"Palladium Books is Hot!"

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

The Rifter posted:


listen up

The Rifter posted:

Violence and the Supernatural

take warning

The Rifter posted:

The fictional Worlds of Palladium Books® are violent, deadly and filled with supernatural monsters. Other dimensional beings, often referred to as "demons," torment, stalk and prey on humans. Other alien life forms, monsters, gods and demigod, as well as magic, insanity, and war are all elements in this book.

take warning

The Rifter posted:

Some parents may find the violence, magic and supernatural elements of the game inappropriate for young readers/players. We suggest parental discretion.

really gotta take warning

The Rifter posted:

Please note that none of us at Palladium Books® condone or encourage the occult, the practice of magic, the use of drugs, or violence.

The Rifter Rifts Round-Up Special '98, Part 1: "Palladium Books is Hot!"

Well, I didn't exactly plan to do this. The Rifter is the Palladium house magazine, sure, but since it wasn't particularly "canon", I figured I didn't need to sweat it too much.

The Rifter #1 posted:

Optional and Unofficial Rules & Source Material Please note, that the vast majority of rules, tables, characters, equipment, adventures and stories are "optional" or "alternative" things one can include in his campaign or enjoy reading. They are not "official" to the main games or world settings. For example, The excellent story, Siege Against Tolkeen, is likely to be very different than Siembieda's "official" world book(s) when it comes out. Likewise, Siembieda had not considered putting high-tech Wolfen in Italy and may not include them in any "official" sourcebook. As for optional tables (like the Nightbane® Morphus Tables) and adventures, if they sound cool or fun, use them. If they sound funky or inappropriate for your game, ignore them.

All the material in The Rifter™ has been included for two reasons: One, because we thought it was imaginative and fun, and two, we thought it would stimulate your imagination with fun stuff that you can use (if you want) or which might inspire you to create your own wonders.

A lot of it is, basically, just fan material Palladium has opted to publish without giving any seal of approval. I know that doesn't make a lot of sense, but it's what they do. Then I came to Rifts World Book 18: Mystic Russia, which tossed a good chapter's worth of overflow material into the magazine. When Rifts World Book 21: Splynn Dimensional Market referred me to issue #4 for metaplot material, I knew I was in trouble. It was worth covering, but how? It didn't really fit as an add-on to any upcoming review. And then issue #2 had more "official" material...

So here we are.

This covers The Rifter issues #1 through #4, published in 1998. First off, I'll sum up the "unofficial" material for each issue, and then cover the "official material" in greater depth.

The Rifter #1

We also get the news that Agents of Gaming (mainly known for Babylon 5 licensed games) had licensed Rifts for a 28mm miniatures game. It was eventually dropped and never released. We also get some cancellations of books - Siembieda planned to write Rifts® Japan 2 but never found the time (and never has). Rifts® Lemuria was planned to be written by Steve Sheiring, but-

The Rifter #1 posted:

Unfortunately, he quickly (and I suspect a bit painfully) discovered that writing did not come easy for him — which is probably why he's Palladium's Director of Sales and my right hand man and not a professional writer.

Yes, Sheiring is the guy who would be found to have been robbing Palladium for years. Lemuria was eventually released well over a decade later under a different author.

Rifts books announced for 1998 that have never ever come out at the time of this posting: Rifts® Scotland and Rifts® Dimension Book: The Grand Paladins™.

The Rifter #2

Siembieda apparently had to quash some internet rumors in this issue, such as Wizards of the Coast buying Palladium, Palladium buying White Wolf, or Siembieda going blind after laser eye surgery. Thanks, internet! Speaking of the internet, though...

Next: Hack the system!... wait, no, you're dead.

"Each setting and genre will have its own terms for these radical elements, such as Cybermancers for practitioners of magic, Psychers or Psibers for psionics, and just about anything for super powered data dancers."

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

The Rifter Rifts Round-Up Special '98, Part 2: "Each setting and genre will have its own terms for these radical elements, such as Cybermancers for practitioners of magic, Psychers or Psibers for psionics, and just about anything for super powered data dancers."

I ain't trying to translate that.

Hacking, Cyberjacking and Supernatural Data Theft Across the Megaverse®
By Wayne Breaux
Official Rules for Rifts®, Heroes™ and the Megaverse®

So, these are official rules in The Rifter #2 that expand hacking and use of headjacks in Palladium games, but we'll focus on only the Rifts portion. Given this was done by the author of Spirit West, I admit my hopes aren't high.

Ultimately, this is the purest 1990s view of hacking: "cyberjacking" deposits you in a Tron-like environment where you can float around and "catch a ride" on a "passing bundle of energy". Naturally, it looks a lot like a dungeon hallways and tunnels. Aside from security personnel and AIs that can rove around like city guards, high-tech computers have a "Reality Enforcement System" (RES) that creates a virtual environment that limits one's actions by the limitations of the virtual world. The RES can't be hacked without gaining "control of the CPU", so you can't easily shut it off.

Dying in virtual reality makes you save versus coma/death; if you succeed, the "cyber-death" reduces Intelligence by 1.

The Rifter #2 posted:

Sanitariums throughout the megaverse are filled with cyber-drones who thought they were better than they actually were, console cowboys too cocky to admit defeat, others who were addicted to the rush of the direct brain stimulation and cyberjacked until they're just a shell, and those few who gambled on that last big payoff that didn't.
Sure, sounds legit.

Breastortion can strike at any time.

Despite the fact we've previously been told long-distance communication is generally dead in Rifts, it says "hacking Triax from North America might be a bit difficult, if not impossible". How? Well, in any case, Rifts has all the cyber so we can apply all the rules here.

The Rules

So, in order to do things in cyberspace, you have to write programs that let you do so. Programs either simulate skills or equipment, and are half the % of the Computer Programming skill used to make them. You can take a penalty to improve that skill; -5% to the programming roll for every +10% added to the skill, to a maximum of 92%. Writing a program takes about 1d4 hours. So adventuring around in cyberspace is mainly intended to be like real adventuring, but you have to take hours and hours prepping any skills or stuff you need. You can also make programs for spells or psionic powers at one-fourth of your Computer Programming skill to start; you have to make a % roll whenever activating them to see if they work and pay all normal costs. There are also rules for making guns.

If you're just hacking the old fashioned way, you just roll your Computer Hacking... which, I'll remind, starts at an abysmal 15%, and only gains 5% per level. That means, before skill bonuses, you can't get higher than 85%. Penalties range from a minimum of -10% and go up to -75%. If this sounds like a problem, it probably is.

Fighting in cyberspace is like real life, but you use Intelligence instead of Prowess and get combat bonuses equal roughly to one-fourth of your skill, rounded down (so +0 to +4), and you get bonus attacks depending on your level. However, all attacks do damage straight to your hit points. Given your average hacker only starts at 10 HP (and gains 1d6 per additional level), the fact average weapons do 3d6 or 4d6 damage (or as much as 10d6) makes combat a case of rocket tag for the most part.

Cyberjacking and Supernatural Hacking

Headjacks now give combat bonuses in a cybernetic realm and add +10% to your computer skills (the latter is only relevant for like, ghosts or superbeings that can enter computers physically). Robots and AIs get the same bonus. Psionic powers can give a variety of potential bonuses, making psychics flatly better hackers (particularly if you have electrokinesis or telemechanics). Techno-wizards can make telepathic computers that don't require jacks, or use a new Machine Empathy spell to do the same thing. Energy Disruption gets pretty busted in that you can knock out a security operator or an AI on a failed save of theirs for the duration of the spell. Metamorphosis: Energy is a new spell that lets you enter a computer physically and use your own skills (But not equipment? It's unclear.) normally.

Should've been O.G., not G.O.


You can buy "cyberjack armor" that potentially reduces damage and works like armor in cyber-space... complete with the "Armor Rating" rule where I guess people can shoot where your armor isn't? But if it's on your connection, and not on your body, then... no, it doesn't make sense. There's VR equipment that avoids the risks of cyber-death at the price of lower combat and computer bonuses. You can also buy dedicated computers for hacking that can give tremendous bonuses.

"What? I am a stylish, sexy hacker, like Jolie!"

Occupational Character Classes

There are a variety of classes for most of Palladium's games, but I'll focus solely on the two Rifts ones.

"Wait, you wanted me to hack computers? I brought my vibro-blades and- well, this is embarassing."


On the face, the rules aren't that bad. At least they tie into the existing combat rules, and though they have all the issues those do, it isn't necessarily any worse. And I'm willing to give them a pass on the super-silly, very '90s Tron view of hacking. It probably shouldn't be Sneakers; this is Rifts, after all. But there are several issues.

One, the main issue is the "netrunner dilemma". If only one person in the group hacks, the GM basically has to invent whole "sub-adventures" or encounters that only the hacker interfaces with while everybody else pulls out their phones. Now, to their credit, they give multiple means of accessing computer systems, so it's possible to have a group that can all venture there together if they have the right magic or psionics, but unless you're gearing a group with these rules in mind, somebody's likely to be left out.

Two, it's deadly. Most hackers using can take two or maybe three solid hits. While you can get "armor" for your datajack, there's still going to be hits that bypass it entirely. Of course, that also raises the unanswered question of what happens if a mega-damage creature with no hit point value enters a computer (like through the metamorphosis: energy spell). Do they maintain their mega-damage and become unstoppable? Are they converted to normal damage values? Do they roll a new hit point value just for the internet? It's not clear.

Three, skill values in Rifts are anemic, doubly so for the Hacking skill. You can't really be an effective hacker until around levels 6 to 9. Low-level hackers end up with skill values of about 7-20% on any program they design, so you're going to fumble around incompetently until you have a year's worth of play. And while that's a symptom more of the skill system than these rules, they exacerbate it.

It could be a lot, lot worse. Its at least functional. But it's still very much a Palladium system.

Next: A perfect lineup of writers to reject.

"In most cases, the initial manuscript is completed and awaiting editing, rewrites and final production (art, etc.)."

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

The Rifter Rifts Round-Up Special '98, Part 3: "In most cases, the initial manuscript is completed and awaiting editing, rewrites and final production (art, etc.)."

And on to "unofficial" Rifts articles from the next two issues!

The Rifter #3

There are a few new skills to make up for the fact that Rifts Dimension Book 4: Coalition Navy gives some classes skills that didn't exist, but here they are! And if you're excited to finally see Naval Tactics, Naval History, or Basic Cybernetics, you're one odd duck.

We get some more news on the Rifts Miniatures & Miniatures Combat Game that was slated for 1998 (and cancelled). Apparently it went as far as having "greens" - that is, sculpts to base miniatures. In addition, there's an additional Rifts book for 1999 that would never see the light of day: Rifts® Zulu Nation. I'm sure it would have been... great?

The Rifter #4

We get some solicited authors for various Rifts books that will be almost universally inaccurate:

Advertised is a Happy Holidays from the Coalition™! t-shirt. I see they've got a War on Christmas going on.

Next: To Cedarville and back again.

"His female employees become faint and practically melt in his presence."

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

The Rifter Rifts Round-Up Special '98, Part 4: "His female employees become faint and practically melt in his presence."

And here's the main reason I had to follow up with The Rifter, for this official metaplot chunk from The Rifter #4:

A.R.C.H.I.E. Three vs. The World™
Offical Source Material by Mark Sumimoto

This is an official and direct follow-up to the events of Rifts Sourcebook 2: The Mechanoids. Surprisingly, Siembieda allows a relatively new writer to handle it, Mark Sumimoto, who will have a brief turn in the World Book series with Rifts World Book 21: Splynn Dimensional Market. It deals with Archie, the mad pre-rifts AI from Rifts Sourcebook, and his right-hand psychic, Hagan Lonovich. This follows the presumably foiled invasion of the Mechanoids - mad alien robots from another dimension that seek the destruction of humanoid life.

The twist is that, with the defeat of the Mechanoids, Archie gains access to some of their technology, having falsely worked alongside them. He can, now, effectively replicate Mechanoid designs. Moreover, he began to try and see if he could contact surviving pre-rifts satellites - and ironically has located a post-rifts communications satellite created by the Cyberworks corporation. Though Cyberworks was destroyed on Earth, they survived in orbit (as revealed in the Rifts Space portion of Mutants in Orbit, previously reviewed). He has the proper access codes and so is blithely allowed to use it by the (non-sentient) Cyberworks AI on the moon, who opts not to interfere as not to reveal its presence due to its "don't interact with Earth" protocol. This means Archie's robots have a means of communication over a far greater distance than would be expected or known to most Earthly powers. Mind, is orbital communication is even possible with the previous limits on radio communication established in the setting? Well, that's either handwaved or forgotten.

In general, Archie seeks to gain further information about the world. One of his schemes is through his front company, Titan Robotics (as detailed in Rifts Sourcebook). All Titan designs contain a recording device, and Titan Robotics offers free maintenance and repairs to entice customers to return. During the repairs, the recording device is removed and replaced with a fresh one. It's noted some companies like Northern Gun find the free repair service suspicious for obvious reasons, but presume it's a short-term marketing scheme that will eventually be ended. Another plan is just by having his robots range further out, and he's occasionally using Mechanoid designs as camouflage- but wouldn't those draw more attention? Well, most wouldn't know what they were anyway, I suppose. But if anyone did, that'd be a problem. He has a scheme to try and distract or sabotage Atlantis by creating a false-flag Mechanoid attack, since that will likely throw the Kittani (technological brainiape citizens of Atlantis) into a panic. After all, the Kittani's home planet was destroyed by the Mechanoids. Given Archie wants revenge on the Splugorth for killing or enslaving his human followers in this past (incidentally, they don't even know about Archie), this seems likely to come up sooner or later.

The Titan Robotics Complex

Located in "the small city-state of New Cedarville in the Manistique Imperium", the Titan Robotics Complex is their main retail outlet and public face of Titan Robotics. Dwarfing the town it's located next to, Titan robots and fake Juicers and Borgs (actually robots) maintain security. They mainly deal in credits, but will take barter for rare technology and magic - though they tend not to give much for magic goods. If parts or weapons from Archie's robots are brought for barter, they're refused and then Archie sends robots to kill the would-be customer(s). Wouldn't it be easier to get them off the market by buying them, then murder the customer? Well, Archie has always been clever mainly when the plot needs him to be.

We get a lot of details on the building and their sales pitch, but it's what you'd expect from paranoid robot conspirators. New Cedarville is becoming a boomtown based on Titan being represent, and is struggling to deal with accommodating wealthy or professional visitors, along with an accompanying rise in crime.

Key Personnel and Management

"So this character looks like DeCaprio-" "I drew Leno, is that close enough?" "- what? God damn it-"

There are two NPCs listed here. The first is Argent Goodson, a sentient android created by Archie to be the public face of Titan Robotics. His name is deliberately unsubtle (Archie's Agent, and a Good Son, also Argent = silver).

The Rifter #4 posted:

If Hagan was not aware of Archie's lack of imagination before the name hunting began, he is well aware of it now.

Archie hired outside teachers to give him insight on the world, and after years and reflecting on the seemingly chaotic state of the world and the fractious nature of humanity, he slew his human teachers with a plasma rifle before declaring his loyalty to Archie. Has really high stats and ridiculously high skills, but doesn't have much in the way of special internal functions like sensors or weapons - he's designed to simulate a human and not deviate from that. Apparently he was designed to look like "some pre-Rifts actor best known for a disaster film of the late 20th century which he performed in during his youth" - which narrows it down to Leonardo DiCaprio, given "The name is lost among Archie's vast files, but he believes it was Italian."

Roundhouse Eyebrow Raise inflicts 1d4 S.D.C.

Formerly having taken on the form of a woman named Raven McCoy, Desmond Masters is a changeling "mind melter" who betrayed Hagan Lonovich (Archie's right-hand human partner) in the past. Hagan has apparently hoped to gain revenge on her for years, but never knew she was a changeling. How having taken on a male form, he lost all of his worldly possessions in a game of poker with a mysterious but seemingly magical opponent, as well as his ability to gamble. When he found he then would magically lose at any gamble he put his hand to, he sought to find work with nearby Titan Robotics by happenstance. Running into Argent Goodson, he got a psychic feeling of familiarity, and Argent also sensed something odd. Argent hired him on the spot, and ever since then, Desmond has been trying to find out more about his employer. If he finds out about Hagan or Archie, he's likely to try and find a way to cut in on Hagan's action- though it could ultimately result in his death.

"Huh? It's a navel gun, not a penis gun... I think..."

The Titan Series of Robots

The commerical Titan robots created by Archie (originally appearing in the core rules and in Rifts Sourcebook_ get an expanded product line here, of course. It notes that the commerical robots he sells use a lower level of technology and quality than he's capable of as to not arouse suspicion or have his more useful technology leak out.
Dear Marvel: please do not sue.

Next: Robots in disguise.

"To the public, the name is a selling gimmick made to imply power and size."

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

The Rifter Rifts Round-Up Special '98: "To the public, the name is a selling gimmick made to imply power and size."

"We take shoplifting very seriously."

Cyberworks Secret Security Bots

Because Archie is driven to make his robots "superior" to humans, he ran into a condundrum when making security forces disguised as humans. His solution is to disguise them as juicers and cyborgs, so that they can run around leaping over buildings and lifting cars without attracting unusual. Because he's a bit face-blind, he relied on Hagan to provide designs for human faces. And so some look like people Hagan has encountered; it does have a cute note that if he's encountered the player characters, one of them might run into a familiar looking faux-juicer at the Titan facility.

The Juicer Bot (295 M.D.C. is really tough and stupid fast, to the point it gets an automatic dodge, but it runs into the fact that it uses traditional juicer weapons - i.e. the juicer rifle and vibro-blades - and both are really crap. It has a self-destruct mechanism that just fuses the interior and makes it useless, as well as activating a radio beacon for other Archie robots to do pickup.

The Borg Bot (700 M.D.C.), on the other hand, is crazy tough. While this matches the existing overblown M.D.C. of cyborgs, it also raises the question - why doesn't Archie make his other robots this tough? It has a variety of dinky weapons, the only one it really needs to use is a powerful particle beam blaster in its forearm. Like the juicer, it's also designed to self-destruct to foil its technology being examined.

New Cyberworks Weapons

The '90s, now in gun form!

We also get a new stack of weapons used by Archie's robots (though not the Titan robots) using Mechanoid technology. They use a proprietary e-clip technology that would need work to duplicate, so those looted by player characters in theory only have shots until they run out. The Arch-25 Particle Beam Cannon and Arch-26 Plasma Rifle both do pretty good damage, while the Arch-27 Ion Pistol does middling damage, but it's better than usual for a pistol.

New Weapons From Other Manufacturers

For no readily apparent reason, this article regarding Archie, Cyberworks, and Titan Robotics switches to a listing of new Northern Gun (corebook), Triax (Rifts Sourcebook and Rifts World Book 5: Triax & the NGR), and Chipwell (Rifts Mercenaries) weapons with no preamble.

Best Gun.

For Northern Gun, we get the NG-SL20 Sniper Laser Rifle, which does bad damage when firing either is laser or ion blast functions. Why do sniper rifles do crap damage in this game, anyway? There's a NG-R5 Mini Rail Gun, which is the "smallest rail gun on the market" but still has a minimum strength requirement. Also, it does awful damage too. Conversely, the NG-E15 Pulse Plasma Ejector completely justifies its strength requirement, being able to do plasma bursts more powerful than most rail guns and immediately standing out as one of the best hand-held weapons in the game. The NG-G10 Grenade Launcher is decent, which is weird given that grenades are usually hilariously low damage, able to fire grenades on par with a rail gun or mini-missile.

I'm sure from the front it looks like a tire with a gun sticking out of it.

Triax also gets an awful sniper rifle, the TX-SL12 Sharpshooter Laser Rifle. They also have the TX-75 Grenade Launcher, which is practically identical to the Northern Gun one above.

Hot steppin'.

Chipwell Armaments gets two new power armor suits. The CAI-50V Vampire Combat Armor (120 M.D.C.) is a low-quality, weak power armor on its own, but its ability to fire water and its wooden claws make it actually a pretty decent answer to your average vampire. Presumably it has a cross based on the art, and the text says it has "small searchlights" but neither the art or the statblock show them. The CAI-75 Sky Flyer (140 M.D.C.) is "a crash site waiting to happen", and is mainly intended as air support against troops with small arms. It's apparently found a secondary market with couriers, though, who appreciate the low price for a flight-capable suit.


Whew! That's that. I don't have any deep insights this time - I think Sumimoto's writing is a bit of a step up, and wish he got to stick around longer on the line. It at least follows pretty well from previous material and gives an relatively logical update to the status quo. I'm not sure this all gets remembered - I could have sworn it gets reprinted in some book, but I couldn't find any such thing as of the time of this printing. Of course, it has some issue, but this is Palladium. A curve has been established.

For the most part, The Rifter won't have too much of an impact on the core line - it's always weird to have a company essentially disown what it publishes, but that's true for most of what's going on here. There's stuff I wish I had the time to cover more, like the Techno-Wizard stuff (a decent addition with fantastic art), but we just don't have the time. World Books await.

And that's a wrap.