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An Appreciation of Savage Rifts

Retreater

Legend
@Derren requested in a previous thread (about sci-fi RPGs) some information about the Savage Worlds version of Rifts and to compare/contrast it with the original Palladium Rifts. While I don't claim to be an expert in either system, I have run a dozen or so game with Savage Rifts and have only read through the Core book of the Palladium Rifts (though I have run other Palladium games in the past).
So in general, the Palladium system (across multiple products such as Rifts, Fantasy, After the Bomb/TMNT, Ninjas & Superspies, et al.) functions at a TSR/AD&D level of game design. The core mechanic has not been updated since 1990 or so, and some critics say that shows. There is a weird hodgepodge of percentile dice for skill checks, d20 for attacks (with great rolls doing damage to HP, average rolls doing damage to armor, and poor rolls missing completely), then there is a chance to parry, dodge, etc. Depending on your training you can get multiple activations in a turn, so you can make multiple attacks, dodge several enemies, etc. [Like some characters can get upwards of 5 activations.]
Another thing about Palladium Rifts is the Occupations system. It's not "quite" as rigid as a D&D class system, but it definitely includes a suite of skills and powers your character gets. There are also different categories of weapons, some dealing regular damage while others (like vehicle weapons) do a different category of damage that can basically vaporize regular human infantry.
The constant between Palladium and Savage Worlds Rifts is the excellent setting (not to mention fantastic art). Magic, High Technology, Psionics, Horror, and other genres all exist in the post-apocalyptic Rifts setting. (The Savage Rifts grafts on a "goody two-shoes" faction in the original Palladium world that would be described as a bleak hellscape, destroyed in a war between high tech fascists and open door demon-worshipers.)
Mechanically, Savage Rifts uses the Savage Worlds system, which possesses a unified mechanic (reaching a target number of 4 on a die roll, with your increase in skill being reflected in larger die types - and therefore easier to reach the 4.) Occupations are still there, so is Mega-Damage. With the generic rules set and various setting books, it's easy to port over any genre from Savage Worlds to build Savage Rifts the way you want.
It's also extremely swingy. A minion can (and does) take out a heroic character with one attack. Or a basic hero armed with the right weapon can just chop through a convoy of tanks (which has happened in my game). Be prepared for ridiculous, over-the-top scenes that look like art that would be airbrushed on the side of a van parked at a Blue Oyster Cult concert.
So if you have other questions, feel free to post. I'll try to answer as best as my (limited) knowledge can address.
 

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Derren

Hero
I am mostly interested in how the flavour differs in both versions of the game. Savage World does tone done the balance differences somewhat and also assumes that all the PCs are part of their goody goody organisation which is quite a contrast to how open Palladium Rifts is.

Its a bit hard to put into words, but how does the "feeling" of SW Rifts differ from the original Rifts?
 

Voadam

Hero
(The Savage Rifts grafts on a "goody two-shoes" faction in the original Palladium world that would be described as a bleak hellscape, destroyed in a war between high tech fascists and open door demon-worshipers.)
Can you describe this group a bit?

I figured the lore would all be the same so since I do not play Savage World it would not really add much to the lore of the base books. But this is new and a departure and now the default assumption?
 

Azuresun

Explorer
I am mostly interested in how the flavour differs in both versions of the game. Savage World does tone done the balance differences somewhat and also assumes that all the PCs are part of their goody goody organisation which is quite a contrast to how open Palladium Rifts is.
Rifts always had "big good" factions (New Navy, Psyscape, Lazlo, most Cyber-Knights even after the split, etc), so that's not terribly new.

Its a bit hard to put into words, but how does the "feeling" of SW Rifts differ from the original Rifts?
Overall, I think it's far, far better than the original in capturing the gonzo action-movie feel of the setting. I was able to open my campaign with the PC's fighting fifteen Coalition soldiers and ten Skelebots and thanks to the rules for extras, it was over in less than an hour. Likewise, Savage Worlds systems such as chases, mass combat or Dramatic Tasks really do a good job of setting up those big dramatic scenes, such as a a chase with the PC's in a techno-wizard monster truck dodging Coalition sky cycles through the ruins of Tolkeen. It's the sowrt of awesomeness that Palladium Rifts was about on paper, but which never really delivered on due to fiddly rules.

The swinginess of combat most affected the big things, and I think that's where SW starts to break down. I wouldn't advise using PC's or enemies with Toughness + Armour values of over 30, since that's where the numbers start to break down and it turns a bit all-or-nothing where two big scary things slap ineffectually at each other until very suddenly, the damage dice all open-end and someone suddenly explodes. oRifts had a major problem with numbers inflation leading to dull and grindy combat, this has the opposite problem.

Characters feel a lot more distinct now. Ley line walkers can draw on leylines as a free action, dramatically increasing their power when they can arrange to fight on one. Juicers have "burn" that may decrease at the start of each session, and which they can risk losing to boost a critical dice roll--but when it hits zero, they will unavoidably die before the end of the session. Techno-wizards have a much more solid system behind converting and enhancing weapons and vehicles, and so on.

Can you describe this group a bit?

I figured the lore would all be the same so since I do not play Savage World it would not really add much to the lore of the base books. But this is new and a departure and now the default assumption?
The "Tomorrow Legion" was founded by a clan of dwarves on the ruins of a castle in the wilderness between Federation of Magic and Coalition territory. After the Tolkeen war ended, it took in a lot of refugees, and under the guidance of Lord Coake and others, it evolved into a relatively small regional power that stands against both of the big boys and any other threats to the world. The default assumption is that the PC's are agents of the Legion, investigating weird stuff and protecting communities that are under the Legion's umbrella.

I like it. It offers an easy-to-understand starting point for PC's, puts a bit of light back into the setting and because it's local, it's easy to ignore if you'd rather run a game with a more old-school premise.
 

Derren

Hero
Rifts always had "big good" factions (New Navy, Psyscape, Lazlo, most Cyber-Knights even after the split, etc), so that's not terribly new.
Yes, but Palladium RIfts never had the assumption that you work for one of those groups. Although yes, the expectation was that the PCs are more good than bad...

Overall, I think it's far, far better than the original in capturing the gonzo action-movie feel of the setting. I was able to open my campaign with the PC's fighting fifteen Coalition soldiers and ten Skelebots and thanks to the rules for extras, it was over in less than an hour. Likewise, Savage Worlds systems such as chases, mass combat or Dramatic Tasks really do a good job of setting up those big dramatic scenes, such as a a chase with the PC's in a techno-wizard monster truck dodging Coalition sky cycles through the ruins of Tolkeen. It's the sowrt of awesomeness that Palladium Rifts was about on paper, but which never really delivered on due to fiddly rules.
Gonzo yes, but doesn't that remove a bit of the danger from Palladium Rifts? The Coalition is, when I see it right, not supposed to be random mooks you kill by the dozen, but there was a reason the CS controlled large parts of North America. Granted, normal soldiers and skelebots are not the most powerful soldiers, but still fighting 25 of them right at the start of the game does sound quite a shift in power. In Palladium you would have needed to have multiple Glitterboys and dragons in the group to pull this of.

What about besides the combat? What are the differences there between SW and Palladium?
 

Retreater

Legend
Gonzo yes, but doesn't that remove a bit of the danger from Palladium Rifts? The Coalition is, when I see it right, not supposed to be random mooks you kill by the dozen, but there was a reason the CS controlled large parts of North America. Granted, normal soldiers and skelebots are not the most powerful soldiers, but still fighting 25 of them right at the start of the game does sound quite a shift in power. In Palladium you would have needed to have multiple Glitterboys and dragons in the group to pull this of.
Maybe you could get a similar effect by not using them as mooks. Make them all wild cards and that would up the challenge significantly.
 

Azuresun

Explorer
Yes, but Palladium RIfts never had the assumption that you work for one of those groups. Although yes, the expectation was that the PCs are more good than bad...
I appreciate having a starting point, and there's nothing in the books that really forces the PC's to be a part of the group.

Gonzo yes, but doesn't that remove a bit of the danger from Palladium Rifts? The Coalition is, when I see it right, not supposed to be random mooks you kill by the dozen, but there was a reason the CS controlled large parts of North America. Granted, normal soldiers and skelebots are not the most powerful soldiers, but still fighting 25 of them right at the start of the game does sound quite a shift in power. In Palladium you would have needed to have multiple Glitterboys and dragons in the group to pull this of.
First up, if you look at the art and fiction in the oRifts books, it's often depicted as being much more dangerous than what the game system actually produced. Off the top of my head, Federation of Magic has fiction with Coalition soldiers getting one-shot, there's a fiction excerpt where Erin Tarn's bodyguard takes out a power armour suit in three or so swings of a psi-sword, and the Triax comic has robot vehicles losing limbs and gargoyles getting gibbed in one or two hits. It's worth noting even with all the enemies using autofire and needing to open-end their d6 or d8 shooting to hit, the PC's did take some hits.

Second, the combat had a Dragon and Burster on the PC's side (so a lot of big AOE attacks), along with a Mystic who could stun several of them a turn, plus the PC's had the advantage of cover. And when a certain number had been taken out, the survivors fled and called in a Hellraiser robot as heavy support. It was intentionally skewed so I could figure out the capabilities of the PC's, and let them feel like badasses. A later big set-piece combat (defending a town against a mob of Brodkil and their Neuron Beast boss) was much less one-sided.

And lastly, the extras system is designed to replicate cinematic combat. It's like how in Star Wars, regular Stormtroopers aren't expected to be a serious threat to the PC's unless they get lucky--but once Darth Vader or Captain Phasma shows up, they're in a bit more trouble. And most of the time, those Stormtroopers will be fighting rebel extras, not protagonists.
 
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Derren

Hero
I appreciate having a starting point, and there's nothing in the books that really forces the PC's to be a part of the group.



First up, if you look at the art and fiction in the oRifts books, it's often depicted as being much more dangerous than what the game system actually produced. Off the top of my head, Federation of Magic has fiction with Coalition soldiers getting one-shot, there's a fiction excerpt where Erin Tarn's bodyguard takes out a power armour suit in three or so swings of a psi-sword, and the Triax comic has robot vehicles losing limbs and gargoyles getting gibbed in one or two hits. It's worth noting even with all the enemies using autofire and needing to open-end their d6 or d8 shooting to hit, the PC's did take some hits.

Second, the combat had a Dragon and Burster on the PC's side (so a lot of big AOE attacks), along with a Mystic who could stun several of them a turn, plus the PC's had the advantage of cover. And when a certain number had been taken out, the survivors fled and called in a Hellraiser robot as heavy support. It was intentionally skewed so I could figure out the capabilities of the PC's, and let them feel like badasses.

And lastly, the extras system is designed to replicate cinematic combat. It's like how in Star Wars, regular Stormtroopers aren't expected to be a serious threat to the PC's unless they get lucky--but once Darth Vader or Captain Phasma shows up, they're in a bit more trouble. And most of the time, those Stormtroopers will be fighting rebel extras, not protagonists.
Doesn't having a dragon automatically mean you get into "numbers break down" territory?
 

Be prepared for ridiculous, over-the-top scenes that look like art that would be airbrushed on the side of a van parked at a Blue Oyster Cult concert.
For better or worse, this is the best summary of Rifts I've ever seen.

Also, I thought Palladium Games was notoriously hostile to anyone discussing playing their settings with another system.

I know that in the early 2000's, message boards that even had people talking about a fan-made d20 conversion got hit with cease-and-desist letters from Palladium, as they made it very clear they inherently opposed the very concept of playing their games with any system other than their own and considered that to be some kind of abuse of their IP rights. Has that changed, or is ENWorld just ignoring the nastygrams from Kevin Siembieda that a thread like this might create?
 

Derren

Hero
For better or worse, this is the best summary of Rifts I've ever seen.

Also, I thought Palladium Games was notoriously hostile to anyone discussing playing their settings with another system.

I know that in the early 2000's, message boards that even had people talking about a fan-made d20 conversion got hit with cease-and-desist letters from Palladium, as they made it very clear they inherently opposed the very concept of playing their games with any system other than their own and considered that to be some kind of abuse of their IP rights. Has that changed, or is ENWorld just ignoring the nastygrams from Kevin Siembieda that a thread like this might create?
The Savage World version of Rifts is official and was endorsed by Siembieda, so no danger there. It was quite a sensation when it was announced.
 

The Savage World version of Rifts is official and was endorsed by Siembieda, so no danger there. It was quite a sensation when it was announced.
I haven't followed Rifts in about 15 years and have only been an occasional visitor to ENWorld in the last decade, so I must have missed that announcement.

Very vnteresting to see that he allowed it. It's certainly more progressive than the mindset he showed in the early 2000's.
 

Derren

Hero
I haven't followed Rifts in about 15 years and have only been an occasional visitor to ENWorld in the last decade, so I must have missed that announcement.

Very vnteresting to see that he allowed it. It's certainly more progressive than the mindset he showed in the early 2000's.
As Savage World received a new edition recently so to speak (Adventure Edition) Savage Rifts was also updated and also expanded. It now spans the coalition and federation of magic territory (not sure if they also cover Psiscape).
Does someone know if they have the license to also take stuff from the other world books (Mexico, Canada, Far West, Merctown etc. or even stuff outside America)? I think I read that the contract they had with Palladium does not include Phase World or Chaos Earth.

The Savage Rift books also do not include the most recent events of Rifts and play right after the fall of Tolkeen.
 

Retreater

Legend
As Savage World received a new edition recently so to speak (Adventure Edition) Savage Rifts was also updated and also expanded. It now spans the coalition and federation of magic territory (not sure if they also cover Psiscape).
Does someone know if they have the license to also take stuff from the other world books (Mexico, Canada, Far West, Merctown etc. or even stuff outside America)? I think I read that the contract they had with Palladium does not include Phase World or Chaos Earth.

The Savage Rift books also do not include the most recent events of Rifts and play right after the fall of Tolkeen.
Yes. Psyscape is in there.
Last rumors I heard from the author is that Atlantis is getting the Savage treatment next.
 


Retreater

Legend
I wonder how that will look like as Atlantis is not exactly PC friendly.
I don't know a lot about it from the Palladium books. However, Pinnacle (who publishes Savage Worlds and their Rifts line) have recently demonstrated that they are willing to change existing campaign settings to avoid problematic content (as they did recently with Deadlands).
I think the creation of the Tomorrow Legion might have also been a nod to that same design philosophy (so characters don't have to align with the two repugnant power players in North America).
 

Derren

Hero
I don't know a lot about it from the Palladium books. However, Pinnacle (who publishes Savage Worlds and their Rifts line) have recently demonstrated that they are willing to change existing campaign settings to avoid problematic content (as they did recently with Deadlands).
I think the creation of the Tomorrow Legion might have also been a nod to that same design philosophy (so characters don't have to align with the two repugnant power players in North America).
Siembieda still retains full creative control and I doubt he will ok radical changes to Atlantis.
And lets be honest, you can't remove slavery and the hostility towards humans from Atlantis without radically changing it and I would be very disappointed when in the Savage version of Atlantis a human could walk the streets of Atlantis without constant danger and some serious bluffing skill that he is either ultra powerful or a slave in service of something else.

Basically Atlantis is a gigantic retail store and humans are akain to dogs (more or less). Unless they are held on a leash they are considered strays and killed on sight, sold in pet shops or turned into food.
 
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Azuresun

Explorer
Doesn't having a dragon automatically mean you get into "numbers break down" territory?
That was how I learned it. :) In the end, anything that could really challenge the dragon would have made short work of the other two PC's and while there are workarounds for that level of power imbalance, it would probably be easier to at least avoid a skew that severe.


Siembieda still retains full creative control and I doubt he will ok radical changes to Atlantis.
And lets be honest, you can't remove slavery and the hostility towards humans from Atlantis without radically changing it and I would be very disappointed when in the Savage version of Atlantis a human could walk the streets of Atlantis without constant danger and some serious bluffing skill that he is either ultra powerful or a slave in service of something else.

Basically Atlantis is a gigantic retail store and humans are akain to dogs (more or less). Unless they are held on a leash they are considered strays and killed on sight, sold in pet shops or turned into food.
It's not quite that bad IIRC--Atlantis is first and foremost a giant marketplace, so people who have stuff to sell generally get left alone, since the owners of the place don't want to scare off good business--the second sourcebook detailed some human or humanoid-owned venues that had enough respect or clout, or a powerful enough patron that they could generally operate unmolested. Plus, there's a lot of humanoid-designed equipment sold on the open market by the Kittani, who must be selling it to somebody. However, humanoids are very much second-class citizens, the law will favour monsters over them if there's ever a conflict, and they should generally be looking over their shoulders to avoid getting robbed, press-ganged or generally abused. Plus, there's a lot of horrible stuff going on there, like the slavery, man-eating monsters or bloodsports. It wouldn't ever be a place PC's should feel comfortable going to, but it's survivable.

Atlantis was actually the first ever RPG sourcebook I read after the Rifts corebook, and it really blew my mind in terms of how it was presented--a place that was both wondrous and advanced, but also alien and horrifying. A super-powerful alien monster arrived on a ravaged earth and rather than conquering it, decided to set up a trade hub there. That's weirdly brilliant.
 

Retreater

Legend
Concerning the Dragon (and Glitterboys, etc) - yes, there are wildly varying levels of power available for characters. It is probably best to keep your characters at the same power level. If someone really wants to be a dragon, then have the other characters be Glitterboys, or if using MARS classes, start them even higher rank. But if you are not playing a long-term campaign, a one shot with one character as a dragon for the evening should be a hella good time.
 

Derren

Hero
Concerning the Dragon (and Glitterboys, etc) - yes, there are wildly varying levels of power available for characters. It is probably best to keep your characters at the same power level. If someone really wants to be a dragon, then have the other characters be Glitterboys, or if using MARS classes, start them even higher rank. But if you are not playing a long-term campaign, a one shot with one character as a dragon for the evening should be a hella good time.
Well that is a must in Palladium Rifts, too. Probably even more so than in Savage Rifts.
But when the math breaks down a dragon hatchling power level it means that the ceiling of what you can run is a lot lower in Savage Rifts than in Palladium Rifts. In the latter you could easily run having giant robots wrestle dragons and it worked fine in the end.
 

Azuresun

Explorer
Well that is a must in Palladium Rifts, too. Probably even more so than in Savage Rifts.
But when the math breaks down a dragon hatchling power level it means that the ceiling of what you can run is a lot lower in Savage Rifts than in Palladium Rifts. In the latter you could easily run having giant robots wrestle dragons and it worked fine in the end.
I think the only reason the higher values break down is the open-ended damage dice in Savage Worlds. The "chain of 6's on a damage roll, someone randomly explodes" problem is there at the default power level, but it's less noticeable because of the lower numbers. Once Toughness + Armour gets into the thirties but the threshold of "roll 12 over that to kill them" remains unchanged, those damage spikes mean combat between big things with big weapons can go from "slap fight" to "instant death" with little warning. oRifts had the exact opposite problem. Hit points (MDC) outstripped damage very quickly unless you were bringing heavy railguns to every fight and damage capacity had some serious inflation over the lifespan of the line, so a lot of combat could just be boringly scraping away damage points a little at a time, round after round.

I think one advantage SR has is that combat is considerably quicker, so if you play a character who stays out of combat and lets the cyborgs or giant robots do the heavy lifting, then you're not sitting out hours at a time--and Savage Worlds is much better at giving characters ways to contribute in combat other than damage.
 

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