Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Damn You Rifts!

So I was out for a walk today and stopped by the local game shop (as I often do) and picked up a used copy of 1st edition Rifts for $10, a game that I sold (along with a dozen plus sourcebooks) years ago, swearing I would probably never play the damn thing again.

Blame the 'borgs.

Rifts is a game I purchased back when it was first published. At the time I had already played Heroes Unlimited and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and had at least read a couple of the Robotech books (my friends had a long running Robotech campaign, but I never joined them, unable to reconcile the game with my first mecha love, BattleTech). It was, of course, the wonderful cover art that attracted me to the game...utterly twisted like some sci-fi nightmare or dark opiate dream of a swords & sorcery type.

Well, anyway, the game is Palladium, which means it is more or less scattered and crazy...and yet, and yet...unlike other Palladium games, Rifts had so much more story to it than a simple combat system, some character classes, and kewl powers. I mean it was nuts and all, but it opened a whole realm of possibility.

I ended up playing Rifts more than any other Palladium game before or since, though still not nearly as much as other TSR games I played in my youth. Frankly, as a teenager (I played Rifts in high school and maybe some early college), I had not learned the art of reduction of focus...basically, I was still following the old schol (AD&D) idea that "if it's an official supplement, it must get included somehow into the game." As I owned literally a dozen sourcebooks of material (of which less than 25% was used)...well, I was a bit overwhelmed.

Plus Palladium has probably THE WORST skill system ever published, hands least of the ones I've seen. For a game of slam-bang over-the-top action, it makes the character creation process a royal pain in the ass...especially considering how often characters get gaffled.

Well, anyway...this post is not supposed to be a rant about Rifts or Palladium; it is an explanation of why I would go ahead and pay good money for a game that I had previously owned and discarded. To which I reply: the 'borgs. In addition to Rifts, I picked up this little baby to go with it:

Having never previously owned this source book (it was published AFTER I ended my relationship with the game) I was, I must admit, pleasantly surprised to see it. I had gone into Ye Olde Game Shoppe half-expecting to pick up Rifts (I had seen a used copy last week and after this morning's musings, well...) but I was absolutely not going to get it unless I could actually use it to play a game that:

a) I couldn't play elsewhere, and
b) Had the proper source material to back it up.

The source material I was expecting to find was the Rifts Sourcebook 1 (apparently now published in a "revised and expanded" format). But really I only wanted it for the 'Borg material. The Bionics Sourcebook has 99% of what I needed (the sole exception being the 'borg railgun stats from the sourcebook, but hey I can make something up pretty easily).

Ah, cyborgs...what fun.

The great thing about full conversion 'borgs in Rifts (unlike, say, Bionics characters in Heroes Unlimited) is that they are already fairly wanking around having to pick various systems and squeeze money out of your budget to buy an Ion weapon or some such. Nope: here's your stats, here's your MDC (hit points), pick a couple extra systems (don't worry about the cost) and GO! In fact, the hardest part of chargen for a 'borg character in Rifts is the damn skill selection (as with any Rifts' character). Hell, if I bothered to take the time to write up a template or two, I could probably cut the whole chargen time down to simply rolling ability scores!

Of course, does Rifts do something that I can't do with other games? And I mean, besides causing a splitting headache (which certainly other games do as well).

Actually, I think it does...I saw one more source book that I've never previously owned but decided that I must have: Sourcebook 17: Warlords of Russia. It may have been the presence of this book alone that got me to open my wallet for Rifts, even though I couldn't quite bring myself to pick it up as well (it was only available new, and there were five copies sitting on the shelf so I'm pretty sure I'll have a chance to get it with the next paycheck). Flipping through its pages I found an entire microcosm of the Rifts world just waiting to be played (I have learned that reduction of focus thing, after all). THIS is a game world I want to play in.

- A post-apocalyptic landscape in the remains of what was once the Soviet Union.
- Warring cyborgs fighting in the cause of a dozen warlords across the snow-swept steppes.
- Stories of pathos and missing humanity, as well as blood, battle, and strife.

Hell, yeah! I'm going to run a campaign with ONLY cyber-Cossacks. Who needs magic or "dimensional beings?" I don't! I certainly don't need cyber-knights, psychics, or "dragon hatchlings." This has the potential for one hella' cool wargame.

Damn you Rifts!

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