Nerding Day: Rifts

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11 replies on “Nerding Day: Rifts”

My favourite thing about Rifts is that my tiny hometown in Ontario is mentioned in the section about those horrible bug monsters and where they’ve conquered.

I still have a soft spot for the fact that Rifts: Free Quebec was written by a local here in my little corner of New Brunswick. Funny enough, I consider it only the second best thing this guy did. The best being the fact that he ran a Legend of the Five Rings campaign a friend of mine was in, which led to that friend introducing me to the game, and it becoming my favorite RPG still to this day.

Kevin Siembieda got the license for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and made a RPG with it before it got popular. Then when he failed to capitalize on the sudden explosion in popularity, he blamed his failure on TMNT being too popular with kids.

They did license RIFTS® at some point, so there is a playable version using Savage World, but they also keep releasing books for regular RIFTS® for some reason instead.

Kevin Siembieda is so clueless about copyright and such that he threathened legal action against people posting fan page for RIFTS® and explicitly forbids fans from using Palladium ruleset to build characters from outside source. Even posting a useable character sheet is a no-no.

I did not expect an article on it in here, but I’m real happy you did it.

I was 14 in 1993, which put me squarely in the demo for this product. Bought it immediately at the game store that smelled like feet, was staffed by a Ted Kaczynski look alike, and had inexplicable stains on the floor. Got it home and read it in near extacy. My equally dorky friends also loved it, up until we tried to play it. Rifts made GURPS seem elegant and minimalist. Goddamn, if only anyone at Palladium had any writing or game design skills, this would have been the 90’s most 90’s Exxxtreme RPG. t Kaczynski look like they had his sidearm on at all times.e

Palladium snagged the licence for Ninja Turtles somehow as well, so the Riffs books are full of animal people, the more human they are the more of a stat they have called Biped (short for bipedal, not sure how much time we’re saving leaving out the A and L)

My dad had the original Palladium robotech RPG and I remember it used a similar mega damage system, but it was to separate vehicle scale weapons and armor from human-sized ones. Made more sense that way, I think

Man, I loved the shit out of Rifts as a teenager (and into my early 20s). I have multiple boxes of sourcebooks, which represented the primary drain on my allowance and student job money and I devoured them voraciously. Even as I got old enough to realize it was pretty stupid, it was (mostly) the rad funny kind of stupid. While the rules are laughably bad by modern standards (me and some friends tried playing for nostalgia’s sake a few years back and it was way worse than I remembered), they actually compared pretty favourably to what else was on the market in 1990. We’ve figured a LOT out in the last 33 years, but the roleplaying world of 1990 was a wasteland ruled by madmen banging rocks together trying to make fire. That being said, while it wasn’t really unique in the shittiness of its mechanics, it was something special in the sheer insanity of its “everything goes in the gumbo” approach to setting and genre. In my opinion this reached its zenith (in a mostly good way) in the Rifts: Phase World setting, which asked the question, “What if all that, but now it’s also an epic space opera and somehow on even more cocaine?” Once my players blew a god in mystic-bio-mechanical power armour out of an airlock, and that was basically just a Tuesday for them. That campaign was dumb as shit, but we were all having the time of our lives. We did convert to a different homebrew set of mechanics midway through, however.

Rifts (and Palladium in general) suffered from a principled stand Kevin Siembieda made not to keep releasing new editions of his game (which he viewed as a heartless cash-grab). The endless flood of ever more granular and weird sourcebooks was their alternate revenue plan. Sure, there was eventually the “Ultimate Edition”, but it made no fundamental changes to the mechanics (other than optional add-on rules) and remained fully compatible with all past sourcebooks. This ruled in the short term (no rebuying your books every few years) and was one of the reasons I loved it, but it meant that the system never evolved or grew or learned from its mistakes. All of its competitors – who were equally bad in 1990, I WILL DIE ON THIS HILL GOD DAMN IT – got better and better over time, and Rifts/Palladium remained a weird unevolved Coelacanth that just kept looking worse and worse as the decades rolled by. It was like the Peter Pan of RPGs that decided to just stay an unhinged clunky early 90s game forever rather than grow up.

YES! Thank you for confirming what I think I’ve secretly always known: that Rifts is indeed a twisted RPG system from the Wrong Universe! A couple of my friends really liked the game, and tried to make it a thing as recently as a year ago, but I dunno… It always felt like the most needlessly obtuse RPG system since old school 1st edition D&D. Only with WAY worse class balance. “What do I want to be… A vagabond? Or an ALL POWERFUL GLITTER BOY IN HIS SUPER MECH?!?!?!” Fucking absurd!

An friend of a friend did a podcast called MegaDumbCast for many years covering the most bonkers thing on each page of various Palladium books in short, give minute snippets. On some pages the choice of “most bonkers” was extremely difficult and subjective. It was a good show.

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