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  • Writer's pictureFrancois DesRochers

The Bazaar #55: Effects of an Eclipse

Updated: Apr 12

(Atmosphere, Immersion, and Game Impacts)



INTRODUCTION


A lot of hype was made regarding the lunar eclipse that occurred on 08 April 2024. There was a lot (I mean A LOT) of buzz on the internet and broadcast media. The fact the path crossed over much of the most highly populated regions of the United States and Canada certainly helped. The result was a plethora of images of the event; both professional and amateur.

 

It also produced a certain commentary in gaming circles on the impacts of a lunar eclipse. We jest and joke around about it, but what about the application these events in your Rifts game? I know most GMs likely don’t track the cycle of their fictitious celestial bodies, or rarely think to introduce the various rules about eclipses and seasonal changes. I know I’ve largely ignored them, but occasionally, I found myself flipping over the rules and wondering how I could fold them into my games.

 

Those not directly under the path were likely not ‘too far’ a drive away from experiencing a total lunar eclipse. Apparently, hundreds of thousands did just that. Some of us were just lucky to be in the direct path. As one of those lucky ones that observed from the comfort of my front porch, I thought I’d present GMs new and more seasoned alike, a bit of a testimonial to the experience, and some possible applications of the event in your games.



ATMOSPHERE & IMMERSION


Ambiance. One of the key elements to any engaging game always comes down to the level of immersion a GM provides their Players. Detailed scene descriptions are always a great place to start.

  • Game Mats. To some a cheat, to others a necessity. Regardless your opinion, they infer a lot of information at a glance that makes the GM’s job a little easier (e.g. distances, shapes of structures and blind corners, natural or an urban landscape).

  • Theatre of the Mind. Oft-times described the polar opposite, there is no mat and the GM provides a vivid description, the Players chewing on the words to form their own interpretation (duh!). This sometimes leads to misinterpretations but can be an incredibly impactful method for engagement.

  • Music. For some, backing tracks, ambient music or sounds can be leveraged to produce a mood. This can be simple crickets at night, urban traffic, an epic soundtrack that pushes Players to some heroic acts or reinforces a creepy vibe.


A Personal Testimonial: From my own experience, living directly under the eclipse's path of totality. When it occurred on 08 April 2024, the following elements could be considered:

  • The Sky. Whether cloudy (like over at Niagara Falls) or clear (like here in New Brunswick), each had their own effect on the viewing experience. For me, the clear blue skies had an eerie, slightly faded tint to them; like looking at a picture that was slightly over exposed. During Eclipse: Once total eclipse was achieved, the sky went from mid-afternoon bright to what can best be described as late dusk. We never got total nightfall like some, but it was like a dimmer switch was hit and things got eerily dark.

  • GM Tips:

o   Giving this faded quality to your description can provide a surreal feeling, or at least warn the Players that something is ‘off.’

o   Play it up, like any Player Character without bionic or magic vision will be seeing things through a sort of filter.

o   Perhaps impose a slight negative modifier to Ranged Strikes, or even Dodge as PCs get jumpy at everything and may fail to account for the real threat.

  • The Sun. Since it broke that morning, the sun produced a notably greater amount of illumination. Even at 08:00 AM, the sky was lit up like mid-afternoon. The experience at around 2:00 PM was exceptionally bright, akin to low-grade sun blindness. Driving was uncomfortable without sunglasses, which can always be leveraged to impact Player Characters without that kind of deterrent. During the Eclipse: Leading up to totality, the halo around the sun was huge. Normally, you can cover the sun with just a thumb. We witnessed a halo about four to six times as wide. Once totality occurred, the sight of the moon and the ring surrounding it was impressive.

  • GM Tips:

o   Marked increase in sunlight can negatively impact Ranged Strikes.

o   Perhaps skills like Camouflage gain a +15% bonus, or negatives to Perception.

o   Player Characters with bionic or magic vision could remain unaffected; all others will likely be squinting or averting their eyes more often.

  • Animals. I’m not sure if this universal, but the family dog was not amused; at all. Always known to be much more sensitive to events, this is reflected in many Palladium Book rules. Using this can certainly ramp up some background atmospherics, by describing how antsy or nervous they seem. During the Eclipse: My dog's reaction aside, I notedthat pretty much everything was dead silent. No birds chirping, nothing.

  • GM Tips:

o   Animals are jumpy, instinctively recognizing a threat, or change.

o   Psychics and mutant animals might be affected in some way; perhaps a low-grade effect like that imposed at World Book 29: Madhaven.

o   RUE (p 192) already suggests mutants, psionics and similar creatures (e.g. Psi-Stalker, Dog Boys) suffer -3 to Initiative and -1 to Strike/Parry/Dodge from headaches.

  • Temperature. Oddly enough, the temperature spiked from the norm, shooting up to 15 degrees Celsius (60 degrees F). What I found odd was how much warmer ‘it felt.’ During the Eclipse: Contrast the spike in temperature to totality, we experienced a noticeable dip in the ambient temperature. Enough for some to make a grab for some sweaters,

  • GM Tips

o   This can be used to impart a level of uncertainty to the upcoming events.

o   Sudden temperature changes don’t necessarily have an in-game impact, but can signal something imminently occurring.


GAME TERMS


There are several game rules and effects that have already been provided for eclipse events. I’m sure most GMs and Players with magic PCs have overlooked these sections; I’m just as guilty as anyone else.

  • Principles of Magic (RUE, pp 185-188). Under Other Sources of P.P.E., we look at the Ley Lines and Nexus Points (p 186, right). I’m sure most GMs and Magic PCs overlook this section; I know I have. To whet your appetite, the Ley Line Walker O.C.C. can draw 40 P.P.E. from a nexus, once per melee. During a Lunar Eclipse, this gets a modifier of x12 (yes, times twelve!). Over the course of a minute, a LLW can soak up just shy of 2000 P.P.E..... no small feat! Note: Interesting aside, it appears there is an omission on how long a mage can store this excess P.P.E. The fact it can be parcelled out over several spells implies no limitation. Update: So apparently I completely missed in Book of Magic (pp 20-22) has a series of Frequently Asked Questions that addresses this "storage duration" issue. The answer is P.E. Attribute in minutes. So that LLW with a P.E. of 10 could absorb upwards to 20,000 P.P.E., but this is tempered by the ruling in Book of Magic (p 21) that limit a being from absorbing only up to 3 times (x3) their normal, starting P.P.E. (Permanent Base P.P.E. plus that gained each level).

  • Ley Lines an Rifts (RUE, pp 191-197). There is an extensive series of entries taken from other sources (e.g. Rolling for Rifts from the Rifts Adventure Guide, Ley Line Storms from World Book 2: Atlantis) for the effects various solar events have. Includes Ley Line Storms, the increased odds of a Rift opening, and several tables for Constant or Periodic Rifts. As an example, there is a 77% chance of a Rift opening at a Nexus Point during a Lunar Eclipse.


Impact on Psionics. The obvious impact these kinds of celestial alignments have on magic is pretty well codified in Palladium rules. One critique I would propose is the lack of any systemic impacts or bonuses for psionic characters. There is more than enough implication that it occurs, but nothing solid, and certainly nothing in RUE, other than an I.S.P. boost at ley lines under Psychic Combat (RUE p 366) of all places.


CONCLUSION


Given the impactful elements of the game references cited above, it might behoove a GM or their Players to crack open RUE and have another look. If for nothing else, it might lead to a great adventure hook, or elements a GM can weave into their current campaign. Imagine a new Shifter or antagonist NPC drawing on a super amount of power as their introduction, and the shock and awe Players must overcome realizing the powerhouse they must face down. Perhaps the climax of an adventure/campaign is trying to beat the clock prior to an Eclipse event, feeding some NPC’s massive ritual; this can add a neat bit of a time element to the Players’ decisions.


Experiencing a near totality of a lunar eclipse was a neat experience. Apparently, scientists will be studying animal reactions to see how this may affect their behaviour; anecdotally, I know the results it had on the family dog, a 30-pound cocker spaniel/poodle mix – normally up for barking like a demon against anything up to and including Great Danes and garbage trucks, we found him sulking in a corner of our kitchen, refusing to come close to a window. This somewhat comical element aside, the eclipse really impressed my teenage daughters, particularly the 90 seconds we could observe without special glasses.

 

There are ways to make these kind of alignments (e.g. eclipse, planetary alignment) or time of the year (e.g. solstice, equinox) a bit more of an impact to the game. Given a little imagination in describing the effect on the environment, and reference to the game rules for amping up magic Player Characters or NPCs, you can turn things one their head, or give sudden boosts to any magic PCs. A once in a lifetime experience to view from one’s front porch, it was an interesting event. I provide some personal testimonial as examples for descriptive immersion, something I welcome and strongly recommend GMs consider leveraging. I’d love to hear what anyone has to say about how it impacted their adventures.


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