Let’s Talk about RIFTS

RIFTS is probably one of the first RPGs I played back in the day. I still remember the demise of my first RIFTS character, who forgot to wear his MDC armor before trying to dismantle a robot. Unfortunately this robot was booby-trapped and soon after opening its chest, the rest of the party had to clean off my character’s chunks from all over their armor.

My next character was THE Ezekiel Stargazer, Ley Line Walker and Scholar Extraordinaire. Even to this day, I use this name for my main email address. Even though the rules were clunky, I totally loved the game and it was a shame we didn’t play it more often. Even today I often think of the RIFTS setting and try to find ways to run it for my friends. But there’s one problem: I just can’t stand the rules system.

In my opinion it’s just clunky, overly complicated, incomplete and badly explained. It just sucks. As much as I love the world, I just can’t stand the rules. The layout of the books is also an issue. They look like they have been created in the pre-digital times when people still used scissors and glue to do layout. And I fear that’s actually how they are created to this day.

But having said all that, I can’t help but appreciate the awesomeness that is RIFTS. The excitement for the setting just jumps at you from each paragraph and piece of artwork. RIFTS has something for everyone: Huge humanoid robots, high-tech, magic, psionics, cthulhuesque monsters, fairies, whatever you can think of – it’s in RIFTS somewhere.

Recently something happened which I would have never dreamed of: Palladium Books gave Pinnacle Entertainment a license to produce a Savage World RIFTS game. I haven’t checked it out yet, mainly because I am highly skeptical Savage Worlds is the right system for this totally over-the-top setting. Something like one of the various super hero roleplaying games might actually work better.

So, what are your thoughts on RIFTS? How do you deal with the rules? I actually heard several times that even Kevin Siembieda uses a lot of house rules when he runs the game at conventions. Perhaps one of my readers has played in one of those games and can share some of their insights. If you guys have any idea how to solve my RIFTS conundrum, please let me know in the comments below!

Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team. In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games. Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.

10 thoughts on “Let’s Talk about RIFTS”

  1. If only there was an easy/legal way to loan you the PDFs. :-}

    I’ve never played Rifts. Back in the 80s I owned their RECON game (viet nam soldier RPG), TMNT, “After the Bomb” (post-apocalyptic furries), and Robotech products. Many friends and I made characters, but never played any of the games. The system was … yeah, clunky. But involved a LOT of imagination in the content. Great setting developer, poor (but not absolutely terrible) rules developer.

    I’m also not really a fan of Savage Worlds, either.

    So, why did I back Savage Rifts? Palladium have a reputation of being VERY draconian when it comes to licensing and “open game content”, whether with other publishers, or with internet hobbyists. Any encouragement I could give to making a successful and profitable endeavor like this, seemed like a good idea. And, I wanted a copy before Palladium changes their minds and takes it all back :-}

    I would have been happier with a d20 or FATE version of the Palladium properties :-} Or Modiphius’s 2d20 system (which I’m starting to get into).

    I might read through it eventually, to glean setting ideas, or use it as a reference document for converting other Palladium stuff to SW … and then converting from SW to something I actually like. But I don’t think I’ll ever read through it with the intent of directly using it. I haven’t even downloaded all of my Savage Rifts PDFs yet. That’s how low the priority is to me.

    But, you can’t really “loan out PDFs” the way you can with physical books. And I only pledged for the PDFs, not the printed copies. Otherwise I’d happily send you (my hypothetical) physical copies for as long as you wanted to read through them :-}

    1. Thanks for the offer, but as you said yourself, loaning PDFs just doesn’t work. I am not sure if the 2d20 system is suited for something like RIFTS, but it is definitely one of the better systems out there. I recently participated in the Star Trek RPG playtest and enjoyed the system very much. I also own Mutant Chronicles 3E, but haven’t really had the time to give it a try.
      I think a Cypher or Mutants & Masterminds version would have worked well, too.

  2. I actually forgot they’re going to be doing Star Trek. I was only thinking in terms of their Conan and Mutant Chronicles material.

  3. We toyed with Chaosium’BRP system using the books as backgroud. Did away with Mega Damage just gave massive HP. Made vehicles deadlier. Never got to test it though.

  4. Hey Michael! Happy to see you are doing more content these days! Sorry to hear 2016 had its down but also excited you got married! 🙂 Big fan of the site here!

    As for Savage Worlds, especially recently, I am finding there is a lot of hate/disgust towards the system without a lot of reasoning why.

    I for one am a big fan of Savage Worlds, it’s my main system and I usually try and run it 1-2 times a week. Everyone I run it for also tends to fall in love with it. So when my FLGS and its players found out RIFT is coming out for Savage Worlds everyone is quite excited, as am I!

    I am waiting for the physical copies of the books but from what I have heard Pinnacle has done it right and it has been pretty well received thus far. I think if there are any reservations on if Savage Worlds is the right system for it… well I’m no palladium expert but I consider Savage Worlds the superior system of the 2 for generic/versatile settings and Rifts is just that, as high powered and rock and roll as it is, its a setting which lends itself from science to magic, what better then a flexible generic system no?


  5. I’m totally with Dasboze! Glad to see more articles from you these days and take this as sign that you are doing well or better at least.

    I remember playing RIFTS in the late 90ies or the early zeros. Never really got the rules but remember the cool setting. Had a brilliant gamemaster and a superplusgood bunch of cogamers for whom roleplaying was more important than the rules. This compensates a lot. ☺

  6. I’ve bought a bunch of random Rifts books over the years – like you said, they’re wonderfully imaginative. The one on the ruins of New York City is fantastic!

    I backed the Savage Worlds version happily – PInnacle’s been great at producing their rewards on time. I’m still reading through it, but it’s great so far. I love how they have templates, but then you roll on random tables for various small bonuses – it adds a nice touch to the game. And I like how they’re grouping all the different templates. You can even start off as a Dragon Hatchling!

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