Let’s Talk about RIFTS

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RIFTS is probably one of the first RPGs I played back in the day. I still remember the demise of my first RIFTS character, who forgot to wear his MDC armor before trying to dismantle a robot. Unfortunately this robot was booby-trapped and soon after opening its chest, the rest of the party had to clean off my character’s chunks from all over their armor.

My next character was THE Ezekiel Stargazer, Ley Line Walker and Scholar Extraordinaire. Even to this day, I use this name for my main email address. Even though the rules were clunky, I totally loved the game and it was a shame we didn’t play it more often. Even today I often think of the RIFTS setting and try to find ways to run it for my friends. But there’s one problem: I just can’t stand the rules system.

In my opinion it’s just clunky, overly complicated, incomplete and badly explained. It just sucks. As much as I love the world, I just can’t stand the rules. The layout of the books is also an issue. They look like they have been created in the pre-digital times when people still used scissors and glue to do layout. And I fear that’s actually how they are created to this day.

But having said all that, I can’t help but appreciate the awesomeness that is RIFTS. The excitement for the setting just jumps at you from each paragraph and piece of artwork. RIFTS has something for everyone: Huge humanoid robots, high-tech, magic, psionics, cthulhuesque monsters, fairies, whatever you can think of – it’s in RIFTS somewhere.

Recently something happened which I would have never dreamed of: Palladium Books gave Pinnacle Entertainment a license to produce a Savage World RIFTS game. I haven’t checked it out yet, mainly because I am highly skeptical Savage Worlds is the right system for this totally over-the-top setting. Something like one of the various super hero roleplaying games might actually work better.

So, what are your thoughts on RIFTS? How do you deal with the rules? I actually heard several times that even Kevin Siembieda uses a lot of house rules when he runs the game at conventions. Perhaps one of my readers has played in one of those games and can share some of their insights. If you guys have any idea how to solve my RIFTS conundrum, please let me know in the comments below!

Hidden Gem: The Unexplained

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fudge_unexplainedYesterday I bought a copy of Carnivore Games’ The Unexplained, a Fudge-based game in which you play members of a group investigating paranormal phenomenon. And from what I’ve seen so far it is definitely one of the best Fudge-based games around, with a lot of well-researched information on the paranormal.

If you ask people about Fudge you usually get recommendations to check out Carnivore Games’ other title, Now Playing. Now Playing is a roleplaying game meant to turn your favorite TV show into a roleplaying game setting. I have picked it up a while ago, but it never really grabbed me. When I learned about The Unexplained I was immediately intrigued. Even though I personally don’t believe in the supernatural, UFOs, paranormal phenomenon, I love to play in game featuring those things. Often I watch UFO “documentaries” and ghost hunting shows just to entertain myself.

Before going on, let me write a few lines about why I love Fudge so much. For me, the core mechanic which you might know from the more popular Fate is just genius. You roll four Fudge dice (six-sided dice with two sides with a plus sign, two sides with a minus sign, and two blank sides). A roll of 4dF generates numbers from –4 to +4 in a nice bell curve centered on zero. Skills, attributes, etc. and the difficulties assigned by the GM are on the same ladder and each step on that ladder has a descriptive word assigned to it like Good, Great, et cetera. So you are a Good sword fighter or a Mediocre craftsman. If you check a skill you roll 4dF and shift the skill’s rank by the roll result. That’s easy explained and makes it terribly easy to assign difficulties by the GM.

If you have followed my blog for the last couple years you might have noticed that Fudge cropped up from time to time, but I never really got into it. While I like many of Fudge’s core concepts, I always found the rulebooks too confusing, badly organized and too much of a toolbox. For the last few years I have been looking for an implementation of Fudge which you could just play out of the box, without having to pick and choose between countless options.

Carnivore Games’ The Unexplained seems to be what I have been looking for all this time. It presents a version of Fudge you can pick up and play without any hassle and it’s generic enough so that you can use it for any modern game. From what I’ve heard Now Playing uses basically the same set of Fudge rules, so I should give it a second look. It might also be more versatile, so that it can be used in any genre. If you have been happy with Grey Ghost Press’ Fudge corebook in the past, you probably won’t pick up The Unexplained just for the rules. But if you have always struggled with it, The Unexplained may help to give you a proper start.

The second reason I enjoy reading The Unexplained so much, is the fact that it contains a lot of well-researched information on the various fields of paranormal investigation. The book contains a lot of background on UFOs, ghost hunting, cryptozoology, and the methods people use to investigate these phenomenon. If you believe in such things, you might even use it as a handbook to get your ghost hunting career a kickstart. Zwinkerndes Smiley

Even though the PDF is completely black & white, it’s pretty easy on the eyes. The layout and organization are solid, and it was a joy leafing through it on my 7” tablet.

Yes, there are probably games with higher production values available. Conspiracy X, or the Dark Matter setting for Alternaty and d20 Modern come to mind. But those games usually deal with professional investigators and government conspirators and not with the countless amateur groups investigating the paranormal all over the world.

stargazers_world_sealFor me, The Unexplained is one of those hidden gems, most roleplayers not even heard about. It’s a solid product using a rules system which has fallen out of favor far too early. If you have a soft spot for the underdog, and for amateur paranormal investigations, check out The Unexplained. I am sure, you will not be disappointed.

The Unexplained is available in PDF form from DriveThruRPG for $19.99.

Happy New Year … and I got Darkest Dungeons in my White Box

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Wow. That title is a mouthful, but let’s not digress and get to the matter at hand! At first I want to wish all the readers of Stargazer’s World and all current and former team members a great year 2017! May it be better than the last one. For me 2016 started with the death of my grandma, who was very close to me and went on with a lot of disappointments and hard times. One the plus side I finally moved together with my girlfriend which I eventually married!

On the roleplaying games front things have been hit or miss too. I had some great sessions during the year, but I also burned out on some games repeatedly. Luckily the year ended with a success!

Yesterday night I ran a game of White Box for a group of friends while celebrating New Year’s Eve. I wanted to keep things simple, so I chose Charlie Mason’s excellent White Box RPG for the rules and created a set of pregen characters inspired by the awesome Darkest Dungeons computer game. I wish I could say this was my original idea, but instead someone else had basically done the same for Lamentations of the Flame Princess before. I stumbled upon the idea on reddit a while back.

For some reason I am really thrilled by the idea of running a mega-dungeon at the moment (feel free to recommend cool megadungeon products in the comments below), so I started working on my own. Ok, I haven’t progressed that far yet, but at least I had enough material to run my players to the first level of said dungeon.

The characters I created were already 3rd level and had a slightly higher AC than usual (I used LotFP’s starting AC of 12) and gave them some pretty cool and unique abilities and item. The game was not meant as a tough challenge but more like a fun romp through a dungeon while eating, drinking and being merry.

My players and I enjoyed the game very much and we already scheduled a new session where we want to explore the rest of the caves and dungeons. In the long run, I want to create my own mega-dungeon or use a preexisting one and run through it using the awesome Fantastic Heroes & Witchery which my friend Marcus recently introduced to me!

Update: I just uploaded the pregen characters to the blog for your perusal. Please note that these characters are heavily houseruled and far from balanced. They are roughly based on the classes in the White Box game mentioned above, but changed to suit the inspirational material and my tastes. You can check the PDF out here.

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