Thursday, October 16, 2014

Rifts using the d20 system

I've written about this before. I got a bug a few years back to convert the Rifts setting to a d20 system. This would allow for the vast range of options in Rifts, but with more structure, balance, and predictability than the Palladium system provides.

I just ran across some of my old notes. I don't know that I want to necessarily pick the project up again. (Among other things, I think I like using the Gamma World system better than d20.) But I was actually pleased with what I'd written, so wanted to toss it out into the world. Maybe someone else can use it.

Rifts is a fantastic setting. It gets a really bad rep for a few reasons. First, Siembieda is a much more enthusiastic than effective writer. The books are just dripping in disjointed drama and excessive exclamations (and also abundant alliteration). Second, the system is antiquated and so badly organized and explained that GMs are forced to house-rule many core concepts. Third, as the sourcebooks came out, there was no attempt to maintain balance, and there was a terrible power spiral. Finally, the very nature of the setting tends to strongly enable adolescent power fantasies, and that is how most people experienced the setting.

But it is so much more than that. It is post-apocalyptic, alien invasion, evil empire, survival, horror, western, and standard "hero's journey" all wrapped up in one. Any given campaign can take any slice of those elements. You could run a cyberpunk campaign in Chi-town. You could play an Indiana Jones campaign, trying to find the truth of the apocalypse. You could play a Sliders campaign by jumping through rifts to other realities. And you can do it all without actually tossing out any of the other genres.

Unfortunately, as mentioned, it is a terrible system. It starts with the old first edition D&D, and Siembieda's house rules around that. It tacks on a truly terrible skill system. Siembieda then very literally cuts and pastes other rules developed for Robotech (to cover robot combat), TMNT, Ninjas and Superspies, and Beyond the Supernatural (especially the magic section). While it has some interesting nuggets of cool things (the Rifts spell point system is my favorite magic system), it has so many inconsistencies and failings (the actual spells are a glaring example).

So, I set about fixing the system while retaining the setting. My favorite d20 flavor by far is Spycraft. It's easy enough to port over to a combat-heavy post-apoc setting. And because it has very strong support for non-combat actions, it won't short-change the other activities (one of the prime failings of the Gamma World conversion).

So, I'm going to start copying and pasting some of my notes for this conversion. I'm going to schedule these out to one post a day, so as to not make my various automated notifications go bonkers. Please feel free to comment, critique, and share. I've given up on ever pulling this together into an actual book, so steal all you like.

All of the system content is covered by the OGL for Spycraft. All of the setting content is still copyrighted by Palladium. I'm totally stealing it. But since most of this just references the content instead of actually publishing it, I'm hoping that no lawyers come after me.

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