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Rifts is a sci-fi rpg from Palladium. Using the basic Palladium rules system ensures compatibility with all the other games in the Palladium line, such as Palladium, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The basic world of Rifts is a post-apocalyptic future, where the ley lines have become over energized, creating rifts between worlds. Anything can come through these rifts, the only limit being your imagination. Predominantly based in the USA, with most of the core rulebook material focussing on the areas around chicago, there are a large number of interesting ideas in the core game. Alien invasions, creatures coming through the rifts, the energization of psychic powers and, obligatory for a post-apocalyptic game, new city states ruled over by fascist governments. This is a relatively old game, with a lot of background material, predominantly world books focussing on different areas of the world. These are generally well written, with lots of good ideas. My particular favourites include the Wild West setting, and an in depth look at the lost (and now found) continent of Atlantis. This is quite a rules heavy game, not well suited to new players. In particular, this is not a game suited to combat oriented campaigns and styles of play. There are huge imbalances between the character classes, a situation that can only be resolved through good roleplaying. Overall, this is a challenging game, which, in it's rules, is showing it's age, but it is absolutely packed with excellent, well thought out ideas and scenarios. Worth looking into just for the background, particularly if you can pick it up second hand.
This is an old game, it's been around for a while under a variety of publishers and hasn't changed much. There are about 17 books describing worlds that can be played and thats about the best thing going for this game. The rules are heavy, lots of tables and number crunching, they also allow for imbalance and tend to steer players towards combat orientated characters with weapon and fight skills and little else. Un fortunately this makes good roleplaying less likely as adventures tend to be combat orientated to fit the characters. A storytelling idea may be to run characters against each other as they will then be less inclined to fight physically and may try to outmaneuvre each other allowing for better roleplay. Each world book is completely self contained giving you a map of the area that it represents (e.g. the vampire world is the americas, or maybe only the central americas I forget) descriptions of the monsters in the area and the politics (sketchily) a few area descriptions and the like. These books tend to be quite expensive, like £10 a shot and not really worth the money. There doesn't tend to be much in them that teh enterprising storyteller couldn't come up with herself. I wouldn';t suggest buying the rulebook to Rifts, the best use of this game is proabaly to use teh settings or backgrounds which are sometimes clever ideas, develop them slightly yourself and tie them into another rules system, this isn;t actually that hard to do as the stats provided for rifts charcters are long winded reducing them to other systems, like AD&D where, lets be honest a lot of the stats are ignored by a lot of people a lot of the time. Not changed enough since early days to be up with the modern front runners.
Oh what to say about good old Rifts. Its sad to say that the SETTING for Rifts is awesome. If it were just that, I would give it a tops rating. Now, the reason I gave it the red thumb is that the rules are just painful to manage. Not only do you have damage that is one hit kill types, but you have classes that are totally unbalanced. One player could be playing a Dragon that can shrug off laser fire in his sleep, kill people with a puff of his nose. The other player could be playing Bob the homless guy begging for change on the street. Combat comes, the dragon lives, Bob makes a new character. The damage rules are just crazy too. Armor is much more tough than damage capability. One fight between two characters is likly to take hours before anyone takes damage. A hand gun (energy weapon) does 1d6 damage. Armor typically defends against the first 30+ points of damage. POW, PLINK, "Stop that."