Sunday, June 15, 2014

Thinking About Rifts

Blame Blizack over at Dungeonskull Mountain. His posts about Rifts have got me thinking about how I would tweak the setting for a game. It's likely this madness will pass, but here are some of the things I've thought about:

Rifts and Zones
The areas of rifts in the fabric of reality shouldn't be just gateways to other dimensions or sources of magical energy. They ought to be really strange and dangerous; A lot like the zones in Roadside Picnic. The rifts would be alluring, though, as sources of high technology to reverse-engineered. A lot of advanced tech might have been acquired this way. There would also probably be a cargo cult element to many human societies.

Retro-Future
Rifts was published in 1990 and in its DNA is material from 70s and 80s post-apocalyptic films and comics, 80s anime and manga, and the general genre zeitgeist of the age. It wouldn't change a lot, I guess, but it might be fun to assume an alternate history where our world of smartphones and mp3s never existed. It was the future of Neuromancer and Ghost in the Shell that led to the world of Rifts. And that future looks like the Logan's Run TV series and the Kamandi comic filtered through the tech and style of Akira, Appleseed and Walter Jon William's Hardwired.

Comic book
The kitchen sink-ness of Rifts and it's big action have a real comic book sensibility. Not in the sense of superheroes (not as traditionally considered) but in the way that every character is distinctive and has their own look and schtick--and maybe even G.I. Joe style codenames. No PC should be "just a merc"--or even "just a vagabond."

10 comments:

seaofstarsrpg said...

Rifts has some good ideas and themes, but the execution is -at best- gonzo. I agree, the basic ideas can be spun in so much more interesting and sensible (as in, this make some sort of sense) ways.

John Till said...

You caught my attention with that image. Always does the trick. I think you are right about the cargo cult element. Even in vanilla Stalker (if there were such a thing) there should be more of that. The legendary aspects of Stalkers come across in the novel "Roadside Picnic" as does the mythology about certain places within the Zone, but it stands to reason that cargo cults would emerge over the artifacts too.

Trey said...

@seaofstarsrpg - Very true. I'm not so much opposed to gonzo, but I think it needs to be sort of focused gonzo.

@John - I agree. Overall, there isn't near as much "religionizing" of the Zones as I think there would be--at least in the North America the novel nominally takes place in.

blizack said...

I'm happy to have inspired you to think about Rifts and what you'd do with it. It's a game that I think is best when made your own.

I really like the idea of the rifts themselves having been the source of at least some of the advanced technology that's being thrown around. Especially if the xenophobic Coalition is quietly using that technology too.

Rifts is definitely heavily informed by the science fiction (and superhero comics) of the 70s and 80s. It'd be interesting to play a campaign where that fact was intentionally emphasized.

I don't know if I'd go quite so far as to give everybody a "codename" -- that strikes me as too reminiscent of Shadowrun -- but there are probably plenty of mercenaries and bounty hunters that either come up with their own pseudonyms, or are given them. (In our campaign, it's the mercenary teams that have the "codenames" more than the individuals.)

Still, in a world with magic and demons, keeping your true name a secret might not be a bad idea. (In the Palladium Fantasy RPG, practically no adventurers use their real names for that very reason.)

Trey said...

Regarding, code names, I wasn't saying that was definite, just a suggestion.

I'm not sure what's Shadowrun about that, though. I've never played it where characters had codenames.

blizack said...

In the version of Shadowrun I owned in the 90s, runners were all supposed to have "handles", which were codenames, basically.

I didn't mean to come off like I hated the idea or anything. It's actually pretty cool.

Trey said...

Huh. Interesting. I'm pretty certain that wasn't in the 1st ed., which was the only one I ever played.

garrisonjames said...

Interesting ideas, especially the cargo-cult approach to The Zones. I'm glad John got me to read Roadside Picnic; there's a lot of great stuff in that book, not the least of which is the way that each Stalker becomes an active part of the emerging mythos by their various exploits.

I don't know much about Rifts, but all three campaign frames you suggest could be done using Mutant Future, Savage Worlds or one of the many super hero rpgs available now. The sort of mash-up of science/sorcery you're describing sounds fairly commonplace for Seventies paperback fodder...but then I read a lot of books, not so many rules-sets. I'm not sure what makes something specifically 'Rifts,' and not just science fantasy with a retro/gonzo vibe...

That Dragon's Claws comic looks interesting, never saw that before. Is it like Warheads perhaps?

Tom Ryan said...

I always look at the new version of Gamma World when I see cool gonzo settings...

Canageek said...

Have you read Hard Wired by Walter Jon Williams, Trey? One of your images is front it, and it is a fun read. I think it is where the rigger in Shadowrun comes from, or at least is a *great* depiction of one.