Saturday, February 13, 2010

Rifts Atlantis

Yeah, back to Rifts for the moment.

Picked up Atlantis, Rifts World Book 2 the other day, something I'd been promising myself since before Christmas. I'd owned it previously, but sold it a few years back.

Well, it's mine again. Ugh! Palladium!

Actually, I'm half-ashamed to admit I'm pretty pleased.

I should probably say up front that I'm a bit of an Atlantis aficionado anyway...I'll buy most things that have anything to do with Atlantis, RPG or otherwise. Everyone has their Achilles Heel, right?

And, yeah, there are no accounting for tastes (I'm a little weird, folks). Recent back-n-forth banter in the comments of this blog has been knocking on my brain lately. Different strokes for different folks and all that.

So...much as I've lamented Palladium here (and elsewhere), re-reading Rifts Atlantis wasn't nearly as disappointing (or frustrating) as Wormwood. I'm not 100% sure why...Wormwood felt like squandered potential, but Atlantis feels like a true and (dare I say?) fantastic source book.

Maybe because there's just so damn many ideas in it. The Atlantean history...both ancient and pretty damn inspired without feeling as cheesy as some Palladium tropes. The tattoo magic is cool (I'm saying as an idea...I'm not debating game balance), and the bio-wizardry is well and truly horrific shit. Parasites? Microbes? Vats of magical transmorgifying fluids that grant super powers while mutating the hell out of people? Pretty friggin cool stuff.

Alien intelligences and inter-dimensional slave trading, not to mention the dimensional Market of Splynn (I don't need the separate source book; the stuff in World Book 2 is plenty to fire the imagination)...species betrayal and genocide and gladiators and monstrous creatures that truly look like some bizarre imagining of H.P. Lovecraft crossed with bionics and high-tech weaponry...rune weapons and mind slugs and the wyrm-worshipping religion of Dragonwright...there's just a ton of stuff packed into the book's pages, even with plenty of fantastic and original artwork (all black and white, but all excellent and some full two-page spreads!).

For $20 that's more "source material" than anyone has a right to expect. I'm drawn to Siembieda's introductory words:

Some books take extra time because they are so elaborate or demanding in some way, but not this one. Once I was able to make the time to write, it just flew off my fingertips. Suddenly Atlantis came to life and I just wrote and wrote and wrote. I could barely keep up with myself as the ideas poured out.

I totally understand this feeling: when the writing thing has been going well (like the module or chapters of the B/X Companion) the words just seem to flow right from the brain to the laptop. But this craziness in the Atlantis book? Truly inspired (and inspiring) stuff.

As with all of Palladium's stuff, the book suffers from its own base system, but that's a given. I didn't buy the source book for any wonderful rule mechanics. If anything, I bought it for nostalgia (and Atlantis, of course)...and I found myself pleasantly surprised by the sheer amount of excellent, original, and yes, thoughtful, content. There's very little, if any, of the exponential "power creep" present in later books. Instead, there's a monstrous playground filled with a truly evil and inhuman society that can act as both an extremely dangerous place for the average human adventurer and a lasting source of antagonism and conflict in a Rifts campaign.

That's awesome.


  1. Loved loved loved Rifts Atlantis. The pictures were probably a big part of the draw.

  2. Keith Parkinson surely knew how to draw them. That cover made me buy the book. I haven't even read the insides yet. Maybe I should.

  3. Amid the Palladium dross, there are a lot of things to like about Rifts--and Atlantis was one of them.

  4. Easily my favorite Rifts sourcebook of all time.

    The first Rifts campaign I ever ran featured an Atlantean Undead Slayer who was at one point captured by his Splugorth foes and had a Chest Amalgamate forcibly implanted on his person. Making the best of a bad situation, he named his new symbiote Chester and the pair of them went on to a long and successful career.

  5. Very cool! I started as a Turtles addict but Rifts ended up being my game. When I moved west to Toronto I ended up hanging out with other cartoonists here and one of them did some amazing illustration work for Rifts. That was so cool.