Card Catalog – Edition Wars: Rifts

May 28, 2019

Welcome to a new feature in the Card Catalog – Edition Wars! We all know hoe games will go through editions and we gamers will often argue about the superiority of one over another and this presents an opportunity! Similar to the 3 Ways posts where we take one concept through different game systems, Edition Wars will take some of our Card Catalog characters and see how they change in different systems, and update the little vignettes we’ve got going here. Originally, we looked at Rifts through the lens of the first two books when we did the write up of T-Ball’s Pack.  Since those 1991 published books we started with, Rifts has put out over 30 setting based World Books, a dozen Dimension Books, and a host of other assorted books. The breadth and imagination of the world is on display and the sheer ability to play anything is a big deal! In fact, getting all of the ideas corralled caused a little delay in getting this posted! You’ll see the next two characters roll out over the next two days and then be back to our weekly postings thereafter!

While Palladium and Kevin Siembieda don’t release new editions often, in 2005, the Rifts Ultimate Edition was released which I picked up after dusting off the old Rifts books for Card Catalog (and more than a few other books as the world is so engaging).  The underlying mechanics of the system were not changed, but the character classes were updated and changed. Two in particular had significant changes and will be featured in new character write ups – the Cyber Knight and the Psi-Stalker. Both had suffered from being able to fulfill their role in the world as it grew.  Rifts is known for its power creep but it as much an example of the constantly expanding character options. For the Edition Wars posts, I’ll take some of the characters from T-Ball’s pack and convert them to their new equivalents highlighting the changes and add a few characters to the mix as well as advancing the plot of the world and how these little characters fit into it.

Rifts is set in a post-apocalyptic future that has significant horror, survival, and sci-fi components.  It brought together and harmonized rules for psionics dating back to The Mechanoids, the Potential Psychic Energy (“P.P.E.”) based magical system in Beyond the Supernatural, the Mega Damage Capacity (“M.D.C.”) concept from the Robotech series, and the alien intelligences foreshadowed by The Old Ones in the Palladium Fantasy RPG.  THis time out, I’ll use the Ultimate Edition Core book as well as some of the supplements that had made it out by the time that the Coalition War was over, Tolkeen razed, and Quebec’s secret Glitter Boy production revealed when it split from the Coalition States. Like last time, out of respect for Palladium’s Intellectual Property and their professed preferences – Palladium does not support a fillable PDF of the Rifts Character Sheet, I am converting the character generation spreadsheet I used into a PDF to display the characters; and I am limiting the amount of information from the books being used, for example I will give a brief description of a power armor suit but will refer you to the book for more information.  

System Notes

With a few modifications, this is generally the same description from the T-Ball’s pack write up.  You can skip ahead if you’ve heard this before!

Rifts, and the Megaversal system, start from a randomly generated set of eight attributes – I.Q.; M.E. (Mental Endurance); M.A. (Mental Affinity); P.S. (Physical Strength); P.P. (Physical Prowess); P.E. (Physical Endurance); P.B. (Physical Beauty); and Spd. (Speed).  A normal human rolls 3D6, but a result of 16-18 adds an additional 1D6 to the total. If that bonus d6 rolled a 6, you could roll again for a maximum of 5D6 or 30 on any stat. Rifts characters have both I.S.P. (Inner Strength Points) that fuel Psionics and P.P.E. (Potential Psychic Energy) that fuels magic.  After you roll your stats, you choose an O.C.C. (Occupational Character Class) that provides the framework for your character including the O.C.C. skills, a list of “Other” skills that may be selected with bonuses, and “Secondary” skills that round out your character without bonus. Skills are expressed as a percentage to roll under, with bonuses from high I.Q., O.C.C.s, and advance by level with the character.  This includes choosing your Weapon Proficiencies because, while your P.P provides a bonus in melee combat, it provides no bonuses to modern weapons at range. The character gets to be rounded out a standard gear list for each O.C.C. with some extra credits to buy and personalize your equipment.

A huge selection of races and species are available that provide different starting attributes to roll.  This began with Palladium Rifts Conversion Book One and continued in every book since where more O.C.C.s, races, and hear were provided to enrich the world and the game experience, to an almost overwhelming volume at times. This plethora of options is at once both the greatest strength and weakness of the system and setting – You can play anything! We will again use the optional random charts as well to flesh out the characters.  

Setting Notes

The world of Rifts is set after a near extinction level event that reawakened the magical ley lines that criss cross the Earth.  In the wake of humanity nearly falling out of existence, and magic returning through the newly opened rifts at the ley line nexuses, Atlantis returned to Earth and dimensional beings, or D-bees, came through the Rifts.  Some of these D-bees were nearly human and just another race on the planet but others were like monsters or demons of lore and they proceeded to further place humanity’s future at risk. In 101 P.A., there are few pockets of urban civilization like Northern Gun and the Coalition States, where power armor, giant robots, and bionic conversions flourish.  Psionically gifted and magically active humans and B-Bees have banded together in different communities as well especially in light of the Coalition State’s hatred and distrust of magic, psionics, and D-Bees in general. In Rifts, humanity and population is scarce but on the planet you will find full conversion cyborgs, magic wielding Ley Line Walkers, the awesome mental powers of Mind Melters, Dragon hatchlings, and scholars and adventurers trying to survive from one day to the next.

Since our first look at Rifts, the world advanced, allowing for the adventures and stories contained in many of the supplements to unfold, such as Rifts: Africa and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The Coalition States went to war against the magical city of Tolkeen … and eventually won.  Through the Coalition War Machine’s rise and deployment, the Coalition faced a Juicer Uprising and the development of new kinds of Juicers, met the magical power of Tolkeen on the Battlefield, and laid bare the truth that there were dark parts of Tolkeen when the massacre of the Sorcerer’s Revenge galvanized many views against the magical city.  The Siege of Tolkeen took place only after the Coalition lost Quebec as its own member state, unveiling their secret production of Glitter Boys, but siding against Tolkeen at the end of the day, and a surprising return of military might that had been dispatched to quell the growing Xitixic threat in the wilderness. The city of Tolkeen fell, the Coalition face a setback or three, but Emperor Prosek’s vision moves forward. In 109 P.A., welcome back to the world of Rifts where the world is full of fear, hope, adventure, and the unknown!

Edition Wars Notes

The major changes between the original edition and the ultimate edition that I see is the reworking of the character classes.  The optional attribute rolls from the Conversion Book 1 were implemented, so all characters if they roll an 18 on 3d6 followed by a 6 on the bonus get one more bonus 1d6. While the corebook doesn’t include other species to play outside of the Dragon hatchlings and Dog Boys, the world of rifts has dozens if not hundreds of species published in the supplements with their own R.C.C.s or able to take other character classes. The skill list also had some significant changes with the addition of some skill groups, like Cowboy Skills from the trilogy of Rifts World Books in the West (Lone Star, New West, Spirit West) and a different limitation on what can and can’t be secondary skills compared to the original book.  Small changes, but when I convert our surviving Pack members over, I’ll highlight them.

The underlying mechanics described above stayed the same, but the way that characters classes worked was brought in line in many ways with how we described the Palladium Fantasy Roleplaying Game in 1 Archer, 3 Ways.  Each Class has specific special abilities in the Core Rulebook now making them more distinct. Headhunters are more clearly laid out as partial cyborgs, and there are new classes for a Merc Soldier and a revamp of Power Armor and Robot Pilots as O.C.C.s. The names of the different species of dragons were also changed from the FIre, Ice, and Great Horned variety to other more prosaic names. Character Classes like the Mystic, intuitive psychics and magic users, were given some refinement such as additional initial spells and psychic powers with a more robust skill selection. Ley Line Walkers were given a reason not to wear environmental armor as it interfered with their magic. Every O.C.C. seems to have some small amount of balancing or tweaking that went on as far as skills and special abilities if not the wholesale refinement described below.  

The two O.C.C.s that had the biggest changes were the Cyberknight and the Psi-Stalker.  While the Rifts setting, and Palladium in general, don’t focus on game balance between classes leaving that up to the G.M. and the players to have an unbalanced group like many older games, these two classes could not fulfill their stated in world purpose as built.  Rifts is accused of escalating the stats, of power creep, and in many ways it is fair that the new books that come out seem to have better equipment, more useful classes, and stronger opposition as there has not been an edition to reset that. One example of this is the Coalition War Machine book that updated the available tech for the Coalition States on the verge of their war increasing the damage, armor, and scope of their resources.  

A CyberKnight didn’t seem like he or she could stand up to the world and even a light suit of powered armor like a Samson in a fair fight.  The story behind them was deepened in the midst of the Coalition’s Siege on Tolkeen in Coalition Wars 4: Cyber-Knights which, aside from fleshing out this cadre and order of do-gooders, also expanded their powers.  We’ll talk about that when we make one shortly, but it provided specific bonuses to the Cyberknight and penalties to electronic and computer-reliant opponents to even that a bit. In many ways it made the CyberKnights geared to fighting technology in the flip of the way that the Psi-Stalker was changed making them almost mirror images of each other.

The Psi-stalker was expanded in the World Book 13: Lone Star where they were discussed in conjunction with the Dog Boys.  Lone Star is the Coalition State in Texas where the genetic engineering to create the mutant dogs is happening, and the psychic powers of the mutant dogs are remarkably similar to those of the Psi-Stalkers. They are now described as human mutants and leaving many questions about their origins. The World Book 23: Xiticix Invasion, which I have not yet picked up, expanded further but the promise of expanding on the seemingly random throwaway insectoid cross dimensional infestation from the original book intrigues me greatly.  As Psi-Stalkers must feed on the P.P.E. of magical entities, magic users, or psychics, the proliferation of these entities being Mega Damage against the normal human base Psi-Stalkers doesn’t fit as a way for them to hunt them very well. The new Ultimate Edition details a secret that the Psi-Stalker becomes a minor Mega Damage creature when in combat with their prey. The Psi-Stalkers were able to reasonable hunt the purported prey and were well set to fighting and tracking down magical foes.

T-Ball’s Pack

T-Ball’s Pack isn’t what it once was.  In the last 7 years, a lot has changed as T-Ball and the rest were swept up in the Coalition’s War against Tolkeen and the fall out is still reverberating throughout the continent.  Now, as the Coalition basks in it’s high cost victory, the Pack has split up to follow two different courses of action. T-Ball herself is still in a bit of shock. Audacious always had a limited life left, and after seeing so many Juicers cut down in the Juicer Uprising, his fatalism had amped up even more.  He saved T-Ball, taking the brunt of a blast as they were trying to get away from a Coalition skirmish, though she bears more cybernetics now thanks to that. After Piter died in the Siege on Tolkeen, having volunteered to try to help Lazlo’s neighbor, Mikal needs to get away from the battlefield’s and the loss.  The two of them are joined by a pair of new members – Lady Sieglinde, a Cyberknight that helped come to their rescue a few times in the war and especially in that last skirmish when Aud died and T-Ball needed a Cyber-Doc. It’s hard sometimes to understand these Cyberknights with their vows and their intensely altruistic motivations, but never look a gift horse in the mouth; and an irascible Mind Melter Capaneus, these four are heading back to the East Coast, to explore the area around DeeCee and seek out allies against the growing influence of the Coalition from the legendary “Republicans” purported to be there.

Going the opposite direction, Annie and Jorj are heading towards Lone Star.  Everybody knows that lone Star is where the Dog Boys come from, but during the War with Tolkeen, Annie came face to face with a Killcat engineered by Lone Star, and the stories that Ozymandius told about the mutant animals in the Pecos Empire means she has to see if she can do anything to save her brothers and sisters, even if they would kill her as a traitor.  Jorj can’t leave her on her own as they have become inextricably linked and she has become the daughter he never had. Ozzy was already heading back home and his stories were part of what was drawing them towards Texas and the New West, and a mysterious Augustus choose to come with them. While a help during the war, the Pack doesn’t know much about Augustus’ history but when Vampires were mentioned, she came along.

F’arlum didn’t make it out as any of his friends recognized him.  He had been slipping into a more and more violent outlook especially against the despised Coalition. He cheered the Sorcerer’s revenge when the forces from Tolkeen routed the Coalition war machine but engaged in the slaughter and horrors of war themselves.  He wanted to hurt anyone who wasn’t with him, and when T-Ball stepped between F’arlum and innocent but scared villagers, the depth to which the Federation of Magic had sunk it’s claws into F’arlum became apparent. He abandoned his old friends, flinging energy blasts and lightning from the sky at them swearing that he would make sure that the “turncoats” who fooled him would see him again.

T-Balls Pack – Coastal Explorers

Theresa “T-Ball” Chandler
Headhunter and Reluctant Leader

T-Ball had never been more glad to have left the Northern Gun service than when she saw Ishpeming side with the Coalition States.  As a Headhunter, a partially cybernetic mercenary, she could leave her home behind but it didn’t make it easier. She had seen her friend Audacious die, saving her in the Coalition’s War on Tolkeen and F’arlum turn on them when the innocents were more important than vengeance.   Tolkeen had fallen to pride and was no better than the Coalition when it was all said and done, but it doesn’t make the Coalition any better. It was time to heal after the war, and that meant splitting up the pack. SHe and Mikal went East, towards the coast and the land of DeeCee where there was rumored to be an enclave that would help the world.  T-Ball wasn’t ready to give up yet, but she needed the time away and letting Lady Sieglinde think she was in charge was also a relief.

Wilderness Scout Finding New Paths

He never should have gotten mixed up with the city folk.  He had great adventures with T-Ball and the rest, but the Coalition War took its toll.  Mikal lost his twin brother Piter. Before anyone knew how far Tolkeen had slipped from their ideals, his Body Fixer brother had gone to Tolkeen to help the wounded.  He had to do something – damn idealist. It wasn’t the Coalition that killed him in the Siege, but the creatures and pacts the Tolkeen leadership had made. Mikal was withdrawing a bit and the loss of Audacious’ vibrant spirit to fatalism and death while F’arlum spat insults while leaving them behind hasn’t been easy.  The wilderness is still his home, and a new area to explore, to map, and to find can help calm a soul.

Lady Sieglinde
Cyberknight Crusader Looking for Atonement

Sieglinde left the teachings of the Cyberknights during the Coalition’s War on Tolkeen.  She hadn’t listened to Lord Coake’s counsel for the Cyberknights to stay out of this conflict.  It was clear that the Coalition was the rampant evil that Cyberknights were told to fight against, to stand before, to protect people from.  The leadership of Tolkeen, though, had succumbed to arrogance, pride, and desperation making deals with dimensional horrors and perpetrating the sorts of actions that all moral beings reviled. It was war, but war did not need to be prosecuted with such immoral abandon even against the Coalition.  She had made a mistake. When she had the chance, she came to the aid of T-Ball’s Pack, saving them from being overwhelmed as they tried to flee a skirmish towards the end of the siege. She saw Audacious die protecting T-Ball, and set her righteous course in motion. Atonement is needed and these adventurers seem on the course to find a way to right wrongs, and if the legends are true in the land of DeeCee, to help the entire planet.  It is the way to reclaim the certitude lost in the arrogance of youth.

Arrogant Mind Melter

The next step in the evolution of the human kind is right in front of you – at least if you ask Capaneus.  A simple change and the Mind Melter would be like all the rest of these quiet and terrified people and D-Bees.  Instead, by the grace of the powers of the mind, he can see what is unseen, fly, and control the very building blocks of nature.  Just ask and he’ll be glad to tell you. The fall of Tolkeen was an experience for him, especially on the heels of the great prophecy that the psychics all experienced about the coming threats.  Rarely does he know fear, but the Coalition frightened him because of how many willingly agreed to follow them. Now, he must rage against them in the way he best knows – once he gets back from this quest to the East that is.

T-Ball’s Pack – Out Texas Way

Jorj Porgey
Rogue Scientist/Hacker

Jorj used to be on the waiting list to be a Coalition citizen.  Instead, he found answers and more importantly questions while living in the Burbs and teaching himself not only to read but how to get into the Coalition computer systems.  Insatiable curiosity and a need to tell the stories of the past has led this city boy to venture through the wild from outpost to outpost trying to unearth more of the story of the Pre-Rifts times and even what really happened in the recent past.  A timely meeting with Annie has led to an intrepid duo that above all else just wants to know more.

Courageous Dog Boy

A Boxer Breed Dog Boy with an uncommon curiosity, the Psi-Hound now called Annie fell into T-Ball’s Pack by way of Jorj.  She had been trained as a radio and communications specialist in her Dog Pack and when they were tracking a dangerous Ley Line Walker the entire pack was wiped out.  Annie would have been dead if Jorj hadn’t found her. Jorj’s own quest for knowledge spurred something in this curious and illegally literate Psi-Hound and she has stuck around ever since.

“Ozzy” Ozymandius Pumpernickel
Loud Mouthed Minotaur Gunslinger

Sure, a bull headed western themed gun fighter sounds like it is out of the mythology of the Old World … and so it is.  Ozymandius, or Ozzy, is a Minotaur whose herd came through a Rift decades ago and found the West of the Rifts North America to their liking.  It kept them insulated from the growing Coalition States, and Lone Star was never as expansionist as the rest, but the Pecos Raiders made life difficult.  It gave rise to Ozzy learning the up close and personal art of the Gunslinger. Maybe going East to see what this Coalition war was all about was a mistake, but it certainly was eye opening. A gunslinger never shies from a fight, and is superb in close quarters with loud clothing and a devil may care attitude so the horrors of war surpassed even the Pecos Bandit’s handiwork.  WHen he said he was going home, Annie and Jorj were interested in the Lone Star proximity, and something flickered in Augustus’’s eyes when he muttered about Vampires.

True Atlantean Shifter

Still young at a few hundred years, Augustus is following a less common but well known path of a True Atlantean. A descendant of one of the few who came from Atlantis millenia ago, before the Splugorth took it, Augustus is an experienced dimensional traveller who felt it time to see what had become of the legendary homeworld.  Inquisitiveness isn’t always safe, and as a Shifter she constantly flirts with the dark side of the multiverse that the Atlanteans try to stop. She had to understand these dark creatures and the extradimensional powers that pushed the multiverse towards chaos and destruction. As an Atlantean, magical power came easily to her and the ability to summon and control the creatures, to open the rifts and portals between the dimensions rapidly followed. Calling, using, and learning from the Atlantean’s ancient foes is a dangerous line to walk, but also the exact line that an Atlantean would walk.

Palladium Books, Rifts, The Mechanoids, The Mechanoid Invasion, and Megaverse are registered trademarks owned and licensed by Kevin Siembieda. Mega-damage, M.D.C., S.D.C., P.P.E., Triax, Xiticix, Splugorth, Erin Tarn, Victor Lazlo, and their likenesses, The Palladium Role-Playing Game, Heroes Unlimited, Beyond the Supernatural, Ninjas & Superspies, and other titles are trademarks owned by Kevin Siembieda.
Any brief excerpts and descriptions of the contents of the book are done for review purposes through the fan creation of example characters.  No claim of ownership is intended or implied to the copywritten and trademarked works and marks.
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