mordicai caeli (mordicai) wrote,
mordicai caeli

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Nyarlathotep, Inc. (101)

Atlantis: Rifts World Book Two by Kevin Siembieda.

Huckster Cthulhu:
"Fhtagn, Ladies & germs!"
His wares are your souls.

From time to time, onatopofthings will run across a piece of gaming's nooks & crannies, & send it on to me. Last time it was something I hadn't ever heard of-- Corum a roleplaying game companion to the Elric game...which I also hadn't ever heard of. Rifts on the other hand, is a whole 'nother animal. I'm passing familiar with Palladium of course. I spent my childhood & early teen years playing oddles of TMNT & Other Strangeness-- Spike Q. Seta the mutant porcupine assassin, Bob Gaborgee the mutant Green & Gold Bell Frog jackeroo in Mutants Down Under-- & I own most of the Robotech books-- for the original three series, anyway, & the Sentinals. & yeah, I played some Rifts-- who hasn't? Even the last couple of presidents have copped to doing coke, so I figure it is okay to admit I played Rifts. We all did. & that is what Rifts is like-- cocaine. Take a high tech futuristic setting. Then apply apocalypse. Don't stop there! The apocalypse opens dimensional rifts, bringing monsters & aliens into play. You aren't finished yet! Add in dimensions that go to the places from human myth-- faeries, demons, dinosaurs, whatever. A multiverse, all crammed into Earth! Of course, magic starts working! & always had! Ley lines! Cyborgs! Psychics! Mecha! Whatever you want! Play a dragon, sure! A cyborg Jedi, no problem! A guy on super-steroids? That is a base character class!

I used to be of the opinion that the "Coalition game" was the only viable way of approaching the huge clusterfuck that is Rifts. See, the Coalition are the humans-only fascists of the setting-- a bunch of guys who think that the Nazi's costume design was too restrained. They go full on Warhammer 40,000 with skulls. Their armor has skulls. Their mecha have skulls. Their robots are shaped like skulls. Their soldiers are called "Deadboys." The Coalition hate...aliens, monsters, magic, psychics, anything like that. Which makes them both the scary bad guys to supernatural characters-- that is, most characters-- but also the "good" guys when there is a dimensional incursion by Cthulhu-minds or vampires or satanic armies or what have you. The Coalition is the one part of Rifts that makes some kind of sense-- they aren't "everything & the kitchen sink" like the rest of the setting. Rather, they are the guys who go: "only the kitchen sink, the hell with everything else." It provides a framework for narrative, letting you play psychics on the run (a favorite campaign pitch), a platoon of soldiers, psychic hunters & mutant dogs-- in Palladium, the humans always think mutant dogs are okay, which is a funny quirk-- who start to question their "kill 'em all" approach to the supernatural as they are confronted by less demonic aspects of it, a crew of people on the fringes of the Coalition territory eking out a life in the shadow of their military...whatever.

Atlantis is the one other setting I can imagine making sense. Certainly not the goofy "Tolkeen" utopia. Or alright, I could imagine the Vampire Kingdoms in Mexico, but beyond that, it is all Atlantis. See, the trick to Atlantis is-- commerce. Slavery, exotic locations, magic-- but commerce is what makes it all make sense. Like the Coalition, you need some kind of framework, some kind of paradigm, that makes all the nuts & bolts fit together. In Atlantis-- even if it isn't explictly clear to the players-- the answer is the Splurgorth. Heck, there is a "Splurgorth" on the cover of the main Rifts book, how much more essential can you get? The "Splurgorth" are initially billed as monstrous slavers-- which is true up to a point, even if the "Splurgorth" everyone sees are actually just minions of the Splurgorth. See, the real Splurgorth are puddles of tentacles, over a hundred feet in diameter, complete with gnashing mouths & a single hideous eye. They are, in a word, lovecraftian. & more to the point, they are interdimensional merchant princes. Cthulhu with a stock portfolio, a shoggoth with a knack for profit. Suddenly-- wham!-- it slams into place, & all the oddity hang together to make a complete picture. A crazy one, but a complete one.

Of course, the book is otherwise worthless. I mean, like most of Rifts it is just a lot of odds & ends, knicks & knacks, all grafted together. The Metztla-- the Murex Metztle, the Volute Metztla, the Murvolva Metztla, the Murmova Metztla, the Kreelong Carapace Metztla, the Kreewarr Carapace Metztla-- what the hell is all that? Fifty foot long aliens with thousands of MDC? Who is going to use all this? & they come as a bundle-- a Murex, Volute comes with 1d6+ Kreelong or Kreewarr & 1d4 Murvolva & hundreds of drones. What the heck? The Sunaj...are a dumb secret. Yeah, I kind of figured out instantly what their deal is, that is...that isn't a very good conspiracy! Tattoo magic & biowizardry...ah another collection of rules never to be seen again...unless they are cut n' pasted into another book as filler, that is. Tables of statistics, population breakdowns, geography details that don't illustrate or explain much of anything. & page after page of insanely detailed power armor by Newton Ewell-- actually, some of this stuff is kind of cool, in a "I dropped acid & put on a black metal album & started thinking about outerspace" kind of way. Which is maybe the best kind of way. The "Dragon Dreadnought" two-page spread is particularly breathtaking.

Tags: books, haiku, palladium, rifts, rpgs

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