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  • Writer's pictureFrancois DesRochers

The Bazaar #53: Core Rules System

(An Unsolicited Submission to Palladium Books)


GENERAL


For any long-time Player of the Palladium Books games, you quickly realize the generic rules used across all the game systems don’t quite synchronize properly. To some extent, this can easily be excused as most core game rules are largely created in pre-cellphone age publishing. Minor tweaks and rebalancing over the decades allowed certain aspects to stretch one way or another. If you are system-specific (e.g. only play PFRPG, or never leave HU2), this is not a problem; you continue with the game line’s rules and life is good! But for a truly Megaversal experience, things get… clunky.


I started looking at this over the years and made a few posts in the past about suggesting changes to re-baseline things (e.g. Ranged Combat the same regardless of the game; Skills are identical). Starting as a small pet-project turned into a long-standing exercise of reviewing the various games, finding commonalties, and going from there. Ultimately, this has progressed to the point that I thought I’d let the guys at Palladium Books (read: Kevin and Sean) have a gander and see what they thought.


WHY WOULD I HAVE A SHOT?


General. More to the point, who the heck would Palladium Books care about my take on a CRS? Could/should they completely ignore what anecdotally equates to a series of ‘house rules?’ Fair questions both. I don’t make more of myself than I am, nor what I’m offering.

  • A Palladium Book Devotee. I’m first and foremost a fan of the games, albeit heavily favoring Rifts. I own almost the entirety of the Rifts RPG, and most every book from the other game systems (physical or electronic PDFs). My collection goes as far to include the entirety of the ROBOTECH RPG and Macross II games, a copy of the ‘Nightspawn’ RPG, and a pristine signed copy of the original Mechanoids Invasion booklets and the RPG book (including the Ooops Sheets). All this to say, I’m invested. So are a lot of fans, no?

  • “Foot in the Door.” I’m not an entirely ‘unknown’ quantity to Kevin or Sean. Aside from the odd phone conversation with Kevin and online messaging with Sean, I authored the manuscript for Rifts World Book 22: Free Quebec. That was a lot of fun to write, and I was thrilled at how well it was illustrated and received by the community. I have no illusions that this somehow gives me special access; I’m just not a complete newbie.

  • Third Party Content Creator. For over two years this blog has promoted gaming content and commentary, as well as Rifts-related articles. Specifically targeted for new GMs/Players and for more ‘mature’ players alike, I’m looking to make things more intuitive. I know the blog itself has ‘made the PB radar,’ which serves only to reinforce the fact I’m not someone new to the community. I like to think the CRS is just another way to possibly help new GMs.


WHAT IS THE CRS?

  • Proof of Concept. It’s been mentioned several times in various places. The problem is how daunting the project would be. Well, consider this ‘greasing the skids’ to demonstrate it could be done. Perhaps not the Caramilk Secret, it presents an option for moving forward.

  • Systems Approach. Upfront, I don’t pretend to be a game designer. I do possess certain analytical and project management skills and training that lends to the Systems Approach of analysis. A supporting element, I own all the games, most of them in physical format to boot. Looking through them all, it’s easy to identify similarities, making variances in each more glaring (and easily baselined). Some are much easier to get to a CRS than others (I’m looking at you, After the Bomb, Ninjas & Superspies, and skipping over RECON).

  • Backward Compatible. Because I’ve incorporated updated rules and slight variations from the various versions of Palladium Books games, with only a few additional rules that overlay, no previous books are made worthless. Very few exceptions apply: the Main Books for each system (with discrete rule sets). I would suggest that with the Conversion Notes for Character Creation in each system, any forward-looking publications could be revised to either include the new rules, or more likely, new setting information instead. (e.g. HU2: ~60 pages saved).

  • Maintains Game Character. By this, I mean the backward compatibility concept was a requirement before I tinkered with something. If it expressly forced a core principle of the game to change (e.g. change the Eight Attributes to Six to match d20, or reformat all magic spells entries), that was not going to be included.

What Did I Propose? The following format should be relatively familiar:


  • Section 1 – Choose Your Setting. Basically, choose your game.

o   Impacts on traversing the Megaverse

o   New Skills list adjusted by setting

o   Nuanced changes to S.D.C. and M.D.C.

o   Magic update (e.g. High-Magic to a Low Magic setting)

o   Psionics update (e.g. folding the BtS Proximity Equals Power to all settings)


  • Section 2 – Character Generation 

o   Generating Attributes remain unchanged (e.g. 3D6 per Attribute is a human baseline all others are built around)

o   Dynamic allowing limited character Class Transfers (a.k.a. ‘multi-classing’); specifically presented in the Rifts context.


  • Section 3. Select a Class

o   Slight deviations to S.D.C. to M.D.C.

o   Conversion Notes for each game maintains their “look and feel” (e.g. Nightbane still uses Morphus tables, characters from HU2 still generate their superpowers as before, PFRPG remains almost entirely unchanged)

o   Rifts O.C.C. Rationalization (renders out multiple duplications from hundreds of O.C.C.s)


  • Section 4 – Select Skills. Based off my initial examination of the PB Skills system:

o   Updated Skill List (normalized to all advance the same % per level)

o   Updated Skill Check rules

o   Introduce Tradecraft Professional and Specialization function

o   Skill Challenges formalized

o   Perception now a D100 roll (folded into Skill Challenges)


  • Section 5 – Magic

o   No changes to spells

o   Updated Spell Strength to influence various components of combat


  • Section 6 – Psionics

o   No changes to psionic powers

o   Updated Psionic Strength to influence various components of combat


  • Section 7 – Combat

o   Updates and discrete rules for Close Combat versus Ranged Combat

o   Power Armor and Robot Combat separated

o   Dovetailed Sections 5 and 6 into here

o   Includes a codification of Vulnerabilities & Resistance


  • Section 8 – Ancillary Rules

o   Updated Insanity Rules

o   Updated Horror Factor (and how failure impacts Initiative)

o   Other relevant rules that translates across all game platforms


  • Section 9 – Glossary of Terms

o   Index of definitions and terms

o   Keywords for single source reference across all games (e.g. Death Blow is the same in Rifts as it is in PFRPG)


SUPPORTING PRODUCTS


Game Master Screen. With all the updates and revision, not to mention a few new mechanics, a new Game Master Screen is a no-brainer. The tables and the key elements of the rules makes it a simple cut-and-paste exercise to ensure the GM has the appropriate quick references in front of them. This is by far the easiest addition.


Beginning Adventure Module. One of the greatest difficulties in learning a new system, both as GM and Player, is running through the new mechanics and fleshing out a Player Character without really understanding the nuanced concepts of the game. Particularly for those coming from a d20 or OSR system: magic is very different, technology has certain limitations, there is specifically no “balance mechanism,” there is no skirmish map system for combat, the kitchen sink options for the system in general (more so or baselined if incorporating Rifts), and the “look and feel” of a post-apocalyptic setting lends to a different dynamic. I’ve sketched out a skirmish scenario that allows the GM to put the Players through the paces of learning their Player Characters in a sort of dimensional arena that could easily be played as sort of dungeon crawl. The set-up also has ideas to incorporate randomization for major areas, allowing the GM several iterations without being ‘the same’ as before.


Future Sourcebooks. So I’m privy to some information that remains in confidence. That said, the introduction of a new system plays out as an excellent venue to continue/completion of the Minion Wars, or any other meta-plot ideas Kevin/Sean may wish to enact. I know my ideas for Free Quebec and the Eastern Seaboard are expansive and could run several additional World Books, Sourcebooks, or even Adventure Sourcebooks. Who knows.


CONCLUSION


The submission was fired in, so nothing yet. The hope and the dream is that there was enough to pique their interest. The proposed CRS is robust enough to handle both current systems and future products. Key Character Generation concepts are kept alive and well, the “look and feel” of each game remaining intact. Would there be impacts to certain current products? For sure. But I have little doubt most would be willing to make the jump.


At the end of the day, Palladium Books isn’t beholden to anyone. I get that. I’ve presented something I believe could be leveraged to really bring a fully integrated Megaversal experience. The components are there to seamlessly move from S.D.C. to M.D.C. setting or back without breaking core mechanics or having to make them up on your own. The additional rules are easily overlaid without much thought, the remainder realistically just codification of rules found throughout the games.


So, if Palladium Books is interested, I am more than willing to discuss; if not, I let it go.


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