October 9, 2013
Playing As The Bad Guys
Rather spontaneously, my roommate decided to pull out all of his old Rifts books and start up a small “once in a while” campaign for those of our various game groups who were interested, basically something to do on those Saturdays when we have nothing else planned. Rifts is, to me, a pure nostalgia trip, so I was immediately on board. We called up a few friends, made some quick plans, and all got together for a session of character building and an introduction into the massive world of Rifts.
The thing with a game as expansive as Rifts is that there is far too much of it to just throw it all at your players (which would hurt, as those are some heavy books) and tell them “make a character.” Knowing this, my Gamemaster limited the scope of the game. Rather than being just a Rifts game, this was going to be a Coalition game. Now, for those who do not know, the Coalition in Rifts is a lot like the Empire in Star Wars, but rather than all of us playing as Storm Troopers, we were a newly formed specialist team sent to a small outpost along the border with one of the Coalition’s many enemies. Now, in most Rifts games, the Coalition is the bad guy. They are the men in black, skull adorned armor that ransack helpless villages, destroy works of magic and knowledge, and terrorize anyone they do not accept as being human and untainted by the evils of magic and the supernatural.
Games like this one are always fun to be a part of, as they are designed to turn a lot of player assumptions on their head. Most of the time, player characters do not think twice about blasting a Coalition trooper to dust with a particle beam rifle, or stabbing a Storm Trooper with a lightsaber, or calling on magical powers of destruction to slay an Inquisitor. After playing a game like this one, players might take a bit more pause. Just because an organization or government is evil, that does not make every member of said organization/government evil. That Coalition soldier might have a wife and children waiting for him back at home. That Storm Trooper might be fighting to help bring peace to the Galaxy. That Inquisitor might be trying to save others from some horrible fate he was not able to prevent from befalling himself or his loved ones. Those men and women may indeed be your enemies, but that does not make them evil by default. They are still people, and people are unique.
Games that put player characters in the roles of “bad guys” without making them be bad guys are always a lot of fun. Often times, players are not entirely sure what do make of it at first, but often will quickly grow into their roles. These games can turn into intriguing games of knowing right from wrong when your characters realize that those they work for are truly evil and must choose if they will continue to obey or become traitors. The realization that something you had a lot of faith in, that something you trusted with all of your heart and soul is not what you thought it to be, can be a heavy burden to bear. How do your characters bear it? What do they do with the new insight they have gained? All of these questions make for wonderful game-play, and for rewarding role-playing.
So, go ahead. Put yourselves in the bad guy’s shoes. I bet you will have more fun than you expect.
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