Friday, June 11, 2010

Rifts: I Can't Say No

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).


Jason Richards said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jason Richards said...

"And since the game craps on Game Balance and nails its mom immediately afterwards, I don't worry about my tweaks causing widespread havoc."

Hehehe. Welcome back, buddy. :)

da Trux said...

"the game craps on Game Balance and nails its mom immediately afterwards"

you are my literary hero!

for all its faults, Rifts is FUN. and that is what matters most.

ancientvaults said...

Save vs. Poison (the blog) is playing also getting into RIFTS. I ran it years ago and I do love the idea behind the game. The only problem I had was the wide range of classes and races. It was much easier to begin everyone on the same level (like Coalition troops) and branch out from there.

Zenfar said...

Love it! Maybe I will run a Rifts game as my midelife crisis game...

Helmsman said...

I'm basically in the same boat as you. I don't know how, but Palladium writes the only RPG's I know of that I actually want to turn to the next page to find out what's going on. No other game does that for me, I've played many other games and had fun with them, but Palladium games are the only ones I can read for enjoyment.

It's been an interesting exercise for me to create a new system for Rifts that keeps things as true to the original as I can tolerate. I'm very close to running something I hope will be really really fun.

Zachary The First said...

Thanks, guys! :)

d7 said...

I was just leafing through my old, dog-eared, original edition of Rifts a couple of days ago.

I never ran it though, so the system is impenetrable soup to me. The setting is equal heapings of wonder and awesome though, and I've always wanted to play in that sandbox. I'm a fan of the One Roll Engine and I'm seriously considering using that (in it's Nemesis incarnation) to run a Rifts game. I think it's flexible enough to capture the awesome and the gritty bits of Rifts, and it easy to pick up and modify.

Which is to say, thanks for the shot of enthusiasm!

Zachary The First said...

Go for it! That sounds awesome!

DNAphil said...

I spent my teenage years running the craziest TMNT campaigns ever. I did not even have Mega Damage for all the craziness I got into. Warts and all, I like the Palladium system.

Have fun playing Rifts.

Helmsman said...

@d7 What's this One Roll Engine?

d7 said...

I left off the link because I didn't want to proselytise in a Palladium system post, but since you ask…

One Roll Engine is a d10 dice pool system used in a number of games, originally Godlike. Instead of a target number, you look for sets of pairs or bigger of the same die value. The system uses the number of matching dice (calls it "Width") and the face value in the set (calls it "Height") as a way of determining a bunch of stuff with one throw of the dice. That's primarily why it's a fast system. (That, and combat uses simultaneous resolution, so you're never waiting on someone else's turn.)

Of the games that use it, Nemesis is free to download and covers 1920 to present-day/near-future well. I'd also be using the Company rules from Greg Stolze's Reign to model high-level action between Xiticix armies, DB towns, conspiracies, Coalition forces, mercenaries, or whatever, in between character-level adventures.

Mr Stolze has released a bunch of supplements for Reign under a ransom system, including a build-your-own-magic supplement. I'd use that with Nemesis since it doesn't cover magic much.

And I'll leave it at that. If you're curious, I can dig up some representative reviews on, or you can just take a look at the material for download at Project Nemesis and Stolze's downloads page.

Helmsman said...

Nice. The width and height has a few permutations that I like. Does it do hit-location?

d7 said...

@Helmsman Yes, it uses the Height to determine where a hit lands, each location can take a fixed amount of damage before it's useless or results in unconsciousness/death, and damage done is usually Width modified by the weapon. (Pages 24 and 25 of the Nemesis PDF cover the entirety of the damage and hit location system.)

I mentioned running Rifts using this to one of my players and he was quite enthused. There really seems to be a lot of love for Rifts as a setting, regardless of how people feel about the system. I know intellectually that it's a kitchen-sink setting, but it does it so well that it doesn't feel like just an excuse to have everything in one game. There's something about Rifts that's very compelling as a setting.

Helmsman said...

@d7 "There's something about Rifts that's very compelling as a setting."

Interesting thing is that when you look at Joss Whedon settings or Firefly the formulas that are used to create those settings run very similar to Rifts. The only difference is that Rifts usually has around 3x as many of them.

To illustrate:
Farscape: Blanket Villain: Peacekeepers - covers multiple worlds and is far bigger than any one bad-guy so they can never be defeated.
Thing Blanket Villain is scared of to justify it's villainy: Scarans.
Thing Blanket Villain Wants from PC's: Wormhole Knowledge.

Now Firefly:
Blanket Villain: The Alliance - same massive organization far bigger than any one bad-guy.
Thing Blanket Villain is scared of: Reavers.
Thing Villain wants from PC's: River Tam and her psychic abilities.

Now Rifts: Blanket Villain - the Coalition.
Thing Blanket Villain is scared of: Alien Subversion of Humanity.
Thing Villain wants from PC's: This is pretty diverse from a bit of Pre-Rifts tech, to the location of Erin Tarn, to a old book to something much bigger.

Phase World (actually my favorite)
Blanket Villain: Name it. I run parallels between the Consortium of Civilized Worlds as the Peacekeepers and the Transgalactic Empire as the Scarans, but there are 9 different major factions in Phase world so take your pick.
Thing the Blanket Villain is Scared of: There's lots to be scared of in Phase World, but it's usually faction vs faction.
Thing the Villain Wants from the PC's: The Cosmic Forge - which seems campy but the way it's kept shrouded in mystery but with the occasional hint that it might be tied to Rifts Earth (for the GM's convenience) makes it seriously awesome.

That's one of the things I've come to recognize in Rifts settings is that there's some solid storytelling in their books which I don't think is accidental.

Scotty said...

I MISS MISS MISS Rifts gaming. Hell I miss gaming period.

Scotty said...

I MISS MISS MISS Rifts gaming. Hell I miss gaming period.

Zachary The First said...

Fine work, d7. Good explanation.

@Helmsman: Interesting comparison!

@Scotty: Hang in there!