Monday, February 22, 2010

Revising Palladium's System

I've been giving a lot of thought to Palladium's Megaversal System as of late. Now, I grew up on that system through Palladium Fantasy and Rifts, so it doesn't really bug me as much. However, I can see where it would bother the snot out of some people.

I don't have anything concrete, but here are a few things I would address, in my idea of Palladium.

Attributes That Mean Something: Right now, there is an entire range of stat numbers under Palladium that give no bonus or penalty. I'd like to see something more akin to the bonuses in d20, or in using stats in more of a roll-under sense. Let's make stats count. Heck, tie them as a bonus to certain skills, maybe.

Weapon Damage: OK, the whole MDC/SDC thing, I'm ready to junk it. Go for SDC only. Make any weapon that has more than 1 dice of damagege and is more than a 1d4 have a "Wild dice", which open-ends whenever the highest possible result is rolled (6 for a d6, 8 for a d8, and so on). This would help give a sense of hope against those opponents who take crazy amounts of damage.

Point-Buy, Open-Ended, Roll-Over Skills: I've always thought roll-under percentiles for skills was slightly unintuitive. I would take a page from Rolemaster: Roll a d100, add your skill rating. A 96-00 roll open-ends, and you get to roll again until you don't open end. You have to roll over a Target Number, depending on the difficulty of what you're trying. A 1-4 is a fumble. This ensures characters are not as limited in skill knowledge, and makes modifying a simple add-on of skill difficulty.

For skills themselves, no more class-related and secondary skills. Different classes will have different skill categories ranked as either Class, Normal, or Restricted. Class skills only cost 1 point to bump the skill up 5 percentage points (each investment is called a rank). Normal skills cost 2 points per 5%, and Restricted 3. Once you have 50% in a skill, the skill percentage increase per investment drops from 50% to 3%.

Scrap XP: It's a pain in the ass to track. As you may have guessed from above, Experience Points would be out of the mix here. Use simple Development Points, and award between 5-10 at the end of every session or (depending on your game). These may be saved or used as needed, and can be awarded for good roleplaying, participation, or making the GM laugh. Development Points can be used for skill or stat increases (stat increases being exceedingly expensive).

Simplify Combat: "I have 6 attacks or actions, he has 3. When do I take mine? OK, I dodged. Did I lose an attack?" OK, let's clear this up. Make Attack, Parry, and Dodge a single action in a single round. If you Dodge, that's it, unless you have another attack. Rounds are 10 seconds; players with any Hand-to-Hand Skill get 2 Attacks or Actions to start. Players get another action for every 10 points of dexterity above 10. (So 20 gets one more, 30 gets 2 more, and so on...). A weapon proficiency starts you a +1 to hit with that Weapon; not having it puts you at -4 to hit. Armor is an all-or-nothing proposition; you need to put 5 ranks in it to show comfort; otherwise, you're at a -4 to hit while wearing.

For every 50 or 100% put into Hand-to-Hand Combat Skill, you can choose either +1 action per 10 seconds, or +1 to strike in hand-to-hand combat. For every 50 or 100% put into a weapon, you gain another +1 to strike with that weapon. If you want to do something cool with a weapon or in combat, you also roll a skill check with your Hand-to-Hand or respective Weapon Skill. For example, carving a "Z" into the chest of your cyborg opponent with your Vibro-Blade might be beating a TN of 150 on your Vibro-Blade skill. Rolling to "sweep the leg" on an opponent would likely be a check vs. your Hand-to-Hand Combat skill (with a +25% bonus for quoting The Karate Kid during said attack), or, more likely, a contested check of both parties' Hand-to-Hand Combat skills.

Magic/Psionics: I will admit, I have no idea what to do with this one. Here's a few random thoughts: I'm going to say whatever the level of the spell, that's how many ranks you need to cast. It would also mean that you roll your Spellcraft skill for the type of spell (Utility, Fire, Attack, Cold, Defense, etc.). That would mean categorizing all the spell lists. Same deal with Psionics. Both Psionics and Spells would use Power Points. Goodbye, PPE/ISP.

Of course, I realize all these may appeal to just my style of gaming, and nothing here is written in stone. It's also hard to reinvent the wheel, but still try to have a system somewhat compatible with an old one. But it's fun to think aloud, sometimes.


Greyaxe said...

Use the Palladium environments and run them under Rolemaster.

Stargazer said...

You have some really good ideas here. I am looking forward to learn more about your own kitchen-sink game and custom rules system.

Zachary The First said...

@Greyaxe: I actually use a lot of RM conventions in my Rifts games. It's too good a system not to pillage some of the fiddly bits from!

@Stargazer: Thank you! I have been kicking around doing my own kitchen-sink RPG, but I'm not sure who'd be interested, outside of me. When you write rules that make sense to yourself, you have to hope others share your POV, I guess. :)

Barking Alien said...

Seriously? Just use a simpler, better system. You could fix it with the elements you describe but sometimes its more difficult and expensive to fix something than to just get a new one.

@Greyaxe- Use Rolemaster to cover Palladium? IMO, that's like saying you don't like or want to have such a complex and cumbersome system and instead you're going to go with something More complex and cumbersome. ;)

Zachary The First said...

The basic concepts of Rolemaster are very simple, in practice.

As for buying something new or fixing what's there, I think by the time I was done it would actually be a new game.

Stuart said...

I don't think there's anything wrong with MDC + SDC per se. It works really well in the Robotech RPG (Macross only).

Guy with a handgun vs. tank or mech? He's not going to do *anything* to hurt them. One hit from the tank or mech weapons on a regular infantry man? He's toast. It's basically the same thing you see in Battletech.

It only becomes a problem when you introduce infantry-scale weapons and armour that work on the MDC scale. Infantry scale stuff should never been given MDC - just high amounts of SDC if appropriate.

Things got messed up in Southern Cross / Invid Invasion with the power creep to give everything MDC. That just got worse as they moved into RIFTS.

Greyaxe said...

I like the completeness of Rolemaster. I find Rifts to be simple but incomplete and as such everyone i know has house rules to fill in the gaps. I have a group of Rolemaster players who, like d20 fans, can apply the system to any game they wish. Like any system you covet and use often Rolemaster is quite simple. It does involve engaging the players for lookups etc but once you get the rhythm, it's very fast and exciting.

Jason Richards said...

This is going to sound a little crazy, but bear with me. In my opinion, the biggest detriment to Palladium's system was the day it was decided that everyone in the world got an extra two attacks per melee, going from a base of two to a base of four. It killed the dynamics of combat. All of a sudden your Juicer or Power Armor pilot who had 5 attacks versus a normal adventurer or merc's 2 or 3 saw the ratio go from on the order of 2:1 to 3:2.

That might seem like a small issue, but it's effects are felt through the entire system. Combat rounds then began to get longer and longer. It also caused unbalance in other mechanics. You could now pull a trigger or use a psychic power two more times per melee, but mages didn't get a boost because their actions are based on time (half a melee round, a while melee round, etc.).

Add in the previously noted glut of MDC, combined with the incredibly low power of large, vehicle-scale weapons, which rarely do more than an average energy rifle, and you have combat that is just frustrating and interminable. I love a good brawl, but once the main battle of the session starts up the GM's greatest asset is a pencil sharpener so that he can keep track of damage.

Dangit, Zach, you got me started. I'm not going to get anything done today.

Jason Richards said...

Oh, and one more thing. I'd like to defend Palladium's percentile-based skill system a little bit. While it is not perfectly executed - having just spent a lot of time detailing and writing skills, the starting percentages and advancement are pretty arbitrary - the great thing about it is having different skill starting percentages and advancement rates. You can have some skills that are easy to learn the basics (high base percentage), tough to master (low base percentage), pick up and improve easily (higher advancement rate), or are harder to improve (lower advancement rate).

The issue with the way most skills are drawn up now is that they pretty much default to 30% +5% per level for the vast majority of skills. It seems a little wrong with Basic Math starts at 30% at first level, while Demolitions Disposal has a base level of success of something like 60%. Like most things in Palladium's system, it just needs to be looked at with a fresh perspective to see exactly why things are done how they are, and whether or not it's the best way.

Zenfar said...

Rifts world with Dangerous Journeys game mechanics...

Zachary The First said...

@Jason: Actually, I don’t have as big a problem with the skill system as presented. I just personally feel roll-over, as presented in games like Rolemaster, is more intuitive. I also think varying point-buy, with different character templates incurring different costs based on the skills presented, is a little less confusing. But that’s the beauty of houseruling and game creation, I suppose.

Sorry to distract from your daily tasks, by the way! :)

@Zenfar: That would indeed be dangerous! ;)

Steveo said...

I've always loved the percentile skills system. The flaw with it, as I've always seen it, is the random nature of OCC skills. Some OCCs are just way too powerful with the number of skills and related skills they get (Longbowman anyone?).

Jason Richards said...

@Steveo, you couldn't be more right. My favorite example is the Cyber-Knight in Rifts. Try rolling up three different Cyber Knights. You can't, because they're all the same. They get SO many skills that they don't have any variability in what related/secondary skills they get. They get ALL of the Weapon Proficiencies by level 5 or so. It's way over the top.

Seriously, they start with the Anthropology skill.

Zachary The First said...

Man, I had forgotten about that Anthropology skill. The Cyber-Knights, founded by Lord Coake and Louis Leakey.

Doug Wall said...

I'm actually working on my own version of the Palladium system over at

Zachary The First said...

Very cool, Doug! Thanks for the link!

Aaron said...

If you have the original Mechaniods book, it doesn't use MDC - you just have Mechaniods with scads of SDC. That might help as a reference for walking things back to sanity. I ran a game of it once - it was kind of cool, but never caught on with my group.

Marshall Smith said...

I would recommend inverting your point buy for skills. That is, rather than 1/2/3 points for 5%, have it always be 1 point but that buys you 5/3/1% Because if it always goes up by 5, why not just switch to using the d20?

I strongly disagree with your combat fixes. I think that you are killing a lot of the flavor of Rifts combat. I do admit that the combat system needs some fixing, but I would take entirely different directions.

Scrapping XP and levels really messes up spellcasters. It is pretty irrelevant for everyone else, but you would need to look carefully to see if implementing a Spellcraft skill is enough of a fix.

Also, I will say that 90% of the problems with Rifts could actually be fixed with just a series of good, solid editing passes. Get the whole system actually agreeing with itself, and it should work.

Zachary The First said...

@Marshall: Interesting skills idea.

I think combat could perhaps do with some formalization and reorganization of rules, that's for sure.

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