy, this class is likely going to more a hammer than a scalpel, throwing down fire support from great range and providing some added durability to the group. Given that they can pilot for other modes of travel as well, this gives a little versatility. They can make some decent role-playing characters, able to provide input both before and after the and encounter. Like the Glitter Boy, the character can go from hero to zero once they disembark. Unlike the GB Pilot though, they have a long list of skills they can also employ.
With the Demi-Gods. This is where things get a little wonky – a bit of a fork in the road, so to speak. When utilizing the power armour M.O.S., the durability and firepower likely is not match to the remainder of the party. With the robots M.O.S., both of those aspects increase incredibly, but likely only to a near-peer level. Use of robots is likely also a limiting factor compared to the regeneration, flight, or other maneuverability aspects of the remaining Player Characters. The rest of the party might be “What do you mean we have to stop for repairs?” This is exacerbated in the extreme when a character of this O.C.C. needs to disembark (they can’t live in their platform of choice), and must rely on body armour to survive, now making them a liability. Perhaps not the greatest O.C.C. to choose in this respect.
Rifts Main Book (RMB, or Grey Book) to Rifts Ultimate Edition (RUE). Unlike most of the classes, the Robot Pilot was only introduced in RUE. There were several options in the RMB to create something akin to this Class: the CS Grunt, RPA Pilot, Military Specialist, and even the Tech Officer, the Glitter Boy, Headhunter, and ironically most of the Scholars and Adventurers could be made into pilots of some capacity. Of those, the best choice is the RPA Pilot, which I suppose a GM could handwave away as a mercenary class. At the end of the day though, the CS RPA Elite Pilot was the original version of this class. From this standpoint, the changes are just an updated skill list, while allowing the character to not come with the Coalition States baggage.
Final Thoughts on the Robot Pilot
As a Man-at-Arms class with a robust skill selection and the ability to start the game with a very potent set of technological equipment, the Robot Pilot O.C.C. delivers a great start point for any Player. More of an upgrade to the CS RPA Pilot O.C.C. and made into a mercenary version, this new O.C.C. doesn’t necessarily add much new to the game. Compared to other combat-oriented classes, this one starts with a great output potential, and a durability most Players would be envious to have. There are ways to exploit this in a combat encounter, but largely depends on the remainder of the party. Unless piloting their platform of choice though, this character presents a skillset that is ‘pilot intensive,’ and some generic combat capabilities that most Scholars and Adventurers also bring t the group. I could see the appeal but would expect the GM to have us scrounging for parts and/or a method to repair the pilot’s platform (power armour or robot). As an O.C.C. then, the only significant differentiating aspect is the power armour or the robot. From an O.C.C. perspective, not much here you couldn’t find elsewhere with perhaps a little more relevancy.