So, I've been browsing some copies of roleplaying books beyond what I normally read to try to jumpstart some ideas that are jostling around in my head, and I've noticed a weird trend in the Rifts books: after a certain point, Kevin Siembieda and/or his co-authors started inserting long, chiding arguments with a generalized representation of the game's players about how they're Doing Magic Wrong. Now, I've only found three examples of this in a fairly large product line, but I'm not looking at the whole line, and it's in all three of the books I looked at, and that's kind of weird.
Kevin Siembieda dropping an editorial into the front of his books (or the middle of his books, or the middle of a sentence) isn't anything new or unusual. It's just weird to see this specific trend popping up in the middle of a well-established and mature product line.
In order to not mischaracterize what's happening, I'll be clear that they're not arguing against house rules. In fact, these editorial passages often include (or even conclude with) "If you don't like how it works, change it!" Siembieda's all about the house rules. In fact, it's rare that he releases a book that's playable without
house rules, because the rules as written are contradictory, unclear, or missing important particulars.
The crux of the argument boils down to the fact that wizard characters in Rifts usually end up packing conventional weaponry. Now, conventional weaponry in Rifts means handheld weapons of mass destruction. The reason for this is the same reason that Wizards in pre-4E D&D would have carried a plasma cannon if they were available: because you can carry reloads for a plasma cannon, but you can't carry reloads for your magic missile.
My unfavorite setting in the Palladium universe has a version of this problem with psionics and magic. Heroes Unlimited gives actual superpowered characters a slate of powers that they can use usually completely at will, and wizards and psychics have energy points... which again and still, can only be recovered by resting. A lot of the super abilities were created by adapting (i.e., cutting and pasting) the effects of multiple spells. So by picking one major power, you can outperform a high level wizard in a single broad area. And you can do it forever.
There are some ancillary reason for this phenomenon that are specific to Rifts. Rifts is a mash-up of... well, everything that Palladium has ever had a hand in, but mostly high fantasy and high tech. The high tech combat rules and modern/futuristic weaponry rules were written with things like vehicle dogfights and giant robot attacks in mind, and the ranges tend to reflect that. The fantasy spells are largely copied and pasted from the D&D clone in which they originated, where they were competing with crossbows and thrown daggers. So a lot of the spells have a really restrictive range compared to the kind of handheld artillery that's available, which means wizards are either 1) packing heat or 2) wearing powered armor so they can survive to get within range of the rail-gun wielding mechsuit.
Now, this doesn't mean that they don't use magic. It just means they're not using magic to zap enemies. And that's a sound tactical decision. When you can rain fire and death on your foes without expending a precious resource that can also do things that technology can't, it kind of makes sense that you'd save the precious resource for those things, you know? It's not like Palladium doesn't have fun and interesting magic beyond straightforward attacking. In fact, the generic attack spells are some of the most blah things about the system.
And a world where the state of the art of physical warfare has progressed to the point where it exceeds what can be done with magic but doesn't require overly onerous training (point and click interface!)... there's nothing wrong with that as a fantasy setting.
But it's not the world Siembieda envisions. In his world, choosing to play as a "man of magic" (this dude seriously genders everything, even when there's no reason, and then insists that it's unisex) means you've made a decision to choose the elegance of magic over the clunkiness of fighting and using mundane technology. This isn't reflected by the rules, he just feels it should be the obvious and natural character choice. And he lays out this thesis again and again.
And if you don't think that wizards are worth it, you have his permission to change the system. But it apparently never occurs to him that this is might be a systemic problem.
They already have it as an official line that magic on Rifts is just more powerful and more abundant than anywhere else in the Palladium Megaverse. How hard would it be to re-write the ranges for Rifts? How hard would it be to up the energy refill rate? Just making it so you regain energy slowly even when not resting would help, because then it wouldn't be "I only have this much spell juice until we stop and rest for the night", it would be, "I'd better use some spell juice now, because I'm full which means all the points I would be getting back right now is just wasted potential".
How hard would it be to give all the spell-slinging character classes a couple of simple magical attacks that are second nature to them and thus can be used without restriction? They don't have to be powerful. In fact, they could be weaker
compared to the available conventional weapons, but the fact that they're free and don't take ammo would ensure that more wizards wiz than currently do.
All of this has cemented my belief in the absolute necessity of infinitely repeatable spells in a high magic world setting. I mean, wizards in D&D can't generally carry plasma cannons, but think about how ubiquitous the Wizard With A Crossbow became in 3rd Edition. "Of course they have a crossbow, they're a Wizard!" is one of those things that suggests a wonderfully quirky magic system... and though it does derive from a quirk of the magic system, it's not a great one.This entry automatically cross-posted from http://alexandraerin.dreamwidth.org/566252.html. Comment hither or thither. Void where yon.