A brief disclaimer: My RIFTS GM is an excellent GM. Her NPCs are interesting, I like her take on the world...
...but the math in RIFTS is fucking stupid. There's no way around it. Combat takes WAY too long, even when characters have six or more attacks each. A "decent" gun does 4d6 damage, while the average Coalition grunt has an 80 MDC chest plate. You do the math.
I think we did something that our GM (bless her heart) did not anticipate, but it resulted in a two or three hour combat. Combat, as any regular reader of this blog knows, is the least interesting part of gaming for me. I even have a somewhat combat capable character this time, and I did some things in combat, and it still bores me to tears.
I actually feel worse for the magic-user in the party... in RIFTS, most of the spells seem to have a range of 60-100 feet. Many laser guns in rifts have ranges measure in the thousands of feet. Tonight we were engaged in vehicle-to-vehicle combat, so the magic-user literally sat in the vehicle unable to do anything. If he'd gone outside the tank, he'd have been annihilated by missiles. Consequently, the magic-user's player spent most of the evening fiddling around on his laptop, and, unlike my previous post about electronic distractions, I do not begrudge him. This was an encounter that he could not meaningfully contribute to in any fashion. (No skills to pilot vehicles, no gunnery, etc.)
Since my GM reads this, let me reiterate: I consider these elements to be failings in the RIFTS rule system, not failings in the GM. As I was leafing through the rule book this evening, I noted that a lot of the spells are incredibly weak compared to technology...weak as in "this sixth level spell does SDC, rendering it unable to damage about 90% of all opponents in RIFTS." For those unfamiliar with the SDC/MDC split, I mean this literally: SDC damage cannot damage MDC armor unless it causes 100 or more points of SDC damage. Many other spells cannot affect opponents in MDC environmental armor or power armor, both of which appear to be fairly common in the default setting of RIFTS.
I'm also rather irritated by one of the new players to the group, but that's another post entirely.
I do have two actual house rule suggestions, rather than just pissing and moaning with no solutions. It's the Joesky Way, goddammit.
1. Give most invocations LOS for range; it works in Shadowrun. If magic is supposed to compete with tech, as RIFTS seems to think it does on paper, give it comparable range.
2. Allow mages to "supercharge" spells, perhaps changing SDC to MDC by spending more PPE, or increasing the damage dice rolled by investing extra PPE. I remember that GURPS 3rd edition did this with a lot of spells, allowing mages to pump more energy into a spell for increased damage. Heck, maybe require an extra combat action to gather the needed energies or speak additional incantations or something. Supercharging Animate/Control Dead or spells like that would allow the mages to create MDC undead/constructs instead of SDC creatures that are piss in the wind to even the humblest MDC gun. (A spell rated at the 11th level should really create minions that can withstand at least one shot from the weakest MDC sidearms, right?)
Obviously these are for the GM to decide, but to me they make a virtually unplayable situation slightly more workable. Obviously, not everything should be totally balanced in power, but magic in RIFTS is something I've been butting my head up against since I started playing, and now I see that it is bothersome to other players as well.
Oh, and I will point out something that I found that made me crack a smile today:
Resist Fire and Impervious to Fire are the same level. They have the same range. they have the same duration. Resistance to Fire costs one PPE point more than Impervious to Fire. Hot damn. (No pun intended)