14 June, 2009

Game Mechani(sm) of the Week #23: Mega Damage

It's about time I added a game mechanism I HATE.

This series of entries isn't just meant to be about things for groups to introduce into their games, it should probably act as a beacon of things to avoid. But in the interests of constructive criticism, I'll add a few alternatives that I find far more palatable.

The system I hate is "Mega Damage" from Palladium Books.

It had it's place in the game where it was first introduced, but it's application to other parts of their game line was stupid in my opinion.

There is plenty of dialogue on assorted forums and blogs about the origins of the Palladium gaming system as a mutant offshoot of early AD&D, then a series of hodge-podge additions to that core systems in an attempt to create something rivaling "GURPS" and other generic systems in development at around the same time. Some would claim that Palladium did the "generic" thing before GURPS, other would say that GURPS did it better and then forced Palladium to play catch-up....that's all histrionics and beside the point.

Mega-Damage was an interesting addition to the Palladium system which appeared in the licensed Robotech series of games.

In essence, characters have hit points (typically 10 to 50 or more as they gain experience). In the palladium system they also have Structural Damage Capacity (SDC). Objects also have SDC, and whenever someone attempts to harm a person or an object, damage is dealt to the SDC to relfect flesh wounds and bruises before serious effects occurs with a wounding of Hit Points. I've gone on previously about how I feel hit points are an inferior system...

Mega Damage takes this to a grander level. 1 point of mega damage capacity (MDC) is equal to 100 hit points or SDC.

In a world with giant robots it makes sense to have vastly powerful weapons capable of obliterating small humans while the same weapon only deals a minor scratch to the battle juggernaut.

But RIFTS applied the same system to human sized beings and supernatural creatures. I guess it's a bit reminiscent of the robots in the Terminator movies, suffering vast amounts of damage without slowing down, using incredible strength to throw mere mortals around.

But there are some interesting scaling dilemmas that appear, along with serious engineering issues such as hardness and malleability of protective plating. A physical impact enough to punch through a human might not be able to punch through a sheet of 1 inch steel, but the same inertial impact is felt. It seems stupid that a human could be thrown back by the impact, while a supernatural being of the same height and weight doesn't even get knocked down.

There is also the anomaly of mere mortals becoming vastly powerful through their improvement in play, such mortals may gain more than 100 combined hit points and SDC and are suddenly able to withstand the impact of these weapons that would normally blow a hole through any regular joe.

Palladium gives two standard options when it comes to Mega Damage. Either use it, or don't. If you don't use it, the MDC ratings are simply changed to SDC ratings...no change of numbers, no conversion factors, simply pretend the "M" is printed as an "S"then the powerful technologies simply become regular toys.

I've managed to successfully overcome some of this and bring the "Mega Damage" system into a more 'realistic' paradigm, by using MDC but scaling it down somewhat. Reducing 1 MDC to equal 10 SDC or Hit Points. Not a great solution, but it has improved things vastly in the games where I've implemented it.
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