Wednesday, February 1, 2012

This Island Earth

In my last post, I mentioned one of the things that really turned me off about the default Rifts setting. Namely, the prevalence of the Coalition. On the one hand, it does mean that your money is good wherever you go in the world, because everyone wants to do business with the Coalition. On the other hand, in this war-torn post-apocalyptic world, how are they able to establish and maintain the economic links that allow this to be practical?

But that's not the only thing that bothers me. Here are a few more.

It doesn't matter that it's Earth: Not only is the setting Earth after an apocalypse, but Earth having experienced a Golden Age of technological advancement and then an apocalypse. Which makes the main reason to insist that it's somehow the Earth we all know and love is so that they don't have to come up with a new map (Much like many fantasy heartbreakers included settings that were redrawn maps of medieval Europe). While earlier material left some room for Gamma World-style "relics of the present", the focus rather quickly switched to stuff from the rifts and advanced military technologies. Finding a reference to "Old Earth" these days becomes more of a Planet of the Apes-type reveal ("Everything's so different, but it was Earth all along!)

It also saves on that pesky little thing called "research." Because Rifts England doesn't care about whether or not Buckingham Palace or Big Ben survived the apocalypse. It just recreates Arthurian myth with an MDC veneer. How is this new King Arthur related to the existing royal family? There's no extrapolation of the modern world, just whole cloth fabrications justified by the rifts and the Rule of Cool.

It Comes From The Factory: We all know that our cheeseburger used to be part of a cow, and that our paper was once a tree. But with many other manufactured goods, we follow its origins back to the factory and stop there. And the way that manufacturing is discussed in the setting material, I wonder if KS actually believes that things work that way. There is much talk of factories and manufacturing techniques, but incredibly little on resource gathering.

With all of the advanced technology in the setting, it is conceivable that raw materials could be created from thin air in a process similar to how a Star Trek replicator causes food to materialize. But it's never mentioned, or even implied.

And resource gathering adds so much story potential. Rather than attacking an enemies' fortified bunkers or munitions plants, why not attack their supplies of raw materials? Can Free Quebec keep manufacturing Glitter Boys without the materials to make their special, laser-resistant alloys?

Here's my current plan to address those issues in my own setting design.

My initial setting will be a world colonized by Earth and one or more of the other galactic powers (the elves and dwarves and such). Since it's not Earth, no one can be particularly upset with me if I don't mention or include certain details or if I just make stuff up. And because the world is a fairly recent colony, it's easy to justify a fairly high level of economic unification. Even the hermit who hasn't spoke to anyone in 10 years and eats bark was on one of a fairly small number of colony ships and wandered away from one of the few settlement sites on the planet.

It allows for the world to be largely uncivilized, but with fairly advanced humans (and other races), just like Rifts Earth.

And once I'm done exploring that world, there are other worlds in the universe to explore. Maybe explore something more civilized, or with a different mix of races (an elven world where dwarves are forbidden and humans are begrudged a small embassy).


  1. Great point about the resource gathering, or lack thereof.

    As for Earth and high technology, I'd actually argue that that's one of the things the later Rifts supplements get right. A 300 year Dark Age, with humanity holed up in isolated enclaves, would leave virtually no evidence of buildings, roads, or other works of man out in the new wilderness. And prior to the Apocalypse, there was a century of high tech development, so it only makes sense that what remains would trend in that direction.

    If anything, the early Rifts books didn't emphasize these aspects enough, trending in a Mad Max-style post-apocalypse vibe with 80s-vintage cars somehow still sitting around and most "pre-Rifts artifacts" mysteriously dating from the late 20th century. Because I like those elements, that's why my own take on Rifts dialed things back with the Apocalypse happening in 2012 and the Dark Ages lasting only 100 years. But with the timeline/setting as written? A prevalence of high technology and well-known landmarks being confined to the occasional Planet of the Apes-style reveal makes perfect sense.

  2. I get the feeling that the books were not written by asking the question "Considering that there's been a Golden Age of Technology and a magic fueled apocalypse, what would have happened in this region?" but instead "Since all the stuff that happened here before doesn't really matter, what cool stuff can we put in this region?"

    And don't forget, Planet of the Apes was the Sixth Sense of its day in terms of twist endings.