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 Post subject: New GM - Russia Campaign
Unread postPosted: Sat Jul 16, 2016 1:31 am
  

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D-Bee

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Hello all!

After a too-long hiatus, my gaming group and I have returned to RIFTS!

I had an urge to get into all the weirdness of Rifts Russia, and since I was the only one really familiar with the books, it fell on me to GM the campaign. I've got 4 players, all great people I've played with for years, so I'm not too worried about problem players. Really, I'm just trying to run an entertaining campaign and maybe tell a good story.

What I'd like to do with this thread is give a summary of my sessions, and get some feedback from the more experienced GMs here.

Here is my party:

Radimir Makimoff, code name “Voron,” A heavy machine 'borg, under the employ of warlord Serijev. This is my RIFTS newbie. He's played many different games, but first timer for this system. My goal is to keep him occupied and feeling useful, since I don't want to run a combat-all-the-time kind of game, and he's the big stick.

Kirill Pachetneyy, a smoke-soldier, under the employ of warlord Serijev. This player is a seasoned RIFTS vet, and wanted a challenging character. While working with the players, I'm toying with the idea of having him spy on the party for the warlord, and in some cases, acting against them secretly. Not sure if this can be executed well, or even will be any fun. I've discussed the idea with him, and he seems pretty into the challenge so far.

Maria Vladlennin, Mystic Kuznya. Another seasoned RIFTS player, and playing the one good-aligned character. I'll be relying on this player to guide the group in a more heroic and less selfish path. After all, roaming the land, saving people and slaying monsters is what Russia is made for! My challenge for this player will be pursuing a story that he's involved in. As a Kuznya, he's a walking plot device, but at level 1, he's not really embracing the fame that comes with a character like that.

"Sasha," a maxi-man with amnesia. The only non-Russian character in the game. This is my high-energy player. He's wanted to play this class in a game for a long time, and it took some convincing on his part. Currently, the amnesia is preventing him from remembering how to use his powers, instead, I'm relying on a percentile roll to determine if he instinctively uses them. My challenge for this player will be to keep the character quirks, without making it unfair. Also to keep him from hijaking the plot if he gets a crazy idea in his head.

The first session, only Voron and Kirill are together. Charged with the task of investigating a new weapon the gargoyles have deployed against the human people. This weapon, as Sasha's player quickly guessed, was his character. I chastised him for ruining the surprise. Meanwhile, Maria is traveling north as a wandering craftswoman. I intend to have the three separate parties meet up in the town that's currently sheltering Sasha. Probably have some reavers, also investigating, show up to antagonize the players into working together. But that'll be for the next session.

So, things I learned in the first session:
-Maria's player has already embraced the good-guy alignment, resolving an encounter without fighting.
-Sasha has a 30 PP, which gives her insane combat bonuses. I'm worried about over compensating with future encounters, but I do want her to be challenged. Her first encounter with a stray gargoylite was laughably easy, she didn't get hit once.

So, any thoughts?


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Unread postPosted: Sat Jul 16, 2016 10:06 am
  

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Explorer

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A 30 PP? I am not familiar with the Russia books. Does the Maxi-man have auto dodge?

A word of caution of having a character acting against the other characters. Although it is "just a game" there is always the risk of players taking it personal even when they are all long time friends. I allow my players to take any type of character, with the only roleplaying mandate that it is a "co-operative game" and despite the inevitable differences that their backgrounds will have, they are the exception (not the rule) of their culture and should find ways to work together. As an idea: If you really want a challenge, start the story off as him acting as a spy and then having a change of heart. This works well if the character has a good alignment and doesn't like what his warlord is asking him to do, but other "moral or personal" motivations can be used, including revenge, opportunism or redemption.


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Unread postPosted: Wed Jul 20, 2016 1:35 am
  

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Champion

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As a player that has played the "Secretly spying on the rest of the group" type character it is a fun challenge and I would say, in a variant of what bobharly is saying, give him that challenge of an order that might put him at odds with the group. But only do this if you think the player of the character and the other players can handle the fallout from the decision made.

Though in the particular case of the game I was playing it was 'ordered to assassinate one of the PC's by his boss.' My character didn't hesitate to take on the job, but that was due to the character's interactions with his target. Had the orders been about one of the characters that was nice to the character he may have had second thoughts about taking on that particular job and went rogue. As it is in that particular game I pulled off the job and no one was the wiser that it was my character that did it. Though the player of the target knew but the whole scene was played away from the main group so the rest had no idea. Though some were suspicious they kept their suspicions out of game and played their characters.

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Unread postPosted: Thu Jul 21, 2016 3:29 pm
  

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D-Bee

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The actions will start as intel reports back to the warlord. Once it's discovered that one PC is a mystic smith that can make magic items, it will evolve into sending any items he can back to the homeland. I'm hoping to present interesting moral challenges, and I know this player is into the idea. We're playing tonight, so I hope to update later.

Thanks for the input so far. Another quick GM question for you fine folks: when do you award XP? pre-session, post-session, while it happens?


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Unread postPosted: Thu Jul 21, 2016 11:43 pm
  

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XP? I usually award it at the beginning of a game. In the old days I used a system of nomination where players could nominate each other for the glorious deeds that another made in the previous game. This helped everyone to remember what had happened at the last game and everyone had an incentive to remember what each other had done. Now that I play short 2 hour sessions, I just update their character sheets before the game begins and give a brief recap to get the game going quickly.


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Unread postPosted: Fri Jul 22, 2016 1:44 am
  

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For XP I do it at end of session. While everything is fresh. I tend to award bonus xp as it happens. IE good idea that helped the group as a whole, creative use of a spell or skill etc.

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Unread postPosted: Fri Jul 22, 2016 10:34 am
  

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D-Bee

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I like the nomination idea Bob! I'll implement that. Gave everyone 50 to start off, will probably give XP at the start, that seemed to work.

The players are all together now after a bit of investigation from Kirill and Voron. Sasha and Maria are getting along swimmingly and the whole team is being pursued by a small platoon of light antagonists. My goal for next weeks session will be to confront them with a menace they can't talk their way out of, to get a gauge of what they can do in a fight. I've been very pleased with everyone so far, no unnecessary fights, everyone playing true to their characters.

Potential issue: Voron, the heavy 'borg, has a suite of sensor equipment, see infra-red, enhanced hearing, etc. He seems to constantly be switching modes in order to keep track of anything going on around him. This presents two issues: one, that he's w surprisingly good eavesdropper, outdoing Kirill the smoke-soldier. And two, it will be very difficult to lay an ambush for the party that he won't see. Kirill and Sasha both are minor psychics with sixth sense, but it may never come in to play if Voron sees all. Thoughts and suggestions?


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Unread postPosted: Fri Jul 22, 2016 12:16 pm
  

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PaganDesparu wrote:
I like the nomination idea Bob! I'll implement that. Gave everyone 50 to start off, will probably give XP at the start, that seemed to work.

Potential issue: Voron, the heavy 'borg, has a suite of sensor equipment, see infra-red, enhanced hearing, etc. He seems to constantly be switching modes in order to keep track of anything going on around him. This presents two issues: one, that he's w surprisingly good eavesdropper, outdoing Kirill the smoke-soldier. And two, it will be very difficult to lay an ambush for the party that he won't see. Kirill and Sasha both are minor psychics with sixth sense, but it may never come in to play if Voron sees all. Thoughts and suggestions?


Thanks. My players always liked it. Only one word of caution, it is a nomination system. You are not obligated to award points for every little thing they think of, so don't let any player railroad you into giving out XP that is being munchkined. Using an obscure skill once at a critical point is more valuable than using the same skill 10 times (and when it wasn't always needed). I developed the idea to encourage cooperation and everyone to pay attention to the details in the game, not for them to beg/justify their XP awards.

From the description of the characters, sneaking up on them will be no easy task. A paranoid borg and two characters with Spidy-Sense is a well defended group. Don't let this be a problem. Make it part of the story. I have one PC who is an Invid clone who can sense protoculture like sixth (or seventh?) sense. Another is a cyber doc with neural implants who is always monitoring for wifi/computer signals he can remotely see and try to connect to. Often I tell them, "You faintly sense something from the building, but you are not sure what it is..." or "You see a secured connection, but it is only 1 bar signal strength. You are not sure if it is a weak signal or from far away. What do you want to do?" I use their abilities as bait to get them inside of a structure or down the street to where I want them. I do have an ambush planned for them in the near future involving protoculture powered mechs and a Wild Weasel SAMAS. They will know something is out there, but the VHT main cannon will be firing from 1.2 miles away. If they are smart they will take cover or evasive actions (I don't allow dodges for bullets/energy weapons). I think of abilities like that as a warning, but they still have to decide what to do before the ambush starts. Plus, even if the enemy doesn't have full surprise, if you have lured them into a proper trap it will still be a dangerous situation as the bad guys should know the terrain better than the players and have the exits trapped or ranged out. Don't take their powers away or try to defeat them, just use them to add suspense and bait.


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Unread postPosted: Fri Jul 22, 2016 2:47 pm
  

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Plus remember that Infra-red and Thermal systems can be fooled. Even in the advanced form in rifts there are still basic ways to fool/mask ones thermal signature, other than the Naruni armors that do so. Also 6th Sense has that weird range limit of 90ft. (Granted that isn't always something I use when running as I found it odd and inexplicable.) Another thought is to remember that 6th sense warns of immediate danger within a given timeframe (IE it doesn't have to warn the full minute before danger it can go off right before the trap/ambush is sprung.)

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Unread postPosted: Fri Jul 22, 2016 8:03 pm
  

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I think the Russian deities can be found in one of the rifters….

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Unread postPosted: Sat Jul 23, 2016 1:27 am
  

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drewkitty ~..~ wrote:
I think the Russian deities can be found in one of the rifters….


They are just can't recall which one off the top of my head will edit post when I have a chance to find out.

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Unread postPosted: Sat Jul 23, 2016 9:03 pm
  

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D-Bee

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Thanks Bob and Marcethus. No easy ambushes. I'll bait them with their own curiosity!

As for Russian deities, the only specific one I know of is Svarog the Divine, the patron god of the Mystic Kuznya. The Sovietski still have Catholic churches, including a Catholic Preist NPC class, that doesn't get any divine abilities.


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Unread postPosted: Sat Jul 23, 2016 9:54 pm
  

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One of the early rifters, most likely whichever one was printed shortly after Mystic Russia Has all of the Russian Deities in it. I just can't recall the issue number. And My rifters are buried atm.

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Unread postPosted: Sat Jul 23, 2016 9:59 pm
  

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[quote="PaganDesparu"]Thanks Bob and Marcethus. No easy ambushes. I'll bait them with their own curiosity! [quote]

Give them easy ambushes too. When their super defenses give them the upper hand against a tactically inferior opponent it's good for player moral and no says, "This sucks, I never get to use this ability...". But when they go up against professionals and skilled hunters, they will be in for a big surprise.

Also, Sixth Sense if a funny ability. They don't know where it's coming from, but it's within 90 feet of them or someone nearby, plus they get a warning 60 seconds in advance. The thing is, if they or the enemy is moving or if the enemy makes a spontaneous decision to attack, you likely won't get your 60 seconds advance notice. You just get to roll initiative instead of being outright surprised.

Moving Danger. Car driving at 60 mph is traveling at 88' per second. "You sense danger. 1 Second later you are hit by a car." At best he gets to roll a dodge instead of being totally blindsided. Bullets work the same way. If the gun man is more than 90' away it's not so useful. Really it just prevents total surprise where they can't dodge or anything. This doesn't mean however that you can't assign penalties because "the character will not know what the danger is, where it will come from, nor who it will be directed at..." It's really vague if you read the ability description.

Spontaneous Danger and Motive A paranoid traveler has his car wired with explosives. On himself he has a deadman's switch. When the PC's approach him he turns on the switch and grips the trigger in his pocket. He doesn't want to die, but figures if someone is gonna kill him, he'll take them with him. Since the "life threatening event," has not actually been, "sent into motion," because he has no motive to start a fight or die, the players are in no danger unless they attack him... Then he drops the stick and everyone goes boom. The first warning is when one of the players makes an attack on the man. By then it is likely no one will figure out what to do to stop the event despite the now triggered warning.

I want to hear more about your campaign ideas. No adventure spoilers if your players read. I just want a grand overview.


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Unread postPosted: Mon Jul 25, 2016 8:03 pm
  

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I don't have a definitive story planned just yet. Right now, it'll be the players caught up in the power plays of the Warlords, (easy to do, with 2 characters as Warlord agents,) plus some continuing conflict with demons and monsters. I'm currently using the specter of gargoyles and their like to keep monsters as a constant danger, but I'd like to eventually establish a reoccuring antagonist. Kosechii are a good bet on that. The players themselves have pretty good hooks in their characters. Sasha is essentially an escaped Atlantean slave, and once the word is out, the Splugorth may send agents to reclaim their property. Voron is a reluctant conversion, whose family believe he's dead. Kirill's grandfather was publicly executed for treason, leaving a stain on his family name. Only Maria is well adjusted, but as a Mystic Kuznya, she's a walking plot device anyway.

It's a fascinating area of Rifts Earth, and there's s lot of potential in these characters. It's difficult to contain my anticipation!


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Unread postPosted: Mon Jul 25, 2016 8:28 pm
  

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Always good when Characters' background give you plenty of hooks. Sounds like a fun campaign.

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Unread postPosted: Wed Aug 10, 2016 9:16 am
  

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No session this week, but last week was our first real combat trial. Fleeing a Warlord patrol, the players travel into the night. They camp out before an oncoming storm. Voron keeps watch while the rest settle in. This is where my fun begins. None of the players make their Lore: Demons & Monsters rolls when a small flock of goats appear over the hilltop. These are shape-shifted Il'ya Storm Demons (RIFTS: Mystic Russia) who proceed to antagonize the players with spells like Heavy Breathing & Fingers of Wind. Once I finally bait the party to charge in to the woods to confront what they think is stalking them, the Il'ya steal one of Maria's horses!

Kirill ran back for his jet bike and sees the demon riding off, so he pursues. Voron gets the call and is intercepted by two. Maria and Sasha are confronted by the last two.

Kirill manages to defeat his demon, it is a reasonable match for him. Voron decimates his pair with the heavy guns he's packing. They don't land one hit. Maria smashes one with her massive Kuznya hammer, but again, a decent match of skills.

Sasha, oh what will I do with her. Even though she only remembers how to use one of her tattoos, an MDC katana, she is a monster. Her 30 PP gets her a +10 to strike, parry and dodge. Needless to say, one lesser demon is no challenge for her.

I already knew my challenge will be crafting well-rounded fights for my players, but Voron and Sasha will make it difficult. At this point, Voron's strength is his guns, so I'll be pitting him against melee-skilled opponents. Sasha is the opposite, so ranged opponents will be her counter. I'd like to hear other GM's strategys for tailoring combat for a mixed-ability group.

Next session will be more talky. I'll be introducing an antagonist 'borg I've dubbed "Gorgeous Gregori." It'll be fun!


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Unread postPosted: Wed Aug 10, 2016 11:24 am
  

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Tactics? Go old school on them: Wrestle them to the ground and hold them down (Either a very large opponent or multiple attackers). Use overwhelming numbers (eventually a dodge or parry will fail). If you are going to bait them, set up traps to soften them up (Both IED's as well as primitive traps like those used in Vietnam can really ruin a player's day. If you have Revised RECON it has lots of examples of traps. Converting recon to other Palladium games is as easy as switching 1d10's for 1d6's for SDC). Or my old favorite, "They can't wear their armor 24 hours a day..." There are going to be places and situations were they can't or won't have their armor and weapons handy, like going into a civilized area that does not allow such things in their town or when they are sleeping. I even give XP for players who role play not wearing their armor all day just for personal comfort--they only put it on when they think they are going into a dangerous area or the weather is bad.


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Unread postPosted: Wed Aug 10, 2016 11:35 am
  

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There is one other counterpoint to consider: The bad guy's point of view. Many years ago I had a Rifts campaign that was dominated by one player who had a Juicer. From the enemy point of view he was just a foot soldier, so they would target the players with Mecha and Power Armor first. The Glitterboy pilot went down long before the Juicer did because by the time enemy realized what a huge threat the Juicer was the tide of battle had already turned against them. A character like Sasha may not look intimidating until it's too late. Think Kill Bill: Uma Thurman doesn't really look that scary until she's already kicking butt. Sasha's greatest weapon is not her PP30, but the fact that she will likely be underestimated by many foes. The juicer in my campaign often played the role of rescuing the other players who were overwhelmed, making him a MVP. Sasha could end up taking a similar role. This also means that intimidating characters, like borgs, will get a lot more hate because they are recognizable as being dangerous.


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Unread postPosted: Wed Aug 10, 2016 2:01 pm
  

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D-Bee

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Agreed bobharley, at the moment, no one is really aware of what Sasha is capable of. And with Voron, he's a 12 foot tall heavy 'borg with big guns. The obvious threat. So I play it that way, as it's what makes sense. Once I establish some reoccurring antagonists who understand the player's capabilities, I have plausible reasons to go after certain characters with more effort than others.


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Unread postPosted: Wed Aug 10, 2016 3:17 pm
  

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Mixed ability groups are a certainty in Nightbane games where you can have powerhouses like the Nightbane side by side with characters like a Human Ex Government agent. One way to do it is to use overwhelming numbers of lesser powered foes and give them an avenue of escape. If they don't take it. Well capture and imprisonment scenarios set things up for those lovely prison break scenes.

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Unread postPosted: Thu Mar 02, 2017 8:23 pm
  

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D-Bee

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Been a while since I've updated, figured I'd get back into it.

The party has been working well together, and the characters are really developing. Voron, my giant cyborg death machine, has a giant soft spot for children, being a father himself. He took a quest hook with more enthusiasm then I anticipated because it involved a missing child!

Sasha is slowly discovering her abilities, and the party has helped her hide in Russian society. Her player enjoys deciding which outfit shes wearing, determining what tattoos are accessible, etc. The party has learned theres a foreign biological lump at the base of her brain. I've made this a Splugorth bio-wizard implant, and its the cause of her amnesia. Two threads are running for this character now. To find out what she is, and find out what the thing in her head is. Either answer will be fun!

Maria is my star role-player. Raised as Sovietski, she distrusts outsiders as much as any native Russian. But, she holds an outright hatred of Gypsies. This led to a fun encounter where an orphan Gypsy youth attempted to "borrow" some food, and ended with Maria pointing a weapon at him, whole Voron stood between them! She got extra XP for a difficult in-character moment.

Kirill is coasting at the moment. He's the leader of the group for all intents and purpose. I'm trying to keep track of what he's doing through a rival Smoke Soldier, but out in the wilderness, its difficult. I think the next war party they encounter, the rival will just happen to be embedded with.

They're headed to a ley line nexus now so Maria can forge her first magic weapons and they can take out a nest of demons. Things are happening at a good pace!


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