Gods help me: How do I make Rifts a story-game?

edited September 2007 in Story Games
It's a sandbox now...where and what are the ideas to focus it into a story-game?

You know you have the Rifts love...and you're ashamed of it. Let this thread be the first step on your redemption!
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  • He! I haven't played Rifts, but I know it big and crunchy.

    I guess I'll pipe in with questions about this Story-game Rifts...

    Who sets stakes?
  • I... don't... uh... isn't the whole thing about Rifts that it's a big pastiche, and therefore, uh, not a story? I mean, isn't this like asking, "How do you make the story-game of Shoot 'Em Up?"
  • edited September 2007
    Hmm, I guess that's why I haven't gone and done a HQ conversion for Rifts. There's not much story meat that jumps out at me, but I'll give it a go.

    Coalition - Humanities last defenders, the noble and selfless heroes of Earth. Okay, I'm not sure who the black leather and skulls are fooling, but these bastards might serve as a good backdrop. You could tell a gripping tale of aliens and D-bees living in or around Chi-Town, perhaps they are just trying to scrape a life together, trapped on an alien world, maybe they are working with humans to topple the totalitarian regime.

    Whoa, I just realized you could use the Coalition as an enforcement model for Dog Boys in the Vineyard. Rooting out dimensional and magic influence to keep the human race pure.

    Tolkeen and other societies - Instead of the "heart of civilization," a story could be set in any of the smaller societies set up around. Maybe it's something like a post-apocalyptic Camelot (ignoring that the England book actually has a post-apocalypstic Camelot, name and all) full of hope and harmony, or maybe it's more of a Deadwood, where good and bad make alliances of convienience. Either way, they are surrounded by monsters, threatened by the Coalition, and face internal corruption and betrayal.

    Either of these locales could have mega-villains, the alien intelligences from Atlantis, as a threat bigger than the Coalition, for more Epic stuff. It's also an easy jaunt to the Vampires of Mexico.

    Even though it was clumsily handled, I liked the Africa setting as well. You had alien powers that were modelled on the Four Horsemen, with a building threat they were getting ready to unleash hell across the continent, and then the world. I don't remember too many specifics for more personal story elements. England was cool, with an evil alien pretending to be Merlin and playing off the Arthur legend to carve out an empire. And there's other cool locations.

    Personally, though, I'd stick with the middle of North America, north and south along the Mississippi. That's the core of the setting. And maybe its because I was into the game mostly when it first came out, but that feels most like Rifts to me. A lot of the other locals, especially since I'm sure you'll be using another system, might as well be a whole 'nother game.
  • edited September 2007
    Whoa, I just realized you could use the Coalition as an enforcement model for Dog Boys in the Vineyard. Rooting out dimensional and magic influence to keep the human race pure.

    I was going to go the other way with it, Cyber Knights in the Vineyard.

    I'm also suddenly inspired to do the fall of Tolkein as a Polaris hack.
  • Because Rifts is a huge patchwork, that's your key. Not only are the different realities different in terms of their physics, science, etc., human nature itself is different.
  • edited September 2007
    Posted By: Joshua BishopRobyI... don't... uh... isn't the whole thing about Rifts that it's a big pastiche, and therefore, uh, not a story?
    Not true. There's an overall setting (America = Coalition, S. America = Vampire Mad Max, etc), and most setting splats that focus on countries have a page or two of background before the new character classes and guns begin.

    All that you would need to story up Rifts is this: Make the goddamned ROGUE SCHOLAR as fun to play as a Techno-Wizard or Dragon Juicer or Coalition Heavy Boy/Glitter Boy. That's all. And then set up a framework that supports it.

    Back when I was in HS and all the kids in Glen Ellyn (at least in my scout troop and various circles, when I moved there my Sophomore year) played Rifts, I met a group that showed me the ropes.

    The Rogue Scholars sounded AWESOME. I wanted to play one. The GM wanted to have on played. The other players were totally down with it. We were all on board and ready to go.

    I got my SDC assault rifle, an MDC knife, and a shitload of skills. I died in the first session. Next session, I had the same dude with a different name: Again, dead. And it wasn't a dick GM or anything: Even watering down the challenges, even me thinking critically and not being all "I'll jump in front of the enemy and ask them politely to stop!" and shit, usually the first round of ammo, SDC or MDC, is the round that ends the Rogue Scholar's life.

    Rogue Scientists/Rogue Scholars are like a 100 foot tall frosted glass bauble on the shores of Normandy. They have a half life of "As soon as you're finished making your character".

    But they're the most story-ripe fuckers in the whole core book. Just need a system that puts them on even ground. Fudge FATE?

    -Andy
  • Step 1: Buy the "Juicer Uprising" sourcebook.
    Step 2: Run Sorcerer. FATE would work in a pinch, too.

    I don't know (or want to know) much about the setting of Rifts, but the idea of a mutiny of a passel of doomed super-soldiers, all retreating from the front to either look for a cure or just kick some ass, I find irresistable.
  • I played a rogue scholar at the Palladium Open House and actually delivered the killing blow on a wolf hybrid thing using a magical MDC sword. Which made total sense inside the game. Though you do need something to balance the playing field. I had a crazy and a cyber night and a wilderness scout in a house sized ATV to take most of the wolfey's attacks. That game proved to me why knowledge rolls are dumb. Would Mortal Coil work?

    Juicer Uprising would be interesting.

    For some reason 7th Sea seems like it would be great with the over the top drama and the fact it's so hard to die.
  • You could play Rifts in a "story game" style pretty easily, just throw in some strong scene framing and maybe some borrowed mechanics that emphasize character personality traits (Spiritual Attributes, Aspects, Keys, etc.) and you're good to go. Maybe streamline combat a bit too, so it doesn't dominate the game so much. Heck, just play it using a "crossover" game like The Shadow of Yesteday or Spirit of the Century and you're probably set.

    I want to play a Larhold Barbarian Blue Flame Shaman who rides a War Bison in a transdimensional raiding party. South America 2 4ever!
  • I see a lot of suggestions for how to not play rifts as a story game and play everything else, SOTC, TSOY, 7th Sea, Mortal Coil. Those aren't RIfts are they? I think Noble's bright enough to figure out how to port the Rifts setting to SOTC. I understood him to be asking how to make Rifts into a story game.
  • In that case, emphasize what is already there. With 10 attributes, you have some pretty decent flags set up for what the character will be. You have the basis of social interaction with both your PB (physical beauty)and MA (mental affinity.)

    Strangely enough I am working on a Rifter article on just this topic. I had considered using Aspects, but I think that havings something like a key from TSOY is probably the way to go or even the Passions for Mortal Coil would work well.

    I think largely though you are going to have to wrap you players' heads around the idea that conflict is not combat and combat itself is not a series of initiative rolls then to-hit and then dodge or roll or parry, etc. that you are framing scenes and setting stakes in a lot of games. This makes a lot of the very micro-oriented powers less useful. In fact it largely renders the powers of the OCCs and RCCs and all of the weapon details as useless. It really doesn't matter at the end of the day that a weapon can burst for 1D6x10 damage but it takes 4 shots from the E-clip because that's not really what the game is about. (We ran into this problem playing Shadowrun in the Mortal Coil realm, but that's another post.)

    You might play on the fact that unless you are a Coalition citizen living inside of an arcology, you're really can't survive. The reason there are so many juicers, crazies, glitter boys, etc. is because nature itself has turned on humanity and there are evil D-Bees everywhere. You have to huddle behind coalition walls or be a badass or some demon and its followers will come and eat you. End o' story. I think that makes Coalition Dogs in the Vineyard all that much cooler.

    Like Andy said, there is some story meat in all those stats, you just have to look for it. In fact, many of the NPCs in the books are well thought out with motivations and passions. The PCs just need to mirror that.

    With all that being said, if I were doing, I would start with flags and work on GMing the game in such a way that shooting was a bad option. I guess it all depends on the narrative you want to tell.
  • Now that's what I'm talking bout
  • Yeah that last line says it all, commondialog, there are too many stories to tell. I think that's why we've all been zeroing in on our favorite part of the story and picking an existing game system. But I agree that the core of any story game Rifts has to be: the world is full of powerful creatures that can pulp you without blinking. How do you react to that?

    I disagree about about making shooting a bad option though. I never wanted to remove combat from Rifts but make it satisfying in a way that rolling your 6 attacks for 3d6 megadamage never was. That is always the trick though isn't it? How do you emphasize the deadliness of the world and creatures around you without making PC's disposable?
  • Hi!
    What about a slight house-rule, add a Unisystem-like (aka Buffy, WitchCraft, AFMBE) Drama Point system. That way the chars that don't have MDC from the get go, get drama points...
    Dave M
    Author of Legends of Lanasia (Still in Beta)
  • Use the Ars Magica model. Rogue Scholars are expendible grubbies who loot info for an elite group of robots and wizards who don't have time to learn about archeology. Make a dozen of them to play at a time, draw 'em out of a hat. Combine this with knowledge of the past as a group resource. You need your grubbies to scavenge the best stuff for your robo-wizard squads.
  • At one point I floated a proposal for a Rifts-based game with my then-group. The idea was to use a different system (maybe Wushu?) to do it, since the base Palladium system is a little... lacking. It didn't go over, but I'd still like to do it someday.

    The pitch:
    Death’s Head
    Humanity is at war with the world that gave birth to it. Surrounded by enemies both corrupt and alien, the last hope of Earth's true children lies behind a mask of black armor. Justice comes from the muzzle of a weapon. Courage is the will to do terrible things in order to avert the unthinkable.

    The heroes of Death's Head are dedicated warriors in the service of Emperor Karl Prosek and the Coalition State of Chi-Town. Armed with the technology of the most advanced human civilization on the planet, and possessed of an unstoppable will to power, they will undertake the tasks no one wants, but which must be done. Human traitors lurk even in the fortress of Chi-Town itself. The borders of the Coalition States are in constant contact with the twisted spawn of the rifts.

    Bravery. Honor. Duty. The Death's Head will win through.
  • edited September 2007
    Guys -- thanks for all your help. Lots of good ideas.

    Shout out to Alvin, Commondialog, Malcolm and Southpaw -- that feedback was exactly what I was looking for. Also, thanks Noclue for helping focusing the thread -- you were correct regarding what I was asking for.

    Just to be clear, I want nothing to do with the Palladium system so I'm not asking for house-rules.

    I'm looking for suggestions on Big Stories that the setting has to tale -- a prism through which to focus this sandbox setting.
  • The core game of Rifts seems to be about power, who has it and who doesn't, how the powerful obtain power, and what they're going to use it for. You see this in the Coalition's fascism (anti-magic, anti-DB stance, idea of cleansing areas by killing everything) backed by advanced technology. You see this in Juicers, Crazies, and Borgs that give up their lives, their sanity, and their humanness for power.

    I also see it as a very gang-based game. If you look at Ramon Perez's iconic Rifts party, it's a bunch of ragtag folks in a old rusty APC traveling through the desert of Old Texas blowing shit up and trying to survive. It's very Mad Max meets Gorkamorka in that way. You don't necessarily like the people you run with, but they're family and you can't really abandon them or get away from them.

    It's also a game about diversity and how a mixed up bunch of folks can get along. Can the DBs get along with the humans? Can the various warring factions of Tolkeen get their act together to keep the Coalition from destroying them all? Can a Dog Boy, a Mercenary, a Ley Line Walker, and a Mystic Gunslinger all get along together in the same party?

    Is that better?
  • Posted By: Jonathan WaltonIs that better?
    Jonathan -- that rocks. Thanks!
  • There is also a vibe of, "So who is really the monster?" going through Rifts. Is it the insectoid demon swarming through the nearest portal or the guy at the top of the pyramid who's kept you dumb, overworked and unarmed? I've always found the stories of the Coalition soldiers slowly discovering that they aren't really the good guys after all to be rather compelling.
  • What RichD's talking about was definitely something I wanted (and still want) to do with Death's Head, though I'm not sure the moment of revelation would ever come. Because there really is a point to be made with the Rifts setting that in order to survive in that context, all concepts of traditional morality have to be tossed out the window.
  • I was wondering (and hoping) if that is where you wanted to go with the scenario eventually, Southpaw.

    I think it is more interesting to phrase the last as a question though. How much of traditional morality are you willing to sacrifice to survive?
  • Why am I the only one who thinks of oCTane for Rifts? If nothing else it completely puts the Rogue Scholar and Cosmoknight on the same footing.

    (Private to AndyK: my Rogue Scholar was actually a Cheng-Ku dragon, but no one knew for six months of play. "700 hit points, and he survived? But how?")

    Back in the day, we mostly played Rifts as a travelogue, but one of the cool things about the setting (as I think of it) is that every little microcosm thinks of itself as the last bastion of right and justice against a world of monsters and demagogues. Even the Mindmelter supercomputer craziness in Nevada thinks it's saving the world.

    I think you could get a lot of mileage out of picking a faction (start, say, with Tolkeen) and play out some of their politics and epic struggle to survive and prosper. Develop their arch-enemies in the Coalition or amongst the Xicotl. Then, two or three sessions in, new characters, starting with the arch-enemies. Play them for a little while, then move on. Build up the story of a whole world in frightened, wrathful, righteous conflict, with super-powerful dimension traveling evil slavers from Atlantis harvesting the whole thing.
  • Posted By: RichDI think it is more interesting to phrase the last as a question though. How much of traditional morality are you willing to sacrifice to survive?
    That's true. I suppose I put my own answer as the ultimate conclusion of that scenario, though it's possible (and likely) that the players would come to yours on their own. For my part, I wanted to place increasingly complex moral quandaries into the stories in conjunction with Rifts' requisite high action and let the players pick through them as they would.
  • One of the funky things that always caught my mind in Rifts (and other Palladium stuff, but it shines in Rifts) is the SDC/MDC split.

    Play with that. Take a gritty gang-war survival/turf struggle thing, and then someone tosses one MDC pistol into the mix. Suddenly, instead of pulling the trigger and maybe hurting or killing someone, you vaporize the guy, his three buddies, and part of the wall behind him.

    Playing all on one side of the SDC/MDC line is hohum. Level playing field=yawn. Mix it up.

    Take the Rogue Scholar in a typical mess of MDC-armoured and MDC-natural critters party and environment. But don't make the focus of the adventure on the mcguffin or whatever. Make the whole frickin' game about keeping the damn Rogue Scholar alive. How does that change things up?

    Take a cell of freedom fighters who Know the Truth about Chi-town and the whole oppressive Regime of Evil that is the Coalition. They've managed to steal/hijack armour and weapons that will finally let them take on the Opressor. But they've got 4 fighting cell members and only 3 MDC suits. Now what?

    James
  • Posted By: RichDI've always found the stories of the Coalition soldiers slowly discovering that they aren't really the good guys after all to be rather compelling.
    Yeah, if I was ever going to run Dogs in the Vineyard in Rifts Earth, that would be the premise right there.
  • Posted By: RichDThere is also a vibe of, "So who is really the monster?" going through Rifts. Is it the insectoid demon swarming through the nearest portal or the guy at the top of the pyramid who's kept you dumb, overworked and unarmed? I've always found the stories of the Coalition soldiers slowly discovering that they aren't really the good guys after all to be rather compelling.
    That's why I'd use DitV as a model for a Coalition squad instead Cyber-Knights. Cyber-Knights could be cool (and would work really well), but I'd like to start with the conflict of what's "right" having a big gap between what the character believes and what the player probably believes.
  • TSOY or FATE! Bam!
  • Posted By: blankshieldTake a cell of freedom fighters who Know the Truth about Chi-town and the whole oppressive Regime of Evil that is the Coalition. They've managed to steal/hijack armour and weapons that will finally let them take on the Opressor. But they've got 4 fighting cell members and only 3 MDC suits. Now what?
    Or, OR - and I can't believe I didn't see this the first time around, it's staring current events right in the face - the freedom fighters don't or can't get reliable MDC armour - but MDC weapons they can get. How 'bout them apples? Story game enough for ya now?

    James
  • Can I just say this thread is really starting to bring the Awesome.
  • There's also a lot of fun in DBs, right, because some of them are baby-eating monsters and some of them are just folks who look, act, and think different than other people. And it's not always clear which one is which, right? So you could do the opposite thing and have a group of enlightened good guys save some DBs from the Coalition only to have it turn out that they eat babies and are growing powerful enough to resist the Coalition on their own. Great, you just allowed the equivilent of a Xiticix swarm to get a firm grip on Earth soil. Now what do you do?
  • I don't know much about the Siege of Tolkeen, apparently a huge metastory event that took several sourcebooks to complete, and resulted in a controversial destruction of the magic hippie city. But I don't think having these sourcebooks or following the canon is necessary for this.

    Ley Ranks is about teenager D-Bees and Humans in Tolkeen in the final months of the siege, as the Coalition stomps over the only home they knew, the only safe place for their kind. It's why their parents settled there after being dumped into this dimension by some random rift. Each scene begins with a psionic broadcast from Radio Mindwave to set the background.
    Posted By: blankshieldOne of the funky things that always caught my mind in Rifts (and other Palladium stuff, but it shines in Rifts) is the SDC/MDC split.
    I agree that it's a pretty prominent part of the setting. Although, I think an all "SDC" (normal folks) or all MDC (super-tech and/or powerful dimensional being) games still work just as well.

    However, it's also why I'm a fan of the idea of using HQ for Rifts. MDC weapons, armor, magic (which wasn't cannon when I last bought a book, but I think should have been), or anything acts as a modifier that adds 4 masteries to whatever the base ability is.
  • Posted By: noclueCan I just say this thread is really starting to bring the Awesome.
    It kinda of is, isn't it...
  • Hi!
    Well, I think as far as power level goes, TrollBabe might do the trick. It matches the epic power level, brings on the Story and doesn't come tied too strongly to one aspect of the setting it comes from...
    Or, if you implemented mechs/MDC as Secrets, SoY might work
    Dave M
  • I guess the issue with TSOY is that even a Rogue Scholar with a knife can kill a Glitter Boy with the right rolls (all - on Glitter Boy, all + on Rogue Scholar). The issue is whether you want that in Rifts or not. The SDC-MDC divide is there, and it says "X Can Not Affect Y. Period". You'd need a game with that divide if you wanted to keep that division between "low damage" and "high damage".
  • Seems like 'Secret of Megadamage Armor" and "Secret of Megadamage Weapon" should cover that (where the armor secret means "Can't be harmed by anyone without the weapon secret").
  • Posted By: Jonathan WaltonThere's also a lot of fun in DBs, right, because some of them are baby-eating monsters and some of them are just folks who look, act, and think different than other people. And it's not always clear which one is which, right? So you could do the opposite thing and have a group of enlightened good guys save some DBs from the Coalition only to have it turn out that they eat babies and are growing powerful enough to resist the Coalition on their own. Great, you just allowed the equivilent of a Xiticix swarm to get a firm grip on Earth soil. Now what do you do?
    Dude...sweet!!!
  • Posted By: commondialogPosted By: Jonathan WaltonThere's also a lot of fun in DBs, right, because some of them are baby-eating monsters and some of them are just folks who look, act, and think different than other people. And it's not always clear which one is which, right? So you could do the opposite thing and have a group of enlightened good guys save some DBs from the Coalition only to have it turn out that they eat babies and are growing powerful enough to resist the Coalition on their own. Great, you just allowed the equivilent of a Xiticix swarm to get a firm grip on Earth soil. Now what do you do?
    Dude...sweet!!!

    And you can totally blur that line, too. Make them folks who look, act, and think differently than other people, which happens to include the moral stance that eating babies (or whatever) is the highest honour you can give another life. Like, it's a ritual in their kind to take the best and brightest of their own young and eat them, so that their greatness is shared and benefits the whole of the clan. And it's totally alien to their nature and culture to even comprehend why this bugs the humans.

    Shades of Stranger in a Strange Land or Speaker for the Dead.

    Damnit, now I want to play Rifts.

    James
  • I'll totally run a Rifts game over Skype if anyone is interested...
  • Posted By: commondialogI'll totally run a Rifts game over Skype if anyone is interested...
    Would I have to know how to play?
  • Posted By: blankshield
    And you can totally blur that line, too. Make them folks who look, act, and think differently than other people, which happens to include the moral stance that eating babies (or whatever) is the highest honour you can give another life. Like, it's a ritual in their kind to take the best and brightest of their own young and eat them, so that their greatness is shared and benefits the whole of the clan. And it's totally alien to their nature and culture to even comprehend why this bugs the humans.
    Reminds me of John Wick's Orkworld. Didn't explain Ork canabalism as their way of keeping someone's essence in the tribe after death?
  • I'd be up for a Rifts game over Skype, especially a Rifts game that was preluded by some forum-based discussion of group premise, expectations, and some heavy flag setting.
  • edited September 2007
    Posted By: nocluePosted By: commondialogI'll totally run a Rifts game over Skype if anyone is interested...
    Would I have to know how to play?

    Nah. I am not even sure that I would use the Rifts system, just don't tell Kevin.

    Joepub, I'm all about that.

    Edit:
    On second thought, I am suddenly very interested in how flags work with the original System. So I would like to play with the original system, but I can work with anyone who doesn't have the books.
  • Chris,

    let's say I've recently acquired all the books, but have yet to read a single one. Which ones would be my top priorities, and which ones would be lower down on the list?
  • You're asking me to prioritize 30 some odd books...LMAO...

    Read the Rifts main book (do you have the Ultimate Edition? They changed a bunch of rules in the Ultimate Edition. After that, read Rifts: Mercenaries and Rifts: Coalition War if you have it. Rifts: Africa also has a lot of neat stuff. Personally, I am thinking about acquiring the War Against Tolkeen and using that as well as the Federation of Magic book. More than anything find a book that seems interesting to you.

    However, the beauty of game is that all the books boil down to some new OCCs, some big bidass badguys and some flava. As a GM, if you read something, I can work it in with enough warning. For instance, if you like the Coalition Navy book, I can shift the game from Chi-Town to the coast pretty easily. If you like Vampire kingdoms or Atlantis, that's perfectly fine.

    The book that you read and choose an OCC from is actually your character's first flag...:)
  • Cool. I would be up for some skype. just need a little time to run out and buy a microphone. We aren't all podcasters y'know :)
  • I am so psyched.

    I'm browsing Rifts Canada for kicks right now (I'm from Canada), and it's totally fun. My hometown is going to be overrun by Centaurs and Cyberhorsemen. It's fun looking at something which is (a.) butchering my homeland, (b.) reinventing my homeland in a bizarro demon-infested cyber world, and (c.) a mix of dry future-historical data and gonzo weapon descriptions.

    It's like my grade 10 Geography lessons and the drawings I did instead of paying attention during grade 10 Geography teamed up with the future to kick my ass.
  • Noclue...yeah, and must not be a computer programmer, either. I had a mic sitting around the house. :P Though you can tell when I upgraded my mic. Only I sound kinda crappy now...

    joepub...I will head over and see if I can pick up a copy of Rifts Canada tomorrow. Does the book have much on Free Quebec?

    Jonathon, would you want to coauthoer a Rifter adventure with me like the one you mentioned. I've been thinking about writing that up all day.
  • I'm strongly tempted; we've got Skype on the mac upstairs. Hiccup for me is scheduling. Should we take this offline to wrangle calendars?

    James
  • Starting a new thread to discuss this further.
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