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.