Thursday, November 5, 2009

One Boring Summer of Rifts

I associate many RPGs with various music albums…I listen to a particular song or album, and it reminds me of the RPG I was playing at the time. For example, Def Lepard’s Hysteria always makes me think an awful lot about 1st edition AD&D and Faith No More’s Epic always conjures to mind Vampire the Masquerade.

And Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy and Physical Graffiti always remind me of Rifts.

I played Rifts throughout high school, but pretty much stopped once I got to college (other friends played Rifts in college, but I was into Vampire my early years and then…well, into my major and things other than role-playing in my later years). This, and lack of funds, probably accounts for why I stopped buying every single world book and supplement Palladium published for the line.

However, one lonely summer during college Rifts was my sole form of entertainment for a couple weeks as I ran a solo “mini-campaign” for myself.

I don’t remember exactly what the circumstances were that summer. I was working a lot, and (if I remember correctly) I was working off-campus that summer…probably fast food. Between girl friends at the time (they only ever seemed to last from March to June back in those days) and my gaming friends were out of town…I think that was the year Michael was in Prague, Ben and Mike were in Missouri, and probably BEFORE I met Joel, Andrea, etc.

In fact, I think it must have been the summer AFTER my Freshmen year in college, ‘cause I met all my college gamer friends around Sophomore year…and I spent a lot of summers partying with them after that…I also usually had better summer jobs.

Anyway, I ran a whole war campaign against the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in Rifts World Book 4: Africa. Ha! A lot of people say that’s one of the worst of the Rifts World Books, but I sure got MY money’s worth out of it.

I created a whole plethora of characters using the Rifts books I had at the time (and there were many). An Apok and a Worm Speaker from Wormwood, a Knight and a Druid from England, a Tattoo Master from Atlantis, a minor Godling from Rifts Pantheons, an Elementalist from the Conversion Book 1. There must have been at least 15 or more characters in the party, armored up and loaded for bear, driving around in a Coalition APC (or its equivalent).

And I didn’t just stick to my own characters…I used NPCs from the various books as well. I know for sure Erin Tarn and her cyber-knight boyfriend were along for the ride (though Sir Eaglefeather or whatever his name was didn’t make it back alive), and probably a few of Reed’s Rangers from the Vampire Kingdoms. All-in-all, a pretty beefy bunch.

So in between late night shifts at the fast food place (Burger King, I believe), even later night-early morning card play with co-workers at the 24 hour greasy spoon Beth’s CafĂ©, and the sleeping in till early afternoon, I would hang out in my room fiddling with dozens of papers, notes, dice, and Rifts books, all the while listening to Led Zeppelin...over and over again.

Pretty sad really.

But what can I say…then as now I had a longing to play games and no one around to game with. This was before the internet, and there were no gaming shops in my neighborhood (and I was saving my money for school anyway)…hell, I didn’t even have a car back in those days! I was one broke joke. But I had music and I had RPGs and they provided me with many hours of entertainment.

Playing solo, one creates all sorts of rules to best meet one’s own “needs in play.” Over-hauling the XP system is the main thing I remember, but I know I had to tweak and house-rule things that came up “in play.” With no competing visions (i.e. other players) I was able to shape the action to my own liking…in essence I was using Rifts in a “drifted” fashion to facilitate a narrative creative agenda. I was writing/telling a story in play…one that I didn’t actually know the ending of until the dice fell from my hands to the desktop.

Actually, I believe it was the last game of Rifts I ever played. Later in college, I had friends that played Rifts to death, and I even loaned them some of my books for their games, but I had no interest in playing. I don’t know if that lonely summer “cured me” of Palladium, if it had been a high point that I felt (subconsciously) could never be equaled, or if I’d simply moved past it to other entertainments. Honestly, I don’t know. Hell, maybe it was just that I was super-focused on my acting and romantic relationship(s) of the time. Certainly the gamers were many of the same people with whom I continued to drink and party.

With regard to my African war campaign, I’m pretty sure that I finished it, soundly defeating (i.e. slaying) all four Horsemen. I seem to recall the Big Baddies got weaker with each death and so the final battles may have been anti-climactic compared to the earlier ones. In the end, many of the gathered “host of heroes” fell in battle against the Horsemen, and the Apok was the main hero (of course!) of the expeditionary force, killing the last one with a blow of Sir Featherhead’s flaming “rune flail” (Sir CyberKnight having been killed earlier by one of the Horsemen).

Ha! Yes, Supernatural Intelligences CAN be killed with enough firepower and twink magic. I will say this: the nice thing about having played it through, I have absolutely no urge to re-purchase/re-visit Rifts Africa…though I wonder if I still have my notes from that game? Maybe somewhere….

; )

[one quick note: my copy of Rifts Africa had the original cover, not the revised one pictured in this post. I couldn't find a good clipping of the original, and besides I have to admit I prefer the revised version]

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