A Rifts Miscellany

With the recent preview of the Savage RIFTS tables of contents released to Kickstarter backers, we got our first glimpse of the structure of the GM's and player's books. The GM's Guide preview was particularly welcome; I had a pretty good general idea of what was in the Player's Guide, but up until now the GM's Guide had remained something of a mystery.

And let me just say that it was simultaneously surprising and gratifying to see such a big chunk of the book devoted to just the sort of thing I've been rambling about in recent posts: namely, the process of setting up a RIFTS campaign--something that RIFTS GMs have, in the past, largely been left to figure out on their own.

(I also appreciated the chapter headings for the book's first section, which nicely reflect the fact that RIFTS as well as all Palladium games are at their best, in my opinion, when they reflect a certain late-Cold-War aesthetic.)

At any rate, seeing that preview, combined with the fact that I've got the broad strokes filled in on my own version of North America and have a couple pretty exciting campaign frameworks in the hopper, convinced me to put any further prep work on hold until I've had a chance to read through the Savage RIFTS PDFs, which we'll hopefully be seeing in about a month or so.

Before I press the Pause button, though, a few final loose ends need tying up...

Credits

I'll be interested to see how Savage RIFTS addresses one of my personal setting bugbears, the Universal Credit system. Canonically, the economy in RIFTS revolves around a digitized money system called Universal Credits (not unlike futuristic Bitcoin, I suppose)--a fairly standard sci-fi trope, but one that's fairly ludicrous given the setting's other base assumptions. Universal Credits make sense for citizens of the Coalition and other major settlements like Tolkeen and Lazlo, but even then I imagine each would have its own "universal" system that wouldn't necessarily mesh with the other. There's a fine line between verisimilitude and ease of play, though, and I don't want to get too far down into the weeds with constructing a credible post-post-apocalyptic economy. All other things being equal, here's how I plan to address the cash economy in my campaigns:

  • "Credsticks" and Universal Credits are a privilege of citizenship for CS residents and tend to be found among the upper echelons of Lazlo and Tolkeen residents. Credsticks only work in outlets that are wired into a central grid, meaning that usually you're only going to be able to use them inside city limits and at military bases. Using a credstick from one state's grid to pay on another state's grid may cause issues--sometimes there is a 10-20 percent "conversion fee," while other times (say, rolling a 1 on 1d12 whenever a transaction is attempted) the system simply doesn't work at all. Credits can still be transferred directly between sticks, and there are brokers and pawn shops that will exchange credits for precious metals and gems for a 10 percent fee.
  • Speaking of precious items, outside of the cities the most common method of trade is, of course, bartering. The most valuable items are also the most useful: e-clips and other ammunition, canned food, potable water. After that come pre-rifts artifacts (which may be more valuable than even food or ammo to the right person). Then come metals and gems, including strange, heretofore-unknown minerals from other dimensions. An arbitrary "credit" value may be assigned to these items (or taken from the item's description, if it has a write-up), but ultimately the transaction comes down to an opposed Persuasion roll (modified appropriately for situational variables).
  • Finally, some areas have developed abstract cash economies of their own. The Pecos Empire, for example, does not use Universal Credits, but does have a cash economy based on bullets, with one 7.62mm round equalling one-tenth of a Universal Credit. These local economies will be fleshed out on an as-needed basis.

Hovercycles

In my last Savage RIFTS post, I wondered about new hovercycles in the two Northern Gun books. Well, friends, I'm here to tell you that those books have got new hovercyles in spades. Particularly Northern Gun II, which gives us multiple new hovercycle designs and even a variety of "racer" armor for hovercycle jockeys! Lots of fun.

Having said all that, if I do end up going with my "Manistique Air Force" idea, I think I'll have my guys mounted in Sky Kings for the most part.

Rifts & Morty

Lastly, a bit of fluff.

If you're at all a RIFTS fan and you haven't checked out Rick & Morty, you really owe it to yourself to do so. The show does an amazing job of constructing a multiverse that's about as close to what you find in RIFTS as anything I've yet seen. Rick even uses a sort of portable "rift generator" which would make a pretty cool item in a RIFTS campaign.

There's no magic or psionics, per se, but there's plenty of super-science, weird tech, and alien monsters; the show is a never-ending source of D-bee inspiration. In fact, every time I watch the show I can't help but think about stuff to steal from Rick & Morty for my RIFTS games, starting with the dynamic between the titular characters themselves, which makes me think irresistibly of the dynamic between a Temporal Raider and his Temporal Warrior or Wizard disciple: a blend of contempt, cynical manipulation, gradual corruption, and maybe just a little bit of affection and loyalty.

Then there's Krombopulous Michael, a model for all Juicer assassins from now until the end of time...

So that's about it for now. Until Savage RIFTS drops, I'll be workshopping some ideas for a Thrilling Tales campaign that I'll be running this summer, starting with a new entry in the Digital Shoebox on Thursday. Until then!