Thursday, August 20, 2015

Rifts - Siege on Tolkeen - an analysis

Siege of Tolkeen rebuttal

The siege of Tolkeen has a ton of potential. A nazi like war machine attacking a relatively powerful but underdog kingdom of magic is a simply awesome concept. 

I really liked the first siege of Tolkeen book, even with its lack of key information and preachiness. It had some awesome ideas for spells equipment and had an epic feel.

However, it is generally considered one of the reasons why palladium lost market share (between it, the –10 rule and the rise of d20).

Here’s my opinion why:

1. Tolkeen had no chance: From the main book, we were essentially told that Tolkeen had no chance. The only person to say otherwise was CJ Carella in rifts mercenaries and he hinted what he wanted to do with the book. It would have been interesting to see his version of it.
It didn’t help matters by having the book series called Coalition Wars, pretty much saying whose going to win.

2. Tolkeen we hardly knew ya: If there is one thing I have learned from siege of Tolkeen (and rifts Africa, but that’s another story) is before you destroy something, you gotta create it first. It bugs me to no end that the map of the provinces is in the 2nd last book , the movers and shakers, as well as the map of the city in the last book…as the city burns.
It adds insult to injury that the Tolkeen map is actually pretty darm good, but it’s hard to take seriously when every section lists what it used to be, rather then what it was.
How the heck do you expect to have an emotional attachment to something you know little about. That emotional attachment translates into sales so it’s bad from a marketing perspective.
All the above info should have been in the first book, with the 2nd pulling away the onion skin and showing the leader’s of tolkeen’s dirty laundry. Like the juggernauts…what the secret is behind them (never revealed). Or the consequences of summoning the daemonix (we got a couple of daemonix lord’s names, but they were never revealed).

3. Magic doesn’t work that way:
After Federation of Magic, I was mostly happy with the rifts magic system. It allowed me to cast spells beyond carpet of adhesion and magic net.
It’s funny that for the siege of tolkeen, it was pretty much impossible to do the casting that was shown on the covers of the books.
The first reason is casting times. Before siege on tolkeen, I assumed it was a “power attack” namely you took two actions to cast a spell and it was because you were putting your life force into it. It still only took one actions worth of time. Then at the same time as siege of tolkeen, it was decided from above, that spellcasting needed the full two rounds to cast spells. 
This was caster suicide in a game with energy weapons. A poster at the tame (Taf I believe) posted an unfair scenerio that confirmed that the only way for a wizard to be at all effective was to be prepped ahead of time, and quite frankly that’s usually a rare possibility. 
This eventually got fixed first by Jason Richards awesome PPE channelling rules and then in RUE, but for SOT these were the rules.

The other part of this was the wearing of armor. Before SOT, I usually just grabbed a set of crusader armor for my spellcasters. There was no real restrictions on armor, but I preferred having light armor in cased I had to sneak (no mobility penalties) and it was environmental.
Then somebody had a brilliant idea to try to bring rifts spellcasting armor rules in sync with pfrpg: so no environmental, and natural armors only. This meant no metal, plastic or ceramic armor, so the spellcasting O.C.C.s defensive capabilities were nerfed at the same time as their offensive capabilities.

So why play a spellcaster? You can compensate with prep time and with TW items, but how is that different then just grabbing a blaster and some armor and probably do just as well or better? And this was in a scenario where magic needed to be on par, but different. Instead spellcasters got nerfed before it really began.

4. Military Tactics: I don’t expect great tactics, but I do expect a well thought out situation and a backdrop that allows gamers to build from. For me there are two big failures in military tactics.
The first is air strikes. This is the main reason why the cs would dominate the sot conflict. However, it was completely handwaved after an attempted strike on the cities cause they regenerated. 
I can’t believe they didn’t keep piling on the bombs in the ground conflicts.
The other is supply lines: Even with spell nerfing, magic has the big advantage on not needing one. This should have been where pc parties excelled at. A “terrorist” attack on the grain fields of Missouri would have been a much better use of resources and would have stalled the conflict in itself.
I also found out a ton of stupid magic tricks, that should have been addressed to some degree in the books itself. Why doesn’t a ley line walker doesn’t just shoot a bomb down the ley line till it gets to a predestination then detonates it by radio control? Why aren’t earth elementals attacking the foundation of key buildings in cs territory with impunity…forcing the army to divert resources away from tolkeen? What about necromancy and using the very dead dressed in cs armor to come close enough to troops before acting as “suicide troops”. I am sure there are others, but SOT needed to have a question and answer period before it started so that they could take these tactics into account in the storytelling.

5. Murphy Storytelling: I like a good story. In order for a good story to take place, at the very least you need: consistency and awesomeness.
CS Genocide is the big one. After being listed in the main book as the cs emperor being interested in Hitler’s work and listed in many books of nuking d-bee settlements, they then grow enough of a conscience to make the death camps done by a renegade cs general. I am sure this was done to try to give a shades of grey in the world, but quite frankly, it’s dumb. Assuming that the news got past the heavily propagandad news, I seriously doubt the majority of cs citizens would give a damn about the enemy being worked to death.
The fable Holmes march is another. I understand they wanted to make him seem like John Wayne, but he came off to me more like Pvt Fredrick Zoller from Inglourious Basterds. So our John Wayne Substitute plunges a sizable chunk of the CS army into xiticix territory. 
Let me ask you a question: would you as a gm allow this? I believe the answer is no.
The sad part is it could have been done with a single sentence. Either they grabbed xiticix glands and sprayed down their equipment, or the lazlo cullings from a previous book reduced their numbers to the point where it is feasible. Neither happened or was explained.

Free Quebec is another. Tolkeen extended their hand to a xenophobic group of humans whose main reason for seceding from the CS was to avoid meddling in an international war. Whom thought it was a good idea again?

Erin Tarn preachiness is another. Often Erin Tarn is used as a mouthpiece, but her request to move an entire kingdom that has been attacked by an enemy that has declared no quarter, and you’ve prepped to fight against for years. It becomes all the more hard to stomach when she is proven right.
What is a better theme for a war series?
"We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and the oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender."


“We need to fight for something that by fighting we lose any right to fight.”

Your call.

I guess the best way to explain this logic is compare two shiny movies Phantom Menace vs Avatar. I would rather have a simple storyline that makes sense, then a complex storyline that makes no sense.

6. Aftermath

So now that it’s all said and done, palladium published a book on the aftermath of the siege of tolkeen. While actually one of the best parts of the series, it left me hanging after all that.

I guess the big part I got from these, is that other then stirring up some enemy's, their were little repercussions for their actions. A coup would be interesting considering how much resources were expended, for so little gain. At the very least, putting Joesph Prosak II on the throne would have been a great capstone to the series.. 

The other is the end results. Tolkeen surviving adds a ton of potential new plot hooks. The destruction may add quite a few, but not nearly as varied. For the cs type games, it’s an itch that needs to be still scratched and here’s how we’re going to scratch it. For the tolkeen side, we might have won today, but what about tomarrow ? What will be destroyed, what sacrifices will you have to make and what horrible actions will you have to do to survive one more day? Plus having a place to build on after going through a war might give more camaraderie for your party.

No comments:

Post a Comment