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steve from the internets said on October 18th, 2015 at 2:05 am

I too made characters from that sourcebook and never played them – although if I remember right I did make a robocop-esque cyborg from another sourcebook and got a few sessions out of that.

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LurkerWithout said on October 18th, 2015 at 5:55 am

After a brief “Mutants Down Under” one-off a while back I really want to find a way to strip out the TMNT Bio-E/mutant creation rules and use them with a better base rules system. ‘Cause man is Palladium’s even clunkier then I remember.

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malakim2099 said on October 19th, 2015 at 11:43 am

Palladium was such a horrible rules system, but definitely some of the most interesting characters.

Mutant Velocripator Muay Thai Kickboxer!

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@LurkerWithout: I dunno, I never thought it was that bad–you roll a d20 to hit and add on bonuses, and it’s opposed by a d20 roll to block or dodge. Not significantly different from any edition of D&D, save that they take the opposed roll out of the equation and simply up the difficulty of the to-hit check.

Where it gets problematic, to my mind, is the fact that someone with a lot of sourcebooks and time can mine the game for innovative ways to stack up the bonuses, along with a system for stat rolling that directly rewards luck (16, 17 and 18 are rewarded with an extra die). This results in “power characters” that it’s difficult to balance a game around. But that’s not really any different from, say, 3rd edition D&D, and at least they didn’t work in all sorts of different bonuses that sometimes stacked and sometimes didn’t and required an even more arcane mastery of even more sourcebooks just to know whether you weren’t accidentally cheating.

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I love Rifts way more than it deserves, but Palladium’s system has always been an unbalanced hot mess that Siembieda just keeps bolting more crazy onto. He’s never, ever done a second edition of it and vigorously denies any flaws pointed out to him. Supposedly he doesn’t even use the system at con games.

Still, it was fun to mess around with in high school.

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Harper finally got kicked out and not one post about the election?A sure sign MGK has a abandoned his blog.

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I think he’s still in Europe. His Twitter feed is full of takes. :)

@Lindsey: The dirty secret of the RPG world–the GM is all that stands between pretty much any system and “unbalanced hot mess”. :) I don’t think there’s ever been a game I played in where the GM ran it purely out of the box, unless of course you count the disclaimer at the front of pretty much every game book that says, “In a conflict between the book and the GM, the GM wins.”

Now, that’s not to say that the writer doesn’t have an obligation to try to avoid power creep, confusing wording, and other problems, but I would never avoid a game based solely on complaints about the system. ‘Feng Shui’, one of my favorite games ever (and admittedly, I’m biased because I wrote for it) is explicitly about ludicrously unbalanced characters beating up hapless mooks on their way to fighting insanely over-the-top enemies.

Basically, you can kludge something playable out of Palladium with a minimum of effort, which is all I require for a game with friends. :)

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I agree that most game systems require some degree of a deft hand but Palladium is exceptional in that realm. Like, if the solution to bad design is ‘ehhh just let the GM handle it’ every time, there’s a point where you should just ditch the system and try something better.

But I get into that discussion with D&D people all the time–they can’t fathom something else being able to run fantasy. Impossible! D&D IS fantasy! … it’s a long discussion.

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The only palladium I’ve ever played was Rifts, and that definitely got out of hand very quickly without a significant amount of GM work and rule mastery.

One of the things that has kept D&D (+Pathfinder) going is that for the most part it *is* very playable out of the box and it doesn’t take a lot of system mastery to keep it reigned in while still having enough rules to appeal to the part of you that likes that stuff.

I mean, I loved Rifts, but it literally has no concept of balance in game design and that’s an enormous flaw.

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@Dasz: For a given value of “play”, it certainly can be an enormous flaw. If you have a competitive group, or a group where players will get resentful if one member is noticeably stronger than another, then yes, balance is a big deal. If you, as a GM, have a hard time finding things to challenge your players with, then yes, balance is a big deal.

But if your group has fun being awesome-powerful and fighting the literal Four Horseman of the Apocalypse and everyone is having fun, I don’t think balance matters. It’s kind of the key point of the post–different people get different things out of a game, and there’s more types of fun to be had than just “can you run this with a group of strangers at a con without fights breaking out?” While recognizing that yes, that is a consideration and Palladium does fail at that. :)

Basically, I’m saying these are legit knocks against Palladium, but the game still has a ton of value and shouldn’t be disregarded just for that.

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Man I fucking loved Rifts, don’t get me wrong.

But it’s completely possible, even without anyone actively trying to accomplish it specifically, for one player to be so much better than everyone else that basically no one gets to play except him(or the opposite, where someone is so weak their character is unplayable). And that’s not so much fun for anyone. Preventing that is the GM’s job or course, but in Rifts it requires more system knowledge than in most games.

Also, when I say Rifts literally has no concept of balance, I mean exactly that. The lead designer outright stated that he didn’t balance the game.

All that said, Rifts was still fucking rad, you just needed a GM that knew the rules. Like how Hero system is great even if you can’t run it without an MS in Statistics.

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@Dasz: See, I’d say that if one player is doing everything and nobody else gets a chance to play, that’s on the GM regardless of system. It means they made a campaign that caters exclusively to a single type of gameplay (combat, negotiation, infiltration) that only one or two players specialized in, and they’re not adjusting the game to give other players a chance to shine. Yes, Rifts is more obvious about that than most–if you’re making a combat-heavy game, and one person made a Cosmo Knight while everyone else made Rogue Scholars and City Rats, then there’s going to be friction. But that’s not because the Rogue Scholars are insufficiently balanced, it’s because the GM didn’t communicate the expectations for the campaign effectively and allowed everyone to simply make whatever they felt like playing. A more balanced system isn’t going to solve that problem, only reduce it.

The key to any good game is making sure that the GM and the players are all working from the same idea of what they want the campaign to be about, and that it’s all something they’ll enjoy doing. If that doesn’t happen, there’s no system in the world that will save the GM’s bacon. If it does happen, then Rifts is not really any worse than any other game–arguably, it’s better than most, because the lack of balance is a tool the GM can use to make a wide variety of campaigns from low-powered intrigue to big god-blasting combat epics. (It’s like GURPS in that respect; you can tell a wide variety of stories just by setting different point scales on your campaign.)

Again, I will cheerfully agree that Rifts defaults to big god-blasting combat epics, and that the GM has to work harder to scale down than to scale up, but those are only flaws if your expectation of a game is that everyone should be just as powerful as everyone else and that the primary consideration is that no character creation decision made for the sake of story should carry a rules penalty. That’s a valid view, but it’s not the only one.

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@John Seavey You’re kind of arguing here that because the system is unbalanced, therefore it is balanced–like it is okay to enjoy Rifts, but claiming it isn’t seriously, deeply flawed is sort of squinty.

Basically so many caveats of ‘with a good GM’ more or less mean ‘you have to fix your game on the fly constantly or it will break’ and this is not good design. The game itself should communicate its expectations (Rifts does not do this, they didn’t even have a published adventure module in the core and they didn’t make campaign suggestions until Mechanoids (sort of) and Phase World) as well as avoid listing options that are just flat-out traps. The GM should not have to constantly steer the players away from crippling themselves and an inexperienced GM is not going to be able to do this out of the gate. GMs don’t just spring forth fully invested in a system.

Then there’s also a lot of cases where the fluff and stated expectations of the game simply do not match the statistical capabilities assigned to a class. The Cosmo-Knight has a big black warning about how sooper-powerful it is and how it can totes unbalance the game but it is a trap. Oh, not completely, they are pretty strong, but their main power is ‘be immune to lasers’ and most weapons in the game, even in Phase World, are not lasers. They say Cosmo-Knights can go toe-to-toe with starships and win but it’d be an even matchup with the weakest fighter craft in the game since all of them have at least one bullet gun.

Basically, you can totally run a good Rifts game. But you might be having your fun in spite of the system rather than because of it, and you can divorce the setting concepts from the numbers to use something less…crazy if what you like is the setting fluffs and the lovely high-school binder-doodle art. Just don’t post your conversions online if you don’t like C&Ds.

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No, I’m saying that while it is unbalanced, “balance” is not necessarily the end goal of a game, “fun” is. A game can be balanced without being fun and vice versa. The things you’re talking about are things that can happen in any game–D&D has jokes older than I am about how useless bards and monks are, but that’s simply taken as part of the charm of the game and we expect players to know what they’re getting into when they choose those classes.

Again (again again…) I’m not saying that Palladium is flawless. I’m just saying that most of the reputation for clunkiness and power-gaming is down to munchkins being munchkins. Yes, the game makes it easier for munchkins than some others (although even there, man, remember when anyone could print an OGL sourcebook? “Oh, hey, I found this third-party D&D sourcebook that lets me make a beholder PC.”) But that shouldn’t deter a GM from using it, because man, munchkins gonna munch and it’s the GM’s job to deal. :)

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Like how Hero system is great even if you can’t run it without an MS in Statistics.

Hey now, HERO system isn’t that difficult to get your head around. It’s a fairly steep learning curve, I’ll give you, but it’s still better than a lot of the truly old school games (Amber Diceless, Traveller, Runemaster) and that complexity gives you room to build nearly anything how you want it (if the GM will let you).

Plus, I just personally much prefer the 3d6 probability curve basic roll versus the more common d20 flat probability basic roll.

Some people prefer GURPS because it is so light on the stats versus HERO for allllll the character statistics and that’s fine, because different strokes etc. (These people are, of course, Wrong.) 😉

As for TMNT&OS and the original post, I had a lot of fun creating characters with it, and even played one short campaign with some.

And although I kinda like the assorted Palladium universes and their wackiness, I think I’d rather do my taxes than play with the Palladium system these days.

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@JayDzed: This is a really illuminating conversation–I had no idea that anyone considered Amber Diceless to be hard to wrap your head around. Four stats, no modifiers–highest number wins. To me, that’s gaming stripped down almost to the bare minimum.

Traveler and Rolemaster, on the other hand, intimidated me to the point where I’ve never even tried. :)

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Ah Traveller, the game where your character can die during creation.

And John, I think we’re talking past each other to an extent. I am not talking about munchkins. I’m also not talking about a GM that doesn’t clearly communicate what the goals are. I’m talking about a case where there is a low overall level of system mastery, everyone is making characters for the same kind of campaign, and one character accidentally cripples himself and becomes useless for what he’s supposed to be doing because certain options in Rifts are basically traps. (This can also happen in reverse where one character accidentally makes himself so much better than everyone else because he happened to make all the right decisions). In Rifts, it doesn’t really matter how good a GM you are, because without a certain level of system mastery(higher than in most games because of the imbalance) this can happen completely on its own. For example, the GM just has to *know* that you can’t ever let anyone have the unholy trinity (I’ve been lucky enough to play only in campaigns where that has been an explicit house rule).

Also, munchkins aren’t the issue. People throw that term around, but having a high level of system mastery and building the strongest character you can is usually enough to be called a munchkin, and the problem is players who have their fun at the expense of other people. To be honest, I’ve never noticed much of a correlation – it’s just a mater of whether you get called a “munchkin” or a garden variety “asshole”.

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mygif

Well, ADRS, no so much difficult to understand as (IMHO) crap. The most difficult part IIRC was the stats auction.

Partly that’s my dislike for systems that are stripped down too far (again, IMO)/emphasise ‘pure roleplaying’ at the expense of the chosen RNG and partly it was the people I know that thought it was the bestest thing evar!!1!

Let’s face it, the wrong people gushing about something can seriously detract from any attraction it may have had otherwise.

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@Dasz: I guess you’ll have to be clearer, because I’m trying to think of an example of a character class in the basic Rifts book that sounds good on paper but is unplayable in practice.

(As opposed to ones that sound unplayable on paper and are also unplayable in practice, like Vagabonds. If your player says, “Hey, I’ve always wanted to play a homeless person with no special skills or abilities in a campaign full of walking tanks and people who can kill you with their mind,” I am again going to suggest that the game system may not be your biggest problem here.)

I know that as you get into the sourcebooks, there are some weird power creep issues and bizarre OCCs/RCCs that kind of go off the rails, but to me that falls into the OGL category–anyone who is buying extra sourcebooks beyond the main Rifts book in order to seek out characters that interest them is probably someone with enough system mastery to know how to make a good character and what to avoid. You don’t drop hundreds of dollars on a game beyond the core rulebook unless you’re already invested enough to enjoy playing it. Any examples from the core Rifts book of a class that sounds fun, but just isn’t fun and can’t be made fun?

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I can’t give you a specific example because it’s been too long, sorry. I do want to point out though, that you’re conflating “investment” and “detailed system mastery” and they aren’t the same thing. I have one friend in particular that I love to game with, but he is *terrible* at system mastery for anything. Left to his own devices, he will often show up at games with characters that are interesting but borderline unplayable – to the point that when we were playing together regularly, our group made a point of having him explain what he wanted and then whoever was most familiar with the system would just build him a character. He bought plenty of supplements, he just wouldn’t spend a lot of time reading the rules parts of them.

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LurkerWithout said on October 25th, 2015 at 4:22 am

I actually ran a Goblin Vagabond during a convention one-off. Everyone else has killer robots and super-pyschic demon hunters and one guy had some kludged together Jedi conversion and ran with Bob who had a .38 and a willingness to hide behind the bigger pcs. I can see it becoming a massive drain in a real campaign, but it was fun being an ep leech amidst the demi-gods.

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@Dasz: There’s nothing wrong with that, though–my wife has been doing that since college. She doesn’t like character creation and rulebooks simply annoy her, so she describes what she wants to make and someone who enjoys that makes it happen. And again, that’s not specific to Palladium–she’s just not interested in that aspect of gaming, and there’s pretty much always someone who is, so it all works out. I don’t see it as a big issue unless everyone, including the GM, is that way, in which case I doubt they’d have ever gravitated to Palladium to begin with. :)

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Sure, I wasn’t criticizing it. All I’m saying is that Palladium has a tendency to require a greater level of system mastery than other games to prevent player imbalance(which isn’t fun for anyone except assholes).

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@Dasz: Than some other games, sure. I don’t know that I’d say Palladium requires more system mastery than D&D 3.5, for example; while you can make a competent character with a minimum degree of rules knowledge, it was well known that certain specific feats and items could combine to make uber-characters that would trash just about any adventure.

Not to mention, the multiple differentiated types of bonuses (Ability Modifier, Alchemical Bonus, Armor Bonus, Circumstance Modifier, Competence Modifier, Deflection Bonus, Dodge Bonus, Enhancement Bonus, Insight Bonus, Luck Modifier, Morale Modifier, Natural Armor Bonus, Profane Modifier, Racial Bonus, Resistance Bonus, Sacred Modifier, Shield Bonus, Size Modifier, according to one list I saw) were absolutely overwhelming. That’s the sort of thing you give to a computer to keep track of, which utterly defeats the purpose of tabletop gaming. At least Palladium more or less keeps it down to strike/parry/dodge.

Again, I don’t think it’s the easiest system in the world–that would still be ‘Feng Shui’ for me, which is a piece of elegance and simplicity in design that cannot be overstated. (The rules for magic in Feng Shui are a thing of beauty and a joy forever.) But it’s not nearly the incomprehensible monolith of Byzantine number crunching its reputation would indicate.

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Fate is probably easier than Feng Shui, but that’s just quibbling.

The multiple types of bonuses in d20 aren’t as confusing as they sound. All you really have to remember is that bonuses stack if the type is different, and don’t stack if the type is the same.

Most of the broken stuff in 3.5 isn’t in the Core rules. The really unbalanced stuff was usually from unanticipated interactions (Night sticks + Divine Spell Power as a prominent example) that were usually pretty obvious what the problem was. The thing is though, that it takes system mastery to do that and is almost impossible to accidentally stumble into.

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