Session 0 - Scholarly Adventures
Updated: Apr 15
RIFTS – The Setting
From the first pages of text in the original RIFTS: RPG, the creator, Kevin Siembieda, considered this as “Palladium’s version of cyberpunk.” The RPG continues with a central theme of “human augmentation” through “man’s (fictional) attempts to remake himself.” Back in the 1990s, when this game was initially released, that may have held true. I would initially tag the world of RIFTS as grimdark (no matter where you go, there is battle and conflict and there is always something out there looking to get you), which I think better exemplifies the horror and dangers presented.
The nuclear apocalypse that occurred hundreds of years ago led to a billion deaths. This did not create the holocaust scenario that is depicted in the RPG, but triggered a surge in psychic energies that unleashed across the mystical global railroads of ley lines. Those ley lines that intersected would open ‘rifts’ in space and time, allowing transit from our world to countless others. Millions more died at the upheavals these newly active ley lines caused, more again to the myriad of monstrosities that traversed from other dimensions to our planet. The oceans heaved and coastal cities were wiped out in instants, feeding further upheavals. The magic of these nexus points and the beasts that came forth, forever changing the face of the Earth.
Much of the geography remains relatively similar, with the notable exception of Atlantis returning from a pocket dimension. The setting pits players against whatever the GM throws against you. In an abstract sense, this provides limitless opportunities for game play; in reality, it provides almost too much for a newer player to fully understand, magnified even more so for a new GM.
Why Revisit RIFTS?
The game has provided a lot of fond memories for me. I was always the RIFTS GM; the storyteller of the group and the controller of god-characters that some players seemed to continue gravitating to. There was always the satisfaction of crafting the story arc and guiding the players through, all the while keeping on my toes for those random decisions that completely diverged the action from my planned session.
Stepping back from the paper-and-pen roleplaying experience, I also had the opportunity to write the majority of the submission of RIFTS Worldbook 22: Free Quebec, while I was also completing my undergraduate degree in Business Administration. Despite the challenges this scenario posed, I was determined to provide a French Canadian’s perspective on the completely fictional futuristic society.
This also led to me doing a lot of short story writing, a past-time I always dabbled at trying to apply to RIFTS. There were a number of these stories that were well received by the online Rifts community (for those that recall the Geocities experience). It wasn’t until recently that I started developing the framework for a RIFTS RPG session with a local playgroup that things once again started clicking.
Based around a single NPC, I spent the time developing the character, supported by a plethora of others. The creative juices developed a series of story arcs. Many of those story arcs required cracking open other Worldbooks to familiarize myself with the RIFTS canon. I found myself, once again and very happily, drawn into the setting.
A Scholar’s Intent
My intent is to promote the setting and products that develop the magnificent world of the Palladium Books RIFTS RPG, as well as some of the myriad ideas I continue to develop as I review this game, 30 years after its release. Despite that the books clearly aimed at pen-and-paper RPG players, I am not aiming my posts to the RPG aspect of the game. The following segments will best define follow-on posts:
Adventurer’s Notebook. A space for post short stories and works of fiction.
The Scholar’s Review. Rifts RPG book reviews and critiques.
The Bazaar. Adventure ideas, discussing the craft of being a GM, and ultimately the Palladium Books’ rules system.
Mercenaries’ Hangout. The source ideas for Massey Security and Intelligence (MSI.