Playing With Savage Rifts

Savage Worlds
had always been a tough sell. My gaming groups loved the system, but the settings just never caught hold. The campaigns just never lasted. Rifts, was nearly the opposite. Nobody (except me) liked the system and only a serious amount of house ruling could save vs. arguments; yet, Rifts allowed the crazy kitchen sink campaigns we wanted and endured the longest. Boom Guns and Dead Boys and dragons, oh my!

Embarking on our sixth session, Savage Rifts has a tinge of classic Rifts wonkiness, but this is mostly in spirit. What Savage Rifts is, is exactly as the author advertised, Rifts (the setting), enveloped in Savage Worlds (the system).

Keeping with the tone of Rifts, Occupation Character Classes or O.C.C.s as well as Racial Character Classes R.C.C.s, have been replaced by Iconic Frameworks. Without apology, these frameworks throw the typical Savage Worlds character, out a nine story window. Iconic Frameworks, much like the original classes, are character templates which govern special abilities or Edges, and innate boosts. All of it catering to gonzo wonderfulness, which is Rifts.

Beyond the power classes, Savage Rifts offers a treatment for Mercenaries, Adventurers, Rogues and Scholars (M.A.R.S.). M.A.R.S. Characters are crafted with little more flexibility and a few more choices. One of the more interesting and in my mind much needed tweaks was to balance the M.A.R.S. characters with experience. These characters start at Seasoned Rank, or four progressions within the Savage Worlds system.

If ever such a thing exists-despite upsetting typical Savage World sensibilities, Savage Rifts includes a robust amount of subtle changes in a system by system comparison. Psychic classes (or Psionic R.C.C.s) have been simplified. Magic classes have traded in some utility, while at the same time are immediately more combat effective. Most changes, center on which features of the Rifts O.C.C.s and R.C.C.s have been transferred, versus which have been trimmed in the conversion. Game Masters and players, who are familiar with Rifts, will notice a good deal of both.

Beyond characters, Rifts verbiage is included in spirit, but more serves as a nostalgic channel to the original RPG. This none more apparent than in regards to Rifts duel teared Mega Damage Capacity (M.D.C.) and Structure Damage Capacity (S.D.C.) system, in which 1 point of M.D.C, equals 100 points of S.D.C. With the average un-armored human character being less than 100 S.D.C. the ease of character death hasn’t gained popularity with modern role players. This system has been discarded for the Shaken, Wound and Soak conditions of Savage Worlds.

Overall, I’m impressed. I think Savage Rifts accomplishes what it is designed to do and does it very well. Like the saying goes, "we’ll cross that bridge, when we come to it." And without a doubt Savage Rifts is that bridge. And I’m sure I’m not the only one when I say, I cannot wait for what comes next!

Disclaimer: This review includes affiliate links. Savage Rifts was written by EN World contributor Sean Patrick Fannon. As of this review, I don’t know Mr. Fannon personally or professionally and under no condition would it affect the review itself if I did.

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I have the same feelings towards this product. Savage Worlds easy-peezy rules coupled with one of the best worlds equals unparalleled fun. FUN!!


I've played Palladium's system at some length using other settings (Robotech and Palladium Fantasy). I like the system; it's flexible and allows some depth to both role-play and combat events. But it does suffer some of the 'not quite perfect fit' of any game system that attempts to bridge genres and playing styles. The example given (MDC v. SDC) is one, but any capable GM knows how to finesse those (occasional) situations so I've not run into problems. (And in games like Robotech RPG, it makes sense. You can't really do much about a mecha unless you have your own mecha. Small arms are just useless.) I think the more credible, and more significant, complaint is the complexity of Palladium's system. It's isn't easy and not always fast (especially with newer players). If easy and fast is your group's thing, then I think this review is spot-op and Savage Worlds system is a good solution. But don't write off Palladium's system. It's endured since the '80s for a reason; it's a good system.

J.L. Duncan

First Post

" army of heroes and adventurers set out to defend against these threats and more, bringing a better world for all. This is the mission of the Tomorrow Legion. (Tomorrow Legion Players Guide; PG 128)

"These threats," reference the extremism/hostility of the Coalition States & Federation of Magic.

For the most part the Tomorrow Legion is a campaign starter and/or a vehicle to introduce/drive adventures. It introduces a new location Castle Refuge (timeline after the Coalition vs Tolkien war; 109 PA). This is something the original Rifts never really had, until much later with Coalition Wars (war w/ Tolkien) series. It is entirely optional, more so, if you have the setting info from the original Rifts in hand or in the case of myself, know it by heart. Our group is currently utilizing it; but I feel a divergence about to come on. Especially, if Mr. Fannon can crack the whip and get some additional material into our hands! :cool:


First Post
Although I would have never touched Rifts with a ten foot pole, this sounds interesting. Especially since I still don't own any Savage Worlds books, having waited for the right moment. Maybe this is it.


You can completely ignore the tomorrow legion details if you like - that's my plan for my game. If your players prefer being part of a larger, existing organization it's there for them. If you as the GM have a specific idea for how you want the campaign to start then it just becomes another background NPC group you can drop in if needed or not at all.

I have to say this is a game I thought would never exist and as a fan of both Savage Worlds and Rifts it's every bit as great as I had hoped it would be. All the over the top awesome of the original Rifts setting with a modern, flexible set of mechanics.


First Post
I LOVE Savage Worlds Rifts and I am running a PBP game here and I am also running a face-to-face weekly game in Seattle. Great fun. Note that while I am ok with the Savage Worlds system it is not my favorite (its a bit too swingy for me) but it perfect for the weirdness of Rifts.

Yea you can totally ignore the Tomorrow League stuff without any problems. Its just an idea to give the characters a 'mission' to begin with and not just a random band of wandering murder hobos :D

J.L. Duncan

First Post
Although I would have never touched Rifts with a ten foot pole, this sounds interesting. Especially since I still don't own any Savage Worlds books, having waited for the right moment. Maybe this is it.

Just FYI: For sure, you need the Savage Worlds main book (I have deluxe) to run Savage Rifts. Just wanted to make sure you know that.

Backed the K/S and I am in love with this game.

SPF did a great job with it, and I recomend it to everyone. Really looking forward to the new books they are working on.

I have a few houserules myself (to fix a few of my issues with the Savage worlds gun rules). Rail guns in this game are extremely deadly, and it can lead to rocket tag the way the (automatic fire) rules interact with (medium+) rail guns, and other issues.

I get how its designed to interact with another few rules (death and defeat, and blaze of glory) but it was still too deadly for mine, and rocket tag isnt all that fun after a short while.

It was easily fixed by changing how (autofire/ 3RB/ double tap) work, and using a simpler system for guns (bursts become area attacks or grant a simple damage bonus, instead of multiple hits on a single target).

I also dont use the 'Born a Hero' setting rule which allows for ignoring rank requirements for edges at character creation (which tones down some of the overtly gonzo stuff) but thats easily implemented (just toggle it on or off at desired).

One of the good things about Savage Worlds, is tweaks like this are pretty easy to implement (inserting them as 'Setting rules') due to the general simplicity of the system (other than the combat rules which are simulationist heavy).

All the goodness of the Rifts setting, with more modern and easy to use mechanics. It gets a solid 4/5 from me.


Cool review. Don't know a lot about Rifts, but seems to remind me a little of our Strange game where you can jump around genres and settings a lot :)

Love me some Savage Worlds, but we also tweaked it a lot. In fact, we used it as the basis for our own game we called "B&B" (Bashed & Borrowed ;), b/c yes, we mashed several ideas we loved from games together :)).

However, everything we wrote still goes with Savage Worlds pretty well. If interested in taking a look (and I know no-one follows links, but if playing SW you might like our stuff, look in side nav bar for B&B):

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