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.