I hear a great deal of hate and negative talk these days about the Role Playing Game Rifts, and Palladium Books who publishes the game Rifts. I was looking for podcast episodes that discussed the game and all I was able to find were folks who played newer games and had only bad things to say about it. I made a comment in a game group suggesting someone try playing a Palladium RPG and it was only responded to by people just saying vague bad things about the system. This kind of thing I have seen more and more frequently over the last decade or so. Because of this I am ready to talk about Rifts and Palladium, this is only the beginning.
I dabbled in various Role Playing Games when I was first getting into the hobby back in Elementary and Junior High. I played the games wrong. I had no idea what I was doing. Then my friend who had a love for all things Robotech and Giant Robot Suits brought over a game that I was sold on. I could make a superhero from another book and play that superhero in this game. The game embraced almost any absurd idea our Junior High School minds would come up with. We could be Magic Users, Superheroes, Mutant Animals or even Cyborgs. It was a free for all of all the cool muscle men and crazy characters we were drawing in our notebooks. This great fusion of all genres was Rifts. It was released in 1990.
I remember the summer of 91. Thirty years ago, from when I am writing this. I was in Junior High; we were gathered in my parents’ basement in Cleveland rolling up characters. There were only a few books out at the time, The main Rifts book, and the first Rifts sourcebook. Rifts was a game that evolved out of elements of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Robotech RPG’s from the 80’s to mash up every imaginable genre of crazy fantasy and science fiction into one gonzo post apocalyptic setting. For Junior High kids 30 years ago this was a dream come true. All the Palladium RPGs used the same system so it was easy to pull form different games. We could create any zany hero we daydreamed about and throw it all in there in one big soupy mess of imagination. We had Heroes Unlimited the Palladium Books Superhero RPG, and a handful of other Palladium Books borrowed from other kids here and there. I played my first game of Rifts. It was a weekend affair. I had cobbled together dice from other RPGs I owned and there were some dice stolen from a math cabinet at the school. I think the Game Master had an actual set of dice he picked up at a hobby store. I would soon get a nice set of translucent purple dice to make my collection look a little more impressive.
Over the years Heroes Unlimited, Palladiums Super Hero Role Playing Game, was our main game. The one we played more than any back then. A close runner up for me was Rifts though. We played a lot of various Role Playing Games in the 90s especially. I would join groups left and right to try out new systems and new games. I would find games from groups who posted little home made fliers at the hobby shop. I would find players through others I knew as well. We played a lot. There was a period right after graduation where I was playing at least one game a day and two games on a couple of those days. That was likely the height of my Role Playing. Things tapered down as I got older. As I left for the USMC and had children gaming became less and less common. I would try to get a game off the ground in those early years of the 21st century and it would always fall flat just because there were either no gamers, or everyone I was trying to game with just had too many family obligations, or were more interested in living it up in a social life that was not Dungeons & Dragons. Eventually after that drought decade of only playing a game or two a year I was able to get a solid campaign of AD&D going. That started about 10 years ago now, and I have been blessed to keep a solid game group together ever since.
I tried to launch games of Rifts in that time, and games of Heroes Unlimited, but they were not successful. And, when gaming was picking back up I was getting a lot of negative feedback on all things Palladium. I came to find over the last decade that there were a lot of people who role played that had mostly bad things to say about my first RPG love. Over the last decade I rarely have heard a positive thing said about Palladium books or the game they became known most for, Rifts. I still bought books though. Even though I played it less than other games I had. Now, I want to talk about it. It is a system I am awfully familiar with from all the time I spent with it over the 90s, and I think it deserves some defense from the bad reputation it has. I have my critiques, but really any game system can be criticized for the mechanics, as much of the criticisms on mechanics boil down to preferences and opinions. Then there is the business side of things, the company critiques. This is capitalism, you can critique any company under capitalism. So, I begin my series on Palladium Books and Rifts. It is about time Rifts is defended and I present my Defense of Rifts. I will be posting daily articles this week about my love of Rifts and Palladium Books, so tune in tomorrow for part two titled My Defense of Rifts where I delve into what I love about the setting of Rifts and try and sell you on playing it.