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[Rifts] Why Was/Is It So Popular?

dan2448

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Why was/is "Rifts" so popular?

I bought the original rulebook when it was first published 25-ish years ago. I liked several aspects of the game world (if not the system) but never played it because: (i) I thought 'The Coalition' was too central to the concept, was an uninspiring combination of Robotech and Nazis (and Terminator endoskeleton robots), and seemed likely (in my mind) to be the aspect most players would be most interested in playing - gleefully killing all aliens and mutants with overwhelming firepower, (ii) as a kid from California, I thought it was 'lame' that the United States of the game world was a thin North-South sliver in the middle of the country (populated with deplorables?), while both coasts were depopulated wastelands, and (iii) I prefer my post-apocalyptic game worlds to be sprinkled with tantalizing ruins - not to have those ruins long gone.

But Rifts has been, as far as I can tell (from a distance), one of a handful of the most 'famous'/biggest hits in tabletop RPGs in over the last 35+ years?

I know why I personally was ambivalent about it 25-ish years ago, despite thinking that the idea of rifts and ley lines as an 'agent of the apocalypse' was 'awesome,' and really liking the idea of a Mexican vampire kingdom, and the 'Wizard of Oz'-like aspect of ARCHIE, and the hive-like insect aliens in Minnesota. But why has it been so enduringly popular?
 
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Icarium

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Pretty much. It has some awesome images and ideas. I mean I still love love love the Atlantean Tatoo stuff, for instance. Also Techno-Wizards, though of course other settings have similar things. Or, for that matter, playing a baby dragon.
 

NinjaWeasel

Both Cute and Stealthy
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(iii) I prefer my post-apocalyptic game worlds to be sprinkled with tantalizing ruins - not to have those ruins long gone.
I'm not sure where you're getting the idea that any ruins are long gone in Rifts. I haven't looked at my Rifts books for a few years, and it's been 23 years since I last played, but I remember lots of images of ruined towns and cities in the core as well as in other books too. I'm fairly sure that there were descriptions of such in the fluff too. Anyway, in the games I ran and played in (which was a hell of a lot) ruins were regularly a feature.

For me, the appeal of Rifts in the early days is that we could combine Mad Max-esque post apocalyptic stuff with some high tech gear (that wouldn't seem out of place in anything from Star Wars, The Terminator, GI Joe, Rogue Trader era 40K, to Bubblegum Crisis) and a sprinkling of psionics and magic. It also had villains, The Coalition, who were a good equivalent to The Empire in Star Wars. So it hit a lot of our geekier soft spots. The original core book was far less gonzo than some of the stuff that came later.

Our games changed over time and became more gonzo too. Not because we used a lot from the World Books, because we kept a lot of that to a minimum, but because we later saw the potential to take our characters from Heroes Unlimited and TMNT into Rifts. We followed the guidelines in the original Conversion Guide and ended up with Martial Artists who, due to huge amounts of personal MDC, wandered around unarmored and unarmed alonside full conversion borgs and mutant kangaroos who flew helicopters and carried light machineguns. That was very fun for a while but grew tired after a couple of years.
 

Jerry D. Grayson

Putting the f-u in FUN
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I love Rifts and played a ton of it when it came out. Rifts is a post apocalyptic game with just the right amount of wrong.

It has:
  • robots
  • power armor
  • cyborgs
  • magic
  • psionics
  • supers
  • swords
  • laser sword
  • magic swords
  • dog men
  • magic dudes on flying skateboards
the list goes on.

You can literally play anything in Rifts and its ok, it makes sense. Its part of the genre because the genre is defined by the group and how much gonzo they are willing to swallow.

You like Robotech? Play a veritech pilot in Rifts.
You like wolfen and want to give him a cyber arm? Play Rifts

You want a Jedi Knight that rides a retrofitted Harley through a wasteland and rail against the evil empire (Coalition), you can do that too. It doesn't apologize for its wackiness and it turns it up to 11 and plugs in two more amps for good measure. I love this game and the more I write, the more I want to dust off a book or two and start a game.

Rifts is a game that allows you to play that post apocalyptic game you want, and its all under one hood
 
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Wolfgar

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Validated User
It had a lot of options, a lot of crazy shit, and a lot of frankly awesome ideas, even if those ideas were frequently presented in a somewhat haphazard fashion.

There is also the factor that Palladium books remained at a lower price point than most continually throughout their run - mostly by having everything be written in house by the same people, and by recycling artwork. There was always new content in a continual stream. Compared to other big 90s games, like say Shadowrun or Vampire the Masquerade, their was almost never a retread of old material. Say what you will about Rifts, but I never felt like I was buying the same book twice, or just getting a slightly updated version of shit I already had. Late stage RIFTS books are about fucking Dinosaurs with lasers; late stage Vampire books are about how yet another group of assholes believe diablerie is cool, plus six more Thaum rituals.

Also, I know this isn't a popular view here because the rpg.net mantra on games is the Simple is God, but having magic, psionics, robotics, mutations, etcetera all work in different ways and all up and down the power scale is really interesting to me, because it makes everything feel like it's own real thing, as opposed to just being the same system palette swapped.

It's really the only setting I can play a psionic anthropomorphized Woolly Mammoth. It is the game for playing Weird Shit.
 

Capellan

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The setting has Amazons ... they live in the Amazon. That kind of completely unrefined silliness is endearing.
 

Manitou

Emperor of the Americas
Validated User
I love Rifts and played a ton of it when it came out. Rifts is a post apocalyptic game with just the right amount of wrong.

It has:
  • robots
  • power armor
  • cyborgs
  • magic
  • psionics
  • supers
  • swords
  • laser sword
  • magic swords
  • dog men
  • magic dudes on flying skateboards
the list goes on.

You can literally play anything in Rifts and its ok, it makes sense. Its part of the genre because the genre is defined by the group and how much gonzo they are willing to swallow.

You like Robotech? Play a veritech pilot in Rifts.
You like wolfen and want to give him a cyber arm? Play Rifts

You want a Jedi Knight that rides a retrofitted Harley through a wasteland and rail against the evil empire (Coalition), you can do that too. It doesn't apologize for its wackiness and it turns it up to 11 and plugs in two more amps for good measure. I love this game and the more I write, the more I want to dust off a book or two and start a game.

Rifts is a game that allows you to play that post apocalyptic game you want, and its all under one hood
It also has a righteous order of psychics with cybernetics and laser swords.
They also have the Mystik Knights{an order of blasty sorcerers, who even have good rebels for the PCs to play}
Biomancers!(life mages who are as goody tooshooes as you are thinking)
Necromancers, who can not only animate dead without a spell, but can also merge with dead monster parts to gain some of their powers!There is an image of a pirate necromancer wearing a dragon skull, which looks like he's just trying to look badass too hard, but he can merge with the skull to breath fire.
There are also Crystal dragons which have powers over light.
And weirder things, like a giant lightning breathing duck, which can learn magic and psionics like dragons, and can shapechange like them, but isn't called a dragon.
Also, you can play bits of sapient ectoplasm(amorphs from the same book as the Crystal dragon).
Heck, with the powers unlimited book 3{for their supers game Heroes Unlimited} you can play a transformer[the technoform super ability] or KITT.
 
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baakyocalder

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RPGnet Member
Validated User
Another bonus, even though I'm not a fan of the mechanics, is the mechanics to the game aren't that complex. Even if you have a boatload of character classes and options, well I picked up Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and other Strangeness in 6th grade and could grasp the various Palladium games from playing that system.

So, a kitchen sink setting with a lot of interesting ideas, a publisher that kept putting out new material and simple mechanics compared to some other games of the day made Rifts popular with some people.

Oh, and never played a psionic anthropomorphized wooly mammoth, but that sounds like a great character for a Pleistocene-era game.
 
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