GM Field Guide #7: Rifts – It’s For Kids Too!
Updated: Mar 27
First off, it’s great to be back, and this isn’t your typical Rifts-centric post. I’m easing back into things.
Four weeks on vacation in the summer visiting friends and touring Paris, northern France and then the Cote d’Azur was great; air travel to get there and back, not so much. My return to work was, well, hectic…. Immediately upon my return I swamped with budget forecasting for my Formation and submission for Army confirmation, double-hatted into one of the busiest jobs on Base, and then hurricane FIONA. My personal sob story over, I’m finally out of the woods, and my daughter brought me on a completely enexpected gaming tangent.
The Rifts setting isn’t necessarily the first genre that a parent would likely introduce younger children to. Here there be dragons…., as well as demons, nightmarish creatures of alien origin, vampires. This is topped off by several cadres of humanity that leverage fear of the unknown and “other” for political purposes, those purposes often enforced by the use of the proverbial club or at the end of an energy rifle. Palladium Books puts those warnings there for a reason. So crafting a game designed with a (much) younger audience in mind certainly presents a challenge. Not insurmountable, but it is a thing.
So my 11 year old daughter is hooked on Young Sheldon, and only just found out that The Big Bang Theory existed. She also has friends who have taken to Stranger Things, and while out with her to walk the family dog, she asked about Stranger Things and The Big Bang Theory. As a common thread between the two, the topic of D&D came up. Her, not having any idea what it was about, I tried to explain roleplaying in general. Unlock the “Father-daughter bonding” achievement badge; my wife remains dubious on that score.
So I then dropped the comment about Rifts. She knew about the shelves of books in my man cave/basement office, knows full well about the framed pictures I got from last year’s grab bag, and said she was intrigued. Insert cautious optimism. I mention that I wrote the manuscript for Free Quebec and flip through the Rifts Ultimate Edition with her. She asks for a demo. Grabbing some dice and space on the dinner table, off we go!
Describing the classes (really) quickly, we come to the topic of Skills. Randomly I pick climbing. I hand her two D10s and climb right into the adventure (pun intended). I tell her she is standing in front of an impound fence. Her car is locked within and she needs it for a mission. For clarity, I’m denoted as ‘F’, my daughter as ‘I’.
I: “Why is it in impound?”
F: “You failed to pay your parking tickets.”
I: “They can take your car for not paying tickets?!!!”
I set the Climb skill randomly at 60%. She tentatively rolls the dice and lands on 61%…
F: “You reach the top of the fence and snag along the top. You’ve ripped your pants and are tangled.”
I: “Man, I loved those pants!”
First reaction: Wait, what? <insert gob smacked headshake>
F: “Roll to get down on the other side.”
She angrily grabs the dice and throws a 64%.
F: “You get over but slip and fall on your butt. As you get up, the racket you caused now caught the attention of the police guard dog. You find yourself facing off with a Rottweiler.”
I: “He has a collar?”
She successfully grabs the collar, getting bitten in the process (insert Hit Points and S.D.C. discussion). Searching and finding a car door not properly closed, she tucks the beast inside. She then tells me she has a band-aid in her pocket and puts it on the dog bite.
Second reaction: Huh, never saw that coming. Let’s roll with it.
She locates her car, but it’s locked. Finding the admin office where the keys are stored, she immediately goes to kick the door. Rolls well to hit but abysmally for damage. Alarm is now ringing. She lines up for a second kick and rolls a Natural 1.
F: “You slip, fall to the ground and smack your head on the railing.”
In a huff, my daughter rushes a roll to kick the door again and rolls *another* 1, missing the door and hurting herself in the fall again. She recovers enough to give a good final kick and overcomes the door issue.
F: “Searching for the keys, distant sirens can now be heard. You find the locked drawer they are stored in.”
I: “Is there a tool kit?”
F: “Yes….” (At this point, I have no idea where this is going)
I: “I use that metal claw thingy.”
I clue in that she means to crowbar her way into the locked key press. No problems.
She grabs her keys and heads down to her car and gets it going. She has to use her energy pistol to blow open the locked gate, but gets to the road as a cop car barrels towards her.
I: “I’m pulling a Jacques Villeneuve!” She throws down a 12% for driving and looks up at me. (W…T… F… LOL).
F: “Okay, so the cops are chasing you down the road.” I roll their Drive skill and they do really well too.
I: “I use the mirrors to aim and point my pistol back at them. I want to shoot the tires!”
Third reaction: What, the actual f#$%?
F: “Okay, roll to hit, but you have huge negatives to this roll.”
I: “Okay.” She rolls her d20 and looks up. “A 20 is good, right?”
This sequence of events culminates with her rolling middling damage, just shy of busting the tire. Taking a cue from Hollywood movies, the cop tries to shoot back and rolls a Natural 1. Well, there goes the service pistol and he barely passes a Drive roll to keep control of the car. She successfully swerves right at the next intersection. The cop follows, but fails the random 25% chance I’ve set for the tire to blow (1 M.D.C. remaining).
F: “The cop’s car slides out of control into the corner store. It looks like he is okay, but nobody is going to be buying lotto tickets from that store anytime soon.”
My daughter throws down a 02% for Driving, and with a hoot that wakes up the dog, speeds away.
This session concluded there as my wife and other daughter returned from some errands. My intrepid youngest excitedly explained to a completely befuddled mother and sister how ‘she got bit by a dog while stealing back her car from the police, then shot the cop car before escaping!’ I thought it a rather well-done, succinct overview. My eldest shrugged and carried on. My wife gave me that raised eyebrow look that had me laughing on the spot, mollified by my youngest clarifying how much fun she had.
As my 11 year old daughter drove her fictional car into the proverbial sunset, she insisted that we roll up a full blown Rifts character (she chose Freelance Spy, because Totally Spies! and Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug and Cat Noir are two other obsessions. She also insisted that I make the family dog as her NPC buddy. So we rolled up some stats for her and I went to work figuring out what would essentially be a pre-made character for her continued adventures, with her gallant Dog Boy side-kick. I figure this will best be served playing in a neutral urban setting outside of the CS (for what I assume would be obvious reasons); perhaps MercTown or Ishpeming.
The whole encounter, which lasted maybe 20-30 minutes, was a hugely satisfying breathe of fresh air. Now all that remains is the generation of a few quick adventures for her to flex those burgeoning gaming skills.
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