Hey, kids, we have mail today! Actually, this letter is from a couple of weeks ago, but I just heard back from the reader to ensure it was ok to use.
I just wanted to tell you that you are doing a great job with the website. I am a regular reader, and appreciate the scope of your coverage (not just D&D or a certain edition of something).
I had a question I was hoping you could field for me. For a crazy post-apocalypse game, do you still recommend Rifts (you’re one of the few bloggers who actually discusses that game these days!), or is there something better for that style of game? I’d really like to try it out, but am not sold on the Rifts rules.
Thanks again, and don’t stop the blogging!
First off, thank you again for your letter, Wayne, and thanks for allowing me to use it on the website.
Post-apocalyptic games run the gamut, from kitchen-sink gaming such as Rifts to less fantastic-style games such as Twilight 2000. If you’re looking for that kitchen-sink game in the vein of Rifts, well, Rifts itself is still in print and still supported by Palladium Books. Now, a lot of people feel Palladium’s rules (the Megaversal System) hasn’t aged well. I get that, and if you’re looking for Rifts without the rules of Rifts, let me suggest a couple different courses of action:
-Look at keeping the setting and basic idea of Rifts, but gut the system and replace it with your own. A lot of the Rifts Main Book is fluff, so it should be easy to port those ideas into another system. The problem with many systems when it comes to Rifts is that it simply doesn’t scale properly. I would look at a system like Mini Six, which I believe has a simple, effective way to handle scale between large and small opponents.
-Keep the Megaversal System, but make a couple tweaks to make it run a bit smoother. Standardize attacks per round and start skill percentages/increments (say 30% +5%/level). Use roll-over dice for skill checks—I’ve found a lot of people find it more intuitive than the capped roll-under method. But realize that at its heart, no matter what you do to the system, it isn’t going to be balanced. Any balance in Rifts comes from the GM’s seat, not from the rules as written. You’re going to have a guy in power armor next to a rogue scientist with a missile launcher next to a glorified hobo. It’s your job to work it all in. The Justice League isn’t all equal (right, Booster Gold?), and Rifts damn sure isn’t, either. But everyone’s got a role to play.
-Find a game that does the madness of Rifts fairly well. Many people find Atomic Highway a great alternative. There’s also Jared Sorenson’s OctaNe (no, that’s not a typo), which is a little lighter and less traditional in structure, but gets generally good reviews. TORG has a small but dedicated fanbase, and at one point was probably Rifts' biggest competitor within the genre. Honestly the campaign I played that was closest in feel to Rifts without being Rifts was TORG.
Here's a few other options: The Morrow Project is highly esteemed, but is nowhere near Rifts in tone or attitude. Of course, Gamma World remains the most high-profile alternative; if you aren’t a fan of the newest WotC iteration, consider kindred games such as Mutant Future. And, of course, there’s always Encounter Critical, the game that never was. Bottom line, if the Megaverse isn't doing it for you, there's a multiverse of options out there.