Friday, July 11, 2014

RIFTS Madhaven Session 2 And Thoughts on Running RIFTS

First of all,

RIFTS is a logistical headache. Combing through Madhaven, I found references to things that required me to have access to RIFTS Africa, RIFTS Dark Conversions, RIFTS Sourcebook One, and whatever book has Glitter Boy Killers in it. Luckily, I happen to have a pretty expansive RIFTS library, as does Steven, but still, it's kind of a pain in the ass.

RIFTS combat is slooooooooooow. A chunk of the evening was spent fighting a combat that took less than 45 seconds of in-game time. I tried to compensate for this by describing things as vividly as possible- the sounds, sights, physical sensations of combat. I tried to bring my descriptive A game and the players seemed pretty entertained. Still power creep in RIFTS is evident. Combat using weapons from the core book against monsters from World Book 29? Yeesh.

RIFTS experience system is... yeah, you guys want to call B/X D&D bean counting? Bitch, you haven't counted beans until you've awarded experience in a Palladium game. The system is based on things PCs did during the session, which I like, but it's highly micromanage-y, is utterly arbitrary, and the chunks of points characters get for things are mostly small. I think I'm probably going to handwave it for the most part. There's no way I'm going to track every "clever but futile idea" each player has during every session of the campaign.

Now, it may seem like I have nothing but gripes, but I actually really enjoyed the session.  I tried to make it vividly descriptive and I tried to keep combat fun despite how much of a time sink it was. I have a lot of ideas for the various ruins, the factions within Madhaven, and the delightful fun I can have with the overall psychic spookiness of the place. Madhaven will be my sandbox with many "dungeons" and locations inside of it.

...and, let's face it: RIFTS has some balls out cool shit, and my players know how to be cool with it. We had a Juicer jump off a moving motorcycle to try and Superman-punch a giant wolf with his forearm mounted vibroblades. We had dudes whipping around in hovercycles loosing plasma bolts and fire spells in a moving battle. Giant wolf jumping at you? Have your amphibious genetically engineered mount tail slap that mofo right out of the air.

We haven't even gotten to the meat of the campaign, the urban core of Madhaven. I have a lot of ideas for what's going on in, around, and under the city and the PCs will be able to explore or ignore at their leisure. 

I'm disappointed that I won't be able to run it next week, but I will enjoy being at KantCon. This campaign will give me something to look forward to afterward, though.


  1. Oh, boy...this (and the next post) have been what I've been waiting see.

    Yes, yes, yes on all your gripes...they totally echo my own (and you know what a whiner *I* am!). Kudos to you for having a ton of fun...and for keeping the fight descriptive for your players. It totally (mentally) references my own experiences with the game.

    Here's why I'm looking forward to the next post: I want to know if you can SUSTAIN it. Because I never could.

    Despite the cool moments (a headhunter being dragged by a sky cycle through a bustling ChiTown burb by his bionic arm; a burster bringing down several city blocks in a firestorm before he's wiped out by the roar of SAMMAS rail guns; a baby dragon ripping the top off an eco robot vehicle...)...I just don't know if the "cool" moments are enough to sustain a campaign. The "logistics," the balance, the fiddlyness...yes , it has balls-to-the-wall coolness at times, but is that ENOUGH?

    I love that you keep coming back to this game. Please keep posting.
    : )

  2. This must be the Summer of Rifts. I'm just starting up my own Rifts campaign and running into similar issues. Like you, I'm grousing about it but also choosing to stay with it for the time being because of all the cool crap.

    I think what I'm disliking most is the first point you raise, the amount of work it's taking just to extract the in-game-usable stuff from the reams of text. And once you've done that, everything has to be carefully gathered and assembled--where are the pre-gen stat blocks for certain common monsters or NPCs? They don't exist. Everything has to be built from scratch. It's all raw materials.

    I'm avoiding power creep by limiting myself to a half-dozen books from the early end of the product run. We're one session in and didn't have any combat in that one, but will certainly have some in this coming session, so we'll see how it goes. I've got some house rules written up that will hopefully speed things up, but I honestly have no idea how they'll play out in the actual game.

    The experience system is utterly arbitrary, and I kind of love it for that. I wouldn't be able to use it without this PDF close at hand, though.

    Like JB said, please keep us updated!

  3. I will. This is my first RIFTS campaign- my first time running any Palladium game, actually- so it's all been a learning experience so far.