Let’s Talk Again About RIFTS

Over the weekend I kept thinking about RIFTS and how I could run it without having to rely on the clunky Palladium system. After some googling I stumbled upon a post where someone mentioned he ran RIFTS using OD&D. At first I was wondering how one could do such thing, but after some more careful examination I came to the conclusion that its not really a bad idea.

If you look at it, Palladium is a lot like D&D (I think it could be most closely be related to AD&D) with a BRP-like skill system thrown in and with all pretenses of balance thrown out of the window. I actually don’t mind the last aspect. Balance in RIFTS or the lack thereof is what makes RIFTS fun. And believe it or not, a simple Operator can easily shine in a group of Cyborgs, Juicers, and Cyberknights.

This might sound a bit weird, but I guess you might take a basic framework like Swords & Wizardry (or a similar D&D retro-clone), add a simple skill system, and build the RIFTS OCCs with it. Isn’t a Ley Line Walker just a Magic-User with some special abilities thrown in for good measure? Mega Damage could be a problem, but you either follow RIFTS’ example and add MD and MDC to the system or you convert all damage to normal damage. In RIFTS 1 point of MD is equivalent to about 100 points of normal damage, but I am sure a ratio of 10:1 or even 2:1 would work fine and actually make it more easily playable.

I haven’t talked to my group of players about this, BUT if they are interested in the RIFTS multiverse, I might try to use OD&D to run RIFTS. If that fails, I can still rely on Pinnacle Entertainment’s Savage World version.

What do you think about my plans? Do you think this might actually work, or do you believe I am as mad as a hatter? Please share your 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.

8 thoughts on “Let’s Talk Again About RIFTS”

  1. I see RPG rules just as a way of modelling the/a/any universe. You should be able to play any setting with any set of rules. I have never played RIFTs but if you think of a fireball on one hand and swords on the other anything D&D-like should be able to handle mega damage.

  2. It’s not a bad idea really. Though I have found that super hero RPGs are alot more fun for converting something like Rifts. I don’t know if oyu possess Mutants & Masterminds, That was based loosely on D&D as well in the beginning, and to a degree still does. or perhaps the old Tri-Stat system, that also works rather wonderfully.

    If you were to use OD&D, I could see Mega Damage becoming an extension of level. So that mega damage abilities do , maybe “1d10” per level . Or perhaps Mega Damage, do bonus damage. Maybe 1/2 the MDC value from rifts becomes bonus damage (divide the MDC damage by 10). or Divide by 10, to determine the number of dice for a MDC attack. so something that does 1d6x10 MDC , does +6 bonus damage, or does 6d10 damage. Either way MDC conversion will be the hardest part.

    As far as a pecentile based skill system, i have always been very skeptical about that. Because i always thought that the starting values for thieves skills, was far too low. Though I have seen some games do it justice. Perhaps a base of 30 + an ability score. as a base. And each proficiency rating for a skill grants a +10 % bonus to the base chance of success. Then difficulty could modify that chance before the roll.

    1. I thought AD&D 2E got skills moderately right by giving you a base chance + some points you assign at each level.
      2E was not perfect for various reasons, but that one element I appreciated.

  3. IIRC Palladiums system started out as a AD&D1 home brew. So if you want to stay true to the roots, so to speak, just pick your edition or retro clone of choice and go to town.

    Don’t want to use D&D? All you really need is a dice mechanic that you can dial up or down depending on the amount of gonzo you want the game to have.

  4. At the moment I am considering giving it another shot at running RIFTS RAW. As some people argued it’s not much more complex than most OSR games and you can easily ignore some of the more fiddly bits.

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