Workin' on Savage RIFTS, Pt. I

Back on my old blog, and a dog's age ago, I started musing about the world of RIFTS. That ended up turning into a whole other project, one that eventually took me away from the world of RIFTS entirely (as can often happen).

With the impending release of Savage RIFTS, I've decided to make an effort to return to the baseline RAW ("RIFTS-as-Writtten") world, or as close to it as I feel comfortable. My Rifts:2112 project did provide me with tons of food for thought and insights into the setting, however, and I intend to port over at least some of those ideas into my own Savage RIFTS campaign.

As such, this is the first in a small series of posts in which I lay the groundwork for how I envision "my" Rifts-world.

Let's start with the big picture: the Megaverse.

Now, call me an unimaginative fuddy-duddy, but the prospect of being able to connect the world of RIFTS to other intellectual properties (be it Robotech or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or My Little Pony or whatever) has never appealed to me in the slightest. I had a Destroid Monster mecha show up back in my adolescent RIFTS campaign and even then felt slightly dirty about it.

My vision of the Megaverse is one that is contained more or less to our own time-space continuum. Considering how inconceivably huge the universe is, this is hardly limiting things! I make allowances for "pocket dimensions"--stuff like elemental planes, wizard's towers, and the like where the laws of physics and time may be different--but otherwise stepping through a rift is going to take you to a world that exists in the same universe in the same time continuum.

That being said, if a player wanted to bring in a mechanic or piece of equipment from an existing game line, I'd have no problem with that. For example, if someone wanted to use Huckster magic from Deadlands, I'd tell them to go nuts. According to Hoyle could just as easily be a magical tome in the world of RIFTS, after all. Or that Destroid Monster? Just put it down as the latest creation of the Northern Gun engineering team and move on.

(I might also consider that certain worlds or properties that aren't explicitly set on Earth might be part of our actual universe: the worlds of Shaintar or Hellfrost, for example.)

And speaking of the space-time continuum, I'll close off this entry with some thoughts about the timeline.

I've decided to keep my Rifts:2112 idea and have the Cataclysm occur on December 21st, 2012. However, I will keep the RAW conceit that there has been a dark age of 300 years or so.

Hell, our world today already has most of the tech that we see in RIFTS, even if it is oftentimes in extremely embryonic form. Because we know that there are parts of the world that manage to maintain a continuity of civilization and technological development, 300 years is more than enough time for us to see the emergence of super-tech such as power armor, plasma guns, cyborgs, and so forth--particularly when you consider that aliens coming through the rifts are often bringing their own higher technology, which could have been captured and reverse-engineered!

(It also maintains the Rifts:2112 idea of having things like juicer rigs and M.O.M. implants as emergent tech, nicely explaining the many bugs and deficiencies in those systems.)

But why set the Cataclysm in the early 21st century to begin with?

First of all, the conceit that the Cataclysm occurs circa 2098 posits a world that, nearly a century hence, is still pretty much like our own world but with cooler toys. I'm no big booster of the Singularity, but I think it's pretty clear at this point that, for good or ill, the world 80 years from now will resemble our own in but a very few ways. So by setting the Cataclysm back to our own time, the zeitgeist of the pre-rifts world remains relatable, just as it's presented in the game books.

Secondly, and on that note, I've noticed that, with very few exceptions, whenever "pre-rifts artifacts" are discussed or depicted in the canon, they're almost always from the late 20th century (unless, of course, they're some sort of super-weapon). This makes a lot of sense, of course: it's nearly impossible to depict mundane artifacts of daily life in a future decades ahead of us; also, depicting artifacts from our own time ("A boxed set of video discs marked 'Star Wars'...") increases the pathos and the sense of a lost world, a golden age of yesteryear. By having the Cataclysm occur in 2012, we can feature those late-20th/early-21st century artifacts without any loss of verisimilitude.

Next time: some thoughts on North America, including the Coalition, Tolkeen, and the Federation of Magic!