Saturday, February 4, 2012

Check Out Project BTR

One of my favorite blogs to read is Project BTR by Doug Wall.  The "BTR" in the title stands for Better Than RIFTS.  In his blog, Doug examines the RIFTS rules and setting with the intent of designing a new system and setting that is inspired by RIFTS but "better".  Sure, "better" is a subjective term related to opinion and all that but this guy is doing some serious examination of the rules, setting, and assumptions of RIFTS.  I have not been a long time follower but I look forward to new posts there because Doug is not just another RIFTS-hater but a fan of the game that wants things (rules, setting, etc.) improved.  If you have ever been frustrated with the rules or setting of RIFTS, I highly recommend that you head over to Project BTR and give it a look.  Doug has my attention and I hope to hold his printed game in my hands some day.    


  1. This is an informative link, thanks.

    It seems like the more I learn about the various game systems that I missed out on, the more ignorant I become. I have of course heard about RIFTS, but have never had much of a grasp on its mechanics. I know it is percentile based with combat revolving around the d20. Other than that, I'd rather be imagining a Boot Hill campaign that will never be played.

    However, I do know about Mr. Wall.

    While not the most approachable of bloggers out there (from this peon's p.o.v.), he does know his stuff. The system he created for his Adventures in Oz game (which I am a fan of) is really neat. What previous systems inspired him, I would have no real clue - but it is solid, and, most importantly, fun.

    I like reading his thoughts on such subjects - much as I enjoy reading your own.

    Once again, thanks for the heads up.

  2. Cool. Glad I could be of assistance. You're welcome.

    Believe me, you are not the only one that missed out on games in the past. I completely missed Boot Hill in any form (until recently), the World of Darkness (read a little of Vampire: the Masquerade), RoleMaster, Harn, RuneQuest and a ton of others I am sure.

    I do agree that Mr. Wall definitely knows his stuff and has it together. I find his opinion is well informed and very easy to read. I do have some interest in the Adventures in Oz game also.

    Thanks for the compliment and taking the time to comment.

  3. I'm sorry but I have little problem with the Rifts rules and setting and I've been playing Palladium Games since 1986. Many of his "issues" have to do with the fact that he wants a more realistic 'simulation': note the discussion about CS credits.

    Maybe some DMs play it that way. But, if you take the time to read the source material, CS credits are ~probably~ accepted all across the old US and Canada. But not in Mexico, South america, Atlantis, Russia, most of Europe, Japan, China, Australia, etc. The NGR (New German Republic) ~might~ exchange them because they have diplomatic ties to the CS, but that's about it. That doesn't seem like the "whole world."

  4. @Anthony: That's cool, man. 1986 is around the time I first discovered Palladium. I do agree that his issues are concerned with his desire for a more realistic simulation but I also feel that he isn't the latest in a line of RIFTS haters that just skimmed the rule book and decided it was broken because it wasn't some other game.

    I get the impression that Mr. Wall has played quite a bit of RIFTS and knows what he wants to change. That is why I enjoy his blog. If I just want to read complaints with no offered suggestions on how to fix an issue I could go to or even the Palladium message boards. That is not a burn against either site because both of them are enjoyable. It just happens to be that some posters just want change for change's sake instead of offering any real suggestions. I think that is the difference with Project BTR. Mr. Wall not only points out his issues but also tries to outline or brainstorm about ways to fix it. I enjoy reading his thoughts on the subject. He is not always right or always outlining things that I would do BUT his posts make me think about RIFTS and what I would truly change in my campaign. That is the biggest value for me.

    I do think that the CS credits you mention above is a valid point. I always thought that credits would be good in North America and maybe a few other places; pretty much what you stated in your comment.

  5. Well, my point is, not that his arguments aren't well-reasoned (most of them are), but he has a style and expectation of play that is different from what Kevin envisioned. And to name his site "BTR" is throwing down a gauntlet, imo.

    Kevin has frequently said about "power creep" that he's never understood why people don't get that Rifts is about HEROES. It's more action-adventure than realistic drama. (That's one reason why I think that if the movie is ever made by Bruckheimer, it will be awesome!)

    I've played games run by Kevin, Gary, and Jeff Dee and, while the systems used are different, that have one thing in common: they all just play. no niggling about modifiers, looking up rules, or even being true to the published rules at time. Just roll the dice and go.

    I feel that Wall, while a great designer and all, is like the other other breed of roleplayer, the type who likes to play "by the rules" and everything must be logically coherent and precise. That's not bad but I'd rather play V&V over Champions any day of the week (for instance).

    ~shrug~ Just my insights anyway.

  6. No problem at all. Your insights are dead on accurate. In all fairness, you are correct - his style and expectations are different from what Kevin envisioned for RIFTS. There is a need for BIG DAMN HEROES (I think Wall even mentions that in one of his posts, iirc) straight out of an action-adventure movie. Bruckheimer would absolutely rock this movie!

    I had not thought about the name BTR but I can understand why you or others would find that a point of contention. I just took it as a cool label for the project but I do get why it could be irritating.

    It is interesting to note that games run by Kevin, Gary, and Jeff Dee were all about playing instead of worrying about modifiers, looking up rules or other such actions. I bet they were a blast!

    In the end, I see Project BTR as an "alternate RIFTS" where (somewhat) realistic action takes precedence over action-adventure. In other words, a very interesting experiment to me. Make no mistake about it. I absolutely love RIFTS and would play the game today - as written - if I had a group. In fact, the times I have been a RIFTS GM I played as you described above and the sessions went great.

    I understand and agree with your thoughts about games like V&V in contrast to games like Champions. V&V just emphasizes fun and fast play while Champions feels like math homework to For that matter, the old Marvel Super Heroes system from TSR is really great too.

    I enjoy reading and exploring differing opinions and insights so keep them coming.

  7. "It is interesting to note that games run by Kevin, Gary, and Jeff Dee were all about playing instead of worrying about modifiers, looking up rules or other such actions. I bet they were a blast!"

    Very much so! In fact, the game with Kevin had 18 people in it, all pre-gens with conflicting alignments! We had to stop a mage from becoming a Demon Lord by sacrificing 13 children at midnight, etc. It essentially boiled down to the good PCs, who wanted to save the children, and the evil PCs who decided the most expedient way was to kill the children and prevent the Ascension! We good guys won!

    I was also proud of my wife. You meet the mage in disguise at the opening of the adventure. My wife, playing a palladin [sic], almost killed him at the onset! Kevin said that's only the 2nd time that's very happened in the 20+ years he's run that adventure at cons.

    She also found a secret passage through roleplay, not roll-play: we found a room that had some orcs in it (we killed) and nothing else but some tapestries depicting vile evil acts of sacrifice, etc. My wife went over and torched it with her flaming sword....revealing the secret door and staircase we were lookig for!

  8. That's all around awesome! Dear God, I can not imagine trying to run a game with 18 people. Of course, with older games such as D&D, V&V, Palladium Fantasy and others of that time period it would be a lot easier. I can imagine trying to run a game of 18 players with a modern rules set would be a complete nightmare.

    Man, that sounds like such a good game you had with your wife, Kevin, and the others. I like the fact that you pointed out it was through role-play as opposed to roll-play that the stairs and door were found - well played! I need to make my way to the open house one of these years.

  9. @Charlie: Thanks for the recommendation! It's encouraging to know that people actually read my blog and think I have interesting things to say.

    @Baker: I am so happy that you and your daughter are enjoying Adventures in Oz. Your recent comments on that blog have been very heartening. I do apologize if I've seemed a bit aloof. I'm just a working stiff and am sometimes so wiped out by the day job that I don't always have the energy to be thoughtful and responsive.

    @Anthony: I'm basing my statement regarding CS credits on the fact that every Rifts book I own (and I admit to not owning them all) gives prices for all of the items in credits (presumably of the CS variety). If that's not the case, then I have no problem admitting I was wrong.

    I am a new-school gamer and designer, and I think Rifts can benefit from a new-school approach. A unified task-resolution mechanic, for starters. Stats that are more strongly integrated into the game. I don't want to lose the old-school appeal, though, so don't be afraid to comment and keep me honest if I'm going too far in the wrong direction.

  10. Well, no offense intended, Doug, but why does Rifts need a "new-school approach?" that's like like trying to redesign a car to use a mouse and keyboard instead of pedals and a steering wheel, in my opinion.

    What would the purpose be behind a "unified mechanic" like d20 for instance? "I don't have to use so many dice." Let's face it, Rifts was ahead of the curb well before d20 came along in 2000. 5 to hit in melee, Armor Rating that ascends, etc.

    I just don't see the point.

  11. Rifts was definitely an improvement over AD&D, which actual D&D didn't get close to matching until at least 3e, you are correct there. But then, a) it stayed exactly where it was while D&D caught up, and even moved ahead and b) non-D&D-based games have blazed new trails beyond that. Exalted does Big Damn Heroes pretty damn well. Shadowrun has lots of gonzo tech porn. Gamma World is many people's go-to post-apoc game. Tekumel and Talislanta have set the standard for exotic landscapes that I haven't seen topped.

  12. Oh, I get it now. You're one of those typical Americans who believe progress and success is measured by the shiniest, newest thing out there. So, if something doesn't "progress" (however that's measured) it's outmoded and useless.

    1. Please explain this concept to my wife. I try, but she refuses to be upgraded.

      Hah! No, seriously...