A Look At The Crunch Of Rifts
In my article How I Got Into Gaming, I mentioned that Palladium Books’s Rifts was my first role-playing game. Rifts, and the entire Palladium series, uses its own mechanics that cross d20 games with a percentile system.
Attacks, defense, and other combat-based checks are done using a d20. Damage is based on the weapon used, which determines how many of which dice are used for the calculation. Skills and skill checks are done using a percentile dice, with characters needing to roll under whatever percent they have a said skill at. Characters have various races and either an O.C.C. (Occupational Character Class) or an R.C.C. (Racial Character Class). Beings like humans, elves, and other non-supernatural beings typically have an O.C.C. while more powerful beings, such as Hatchling Dragons, Anti-Monsters, Vampires and the like have an R.C.C. All characters have an alignment, though Rifts uses its own alignment system rather than the more well-known axis of Law/Chaos and Good/Evil. In Rifts, good characters are Principled or Scrupulous, selfish characters are Unprincipled or Anarchic, and evil characters are Aberrant, Miscreant, or Diabolic.
The biggest thing to note about the crunch of Rifts is its damage system. There are two types of damage that can be done; S.D.C. (Structural Damage Capacity) damage and M.D.C (Mega-Damage Capacity) damage. Roughly, one M.D.C. equals 100 S.D.C.; however, S.D.C. cannot damage M.D.C. no matter how much damage is done. Beings like humans are S.D.C. beings, with between 100 and 200 S.D.C. on average. Beings like Demi-gods, however, are M.D.C. beings with between 100 and 400 M.D.C. or more in addition to regenerative abilities. In order to compete, humans and similar beings must don M.D.C. armors and power armors capable of sustaining such damage so they don’t end up smears on the sidewalk. Likewise, they arm themselves with M.D.C. weaponry; laser and plasma weapons, vibro-swords, magic and psionic powers, alien modifications, cybernetics, and more. Rifts is a game about survival when all the odds are stacked against you; because no matter what you play, they are.
If it isn’t clear by now, Rifts has never been about game balance. It is a game in which anything goes. Characters can be anything you can possibly imagine, from a private investigator armed with only his wit and his trusty sidearm from our modern day to cosmic knights able to fire energy blasts from their hands capable of destroying entire orbital battle stations. The game combines elements of just about everything, from Anime-style giant robots to J.R.R. Tolkien fantasy to H.P. Lovecraft inspired monsters from beyond the stars to cyberpunk and more. Gods team up with street kids. The game is crazy. Its rules aren’t that great, in my opinion. There is no balance and few restrictions. And all of this is what makes the game great.
It has been many years since I last gave any real thought to playing or running a Rifts game, but I often look back on my old games fondly, even the ones that didn’t end well. I will forever owe this game for introducing me to the wonder of this hobby, and I will always be grateful for that. Though I don’t know if I would recommend this game over others, it is definitely one worth checking out if only to see just how crazy it can be.
Image Credit: Palladium Books