Welcome to NexusNine.Net -- Click the image to go to the main page.


Quality in Rifts: Remembering Pete Overton

Quality In Rifts: MDC Creatures - A Rant

By Pete Overton

8. Never trust a vampire who says he is a rogue.
-- Things To Remember When Playing Rifts

One of the most absurd and inconsistent things about Rifts is their seemingly utterly bizarre and random method of deciding which biological entities are MDC. Apparently, their only criteria for this is an inconsistent decision-making policy behind the scenes that we will never get to see as players and GMs. I'm pretty sure it must exist only to drive us all mad.

Their basic criteria seems to be that anyone who comes to Rifts Earth who wasn't specifically born here must be MDC. This holds true for Wormwood and apparently True Atlanteans as well, although curiously enough all of the Palladium Fantasy races remain SDC despite not being native to Earth. They seem to be suggesting that the profuse amount of magical energy in Rifts Earth affects positively all those who come here by infusing them and making their biologies stronger. The only curious hole in this story are the native inhabitants of Earth, who apparently gain no benefits for living in such a magic-rich environment.

Two postulations can be made from this. Either Palladium is on crack and arbitrarily decides which is SDC and which is MDC or the other races are somehow weakened without access to magical energy and only gain their full potential in a magic-rich environment. The problem with this theory is that this presumes that EVERY race other than humans (and sometimes humans, eg. Wormwood) are tied directly to the amount of magical energy in their world, a fact not supported by any other Palladium product. So this leaves us with the fact that Palladium is on crack.

I understand that Palladium needed to increase the survivability of characters imported from other worlds. It is a good game-balance check actually. The problem is that Rifts is not inherently a balanced setting. The experiences of an SDC creature being brought to Rifts Earth SHOULD be troubling and dangerous for it. Rifts Earth is not some picnic spot, it's a dangerous world teeming with alien horrors. Why do you think Culture Shock exists? Vast differences from their old and new worlds cause a stifling panic or fear. Having an SDC creature arrive and seeing his friend blown in half by a laser pistol SHOULD be rather traumatizing and terrifying. It's called "alien" for a reason and creatures who come to Earth are still aliens and we are still alien to them.

So, the question remains for us to decide, how do we decide who is SDC and who is MDC? That is the question of the century. If you have a consistent system for it, mail me with it and we'll all build little shrines to you in our basements.

Generally, I would assume that any non-supernatural race is SDC unless some extraordinary reason exists on why they would be otherwise. Perhaps Wormwood is close to a pulsar or is in a binary star system and would explain why they are a little tougher than normal (note that we use the new conversion rate of 1 MD:20 SD). Otherwise, any organized, normal race would be SDC. Examples include humans (all over, including Atlanteans) and classic fantasy races (elves, dwarves, etc.). This has the overall benefit of levelling the playing field and making SDC weapons actually a factor in the game again.

Silicon-based lifeforms would have a better chance of being MDC by nature of their extreme adaptability, as opposed to Carbon-based lifeforms. However, this is not my field of specialty so I will not say much on the topic. A few examples offhand that I can think of are the Aliens (from Aliens), the Bugs (from Starship Troopers), and the Xiticix. However, this is by no means certain and it will vary by race.

Supernatural beings can generally be assumed to be MDC, but they typically have one or two major weaknesses. For instance, vampires are indeed MDC creatures, but wood can incapacitate him and water can kill him. The mythology of the creature is very important and developing DETAILED supernatural creatures will pay for itself as the PCs hopefully do some research to find out what it is that they are hunting (or what is hunting them :). However, there may be some instances where supernatural creatures are not MDC -- manifested (physically) ghosts are one, for they don't have the strength of will to force themselves superior bodies and remain SDC.

Gods, Demigods, and Godlings can be assumed to be MDC, as can Demon Princes. Elementals are a trickier sort of thing and if you feel generous you can assume they are uniformly MDC, although some particularly realistic or cruel GMs may rule that Lesser Elementals are SDC only (they are still fairly tough). Alien Intelligences, as has been noted over and over by Palladium, are very MDC and usually have more than one vessel operating at any given time. Ironically, as much as it pains me to do so, I would say Dragons are MDC by their nature, but if you felt particularly realistic, they would be SDC for their childhood and then as they grow would start taking on MDC as their hides get tougher and tougher.

Creatures are the hardest part. To say that all herbivores are SDC and all predators are MDC is a gross misunderstanding of their interrelation. Besides, some dinosaurs were herbivores and they were by no means SDC! I wish I could offer some guidelines. Consider the creature's environment and main method of survival. Sheep stand around and eat grass all day and get eaten, so they are SDC. Rhinos could arguably have adapted to Rifts Earth and its new predators by having thicker hides and therefore could possibly be MDC. Alien animals should be looked at in the same vein and not all assumed to be MDC.

The question of why you would alter this is probably next on your list. Why would you make the majority of races out there SDC? Well, for one thing, it would give SDC weapons a purpose in life again, making an assualt rifle actually a threat to most unarmored creatures. Another reason is to remind players of the fragility of life, and for all their technology, magic, and psionics, they are still essentially mortal! This mortality is probably something that has been long sucked out of Rifts and needs to make a return, because it gives players that momentary pause before they do silly things like throw themselves on live grenades because their MDC armor can eat it up. Third, it may convince those paranoid players who never leave their Glitter Boys that they can actually get out and interact with real people on occasion too. It places more emphasis (ironically enough) on protective devices such as technology or magic, as opposed to the "Hey, let's put the Apok in the front and let him suck up the damage." Armor suddenly stops being a nuisance and more of an actual tool that they have to watch for.

I think the "level playing field" Palladium was going for is achieved when you return to mundanity most races that suddenly become MDC creatures on Rifts Earth. Use your best judgement and ignore whatever Palladium has to say on the topic unless it makes a good deal of sense, and remember, only so many "radiation holes" or "weird transforming lights" exist too.

This page was last updated on (none).
© 2004-2009 all authors as specified. Duplication of contents with permission only! This means you can't sell it, but feel free to print, modify, or use in anyway for your personal campaign use.
All incidents, situations, institutions, governments and people are fictional and any similarity to characters or persons living or dead is strictly coincidental.