Rifts is a deeply developed world in which to play. It has an involved, rich backstory that spans centuries into Earth’s future. It is a setting torn apart by war, bursting with all manner of magic and dimensions, and enduring a slow rebuilding process (and all the complications that rebuilding entails.)
As a story and backdrop, it has no equal. It is flush with everything that could draw you in: rich fantasy, post-apocalyptic world, great enemies (Coalition), technology, and magic. You name it, you can find it in Rifts. Can’t find it in Rifts? There is a system to convert any other Palladium worlds to bring them into Rifts. (Editor’s Note, and if you don’t like Rifts, there is now a Savage Worlds version of Rifts as well. Options upon options!)
As a role-playing system… we may have some issues. Here is what I found when I created my first character for Rifts.
1) Rich and Full O.C.C.s (Occupational Character Classes)
Jump into any Rifts O.C.C. and you will be drawn in and fall in love. My first was the Cyber-Knight O.C.C, which influenced me forevermore. Each O.C.C. (and there is a metric shit-ton of them) begins with the classes beginnings, truths, myths, and stories of the class which make an excellent read and draws in those story-telling role-players. In the Rifts Ultimate Edition, they break these into groupings of Men at Arms, Adventurers and Scholars, Practitioners of Magic, Psychic, Racial Character Class, and Coalition Soldiers O.C.C. There is very little that they hadn’t thought of when making these classes. They have probably thought of your ideal character and written an expanded piece on who they are and where they came from and then added that into a book. Their library is huge. The Ultimate Edition boasts nearly 400 pages of information to get you started, which leads to a problem.
2) A Behemoth Corebook
With Rifts being a deep simulationist style role-playing game, you always need to know more. You are referring the the books far more than you probably want to during a game. This would be taxing even in ideal circumstances, but it is not nearly as simple as knowing a couple key parts of the book. With Rifts, comes a notoriously poorly laid out format. The table of contents at the beginning of the book is immediately followed by a “quick” mini-index. Together these are 4 full pages long. For example, you roll into any type of combat, there is usually a lull because (without completely house-gaming the entire thing) there is a specific rule for everything that happens within combat.
3) Making a Character
Most games I’ve played in have been able to get the characters created, have some session zero where you talk about world and goals, crack ridiculous jokes about the last time you played, and leaf through a rule book so you have some understanding of what is going on for the next 4 hours. If this sounds like a great time, it is. Sometimes the slog through character creation within Rifts makes you daydream of easier days. These characters can take multiple sessions or messages during your off time to players ready to go. (And if you die during a session, there is not a quick “in” to get back to the action.) It starts innocuously enough with eight simple attributes like intelligence and physical strength. But after that, you can explore what happens if your stats aren’t average…. For the next five and a half pages.
Rifts then launches you into different types of damage, hit points, S.D.C. and M.D.C. The two former being what humans would be able to take and the latter being what a tank could take, to try and simplify a multi-page rule explanation. Then you determine if you have any psionics, pick your O.C.C. (and everything that entails), alignment, and skills (O.C.C. skills, O.C.C. Related skills, and Secondary Skills.) It’s a process. It’s a long process. It’s a long process that does not end after the initial creation, because eventually you will level up.
4) Combat Explanations
I love options when role-playing, but when there are so many combat situations with percentage dice attached and at least a paragraph to explain how it works… I get frustrated.
For example, if you took the skill, Weapon Proficiency Targeting, it means you are good with thrown weapons. When I look that up, I am told in the first paragraph about bonuses to hit at different levels and about the different ways you could lose your bonuses. Then I can look at the chart for the thirteen thrown weapons, their distances, and damages, which is pretty normal.
If I want to throw something not on that list, then there is the throwing awkward things rules in the paragraph below. Or look at heavy things in the next three paragraphs. Oh, but a called shot looks great because I want to aim the knife at the enemy's hand where he has a gun…. But then that might be disarming (which I can do) but I will have to look up the rules for that in hand to hand combat.
That is only a taste of what you can do, because there are legitimately rules and damage for everything. If you want to strike some surly guy in the bar with your fist these are your different hand strikes: Backhand (average), Backhand (martial arts), Body Flip, Punch, Martial Arts Punch, Elbow/forearm strike, and Power Punch. The section on Combat Terms and Moves is over 5 pages long and it only includes hand to hand fighting. It doesn’t include the power armour, vehicles, guns, missiles, psychic combat, piloting, or anything including your Mega-Damage.
None of this should suggest that I don’t have fun when playing Rifts. My first character was memorable and honourable (often to the detriment of my group) and I had a wonderful time playing her. I guess my suggestion would be; when playing Palladium Rifts, everyone should have a core rule book. It cuts down on the time spent waiting for a book so you know what you can do. That alone doesn’t solve the problems I have with this system, but I am sure other people have realized this as well. I look forward to trying out the great setting with perhaps a better ruleset; I am looking at you Savage Worlds Rifts.
This article was written by Vanessa who is a sarcastic, 30-something wife and mother. She likes things and stuff, but not simultaneously. When she isn’t involved in things and stuff, she teaches middle school science, math, art, and other random subjects. She loves new teenagers in action. They make her laugh and shake her head and her world is much better with laughter. She thinks everyone should be roleplaying. She is also trying out this new twitter handle at @sarasma_nessa
Image credit: http://static1.paizo.com/image/product/catalog/PAL/PALPR801_360.jpeg
Who doesn’t love superheroes? Other than supervillains, that is. Can’t think of someone? Well that’s because supers are awesome. I’ll get to the point, I’m talking about Heroes Unlimited. The original was released in 1984 and since then hasn’t really had any different “editions” like other games, such as D&D. Sure, they released a couple of revisions but the last revision was released in 1998. Almost two decades ago. While I love all RPGs, Heroes Unlimited holds a special place in my heart, as it’s the first superhero based RPG I ever played. It’s right up there with D&D. That being said, not everything is perfect. More importantly, this article lets me break out some of my more marvelous superhero puns.
I was hoping I wouldn’t end up starting this like a teenager, but let’s face it; it’s freaking WICKED when you’re flying around shooting fire out of your hands at some jerk who wants to destroy the world or whatever. The feeling of almost being a celebrity while costumed in public is pretty snazzy too. While at the same time, you’re also a regular person! Yeah yeah, I know what you’re thinking: That's pretty much every… episode of Hannah Montana. But she doesn’t stop supervillains so, that's where the parallel stops, thankfully. Things like SDC (Structural Damage Capacity(Think badass healthbar(I love brackets,))) Flight and the minor powers really enhance the experience and just make you feel like… well, a super hero.
Really though, this is just my personal tip of the hat to everyone involved in that. It’s a great work of art and an enjoyable game that I think will live on, and as I mentioned before, it holds a very special place in my heart.
There are a lot, and I mean a lot of combinations to make in Heroes Unlimited. Not to mention there's three different books on even more super powers. Three! All of’em are 96 pages and add another 200 some powers to the already copious amounts of powers that came in the core book. You’ve got different categories for heroes such as Alien, Experiment, and Mutants (glad I’m not owned by Disney.)
You can be anything. There’s so many ways to create a character, the variety blows most other games I’ve seen out of the water. Between stats, background, education, powers, categories for heros and personal flares, there's a cornucopia of options. Don’t even get me started on the little things they threw in such as insanity and phobias.
Ever wanted to fight with the Fantastic Four? How about the X-Men? Avengers? Justice League? Teen Titans? Well, with a little planning and work on the GM’s part, it's relatively easy to play in the worlds of these famous groups. Even play these characters if you’re ballsy enough to desecrate the good names of these characters, you monster. Aside from my personal quarrels with my friend and his insistence to play *ahem* Wuce Brayne/Ratman and ruin the name of you-know-who, it’s a good flexing of those role-playing muscles to put yourself in the boots of these famous (and sometimes infamous) characters.
The game isn’t reliant on these previously made worlds, though. With some imagination and some hardcore math, you can create your own worlds for your new or reused characters to run rampant in. Crafting a powerful enemy, a sidekick or even a different group of heros can be just as thrilling as it is time consuming. As with all tabletop games the intricacy is up to you.
Let me just start by saying this point is more of a personal experience thing but, in my eyes, it has become a key part of every hero (or anti hero) I've played. As you level up, your powers grow as does everything else about your character (obviously), however the process of said growth is up for interpretation. I find this beautiful. Many of the characters I’ve played have grown in power and personality through many interesting processes. Occasional doses of (plot placed) radioactive waste, electrical charging and even just “supposedly” exponential power growth due to the “incident” and it's very nature. This makes every single character an ocean of possibility.
However not everything is sunshine and roses, and the sky has it’s hawks as well as it’s doves...
Holy crap-oli Batman, does this game have the crunch factor. For some, maybe that’s a good thing but when you’re even slightly unprepared, it slows down combat a lot. I mean a lot. Like throw in an extra hour at least. There’s so many different factors and ways to go about things it gets confusing. The pure math of it all is simply super. I had mentioned that the variety of this game was one of it's biggest beauties, but sometimes it’s a gargantuan pain in the ass.
Sitting around for 20 minutes while someone tries to remember what the maximum SDC is and what sort of fancy counter they have is not only time-consuming, but brutal. The simple fact that there’s so many “math manholes” to fall into is proof that I should probably go back to the third grade.
Every game has monsters and bad guys. It’d be hard to find a game that doesn’t have some sort of enemy character or class. Typically, these have stat blocks with basic outlines and a little bit of backstory to lessen the load on the GM. In this case, everything has to be whipped up by the GM. Even “beings of extraordinary power” such as demons and dragons don’t have official stats that I could find. There’s a very rough outline for a few things. They mention that Dragons would have supernatural strength (one of the major powers) as opposed to superhuman strength. Other than that, you have to make your own assumptions. Yet again one of the platforms most impressive feats is a curse as well as a blessing to the average player?
3). Time consuming
Obviously with all this variety of character customization it’s going to take some time to pump out one of these bad boys. The amount of time it takes to make and really perfect the character you want is simply long. With other platforms you can make a developed character in about 2 hours. My first character in heroes unlimited took me 2 days. Worse yet, I couldn’t find and official character sheet for this stuff. From a GM’s perspective, it’s even worse. You have to pump out supervillains with memorability behind them, along with a plot based around the characters, other heroes, big places along with storylines. Then comes mapping, taking into account flight, assorted powers, making puzzles appropriate for everything and everyone. Really, the nature of this game is far too… difficult. There’s a lot to do.
As with all things, there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about playing this game. If you want short, quick jolts of fun, this is not for you. If you’re ready to sit down, get invested and forget how many days ago you last showered as the pizza boxes and chinese food containers begin to block out the light, then this is your heaven.
Jarod Lalonde is a young role-player and writer whose passion for both lead him here. He’s often
sarcastic and has a +5 to insult. Dungeons and Dragons is his favorite platform. Although he’s not quite sure if it’s Call of Cthulhu whispering to him in the small hours of the night, or just persistent flashbacks to the Far Realm.
I am become death, destroyer of worlds.