RIFTS is a roleplaying game made by the Palladium Books publishing company. Rifts takes place on earth about 300 years after a nuclear holocaust caused a magical reawakening and killed over two thirds of humanity. In the course of the apocalypse many things changed in the world, Atlantis rose out of the ocean which flooded most Atlantic coastlines (killing even more people), the four horsemen appeared in Africa (where they killed more people), the Lord of the Deep was awakened (He didn't kill anyone at the time), and most importantly Rifts began to open up which let numerous alien races spill out into the world. Where many of them were and are still being killed.
Rifts, for which the game is named, are what makes Rifts Earth so incredibly crazy. These Rifts allow for dimensional travel and allow everything from friendly fluff balls to malevolent alien gods out for a stroll onto Earth. So all the while the people who thought their lives couldn't get any worse now have to compete with displaced extra-dimensional beings trapped here. Those not content with just being friends with everybody chose to fight even the nicest of D-Bee's (Slang term for dimensional beings). Thus the Coalition was formed. Made up of a bunch of pricks who managed to take control of ancient super-city/fortresses wage constant war against Aliens, supernatural beings and magic users. Meanwhile all kinds of other horrible things go on all across Rifts Earth. This is a really shitty place to live.
- 1 Disclaimer
- 2 Character Classes
- 3 Races and Monsters
- 4 Setting(s)
- 4.1 Coalition States (North America)
- 4.2 Archie 3
- 4.3 Federation of Magic
- 4.4 Lazlo
- 4.5 Mad Haven
- 4.6 Northern Gun/Manistique Imperium
- 4.7 Pecos Empire
- 4.8 Psyscape
- 4.9 Tolkeen
- 4.10 Vampire Kingdoms
- 4.11 New Camelot(England)
- 4.12 The New German Republic
- 4.13 The Gargoyle Empire
- 4.14 The Brodkil Empire
- 4.15 Atlantis
- 4.16 Japan
- 4.17 Australia
- 4.18 South America
- 4.19 Lemuria
- 4.20 The Lord of the Deep
- 4.21 Naut'Yll
- 4.22 The New Navy
- 4.23 Tritonia
- 4.24 Whale Singers
- 4.25 Wormwood
- 4.26 The Three Galaxies
- 5 Criticisms
- 6 Gallery
Every Rifts book begins with a disclaimer that warns that the book contains violence, war, magic and the supernatural. Which is redundant since every cover of every source book contains an image that shows at least one, or more commonly all four of them. The disclaimer is often accompanied by some artwork that depicts some violence or one of the other four as well. This disclaimer was a response to the wave of anti-RPG hysteria in the 80s and early 90s, and its inclusion in saner times is one of many things that shows the game's age.
Rifts has a huge selection of character classes, almost as many as it does playable races. Usually a half-dozen or more with nearly every book. Some are basic Occupational Character Classes, others are Racial Character Classes that are tied to the character's race.
Character Classes is Rifts are typically very front-loaded. You'll get 90% or more of a Class' features(if it has any) right off the bat at first level. Growth is measured by an increase of those abilities and Skill proficiency.
And there are a lot of skills. Class Skills are divided into "O.C.C. Skills", which form the backbone of the class and typically have fairly hefty bonuses to use them. This usually also includes weapon proficiencies and combat skills; O.C.C. Related Skills, secondary areas of training; and "Other" Skills, which are more like personal areas of interest for the character.
Any attempt to list them all will inevitably be spun off into it's own page, but some of the more notable are:
- Body Fixer: A travelling doctor and Xenology expert. Is technically the party healer, if not for the fact that most weapons in Rifts will turn your body to a fine mist once your armor goes down. But if you happen to get sick, he's your man.
- Borg: A 'Borg is a warrior who has given up their squishy human body for one of Mega-Damage alloys, becoming a twenty-four hour war machine. This shreds their magical juice, but also lets them upgrade themselves almost endlessly with extra parts and stat increases, limited only by the game's byzantine and granular rules and the depth of their wallets. It also replaces many of their physical stats, so the RNG won't screw you as hard. Your Robot Strength isn't as good as Supernatural Strength in many ways (the incoherent carrying capacity charts will fuck you particularly hard), but unlike Supernatural Strength you can still apply numerical bonuses, and yours doesn't stop working in anti-magic worlds or zones.
- Anti-Monster: A Techno-Wizard cyborg warrior from Colombia. Their bodies are transformed into hulking supernatural beings, with a few magical abilities on top. When the Minion War came to Earth(again), more than three-quarters of the Anti-Monsters went AWOL to fight the demons, and the ones left behind started petitioning the Colombian government to make more.
- Dragon Borg: A Japanese 'Borg with a powerful Dragon-shaped body.
- Mining Borg: A 'Borg who got his body in an attempt to strike it rich mining for precious metals, minerals, and the like. But beware, anything that can dig holes in a mountain can do the same to you.
- Burster: A master psychic with a focus on pyrokinesis. A burster can shoot fire, control fire, and sheathe themselves in a fiery aura. For those who want to watch the world burn, or put it out.
- Zapper: Pretty much the same as a Burster, but his power is Electrokinesis
- Surger: Hydrokinesis Burster. Most of these aren't found on dry land, for some reason. So you get a lot in Lemuria.
- City Rat: Your typical Cyberpunk gang member found in high-tech cities or the 'Burbs outside the Coalition's Fortress-cities, usually a teenager or young adult.
- Coalition RPA Pilot: The elite Mecha and Power Armor pilots of the Coalition States.
- Cosmo-Knight: One of the game's more infamous classes, these are basically Paladins gone Silver Surfer. Called to serve in the Three Galaxies by an engine of creation known as the Cosmic Forge, Cosmo-Knights can fly through space, shoot energy blasts, and because they only take one hundredth damage from energy weapons, can fight battlecruisers single-handed.
- Crazy: One of the many forms of Human Augmentation developed before the Great Cataclysm, The Mind Over Matter system manipulates the recipient's brain to improve their reflexes and let them push their bodies to their limits. It even throws in a few psychic powers. Unfortunately, it also drives them crazy. Like, Deadpool/Looney Tunes crazy. One of the few player options to get automatic dodge, but the random side effects and roleplay requirements are harsh. Notably, lots of crazies eventually end up killing someone innocent and cute thanks to their paranoia and super-reflexes, which eventually drives them to suicide or homicidal insanity. There are crazy variants of many other classes, like the gunslinger.
- Cyber-Doc: Much like a Body Fixer, the main difference being, as the name suggests, is that the Cyber-Doc is primarily skilled in the implantation, repair, and maintenance of cybernetics and bionics. He can even make them more effective. If your party has a good number of cybernetics, he's pretty much a must.
- Cyber-Knight: A cross between a Paladin and a Jedi. Cyber-Knights are defenders of the weak and innocent. At first, they were known by their cybernetically-implanted armor and psychic energy swords, a later sourcebook gave them additional powers, notably a force-like ability to know when any technological device was turned against them.
- Dog Boy: Mutant dogs created by the Coalition to hunt magic-users, Dog Boys can sense the presence of magic-users and supernatural beings like a hunting dog sniffing out prey.
- Dolphin/Orca/Humpback Whale: Yes, the game lets you play as a fucking whale. Dolphins have innate magic, while all three know various abilities they can use on Ley Lines. Some seaborne Human kingdoms will even outfit friendly Dolphins and Orcas with special underwater Power Armor just for them.
- Pneuma-Biform: A fusion of Cetacean and Human created to be minions by the Deep-Sea horror known as the Lord of the Deep. Unlike its other monsters however, their souls merged too, allowing them to retain their free will. Of course, the Lord of the Deep didn't find that out until he had already created thousands of them. Pneuma-Biforms can change can transform into a Human form for a few hours, allowing players to be able to play as a Whale without missing much too much action on dry land(might wanna keep a large water tank handy if they wanna leave the coast, though). They also have some innate magic, so that's a plus.
- Dragon Hatchling: Yes, you can play a Dragon, albeit one only up to just over a month old. Dragon Hatchings have innate magical abilities, a body that can go toe-to-toe with a suit of power armor and stand a good chance of winning, and a number of other (super)natural abilities depending on their individual species.
- Elemental Fusionist: A while back, Rifts actually got a video game, and by all accounts from those who played it, it was pretty good. Unfortunately, it came out on the Nokia N-Gage, a would-be competitor to the Game Boy Advance which of course suffered the fate of every other system that tried to take Nintendo on in the handheld area(to say nothing of the memes making fun of its crappy-ass design). But it did leave a legacy in this class, which the makers of the game got to make up themselves. Elemental Fusionists are wilderness spellcasters who channel the latent Elemental energy of the planet. They also combine these elements, but always in clashing pairs(i.e.: Fire/Water or Air/Earth).
- Gizmoteer: A sort of Psychic Artificer from an alien colony in South America. What sets this guy apart is its ability to charge any direct energy weapon to use Psychic energy instead of a power pack. The only drawback to this is that you have to pay a power points cost equal to its payload in order to fuel it. However the very same book it was introduced in also features a potent Anti-Tank laser rifle on par with the Glitter Boy's, that comes with the drawback of a payload of only one shot(that is to say, it drains an entire E-Clip, which can give most guns 20-30 shots, in one blast). You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out how to abuse this combination.
- Glitter Boy: Rarely has a class been so defined by it's equipment. The Glitter Boy is the pilot of a suit of power-armor of the same name, a ten-foot-tall beast wrapped in gleaming laser-resistant armor and carrying a powerful railgun that can core a modern battle tank in a single shot. Some Glitter Boys are part of long-standing family traditions stretching all the way back to the Great Cataclysm.
- Gunslinger: One of the best classes from the New West sourcebooks, most of whom boil down to "Gunslingers but less good at fighting." They have the somewhat unique ability to fight, parry, and riposte with two pistols at once, and they're super-fast quickdraw artists with a Fear rating.
- Psi-Slinger: A variant of the Gunslinger who augments his shooting abilities with psionic power, such as firing energy bolts from his fingers and altering the power of energy attacks that hit him. Not quite as good at gunslinging as the Gunslinger, but gets psionics as well as fucking mind bullets.
- Wired Sligner: Somebody thought that giving Crazy-style implants to a Gunslinger was a good idea. They basically are Crazies that swap out the psychic powers for a Gunslinger's sharp-shooting abilities. Not as funny as the vanilla Crazy, there are just some jittery adrenaline junkies. Who are also more than a little insane.
- Headhunter: This started out as he basic Fighter of the game, i.e. "Dude with a gun". Over time however, the class evolved into a bionically-augmented tech-warrior and monster slayer.
- Juicer: Juicers are warriors who wear a harness that feeds them a steady drip of a cocktail of performance-enhancing drugs to push their bodies well past the human limit. Unfortunately, this burns their body out and kills them in five to seven years. Since then, people have refined the formula, tweaking the transformation for faster speed, more muscle mass(and metal to lace the skeleton enough to carry all that), and even supernatural strength and toughness(but when you burn out, you literally burn out, eventually exploding like a small bomb). Some dude even figured out a way to make a juicer powered by the blood of Dragons. Another of the rare methods of getting automatic dodge.
- Ley Line Walker: Rifts' fancy way of saying Wizard. But they do come with a lot of abilities that deal with manipulating the energy from Ley Lines, including the ability to float or walk in the air along them. So at least the class earns its name.
- Mercenary Soldier/Robot Pilot: With the expansion of the Headhunter Class, Palladium needed a new basic "Man with a Gun and Guts" O.C.C.. So in the Ultimate Edition we got these two. Not much special to them feature-wise, but they have a number of skills, and are pretty damn good with them. Robot Pilots, as you may have guessed, are the guys who get to pilots mechs and power armor. If Gundam or Battletech is your thing, this class is a good place to start.
- Mind Melter: An incredibly powerful psychic, who can have weakened versions of the Burster or Zapper's powers, move objects with his mind, Create an energy sword like a Cyber-Knight, Fire bolts of mind energy like a Psi-Slinger, read your mind, erase your memories, hypnotize you or straight-up possess your body like a ghost, mentally operate machines, fuck up your nervous system, erect energy fields, keep other Mind Melters from doing all the above to them(and his friends) and more. All at the same time.
- Mystic: A combination of both Psychic and Mage. A bit like a Sorcerer in concept, They can also open themselves to the supernatural world around them, making them something like a magic radar.
- Nega-Psychic: In Palladium's contemporary Horror RPG Beyond the Supernatural, were a type of skeptic in psionics, magic and the supernatural whom ironically was himself Psychic. This disbelief fed his power, unconsciously disrupting the powers of magic-users, psychics and supernatural beings around him. In Rifts, however, there's too much going on for anybody to deny, so Rifts Nega-Psychics are fueled instead by defiance. Less "They don't exist!", and more "I don't give a fuck!".
- Operator: A skilled mechanic class. Given the necessity of high-tech weapons and equipment in this game, he's almost your party healer. Some Operators have psionics that allow them to work better or even mentally interface with machines.
- Psi-Stalker: A mutant human subspecies that feeds on the psychic energy used to power magic and supernatural beings. Because of their abilities to detect their prey, the Coalition often recruits Psi-Stalkers to lead packs of Dog Boys.
- Rogue Scholar/Scientist: The Knowledge- and Skill-Monkey of the game. Pretty much a Bard without the magic. This being Rifts, however, there are a lot of people around willing to kill for what you know and/or are trying to learn(or teach). so they're not useless in a fight.
- Shifter: Think a summoner mixed in with 90's goth callbacks, this is the class that edgy "shoot up the school" kid we all know would play. Summons monsters and demons through rifts and bends them to his will. He can also make deals with powerful supernatural beings (Gods, Alien Intelligences, and the like) to give him personal power.
- Tattooed Man: Also known as a T-Man, this is a warrior whose body is covered in magic tattoos, which can create weapons or attack creatures among other effects. Many T-Men are servants or slaves of the Splugorth, most of the others includes True Atlantians( who were teached how create their tattoos by a race of dragon far before Atlantis'fall) of several occupations, in particular Undead Slayers .
- Techno-Wizard: A spellcaster-mechanic who combines magic and technology to make magic weapons. These can range from a flaming sword to magic-powered mecha. For some reason, they like dressing like WWII-era bomber pilots.
- Vagabond: You're pretty much a hobo. Just a dude wandering around doing whatever, who's only Class Feature is "Eyeball a Fella". Yeah, after all the classes listed above, you ain't picking this one.
- Warlock: Not exactly like those guys. A spellcaster who makes a connection with beings from the Elemental Planes Their spells are often powerful, but naturally limited by their focus.
- Wilderness Scout: As the name implies, these are the men and women who have gone out and mastered the monster-infested wilds between the towns and cities(so yeah, pretty much a Ranger). Unless you plan to keep your adventures tied to one city, consider bringing one along.
Races and Monsters
Rifts has a LOT of playable races. Aside from Humans, Psi-Stalkers(Human mutants) and Dog Boys, there are tons of D-Bees(Dimensional Beings), Basically aliens from other dimensions that were yanked to Earth from their homeworlds during the Great Cataclysm, or explorers and refugees that came after. These range from Fantasy races such as Elves, Dwarves, Orcs, Ogres and Giants, to strangers things like insect- or plant-people, giant slugs, Ectoplasmic creatures, demons, and more.
- Alien Intelligence: Eldritch horrors of incredible power, and more than often enough evil. Your average Alien Intelligence can be described as "A giant mass of flesh with more eyes and tentacles than anything should ever need". Many are powerful enough to rival Gods(and some, like Chronos and Aspu, are Gods). One type is responsible for Vampires. Another type (the one that tends to come up the most in gameplay and lore) is the Splugorth, who are basically cosmic horrors as asshole capitalist imperialist slavers, with a uniform but highly diverse set of minions shared between all members of the "species".
- Alterans: These Blind Warrior Women are (mostly) loyal slaves of the Splugorth. They look almost just like Humans, but are bald and reproduce asexually via cloning.
- Arkhons: Lizard-Cat aliens that tried to invade Earth thousands of years ago, but got defeated by the Nazca Lines. In 74 PA, a disgraced Arkhon clan decided to try again, not knowing how much the Earth had changed since then. Needless to say, it didn't go well. But several of their ships managed to force a landing in South America and carved out their own little kingdom with their Cyborg hunters, psychic operatives, and hybrid energy weapons.
- True Atlantean: The descendants of the original civilization of Atlantis. These guys are effectively Elves in Human form. They are one of the originators of Tattoo and Stone Magic.
- Cactus People: A peaceful race of plant people who live out in the New West. Unfortunately for them, their blood is delicious, and this has led evil or desperate people to kill them as a source of water or sustenance in the deserts.
- Cyber-Horsemen: Somewhere out in Canada(around British Columbia) is a High-tech city of Centaurs called Ixion. Unlike their more rustic kin often found around Canada and the Northern US, the Cyber-Horsemen often augment their bodies with cybernetics.
- D'Norr: Often called "Devilmen" due to their red skin and small horns. Extremely charismatic but have no supernatural abilities. The D'Norr had never evem heard of magic before coming to Earth, and are fascinated by it. As such, nearly half of them are magic-users. Needless to say, this puts them near the top of the Coalition's shit list.
- Giants: Mostly hail from the Palladium World, but can be found on Earth from time to time.
- Algor: These Frost Giants are named after a cold(in nearly every sense of the word) and aloof God in the Palladium Fantasy RPG world. They stand 14-16' tall and can breathe blasts of bone-chilling frost in combat.
- Cyclops: The classic One-Eyed giant. Have the ability to create lightning arrows and javelins. Anyone else who tries to learn the art gets fucked up by Demons.
- Jotan: The largest and toughest of the Giants. Fairly smart too. Their crafts skills are second only to Dwarves.
- Gigantes: Bizzare(and often insane) mutants. Gigates have a dizzying array of appearances and abilities, such as turning invisible, having a second mouth, or looking like a giant ape. It is rare to find two with the same mutations/abilities.
- Nimro: Fire-breathing Fire Giants. A group of them have established their own kingdom in Turkey.
- Rahu-Men: A rare race of four-armed Giants. A Rahu-Man named "General" Rasheen lives in the NGR and is pretty much Martin Luther King as a giant four-armed Cyber-Knight.
- Titan: A race of handsome and good Giants. One runs a city in what was once Houston, Texas.
- Iktektumiks: Also known as Iktek Diggers. These Armadillo-like creatures came from the Deific Realm of a forgotten god, where, at 7-9 feet tall and nearly as tough as a 'Borg, they were among the smallest creatures there and preyed upon by pretty much everything.
- Kraks (Quartigo Cephlapodans): A short race of Green to Brown-skinned D-Bees with two tentacles coming from their cheeks. They are big-time social mimics who rapidly adopt the languages, dress, and customs of those around them.
- Kreeghor: A race of heavily-armored humanoids that were originally slaves of the Splugorth, but managed to fight for their own freedom with the help of the suddenly-appearing "Royal" Kreeghor subspecies. They then promptly began a campaign of galactic conquest to inflict that same misery on the rest of the Three Galaxies.
- Loronids: These mutant Macaws were created by the Achilles Project under Project: Norwegian Blue. They were made to be essentially superior data analysts, skilled in number crunching and pattern recognition. Unfortunately, they turned out to be either very lazy or motivated to get the hell out of there and explore. Subsequently most of them went AWOL, eventually settling in North America. They also have the ability to enter a death-like state of suspended animation. Or maybe they're just pining for the Fjords...
- Lyn-Srial: A race of flying, four-armed bird-headed people who have used their Cloud Magic to build a city for themselves in the Grand Canyon. Lyn-Srial tend to be Good by nature.
- Millennium Trees: Giant sentient(and mostly benevolent) trees stretching thousands of feet tall. They grow on Ley Lines and Nexuses, and like having people live in their boughs and branches, to the point of growing places for them to live. Their twigs, leaves and branches can be used to make powerful magic items, but they tend to object explosively to people taking them without permission. They can be found in England, Africa, Europe, and Asia. The Yggdrasil of Norse mythology is a particularly large and ancient one. There's an evil and twisted one in Germany's Black Forest.
- Octomen: Many-tentacled, good-hearted, butt-ugly child-to-man-sized octopus people with limited regeneration. They were brought to Earth as slaves of the Splugorth, but some of them have gotten free. Notable for their ability to take Paired Weapon skills and turn them into four weapons for min-maxing; the game even mentions they enjoy warm, dry climates and therefore make geographic sense as Gunslingers.
- Phoenixi: These giant bird-men are born servants of the Egyptian Goddess Bennu. As such, they are as tough as a young dragon, Have several Psionic powers, ALL Fire magic, and an insane amount of PPE to cast it, can engulf themselves in flames, and can instantly regenerate from near-death to full life. Yes, this is one of the more overpowered races in the game, but since it was from a book almost nobody read(Africa), they are hardly used.
- Power Leeches: Cute, childlike D-Bees with potbellies and bald heads. They absorb energy, which makes them grow bigger and more powerful.
- Shemarrans: These cyborg warrior women riding metal dinosaurs are believed to be D-Bees from another world, but are actually robots created by Archie Three.
- Simvan: Savage, cannibalistic nomads with an ability to tame animals and monsters of various kinds.
- Wolfen: A race of giant (7-9 feet tall) Wolf-people. They're prominent in both the Palladium Fantasy and Three Galaxies universes, and as such many have made it to Rifts' Earth. In particular Italy where they use an organization similar to Ancient Rome.
As noted before, the primary setting of the world is Earth, specifically North America (mostly Eastern-to-Middle America and Canada). A few other dimensions got looked into from time to time as well. On top of that, compatibility between Palladium systems means that every other game, from Heroes Unlimited and Ninjas and Superspies to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Robotech are also part of the Palladium Megaverse, copyright permitting on those last two (but if you got the books, who's gonna stop you?).
One of the most important new old features of the transformed Earth are the Ley Lines, lines crisscrossing the Earth that act as a network of magical energy. In the supercharged magic levels of Rifts' Earth, Ley Lines appear as huge walls of energy miles long, and half a mile wide, that glow blue-white in the night. Where two ley lines meet, they form a Nexus, a powerful font of magic power that sometimes open into Rifts leading to other dimensions, where monsters and peoples can enter the world, sometimes whether they want to or not. Where three ley lines crisscross each other like a triangle, things get even weirder. Bermuda Triangle-weird.
Coalition States (North America)
The former United States is completely broken, with a few new kingdoms and empires clawing their way out of the Post-Apocalypse. The largest of these is the Coalition States, a Nazi-like state that keeps its people illiterate, lies about history, and is genocidally vehement against Magic and non-human beings. If you didn't get the memo about them being bad guys before, their soldiers also wear all-black Stormtrooper armor with a skeleton motif, and they like putting skulls on the front of their vehicles and mechs whenever possible. The Coalition States are:
- Chi-Town: Claiming Iowa and parts of Illinois, Chi-Town is a massive fortress-city near the haunted ruins of actual Chicago that is the capital of the CS. Around Chi-Town (and many other fortress cities) are a scattered collection of communities and shantytowns known as The 'Burbs, full of mutants, gangs, D-Bees (the fact that any D-Bee is willing to live so close to the powerbase of the dudes most eager to exterminate them should tell you how shit the rest of the world generally is), and many, many people hopeful to earn a place behind the safety of the city's walls.
- Missouri: Located in the eponymous state. Mostly farm and empty land earmarked for future development. Also notable for two independent city-states in its south, Whykin (mostly human, tech-based and getting cosier with the Coalition States all the time) and Kingsdale (melting pot of D-Bees, magical beings, wizards and sympathetic humans, probably next big target on Coalition's shit-list but a bit too close to Federation of Magic for immediate annihilation).
- Iron Heart: In southern Canada immediately north of Lake Huron. An industrialized state that cozies up to Chi-Town actively. Very happy that Free Quebec is on the outs.
- Arkansas/El Dorado: Most of Arkansas is forest wilderness, with scattered Human and D-Bee towns. The primary exception is the City-State of El Dorado, which was friendly with the Coalition for years, ultimately joining during the Tolkeen war.
- Lone Star: While the CS claims the entirety of the Lone Star State, in truth they only run the Panhandle and some the area south of it. The main reason they do so is the Tex-Am Complex, a Pre-Rifts compound of Genetic Engineering labs, where the CS clones their army of Dog Boys. The man running the place, a Doctor Desmond Bradford, is a bit of a Mad Scientist.
- Free Quebec: Laying claim to the Canadian state with a legion of Glitter Boys (like, tens of thousands of them, plus unique variants they developped). Quebec is... well, it's Quebec. Very French and very arrogant, they eventually split off from the Coalition, sparking a civil war (then kissed and made up with them due to a hilariously poorly thought out attempt at alliance by Tolkeen, dooming themselves since after that the Coalition had only the one major military front left, which was the Western Front to Quebec's Eastern Front if Hitler had the resources of the US, Great Britain wasn't an island and Stalin had been less of a fucktard).
In the Aberdeen Proving Ground, the mega-corp Cyberworks created a powerful A.I. called A.R.C.H.I.E. Three. This A.I. was moved to the supreme headquarters of NEMA, an organization tasked with defending North America. On the bright side, the world ended before he went Skynet on us, on the down side, that didn't stop him from going crazy anyway. Archie has decided that the only way to make sense of this crazy world is to take it over, and he has command of a surprisingly well-preserved robot factory to do it. But rather than march across the country with an unending tide of tireless death machines, Archie has decided to be more subtle, starting with an army of hot robot warrior women riding mechanical dinosaurs (the Shemarrians) as his front.
But Archie has a few disadvantages. He has trouble coming up with ideas of his own, and as such needs a Human "Idea Man" to link up and help him come up with new plots and minions. This might or might not just be a function of his insecurities, but he does tend to bond with his Idea Men. When he first debuted in RIFTS, he'd basically fired his old Idea Man, a crazy cyborg who wasn't all that creative, and replaced him with Hagan Lonovitch; a very inventive scavenger (the robot warrior women were his idea) with limited psionics, notably "machine empathy/telepathy".
One such idea was the hire a Shifter to help them exploit the possibilities of other dimensions. Unfortunately, the very first portal he opened up led directly to the universe of The Mechanoids, a genocidal race of cyborgs with a mad on against Humanoid life (Basically Daleks Lite, and not all that Lite). A small force of them managed to come thought the rift before one of them killed the Human shifter and thus closed the door. The Mechanoids took over Archie's factory and set about retooling it with their technology and cloning facilities to make more of themselves, triggering the first large-scale crisis on Rifts' Earth. For his part, Archie feigned compliance and sent out his Idea Man, Hagan, to resist the Mechanoids and to gather heroes to destroy them. Needless to say, they succeeded.
Notably, the gigantic robot brain-core at the center of his base is just a feint, which is why having it repeatedly destroyed hasn't inconvenienced him much; his real core is in a desk drawer somewhere. Even Hagan doesn't actually know that Archie's real core is a little black box.
Federation of Magic
The eastern banks of the Mississippi River across from Missouri and Arkansas, encompassing all of Kentucky, and most of Indiana, Illinois, and Ohio and parts of Tennessee is an area crisscrossed by ley lines and saturated in magic energies. This it is known as the Magic Zone.
When the Rifts opened, one big one opened right inside the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. This rift fused with the gate, rendering it indestructible, and never closed. The Coalition occupied the area around the gate (leaving the rest of the city in ruin), and use it as a Headquarters for the Rift Control Study Group, a military division that seeks scientific means to control and close rifts.
Elsewhere in the Magic Zone is a loose confederation of Magic-using states referred to as the Federation of Magic. The most dangerous of which are Dweomer, a mysterious city-state ruled by three God-like beings, with magic automatons in lieu of giant robots, Stormspire, a city devoted to the creation and sale of Techno-Wizard equipment, run by a Lizard Mage with a robber baron mindset, and the so-called True Federation, a cult-like force that consorts with demons, shadow-beasts and worse, led by the maniacal Alistair Dunscon, lord of the City of Brass.
Where the city of Toronto once stood is now the city of Lazlo, a self-styled City of Learning. Named after a pre-Rifts scholar who theorized the existence of Ley Lines and other supernatural phenomenon that later turned out to have been right all along, Lazlo is one of the birthplaces of Techno-Wizardry, and one of the unquestionably "Good" places on Rifts' Earth. It is also home to adventurer Erin Tarn. Ruled (well, he's the head of an elected council, but he's never lost an election because he's Just That Good, what with millenia of experience) by an ancient dragon who calls himself Plato.
New York City got pretty much wiped off the map during the Great Cataclysm. Sometime during this, Manhattan Island itself somehow got slammed into the mainland, making it into a peninsula. The ruins, only lightly overgrown despite the centuries, are haunted by spirits, madness, and mutants.
Northern Gun/Manistique Imperium
In that part of the northern half of the state of Michigan that kinda looks like a gun (get it?), The former Kingdom, now Republic, of Ishpeming is pretty much the bitch of the manufacturing giant Northern Gun. NG makes everything from tools and vehicles to guns, missiles, and giant robots, and is one of the biggest provider of weapons and gear to adventurers on the continent.
Right next to Ishpeming is the Manistique Imperium. At the tip of Michigan's "gun", The Imperium is a friendly neighbor to Ishpeming, but has recently entered the manufacturing market as well with Wellington Industries. Fortunately for Northern Gun, WI focuses more on projectile weapons and explosives rather than lasers and other energy weapons, which is NG's stock in trade.
The Coalition says they own all of Texas, but these guys are the reason why that's not true. The "Empire" is really several small armies of bandits and independent states run by a variety of leaders, from a giant paladin to a wannabe Mafia Don to the actual, time-displaced, real-life Sundance Kid (as in, "Butch Cassidy and the"). Kinda Mad Max-y mixed with Wild West for flavor.
A community of powerful psychic warriors somewhere in the Ohio Valley. Their main city exists partially within the Astral Plane, with the physical part anchored by a living Ley Line Nexus known as Psynex. Engaged in a secret war with the minions of Nxla, a soul-eating Alien Intelligence that's even worse than most of its kind (both more powerful and more evil) that's attempting to cross over to Earth for use as a megaversal all-you-can-eat buffet.
Another center of Techno-Wizardry located in Minnesota. Tolkeen (real original, Kevin) was a place of acceptance and magic much like Lazlo, but found itself mostly isolated and way too close to the Coalition States. This inevitably led to war, which took Tolkeen's leaders down a dark path that ultimately failed to save it. After Tolkeen's destruction, hundreds of thousands of refugees fled west, with help from the Cyber-Knights and Lyn-Srial.
Mexico is almost entirely overrun by Vampires, who have established their own kingdoms where Humans and D-Bees are either willing vassals or cattle. The running water of the Rio Grande is the only thing keeping them from overrunning North America too.
As it turns out, Merlin the Magician was in truth an Alien Intelligence tying to manipulate King Arthur into developing a kingdom that would eventually conquer the world. Unfortunately, the whole thing with Atlantis (well, aftershocks millenia after the facts, actually) happened before he could get to the evil parts. With the coming of the Rifts, he's giving it another try, complete with a new King Arr'Thuu and Camelot. And to make sure it goes off right, he's not only taking the role of Mrrlyn once more, but also the Lady of the Lake, and Queen Guinevere! Much of the rest of England has gone back to being like a medieval fairy tale as well (complete with Fairies), with Druids, giant insects, horned giant-controlling lizard-men, magical mountain-sized trees, and a Splugorth outpost in London for flavor. Oh, and the Formorians and Celtic Gods have come back to boot.
The New German Republic
Germany was one of the few nations of Earth not to fall in the Great Cataclysm, mostly due to the manufacturing might of the Industrial giant Triax. Arguably the most powerful Human nation on the planet, the NGR primarily struggles with the Gargoyle Empire that has laid claim to much of Western and Southern Europe. So yeah, for once having Germans roll over western Europe in an unstoppable tide of steel is a good thing. Somewhat Human supremacist, but more Apartheid than Genocide. Don't really give a damn about magic.
The Gargoyle Empire
Gargoyles in this game are a type of sub-demon that comes in five types:
- Your average Gargoyle stands about fifteen feet tall and is as tough as a suit of power armor.
- Gurgoyles (note the "u") are slightly shorter (about twelve feet) and wingless.
- Gargoyle Lords are the leaders of the flock, bigger, tougher, and have the ability to turn their bodies into living stone.
- Gargoyle Mages know some Earth Elemental magic, like a low-key Warlock. They can also turn to stone.
- Gargoylites are small (three feet) creatures that are surprisingly tough. Can also get stoned.
While most Gargoyles across the Megaverse (like those in Hades, for example) usually serve more powerful demons or mages, the Gargoyles of Europe have formed their own kingdom, stretching from the West of Germany (Belgium and Eastern France) and around the south (Austria and Northern Italy stretching down into the Balkans). They have also learned to use high-tech weapons and even manufacture their own mechs and power armor, which, along with a fast breeding rate, is why the Germans aren't anywhere near steamrolling them.
The Brodkil Empire
Another race of sub-demons who have carved out a territory in the south of Poland (many also live in North America and Russia, but not nearly as successful). The Brodkil are mostly helped by Mindwerks, a Pre-Rifts company that still sees itself as the main rival to Triax, and developed the Mind Over Matter conversion that makes Crazies. Their leader is an insane Cyborg researcher calling herself the Angel of Death. Once close allies to the Gargoyles due to their shared enemy, they recently broke ties after the Brodkil started getting a big head. This allowed the Germans to make a big push (with the help of the New Navy and Coalition States [playing the good guys for once]) that led to them taking France (purely out of habit, we assume) and cutting the Gargoyle Empire in half.
Atlantis was a continent (in the Atlantic Ocean, duh) housing a Magically-empowered utopian-ish Human civilization on Earth thousands of years ago. Then they fucked with a rift they shouldn't have. They managed to fix the problem, but in doing so trapped Atlantis in a pocket dimension and pretty much tanked magic levels on Earth for millennia. When Atlantis came back (helping raise sea levels all over the world), it was first rediscovered by the Splugorth, in particular an Intelligence named Splynncryth. He decided to basically turn the continent into his capital/personal mansion.
Atlantis is a kingdom of Monsters. Populated by the Minions of Splugorth (Slavers, High Lords, Kydians, Kittani, Metzla, Gargoyles, etc.) and visitors from all over the Megaverse. But Humans and most "D-Bee" races are slaves at best, and food at worst. Atlantis is arguably the most powerful force on the planet, but Splynncryth likes using the Earth as his own personal Streaming service, so he has no intention of conquering/enslaving the entire world. This doesn't stop him from launching slave raids all over Africa, Europe, and the Americas.
Japan is a few Magical Girls and Kaiju short of going full-on Animeland. In the Kansai region, a New Empire has arisen, with the blessings of a new Emperor by Amaterasu herself. The Empire has deliberately gone back to their roots, a feudal Shogunate where technology from the Industrial Period onwards is forbidden. Instead, they depend on magic and the Ki powers of Monks, Samurai and Ninja to defend themselves. Meanwhile, most of the Chugoku region (particularly the cities of Hiroshima, Kure, Ichto, and Iwakuni) has been de-displaced after the area disappeared because of a dimensional teleportation experiment that occurred at the exact beginning of the Great Cataclysm. Three days later, They re-appeared back on Earth, three hundred years into their future. Declaring themselves the Republic of Japan, they attempt to make their own way in the changed world, defended by high-tech armies of soldiers, dragon-shaped cyborgs, and of course mecha (including Glitter Boys!). Ironically, despite their differences, the Empire and Republic are pretty close allies, even when they try to turn the other to their way of thinking. Sometime after this, the City of Ichto split off to form its own state, mostly so they could sell their mecha to wider markets around Japan.
In the Aichi and Gifu prefectures, however, they survived the hard way, and eventually formed the Otomo Shogunate. As this is RIFTS, the Otomo are assholes. They were the top dog technologically, with their company H-Brand (and if you know anything about modern Japanese Colloquialisms, you know how unfortunate that name is), and clans of Tech-Ninja. Then the Republic showed back up, knocking them down to number three. They are also really unhappy about the peaceful country of Takamatsu, on the northern half of the island of Shikoku. Mostly because they have control of a rift that leads to an entire uninhabited planet (and the resources therein), that they have made bank supplying to everybody else. But Otomo has a plan, one that involves dealing with The Zone, the Oni-ruled area of northwestern Honshu. This should end well.
As might be expected, Australia got even weirder. The interior of the country has become flooded by a shallow inland sea, with a magic projection of Ulluru (Ayer's Rock) visible in the middle right above it's location. Most of the technology has been knocked back to the stone age, which fits the Aboriginies just fine. But some tech remains, with the Whites split into three main groups: The paranoid residents of the two remaining cities, Melbourne and Perth; the Outbackers, which are the more "normal" people who both trade with and raid against the walled cities, and the Roadgangers, who are pretty much Mad Max with more giant carnivorous kangaroos. In the north of the continent, the Molokoi, a race of magic alligator-men, have arrived, believing that the entire world is a gift from their gods. Won't they be surprised...
Arguably THE absolute craziest place in the whole damn setting, the two books covering it represent both sides of the power creep and crazy ideas ramping up to truly ludicrous degrees, and with a huge variety of stuff that looks like a schizo patchwork. The first book, covering the northeastern half of the continent, is derivative, a bit empty (lots of space between most nations) and kinda boring, if mostly sane in its power levels (though it's where you find the ridiculously strong Anti-Monster cyborgs, but their cool factor and Brom-illustrated visual design makes them one of the best things in the book) and themes, while the second one, covering the southwestern half, has more batshit and overpowered stuff crammed in than any two of the other continents put together, so much so that probably the only thing keeping them from venturing out and kicking the teeth in of everybody else that's not Splugorth-ruled Atlantis is the fact that they're all stuck fighting each other over cramped living space and limited ressources.
An underwater contemporary of Atlantis, the Lemurians rushed to escape the Earth as its magic levels fell, coming back during the Great Cataclysm. The Lemurians are masters of the magic known as Biomancy, using magic to grow and shape living creatures harmlessly to suit their needs.
The Lord of the Deep
A.k.a. Kraken or Leviathan. An evil eldritch monstrosity with tentacles that can stretch for thousands of miles. It's slept at the bottom of the Marianas Trench for thousands of years, having been stranded there after it popped in to explore Earth right as the Magic levels tanked, and just in the right position for the fleeing Lemurians to run right into the rift leading to its home dimension and slam the door shut behind them. It naturally hates the Lemurians for that, but for now is content to reach out across the oceans and grab people to turn into minions or food.
An aquatic race with three tentacled mouths, the Naut'Yll have come to earth's oceans to conquer it with Particle-wave guns and coral magic. In a rare case for bad guys, they're a little outgunned, but not to be underestimated.
In the years before the Great Cataclysm, the United States Navy built a powerful submersible aircraft carrier named the U.S.S. Ticonderoga. The ship was so tough that it managed to ride out the Cataclysm, and made contact with two hidden bases, Salvation and Refuge, that had been developed to service the ship, and began rebuilding. Some time later, the son of the Ticonderoga's captain led an exploration team that got irradiated by the energies of a mysterious rift, which gave them (and their descendants) supernaturally-tough, seemingly immortal bodies (but since this isn't a comic book, no other superpowers). The Ticonderoga still sails to this day, commanded by Nemo Dobson, the leader of the original Sea Titans. Led by the ancient Super-ship, the New Navy continues to protect Humanity on the high seas.
A Pre-Rifts experimental floating city that survived the Great Cataclysm due to being far out in the ocean. Is home to a large number of Fish-based mutants due to some shady assholes in South America mutating people before the Cataclysm.
A society of Pneuma-Biforms, Cetaceans, Humans, and D-Bees that seek the destroy the Lord of the Deep. To this end, they have develop special Spell-songs to battle it.
Wormwood is a living world. As in, the entire planet is a single biological organism, with Humans living on it like fleas on an elephant. Fortunately, the world seems to have been built for Human habitation, with food, water and shelter grown from the planet itself (hope you like bugs!). Unfortunately, the world is under attack by a demonic Host, who have the power to corrupt Wormwood's body for their own use. Protecting the world is a legion of brave knights, wormspeakers, symbiote-equipped warriors and living mecha. Somehow manages to be pretty boring by itself (apart from the living world gimmick everything else is mostly a bog-standard high fantasy/grimdark mix), plus most of the good stuff from there doesn't work on other worlds (living equipment and symbiotes die when away from the planet) so good luck using it elsewhere unless the GM says "fuck it" and houserules the problem away.
The Three Galaxies
For all your Star Wars needs. A Space Opera setting consisting of three galaxies; the Corkscrew, the Anvil, and the Thundercloud, sitting oddly close together. There are three major power blocs, each controlling worlds in all three galaxies: The Transgalactic Empire, your standard Evil Space Empire ruled by a powerful race called the Kreeghor and controlled behind the scenes by an evil Alien Intelligence; the Consortium of Civilized Worlds(CCW) a Star Trek-like Federation of races allied for the betterment of all(and to protect their asses from the Empire); and the United Worlds of Warlock, a collection of Space Elves, Space Dwarves, Space Minotaurs, and others who use magic and Techno-Wizardry. One of the central factors in the setting is the Cosmic Forge, a legendary engine of creation that was built by the first race of sapient beings to ever exist, and used to create the entire Megaverse. The First were wiped out when one of their number discovered Evil, and tricked the Forge into unmaking the entire species. The Forge then wiped him out too in anger and hid itself away. Nobody knows where the Cosmic Forge is, but everyone wants to find it. Either for their own ends, or to keep any of the guys in the first group from doing so. And ever so often, it finds a Good person and calls them to fight evil as a Cosmo-Knight.
- Phase World: The central planet of the setting. Phase World is the home of a race of powerful aliens known as the Prometheans, who have master Phase Technology. The two most important parts of which are Phase Beamers and the Spacegate Jump system. The former are energy weapons that bypass all non-organic materials, meaning you can shoot a man right through his armor, or blast the crew of a starship through it's hull. The only thing that stops them are forcefields(which are admittedly semi-common) and your tender flesh. The latter are FTL drives that will instantly teleport your ship to Phase World from anywhere in the known universe. You have to be able to fly your own way back, but hey, you just saved half your travelling time and fuel costs. This has made Phase World one of the major trade hubs in the Three Galaxies. On top of that is the city of Center, a mile-tall arcology that features dimensional gateways to locations throughout the Megaverse, including Rifts' Earth.
- Charizolon System: A dense and life-rich system with many worlds with nearly all harboring life. One race in the system, the Tarlok, has worked their way outwards, conquering the other worlds of the system and enslaving their peoples. Their latest conquest, Seeron, is a world with massive cities and three distinct subspecies of Humans. But the Tarlok may have made a critical mistake. A deadly virus they usually release to soften up a world's population for conquest has instead caused mutations, giving superpowers to a good portion of its people. Unable to fight the Tarlok through sheer military might, the government and Superbeings of Seeron have gone underground, fostering a Resistance and growing their powers until the day they can take back their world.
- Every now and then the fluff makes you feel like you stopped reading the book and started smoking a joint rolled from one of the pages. Some material is really weird. Like vampires with feet on their arms and hands on their legs. There's a mix of awesome, dumb, and awesome-dumb throughout.
- There is no balance between Races or Character Classes. NONE. You can literally have one player playing a demigod and another a hobo, with all the power disparity that implies. However, the GM is expected to have the final say in what's allowed or not, and to keep things balanced.
- The system is notorious for constantly one-upping itself. Every source book seems dedicated to making the weapons in the last source book look like a bunch of kitten launchers. It's not really a linear progression so much as up-and-down, but considering the books your players are most likely to pull out it's reputation for escalation is not unwarranted.
- It's very grimdark. Not as much as 40k- there's both good factions and hope around, some heroes would fit in well with Noblebright settings- but pretty much every continent has it's own extinction level threat or two, and the biggest power block on the planet by far is the Splugorth of Atlantis, who's leader Splynncryth is the answer to the question of "what if Cthulhu was a capitalist?". Having a continent-sized nation of interdimensional slave trading monsters under an eldritch abomination sounds like about as bad as things can get, but at least they don't want to rule everything (just raid it for live stock occasionally), and their presence discourages even worse eldritch abominations and supernatural hordes from descending on the planet en mass. They still descend upon the planet of course, just with more subtlety so they don't have to take the armies of Atlantis straight off.
- MOAR MEGADAMAGE! An infamous feature of the Palladium engine is the idea of Mega-Damage. Essentially Damage Reduction on steroids, it was originally designed for Robotech to reflect the idea of how conventional weapons are almost always useless against the gear of alien invaders, but the new/prototype weapons of the heroes work just fine. The gist of it is that every point of Mega-Damage(MDC) equals a hundred points of normal Structural Damage/Hitpoints(SDC). In short, traditional guns don't scratch an MDC being/mecha unless they go straight to anti-tank weaponry, while an MDC attack can wreck a tank in only a few shots/blows and generally turns normal Human bodies to paste in one. Rifts takes this and fucking runs with it. Even basic arms and armor inflict/take Mega-Damage, with the books explicitly stating that a man in body armor and carrying a laser rifle packs the toughness and firepower of a modern Main Battle Tank. Then Rifts stacks power armor, giant robots, and tanks on top of that, plus monsters and even playable races tough enough to be a threat to all of those.
- "I just spent 10 hours making a character. Oh, shit it's 4AM. When are we going to play? Never? OK then."
- TRADEMARK ALL THE THINGS!
- While it is about complex as DnD 3.5, the layout makes it seem more complicated than it actually is.
- There is a Savage Worlds edition now, in case you want a modern ruleset.