Continued RIFTS Complexity Discussion

So, since I didn’t really have anything better to do in my spare time, I took a crack at updating the Damage/AR rules for RIFTS.

I like Mega-Damage.  Sure, it doesn’t belong anywhere except in RIFTS, but RIFTS without Mega-Damage would just be…. I dunno, boring.  Not-RIFTS, as it were.  So instead of trying to be more “realistic” with RIFTS rules, what I wanted to do was change one of the Combat Mechanics to better represent how combat is depicted in RIFTS stories and pictures.

Like with my thoughts on skills, I searched for a mechanic within RIFTS that I thought did a good job of speeding up combat.  What I found was Natural AR.  Natural AR uses a go/no-go mechanic that reduces the math involved in combat (fewer hits means fewer subtractions of random numbers).  So I took the Natural AR rules and applied them to SDC AR and added back into the game MDC AR.

The numbers, comparisons, and drawbacks of the proposed system are after the jump.  I apologize for the formatting.  Gotta figure out how to cut & paste from Google Docs – here’s a link to the better formatted version.

Problem with Combat is that the numbers don’t add up with the cinematics, stories, or art found throughout the books.  The combat also drags on for many, many rounds and does not provide many bonuses for leveling, skill, or risk-taking.


Urban Warrior
MDC Main Body: 50
MDC Arm: 16

Wilk’s Laser Weapons
Pistol: 1d6 damage, 20 shots
Rifle: 3d6 damage, 20 shots

Weapon		Armor	MDC	to Hit	DMG	Actions	~Rounds	Shots
Wilk's 447	Main	50	0.65	10.5	7.33	2	7.33
Wilk's 320	Main	50	0.65	3.5	21.98	6	21.98
Wilk's 447	Arm	16	0.65	10.5	4.69	1	2.34
Wilk's 320	Arm	16	0.65	3.5	14.07	4	7.03

So what we see here is that it is far more optimal to spend the time making called shots at enemies limbs (weakest points) since there is no cost in accuracy, saves about 33% of the actions, and 66% of the number of shots.

When leveling, the skill of a person with a weapon doesn’t change the above scale in a significant way.  A level 15 character with a Wilk’s 320 is going to hit only 80% of the time (since a roll of 1-4 always misses) (requiring only 11 attacks instead of 14).

Because MDC ignores AR, leveling or skill has little to no impact on the game mechanics.  This is contrary to SDC combat, skills, psionics, and spells.

Let’s examine SDC (Ranged) combat, and the effect AR and leveling has on play.  An armor with 50 SDC and AR 15:

35% of the time, the attack misses.
35% of the time, the attack damages the Armor’s SDC.
30% of the time, the attack strikes the character’s SDC/HP.

Leveling can change these numbers.  At level 15, let’s say a character has a +8 to attack.

20% of the time, the attack misses.
15% of the time, the attack damages the Armor’s SDC.
65% of the time, the attack strikes the character’s SDC/HP.

This kind of dynamic is missing in MDC combat, and it makes MDC combat very slow.  You can see above that the pistol takes 20+ shots to take down one enemy… that’s 5 rounds of really boring combat.  The alternative is to make called shots against each enemy’s Arms location – and ALWAYS the arms location.  The world is full of armless corpses.  But that’s still 14 actions and 4 rounds of combat (even though it saves tremendously on ammo).

Proposed Alternative:

Bring AR back into MDC Combat.  The best way to speed up combat is with go/no-go mechanics.  We can find a good example of Go/No-Go mechanics with Natural AR.

With Natural AR, if the roll is less than the AR, then the attack misses.  If over, it damages the SDC of the target.  The system is quick, and rewards leveling (as described in SDC combat above).

Let’s apply that to MDC combat.

Attack Rolls

  1. Roll a d20 to hit
  2. If the attack roll is 1-4, you miss. (or 1-7 for ranged)
  3. If the attack roll is less than the AR, the attack doesn’t penetrate the armor.
    1. (even if the armor has 0 MDC left in it)
  4. If the attack roll is equal to or greater than the AR, the attack damages the MDC of the armor.
    1. If the Armor has no MDC (or no MDC left) the damage goes to the character.

For now, let’s remove the location-based MDC (which is primarily used to speed up combat as described above) and go with the following quick and dirty conversion:

New MDC = Old MDC/5
New AR = 10 + Old MDC/10

So for the Urban Warrior, the numbers come out to the following:
MDC 10
AR 15

Instead of going with the SDC AR mechanic which has 3-tiers (miss/armor/character) let’s use a Go/No-Go mechanic like Natural AR.

Note:  this won’t work for converting higher MDC equipment like Power Armors.  See the “Drawbacks” section for more details.

Like the Skills, it should be easy to group the AR into Light, Medium, and Heavy Armors.
Scraped or Broken: AR 10
Light: AR 12
Medium: AR 14
Heavy: AR 16
Power Armor: AR 18
Robots, Tanks, APCs: AR 20

So a level 1 character comes up with the following numbers with the Wilk’s 447 and 320.

MDC	to-hit	DMG	Actions	Rounds
10	0.3	10.5	3.17	1
10	0.3	3.5	9.52	2

This reduces the number of actions it takes to defeat an opponent, simulates better the cinematic combat, and speeds up the combat by requiring less math.  We don’t have to count like the following:

50-7 = 43

43-5 = 38


38-11 = 27

27-9 = 18


18-5 = 13


It’s a simple:


Under AR

10-7 = 4

Under AR

4-8 = 0

Under AR


There’s far less math (primarily less subtraction which is even better).

The system also rewards leveling.  Let’s look at a level 15 character (with a +8 to-hit):

MDC	to-hit	DMG	Actions	Rounds
10	0.7	10.5	1.36	1
10	0.7	3.5	4.08	1

Here, the highly skilled character can almost one-shot someone wearing armor.  This provides the high level cinematic skills that we see present in all the Stories and Pictures in RIFTS.

Let’s take the image on page 15 of the Coalition Wars: Cyberknights book.  Even Lord Coake, with a 6D6 MD Psi-Sword, would not be able to penetrate a GB killer like that, or do any of the other damage described in that scene.

This also allows weapons to vary their lethality in 3 different ways:

  • Bonus to-hit
  • Damage Dice
  • Armor Penetration

Armor Penetration (or AP) is a reduction in the AR of the target against the current attack.

The above system also makes dodging or parrying far more important in terms of defensive maneuvers, as the number of attacks required to drop a character is greatly decreased.


Unlike the Skill System I mentioned, this will require a complete re-write and re-balance of the weapons, armors, and powers in the game.  Quick and dirty guidelines for conversion follow:

A weapon which deals 4d6 MD (14 avg) might be reduced to a 3d6 MD weapon, with AP 2. (to represent its damage dealing capabilities)

A weapon which deals 1d4x10 (25 avg) damage might instead be reduced to a 3d6 MD weapon, with AP 6.

In general, weapons which deal less than 3d6 damage – keep them as-is.
Weapons which deal more than 3d6 damage, considering swapping additional d6 of damage for AP 2.

The Glitter Boy’s Boom Gun (and other high-powered anti-armor weapons) presents an interesting challenge.  3D6x10 damage is a lot, 110 on average, and will kill (on average)
SAMAS 2-3 shots
UAR-1 3-4 shots
CR-003 5 shots
CS SkyCycle 1-2 shots
CA-1 Armor 1 shot
CA-2 Armor 1 shot
DPM 101 1 shot
Crusader 1 shot
Juicer 1 shot
Urban Warrior 1 shot

So… looking at that, let’s use something like the following:

Boom Gun
AP 10
MD 6d6

Using the following rules for a SAMAS:

Current Main Body MDC: 250
Proposed Quick & Dirty Method:
MDC 50
AR 35

The above AR is kindof… wrong.  The simple Quick & Dirty math for body armors doesn’t apply to high MDC armors, Powered Armor, Robots, or Armored Vehicles.  With the old rules, it would take approximately 36 shots with the Wilk’s 447 to drop (5x than the Urban Warrior)

Let’s use the following numbers (Current MDC divided by 10)
MDC 25
AR 18

Here, this will take 15 shots with the Wilk’s 447 (5x than the Urban Warrior using the new system).  However, this makes AP weapons and skill much more important when targeting heavily armored opponents.  In both the current and proposed systems, it would be foolish to go up against a SAMAS with a Wilk’s 447.

But the Boom Gun (AP 10, MD 3d6) can chew through the SAMAS in comparatively the same number of attacks.

			MDC	to-hit	DMG	Attacks
SAMAS v Boom (old)	250	0.65	105	3.66
SAMAS v Boom (new)	25	0.65	21	1.84

You also would want to use a weapon like the NG-202 or the CR-1 Rocket Launcher.  With an AP 6, 3d6, it would take 5 attacks (on average) instead of 15 in the old system.

Since we’re looking at a 2x speedup of combat with a Wilk’s 447 vs Urban Warrior, we find just about the same 2x speedup with a Boom Gun vs SAMAS armor (or other High-Damage weapon).  It’s still also possible to “clip” a unit with Urban Warrior and not kill it using the Boom Gun – about 10% at first level, and reduced to the same 5% or so with the current system as the wielder levels.

As an aside, it should be noted that MD weapons ignore SDC AR (or, rather, are AP 100 against them).

Summary of Proposed System:

Change the rules for AR to make them uniform across the board, and apply them to Natural AR, SDC AR, and MDC AR.

Reduce the damage of high-damage weapons, and instead give them Armor Penetration (AP).

Quick & Dirty Conversions:
Reduce the MDC of body armors by dividing by 5
Power Armor, Robots, or Armored Vehicles by dividing by 10

Assign the following AR to armor:
Scraped, Makeshift, or Broken: AR 10
Light: AR 12
Medium: AR 14
Heavy: AR 16
Power Armor: AR 18
Robots, Tanks, APCs: AR 20

Weapons which deal less than 3d6 damage – keep them as-is.
Weapons which deal more than 3d6 damage, consider swapping extra d6 of damage for AP 2.
Large anti-armor weapons should have an AP roughly equal to current MD avg divided by 10.

Benefits of Proposed System:


  1. Combat Speeds up by threefold (at least)
  2. Leveling gives far more important edge in combat.
  3. Less math involved.
  4. AR means the same for SDC, Natural, and MDC.
  5. Makes Parrying and Dodging far more important.

Drawbacks of Proposed System:

  1. Conversion is nowhere near as simple as Skills.
  2. Makes Parrying and Dodging far more important.
  3. Combat is far more swingy – with a few rolls, things could go very badly for the PCs.
  4. Should be paired with an updated combat (attacks, bonuses, actions) system.

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