Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Rifts - Duh, Duh, DUH

Let's hate on something different for just a minute.

It's 2am, and I'm having a 2nd glass of wine (after many beers today). O World Cup, you really haven't disappointed this year, what with the 7-1 smack down of Brazil (whom I dislike) by Germany (which is the team I always root for after the U.S. and Mexico are inevitably kicked from the tournament). The wife is out o town (with the baby) and D is asleep and I've just been surfing the blogs and whatnot for the last 90 minutes or so (Bikini Armor Battle Damage on tumblr is pretty funny...and depressing as well). old son of a bitch.

I was thinking about it this evening, and I have probably spent more of my hard-earned money on Rifts than any other game system in my entire life, including Dungeons & Dragons. One thing about D&D, many of my TSR books were acquired as gifts when I was a youngster (from friends and family for birthdays and Christmas and whatnot), and while I did acquire the 3rd edition core and several of the "splat" (class) books, I really never invested heavily into its other stuff, and a lot of older edition stuff I've picked up was purchased used, or been indefinitely lent by folks.

Rifts on the other hand...well, that's stuff I tend to buy new. And then sell of in disgust. And then re-buy new. Because I have some sort of problem with Palladium games. Really...Palladium is like crack: a cheap high that doesn't last long and is O-So-Bad for you, with nothing really to redeem it. Hell, it ain't even all hard cover and glossy like White Wolf's stuff (I spent a ton of money on Vampire back in the 90's, but things were cheaper than and I never did the sell/re-buy thing)...there's no glamor in a softcover with B&W interior that curls up at the edges.

Palladium system is the ghetto RPG.

It's also the kind of shady drug you don't like to tell people about. I mean, you run into players often enough (Palladium's sold well enough to stay in business this long) but Palladium people always seem a little embarrassed to admit their enjoyment of the game. Fact of the matter is, I've found it hard to even PLAY Palladium games...all the Rifts "campaigns" I've started have invariably  ended after a single session, and I've never known ANY gamers who could really "stick with it" least not since high school (and I'm talking freshman/sophomore year high school).

[man...I sure did write a lot of Palladium-related posts back in 2009]



Sorry...fell asleep. AND woke up late. What was I saying?

Here's the thing...this is what I was trying to get to last night/this's The Thing: I almost wish (almost!) that Palladium would fold and the game fall from the realms of print so that folks could start "cloning" the hell out of it. Cloning it without the threat of lawsuits.

Of course I do NOT wish the failure of a business on anyone, especially not Mr. Siembieda who has produced so much creative, inspirational work over the decades. This isn't really about hating on Palladium or its policies or its Head Honcho. But, man o man: if Rifts was available for cloning? To take the setting and run it with a system that's a bit more coherent? It would be so damn easy!

I mean, it already has a class/level structure (because Palladium was originally a D&D knock-off/'re not going to convince me otherwise). It already has D20 combat (if overly complex combat) and hit points and whatnot. The ability scores and adjustments not terribly dissimilar from what you'd find in D&D (duh); tightening the game would be a piece of easy.

Of course, I'm sure a lot of independent publishers were licking their chops at this very prospect during the heyday of D20 and the OGL.

The obvious workaround is the usual one, I suppose...file the "serial numbers" off everything and publish it without using the trademarked IP or copyrighted material. Yeah, easy enough: that's pretty much what I did with Cry Dark Future after all (a cyberpunk-B/X mash-up heavily "reminiscent" of Shadowrun). It's what Bezio's X-Plorers appears to be (with its heavy resemblance of Star Frontiers...though minus the vrusk and dralasites).

But you know, one of the reasons why CDF hasn't actually found its way to publication yet is the sheer degree by which it resembles Shadowrun...and I want it to be a little more different. I mean, it IS different (*sheesh* I have some original ideas...). Yes, I was able to simply and elegantly (I feel) 'port the chargen system (circa 3rd edition SR) into a B/X chassis, but that carries with it the major flaw of the SR chargen system, i.e. the time taken to kit out characters with a high priority in resources (money)...not to mention the all-too-often accounting errors.

And besides: shouldn't a B/X style system really include halflings? Halflings with machine guns (or rocket launchers or bionic limbs) just sound awesome. And much as I like the orc and troll options, aren't those guys supposed to be "monsters?"

Maybe, maybe not. I just haven't had time (or rather taken the time) to work out an original setting for the is nearly entirely derivative from its inspiration. I'm not certain I'm entirely on board with all that 5th World jazz.

And I don't want to make the same mistake again. There is a lot of dumb-dumb stuff in Rifts (or a Rifts-like game). Even adapting Mutant Future (itself almost derivative of its Gamma World source material) doesn't seem right, with its species-specific classes. Not that I object to race-as-class, mind you (and Rifts, too, has RCCs, i.e. "racial character classes")...but the fact that it divides adventurers into Men of Arms (various types), Men of Magic (various types), Scholars & Adventurers (various types), makes the thing just scream for a more traditional D&D type treatment.

Really like the air-powered spear guns.
A long, loooong while ago I was considering the idea of a post-apocalyptic world setting of the type found in the psychedelic PA art of the 60s and 70s. Things like Bakshi's Wizards and Heavy Metal Magazine. Something weird without being gonzo...where "mutant" is an epithet, not a source of X-Man-style superpowers. Dyson Logos did a great series on the (first) animated film, Heavy Metal, and how its disparate stories could be shuffled together to create a coherent and exciting setting for a Mutant Future/Gamma World campaign, and it provided a big push of inspiration...but at the time, I was more concerned with getting my B/X Companion book completed. The idea got dropped along with a lot of other "neat" ones.

[it doesn't help that I get side-tracked by cyborgs...and creating cool game mechanics for cyborgs...every time I get within spitting distance of their possible inclusion. Is my "borg love" a subconscious thing caused by my childhood fandom of the Six Million Dollar Man? No clue]

Now, the idea is back...but Palladium is still there, looming with its massive pile of Rifts "stuff" (ideas, concepts). Ready to pounce with a pack of lawyers at the very whiff of treading on their trademarked toes. Hogging all the post-apoc, mutant-magic mash-up potential.

Except, of course, the concept of such a setting isn't original to Siembieda and Rifts. Post-apocalyptic settings that include both can be found in sword & sorcery fiction. It even found a home on Saturday morning television with Thundarr the Barbarian, my absolute favorite cartoon of all-time (yes, yes, I was a big fan of the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon back in the day). I know that Thundarr was adapted to at least one game system ("Under a Broken Moon," using the mechanics from Over the Edge), and maybe Savage Worlds, too. I suppose that a big difference between something like Thundarr and Rifts (besides the obvious) is that Thundarr and its ilk offers no explanation for the emergence of magic in its post-apocalyptic world, while Rifts goes out of its way to create an elaborate justification for the presence of the supernatural...even though the latter proceeds to go all wonky and inconsistent with its various different styles of magic (to make no mention of psychics).

What I probably need to do, instead of filing the serial numbers off Rifts or producing a different spin on Mutant Future, is create my own class/level game set in to post-apoc world. But, dammit, hasn't that already been done before? That's the whole reason why I wrote MDR (not yet available) using the DMI system...because I wanted a post-apoc system that had some heart and something different from the same old, same old fantasy adventurer tropes.

But, man do I love my fantasy adventure tropes.

Ugh. Round and round and round it goes. Maybe what I REALLY need to do, is make a list of all the things I HATE in existing post-apocalyptic games, and then write something that doesn't include those. Hmmm...

Yeah...that's the ticket. Sorry to all my readers that had to wade through the dross of my stream-o-consciousness rambling. I now have a mission.
: )

[congrats to Argentina, BTW...see you in the final]


  1. So do it. I don't have the same love for palladium (or hate for K.) that so many people do. But the settings therein must have some useable material if the system wasn't so awful.

    1. The ideas are fantastic, and the world books are great resources.

  2. Dude, I love you, can you not know about the Savage Afterword and it's adaptation of Thundarr for "Mutant Future?!!"

    Oh, and Deutschland Uber Alles! ;)

    1. @ Anthony:

      Man, I've never even heard about Save Afterworld (which is crazy given the blog's longevity and my love of all things post-apoc)! This is why people need to tell me this stuff!

      I've been reading it all morning.
      : )

  3. I'm one of the very rare deviants that loves Rifts, while accepting that it's a funky beast with a boatload of problems. Part of it, I think, is that my older brother got me into it right when my father was heavily selling the old Ku and C band satellite service. We got Cartoon Network, Thundarr the Barbarian, the Herculoids, Space ghost etc were staples of the programming then. I've run and played other stuff, of course, but Rifts has been my go-to game for... 16 years now? Wow.

    1. @ Daniel:

      YOU, my friend, are a trooper!
      : )

  4. Always nice to see other people thinking about Rifts. I agree that it is a "ghetto" RPG in many ways, and there is a lot of dumb stuff in there. But there's so much to love, too.

    I just starting playing Rifts again with my old high school gaming group. It can happen. Though I should probably admit that we've house ruled the hell out of it, and are considering converting to a much lighter system.

    I also blog about Rifts regularly (like, every week).