R is for Rifts

Okay, who didn’t see this entry coming?

For the three of you out there who don’t know what Rifts is the following is the description from the Palladium catalog:

Rifts® is a multi-genre role-playing game that captures the imagination unlike any other. Elements of magic, horror, and the supernatural co-exist with science, high technology and the ordinary. The game spans countless dimensions, making anything and everything possible. Players are truly limited only by their imaginations!

That really doesn’t capture it. A better example is this ad from the Dragon twenty years ago when it was released. The ad also mentions the first three supplements Palladium produced for the game. The Sourcebook openly admits to being material cut from the core rules for space and it includes some excellent if whacked setting info (more about it below). The first two world books, Vampire Kingdoms and Atlantis, include some great ideas. Vampire Kingdoms features a central America ruled by vampires invulnerable to all human weapons but vulnerable to wooden stakes and running water. It was evocative enough that almost two decades later while reading the Dresden Files novel Changes I couldn’t help but imagine the Red Court Vampires of Central and South America in Rifts via the same supplement. Atlantis includes magical tattoos and the inter-dimensional slavers the Splurgoth and their Blind Slave Women who were on the cover of Rifts first addition. Either of these books would be a great supplement for an old school science-fantasy campaign.

That is the power of Rifts. It is the Arduin of the 1990s combining classic fantasy tropes in a Gamma World setting being invaded by demons from hell whose depredations are opposed by mecha pilots. Every complaint about Palladium rules I mentioned in my Palladium post are present in spades. In fact, many of those complaints apply to Rifts exclusively or nearly exclusively.

Rifts also has an excellent off-shoot/subsetting: Phase World. This intergalatic campaign divided among three galaxies is perfect for Legion of Superheroes or other space supers campaigns or wild anime style space opera as well as classic Edward “World Wrecker” Hamilton and Doc E. E. Smith space opera. Among the great additions in Phase World are the Cosmic Knights which I’ve described as “The Green Lantern Corps with a Knights of the Round Table Questing Knight image instead of magic rings.”

Still, I find myself buying Rifts books on the used market regularly. My anger over the company’s internet policy has softened enough that the latest Phase World supplements I may buy outright. I started off this month with my RDR (Rifts Done Right) material and tomorrow will include a more mundane post in that series. Rifts is a constant source of discussion and dismay over on RPG.net, mainly a desire to find the right system to run it (hint, Palladium or some other classic D&D variant is a requirement IMHO).

For the old school Rifts, more than almost any other Palladium line except perhaps fantasy, is a set of overlooked classics. If you want gonzo, metal, comic book science fantasy you owe it to yourself to find a ley line and walk into the Earth of Rifts.

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