101 Days of Rifts: Rules II

I am going to use MDC by the book.

When I planned a rules post about MDC that was not what I intended to write. I was going to use a Monday Pointers to survey all kinds of MDC house rules. Then, on Thursday I was going to walk through several of these alternatives. Finally, I was going to discuss Jim Stoner’s alternative which I intended to use.

What changed? Three things changed my mind. Two things I found in my research and one classic OSR post combined to change my mind.

The first thing I discovered was MDC to SDC: taking out MDC on the Palladium Forums. Two points in the thread impressed me. While technically the second of the two points in reading the first to make a large impacts was so a LAW rocket which does 1d6*100 SDC will do 1d6 MD (pst by Nekira Sudacne). While at the time I thought it wasn’t true because SDC can never damage MDC I did find the damage amount interesting. With the MDC:SDC ratio set at 100:1 in theory you could house rule a 1d6*100 SDC weapon into an 1d6 MDC weapon. More importantly it gives some perspective on what MDC means both for armor and for magical creatures. In the movies we are okay with rifle fire never harming Godzilla but we expect an anti-tank rocket to get his attention. If we convert a LAW rocket to MDC (because SDC can never harm MDC) that works like we expect. Now, the hand-held MDC pistols are shrunken LAWs in terms of damage just as a LAW is a shrunken cannon. I can’t say KS used this logic back in the 80s to setup MDC but it’s reasonable.

Right before that line the post says in the rifts main book, it says that while a culmination of SDC attacks will never harm MDC (like a 9mm. handgun) a single massive SDC attack will. any explosion or attack that does 100 SDC will do 1 MD. the formula works in reverse. This I knew was not true. Oh, it’s a common house rule that is usually combined with dropping the MDC:SDC ratio to 20:1 or 10:1. However, the Rifts main book specifically says To damage a Mega-Damage Capacity (M.D.C.) structure you must use something that inflicts MegaDamage (M.D.) (pg 38) and Normal weapons do absolutely no damage to mega-structures (M.D.C.), even if the combined total damage is over 100 S.D.C (pg 40). That seems pretty clear-cut that SDC never does MDC. As I said, letting the LAW do 1d6 MDC was a common house rule and is possibly implied in the MDC example which calls a bazooka a mega-damage weapon.

However, what if Nekira Sudacne was referring to Rifts: Ultimate Edition which came out the same year as the thread? Yes, the dates are a little off but maybe some previews were released. In its MDC section it says Only S.D.C. weapons that inflict 100 or more S.D.C points of damage can hurt MDC armor. All other SDC attacks (1-99 points of damage) bounce off the armor like bullets bouncing off Superman. I’m not sure this was a clarification and we’d spent the 90s playing it incorrectly or Palladium had endorsed the house rule. Going back and reading Robotech where MDC was first introduced is no help as it could go either way although I’d still lean towards no SDC attack, even one that does 100+ points of SDC, do not affect MDC.

It is hard to underestimate the affects of allowing single 100+ point SDC attacks to do SDC/100 round down MDC. For one thing, conventional explosives now become useful on Rifts Earth. For that matter, boulders and gravity are now viable. When asked about what is the point of classes not arrayed with MDC weapons and armor in Rifts KS has long emphasized planning and stealth. When large-scale conventional attacks can work this makes more sense. Under the classic interpretation of MDC the two Ewok log pendulums would leave the Imperial walker undamaged. Now, the results could be straight out of The Empire Strikes Back.

Referencing KS’s discussion of how to use low powered classes in Rifts brings me to the third thing to change my mind. In one of the classics of the OSR Trollsmyth riffed on an earlier earlier James Maliszewski writing and argued we should analyze early editions of D&D through the idea that “D&D is always right”. The idea isn’t that the game is flawless but that the game does what it does for a reason. The reason may not even have been conscious and may have evolved in play but it does it for a reason. I decided to try “Rifts is always right.”

So, when the campaign starts we will use MDC as written. If the group doesn’t like how that works out we’ll experiment but for now we will play “Rifts is always right” at least when it comes to MDC.

11 thoughts on “101 Days of Rifts: Rules II

  1. I believe the “clarification” was in an earlier supplement than Rifts UE (maybe the first sourcebook with the ARCHIE robots and whatnot?), but I don’t have my books here in South America to reference.

    I am a big fan of using RAW, but I think for a Rifts to work, it’s best to limit its scope for your series (not just use/allow every supplement/sourcebook). Good luck!

    • JB, welcome to the conversation.

      It’s quite possible it’s in an earlier book. I know it’s not in Sourcebook 1’s Q&A but might be elsewhere. Palladium in general isn’t know for organization.

  2. The 100 S.D.C. = 1 MD formula isn’t a house rule. It has been there from day one. I don’t have the Ultimate Edition but my original copy of Rifts has the following on page 11: “Typically, only a mega-damage weapon can harm a M.D.C. structure. S.D.C. missiles and explosives that can inflict over 100 S.D.C. points of damage do inflict the equivalent of mega-damage. In these rare cases, approximately every 100 S.D.C. points of damage equals one mega-damage points. Always round down S.D.C.damage. For example: A missile that inflicts 450 S.D.C. equals 4 M.D.C.” I’ll admit it would make more sense if this was in the combat section but odd rule placement is a quirk common to Palladium games and I grew accustomed to it. Besides, I was used to hunting rules from AD&D … the one that stands out is locating how a fighter’s 3 attacks every 2 rounds actually works in the DMG. It isn’t explained in the PHB so every DM who I played under interpreted it as 1 attack on the first round and 2 on the second. It is actually 2 attacks every odd round so a fighter would get 2 attacks on the first round. That particular gem is buried in a block of text titled “initiative for creatures with multiple attack routines.” So, yeah, locating obscurely placed rules had to become a skill.

    • Given I’ve owned the Rifts core book for two decades and the first Robotech book even long (nearly 3 as frightening as that is) I’ll admit to never seeing that. The Robotech rules only discuss rounding down SDC when evaluating if MDC destroys something (ie, 299 SDC was destroyed by 2 MDC).

      I’d also note that most people commenting online in the period from the initial book and UE also never seemed to catch that. Perhaps we all didn’t read too closely because we already “knew” MDC from Robotech.

      One final thought, should what you have in you Rifts be another example of the shadow edits people discuss later with respect to post UE reprints of the world books to bring them into compliance with the UE rules?

    • Home and I can look more.

      Looking back at the blog post I quoted it starts: common mistake. it’s why it’s good to read EVERY WORD in a section. I say this because the second part is a common mistake.

      in the rifts main book, it says that while a cummination of SDC attacks will never harm MDC (like a 9mm. handgun) a single massive SDC attack will. any explosion or attack that does 100 SDC will do 1 MD. the formula works in reverse.

      Given it is from 2005 the author did mean the old core book. However, as I had observed, it is apparently a common mistake based on his start.

  3. Rules as written, with or without the interpretation that 100+ SDC attacks can affect MDC? Your conclusion seemed to be in favor of allowing big SDC attacks to affect MDC targets:

    (“When asked about what is the point of classes not arrayed with MDC weapons and armor in Rifts KS has long emphasized planning and stealth. When large-scale conventional attacks can work this makes more sense.”)

    But then you seem to reach the opposite conclusion in the end. So just curious which you meant (as you also mention, the rules as written in some Palladium games seem to allow for “mega” SDC attacks)?

    • I’m playing with UE’s rules which, based on Mphs.Steve above, may have always been there.

      My point is allowing SDC > 100 in one shot (explosions, LAW, RPG, etc) to do SDC/100 round down in MDC makes the planning and stealth aspects make more sense.

      Regardless of my misreading in the past UE clearly states SDC > 100 can do MDC and that’s what I referring to as RAW.

  4. …and the hits keep coming!

    Interesting post about MDC/SDC and a little bit of variants. I’ve read several – maybe many – MDC variants throughout the years but I have never used one in a game. Most of the ones I’ve seen involve changing the ratio to 10:1, 20:1, or 50:1. From what I have seen there are some that completely eliminate MDC all together and go with a SDC only system.

    After reading this post, I think that your suggestion is the best way to handle the MDC to SDC ratio. Why shouldn’t a massive or a completely concentrated large group of SDC damage be able to hurt an MDC creature, item, etc.? If the combined effort does enough damage to equal MDC then it definitely should. I think that change will work great.

    Keep the posts coming!

  5. Just now getting caught up on this series and really enjoying it. I haven’t read beyond this post yet, so I don’t know if you later changed your mind, but a “Rifts is always right” approach is probably as good as any other. It’s too easy to start house-ruling right out of the gate and get bogged down with that. Plus, my latest thinking on the subject is that mastering Palladium’s system as-written actually yields some interesting insights into how well the system actually works, down there under all the poor writing and terrible organization.

    I had an interesting interaction on Google Plus a couple months back that illuminated for me that it’s easy to throw Palladium’s rules under the bus if you just assume you know them when in fact you’re leaving out crucial elements.

    I also really, really liked your point in an earlier post about how the dominance of MDC weapons and combat could be circumvented by simply agreeing to play in the spirit of mecha anime, where opponents have a tacit agreement to fight on relatively equal terms if possible.

    Oh, and pedantic nerd note: the Ewoks were in Return of the Jedi, not Empire. 😉

    • Ugh, how did I make the Ewoks error.

      As for master Palladium as written yielding some insights, you’re very right. It’s much like assuming you know OD&D or AD&D because you played D&D back in the day when really you need to buckle down and read. In the case of Rifts (although it’s drifting to Heroes Unlimited) I’m also using it as a chance to practice my LaTeX knowledge by writing my own rules reference. I find it closer to OD&D given the levels of organization but I’m having fun. Already, with plenty left to read, I’m getting a much better feel for the system.

  6. I know this post is ancient, but I came across it while researching something. I just wanted to let you know that SDC rocket launchers have ALWAYS done minor MD. It’s been printed in every single printing of the RMB. Page 244, to be exact. Not a house rule, an actual rule as written.

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