As we round out our somewhat delayed Edition Wars: Rifts series (with a bit of learning on my side for how much of a project to undertake at a time), I wanted to show more of the variety but also some of the power behind Rifts. One of the common descriptions, and critiques, or the Rifts game and setting is the power creep from book to book. This is apparent when you follow the Coalition Wars series, as we did here through to the new Ultimate Edition. The armor that was available had increased in M.D.C., more weapons that could do greater damage were showing up, and entire species of M.D.C. creatures and powerful magic and psionic users were added in the Conversion Books. Like I said, Rifts leaned into it’s Gonzo possibilities in a way only otherwise seen in TSR’s Gamma World. In a lot of ways, the early Rifts books took every idea that the writers had and included it some how which means it is a rich and varied world, but that richness can be overwhelming. To close out the Edition Wars, I wanted to use a rare and powerful species and also try my hand at building a class I have never built before in the decades of Rifts – The Shifter!
I’ll take a week off to recharge my batteries and try to get a bit ahead to avoid the interruptions we’ve seen in this installment from repeating! If you have a game or setting you’d like to see me tackle, leave a comment here, make us check Instagram, on twitter, on Facebook, or even our Patreon.
Augustus is going to be a True Atlantean. True Atlanteans were the original inhabitants of Atlantis and are all incredibly powerful compared to normal humans, though the baseline Atlantean does not hold up to all of the M.D.C. species around. They, along with Chiang Ku dragons, invented tattoo magic, and there are specialized classes for their tattoo magic masters, as well as mastered dimensional travel. They also hate Vampire Intelligences. In Rifts, and all the Palladium Megaverse, Vampires are the extensions of giant alien intelligences and have spread across the cosmos. True Atlantean’s have a distinct hatred for Vampire Intelligences, even over the other more powerful alien intelligences like the Splugorth who now occupies Atlantis on Earth. This is a hook into larger cosmic games and Rifting away from Earth as well as to explore some of the current state of Atlantis.
Similarly, the Shifter is a magic user that is focused on controlling Rifts and summoning creatures. While True Atlanteans’ are generally the crusading good guys of the universe, some study their foes and take a hand in directly studying the way to travel across the Dimensions. It is a flirtation with danger and corruption but it also seems just like what an arrogant Atlantean would do. Besides, since Annie is the only psychic they have going West, the party needed some magic and I never got to play a True Atlantean either.
- Attributes. As a True Atlantean, out of my Rifts World Book 2: Atlantis, Augustus will have a different set of dice to roll for stats. Specifically, I.Q. and M.A. are 3D6+4; M.E. and Spd are 4D6+6; P.S. is 4D6+4; P.E. and P.B. are 3D6+6; and P.P. is a normal 3D6. As you can see, Atlanteans are generally better than humans and most of the standard species in a fantasy game. To keep from being too crazy and to be consistent with Ozzie’s generation, there won’t be the potential for bonus rolls on the 4D6 Attributes, but the rest have the usual 16-18 bonus potential and if a 6 on that roll will beget one last roll for a 5D6 total …. Plus the Atlantean bonuses. The initial roles are: I.Q. – 15; M.E. – 21; M.A. – 16; P.S. – 22; P.P. – 17; P.E. – 12; P.B. – 17; and Spd. – 15. Well, the dice certainly liked Augustus and her background. After rolling the bonus dice for M.A. and P.P and applying the Atlantean modifications, the starting Attributes are: I.Q. – 19; M.E. – 27; M.A. – 23; P.S. – 26; P.P. – 21; P.E. – 18; P.B. – 26; and Spd. – 21. Before we can even get into the Shifter skills and spells, though, we need to look at the rest of what the True Atlantean species offers as special powers.
- Special Abilities. Magic Tattoos are on every True Atlantean called The Marks of Heritage. One creates a flaming M.D.C. sword and the other offers protection from Vampires. An Atleantean who is not one of the special transformed Tattoo Classes like The Undead Slayer, may have up to an additional 4 Tattoos. These are activated with a touch and an expenditure of P.P.E. which is also increased by having the tattoos. Atlanteans cannot be magically transformed which is both very powerful but also a dead giveaway to those who know that a True Atlantean is in their midst. All Atlanteans are able to sense ley lines and ley line nexus, sense Rifts, and achieve the ley line phasing that Ley Line Walkers learn to do as well operate the dimensional pyramids that Atlantean Stone masters created for various purposes. They can sense Vampires and continue to grow as adults. Finally, they have a few bonuses to saving against Horror Factor and magic. All in all, it’s a lot of potential and power wrapped up in a tragic backstory.
- Class Abilities. As a Shifter, the second most common class chosen by True Atlanteans, let’s look at what powers that magic gets us and how it may have changed from the original to the Ultimate Edition CRBs. Shifters start with a selection of spells that primarily relate to controlling and summoning supernatural creatures as well as a few utility spells like Tongues. The Ultimate Edition is providing more spells to start and also changed a few from the first edition to better match up with some of the changes that will be coming in another page or two regarding the summoning of the supernatural creatures. The Ultimate Edition also has a more explicitly level based magical advancement system and a set list where the majority of spells for the Shifter are chosen. The original and the Ultimate Edition Shifter both have the ability to Sense Rifts and Dimensional Rift Home though the Ultimate Edition expands this idea to also provide for the Shifter to have a Dimensional Sense to identify the dimension he or she is in, a personal one way dimensional travel portal, and a Communication Rift through which the Shifter may communicate. While the Familiar link remains for both, the Ultimate Edition goes into much greater detail and has rules for the Summoning and Pacts of Servitude used to have the Shifter make use of these supernatural creatures. The two stage process could allow a G.M. to have a lot of good choices to challenge the player because the Shifter has to defeat the summoned creature to get a pact and while it is described as combat, the variety of creatures to be summoned is broad enough that it can also be trickery. As a True Atlantean, I expect most of the evil summoned creatures would try to kill her generally. Finally, the Shifter can make a Pact with Supernatural Powers and the ultimate Edition expanded greatly on the brief description so that different types of powerful entities and gods can grant different types of powers. I think I’ll work this into the advancement Augustus had before coming to witness the end of the Siege on Tolkeen. For the specific spells, check the Core Book or take a look at the spells on the character sheet below.
- O.C.C. Skills – The Shifter’s skills are clearly weighted to being knowledgeable with 4 Lores and 3 Languages just to begin. The Ultimate Edition added a few of these Lore skills to the list and also provided Hand to Hand Basic just to start which makes a big difference. The combat mechanics were markedly changed between the original and Ultimate Editions, so that Hand to Hand skill, even a basic, is a huge edge. Dimensional Lore is special and a skill not generally available but makes sense for the Shifter’s sense of travel and also for a True Atlantean’s dimensional nomad existence these days. I select an Ancient Greek language as native, as implied in the description of True Atlanteans. For her other languages, I add Dragonese which is the Palladium Megaverse language of magic and elves and Demogogian so she can directly chastise her summoned creatures.
- Other skills. With only 6 Other skills to start, this should be a simple set of choices. FIrst, I upgrade Hand to Hand Combat to Expert, which is also a nod to the description in the World Book, and then also take Fencing to enhance her abilities with her magical flaming sword. The needed W.P. Sword will be stashed in the Secondary Skills. A Lore D-Bees skill can also reflect the knowledge that she has of the different species of the Megaverse which is coupled with Horsemanship: Exotic and Anthropology. I would have given her Barter, but that is a skill that is restricted to the Scholars & Adventures Classes. With only 2 Secondary skills, I pick up some Weapon Proficiencies – Sword and Energy Rifle. While magic is potent, the opportunity to not use magic is helpful with the Rifle and the W.P. Sword means that she can actually use the magical tattoo sword with skill and flair.
- Magic. As a spellcaster, Augustus has access to a wide range of spells though Shifter magic starts and is always centered around the summoning and protection that comes along with it. While Augustus will end up with a lot of P.P.E. to cast, there will always be the need for more! Hundreds of P.P.E. at a time are needed for some spells though I have an idea for some of that. Starting spells for a Shifter include Compulsion, Summon & Control Rodents, Dimensional Portal, Exorcism, Repel Animals, and Turn Undead. Coupled with the Call Lightning and Energy Bolt, there is a good range for Shifters to begin. I could list all of the spells that come along with being a Shifter, but I will direct you to the Rifts: Ultimate Edition book for more. One little note – several spells on the list for the Shifter are not contained in the Ultimate Edition CRB and so there is a need to purchase the additional Book of Magic for all of the information, though I did not. The Character Sheet shows those I had picked but didn’t find in the book in Bold. They also lack the rest of the information I put on the sheet so it is a little obvious.
- Equipment. Each class has a fairly set list of starting equipment plus whatever else the G/M/ can be sweet talked in to so the Shifter starts with A few sets of clothing as well as sacks of assorted sizes to carry items. The pocket mirror, wooden cross, garlic, and the stakes are all good anti-vampire gear while the salt to make salt circles helps with regard to some fae. Some general gear like air filters and gas masks, and tinted goggles show the frequency the Shifter is outside the normal bounds of society. A hooded robe to set over light M.D.C. armor is paired with an energy rifle, submachine gun with silver bullets, and a survival knife plus a javelin like iron rod to be used against illusions and creatures who do not comport themselves in the company of iron. Specifically, I will outfit Augustus with some gear to reflect her interdimensional travel and her time spent elsewhere on Earth thus far. I’ll start with the “Light Combat Armor” from the Rifts Dimension Book I: Phase World. The Dimension Books expanded Rifts’ potential reach with different genres and wholly different settings. Phase World leans heavily into a space opera or science fiction style setting also being the home setting for the Naruni aliens now selling gear on Rifts Earth. The Light Combat Armor provides 80 M.D.C. but is not going to be able to be repaired as well on Earth and so from usage is down to only 65 M.D.C. Similarly, she has picked up a Triax WR-17 Rifle while across the pond and it is serving her well if rarely used.
- Vehicle. As the instructions include providing a cheap vehicle that is easy to leave behind if Rifting elsewhere, I am going to skip a regular vehicle. Instead, in the Advancement phase, I am going to add a magical animal mount that will fit under Horsemanship: Exotic for Augustus with Drayvin the Dragondactyl. This just adds to the menagerie of things and entities hanging around.
Looking at Page 296-298 of the Rifts Ultimate Edition book, here are the results of the Optional random tables to round out the character:
- Birth Order: First Born;
- Weight: Average;
- Height: All Atlanteans are Tall. They start over 6’ Tall and keep growing even as adults;
- Disposition: Arrogant. Confident and self assured to the point that she feels she is the best at what she does;
- Family Origin: D-Bee. True Atlanteans are not currently native to Earth;
- Type of Environment: Skipping this one because of the interdimensional nature of Augustus’ life;
- Sentiments towards Coalition: Distrusts and fears the CS; has seen many injustices, atrocities, and acts of ruthlessness at the hands of the CS military, especially against nonhumans, practitioners of magic, and those of different beliefs;
- Sentiments towards Non-Humans:I am skipping this one as well since being a Shifter comes with its own inclinations.
In the Character notes section, these will be worked into Augustus’ story, but first let’s finish some mechanical work by advancing Augustus to 7th Level.
Advancement in Palladium is a straightforward affair as a level and class based system. The main improvements that occur are in the skill percentages and Hit Point increases. Additionally, as a character advances, additional skills may be learned as both the Other Skills and Secondary Skills, though they start at 1st level when they are acquired. There is some expectation that gear and equipment will also increase in power, especially as the books that come out do have better equipment, but there is not a mechanical measure of the “level” of equipment like some other games.
- Class Bonuses – Several abilities increase per level of experience like the Dimension Sense, Sensing Rifts, and the duration of the Communication Rifts. Additionally, the number of supernatural beings that the Shifter can have summoned and under control increases so Augustus can have up to 4 by 7th level, though Greater Demons and Entities count as two while imps and minor creatures as half. I am going to definitely have summoned creatures that have already lost the Battle of Wills and are under a Pact of Servitude. One of the things Augustus will use them for is to draw additional P.P.E. for her use. First is Ananzzi, a Spider Demon or Death Weaver that was claiming to be Anansi. With skill as a ley line walker and a hefty amount of P.P.E., there is a distinct rivalry but Augustus won the Battle of Wills and Ananzzi is bound to serve for another year or unless an agreement can be reached. This provides hundreds of P.P.E. that can be used as well as a greater lore repository to consult, though care must be taken about how much to trust Ananzzi. Having been around for longer, a pair of Entities – one Haunting and One Tectonic are constantly bickering with each other – The Tectonic Entity is a cruel one wanting to hurt and harm while the Haunting Entities claims to be one of its victims and stays out of a desire to help. Augustus has taken to just calling them Bobby & Jo. They are most useful as distractions and reconnaissance as ghosts tend not to care much about walls. Finally, Gr’ll is an Alu Demon Hound who was a bit too arrogant in challenging the True Atlantean and is now stuck as a bodyguard servant, the longest serving and therefore most senior of the group he seems to be loyal or at least true to his word and is often clad in armor with weapons to disguise his true nature. This leaves one more potential servant that could be summoned depending on what is needed and creates a lot of future role playing opportunities!
- Magic Learned – Each level, the Shifter gains three more spells in their repertoire so a more mechanical but also more limited advancement than the Ley Line Walker especially as two of the three are limited to being part and parcel of the summoning or protection list already provided. I won’t list all of the choices here (check the link to the character sheet below for that), but some of the notable ones are the classic Fireball, Carpet of Adhesion, and Expel Demon
- Link to the Supernatural – While not all Shifters take the choice to do so, I want to highlight that a deal can be struck with gods or greater demonic powers by Shifters to increase their own power. For Augustus, this is going to come out of the story of the Gathering of Heroes adventure path in Rifts: Africa where she will make a pact with Thoth, God of Magic and Knowledge. In the Palladium Megaverse, Thoth is actually the Greatest of the Great Old Ones alien intelligence who was betrayed and has lost his memory and a lot of his power so it plays well with the idea of Augustus skirting the danger of consorting with these foul and fell creatures. As part of that pact, Augustus gained 8 spells and I choose to use Temporal magic spells from Rifts: England. Thoth knows pretty much all magic and I thought that would be a fun addition. This includes Attune Object to magically limit others use of her gear and spells like Temporal Deprivation. The pact also provides additional P.P.E. and saving throws that are calculated into the sheet linked below.
- Skill Advancements – While not a lot of skills, I should make some efforts here to enrich Augustus’ experiences. From her time in the Gathering of Heroes in Africa, I will add Public Speaking and Lore: Demons & Monsters (Africa) to her Other skills. The Demons & Monsters Lore was expended in the Ultimate Edition to include different regions, so I will take the time to ensure she has that knowledge added. At the same time, for Secondary Skills I will get two more languages – American as we know she will end up over in North America, and Faerie Speak to continue the ability to converse with otherworldly creatures. At 6th level, after having joined the Tolkeen or perhaps just assorted resistance forces against the Coalition, Augustus picks up Intelligence and Xenology as Other skills continuing with the general trend to know more about her world and how to use that knowledge. Secondary skills to pick include History: Post-Apoclyptic/Rifts setting to understand how the world got to where it is and Athletics (General) because of the increased physical activities that are required. Overall, I think this keeps the general tenor of Augustus but shows how she would grow through her time in the campaign!
- Gear Additions – Generally, the gear won’t be terribly upgraded for a Shifter here. That isn’t to say that Augustus doesn’t get some additional things to use, but I am going to focus on the additional magical gear to power her up rather than the increased technological gear.
- Magical Additions – Specifically, I am going to give Augustus a Millennium Tree Wand. The Millennium Trees were introduced in Rifts World Book: England and are massively powerful magical trees sitting on a ley line nexus that have some degree of sentience and ability to understand. While I could give her a corrupted one from her time in the Gathering of Heroes, I will tie this in with Thoth himself giving her the Wand to use. Specifically, a Wand of Knowledge is one of the specific types the Trees will gift to Druids or other champions of good so if it were ever to stop working for Augustus that could be a sign. Some technowizard additions to her armor are also in the works, but we will save those if we revisit Rifts for a third time at high levels.
Unto those who much is given, much is expected. This is the mantra by which AUgustus has always lived her life. Her parents instilled this in her and told the tales of their ancestors, when the Clans of the Atlanteans still called Atlantis home, it was when they forgot what the duty was that they lost their place, their way, and their home. Augustus, who carefully keeps her true name concealed from all but the closest of True Atlanteans or other stalwart companions, grew up between dimensions and constantly travelling as her parents let her see what it was like to not only roam but to quest with purpose when a vampire intelligence would raise it’s corpulent form from hiding. It may be a Splugorth who stole Atlantis but it is the Vampires that hold the greatest enmity of the Atlanteans – perhaps they are the fault of an arrogance even before the fall of Atlantis .. we may never known.
As may not be a surprise, Augustus showed talent with magical powers early on. Many Atlanteans do. This also meant that the path of the warrior, the famed and legendary Undead Slayers, was not the route she would have for infusing too many magical tattoos would cut off the ability to wield magic more grandly. Instead of being a Ley Line Walker, a hermetic student of the formulas of power, she saw the evil her parents chased and determined to learn of it, by it, and to contain it – She became a Shifter. As a summoner and binder of creatures and demons, Augustus became even more versed in the different dimensions and worlds available than even her parents and she came to the age where she needed to establish her own place within the clan. She left her parents and her clan to set out and make a name or explore until a wrong couldn’t be righted.
As a dimension hopping True Atlantean, it was quite easy to find a way into trouble and into the larger mysteries of the universe. In a place called Phase World, Augustus found a way with getting into problems along with a group of others. While she met a Cosmo Knight, it was the Wolfen CyberQuattoria and the others who she called friends until the final fight with the Royal Kreeghor Klaptrahk and his personal cadre of Invincible Guardsmen. That story, though is a tale for another time. Needing a break from the rigors of space, Augustus had learned of a disturbance on Earth – the Atlantean’s home. While it was not time to liberate Atlantis from the Splugorth holding it, heroes were called to stop the Apocalypse Demon from forming from the Four Horsemen.
Heroes were needed, and so Augustus went. By now, Gr’ll was bound to her service and the seemingly innocuous time he agreed to was dragging on and he didn’t have anyone to boss around. Arriving on Earth, Augustus was home, but nowhere near ready to even approach the Splugorth stronghold of Atlantis. The Gathering of Heroes took place on the continent once called Africa and Augustus was swept into a conflict far beyond even what she knew in the Three Galaxies. Instead, she fought alongside gods and angels as the Apocalypse Demons was bearing down as each of them drew closer to joining into the Armageddon Creature that could lay waste to entire planets. The sheer magical power of Earth was astounding .. of home. The other Atlanteans on Earth were split – catalog, fight, or even just give up the history. She know it wouldn’t be the end of her journey this Gathering of Heroes.
This all out battle, across an entire continent with the very forces of Light aligned for a time led to many choices, including a Demon Spider who claimed to be the origin of myths on this planet, Ananzzi, but it was in the darkest of hours when all the power was needed to beat back the Demons that Augustus made a Pact of Power with Thoth. The god of magic and knowledge lived up to his billing and the knew power helped Augustus but she was left changed. Something left her disturbed, and not as a Pact with a God of Light should – there is a depth to Thoth and a darkness that harkens to the darkest of magicks. Perhaps no god should claim or try to learn all that magic has to offer. Now marked as an agent of Light, Augustus could no longer plead ignorance and instead has taken to more brazenly standing against the Dark much to Gr’ll’s frustration. With a Wand of the Millenium Tree secreted out of the Phoenix Empire from under the very nose of Pharaoh Rama Set, Augustus knew that with the defeat of the Apocalypse Demons, it was time to leave before Thoth’s enemies took too much notice.
For good or ill, Augustus managed to find the old North American continent beset by conflict when she finally made it across the Oceans. The recommendation of Erin Tarn was to visit the City of Lazlo to find more about the history of the planet, and specifically the magical legends. Ms. Tarn likely suspected that Augustus was an Atlantean and seeking the history that her clan had not shared – the rise of Vampires, the fall of Atlantis, and how this planet came to be so riddled with magical energy – but didn’t let on. For all that Augustus was touched with a slightly deeper shadow than perhaps she knew before, the Coalition State’s war on Tolkeen was still a stark departure from what she had come to see even on this planet. The destruction of magic was a destruction of all that made the universe worth saving.
And so, Augustus fell into the conflict, seemingly friendlier with some of the less savory aspects of Tolkeen’s forces, possibly bred from familiarity as a Shifter, but her next journey was clear when she found T-Ball’s nearly broken pack. F’arlum’s turn had left them shattered but the stories she heard from the Minotaur, Ozzie, that Vampires roamed free to the South, was enough to send her in that direction. As long as the wayward creation Annie and her surrogate father Jorj were going, it made sense to travel with them. While she was moving away from Atlantis, she was moving towards a darkness that called to her – to stop, of course … always to stop, but in the corner of her soul, the memory of Thoth’s darkness took root.
Edition Wars: Rifts overview here.