Friday, January 17, 2014

The Marvel Megaverse

Rifts is a game with plenty to poke fun at. I obviously have a great deal of affection for it, but it's rather ludicrous, as others have correctly pointed out. I think the frustration Rifts causes for some is largely derived from a misunderstanding of what kind of game it is: as I've mentioned before, if you're looking for a post-apocalyptic science fiction setting, you're in the wrong place. But if you think of it as a superhero setting, it's fairly tame.

I got into Marvel Comics as an adolescent, a little while after I started with anime and manga. I started playing Rifts around the same time, so my take on the game was essentially a fusion of those influences. The things that seem so ridiculous to many people didn't really faze me: after all, most of it was less crazy than the Marvel Universe. (The DC Universe is even wackier, depending on which version you're talking about.)

In Rifts, much of central North America is under the bootheel of the Coalition, a censorship-happy, human-supremacist fascist state ruled by a guy named Emperor Prosek, who really likes skulls. Practically anything the Coalition manufactures has a big ol' skull on it. To think that most of their citizens believe they're the good guys stretches credibility pretty far. But Marvel's Doctor Doom is similar to Prosek, plus he's a wizard that wears power armor, and who builds things like time machines as a hobby. Prosek has an army of robot skeletons. Doom has as an army of robots that literally look exactly like him. Is Doom silly? Pretty much. Awesome? Well, I think he is.

Almost anything Rifts (or the Palladium Megaverse) has -- dimensional travel, mythological gods walking the Earth, mutants, talking animals, psychic powers, wizards, giant robots -- the Marvel Universe has, but in a more over-the-top fashion. Heck, the Marvel Universe is supposed to be happening in the present day with a largely recognizable modern world, despite the presence of all this crazy shit. I love Marvel, but you've got to admit that at least Rifts has the decency to say "this is in the far future, after an apocalyptic event". Nuff said.

Now, if you don't like superhero stuff either, then yeah, I can see why you'd have a problem with Rifts. (And that's not even getting into the rules.)


  1. My brother (who is six years younger than me) was really into Rifts along with his high school buddies during the 90s. I remember putting on a brave face when he sold all the D&D stuff he inherited from me in order to buy Rifts stuff. He made it sound like they spent the vast majority of their time with the game making characters, however, and this image always resonated for me with the game's evil reputation as an unplayable mess. Funny, but I would jump in on a game in a heartbeat. Just knowing how forcefully it captured his imagination back then is enough to make me curious. Your blog posts on tend to prod me in similar ways.

    1. The system is definitely messy, but far from unplayable. It is badly in need of reorganization and cleanup, though, and that will probably never happen. It's too bad.

      Sorry your brother sold all of your D&D stuff.

      Making characters in Palladium system games was something of a hobby of mine when I was a teen, too, even though it's a lengthy process.

  2. A few years ago I had the idea of using Mutants and Mastersminds for playing Rifts. I still think it would work well, and it would solve the power creep problem. Your Atlantean Undead Slayer is the same power level as the other guys Wilderness Scout.

    1. Game balance (or the lack thereof) doesn't bother me as much as it once did, but I do think generic superhero systems like M&M would a good starting point if you wanted to remake Rifts from the ground up.