Monday, April 14, 2014

Sawed-Off Rifts

What month is it? April?

I won't bother going over everything that's been going on, save to say that preparing for a new baby (due sometime in the next week or so) takes up a lot of your time.

'Course, we've been enjoying ourselves, too. Being back in Seattle has been a wonderful and welcome change from Paraguay and we (the fam and I) have been soaking up as much of its delights as possible the last few weeks. We sure are going to miss it once we're back in lie. Yeah, best not to think of that right now...spoils the buzz.

Let's just jump in.

Sometimes, flawed execution means little to game design. If an idea is powerful enough to capture gamers' imagination in a particular way, shape, or form they'll cross hell-and-highwater to make it work...even if they can't (or won't) particularly put up a fight in defense of said system.

That's a very cool thing, by the way. A game like Rifts or Champions or Deadlands or Shadow Run or Vampire might be a turnoff to some snooty folks (like myself) due to a perceived lack or fault of design, but it doesn't stop people from buying and supporting those games. Heck, it often doesn't stop ME from purchasing these games...I picked up four new Palladium books lately (in the last couple weeks) even though I hate-hate-hate myself (at times) for doing so. I mean, I've got a bit of an Immortal Iron Fist fetish-thang going right now, and despite knowing how absolutely useless a book of "real world" martial arts would be for modeling the alien dimension fighting styles of IIF, I still picked up a copy of Ninjas & Superspies. And, yes, I was absolutely right: NSS is worthless for modeling Immortal Iron Fist (or even "real world" martial arts, if you want to get down to brass tacks).

But again, flawed execution doesn't necessarily matter when it comes to selling books. Just look at me: I picked up the two South America "world books" for Rifts (during Gary Games's retirement sale...the sadness of that transition deserves its own blog post), even though I have no intention of running a Rifts game in the near future and even though any Rifts game I might run is more likely to be in Russia or Wormwood rather than South America.

Today, I was down at The Dreaming comic book store in the University District (the 4th or 5th comic shop I've been in the last couple weeks, though for reasons other than Rifts) and I met a man who had driven a long way, girlfriend/wife in tow, looking for a copy of Rifts: Ultimate Edition specifically in order to update his upcoming campaign with the most recent cyber-knight rules. Dude was a large African-American man, about my age, who'd been playing Palladium since 1988 and made no bones about Palladium being his preferred system for gaming. That's the kind of dedication I just don't often see these days...outside D&D devotees, that is.

I spent a lot of time last week on the Palladium forums (mainly Heroes Unlimited) reading posts and threads and I just found the whole thing so terribly depressing. I mean, the type of posts were mainly how to reconcile the crazed or faulty mechanics, and most answers were just suggestions for patches and house rules that wouldn't even work except on a case-by-case just made me dizzy and a little nauseous. I'm not saying that to be funny or snarky...I mean, it made my head spin to read the same "how does one reconcile X or Y" type posts over what is so obviously a fucked-up game design. But it's one that has such a devoted following who loves it...why else would they keep coming back to a game that was so damn irritating? The guy at the comic book store was just one of the many hundreds loyal to a warty game, who are simply inspired by its ideas and want to adventure in its world...not because of but in spite of its warts.

Maybe my main problem as a designer is being unable to come up with an inspiring enough premise. Find the right button to push, and people will flock to your banner regardless.

Ugh...sorry, I actually have to cut this post short. Just got a call from my wife that one of the running beagles is on the run (again) and I need to go track her down. I'll try to come back to this subject later.

[just typing from Ye Old Baranoff]


  1. Ay, JB, good to hear from you! Wow, I mean, I played a good bit of Palladium back in the day, but man...I couldn't imagine still playing today, decades later! That system just wore me out. Props to the Palladium hardcore fans still soldiering on. P.S. yes it ain't perfect but I have such fond memories of the wacky shit we did with N & SS!

  2. I would love to hear more thoughts on this particular subject. I've struggled with how to run RIFTS in a manageable mechanical way for several years. The ideas are fantastic, but I also hate the system... I was working on a RIFTS-to-AD&D conversion, but the project became so exhaustive that I kind of burned out on it.

    1. @ DMWieg:

      I'd think it wouldn't be all that hard, really. Get rid of PPE and use normal magic-user spells/level for mages, add "mega-HPs" in addition to normal HPs...yeah, that's a weird windmill to tilt there, Quixote, but it's definitely doable.
      ; )