Friday, October 24, 2014

d20 Rifts - Races, part 1

Humans: Humans are the most prevalent and wide-spread race, being native to Rifts Earth, and to most of the closest dimensions. As such, they are considered the baseline. Humans get no standard benefits (i.e., no bonus skill points or feat a la D&D). However, they are able to choose a department, which indicates their original training. Any of the Spycraft 1.0 departments are available (though, obviously, the names of many of them are meaningless in this setting). (Ed note: In re-posting, I think I'd drop this. Adding the departments does good things to encourage people to pick humans, but adds a lot of complexity. I'd probably just go with no stat adjustments, +1 skill point per level, +1 to all action die results per 4 levels, and an open bonus feat.)

Near-human D-Bees: There are any number of D-Bees in the world that, except for cosmetic differences, are essentially the same as humans. For each of these, you may also select a department, as usual. However, instead of the standard department ability score adjustments, you use adjustments based on the race. Also, you will drop one of the abilities of the department, and replace it with a standard ability of the race. Some sample races include:
  • Coyle: Coyote-like humanoids. +2 Wis, -2 Int. Has the scent ability.
  • Lizard-man: Reptilian humanoids. +2 Con, =2 Int. Cold-blooded.
  • Lone Star Escapee: Cross between human and animal. +2 any, -2 any. Psion level +1/5 levels.
  • Elf: Similar to Tolkein elves. +2 Int, +2 Dex, -2 Str, -2 Con. Caster level +1/5 levels.
(Ed note: as above, drop the department aspect. Draw heavily on the departments to create half a dozen or so races. Which, of course, gets to the root of why I dropped the project. The d20 system requires a whole bunch of fiddly bits to get created.)

High-powered D-Bees: Some D-Bees and creatures of magic are just plain better than humans. These are represented using the following modified ECL rules:

  • Each race is assigned an ECL (Equivalent Class Level) adjustment. This represents the number of levels that must be given up to take this race. These levels are used at the beginning of the character’s career, essentially like their first class. Hence, if an Ogre has as ECL of 4, and also has 2 levels of Faceman, his stats would look like Ogre 4/Faceman 2. However, do note that, unlike standard classes, you take a race as an entire package. It is not possible to “class out” of Ogre before you have finished the levels, e.g. as Ogre 2.
  • Those levels count as normal agent levels for gaining feats, attribute bonuses, action dice, and for abilities that depend on agent level.
  • Races do not gain bonuses to their base attack bonus, saving throws, defense, initiative, budget points, or resource points. Instead, they start with enhanced attributes (typically a net +2 per level).
  • Characters with an ECL race do not get to select a department.
  • You will gain skills during your racial levels. By default, races gain 4 skill points per level. Each race will list their “class skills” in their description. You do not get the standard x4 bonus skill points at first level. Rather, when you take your first non-racial level, you will get the 1st level bonus skill points for that class.
  • All ECL races, unless otherwise noted, gain d10 vitality per level.

Do note that, with some particularly high level ECLs, it does become possible to create a character with a prestige class, but with no base class. This is strongly discouraged, as it is just plain wrong.
Some sample high-powered D-Bees include rahu man, dragon hatchling, ogre, and vampire.

Cannot take caster levels
+2 Wis, +2 Con, -2 Cha
+1 to Will saves, +1 for every 4 levels
Can use the Psionic Sensing skill with 0 vitality cost
Has minimal need for food and water
“Feeds” on PPE:
The psi-stalker is able to draw the magical energy out of a person, and gain sustenance from it. To feed on a person, the target must be within 50 feet, and currently bleeding (i.e., have vitality or wound damage from a slashing or piercing weapon). As a full-round action, the psi-stalker consumes all of the PPE from the target (with a successful DC 30 Concentration check, the psi-stalker can opt to draw only part of the target’s PPE). The target is then rendered fatigued for the remainder of the scene. The psi-stalker must feed on a minimum of 50 PPE per week, and prefers 80-100. As a note, it is possible for a psi-stalker to survive by drawing energy from ley lines, or fetishes. However, this is like surviving on sour milk and rancid meat, and is not only unappetizing, but risks disease.
Feat: Sensory Basics
Skills: Climb, Concentration, Escape Artist, Handle Animal, Hide, Intimidate, Move Silently, Search, Sense Motive, Survival

Cannot take caster levels
+2 Str, +2 Wis, -2 Int
+1 to all Listen and Survival skill checks, with an additional +1 every four levels
Feat: Either Sensory Basics or Wild Talent: Psionic Sensing
Feat: Track
Skills: Balance, Concentration, Intimidate, Jump, Listen, Sense Motive, Spot, Sport, Surveillance, Survival

Dragon Hatchling:
Caster level 2 + 1/5 levels
+4 Str, +6 Int, +4 Con, -2 Wis
Size: Large (5’ x 10’, no Reach)
Fly: Speed 90
Nightvision 90’
Natural Armor:
The dragon is able to take on appearance of any mammal, bird, or reptile. The creature can be up to two size categories smaller, or equal, to the size of the dragon, but not larger. The dragon does not gain or lose any special abilities, except for size modifiers. The transformation can last for a maximum of two hours per level.
A dragon is capable of teleporting to any known location within 5 miles. Doing so requires simply an act of will, and a Concentration check. The check itself takes one half-action, and a successful teleport leaves the dragon flat-footed at the destination. Failure of the check simply indicates the teleport did not happen. A critical success indicates that the dragon is not flat-footed. A critical failure indicates that the dragon did teleport, to a random location of the GC’s choosing. The dragon can make a check only once every other round.
  • DC 20 - Within direct sight
  • DC 25 - Within indirect sight (e.g., through a camera or scrying)
  • DC 30 - Location currently unseen, but previously visited
  • DC 35 - Location never visited, but previously indirectly seen or well-described
  • DC 40 - Location only known by direction and distance, or poorly described
Breath Weapon:
Dragons are known for their ability to breathe destruction upon their enemies. The dragon is able to generate a 25’ cone, plus 5’ per 4 levels. Everything within that cone, whether friend, foe, or innocent scenery, will take 1d6 points of megadamage, plus an additional 1d6 points every 4 levels. Those in the area may make a Reflex save (DC 15 plus 1/4 levels) for half damage. The exact nature of the breath weapon varies with the species of the dragon (see below).
Gains 6 skill points per racial level
Skills: Balance, Bluff, Concentration, Craft, Gather Information, Handle Animal, Hobby, Intimidate, Knowledge, Languages, Listen, Search, Sense Motive, Spot, Survival
Drawback: Childlike mentality, -4 to all Will saves
  • Great Horned – Gains Feat: Any Psionic instead of Breath Weapon; +1 caster level
  • Fire Lizard – Breath Weapon is fire; DR 15 + 5/4 levels versus fire
  • Ice Lizard – Breath Weapon is cold; DR 15 + 5/4 levels versus cold
  • Thunder Lizard – Breath Weapon is sonic; Size: Huge (10’ x 15’, 10’ Reach) instead of Fly; Feat: Great Fortitude

Thursday, October 23, 2014

d20 Rifts - The Source of Magic

Magic works pretty much as described in the Rifts sourcebook. That is, magic infuses the world, and is drawn primarily from the power of life. The surging, teeming forces of life in the ecosphere tend to flow into rivers of energy, known as ley lines. On most worlds, these ley lines are only able to be detected by those very sensitive to magic. On the hyperactive world of Rifts Earth, however, the ley lines are giant rivers of neon blue light, nearly half a mile across and half as tall. Where two ley lines meet, the energy surges together into a nexus. There are about a dozen locations in the Americas where scores of ley lines come together to form a super-nexus.

However, much of this is of only academic interest to the spellcaster. The most important thing to consider, for the purposes of this discussion, is how to convert the magical energy into practical results. To do this, we need to examine where the energy comes from, and the methods of casting it into a spell.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

d20 Rifts - Combat notes and Grenade rules

For combat, 99% of the rules are straight out of Spycraft. I had a couple of notes. But one of the big chunks is a house rule I developed for grenades. In SC, grenades are basically "check if you hit, affect a blast radius". I thought that was boring, and never fit the cinematic tension of grenades.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

d20 Rifts - Operator Class


This is a core class.
The operator is one of the cogs that holds the world together. There is a lot of very advanced technology out there, and precious few people to keep it running. In civilized areas, operators run very profitable businesses, either legitimate or black market. In the wildlands, though, it’s a different story. Very few villages can afford their own specialist, and even fewer can afford parts and supplies. So, traveling operators become part mechanic, part scavenger, and often hero.

Monday, October 20, 2014

d20 Rifts - General rules


To generate attributes, you get 36 points to spend on the following chart:

Score Cost Modifier
1 –5
2–3 –4
4–5 –3
6–7 –2
8 –1
9 1 –1
10 2 +0
11 3 +0
12 4 +1
13 6 +1
14 8 +2
15 11 +2
16 14 +3
17 18 +3
18 22 +4
19 N/A +4


Strength is raw physical power. It adds to your melee attacks and damage. It also determines how much load you can carry.

Supernatural strength is strength that is well beyond the human scale. It’s measured on the same scale, however, but with two important differences. First, all of the lift/carry amounts are multiplied by 10. Second, a creature with supernatural strength is capable of dealing megadamage with its natural and melee attacks (so long as the melee weapon is an MDC structure).


Dexterity is physical finesse. It adds to your ranged attacks, Defense, Initiative, and Reflex saves.


Constitution is physical endurance. It adds to your vitality and Fortitude saves. It also determines your wound points.

Supernatural endurance is an indication that your body is an MDC structure. You gain damage reduction equal to (Con score)/(Con modifier, minimum 0). You are also able to keep going longer than normal humans. You are effectively immune to normal fatigue, are able to hold your breath for a number of minutes equal to your Con score, and can go a number of days without sleep (without penalty) equal to your Con modifier (minimum 0).


Intelligence is a measure of your ability to learn and retain information, and to solve problems. It adds to your skill points and education checks. It also determines your starting languages.


Wisdom is a combination of several mental traits, including acuity and willpower. It adds to your Will saves and intuition checks. It is also important for determining how perceptive your character is.


Charisma is a measure of your strength of personality. It adds to your budget and favor checks. It is also very important for most social skills.

Miscellaneous Rules

Favor Checks

Favor checks represent your ability to get miscellaneous aid from the people around you. This can range from information on the local warlord, to borrowing a truck, to bailing you out of jail.

In order to make a favor check, you must spend one GP and choose a person or organization you want to provide the favor. You then make a roll, adding your character level and your Charisma bonus. If you succeed, then your contact will fill your request. If you fail, then you may not make the same request of that contact for the remainder of the session (however, you may make the request of another contact, and another member of your party may ask the same contact).

The difficulty of a favor check is determined both by how difficult/ expensive/ risky/ etc. filling the request will be for the contact (as determined by the GC), and by what kind of relationship you have with the contact. Contacts have qualities of Stranger (-6), Poor (-2), Mediocre (+0), Good (+2), and True Friend (+6). The quality of a contact can be improved with the use of Bureaucracy (for organizations) or Diplomacy (for individuals), or through acts which benefit the contact. Likewise, the quality of a contact may be worsened through acts which harm the contact.

Intuition Checks

Intuition checks are a tool to get a hint from the GC as to what to do next. They represent a sudden flash of insight, or a feeling that you’re on the wrong track.

Making an intuition check requires you to spend 1 GP. You add your character level and Wisdom modifier to the roll.

You cannot actually fail at an intuition check. Simply by making the check, you will get some level of insight. The result of the check simply determines the quality and relevancy of that insight.

Education Checks

Education checks represent the general education and world experience that the character has picked up. This can be anything from recognizing a famous person, to knowing where Ishpeming is, to telling the difference between a legitimate cyber-doc and a body chop shop.

Education checks are free, and can be made whenever a character wishes. You simply roll, and add your character level and Intelligence modifier. If the result is high enough, you know the piece of information you are looking for. If not, you don’t. If you fail an education check, you may not make additional checks on that topic this session. You may take 10 on an education check, but you may not take 20.

Education checks are not a replacement for Knowledge skills. For one thing, information that would be trivial for a character with a relevant Knowledge skill may be difficult with an Education check (meaning, it would have a much higher DC). There are also some things that can only be accomplished with the relevant Knowledge skill. For instance, there is a popular juicer movie hero named Julian Amici. It would be a fairly easy education check to know who he is (DC 15). It would be a difficult education check (DC 25), but a fairly easy Knowledge (Juicers) check (DC 10) to name his favorite weapon. No education check would allow you to name all the actors who have portrayed him, but it would be a difficult Knowledge (Juicers) or Knowledge (Movies) check, or an easy Knowledge (Julian Amici) check.

Education checks regarding people, places, and things not on your home plane have a DC increased by 10.


There are a large number of languages in the world. Pretty much every traveller ends up learning a few of them.

You will start with fluency and literacy in your native language. If you wish, you can give up literacy in your native language in return for an additional language pick, but you cannot be literate in any other language if you are not literate in your native language. You also start with a number of language picks equal to your Intelligence modifier. You then gain one additional language pick for each rank you have in the Languages skill.

With each language pick, you can choose to gain one of four things. You can become competent in a language you do not already know. This allows you to hold any normal conversation, but you have a distinct accent and occasionally have trouble with idioms or jokes. You can become fluent in a language you are already competent in. This means you speak like a native in all ways. You can become literate in a language you are competent in. This allows you to read and write in that language. (If the language is a “dead” language, you can choose to become literate instead of becoming competent with your first pick.) Finally, you can choose to master a particular lingo. This is generally associated with a particular profession, such as military or technical, and includes the jargon particular to the profession, as well as common phrases and references used by members. Another type of lingo is the dialect of a particular location or population. In either case, learning the lingo allows you to pass yourself off as a member or native of that group.

If you do not possess competency with a language, you can still attempt to make yourself understood with that language, using a few words and frequent gestures. This requires both you and the person you are talking to to make a Languages check, with a DC based on the closest common language. If both people fail, then communication cannot be held. If both people succeed, then most concepts can be communicated. If one person succeeds and the other fails, then only simple concepts can be communicated.

Some common languages on Rifts Earth are: Coalition English (the most common language in North America), Spanish (common in southern North America and Central America), Quebecois (unique to the Coalition State of Free Quebec), Faery, Draconic (also frequently used for magical writings), Gobbledy (a rough language common among a surprising number of less civilized dimensions), and Leet (a much more advanced version of today’s 1337-speak, used by computer and electronics gurus. This is a text-only language, and hence you only need to pick literacy with it). Some less common ones include Atlantean/Splugorth, German, Native American (an amalgamation of Apache, Navajo, and other tongues, that varies widely from group to group), Enochian, Avestan, and Takelma (these three are common among divine and infernal beings and their servants).

Friday, October 17, 2014

d20 Rifts - Spycraft overview

It occurs to me that I know all about Spycraft. I didn't actually include many explanations of its mechanics in my notes. But you guys reading this may not know about it. So let me give a bit of a primer of some of the ways it deviates from standard d20.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Rifts using the d20 system

I've written about this before. I got a bug a few years back to convert the Rifts setting to a d20 system. This would allow for the vast range of options in Rifts, but with more structure, balance, and predictability than the Palladium system provides.

I just ran across some of my old notes. I don't know that I want to necessarily pick the project up again. (Among other things, I think I like using the Gamma World system better than d20.) But I was actually pleased with what I'd written, so wanted to toss it out into the world. Maybe someone else can use it.