Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
- For geological rifts, see rift (geology).
Rifts is a multi-genre role-playing game created by Kevin Siembieda in 1990 and published continuously by Palladium Books since then. Rifts is a tabletop role-playing game taking place in the future, deriving elements from science fiction, fantasy, horror, and other genres. Since its creation, over 100,000 copies of the original Rifts rule book have been sold.
Rifts serves as the cross-over system for other Palladium games. Through the Rifts, characters and elements from different games can interact and combine in new ways, resulting in a role-playing setting that Palladium calls the "Rifts Megaverse."
The Rifts game contains mature subject matter and descriptions of violence and evil and warns in all Rifts books of being inappropriate for young readers. Rifts also describes itself as an "Advanced" role-playing game and not an introduction for those new to role-play. The game has a strong adolescent following, possibly due to its imagery of powerful military hardware and scantily-clad females in fantastic settings. Rifts is frequently the second game young gamers are introduced to after Dungeons & Dragons.
The setting of Rifts forms a unique backdrop for story-telling and role-playing. Some elements of the Rifts world were originally discussed in the Palladium game Beyond the Supernatural, which uses Lovecraftian storytelling techniques for a role playing experience based on horror fiction.
The first premise of the Rifts setting is the existence of "potential psychic energy" (PPE), sometimes called magic energy. PPE can be found in certain places, objects, and animals, but its greatest source is human beings. Humans contain relatively large amounts of PPE, and upon a human's death, the energy is released into the surrounding environment.
The second premise of the Rifts setting is the existence of ley lines, lines of magic energy criss-crossing the earth, forming supernatural geographic areas such as the Bermuda Triangle. In the Rifts game, points where ley lines intersect are places of powerful magic, such as the Pyramids of Giza and Stonehenge. If a ley line nexus grows very strong, the very fabric of space and time can be torn. This creates a Rift, a hole in spacetime leading to a new dimension.
The back story of Rifts begins with a nuclear war in South America during the year 2098. Billions die, the major cities of Argentina and Chile destroy one another, and the PPE they release energizes the ley lines and causes many Rifts to open. Many creatures, both mythical beasts and alien beings, come through them to wreak havoc. The release of PPE also triggers catastrophic natural disasters. Even the lost continent of Atlantis (described as being located near the Bermuda Triangle) reappears from its dimensional void, reshaping coastlines all over the Atlantic and flooding coastal cities. As these disasters claim more and more victims, more PPE is released into the ley lines and makes the disasters worse. By the time everything slows down somewhat, the old world is gone.
Rifts gameplay takes place roughly 300 years after this event, described as 100 P.A. (The "P.A." or "Post-Apocalypse" calender was established at the formation of the Coalition States). By this time most of the disasters have quieted down, but the earth is still bathed in PPE. The planet's mystical energy has attracted untold numbers of alien beings from other dimensions, who continue to arrive through the Rifts. These creatures range from humanoid Dimensional Beings (called D-Bees) to monstrous creatures with hides a hundred times stronger than tank armor to even living mountains of putrid flesh, lidless eyes and wriggling tentacles with supernatural powers to boot called Alien Intelligences.
To cope with these natural, supernatural, and alien menaces, the human race has adopted the strategy of augmenting the human body. A variety of strategies have been employed: The "Juicers" do it chemically, the "Borgs" do it mechanically, and the "Crazies" make use of performance-enhancing brain implants. All such augmentations boost strength, speed, endurance and dexterity to superhuman levels. However, they all come at great cost. Chemicals cause the body to wear out faster, decreasing life span to a few short years. Mechanical Borg augmentation cause a loss of humanity, causing those with multiple limb and organ replacements to become more machine than human. Brain implants cause mental instability ranging from mild phobias to crippling neurosis or psychosis. Those people who choose to be augmented in these ways accept these risks in order to become physically powerful. Other people, however, are forced to receive these augmentations. The poor, hungry and weak are often forced or coerced into these roles to serve their rulers.
This setting is very versatile; almost anything can happen in a Rifts game, and Rifts stories can be anything from dark and haunting to odd and whimsical. The Rifts allow characters to travel through time, to new worlds or to parallel universes. Magic beyond most of the fairy tales of earth's past even knew exists alongside futuristic technology capable of giving the user something of a chance against these supernatural forces. It is not uncommon for a game of Rifts to involve a wizard battling a fleet of flying robots, nor unthinkable for a Fairy creature to get a bionic arm.
The Ley Lines, formerly invisible, now dominate the landscape, appearing as massive lines of bluish energy half a mile wide, and stretching for up to thousands of miles. The largest can even be seen from space, at least at night.
If you are, or plan to be, a player character in a Rifts campaign, reading further in this section may compromise plot elements your Game Master may be planning.
The strongest power in North America is the Coalition States, a collection of fasict, Human supremacist states with a powerful army. The Coalition is ruled by Emperor Karl Prosek, and is genocidally opposed to all aliens, D-bees(beings from other dimensions), and Magic.
Mexico is ruled by a group of vampire kingdoms, who treat humans as little more than cattle to feed upon. North of the Rio Grande, west of Texas and roaming most of the American South West are large nomadic bands/tribes of bandits collectively called the "Pecos Bandits", though not part of a cohesive power structure or political organization.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police managed to survive the great cataclysm, though Canada itself did not. The Mounties have become an independent law enforcement force, patrolling the northern wilderness.
Tolkeen was a major city in the former Minneapolis region in early rifts books; the city welcomed users of magic. Recently, a military campaign made by the Coalition States resulted in the magic-user kingdom being wiped off the map (This is covered in the six-volume series of sourcebooks "Coalition Wars: Seige on Tolkeen").
The Amazon River has flooded most of the western part of the continent, giving it the nickname "The Land of a Thousand Islands". In Colombia, a nation of humans and Dwarves fight against a kingdom of Vampires. The gods of the Inca have returned to their ancient holdings in the Andes, and fights a battle against alien invaders. Much of the rest of the continent is a wide collection of states ranging from democracies, corrupt oligarchies, and communist guerillas, to Mutants, Amazons, Aliens, Mercenaries, and dozens of others.
England has become a series of feudal kingdoms again, complete a New Camelot with a new King Arthur, partially being manipulated by the ethereal extension of an alien intelligence (disguised as the wizard Merlin).
Much of China has been overrun by demons.
Japan has become a mixture of tradition and technology. The Samurai warriors of the New Empire battle Oni demons and high-tech raiders from the Otomo Shogunate. One of their closest allies is the Republic of Japan, an alliance of four Pre-Rifts cities accidentially rifted off the planet at the exact moment of the Great Cataclysm.
Much of Africa has gone back to nature, making the land a wild, mysterious dark continent again, where only those foolhardy enough to ignore the tales of this land would willingly go to.
In Egypt, the ley lines coursing through the pyramids have brought Rama-Set, an evil oriental-type Dragon who has conquered the locals and established the Phoenix Empire (with him leading it as Pharaoh).
Meanwhile, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (the powerful supernatural beings legends name as War, Famine, Pestilince, and Death) are traveling across the continent, seeking to reunite and combine their powers into an ultimate destroyer of a monster; But hot on their tails are a group of powerful adventurers, including the legendary rogue scholar Erin Tarn (deathmarked by the Coalition States for her writings, which criticize the Coalition States), and the 20th century's most accomplished time-displaced expert on the paranormal, Victor Lalzo (whose writings were so popular among P.A. magic-users that they named a kingdom after him).
The lost continent of Atlantis appeared after the cataclysm that caused the RIFTS. According to some it rose from the sea, but more accurately it returned from an alternate dimension which it had shifted to ages ago.
Controlled by the Splugorth, a race of DBs (Dimensional Beings), Atlantis is a land ruled by magic. One common form of mysticism on Atlantis involves the use of parasites to enhance ones abilities. Humans exist there only as slaves, and often serve as fodder in gladiatorial arenas. Enhanced by parasites or other magic, they are then pitted against one another or bizarre, monstrous creatures.
The Splugorth are evil spellcasters that are reminiscent of some creature from an H.P. Lovecraft novel. They are huge tentacled monstrosities with a giant eye atop their massive, amorpheous bodies. The Splugorth rule through the use of subject races enslaved by biowizardry. They are an evil power that spans many dimensions and are the sworn enemies of the True Atlanteans who have been banished from Atlantis. The Splugorth minions are a particluar threat on the coast lines of adjacent North and South America, conducting slave raids against human and DBee settlements to feed the insatiable hunger of the Atlantean slave markets and in some cases, the appetites of dimensional visitors to Atlantis.
A vast inland sea has flooded the centre of the continent leaving notable landmarks like Uluru completely submerged. With the return of magic to the land, the Aborigines have enjoyed a resurgence and many practice Dreamtime magic. The "civilized" world has devolved into often competing city-states, with Melbourne and Perth the most technologically advanced.
Further supplements to the Rifts game have expanded the setting to include:
- Mutants in Space - Several Space Stations and Colonies existed in orbit at the time of the Great Cataclysm. The desendants of their inhabitants, including many mutant animals, still survive in space, fighting against each other, and trying to prevent any force from entering or leaving Earth.
- The Three Galaxies - an alternative space opera setting centred on the planet of Phaseworld
- Wormwood - Knights and symbiote-bearing warriors fight against demons on a living planet.
- Chaos Earth - Earth as it was during and immediately after the devastation of the Apocalypse
- Manhunter Universe - an alternative dimension to Rifts:Earth, published as a sourcebook under license from Palladium Books by Myrmidon Press . In this dimension, humankind fights an intense battle against artificially intelligent robots bent on human extermination.
Game play elements
Damage and Firepower
One important note about Rifts versus other game systems is scale. Weaponry and combat in Rifts are far more destructive than in traditional gaming systems. For example, in Rifts and other Palladium games, a simple knife inflicts between 1 and 4 damage points. Yet even a basic Rifts-era laser pistol will cause between 100 and 400 points of damage (more than enough to totally destroy a small car in one shot)! This means someone shot by such a laser pistol would be literally cut in half without protective armor and that a tree or bystander in the line of fire would meet a similar fate. Thus, a Coalition soldier with standard-issue armor and weapons has the durability and firepower of a modern tank. Even a minimal skirmish may leave deep craters, level towns, and kill many bystanders.
To accommodate this scale, Mega Damage Capacity is an important game concept. Each point of mega-damage is equal to 100 points of "Structural Damage", enough to destroy a small car. Personal armor has on average 40 MDC, and vehicles start around 80-100. Exceedingly powerful beings such as Dragons have mega-damage skin.
Because Rifts has no systematic method of designing weaponry, the game is criticized frequently for severe power escalation; often magic or equipment from a later book are drastically more powerful than magic or mecha from an earlier one, requiring players to buy the most recent supplement to keep up with the power curve.
Character Classes are divided into two categories: Occupational Character Classes (O.C.C.), and Racial Character Classes (R.C.C.). Both indicate a character's training and learned skills, as well as specifying one's initial weapons and equipment. An R.C.C. indicates that the character's racial background prevents the selection of an O.C.C.: some races (such as human) may choose an O.C.C. on top of their race, while some, usually due to culture or other conditions (such as game balance), are a Character Class in and of themselves.
Examples of Rifts O.C.C.s
Examples of Rifts R.C.C.s
- Noli Bushman
- Psi-Hound (Dog Boy)
Rifts, like other Palladium games, uses percentile dice to calculate skill success. Each character, based on training, intelligence, and experience level, has a base percentage chance of success. If that number or lower is rolled on percentile dice, then the use of the skill is considered to be a success. While modifiers are suggested in cases of unusual difficulty (or lack thereof), these are rarely enumerated in the system, except in the case of rare or special skills. Some criticize this as being more cumbersome than the D20 System; Palladium defends their method as allowing for a wider variety of skills.
Associated Palladium games
The Rifts world is based on parts of several other Palladium Books games, including:
- Beyond the Supernatural - (as discussed above)
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Other Strangeness - This game's focus on mutant animals is used primarily in Rifts World Book 13: Lone Star
- After the Bomb - A post-apocalyptic expansion series for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness
- The Palladium Role Playing Game - This game's focus on dragons, knights, and fantasy is mostly seen at work in Rifts World Book 3: England.
- Ninjas and Superspies - This Cyberpunk-style game's approach to cybernetics influenced that of Rifts, although its martial arts elements have largely been omitted.
- The Mechanoid Invasion - This, Palladium's first game, was the source for Rifts Sourcebook 2: Mechanoids
- Robotech - This role playing system was Palladium's first use of the Mega-Damage concept for futuristic combat technology, and its influence can still be seen in Rifts' use of power armor and giant robots.
- Chaos Earth - Chaos Earth is a Palladium RIFTS spin-off that lets player portray characters in the "Great Cataclysm" time period that led to the formation of the world as it is in RIFTS. The game is set in the devastation and war (and return of magic, and opening of the Rifts to other worlds/dimensions) that ultimately bring about an entirely new world built from the ashes of our own.
- Heroes Unlimited - A superhero RPG
According to a March 2004 press release , noted film producer Jerry Bruckheimer and writer David Franzoni (Gladiator) have become interested in creating a Rifts movie, and a computer game is also scheduled for release.
Several novels and large amounts of fan fiction have been based on the world of Rifts. A licensed Rifts video game is also due out in summer of 2005, and there was a short-lived collectible card game.
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