Friday, March 21, 2014

Rifts Misadventures: Session 1

A Queen's Respite by Robaato
Last Sunday, I was finally able to play Rifts again, after a roughly 20-year hiatus and with the original characters my group ran in high school. People seem interested to know how it went, so I thought I'd post a recap. First, some introductions (and explanations on character races and classes) for the uninitiated:

The Roster

Arisis Solstice, female titan Cyber-Knight, played by Felix
Titans are a race of noble giants, originally from the world of the Palladium Fantasy RPG. Cyber-Knights are cybernetically enhanced warriors errant that adhere to a strict code of conduct. They are trained to use psionic abilities and do battle with blades of pure psychic energy called Psi-Swords. Most have cybernetic armor grafted to their bodies, but Arisis did not undergo this process, since her titan heritage lends her incredible resilience and the ability to regenerate damage.

Max Parkinson, male human Mystic, played by me
Unlike other practitioners of magic, Mystics have an intuitive grasp of sorcery, and gain their spells through insight rather than learning them from books. They also have access to powerful psionic powers. Many use their abilities to heal wounds, commune with spirits, sense the presence of the supernatural, and foresee the future to act as shamans or advisors. Humans are apparently native to Earth, though they also exist on numerous other worlds. (In fact, Max's mother was a human from another dimension.)

Valerie Cain, female Praxian Headhunter, played by Kent
Headhunters are high-tech mercenaries and bounty hunters that use every tool of destruction available to them to capture or otherwise bring down their targets. The vast majority, Val included, have undergone partial cybernetic conversion. Although she was born and raised on Rifts Earth by her human father, a fighter pilot from another dimension, Valerie's mother was a Praxian, a genetically engineered alien amazon warrior woman from the same reality. (Apparently, Praxian chromosomes pretty much squash human DNA.)

So, to sum up, you've got a giant Jedi-paladin lady, a teenaged wizard/shaman kid, and an amazon woman bounty hunter.

(Though each of us was running multiple characters by time the original campaign fizzled out in the late 90s, these are the core of our high school campaign. We played Rifts almost every weekend for years. As a result, most of these characters have a bit of a reputation and are of a high level of experience at this point. Max and Valerie, who have been adventuring the longest, are 10th and 11th level respectively, which is nothing to sneeze at in a game where characters top out at 15th level. We've changed some details and thrown out a ton of what were, in retrospect, really stupid events in the characters' lives, but at the end of the day, we're essentially just picking up where we left off over 20 years ago.)

Session Recap

Our heroes, a wandering team of mercenaries and do-gooders, have arrived in the settlement of Serendipity, located at the mouth of the Mississippi, in the hopes of establishing a permanent base of operations.  One of their number, the Psi-Stalker Kat, has left town to meet with the numerous local wild tribes of her kind. The remaining three are staying in a hotel while trying to find an appropriate locale to set up shop.

After another fruitless day of real estate hunting, Val suggests hitting the town. The road-weary headhunter has become increasingly enamored of the fancy drinks and loud music offered at Serendipity's downtown clubs. She's heard of an exclusive one called the Serendipity Social Club, suggests that Arisis and Max check it out with her, and won't take no for an answer.

At the door of the Social, the three are asked to "check their weapons". Arisis swears on her honor as a Cyber-Knight not to cause any harm. Valerie's bionic weaponry is restrained in various ways, including binding her extendable vibro-blades. Max is asked to "dump" his magical energy into a P.P.E. battery and is assured it will be returned, plus interest, when he leaves the establishment -- a request with which he complies, after some token objections.

The Social turns out to be surprisingly accommodating to the party. The building itself has unusually high ceilings, giving Arisis (who is twice the size of a human) free rein. Shortly after Max orders a round of drinks, the group is escorted through a VIP area and into a private room by a trio of attractive "handlers" to meet the Social Club's owner, Nysa. Val's restraints are removed, and Max's energy restored.

Nysa, an eight-foot-tall, statuesque beauty (who Max senses is of supernatural lineage) introduces herself as a local entrepreneur, but deftly avoids questions regarding her origins. She is, however, quite familiar with Arisis, Max, and Valerie, and says she invited them to meet with her in order to personally thank them for their role in the African conflict against the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, referring to them as "champions of light". Interestingly, other adventurers are present in this private room, including Reez and Mian Feng, a pair of young women who fought alongside our heroes in Africa. A happy reunion ensues, followed by drinking, dancing, and further attempts from Max to ascertain Nysa's motives and nature.

Nysa invites Val, Max, and Arisis to stay in the penthouse suite of her hotel, which they accept. The three settle into their new and opulent (albeit temporary) digs, then decide to take a look around downtown. They visit an electronics workshop, where Max looks into buying a custom sensor rig that would allow Arisis to interact with the others when they're in small spaces.

On the following day, the group explores the outskirts of the city for real estate -- Max on his Wastelander motorcycle, Valerie on the Saber Cyclone mecha-motorcycle she inherited from her Praxian mother, and Arisis on her custom robotic mount. Their search is interrupted by a radio distress call from some truckers who are being attacked by strange predatory monsters. It turns out that our heroes are closer to the action than any of the local militias, and Nysa soon radios the group to tell them the truck is one of hers, and asks for their aid.

The trio springs into action, chasing down the truck with the intent of picking off the pack of bizarre beasts with their blades, guns, and spells. Max casts a Wind Rush spell, literally blowing away two of the monsters and immobilizing most of the rest. Before his companions can finish the creatures off (Valerie with the CADS-1 blades of her mecha, and Arisis with her Psi-Sword in one hand and the magical Sword of Baragor in the other), more of them burst forth from the underbrush. Nysa again radios the group, to tell them that the cargo must be protected at all costs, placing it at priority even above the truckers' lives. Our heroes make fairly short work of the remaining monsters (with the help of one of the truckers, who happens to be a full-conversion cyborg), but not before one of them tears open the back of the truck, revealing its cargo: several terrified mutant animals in poor shape. Max's suspicions are again aroused.

Arisis, Valerie, and Max follow the now-damaged truck to a palatial plantation estate, where they again meet Nysa. The enigmatic woman informs the group that she runs an "underground railroad" to rescue uplifted animals from the Coalition territory of Lone Star and find them new homes in Serendipity. In the process, she had uncovered a secret (and illegal) operation in Lone Star, where mutant animals were being sold as livestock to D-Bees ("dimensional beings", a blanket term for humanoids native to other dimensions) that savor the flesh of sapient creatures. Furthermore, it appears that Nysa's twin sisters, who were involved in the railroad operation, have disappeared, and may be in the clutches of ogre pirates that engage in this repugnant trafficking. Nysa asks our heroes to help. Arisis is the first to accept, followed by the others.

I don't know how many people get a chance to return to their favorite characters and their favorite setting with the GM and some of the players from their childhood gaming group, but I don't expect that many do. I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity, and I can't express how happy it made me. Though we've made some welcome changes to the rules and to our characters, we nevertheless were all able to pick right up where we left off, figuratively speaking. This session had all of the best qualities of our high school campaign and none of the weaknesses. Everybody was completely engaged, and it felt great.


  1. So apparently you can go home again, figuratively speaking.

    1. So it would seem. Though I should point out that one player, my older brother Chris (who played Kat, the Psi-Stalker I mentioned in this recap) is currently unable to participate, since he lives hundreds of miles away. We may eventually have him play via G+, Skype, or similar. Until we get him back in on the action it's not a complete reunion.

      It's like the Beatles with one missing member. Probably Ringo, though, so not the end of the world or anything. ;)

  2. So for you was this like how it is when you meet an old friend and you just start having a conversation like you last spoke to them the day before?

    Seriously, though--10th to 11th level. Wow! How wonderful to be able to pick things up again. My first and greatest Rifts campaign, which was just me and one of my friends, eventually ended because my friend lost his character sheet. (He was very prone to losing things back then, for some reason.) I've often wished we still had a copy of that sheet, even from an earlier iteration (I think he was at 6th level by the time he went MIA). ::sigh::

    At any rate, that read exactly like how a Rifts session should go. I hope you have many more sessions ahead of you! (And that you find a way to get Ringo back in the group.)

    1. Yeah, it was like that. It was kind of crazy. We know these character so well that playing them is largely reflexive, even after all these years. That kind of experience is what I always look for when I'm playing RPGs, but it's something you can't expect two or even ten sessions in.

      After years of short campaigns with low-powered characters, it's pretty wild to jump back into a game where not only is the default power level pretty high, but our characters are kind of a big deal. That's actually something that was never really explored when we younger -- it's a ton of fun to play characters that have a reputation as badasses, especially when yours is supposed to be 16 years old. (When I created the character, he was supposed to be a little older than me!)

      Thanks for reading.