Tomorrow night, I may again possibly be running a Rifts one-shot. I know I am one of those rare fellows online who still seems to appreciate the hell out of Rifts, and I understand, even sometimes agree with some of the arguments against it.
I know the Megaversal System as presented is unwieldy. I know the irritation of waiting years for titles that turn out to be vaporware. I have watched the power creep progress from Vampire Kingdoms to Atlantis to South America to Warlords of Russia and beyond.
So why am I running it again?
Well, for one, as I've stated before, it's my Mother's Milk in this hobby, along with Palladium Fantasy. I've run it long enough that I don't need the book (it used to be I could tell you how many skill selections all the classes in the main book, and what type). Things that bother other gamers I long ago learned to cope with.
Second, I'm not really a big system guy. All systems have their shortcomings, and Rifts is descended enough from old AD&D homebrew that I can tweak and tweak to my heart's delight. And since the game craps on Game Balance and nails its mom immediately afterwards, I don't worry about my tweaks causing widespread havoc.
Rifts is messy, but so are all-you-can-eat buffets. Much like a buffet, you can get a little something of everything you want there. And with Rifts still the standard in kitchen-sink gaming, that's a pretty important aspect.
But the most important thing about Rifts is still that passion. There's the excitement of the authors, which jumps off every page. As I've said before, I want game writers excited about their product--that comes across in reading, and gets me excited about the product.
Rifts has never been afraid to be about stupid fun. Let others create games about sodomite pirates or attempt to explore sexual abuse through gaming. Rifts is there, shirt untucked, Dorito-stained hands wrapped around a Mountain Dew, explaining to you that a Dog Boy, True Atlantean, and some dude with no possessions except a giant ion cannon have teamed up to kill vampires on the Rio Grande. Maybe there's a story there, maybe there isn't. Either way, Rifts is cool with it.
There's something to be said for picking a single premise and doing it well; Rifts is a game that picks all premises, fails at some, succeeds at others. To use that old standby, it is what it is. But sometimes I think that when I pick up Rifts, the system, the warts, and the way it's presented all work to remind me about what's really important in RPGs. It isn't art, it isn't going to be perfect; it's gaming. I wouldn't have it any other way.
(...I might change the Vagina Eyeball cover on Rifts Ultimate, but that's just because I am a Classy Guy).