101 Days of Rifts: Rules IV

One of my trouble spots with Rifts, probably the biggest after MDC, is the untrained combat system in the Game Master’s Guide and RUE. The actions versus attacks system doesn’t work very well. It’s clunky and didn’t make much sense. If two actions for an untrained character is one attack why isn’t one attack for a trained character two actions. It would be easier to just ignore the additions and go back to the original Rifts method which is common in most Palladium games and just have attacks. The problem with this method is now that four attacks for breathing is the standard for trained characters untrained characters, especially mages, are at a serious disadvantage.

The problem is spells consume a certain number of attacks based on their level. It will take a full combat round for a mage to cast even a spell at levels one to three until sixth level. In that time someone focused on hand to hand combat can cross the intervening space and attack the mage or simply fire a weapon at them. Even if they miss the spell the attack spoils the spell.. It was precisely this issue the article “PPE Channeling” in The Rifter #21 addressed. Of course, that system relied on the Game Master’s Guide actions system to work. Also, as I pointed out in my earlier discussion, the shift from spells casting per turn to per attack in RUE provides the same value if in a slightly different form.

In looking for a substitute I’ve had a couple of ideas. One was to adopt a Champions or Star Fleet Battles like system for staggering attacks. You break the turn up into segments based on the largest number of attacks. The character with the largest number acts every segment and those with smaller numbers acts on segments such that their actions spread evenly over the turn . I’ve rejected this as too complex even though I’ve played my fair share of Hero System (I’m a backer for Hero Fantasy Complete) and Starfleet Battles. I also rejected it as alien to Palladium because I want a solution I can use in all my Palladium games.

A more recent thought has been to use the actual seconds system used in Hackmaster Basic. This is alien to Palladium but not as much as the staggered segments system. Also, it’s pretty straight forward. For those not familiar with the system characters have speeds to reflect how quickly they can reset after using melee weapon or how fast they can fire a ranged weapon or cast a spell with lower speeds indicating faster reset. The initiative roll determines how many seconds you have to wait before your first action. The GM starts the count at 1 second. On a second you can act you can move one second’s movement, take a second long action, begin a longer action, or attack. Longer actions and attacks prevent you from acting until their length (for attacks your speed with the weapon) passes. The biggest issue is it would require a lot of conversion work to figure speeds for each combatant type. Movement would be speed divided by five. You could simplify speed for all weapons to fifteen divided by attacks. It’s a lot of work and could get futzy.

However, about the same time I was think about the Hackmaster system I was re-reading Transdimensional Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles looking for material for my first demo scenario (a HU game) and found my answer. This shouldn’t surprise me as before I’ve contended that TMNT was one of the best generic RPGs if you had the core book, TTMNT, and TMNT: Guide to the Universe. The answer it has is the Wizard Combat Table on page 42. This provided a combat skill which gave castings per melee. It had a handy note on how castings interact with attacks; each casting uses up a melee attack but if the wizard still has castings after he’s out of melee attacks he can keep casting. In the rare case of a caster having more attacks than castings I’d use the alternate. Essentially your total castings much be less than or equal to castings and attacks equal or less than attacks. If one of the two is higher than the other the total of castings and attacks cannot exceed the higher one. It also gives save bonuses to the wizard and penalties to his targets as his level increases. The biggest issue is Transdimensional Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is long out of print. However, the same table is present in Heroes Unlimited: Revised Edition on page 93. That game is available in pdf. It may be in Palladium Fantasy Roleplaying First Edition which is also available in pdf but I don’t have my copy handy to check.

Combining castings with the attacks used by spell level in RUE should give mages some flexibility in combat and uses Palladium rules only. I think this will also work better for a consistent rule across games where often everyone gets the two attacks for breathing being heroes but no advancement unless they take a combat skill such as Heroes Unlimited.

101 Days of Rifts: Side Journey to Nightbane

Rummaging through old files I found one titled ‘Nightbane notes’.

And on 1.0.0.0.0.8 5 Lamat 1 Mol the people shall leave their fields and potteries. They shall gather at the temple. There they shall celebrate the eightieth Calendar Round passing since my glorious ascension. – Pacal, King of Palenque

I wonder if they will, Pacal. Will you be remembered on October 21, 4772? Will there be anyone to remember? As I write this it is December 21, 2013 (insert Mayan date). Many of us think the world ended a year and a day ago and it just hasn’t noticed yet.

Children of the New Creation or Outcasts of the First World
Basic outline: this setting is a riff on Nightbane taking the Dark Day as the Northern Hemisphere winter solstice 2012. Start time will be exactly when the sun reached the Tropic of Capricorn and then 24 hours. Much of the description will be straight from Nightbane.

The question is: did the 4th creation end on that day and the last 24 hours of the long cycle were the creation of the new world?

The Nightlands are the remains of the first world and the Nightlords and their servants are the Mayan cycle equivalent of Qlippoth

The date on it is 2012/08/12 but I can remember working on the idea when I lived in Texas so some of it dates to 2007 or so. I was very interested in using the planned end of the world/end of the Mayan calendar as The Dark Day.

The Qlippoth reference is to a GURPS book, Cabal. Cabal presumes two creations, one mapping to Genesis 1 and one mapping to Genesis 2. The Qlippoth are the remains of the now gone first creation trying to undermine the one that replaced them. With the Mayan calender interpretation that each cycle ends with recreation of the world I wondered “what if the Nightlands” are the remains of the first world trying to use the cycle to recreate themselves.

I’d love to return to these ideas at some point.

101 Days of Rifts: Audience Participation

As I said Saturday I’m now a Megaversal Ambassador. For my first demo game I want to cash in on Guardians of the Galaxy with a comic book space opera game. Generally, I consider all Palladium games comic book games (which is an upcoming post). While the current Guardians book, like its predecessor, is a superhero book to a degree it’s more sci-fi space opera. It is even more so than my first love in comics, The Legions of Superheroes. So, while Heroes Unlimited might be the logical first choice I’m also thinking Phase World is another possibility.

So, audience participation, if you were going to create a Palladium demo game with a GotG like setup which game would you use: Heroes Unlimited, Phase World, or something else?

101 Days of Rifts: The Rifter Index Tiddly Wiki

I love The Rifter but sometimes it’s a pain to find what you want or even what’s available for a given game. There are some fan indexes but the ones I’ve seen don’t make it easy to see contents sorted by game line or author. To that end I’ve started a TiddlyWiki indexing issues. Right now it’s fairly empty with contents for only three issues and few details on those but it’s a start.

Right click and save to download

101 Days of Rifts: Burried Treasure Rifter #21

As a general rule in the Buried Treasure series I’ve tried to highlight items of broad use to the OSR community. This time the item is much more limited, at least the reason I selected it limits it to Palladium fans. However, I consider it important for Palladium GMs to at least consider.

For those not familiar The Rifter is Palladium’s house organ. It comes out quarterly and while a periodical it resembles a typical Palladium game book. It is perfect bound and on the heavy but not glossy paper that is Palladium’s norm. In terms of content it has what you’d expect of an RPG house organ: company news and ads, scenarios, setting info, optional rules, and some fiction or comics. However, those last four have much more of a fanzine feel than a professional publication. That is not a criticism. I have enjoyed The Rifter more than I expected. I have a standing order for it at Teahouse Comics in Atlanta, GA. Most issues have material I think any old school GM would find useful. A well picked issue would be perfect for someone using Jeff Rient’s Alchemical Formula.

Issue 21 articles for Heroes Unlimited, three Rifts articles, one Palladium Fantasy Role-Playing Game article, a general Palladium rules article, and a lot of company info and ads. To be honest it’s a bit sparse with a catalog of Palladium’s fantasy game dressed up as an article and a couple of full-page ads.

The Heroes Unlimited article describes organizations of psions created with organic implants that are the offspring of psionic creature that melds with a computer. It includes background, a point building system, descriptions of the Motherframe creature and their offspring systems, and a character class for the psions created with the system. They have a strong cyber/gene-punk feel and would be at home in a much broader variety of games than just supers. In fact, I can see them fitting in as an odd remnant tech or a post-Scream evolution of AI tech in Stars Without Number. This is probably the most generally useful article in the issue.

The three Rifts articles cover familiars, expand techno-wizardry, and fan fiction. The familiar article has a few rules, some spells, a variety of creatures, and a character class of magic users who work mostly with familiars. While the rules might be adaptable too many of the creatures are either Rifts specific or a bit silly for my taste (baby Cthulthu as a familiar anyone or an air elemental in essentially a bong). The Techno-Wizard rules focus on device creation which ties them strongly to Rifts. Some of the notes and ideas might be useful to Mage: The Ascension players who are members of the Sons of Ether but I’m iffy on that idea. The fan fiction is chapter 21 of The Hammer of the Forge, a Phase World novel that ran through issue 54. I have a soft spot for it but it’s fan fiction.

The fantasy article (as opposed to the catalog) is the beginning of an adventure path (called an adventure campaign) built around the quest of the Mighty Hammer of Ra. It takes up nearly half the pages and includes multiple adventure setups, setting details, and some additional adventure ideas. The individual adventures are pretty spare compared to a Pathfinder adventure path providing a few npcs, a goal, and maybe some items or a map. The setting detail provides some connective tissue. Finally, the additional adventure ideas are in hook, line, and sinker format. Thinking about it this is closer to a Savage Worlds plot point campaign than a Pathfinder adventure path. It could be adapted to non-Palladium setting and rules.

The big feature of this issue, though, is the general Palladium rules article called PPE Channeling . Palladium uses a magic-point system for casting spells. The points are called Potential Psychic Energy or PPE for short. In a classic Palladium move psychic/psionic powers also use a point system but those points are called Inner Strength Points (ISP). Spell level drives the casting times expressed in melee rounds despite the system using spell points. By contrast each psychic attack uses one melee attack. GMs interpreted this to mean that a caster declares his spells when his initiative comes around and they don’t take affect until the end of the round (or a later round for higher level spells).

A combat where three characters of level 4 and 5 got the drop on a level 10 magic user inspired the article. Because casting times were in melee round regardless of level a caster got no better at casting spells. With even lower spells taking a full melee round (technically two could be cast but there were no timing rules) and the fact that merely dodging an attack would disrupt casting magic-users without a fighter wall really could not cast during combat. His solution was to set casting time in melee actions with a certain amount of PPE per action. This made some high level spells after than their low level counterparts but made nearly all spells faster.

This was a pretty big rule at the time and was even included in The Best of the Rifter. With Rifts Ultimate Edition casting times were revised to be stated in melee attacks but still tied to spell level arguably making the article obsolete. I consider it an interesting variant and was planning on using it until I started reading Rifts Ultimate Edition. I’m now torn between using it or the RUE version. I suspect they work out similarly but how many actions/attacks a given spell take changing here and there. I still think it is worth reading especially for Palladium players who don’t have RUE but one of the rule sets still using the melee round rules.

So, while perhaps not the most generally applicable issue of The Rifter I think for Palladium GMs playing anything other than RUE this is a must read if your magic-users are not doing well in combat.

101 Days of Rifts: Rules II

I am going to use MDC by the book.

When I planned a rules post about MDC that was not what I intended to write. I was going to use a Monday Pointers to survey all kinds of MDC house rules. Then, on Thursday I was going to walk through several of these alternatives. Finally, I was going to discuss Jim Stoner’s alternative which I intended to use.

What changed? Three things changed my mind. Two things I found in my research and one classic OSR post combined to change my mind.

The first thing I discovered was MDC to SDC: taking out MDC on the Palladium Forums. Two points in the thread impressed me. While technically the second of the two points in reading the first to make a large impacts was so a LAW rocket which does 1d6*100 SDC will do 1d6 MD (pst by Nekira Sudacne). While at the time I thought it wasn’t true because SDC can never damage MDC I did find the damage amount interesting. With the MDC:SDC ratio set at 100:1 in theory you could house rule a 1d6*100 SDC weapon into an 1d6 MDC weapon. More importantly it gives some perspective on what MDC means both for armor and for magical creatures. In the movies we are okay with rifle fire never harming Godzilla but we expect an anti-tank rocket to get his attention. If we convert a LAW rocket to MDC (because SDC can never harm MDC) that works like we expect. Now, the hand-held MDC pistols are shrunken LAWs in terms of damage just as a LAW is a shrunken cannon. I can’t say KS used this logic back in the 80s to setup MDC but it’s reasonable.

Right before that line the post says in the rifts main book, it says that while a culmination of SDC attacks will never harm MDC (like a 9mm. handgun) a single massive SDC attack will. any explosion or attack that does 100 SDC will do 1 MD. the formula works in reverse. This I knew was not true. Oh, it’s a common house rule that is usually combined with dropping the MDC:SDC ratio to 20:1 or 10:1. However, the Rifts main book specifically says To damage a Mega-Damage Capacity (M.D.C.) structure you must use something that inflicts MegaDamage (M.D.) (pg 38) and Normal weapons do absolutely no damage to mega-structures (M.D.C.), even if the combined total damage is over 100 S.D.C (pg 40). That seems pretty clear-cut that SDC never does MDC. As I said, letting the LAW do 1d6 MDC was a common house rule and is possibly implied in the MDC example which calls a bazooka a mega-damage weapon.

However, what if Nekira Sudacne was referring to Rifts: Ultimate Edition which came out the same year as the thread? Yes, the dates are a little off but maybe some previews were released. In its MDC section it says Only S.D.C. weapons that inflict 100 or more S.D.C points of damage can hurt MDC armor. All other SDC attacks (1-99 points of damage) bounce off the armor like bullets bouncing off Superman. I’m not sure this was a clarification and we’d spent the 90s playing it incorrectly or Palladium had endorsed the house rule. Going back and reading Robotech where MDC was first introduced is no help as it could go either way although I’d still lean towards no SDC attack, even one that does 100+ points of SDC, do not affect MDC.

It is hard to underestimate the affects of allowing single 100+ point SDC attacks to do SDC/100 round down MDC. For one thing, conventional explosives now become useful on Rifts Earth. For that matter, boulders and gravity are now viable. When asked about what is the point of classes not arrayed with MDC weapons and armor in Rifts KS has long emphasized planning and stealth. When large-scale conventional attacks can work this makes more sense. Under the classic interpretation of MDC the two Ewok log pendulums would leave the Imperial walker undamaged. Now, the results could be straight out of The Empire Strikes Back.

Referencing KS’s discussion of how to use low powered classes in Rifts brings me to the third thing to change my mind. In one of the classics of the OSR Trollsmyth riffed on an earlier earlier James Maliszewski writing and argued we should analyze early editions of D&D through the idea that “D&D is always right”. The idea isn’t that the game is flawless but that the game does what it does for a reason. The reason may not even have been conscious and may have evolved in play but it does it for a reason. I decided to try “Rifts is always right.”

So, when the campaign starts we will use MDC as written. If the group doesn’t like how that works out we’ll experiment but for now we will play “Rifts is always right” at least when it comes to MDC.

101 Days of Rifts: Laramie I

Something that appeared in early Rifts books are construction systems. The first was Traveling shows in Rifts World Book 1: Vampire Kingdoms. This remains one of my single favorite things about Rifts Earth, the traveling shows, and we’ll return to this system later in campaign development. The second in Rifts Mercenaries designs mercenary companies. Finally, the one we’re going to discuss today is the The Rifter #1 city design system.

These systems all work the same way. The first step is to pick a size and type which gives a point budget. For example, the city system has sizes of hamlet ( < 50 people), village ( roughly 250 people ), town ( 2000 people ), small city, city, and metropolis ( 100,000+ people ). After this you spend the points to buy levels in various categories. For cities those are government, natural resources, location, pre-Rifts history, attitude towards outsiders, racism, technology level, magic level, psychic level, military, laws and law enforcement, notable businesses, power source, wealth, and criminal activity. Most categories are pick one but for cities natural resources and notable businesses are pick zero or more. The pick one categories usually have a zero cost option. Finally, some choices give points for use only in specific categories. Town, for example, get 180 general points plus 10 specifically for laws and 10 specifically for notable businesses while being in a monster zone add 5 points for magic. These build systems are not strongly defined in the same way as the various point systems in Hero or GURPS. They're mostly loose descriptions. I think they are akin to the random generation tables popular in old school gaming from the women table in the DMG to the various tables Roll 12 puts out on a regular basis. They are directly usable in most old school games (I’ve probably used travelling shows more in D&D than Rifts) and could inspire a OSR writer looking for generation tools other than random tables.

Today I’m using the city system to develop my base town. Originally I was going to Casper, Wyoming, where I lived from age 4 through fourth grade and again from seventh through ninth grades. However, Spirit West indicates Casper is the center of a major native American preserve and I want something a bit more open than a preserve as my campaign headquarters. Looking around the state and the two book on the western US I’m using Laramie, Wyoming. It’s location is a bit further from the Black Hill than I’d like because I want that big ley line intersection to play a role but it has the advantages of being the site of a university pre-Rifts and sits on the edge of the major Simvan ranges, the Casper Preserve, and the Colorado Baronies. The only options closer to the Black Hills, Gillette and Sheridan, are more isolated from non-Preserve culture and more open to attack from major bad guys, specifically the Fargo and Rolla Morden Xiticix hives.

Step one is deciding how big our post-Rifts Laramie is. According to Sourcebook 1 human populations in the west are roughly 1 per 100 square miles with DeeBee population about 1 per 20. In reading Rifts Ultimate Edition and the associated expansion and revision of Sourcebook 1 this information has disappeared. This is good because it really isn’t tenable. I think KS created these numbers without thought to support the idea of North America returning to a vast per-Columbian wilderness or even emptier. Even using the lowest estimate of pre-Columbian population I can find with casual research (ie, Wikipedia) of 2.1 million the population density is roughly 1 every 4.5 miles. The larger estimate puts it are roughly 1 to 1. Looking at other Rifts books I find a range. As a general rule I consider wilderness in Rifts North America to have a combined human and humanoid DeeBee population at roughly 1 per square mile with the ratio of humans to DeeBees as described in the relevant books. For the CS and other organized human kingdoms I use 10 persons per square mile or roughly that of the states in the 1790 census.

I’ll let Laramie use the area of modern Albany county, Wyoming to determine its population. According to Wikipedia that is 4309 square miles meaning 4309 people in our new Laramie. The system defines a town as 2000 but gives no definition for a small city or city. A metropolis is 100,000+. I’m going to say a small city is 10,000 and a city is 50,000 meaning Laramie is best modeled as a town.

We have 180 points plus 10 for laws and 10 for notable businesses. For government we make this a benevolent dictatorship for 20 points to give it a safe but not very open feel. This area is probably forested based on the descriptions of Wyoming in the various books but doesn’t have a major river to purchase those resources, I don’t want to spend the points for minerals or oil though both are possible. Finally, my vision doesn’t include agriculture. Forst as a natural resource is 15 points. We’re now down to 145.

Laramie is in the wilderness but is the site of a pre-Rifts University. A wilderness location is free but the university costs twenty points. I want the area to host researchers as well as trade in lumber so the attitude to outsiders will be neutral for 20 points but racism will take the form of treating DeeBees, Indian traditionalists, and those with psychic abilities as second class citizens. That leads to another choice. While tech and magic will be roughly Rifts Earth norm, atomic age and limited magic, psionics will occur at about one tenth the normal rate. These three choices cost 30 points and give us a theory to hang the second class status of psychics on. The tech level explains why traditionalists, who reject technology, are viewed as lesser citizens. We are now at 65 points.

The town has a militia and a sheriff with four deputies. The sheriff and his deputies aren’t judge and jury but will arrest and quickly convene a trial with someone promenient enough to sit judge and a jury of your peers (or betters if you’re one of the second class groups). The sheriff and his deputies are also the top officers for the milita. That uses up our law points plus 10 more.

Coal is the common fuel and between travelers to the university and lumber the area eeks out a blue-collar lifestyle. As a result there is some crime but most of it is in the form of three gangs. With twenty points spent on those three areas we can return to notable businesses with 35 points put 10 extra specifically for businesses.

The first business is the library built from materials recovered from the university. Second, we’ll add an arms dealer as to the west and east is dangerous country. Finally, I’ll add four taverns/bars/inns, three rough and tumble and one respectable.

The next post in this series will start to flesh these bones out. I’m specifically going to try to create more direct gaming information in what I call the Welsh Pornstar style.

101 Days of Rifts: Monday Pointers Labor Day 2014

One of the great things about this series is doing research. I’ve found a lot of things I did not realize were out there and now I can share some of it.

D4: Mad Dog’s Multiverse

This is the first place I thought to add. Some great stuff and it now hosts some older Palladium sites. It was updated this year.

D6: Kitsune’s Palladium Web Page

Another good page of material that is still regularly updated.

D8: Palladium’s Forums

I’ve been doing a lot of reading here. It has influenced how I’m planning to play especially in terms of MDC.

D10: From The Rifts

A Palladium video podcast that seems to have petered out last year.

D12: Radio Free Palladium

A Palladium podcast that started this year. It’s last episode was in June. It’s done by Zak at RPG Blog II

101 Days of Rifts: Palladium and OSR

I’m sure some of you are thinking, “Hey Herb, didn’t you start this blog because of an interest in old school game and especially old school D&D. Why are you focusing on Rifts, a cheesy 90s game that everyone knows is junk.”. Okay, maybe you aren’t doing the judging but are wondering why Rifts instead Gamma World or Runequest or Starships & Spacemen or anything by Sine Nomine given how much you’re into their games. I contend that Rifts and Palladium games in general are old school. In fact, I’ll lay down my marker and say Palladium is the oldest old school company still in existence and is ignored by the OSR to the OSR’s loss. Actually, ignored is probably too strong a word. I think the OSR and the Palladium fan base should naturally overlap and just never have.

The Palladium system, as I have pointed out before, is a variation of OD&D. As such, it uses Gygaxian building blocks. Palladium has used this to advertise all their games as compatable. That’s a bit of a stretch but it does mean Palladium supplements are great supplements for an old school game. A couple of year’s ago when I tried to do a month of posts using Jeff Rients’s Alchemical Formula I picked Palladium’s Mystic China as a supplement. I think any OSR oriented person would do well to add a Palladium book or two to their collection. Picking the right one, such as Rifts England or Splicers can add a strange spice to your game not dissimilar to early Arduin in feel.

Since the late nineties Palladium has produced a quarterly house magazine called The Rifter. To give an idea of the contents here is the table of contents for issue #4, the first I bought (for its Nightbane content):

  1. From Behind the Desk (editorial)
  2. Palladium New, Info, & Coming Attractions
  3. Palladium Fantasy RPG Hook, Line, & Sinkers for the Western Empire (scenario outlines)
  4. Knight of the Dinner Table (yes, the comic)
  5. Palladium Fantasy RPG Long, Strange Trips (G.M. tips & ideas)
  6. Palladium Fantasy RPG Death is Not Always Final (monsters)
  7. Nightbane RGP The Tribes of the Moon (character races and classes)
  8. Rifts A.R.C.I.E. Three vs. The World (adventure)
  9. Rifts The Evolved (monsters)
  10. The Siege Against Tolkeen (gamer fiction)
  11. Hammer of the Forge (gamer fiction)
  12. Optional Character Sheet

Pretty much looks like an issue of Fight On to me except for the fiction.

Finally, the Palladium Forums at the company’s website spend a lot of time on either houseruling things (Palladium is like OD&D, every game is unique) or doing new material. There is less of a web presence and much of it has been static for a decade but it is still there.

Palladium’s heritage and fan base are very much OSR types. While they might put a bit more emphasis on cannon, especially the Rifts section, for game worlds with as many books there is a smaller cannon police feel. I think if you’re into the OSR mindset Palladium games are a great fit.

101 Days of Rifts: Appendix N Robotech New Generation

Robotech New GenerationRobotech is an American animated television series from the 80s. Yes, I said American even though the animation was Japanese. The US TV syndication market prefers (or at least did in the 80s) series of at least 65 episodes in length. The provides a minimum run before repeats of 13 weeks if broadcast Monday through Friday. To meet this requirement Harmony Gold combined the animation of three anime series, The Super Dimension Fortress Macross, Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross, and Genesis Climber MOSPEADA (interesting side note, originally the third part was to have been the other Super Dimension series, Super Dimension Century Orguss) with a new story covering three wars pitting Earth against alien invaders over Protoculture a combined energy and spiritual source. This gave them 85 episodes and the ability to sell in the syndicated TV market.

The original Robotech was a modest hit and saw a variety of spin-off media including toys, model kits (actually, Revell was selling these prior to the series), comic adaptations (by the now defunct Comico), a RPG by Palladium (that saw the first use of MDC), and a series of novelizations. The novelizations were written by Brian Daley (author of the Han Solo adventures novels) and James Luceno (also a Star Wars universe writer) under the pen name Jack McKinney. Macross was the subject of six books and the other two series three each. Later they would write novels of the never finished squeal series, a wrap up novel, and four connective novels. At this point the novels are no longer Robotech cannon with the 2006 movie Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles.

The three New Generation novels, covering The Third Robotech War, are Invid Invasion, Metamorphosis, and Symphony of Light which are now availible as a single volume omnibus. At the end of The Second Robotech War the Earth’s population is tiny given it has been less than 20 years after the First Robotech War ended with Earth’s population under 100,000. Also, the fighting of the two wars has devastated Earth’s surface. Less than a year after the Second War Ended the Third War begins with the invasion of the Invid, an insect like race. They rapidly take over and enslave some of humanity while the rest hides in remote places with a few rebels fighting to regain control.

The actual action of the series begins with the second attempt to retake Earth. The sole survivor, a space fighter pilot named Scott Bernard, crashes in South America begins to work his way towards the Reflex Point near the Great Lakes region of the US that is the center of the Invid host. He collects around him a band of freedom fighters and adventurers including a rock start, a mechanic, an orphan girl, a biker, a survivalist, and two Invid who have taken human form. Among their interesting gear are high tech armor and motorcycles that can withstand the fire of military weapons. As they work their way north they perform rock concerts, explore ruined cities, fight Invid, and generally cause trouble. As they reach the Reflex Point another attempt is make to retake Earth and the war ends.

I think someone approaching Rifts would do well to watch the New Generation (it is the last 25 episodes of the original series) or read one of its adaptations. I’m personally partial to the novels and as this is Appendix N they are what I have linked. Robotech Earth in the Invid period is the closest media to Rifts I know. Earth is overrun by foreign monsters and a nearly wiped out humanity fights for its existence while also collaborating with the invaders. The resistance has ultra high tech weaponry as do the invaders who also have some psychic powers. The only things really missing are magic and multiple sources of invaders. The group is also pretty much thrown together and freelance like many RPG parties.

The big reason, however, I like this series for Rifts inspiration over other alien invasion or after the apocalypse fiction is the strong separation of combat and non-combat action. This is a hallmark of mecha oriented anime and I think it is crucial to understanding Rifts especially MDC versus SDC combat. As I remarked in my first rules post MDC came from the Robotech RPG where it works fairly well but many people think it is broken in Rifts. I used to think that way but my thinking is evolving but a variety of items, including the series at question, are changing that. One of the conventions of mecha anime is rivals fight as equals. Mecha combat occurs in mecha and personal combat at the personal level. Rarely does the villain try to kill the hero by smushing him with his mecha or blasting him with missiles or laser canon. The MDC complaint in Rifts comes down to claiming the existence of MDC weapons means humans can never leave their armor. The counter by the author of Rifts in several books and many fans is that reduces the game to just tactical combat. However, if we model Rifts on something like a mecha series the counter makes sense.

What better first model than a mecha series which also became an MDC using RPG from Palladium featuring a ruined Earth when humanity on the edge fights monsters from beyond with power armor.