Sunday, May 9, 2010

Why I like Rifts

Rifts: a role-playing game by Palladium Books that combines every type of game style in existence (D and D type stuff, Sci-Fi, modern combat, superheroes, supernatural, etc.) and combines it into one system. Rifts itself is based on a future earth where a huge disaster killed nearly 7 billion people and destroyed pretty much everything else. Rifts are rips in time and space and they suck stuff in and dump stuff out (like aliens, monsters and demons). Magic and physic powers returned to the world and basically the entire earth had the Wackyland sign put on it (IT CAN HAPPEN HERE).

This of course makes for a great game where you can play any type of character and use magic, technology, superpowers, physic powers, magic swords, summoned terrors from beyond and so on.

I love this game for many reasons, but the biggest one has to be the storyline. They start with the Golden Age of Man (late 21 century) with high tech stuff, the disaster itself (which you can actually play in the game Chaos Earth), and then the Dark Ages where mankind barely hung on. And then the period known as "NOW".

NOW in the time period rocks. You have new nation-states and groups, some good, some bad, some with parts of both because lets face it people, grey is the standard human color. You can be the noblest nation on earth and still do bad things in the name of good because they need to be done (such as dropping two nukes to end a war, or assassinating someone in order to stop a genocide or a war, possibilities are endless).

Palladium Books is the one group that really captures that aspect. They even encourage play like that. You can be good guys fighting for a bad nation for a good reason. Nice mix that.

The chat boards have a lot of people who really don't get that part though. Coalition (the High Tech, human supremest nation in North America) is bad period. Anyone fighting them is good period. Not really in depth viewpoint for some of these folks. Also not very military either. The Coalition is THE military powerhouse in North America. So when it starts a fight, its usually going to win.

The biggest thing I love about this game is centered around that aspect. Palladium Books avoids the "good guy" trap that so many other games fall into. This is know to many gamers as the "Star Wars Trap", "The StormTrooper Rule" or the "Rebel Alliance Clause". Because the rebels/non regular military establishment/militia are the "good" guys they will win, no matter what the real ground military truth is. Any professional military force will be defeated by a rag-tag bunch of heroes, and the nameless soldiers in bad guy armor can't shoot straight except during the opening scene when we are establishing the fact that they are the "bad guys" when they gun down some unarmed women and children. Unless of course the "military" is a group of scruffy, unshaven, graffiti all over their armor and vehicles misfits who are constantly in trouble for doing things "their way" in which case they will pull it out after being ordered not to do something by an superior officer who graduated from the academy.

The Tolkeen War (a recent storyline) focused heavily on that. The Tolkeens (a magic focused kingdom in Minnesota) fought against Coalition invasions. They won some fights, but the Coalition professional military machine ended up crushing the entire kingdom. Which makes perfect sense as the Coalition Military was well equipped, well trained, and after some sorting out, well lead. But many were surprised by this, as the Tolkeens were the "good guys" so they should have won. They didn't and I am thankful that the storyline worked out that way.

I bring this up because I just got "Triax 2" which deals with the other big human technological power: The New German Republic. I won't get into the huge details behind this group, but they are fighting for their lives against Gargoyles and Brodkil demons in Europe. And they just scored a huge victory by using actual military strategy and thought. In the book/series timeline, they were able to cut the demon zones in two by using an amphibious/airborne assault behind the lines and have wiped out nearly a third of their enemy using realistic military tactics. The NGR's army is disciplined, shaves, keeps their equipment clean and well maintained, and has officers that are smart and listen to their NCOs on occasion. In short, completely opposite of every effective Sci-Fi military in existence. I so love that about this game.

Yes, I know its a game. Yes I know we are talking about fantasy and sci-fi. Yes, I know none of this is real. But its nice to see some realism in certain things.


  1. I'm not even that much of a fan of gaming, but I agree that the combination of ICHH and (insert an acronym for something like Don't Pick A Fight You Can't Win) makes it MUCH more entertaining that most RPGs.

  2. Definately. Being a soldier I understand why we have discipline and why we do things like shine boots and wear clean uniforms (for clothing maintenance and general health, which seem to be completely unknown items to most gamers). But just about everyone has this stupid image of a clean cut soldier being a moron and a ragbag, illdisciplined lout being the "real" soldier. God, I hate that image and Rifts is the one game that actually has it right.

  3. Man I miss that game. No argument from me about the disciplined soldier vs. the non-disciplined one, but everyone loves an anti-hero.

    That being said, you and I both know that attention to detail can be taken too far, or too much emphasis on the wrong type of detail. True discipline combined with wisdom, flexibility, and veteran experience makes for a truly deadly soldier. I suspect, but I cannot confirm, that what makes the Coalition deadly is not just discipline and high tech, but experience and individual soldier initiative. Could be wrong though. I suspect that some of the writers for Rifts may be military vets.

  4. It certainly seems that way to me. The guy who wrote the Rifts MERCs books said his major inspiration was "Hammer's Slammers" which was a great dime novel about Mercs in the future. Yes they were Mercinaries but they also were well disciplined, relatively clean, and had lots of experience so you could cut them slack. But the military bent in Rifts is very good. This new Triax 2 book is even better than the first and it really does a good job of explaining why the Germany military is locked on (not because they are GERMANS, but because they worked at it).

  5. Mmm, Rifts. Some really cool gaming sessions spring to mind. I wish we still had a group here to play with...

  6. ICHH is da bomb. I can play in the same adventure as a retired schoolteacher swapping literacy for lunch in the ruins of an ancient fasfood restaurant, while my wife plays the reincarnation of Bast. =)