kevin siembieda: 86% statistical

Recently, I’ve been re-reading some of the Rifts sourcebooks. Partly it’s just for nostalgic reasons: I only ever played the Palladium games long, long ago, maybe in middle school. It’s also to look at some of the more interesting ideas that Rifts had to offer. This can be challenging, since so much of Rifts is just serious twink-fodder. It reminds me of a lot of long-running comics: the authors have to keep struggling to make their characters even cooler than they were last year, so you end up with Cyclops sinking every ball on a pool table with one blast to the cue, Superman turning back time, and Batman beating God at hide and seek.

The thing that’s really started to jump out at me, though, is the obsession with useless statistics in the Rifts books. In the Chi-Town ‘burbs, 3-6% of the population are “high on the hog.” Most (90%) of the residents accept the legal “nonentity” status of the ‘burbs. Eastwood is 72% human, 3.5% D-Bee. the Coalition’s level of technology (in general) would be dramatically reduced (at least 33%) without Lone Star.

At least 33%? I don’t really understand how all these statistics are supposed to help create a realistic game world. Verisimilitude comes from details that can be internalized; I don’t think all these numbers help. They’re more distracting than phrases like “the vast majority” or “a tiny minority” or even just “dramatically reduced.”

I think this is all just a symptom of Rifts’ (and Palladium’s) stat-o-centricity. The numbers are all so fine-grained, and the ranges are so vast, that it can be really overwhelming. What’s worse is that Palladium seems to want you to mix and match their game products; they aren’t concerned about making sure you’ve got a consistent game world, so go ahead and have the ninja turtles show up on Phase World, Center of the Multiverse. It’s all good! The other day, I was talking about what well-known storyline would be fun to adapt for a fixed-length television series – yeah, I admit it, I wanted to “reimagine” something. I think if I was going to reimagine another game world, it would be Rifts. It’s got lots of good ideas, including some really memorable specifics, and mostly it’s the implementation that frustrates me.

I wonder if, somewhere out there, someone would find my re-imagining anywhere near as obnoxious as I have found the various new Transformers stories. Probably. I’m sticking to my guns, though: all new Transformers stuff sucks, but my New Rifts will be awesome.

Written on September 22, 2006
games   rifts   rpg