May 23, 2013
A Look At The Fluff Of Rifts
Magic has returned to the world and the once dormant ley lines have awakened. Mankind his just risen out of a second dark age. The human supremacist Coalition States has just won its war with the great city of Tolkien and now turns its eyes toward Lazlo, the great nation of learning, and the Federation of Magic, ruled my men and monsters alike. The island nation of Atlantis has returned to the world above the waves, ruled by an alien intelligence that is as unknowable as it is inhuman. Vampires rule much of what was once Mexico and northern South America. A new King Arthur has created a new Camelot in the British Isles. The New German Republic wages war against the Gargoyle Empire using the latest Triax robotic suits. The four horsemen of the Apocalypse have appeared in Africa. Warlords clash across Russia. Welcome to the world of Rifts, and all of this is only scratching the surface.
The Rifts role-playing game has an incredible amount of content, much of it focused on fleshing out what has happened to our once familiar Earth. Rather than releasing source-books that cover different elements of the game, such as magic or monsters, the game is comprised mostly of “world books” that cover various areas such as The Vampire Kingdoms or Warlords of Russia. Each area is completely unique, comprising its own feel and often is able to work as a game setting all on its own. Entire campaigns can be played using only books focusing on the Coalition States such as Coalition War Campaign and Lone Star. Other books focus on major world events such as the Juicer Uprising and the Siege on Tolkien. These books allow players to take part in major events that shape the world, giving them a sense of importance in a seemingly epic story-arch.
Rifts is a very detail focused game. Thus while it suffers from cumbersome mechanics, it excels in fluff, albeit with a little narrative aid from the Gamemaster to make it all work. More so than in any other game I have ever played, the Gamemaster must perform the role of mediator between players, otherwise the most powerful character will always dominate all of the others. This is a game in which literal godlings can partner up with normals kids who live on the streets of Chi-Town or any other city, relatively normal human beings alongside beings capable to brushing off a tank blast to the chest or crushing buildings with their bare hands. Without some measure of understanding on the part of the players, and some narrative control on the part of the Gamemaster, Rifts campaigns can quickly devolve into a game of “look who has a more awesome…”
In a game as diverse as this, I consider the fluff to be the single most important element to a campaign. The fluff will be what draws a group of characters together, what makes it necessary to work together, and what prevents everything from falling on the shoulders of the character who has the biggest gun, the toughest suit of power-armor, the most M.D.C., or the strongest spell. Gamemasters and players must find a reason for these massively different characters to work together. This can be difficult to pull off, but when it does, you will likely find yourself involved in a very rewarding gaming experience.
Image Credit: Palladium Books