Rifts is a brilliant setting for a Role-Playing Game. It is a post apocalypse world where Sci-Fi and Fantasy elements coexist. The concept behind the setting is that the world faced and apocalyptic disaster devastating it. Loss of life on this scale was unlike anything ever seen in human history. The simultaneous deaths of all those souls contributed to the resurgence of ley lines and magic energy on the planet. You could see the ley lines like a glowing blue river of magical energy flowing across the landscape. Where these ley lines intersected were nexus points that created Rifts. Tears in space and time that opened gateways to other worlds and dimensions. Through these rifts all forms of life, technology, magic and demons could enter our world. Humanity reached new technological heights before the cataclysmic event, and the technology and knowledge managed to survive in various forms. Human augmentation and Power Armor are just two of those future technologies that remained from earths past. So, suddenly we have a world where Dragons and people in suits of giant Power Armor battled it out.
Since Palladium had already done games like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Robotech, Heroes Unlimited, the Palladium Fantasy RPG and others they already had quite a few various genre games that you could pull from and Rifts seemed like the perfect setting to grab all those other games and throw them in the same sandbox to play with. As I mentioned in the last post there seems to be a lot of folks out there with negative things to say about it. Pulling together that many various games might hit a hiccup or two, but I can work around those.
The Rifts books are quite different from games like Dungeons & Dragons. Palladium puts out World Books or Dimension Books as the main way of expanding the game. Whereas D&D would publish many adventure modules and paths, Palladium was publishing one massive Megaverse as a sandbox setting. It was not giving very many published adventures. It was publishing the world you could explore. Occasional “Hook, Line & Sinkers” would be a few paragraphs in some of the books. They were more brief ideas of how you could create an adventure in the setting. Palladium expected the Game Master and the Players to create the adventure more so than rely on Adventure Modules of other games. With well over 30 World Books, dozens of Dimension Books and countless Sourcebooks. Rifts has been adding to this world for thirty years, building it up and expanding it. Unlike other games who have released countless editions and started the game from scratch. Rifts just kept growing and expanding making it one of the most fleshed out settings available to Role Play in.
I have always found that the core Rifts book is one of my favorite places to set adventures around. The original core book first published in 1990 had an overview of the world they would go on to expand on and flesh out. A revised expanded form of the core book later published fifteen years later in 2005 updated a lot of this information to reflect much of the releases that have been made since then. The Rifts Ultimate Edition published 16 years ago is the most recent version of the game, but it was not a new edition. There were updates and some attempts to clarify rules and other core books to support the Rifts Ultimate Edition were added to the library of supplemental material available.
There has been a focus by many on North America in the game. While there is so much fleshed out, I would like to start there. It seems to me in many ways to define the setting and unique world that Palladium has given us.
If there is a main protagonist of Rifts, her name is Erin Tarn. Her writings have been banned by the Coalition States, a Fascist regime in North America. The Coalition is a human supremacist power in a world where so many from other dimensions and worlds have made their way through the rifts and made earth their new home. The Coalition is a dictatorship with armies of robots, power armor and the firepower to take on most threats. One thing I love about the Rifts setting is that right from the start the Coalition as a bad guy has such a great potential to be an allegory for fascism and you can have yourself one hell of an anti-fascist role-playing game. I am always interested in bashing fascists and mocking them in game. Rifts is perfect for this. Just my personal preference as our games do not tend to cling to some notion of avoiding the political. I could easily get sidetracked with a critique of the politics and world view of Rifts, but I’m going to leave that one alone for now.
It is the sandbox nature of the way the game is laid out that really led me to really be opposed to gaming modules and pre-printed adventures for the first decades of my gaming. But the world is written to be peppered with all variety of ideas for what can be encountered or what could happen. Each world book expanding bringing in other strangeness and opening the political and economic conflicts you can dabble in and build on to really create an amazing campaign. The map is one you are familiar with so doing more of a hex crawl style game can quite different. It is easy to get a grasp on distance and real-world terrains based on the land that is familiar to you. You can understand the distance from Ohio to Toronto quick and easy. It is the perfect game for the DM to just let the players let loose and explore without having to railroad them or push them in a certain direction.
It can be fun to have music or books you like pop up in game. What better way to set a tone or mood in a game than to have some character pull out an old CD and pop in the song you would love to hear for the soundtrack for your battle scene? Hey, it is not some distant past. You are living in a world where what we now have is a rare relic of the past. That can always be fun for game and unlike playing in the distant past of some fantasy world here relics of our every day life remain scattered about the earth. You can have fun using ordinary objects in various ways in game. Get creative with it.
Finally, Rifts has a very large library of existing books that fleshes out this world, and overall they have remained relatively inexpensive compared to most game books, so there is a far lower buy in to get started and there is a lot to explore and read about in fleshing out your very own Post Apocalyptic Fantasy Science Fiction Gonzo epic.
If you are interested in checking out Rifts specifically pick up the Rifts Ultimate Edition Core Book in PDF Here.