I wanted to wait until I had a chance to play the game before I rated it. Now that my gaming group has six sessions under their belt, I figured it was a good time to chime in. I too played Rifts in the 90's and a bit after. I have a wall full of books that I just love. However, I've not really played much in the last 15-20 years simply because I couldn't get past the power creep and I couldn't find a group that wanted to deal with some of the older-style rules. No more! This has become a favorite of my group and they've already forgotten the last campaign we left so we could try out Savage Rifts. This book kicks it all off and in great fashion. I'll do my best to summarize what you get with this book.
Chapter One Characters: The creating of a character is slick and easy. The inevitable support from Hero Labs and similar is likely coming and will turn a half hour process (once you know what you're doing) to about 10 minutes. They have it all from the Classic Core Book and a few different takes to keep it interesting. Iconic Frameworks (think classes) are introduced and help to guide your character creation. Juicers, MOM’s, Cyber-Knights, Ley Line Walkers, etc., still feel like the classes that you hoped you were making. Some classes are more powerful at certain times than others, but not obnoxiously so. My group likes that the Scholar and City Rat can still be viable on the battlefield without becoming a red mist on the first stray shot. The races make sense and easily meld with the classes.
Chapter Two Gear: As has been mentioned in other reviews, they took the MDC concept and used their Heavy Weapons/Armor rules. This has been a boon as instant death isn’t your first worry. Sure, a hard hit and terrible rolls can happen, but not so much. Going from wearing your MDC suit of personal armor to an instant death penetration isn’t as fearful now. The gear is a pretty good mix of old and new equipment and the explanation and use of Techo-Wizard items fits pretty logically. Power Armor is treated exactly as its name implies; heavier, stronger, faster, and more powerful versions of body armor. Robots and Vehicles share their own realm of being separate from the pilot and passengers; just like you’d expect logically. Cybernetics feel like meaningful improvements to the human/D-Bee body and share similar Strain and cost rules as enjoyed in the well-loved Sci-Fi Companion. Rules are introduced to convert most gear to Techno-Wizardry if desired.
Chapter Three Psionics and Magic: This section will look very familiar to those already comfortable with Savage Worlds. A few extra powers and then Mega Power equivalents for most standard powers are found within. This allows for fantastic feats to be accomplished via magic/psionics. Utility powers are limited, similar to what is found in other Savage Worlds products. Most of the powers are combat related and a couple of them don’t translate very well. Summon Ally (Force Multiplication), for example, doesn’t translate as well as could be hoped. You’re in a gonzo, over-the-top battlefield and still summoning the exact same lower power allies you would in any other standard setting. The Zombie Power isn’t even listed and seems to be reserved for the bad guys. That’s too bad as your gaming group will likely be made up of Feral Dog-Boys, morally naïve Dragon Hatchlings, power-driven Mind Melters, psychotic Crazies, drug-dependent Juicers, and thieving City Rats. But heroes don’t summon supernatural allies or raise zombies?
Chapter Four Setting Rules: This chapter does a great job of explaining how to deal with death. Death & Defeat (a chart similar to the Super Powers Companion Defeat Table), Extra Effort (another way to use Bennies), and Technical Difficulties are introduced. These are all loved by our gaming group and keep some of the “feel” of the original Rifts games we played years ago.
Chapter Five Rifts Earth: This chapter takes a few pages to explain the world, the history, and some of the players from around the globe. It takes an extra bit of time explaining North America and Castle Refuge.
Chapter Six The Hero’s Journey: Here we find options and charts to get your players hooked into the main story. It also helps characters start off with things different than each other so that two of the same Iconic Frameworks won’t usually start the same. Twelve new charts using the d20 for randomness help to round out or advantage your characters in hundreds of different ways. It really helps speed along the character creation instead of going through 35+ skills like we used to have to do in the old days with almost everyone taking the Physical Skills only for the clear advantages that they gave.
I’m in love with Rifts once more. Pinnacle has done what I thought was impossible and melded their system to one of the most challenging yet well-loved settings of all time. If you like fantasy and magic, Savage Rifts might be fore you. If you like high-tech and cybernetics, Savage Rifts might be for you. If you like psionics and mutations, Savage Rifts might still be for you. If you like to play in a future where anything is possible and anything can be found yet do so in a balanced, entertaining, and easily played way, you would do well to check out Savage Rifts.