My summary of Rifts

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My summary of Rifts

Post by MisterSinister on Tue Feb 03, 2009 12:06 pm

This was hammered out for the benefit of my gaming group. Hopefully, it will give you as much amusement reading it as it gave me writing it. This is designed as a beginner's guide, as well as a summary, and was written with that in mind.

Rifts for Dummies


The system you’re about to get into makes very little sense and is not very balanced. It will dictate a lot of craziness, and is generally suitable only for having random fun and not telling any serious stories. This guide is designed to help you navigate the somewhat dense (and self-gratuitous) materials which this game comes with.

Note from Sinister: All page numbers are PDF page numbers, not physical page numbers. There’s a dissonance of about 5 pages between the PDF and the actual pages, but this varies by quite a bit across books.

Character Creation


Stats
In Rifts, there are eight stats – three mental, five physical. These are given abbreviations (a common feature in this system), which mean the following things (in terms you can follow):

IQ: This one is surprisingly self-explanatory. Game-wise, this serves a role similar to Intelligence in DnD. Intelligence
ME: Short for Mental Endurance, this is basically your Will save and your ability to deal with mental attacks. Willpower
MA: Short for Mental Affinity, this is the ‘social’ part of Charisma. Appeal
PS: Short for Physical Strength, this is basically your Strength score. If this is particularly high, you can have Augmented Strength (which comes from implants, chemicals etc), Robot Strength (which comes from mechanical augmentation) or Supernatural Strength (which comes from magic, psionics and suchlike). The rules for these can be found on pages 288-9 of the Ultimate Edition. It also determines how much you can carry, which is listed on page 289. Strength[/red]
PP: Short for Physical Prowess, this is basically the same as Dexterity in DnD. [color=red]Dexterity

PE: Short for Physical Endurance, this is basically the same as Constitution in DnD. Constitution
PB: Short for Physical Beauty, this is the ‘physical’ or ‘appearance’ part of Charisma. Beauty
Spd: Short for Speed, this is how fast you move. To determine what this means in actual distances, check the chart on page 284 of the Ultimate Edition, or alternatively, the stat description on the same page. For once, this shit doesn’t need renaming.

Note from Sinister: If this system looks like it has a hard-on for abbreviations to rival the USSR, it does. Really, it seems that Kevin Siembieda though it would be ‘awesome’ to make his rulebook read like some kind of computing document or Soviet government report. What-fucking-ever.
In a bit to rectify this obvious and rather sad cry for help, I propose renaming the stats to those labelled in red after their descriptions, a convention which I will follow throughout this document.

The way these are generated is sequential rolling 3d6 (i.e. first, you roll 3d6 for IQ, then for ME, then MA, and so on). If you happen to roll 16 or more, you roll an extra 1d6 and add it to whatever you had rolled. If this also comes up a 6, you roll another 1d6 and add that as well. This doesn’t continue forever – it can happen twice at most for any given stat.
Additionally, if your final score in any stat is 16 or more, you gain a special bonus above and beyond what it would normally give you. These are given on page 284 of the Ultimate Edition. However, if you ended up with any stat at 8 or less, you also get certain penalties above and beyond the usual, given on page 285-7 of the Ultimate Edition. To make matters even more confusing, if you happen to end up with stats above 30 (rare, but possible), page 287 of the Ultimate Edition tells you how that goes down.
If you aren’t happy with your stats as-written, you can reroll them, but you have to reroll ALL your stats, not just the ones you don’t like. Alternatively, if you ended up with attributes at 6 or below, you can reroll only those if you choose.

Note from Sinister: This is ass-backwards, as it just screws over people who wanna pick stats suitable to a specific class. My suggestion would be ‘roll 3d6 eight times, assign as you like, reroll anything below 8, can reroll whole line if you want’, as it would save on a lot of random stupid. Alternatively, have a point-buy system – all stats start at 8, you get 90 points to chuck around, and if you decide to bolster a stat to 16 or more, you get 3 bonus points to spend. Or something, as it literally took me twenty seconds to come up with something better than this asshattery.

Hit Points, SDC and MDC

Rifts uses a ‘wound/vitality’ system, except it’s given weird names, because according to Kevin Siembieda, d20 is the devil, despite the fact that his system is basically 60% plagiarised from it.
‘Wounds’ (i.e. damage which can actually kill you) in this game is termed ‘hit points’, and you get very few of them. Your starting hit points are equal to your PE (Physical Endurance or ‘Constitution’) score, plus 1d6. At each level, you get 1d6 more. Whenever you take Hit Point damage, you come closer to death. At 0 Hit Points, you drop unconscious, and when you hit a negative value of your PE, you die. This is a fine name, really.
‘Vitality’ (i.e. damage that slows you down, maybe scratches or scuffs you up a bit, but won’t kill you) is divided into 2 categories in Rifts: SDC (Standard Damage Capacity) and MDC (Mega Damage Capacity). Basically, all you need to know at this stage is that any normal damage you take first comes off your SDC, and any mega damage you take comes off whatever MDC you do or don’t have. SDC is usually determined by your class, but any class which doesn’t list it receives 2d6+12 base, plus whatever extra the class feels like giving you. Any damage you take comes off this first and foremost. Renaming this Standard Vitality and Mega Vitality seems like the most logical approach.

Recovery

Without help, every 24 hours, you recover 2 Hit Points and 4 SDC. With professional help, it’s at 2 Hit Points for the first two days, then 4 per day for each following day, and 6 SDC points per day.

Psionics

Because of Kev’s love of random number generation, unless you take a psionic-using class, you have to randomly roll to see if you’re psionic. This chart is found on page 292, and basically, you have a 10% chance of being seriously psionic, a 15% chance of being slightly psionic, and a 75% chance of having nothing at all.
To make matters more interesting, this brings in a pseudo-stat called ISP (Inner Strength Points – basically think of them kinda like power points for DnD psionic characters), which it hands out at random values for each. Naming these ‘psionic points’ or ‘power points’ would make a shitload more sense.

Note from Sinister: Again with the random generation. I would say that if you really wanna be psionic that badly, just take a psionic class and stop giving random asymmetric power creep out like loose change.

Magic

Because Kev Siembieda doesn’t get that mega damage is the way to go, spellcasters are actually WORSE than psionics-users by a longshot. However, if you really insist on knowing how it works, you have something called PPE (Personal Psychic Potential or somesuch – just call them ‘spell points’ and be done with it!). This is basically the same as ISP, except that it always regenerates at the same rate as everyone else’s. Additionally, magic takes random bullshit penalties due to wearing armour or bionics (which psionics doesn’t), and gets random bullshit bonuses near ley lines or nexuses (which psionics only kinda does). In short, a massive waste of time, provided you stick to the core books alone. However, once you throw in the Book of Magic, all of a sudden, mages are less useless, as mega-damage spells don't cost an arm and a leg anymore.

Note from Sinister: The sheer determinism of Rifts to cling to stupid astonishes even me, as bionics cripple BOTH magic and psionics, while armour cripples only the former. So these penalties no longer exist, okey dokey?

Alignment

In Rifts, your alignment is basically just like the DnD system, with neutrality kinda stripped out. The alignments are Principled (LG), Scrupulous (CG), Unprincipled (LN), Anarchist (CN), Abberant (LE), Miscreant (NE) and Diabolic (CE). These are described in more detail, with nice lists of what they do and don’t usually do on pages 293-5.

Experience

This is basically cloned wholesale from 2nd edition DnD, and is thus equally stupid and needs no further consideration here. For those who don’t know, it’s exactly the same as the 3rd edition XP system, except that each class gets its own chart for advancement, which means everyone advances at different levels.
Every time you get a level in Rifts, your skill, Hit Points, as well as certain other things, increase accordingly. The highest level in Rifts is 15, and you are supposed to advance slowly, but then again, for a system this stupid, no-one really cares.

Note from Sinister: This kind of garbage should be thrown out on its ass from the get-go. Just advance levels according to the storyline already!

Rounding Out the Character

There’s a bunch of fluff-generation charts on pages 299-301 for generating fluff, which are highly suitable for games run using this stupid system.

Note from Sinister: I would strongly suggest we use these tables to speed up character creation, as we shouldn’t take this system too seriously, and thus, by extension, any characters made with it.
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Re: My summary of Rifts

Post by MisterSinister on Tue Feb 03, 2009 12:07 pm

Classes

Continuing the hard-on for abbreviation, in Rifts, there are two kinds of class: the OCC (Occupational Character Class) and the RCC (Racial Character Class). In Rifts, class = job, which is basically the writing large of a 1st edition DnD fallacy, but if this makes Kev hard at night, we have to humour it, apparently.
One of the key things to remember, which deserves bolding so that nobody misses it: these classes are not balanced against each other, or just about anything, other than Kevin Siembieda’s weird ideas. Therefore, it is very important that there is a consensus on what people actually wanna play, so you don’t end up with Rogue Scholars and Dragons on the same team.

The classes are as follows:

Cyborg: You’re an awesome robot dude. Note that this is for ‘total conversion’ cyborgs, which means that the only bits of you that are human are your brain and maybe your face. The rules for these guys are listed on pages 48-51, with some Black Market Bionics listed from 51-56. Additionally, there is a whole book of options for these guys you can check out, titled the Bionics Sourcebook. Of particular interest are pages 43-8, 54-9 and 83-109, although pretty much the whole book has cool stuff for everyone.
As far as how playable these guys are, they’re pretty solid. You won’t be very sneaky with one of these, but they are very hardcore and very customisable. That said, they are a lot of work to create, so bear this in mind. Best of all, you have no stupid alignment reqs and no stupid stat reqs – so why ever not?

Crazy: These guys are a weird cross between ninjas, partial cyborgs (through brain-chipping) and fucking lunatics. The fluff is that you get awesome training and chips in your head which make you stronger, faster and better than normal humans – and also drive you fucking insane. The rules for these guys are on pages 58-9, followed by the rules for their various insanities on pages 60-64. If you want more cool goodies, a book called Mindwerks is a good place to go, especially pages 19-43.
As long as you don’t mind being completely off your rocker, these guys are also quite playable, and even quite effective. That said, though, some unlucky rolls on your insanity table can make for some... interesting results, so treat with care. It also gets some psychic abilities and even has no alignment or stat reqs, which is always nice.

Cyber-Knight: Meet the paladin of the future! These guys are psychic, lightsaber-wielding, bionic paladins, basically. Not much more needs to be said. Their rules are on pages 66-70, although a lot of that is occupied by stuff like your Code and your various knockabouts.
If the whole thing about being a paladin doesn’t bother you, this class is quite playable, especially later-on. Unfortunately, you need to have an ME (Mental Endurance) of at least 11 and a PE (Physical Endurance, or ‘Constitution’) of at least 11, and, while in theory Cyber-Knights can be of any alignment, in practice, having to follow their code makes it impossible to rationalise them as being anything other than Principlied (pseudo-LG) or some weird take on Scrupulous (pseudo-CG).

Glitter Boy: Kevin Siembieda basically out-and-out admits that this was HIS class, which makes it subject to a lot of broken fan-wank. Additionally, it has a stupid name, with a stupid gun, based on Bubblegum Crisis, of all things! This class can be found on pages 73-4, and the rules for the Glitter Boy armour are on pages 74-76.
Despite Kevin Siembieda’s most pathetic excuse for bad mechanics ever (which basically reads akin to 'We don't do this balance shit - it's not FUN! And I'm a ROLEplayer, you munchkin fags, and the sun shines out my ass, and I'm orgasming at how awesome I am', except he took about six times as many words to get to the point), this class is out-and-out broken. You start off with a mecha suit which is quite honestly more powerful than almost everything else in this system as a CLASS FEATURE. With this in mind, you do have weaknesses, but very few things can match you in combat at all. You also need at least 10 PP (Physical Prowess, or ‘Dexterity’), but no alignment req.

Note from Sinister: Even though this game is fucking retarded already, I would recommend that this class be banned for obvious reasons in the strongest language I can muster.

Headhunter: These guys are partial cyborg mercenaries, who have fighting skills and implants working together to make awesome. Quite fun, and can be found on pages 77-80. Like the Cyborg, the Bionics Sourcebook can be very useful for these guys.
Truth be told, these guys are fairly mid-range. While all their bionics can make for some very fun going, Cyborgs do have a lot more going for them, which makes these guys limited to stealth/sniping roles if they wanna compete. Even with that all told, it isn’t a bad class to play, and is a lot less of a headache than the Cyborg. It does, however, have a stat req, needing 12s in PP (Physical Prowess, or ‘Dexterity’) and PE (Physical Endurance, or ‘Constitution’).

Juicer: The chemical counterpart of the Crazy, with a really stupid name, because Kevin Siembieda’s definition of ‘cool’ never developed past the 80s. They end up leading very, very short lives due to chemical burnout, but if you wanna play one, they can be found on pages 82-4. There’s a whole book for these guys called Juicer Uprising, which contains a helluva lot of Juicer stuff, but most of the best stuff is on pages 30-61 and 66-88.
Despite their incredibly short and (true to Kev’s philosophy) random lifespan, these guys are very, very solid choices, with incredibly powerful physical stats and survivability. They have no alignment or stat reqs, which makes them a very easy and fun choice. Also, who doesn’t wanna play a mad drug-addicted and powered warrior?

Mercenary Soldier: The Headhunter without bionics, the Juicer without the drugs, and the Crazy without the chips. Essentially, what happens when Joe Human tried to compete with these kinds of guys. Their rules are on pages 85-86, and because Kev can’t be kept from his random, your specialisation is TOTALLY RANDOM. Goddamn it.
As mentioned above, why anyone would wanna play Joe Human with Tricks in a world with actual magic, actual psionics and melee guys relying on chemicals, brain augmentation or bionics is beyond me. The power level of these guys is highly uninspiring, and hence, not recommended. No stat or alignment reqs, though, so whatever.

Robot Pilot: Like the Glitter Boys, but not broken. Surprisingly for anything written by Kevin Siembieda, you can actually CHOOSE whether you have power armour or a giant robot to pilot around, and you can find the rules for these guys on pages 87-8, although a lot of their stuff needs the equipment section to understand properly. Just about every book has more stuff for these guys to drive/pilot, so listing them all here would take far, far too long.
Essentially, these guys aren’t bad at all. While they aren’t as uber as their augmented friends, and certainly pale in comparison to the Glitter Boy, they aren’t too feeble either. A good choice, but hampered by the nasty stat requirements – PS at 10 or more, and PP and PE at 12 or more (read as ‘Strength’ 10 or more, ‘Dex’ and ‘Con’ 12 or more).

Body Fixer: The healbot of the future, because obviously that waste of space needs to exist in everything at least once. In case anyone cares, their rules are on 90-1.
This class blows. Hard. You will not do anything meaningful in any combat, and about the only thing gunning for it is the ability to heal people. Why not get a real job?

City Rat: The rogue of the future, this is basically a sneakier, weedier Headhunter. While most people hardly care, their rules are on pages 91-2.
If you wanna do this class, just play a Headhunter. Seriously, you’ll do a better job that way.

Cyber-Doc: The slightly-less-irrelevant healbot of the future. The fact you can wire yourself and your friends full of funky bionics is what makes this even remotely playable and useful. It can be found on pages 92-4. It would be almost stupid to add that the Bionics Sourcebook is made of sheer win and awesome for you, but I'll add it in case the SAN damage this system has dealt you is starting to affect cognitive ability. Or that Kev's ego stains have finally reached your eyeballs, whichever.
Because they can do cool stuff to themselves and their friends in the way of bionics, this class is a healbot which actually does something else meaningful, so it can be worth playing, if a little noncombat and underpowered.

Rogue Scholar, Rogue Scientist, Operator and Wilderness Scout: These all suck. Trust me, they suck very hard.

Elemental Fusionist: This guy (or girl) is essentially a user of opposed elements to create awesome effects. Unlike most spellcasters in this stupid game, this one is actually pretty darn effective, being able to throw out mega-damage spells at a mere 8 PPE, instead of the 20 or so everyone else expects you to pay up. His rules are on pages 103-7, though most of it is taken up by his unique spells. Additionally, you can find more for these guys in the Book of Magic, specifically the elemental line of spells, on pages 56-88.
Unlike most spellcasters, who are crippled by stupid spell choices that Kev thinks equal an MD rifle, the elemental fusionist can actually compete VERY effectively within a normalised Rifts environment (if such a thing even exists). Therefore, I place this thing as roughly on-par with the Headhunter or the Cyber-Doc – useful, but not amazing. It doesn’t even have any alignment or stat requirements, so why ever not?

Ley Line Walker: These guys are insanely situational mages. Now, if we had remained in core Rifts, they would suck, and quite rightly so. However, with the advent of the Book of Magic, they can actually be quite effective, given the right choices. Thus, their rules can be found on pages 116-9, and their subset class, the Ley Line Rifter, can be found immediately afterward, on pages 119-21. Additionally, the Invocation list in the Book of Magic is absolutely VITAL for these guys, and can be found on pages 88-160.
I had initially dismissed these guys as nearly useless, but it appears that I was wrong. With the introduction of the Book of Magic, these guys can perform mega-damage attacks for a mere FIVE PPE, which is a bargain compared to the twenty or so most magic practitioners have to fork out. Furthermore, you have a very solid acquisition system, which will allow you to select some very good spells. Overall, thanks to that, I would actually put the Ley Line Walker at a power level similar to the Headhunter or the Cyber-Doc. Although you need 10 IQ and 12 PE (“Constitution”), you have no alignment req, which makes getting this class fairly easy.

Mystic: Now, you’d think that something which can use both psionics AND magic would be worth something. Unfortunately, your name is not Kev Siembieda, and you weren't dropped on your head as a child. As-printed, this doesn’t mean much, but, with the advent of the Book of Magic, this class actually becomes quite worthwhile and very versatile. Their rules can be found on pages 121-3, and, of course, the vital part of the Book of Magic for these guys are pages 88-160.
Because they know a lot of abilities, these guys can be very versatile, and now that mega damage costs five PPE and not some fifteen, a major obstacle to caster power has been eliminated. These guys are about as good as a Headhunter overall, and thus, quite worthwhile. For some reason, you need IQ, MA and ME at 9 or higher, but have no alignment req, which means this class is easy enough to go for, and pretty fun, too.

Shifter: Awesome dimensional mages. These guys get some really fun things going for them, but you pretty much have to make a pact with something in order to make a worthwhile character out of these guys. Their (rather long and painful) rules can be found on pages 123-9.
While mages are generally underpowered, and you still get taxed FIFTEEN PPE for doing mega-damage, these guys are actually fairly awesome, as they can provide immense utility and even fairly decent power to their party. Bear in mind, you need ME (‘Will’) and IQ of at least 12 to play one, though. No alignment req either, but some bullshit about magical power and the rifts turning you evil over time. What-fucking-ever, Kev.

Burster: Well, we come to our first psionic class, and it’s damn good. Four ISP for a mega-damage attack is damn good, after all, and the rest of your powers are pretty much exercises in awesome. You can find this guy on pages 142-5.
In all honesty, if you’re gonna play anything with superpowers, this is likely your best (and easiest) bet. They have an easy and cool concept, good powers which don’t cost the earth, and despite their silly name, are fairly fun all-round. No alignment or stat reqs also make me a happy panda, and should do the same to you.

Dog Boy: Cute, funny, but totally useless in any real situation. They are an NPC class – leave them that way.

Mind Melter: These guys are really, very, very powerful. The only thing which makes Bursters compete with them is the fact that their powers are costed much more reasonably, if the word 'reasonably' can be applied anywhere in this stupid system. Their rules can be found on pages 153-4.
Although the be-all and end-all of this class happens to be the Super Psionics list, this is actually not a bad thing, considering some of the cool things you can do that way. It’s worth playing, even if it is costed worse than the Burster, and doesn’t even have any alignment or stat reqs.

Psi-Stalker: These guys are rather interesting, but given that their powers are mostly defensive, they’re not really worth your attention as much as you’d think.

Dragons: BAN THIS WITH GREAT VENGEANCE. Seriously, words cannot express how banned this should be. It seems dragon wang is another thing Kev Siembieda gets off to at night.

Coalition Classes: If you don’t mind playing Space Marines (because obviously plagiarising d20 wasn’t enough for Kev), these classes are all quite workable.
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Re: My summary of Rifts

Post by MisterSinister on Tue Feb 03, 2009 12:07 pm

Basic Mechanics

The majority of non-combat mechanics are percentile (such as skills). However, for combat, a d20 roll is needed, and Kevin Siembieda needs to get off the cock and back onto his ADD medication. And I’m starting to use abbreviations, ‘cause his stupidity is obviously contagious.

Mega Damage

Basically, 1 mega damage = 100 standard damage, because Kevin Siembieda obviously doesn’t know that ‘mega’ means ‘million’, but what-freaking ever. About the only thing you need to know about it is that if you can deal over 100 standard damage, you can get through MDC (Mega Damage Capacity), but you always round DOWN (thus, 413 standard damage, 431 standard damage, and 499 standard damage ALL equal 4 mega damage), and that it comes off your MDC, not your SDC (even if it is over 100, because it’s ‘better’ that way, or some nonsense like that).

Note from Sinister: Obviously, Kevin Siembieda loves his randomness and doesn’t understand Third Form maths. Make the standard-to-mega conversion round normally, and baby Jesus will stop crying. Also, if you are cool enough to have SDC over 100, let mega-damage come off that, too – it’s not like we’re gonna break this game or anything, it’s already fucking broken.

Skills

Skills are divided into 3 types – OCC Skills (which are essential to your class), OCC Related Skills (which are useful, but not essential to your class) and Secondary Skills (which are not related to your class). You get OCC Skills automatically, and can pick the rest in various ways described in your class. When you get a skill, you start with a fixed percentage chance of success, plus a certain percentage per level, which increases as you gain more levels.
One of the main things to remember about Rifts is that if you don’t have a skill, you cannot test against it at all. Bear this in mind when picking your skills. For a full list of what all skills do, check pages 307-33, and for a summary list, along with the percentages at which skills start and improve, on pages 305-6.

Note from Sinister: Why Kev decided to keep skills on percentiles, even though they are strictly incremented on 5% tiers, is fucking beyond me. It’s obvious the guy can’t design his way out of a wet paper bag, so we’re not gonna do it that way. Simply divide all values by 5, and use a d20. Nice and simple.

Combat

First of all, you have your Initiative, which is basically a straight dice-off. Unlike in DnD, Rifts initiative must be rerolled every round, which is weird, but kinda decent. Rifts combat rounds also last 15 seconds, not 10, but unlike DnD’s action economy, how much you can achieve in a round is down to your level directly.
When you roll an attack roll, anything under a 5 automatically misses. If your opponent is wearing SDC armour, you also have to beat its AR (Armour Rating) to hit the guy. However, with MDC armour, you just take the hit like a man, as they don’t provide ARs. After this, the guy hit can choose to parry, block or entangle, to try and prevent the damage (which involves beating the roll used to hit you) and/or ‘rolling with the damage’, which reduces how much you take.
For how all this crazy stuff works, see pages 347-50, which describe all the stuff that people can actually do in combat, alphabetically. 350-56 describes how many actions you actually get, depending on which fighting style you’ve been taught. Ranged combat is on pages 363-8, and psychic combat, if it ever comes up, is on pages 369-71. Each of these works similarly to the melee model, just with more modifiers.
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Re: My summary of Rifts

Post by MisterSinister on Tue Feb 03, 2009 12:08 pm

Phew, 12 typed pages! Hopefully, this will be an interesting read for SOMEONE...
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Re: My summary of Rifts

Post by Deodanth on Tue Feb 03, 2009 4:28 pm

Nice work Sinister... but this is kinda the reason I don't go around promoting Rifts to people.

New players (if any even exist) are drawn to Rifts by the premise, the artwork, and cool options like the Juicer and Mystic Knight. I feel it's up to them to put in the work of figuring the system out cyclops hey, I had to do that for myself. Explaining the rules to a new player is a chore on tabletop alone; trying to do it online is a complete nightmare. Just my mileage...
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Re: My summary of Rifts

Post by MisterSinister on Tue Feb 03, 2009 8:20 pm

Deodanth wrote:Nice work Sinister... but this is kinda the reason I don't go around promoting Rifts to people.

New players (if any even exist) are drawn to Rifts by the premise, the artwork, and cool options like the Juicer and Mystic Knight. I feel it's up to them to put in the work of figuring the system out cyclops hey, I had to do that for myself. Explaining the rules to a new player is a chore on tabletop alone; trying to do it online is a complete nightmare. Just my mileage...

I agree, but surprisingly, I think it's more work for the GM than anyone else. Rifts is a spectacular collection of subsystems which all fail at a fundamental level, and continue to insist that they work, written by a guy whose ego stains make the pages stick together. I wrote this summary because of a little bit of after-gaming dinner chat, where we thought it would be apt for a silly campaign not meant to tell any serious stories. Hence, this here summary.
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