Rifts

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A Tabletop Role-Playing Game with a combination of Cyberpunk and Dungeon Punk set After the End and dialed Up to Eleven. Published by Palladium Books.

The planet Earth is ravaged in the late twenty-first century when a... small nuclear war sets off a magical cataclysm that wipes civilization off the face of the earth. As mankind climbs his way from the brink of extinction, he finds that he now shares the world with Elves, Dwarves, Dragons and even stranger alien beings from across dimensions. Many of the ancient gods walk the earth once more, and horrifying demonic and alien beings have staked their own claims on the planet, and many plot to take even bigger pieces of the pie.

In order to protect itself, mankind has taken back the secrets of magic, salvaged and re-discovered past technologies, and slowly rebuilt civilizations all over the world. However, even with monsters, demons, vampires and alien invaders to deal with, Mankind is still his own worst enemy.

Rifts is considered by many to have both a compelling setting, as well as spectacular artwork. Well over forty World Books and Dimension Books cover nearly every continent (except Antarctica), even going as far into space and other dimensions. It is, however, hampered by a reliance on the Palladium System, a Tabletop Game system reputed to be legendary for its clumsiness and player-unfriendliness. In spite of this, many gamers continue to purchase the books, converting the stats to another engine (such as GURPS), plunder ideas for other games, or simply read about the setting and admire the artwork. All this has earned Rifts the title of "the most popular RPG that nobody actually plays" in many fan circles.

Not to be confused with the MMORPG Rift.


Tropes used in Rifts include:
  • Affably Evil: The Splugorth. They're Corrupt Merchant Princes, after all, and anyone's welcome (for certain values of "welcome") in Atlantis if they're there to do business.
    • Dr. Desmond Bradford, head of the Lone Star complex. When showing an inspector around the complex, he presents himself as gregarious and gently chiding, laughing and slipping the investigator sly winks. However, the investigator describes Bradford's smile as being like a shark's, and considers him to be dangerous, amoral, and deranged.
    • Likewise Naruni Enterprises, depending on how the GM plays them.
  • After the End: The calendar system used in most of North America is the "P.A." calendar. That's "Post Apocalypse."
    • The main storyline for Rifts takes place a few centuries after After the End, when things have calmed down a bit, relatively speaking. The Chaos Earth game (considered both a Sourcebook and a stand-alone RPG) takes place right After the End.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Archie-3. It (he?) was an advanced experimental A.I. developed during the Time of Man, who was designed to come up with advanced robot and weapon designs for the U.S. Military. To keep him busy when he wasn't doing that, they also put him in charge of the base itself, managing the computer systems and factories. Then the Rifts came. He spent the next few centuries alone, save for brief periods when he tried to help small groups of humans rise from the barbarism the Rifts had thrown them into. As a result of this, Archie is now completely insane, and dedicated to ruling all humanity.
    • To be fair, ARCHIE was implied as functioning well before the War, and his current state of mind is a result of having been through enough trauma that the average human being would have lost the mental acuity to use language or wear pants by now.
  • All Just a Dream / Dream Within a Dream: The short story in the fourth Siege On Tolkeen Sourcebook.
  • Alternative Calendar: When the Mega-City/arcology Chi-Town was established, it created the Post-Apocalyptic (P.A.) calendar, which was eventually adopted by the other civilizations in North America. 1 P.A. was the year of the founding of Chi-Town. the original Main Book was set in the year 101 P.A, and the sourcebooks which came after moved the timeline along to 105 P.A, which marked the beginning of the Siege on Tolkeen. The current year as of the Ultimate Edition Main Book is 109 P.A, which in the Gregorian Calendar is 2395 A.D.
  • And Man Grew Proud: Averted for the most part. The Coalition's official line is that magic itself is to blame for the Coming of the Rifts, and that Earth had been an idyllic paradise before that. The more scholarly types have no idea how the Great Cataclysm occurred, but the few remaining primary sources from that time suggest that humans were starting to war with each other again right before the Cataclysm. The uneducated majority have no real opinions; as far as most know, Earth was always the way it is now.
  • Apocalypse How: The Coming of the Rifts is a Societal Collapse that came very close to being a Species Extinction.
    • Back in Earth's prehistory, Atlantis suffered a sort of Regional Metaphysical Annihilation. The backfiring Altantean magical experiments caused it to be shunted into a pocket dimension, and remained there in a kind of stasis until the Coming of the Rifts brought it back to Earth.
  • Atlantis: Played straight with the lost continent's original inhabitants, and subverted by the new residents.
  • Armour Is Useless: Averted painfully hard; you are probably useless without armor, what with all the Mega-Damage weapons that people in the setting use.
    • Even races with natural MDC bodies will want to wear armor, as most D-Bee races available as player characters heal slowly, and Healing Magic is thin on the ground.
  • The Atoner: Many Atlanteans see themselves as this. The horrors they accidentally unleashed on the Earth in prehistoric times left them so filled with shame that they left the planet. They became, with a few rare exceptions, nomads wandering the Megaverse. Many receive magic tattoos to turn themselves into monster hunters, in an attempt to make up for their past crimes.
    • The final book in the Siege On Tolkeen series gives GMs several options for how to handle the fallout of the war. In one of them, King Creed survives the fall of Tolkeen, after having endured a major My God, What Have I Done? moment, and becomes The Atoner.
  • Author Filibuster: KS is infamous for going off on random tangents on roleplaying philosophy, ethics, playtest games, and how he thinks RPGs should be played/run; these usually take up a few pages per book.
    • He even made a point to sprinkle them throughout the Ultimate Edition as "editor's notes," which he compared to a DVD commentary track.
  • Badass Bookworm: The Rogue Scientist and the Rogue Scholar O.C.C.s. The book makes sure to mention under each class that while these guys are mostly concerned with discovering/reclaiming lost knowledge, they can handle themselves in a fight (in a world like Rifts Earth, they'd be incredibly stupid not to). Also the Coalition RCSG Scientist, but since they're trained soldiers, it's to be expected that they know how to fight.
    • It should be noted that the one person the Coalition hates and fears above all others is a seventy-year-old historian who has faced down The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in her quest for knowledge and the truth.
      • It should also be noted that she's gone through a lot of bodyguards.
  • Badass Cape: If the artwork is any indication, these have come back into fashion in a big way.
  • Badass Longcoat: Rifts Chaos Earth has an Armored Trenchcoat availible as armor.
    • May also be Gas Mask Longcoat if the player choose the optional helmet.
    • A similar coat is an option for people who buy Triax. However, one could also order the same fabric as formal wear.
    • New West has another one.
  • Bee People: The Metzla and Xixticix, among others.
  • Benevolent Precursors: In the Three Galaxies setting, there was a race known only as The First. Their only lasting legacy is the Cosmic Forge, a mysterious artifact/entity responsible for creating the Cosmo-Knights.
  • BFG: Pick a weapon. You can probably chew through an M1 Abrams with it in a clip. Bonus points to Glitterboy Boom Guns and things that can't be mounted except on Humongous Mecha.
  • BFS: Usually even the Powered Armor has swords that are reasonable-sized. But if you want to with a properly enhanced character, or just one that could anyways, you can be waving around the eight-foot-long vibrosword or psi sword of doom.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Twice during the end of the Siege on Tolkeen. Free Quebec was approached by Tolkeen with an offer of mutual aid against the Coalition. The plan was for Tolkeen and Free Quebec to hit the Coalition Army threatening Free Quebec on both sides, crushing them in a pincer attack. However, Free Quebec was so outraged by the Sorcerer's Revenge that they instead helped the Coalition Army destroy the Tolkeen force. Emperor Prosek was so impressed by the Quebecois' valor that he immediately called off all hostilities against their human neighbors (or at least, the attack gave him an opportunity to bow out of the unpopular war gracefully). An even bigger Big Damn Heroes moment occurred during the Final Siege against Tolkeen itself. The Coalition Army, who were about to get bushwacked by Tolkeen sorcerers waiting for the Solstice to power up their magic, were rescued by a force of soldiers lead by General Jericho Holmes, who had marched into Xiticix territory and had been presumed dead months earlier. Holmes is credited for almost single-handedly winning the war.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: The game is typically better about weaponizing this sort of thing then most...that is the province of Bizarre Supernatural Biology.
  • Black and Grey Morality: One of the major themes of the Siege on Tolkeen books. The Coalition is clearly cruel, evil, and oppressive, but Tolkeen is hardly a shining beacon of virtue during the war. Final Siege makes it clear that things have gone totally bad and we're down to utter Black and Black Morality on both sides.
  • Brain In a Jar: Full Conversion Cyborgs basically have their entire body except the brain and spinal column replaced by machinery.
  • But What About the Astronauts?: Mutants In Orbit. Earth had several populated satellites and even colonies on the Moon and Mars at the time of the Coming of the Rifts. They survived, and are trying to cope with the fact the only really habitable planet in the Solar System has turned into a house of freaks. Mars was marginally terraformed, but thanks to a Mad Scientist, it's now overrun with mutant Bee People.
  • Camp: Psychic Cowboys on Giant Bugs? Juicer Ninjas? Dragons with Frickin' Laser Beams? Maybe a little...
  • Canada, Eh?: Mentions have been made here and there of what's going on in Canada ever since the first book (unsuprising since most of the books are about North America). Calgary is the site of a permanently open Rift, and many D-Bee and monster races prevalent in North America are assumed to have come from there. The Coaltion State of Iron Heart, as well as [1] Free Quebec are in Canada, as is the city-state of Lazlo, the adopted home of Erin Tarn. World Book 20 was dedicated solely to Canada, and revealed among other things that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police still exist in the form of a group called the Tundra Rangers. Certain Canadian legends, such as the loup garou and Ogopogo, are also given stats out in the book.
  • Canon Immigrant: Given the nature of the Megaverse, this is to be expected, including the Cyber-Knight tradition being founded by someone from Kevin's playtest Palladium Fantasy game. However, the biggest case of immigration is when an entirely separate game line, The Mechanoids, was folded over to create a new villain race for Rifts.
  • Can't Get Away With Nothing: The ridiculous amount of power Cosmo-Knights have is somewhat balanced by the fact that they are governed by a very rigid code of ethics. Step out of line even once, and the Cosmo-Knight can see most of his fantastic power stripped from him, usually forever. And since the code was instituted by a nearly omniscient force, it's pretty much impossible to avoid getting caught.
  • Casual Interstellar Travel: Averted for the most part in the main setting, where humans hadn't even reached the outer planets before the Coming of the Rifts. Played completely straight in the Three Galaxies setting, where characters can travel casually between galaxies. Though in this case, it's because the eponymous three galaxies are unusually close to each other.
  • Chainsaw Good: The WI-C8 Close Combat Weapon System; AKA the Juicer Chainsaw. It is a weapon modeled on the chainsaw, with teeth filed to a near mono-molecular edge. It gets its nickname from the fact that it is very popular among Juicers; both because it fits with their macho image, and because it's too heavy and cumbersome for normal humans to wield effectively. It proved so popular that the Kitani (a slave race of the Splugorth) created their own plasma variant.
  • Character Alignment: Unlike Dungeons & Dragons, the Palladium system ignores "neutral" alignments and instead uses three groups: Good alignments (Principled, Scrupulous) Selfish alignments (Unprincipled, Anarchist) and Evil alignments (Aberrant, Miscreant, and Diabolic). The "neutral avoidance" rather fails when you realize that's what Selfish basically is.
    • Siembieda has gone on record stating that he doesn't like neutral alignments because anyone who is truly "neutral" wouldn't do anything interesting, like go out adventuring.
  • Chunky Salsa Rule: Human, or any other SDC-scale creature, gets hit by a Mega-Damage weapon in the torso or head. That's it. You're done. Don't even bother with a damage roll, you're Deader Than Dead with even a single point. Roll up another character. Anywhere else? Hope your party members manage the emergency field surgery roll to save your life and start thinking about cybernetics.
    • For the uninitiated, SDC is "Structural Damage Capacity", which contrasts to MD, or "Mega Damage". 1 point of mega damage is 100 points of standard damage, or two orders of magnitude, used to represent structures (like armored vehicles and concrete bunkers) which are immune to most forms of conventional attack. In Rifts, however, if you're not MD, you're not trying: MD armor and weaponry is pretty much everywhere.
      • Averted in only a few cases, like beings with MDC bodies or those with tremendous amounts of SDC (like the Titan Juicer, who can have the equivalent of a few MDC points). The latter won't survive more than one or two MDC attacks, but its more than most characters can hope for. There's also the Promethean race from the Three Galaxies setting, their bodies are naturally out of phase and MDC attacks are converted to SDC.
  • Cool Car: And Cool Motorcycle, Cool Plane, Cool Airship, Cool Ship, Cool Spaceship, Cool Mecha, Cool Hovercraft, Cool Magical Flying Thingie...let's just say Cool Vehicles in general.
    • The Icarus Flight System, its Coalition equivalent, and some Techno-Wizard vehicles manage to go Up to Eleven by creating what are essentially Cool Hang Gliders.
  • Cool Horse
    • Hellish Horse: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, naturally. Though the one Pestilence rides is basically a giant beetle.
    • Horse of a Different Color: Giant bugs, bears, dinosaurs, and even stranger.
    • Mechanical Horse: With machine-guns in its nostrils as a common option.
    • Sapient Steed: Megasteeds from Mystic Russia are this. The description even says they can be player characters, if the GM allows it.
  • Cool Old Lady: Erin Tarn; adventurer/historian, a champion of the downtrodden, and Coalition Enemy Number One. She's also in her seventies by 109 P.A. In a World where most people don't live past 40, she's doing pretty well for herself.
  • Cthulhumanoid: The Naut'Yll
    • As well as the Krak, as evidenced by their name.
  • Competitive Balance: Deliberately averted; KS sees no reason to balance classes against each other. Instead, it's the GM's job to decide what classes and equipment are available in his campaign (though the extreme powerhouse races are often not given stats for use as PCs).
    • Siembieda's stance on the matter is that Game Balance is a matter of Equality of Opportunity. Each member of the party should be given a chance to shine during the game.
  • Covers Always Lie: The monster featured on the cover of the original edition of the Rifts main book gets no description anywhere in the book. It's not given stats until the Rifts Sourcebook, which was the second book to come out and was in large part composed of stuff they couldn't fit into the Main Book. For those of you wondering, it's a Splugorth Slaver, and the hot Stripperific chicks with him are Altara Blind Warrior Women.
    • To compound the lie, the demonic skulls floating around the Slaver are supposed to be magical floating eyeballs, according to the Slaver's stats.
  • Crapsack World: From the supernatural or just obscenely tough new predators, the literal demons, the only large society that can protect you from them with certainty is The Empire, cross-country travel is obscenely dangerous, to the mentality in some places that maturity is reached when you can handle an energy rifle, Rifts Earth is not a nice place to live.
    • And that's not counting China, a large portion of which has been merged with their version of Hell.
    • Actually, that's just North America. Most other places in the world are worse (some are arguably a bit better).
    • And in case the world doesn't seem crappy enough, there's places like Madhaven (the ruins of Manhattan Island). Miles upon miles of shattered buildings populated by barbaric Nightmare Fuel mutants, the place is so full of ghosts that psychics are driven insane within hours and anyone else is unlikely to be much better off.
  • Creative Sterility: Archie-3. For all that it's the most advanced A.I. created by Mankind, and can tweak any design it gets its hands on, it lacks the ability to come up with designs on its own. As a result Archie has to rely on Hagan Lonovich, a Puny Earthling who sits around thinking up new robot designs for Archie to work on.
  • Creator Provincialism: The main thrust of the action of the game, at least for the first several years, was centered around central North America (particularly the Midwestern United States and southern Canada). Not coincidentally, Palladium Books operates out of a suburb of Detroit, Michigan. Subverted later in that there are now supplements with interesting stuff going on in EVERY region of the world, in outer space and in many other dimensions.
    • Interestingly enough, Detroit itself is barely ever mentioned, save that it is in ruins and even more unsafe for human habitation than most other places (insert joke about "so what's changed?" here).
  • Crippling Overspecialization: For all the flak Glitter Boys get for being broken, they have weaknesses inherent in their design that can be exploited by savvy players/GMs. While they have tons of armor and a gun that can kill lightly armored opponents in one hit, they're very slow, to the point that they're forced to remain stationary while attacking. Also, for all the power of the Boom Gun, it's the only weapon they have. Take it out, and they're pretty much useless in a fight (their punches and kicks do less damage than most handguns). The Free Quebec Sourcebook and a couple other books tried to address this by creating variant Glitter Boy models which serve various functions, but most remain heavy support units, designed primarily to be used in large-unit maneuvers.
  • Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: Subverted. It's a human failing, rather than any quality of the cyberware.
    • To elaborate, bionic augmentation (especially full conversion; see Brain In a Jar above) tends to have a dehumanizing effect on the recipient, making him feel removed from humanity. Especially if one is a slave who was converted into a 'Borg against his will. Rather poignantly, it's mentioned that unlike other senses which can be cybernetically boosted, bionics can't fully replicate tactile senses; touch is reduced to about 10-15% in a full-conversion 'Borg. If this sounds like a negligible drawback, read up on people in real life who have no sense of touch.
    • Except for the cybernetic brain enhancements that "Crazies" receive...
      • More elaboration. Crazies receive Mind Over Matter (or M.O.M.) implants which boost the central nervous system and give the recipient greatly enhanced speed, reflexes, and strength (though not quite as much as a Juicer gets). It even grants him with minor psionic abilities. Unfortunately, the implants also wear down the mental stability of the recipient, hence the nickname "Crazies" (a less common nickname is "Momma's Boys," in reference to the M.O.M. implants, but it would be unwise to call a Crazy that to his face). Every level after the first, a Crazy character has to roll for a random insanity, ranging from phobias to obsessions to all other manner of mental malady.
      • And those bolts in their head? Well, the M.O.M. implants are the size of pinheads - but Crazies want to be noticed.
  • Cyborg: Runs the full gamut in Rifts. Any character who isn't psychic or magic can get cybernetic or bionic implants,[2] but the character isn't considered a 'Borg until at least 20% of his meat body has been replaced. They are generally divided into two categories: partial conversion and full conversion. Partial conversion 'Borgs will have at least two, or possibly all four, limbs replaced with bionic equivalents. Full conversion 'Borgs also have their torsos replaced. Some even go so far as to be almost fully mechanical, with only the brain and possibly the tongue and/or face replaced with metal.
  • Days of Future Past: New West setting, China, the New Empire of Japan, England.
  • Deadly Upgrade: Juicers gain Captain America (comics) level strength, speed and reflexes, in exchange for only being able to survive up to 7 years. Be honest, how many characters (or games) survive for seven years anyway?
    • Taken Up to Eleven in the Juicer Uprising expansion, where variants can give you psychic powers or make you effectively a human tank.
      • Splynn Dimensional Market, the second book covering Atlantis, has a special type of slave that's been modified with alien parasites and magical grafts to become a Bio-Borg. The "Burn-Out" variety is designed for performing a single mission. The enhancements reduce their life expectancy to less than a week.
  • Decade Dissonance: Usually, Schizo-Tech realistically pervades most areas that aren't actually modernized (the New West village has cowboys with lasers), but this trope is in full force in Japan. The New Empire is actively technophobic, while the Republic of Japan and Ichto are the most technologically-advanced region on Earth (their publically-available technology is ahead of the Coalition's black projects) and are generally nonmagical as a society.
  • Defector From Decadence: Free Quebec split from the Coalition for this reason. Notably, Free Quebec is not more tolerant of nonhumans and is, in fact, far more hard-line on psychics than the Coalition. They disagree with Prosek in supporting literacy, education, and theoretical freedom of speech. (This doesn't mean that they like free-thinkers any more than the Coalition, but they rely on informal peer pressure rather than government censorship, and entrenched bureaucracy and oligarchy rather than open dictatorship.)
    • Many Dead Boys who discover that the Coalition has been lying to them about magic and nonhumans flee their comfortable lives and join "the enemy."
  • Did Not Do the Research: The lasers in Rifts cauterize wounds.
    • Also see things such as the way nuclear generators work, or the physics of Boom Gun recoil.
    • Lasers also make noise, but this is Lampshaded and explained. They're naturally silent, but for marketing reasons and ease of use, everyone puts sound generators on them anyway. One passage in a book even describes how strange a shootout using silent lasers feels.
    • The original version of the first Sourcebook has a monster race in it called the Ostrosaurus. The description of the monster says "Despite the analogy to dinosaurs, the animal is not a lizard, but more like a featherless bird." Even at the time the book was written, most paleontologists were pretty sure that dinosaurs were actually avians, not lizards. The creatures are missing entirely from the Revised Sourcebook, probably due to them being reprinted in other books.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Owing to the nature of the setting, Rifts offers ample opportunity for Player Characters to do this. For instance, if the game is set in Africa, it's pretty much a given that the party will be fighting the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse at some point.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Walk into a fairy's territory without permission, and they just might make you dance until you drop dead.
  • Divided States of America: Actually happens everywhere, but the main focus of the game is the former United States and Canada.
  • Do Androids Dream?: The sourcebook makes a point of noting that full-conversion 'borgs still dream.
  • Earth All Along: The human members of the Megaversal Legion, victims of an Alien Abduction who were forced to become mercenary slaves, were quite surprised to discover the base they'd been using for years was in Bolivia, 300 years in the future.
  • Earth Is a Battlefield: Much of humanity is still engaged in a simple day-to-day struggle to survive against the things that came with the Coming of the Rifts; for at least a hundred or two hundred years after the Great Cataclysm, humanity as a whole literally fought to survive in a world gone insane.
  • Earth Is the Center of the Universe: Quite a few of them now.
    • And in a metaphysical sense, almost literal. The super-charged magical environment of Rifts Earth makes it a nexus/hub for supernatural beings of all stripes.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Alien Intelligences are a catchall category for this. Vampire Intelligences are a subtype. They cover a multitude of different races and levels of power, but none of them are the kind of thing you want to take on without a small nuclear arsenal handy.
    • Interestingly, despite the fact that they tend to look like Lovecraftian horrors, they're not all Omnicidal Maniacs. For instance, while the Splugorth look like giant eyeballs with mouthed tentacles sprouting out all over, and enjoy dominating and enslaving mortal races, they generally fit the Corrupt Corporate Executive model than Complete Monster.
  • Empathic Weapon: Rune Weapons; some power armor.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Say what you will about the Coalition, The Powers That Be do genuinely care for the rank and file humans under their care. Emperor Prosek has even gone so far as to forbid genetic engineering on humans (though this hasn't stopped Desmond Bradford, head of the Lone Star Complex, from experimenting on humans anyway).
    • It should be noted that Prosek is aware of some of Bradford's research, such as the life extension gene therapies that "privileged" citizens such as Emperor Prosek gets to use. Prosek's standards get a tad flexible the more he personally benefits from something. Granted, if Prosek knew about some of Bradford's experiments he'd kill him on the spot, but that's less because of moral outrage and more because of entirely pragmatic concerns about just how mad your pet Mad Scientist should be allowed to get.
  • The Empire: The Coalition States, among others; the Coalition is somewhat more benevolent towards its own citizens then normal for a case of The Empire, but its enforced illiteracy, foreign policy, and literally genocidal stance on magic/nonhumans places it squarely in the trope.
    • In the Three Galaxies setting, the Transgalactic Empire plays this trope completely straight.
  • Energy Beings: Elemental Embodiments are said to be this in their natural state.
    • Children of the Star, from Rifts England, can turn into these at will.
  • Energy Weapons: Gunpowder handheld projectile weapons just don't cut it and railguns are usually too large and heavy, so almost all handheld weapons are energy.
  • Enemy Mine: The Free Quebec Double-Cross. Tolkeen and Free Quebec were under attack by the Coalition, and the wizards of Tolkeen approached the magic-fearing technocrats of Free Quebec. They attempted to invoke this trope, pointing out that if Free Quebec attacked the Coalition forces from the front, while Tolkeen came in from behind, they could crush half the Coalition force in one fell swoop. Unfortunately, Free Quebec was horrified by the Sorcerer's Revenge. So they pretended to agree to the plan, but secretly planned to not get involved. However, when the forces of Tolkeen sent demons and monsters after the Coalition, they joined in on the Coalition's side.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: There is an entire race of sentient Evil Detecting Dogs who were specifically engineered to do so; regular dogs are capable of this as well)
  • Evil Is One Big Happy Family: Averted for the most part (especially since the Coalition will have nothing to do with supernatural horrors), but several areas, most notably Atlantis and the Phoenix Empire (in the Africa sourcebook), are friendly to "evil races" and unfriendly to "good races." The section on the Phoenix Empire in particular goes into several paragraphs about how their bureaucracy makes actual legal distinctions between good-guy races like humans and elves, and bad-guy races like orcs and most supernaturals.
    • The largest aversion is the Minion War, a series of books about the Demons of Hades going to war against the Deevils of Dyval.
    • Another recent subversion is the split between the Gargoyle and Brodkil Empires, which the New German Republic has ruthlessly exploited.
  • Evilutionary Biologist: Generally averted with the Gene Splicers: their experiments are normally one-of-a-kind, and rarely done to improve the subject. However, an early issue of The Rifter (a combination fanzine and non-canon Sourcebook) has "The Evolved," an experiment performed by a Gene Splicer where a race of beings was raised through five Evolutionary Levels, to see how the various incarnations would interact with each other.
  • Evil vs. Evil: The Minion Wars. Hades and Dyval, hellish dimensions populated by Demons and Deevals, respectively, start a war with each other that spills across several dimensions, including Rifts Earth and the Three Galaxies settings.
  • The Fair Folk: Zig-zagged. While there are some evil races that fall under the auspice of Fairy, most are more of the mischief-loving variety. Though they're loaded to the gills with powerful magic and are more than willing to use it to stop the Big People from bothering them. Due to Blue and Orange Morality, their definition of "bothering" includes things like accidentally walking into territory they claimed as their own.
  • Fantastic Racism: Many places don't like D-Bees (Dimensional Beings, i.e.: beings from another dimension), many places don't like magic-users or psychics, and the Coalition doesn't like all three, and will usually shoot the first two on sight. Conversely, there are places where Humans aren't well-regarded, either.
  • Fantasy Kitchen Sink: And the Sci-Fi one, too!
  • Fanwork Ban: One of the most notorious ones in the RPG industry. KS forbids people from converting RIFTS to other settings and publishing the rules anywhere, and makes legal threats against people who do publish them. (Fortunately, Palladium doesn't have the resources to follow through.)
  • The Federation: The New German Republic, with strong dosages of The Empire for flavoring.
    • Although the recent Triax 2 world book dials up The Federation aspects of the NGR and diminishes previous implications of The Empire, especially by emphasizing the discomfort some Germans feel around their erstwhile Naziesque "allies" the Coalition States.
    • The Consortium of Civilized Worlds in Phase World is pretty much the Standard Sci Fi Setting version.
  • Flat Earth Atheist: The writers on Psyscape realized that the Nega-Psychic from Beyond the Supernatural, a Flat Earth Atheist whose disbelief in the supernatural makes it unreal, would simply not work in a world where the supernatural is blatantly obvious to anyone who cares to look. They revamped the class into a determined sort who knows that the supernatural exists but refuses to allow it to control him.
  • Final Death: There's a single, high-level spell that raises the dead. If a caster fails it on a subject three times, one other caster may try it. If they fail three times, that's it.
    • Alternately, you can ask certain gods or other really high-level magical beings to raise your dead comrade. Good luck with that.
  • For Science!: If anyone in the party is playing a Rogue Scientist, expect to hear this shouted at least once per session.
    • In the time leading up to the Great Cataclysm, the major world governments were all actively experimenting in creating the perfect solider. The technology that would lead to Crazies was worked on in South America and Poland, Juicers were developed in Germany, both South and North America played with genetic engineering, etc. This was all taking place at a time of relative peace, mostly for the sake of science itself. It wasn't until people started looking around and seeing what their neighbors had been doing that people started thinking about military applications.
  • For the Evulz: A lot of monstrous creatures lack any particular motivation for their actions beyond being evil; they torture, murder and eat people because that's what evil monsters do.
    • At the same time, most races lumped under the category "monster" have animal-level intelligence, and are probably incapable of forming complex motivations, anyway.
  • Friendly Neighborhood Vampires: Very difficult, due to the nature of the vampiric condition, but possible; the most powerful of the Vampire Kingdoms is in fact a moderately-benevolent dictatorship headed by an Aberrant-aligned Master Vampire.
  • Friend to All Living Things: Played with in the Simvan Monster Riders. They are D-Bees who have psychic powers that make animals and monsters automatically see them as their masters. Nomadic by nature, they use these monstrous mounts to raid and pillage the countryside.
    • Played straight with the Psi-Stalkers. They are mutant humans who have a weaker version of the Simvan's power. They don't harm animals even for food, since they feed off the magic energy of living beings and see monsters and demons as their natural enemies and prey.
  • Functional Magic: Of all kinds. See the actual page for a more detailed analysis.
    • Just don't try to use it in an extremely highly charged area, like say Tolkeen during the final siege...or during the Coming of the Rifts. Then it starts getting completely non-functional with an off chance of Cosmic Horror or Negative Space Wedgie.
      • Using magic during a Ley Line Storm is dicey, as well.
  • Fun with Acronyms: There's the Strategic Armored Military Assault Suit (SAMAS) Power Armor and the Crazy's Mind Over Matter (M.O.M.) implants, to cite two examples from the Main Book. Others can be found here and there in other books. For example, the Enemy Infiltration Robot (EIR, pronounced "Ear") in Triax and the New German Republic.
  • Furry Fandom: This is probably not intentional, but unlike Wizards of the Coast who seem to have gone out of their way to make their D&D half-dragon and werecritter artwork bear no resemblance to furry art, Rifts mutant animals, werecritters, and hatchling dragons would look familar to a browser of fur art. And there are enough of them to open the question.
    • In some cases actual Furry artists have been hired for interior artwork.
    • Plus, the Australia setting book has a furry theme, and re-uses the mutant animal creation system from Palladium's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game (which, fittingly, already had a sourcebook called "Mutants Down Under").
  • Future Imperfect: In many places very little is known about what life was like before the Great Cataclysm. The Coalition States suppresses such knowledge with the credo that "you can't really know," the New Soviet actively lies about pre-Cataclysm Earth, and most don't know and don't care. Only the New German Republic (whose parent corporation survived the Cataclysm intact) and Republic of Japan (who are from that time period) have knowledge of accurate pre-Cataclysm history, and even they don't really know much about what went on in the world for about a hundred years after the Catacylsm.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: A few classes, but the best-known example would be the Operator from the main book. By the standards of today's society, they'd be little more than mechanics or repairmen. But on Rifts Earth, the ability to not only understand how a machine works, but to be able to build or repair one, is a priceless commodity.
  • Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke: Partially Averted. The Coalition States in particular has done some fairly impressive things with the genetic engineering of animals, creating entire races of Evil Detecting Dogs, Super Soldier dogs, Super Soldier cats of two different kinds, Chimpanzee lab assistants, and Super Soldier bears, to name a few. Aside from major toughness improvement for the "Kill" Super Soldiers and Ursa Warriors, and obviously raised intelligence, they are more of an "optimized version" then granted superpowers. The Mutants from South America's Project Achilles, on the other hand...
    • There's also the Gene Splicers, amoral aliens who can be found here or there across the globe, though they're concentrated in Eastern Europe. Gene Splicers, as the name would imply, have mastered the art of genetic engineering and like tampering with it for experimental purposes. Their motivations are a combination of For the Evulz and For Science!. The description of the characters says that they were designed partially to allow Game Masters to stump Rules Lawyers who have memorized the stat of every monster in the books.
  • Genius Loci: The planet Wormwood. Whether it's actually self-aware or conscious is anyone's guess, most of the time it seems to act more like an organic computer that's been programmed to provide for the needs of the humans living on it. For instance, when humans move into a new area, the planet starts shaping that portion of itself into a city for them to live in, and creates pockets of water and food caves nearby. Unfortunately, the fact that it seems to act on instinct means that the Unholy and his demonic minions have been able to pervert portions of the planet, bending it to their own evil will.
  • Genre Roulette
    • One of the most jarring examples is a drawing of a merchant in Splynn Dimensional Market. He is a lesser demon who looks like a scaled humanoid with tusks coming form his lower jaw, and three eyes lined vertically. He's wearing a ten-gallon hat and other cowboy gear, and carrying a six-shooter in each hand. In this case, the trope is invoked in-universe, with the demon purposely dressing and acting in a ridiculous manner so that others will underestimate him.
  • The Great Politics Mess-Up: Played with. The Sovietski of Warlords of Russia is not the Soviet Union of the 20th Century, but a new Communist state created in Russia during the 21st Century.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Averted. The books state that sentient races are genetically incompatible, and that Half Elves (or other half races) are impossible, with some exceptions. Human subraces (such as True Atlanteans) can usually interbreed freely, gods can interbreed with a lot of things, and humans and ogres can reproduce (but the offspring are considered ogres rather than hybrids).
  • He Who Fights Monsters: The Tolkeenites entered the war with the Coalition with honorable intentions: they were a peaceful people being unfairly persecuted and invaded. However, as the war wore on, Tolkeen became just as bad as the Dead Boys they fought. This reached its climax with the Sorcerer's Revenge, which was a collective Moral Event Horizon for the entire nation-state.
  • Hot Scientist: Invoked by the New German Republic. When Erin Tarn traveled there, she found out that her books are very popular. Also, whoever decided to do the marketing for said books decided to portray her as a well-built knockout in her early twenties. Tarn, who was in her late 60s to early 70s at the time, commented in her memoirs that she wished she had ever looked that good.
  • Humans Are Special: When rolling attributes for a character, Humans have a special rule that applies only to them. If you roll a 16, 17, or 18 for any attribute, you can roll an extra die and add that amount to the total. As of the new Ultimate Edition of the game, if you roll a 6 on that bonus die, you get to roll another extra die. This means that with enough luck, a Human character can start off with an attribute score of 30 for one of his stats. Note that 10-12 is considered average.
  • Gorn: The logical conclusion of Mega-Damage.
    • Standard operating procedure when engaging mages or supernatural beings. If you don't blow them to bloody chunks, they may not stay dead. Professional military and police forces frequently go one step further and vaporize the bloody chunks to be safe.
      • The Siege on Tolkeen books mention that Dead Boys have a euphemism for this: "misting."
  • Hell: There is a large number of those.
    • One version can even be found on Rifts Earth. During the Great Cataclysm, the Yama Kings of Chinese myth rose and converted a very large portion of China into their own brand of Hell. They also placed an obscuring mist all over China so that the Celestial Court doesn't discover what they're up to.
  • Historical Domain Character: The Lone Star sourcebook includes the Sundance Kid, who fell into a freak random rift during that whole mess in Bolivia.
  • Horsemen of the Apocalypse: They're in Africa. And if they meet up, they'll merge into one uber-demon and end the world for good.
    • Later sourcebooks suggest that most of them were successfully defeated. But Death is still running around somewhere, and it might not be Africa anymore...
  • Human Sacrifice: In the Palladium Rules System, every living creature has a small amount of P.P.E. which can be used to work magic. For unknown reasons, a being's P.P.E. is doubled at the moment of death, making Human Sacrifice an attractive option for evil spell casters looking to power an energy-hungry ritual.
  • Humongous Mecha: The ridiculously huge Triax Devastator which could give Mechagodzilla a run for his money and the Phase World setting's Battleram are where it stops in size terms, and they step on two-story houses; from there it runs down to Mini-Mecha territory and eventually powered armor.
  • Infant Immortality: The New German Republic has started to avert this hard, with a series of tiny disposable infiltration robots designed specifically to sneak underneath Gargoyle eggs and explode.
  • Kill It with Water: Vampires can be harmed, even killed by running water. This apparently means any water in motion. That means water hoses and squirt guns are effective weapons when vampires attack.
    • Less silly than it sounds, since plumbing is non-existent in most places on Rifts Earth, and while squirt guns aren't rare, they're not a dime a dozen like in real life.
  • Knight in Shining Armor: Cyber-Knights, natch. Comso-Knights are this for the Three Galaxies setting. Wormwood has the Knights of the Temple.
  • La Résistance: The Free Worlds Council in the Three Galaxies setting. They're a group of colonies who rebelled against the evil Transgalactic Empire, and are waging a war to free other planets from the tyranny of the Kreeghor. Depending on how one interprets the information given on the group, they can be played as The Revolution Will Not Be Vilified or The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized. Also, since the conclusion of the Siege on Tolkeen, freedom fighter/terrorist cells of surviving Tolkeen sympathizers have set up shop in the Chi-Town Burbs.
    • An interesting version exists in the form of the Vanguard. They are mages descended from a time when Chi-Town (head of the Coalition States) had a fledgling army of magic users. When they were booted out, they went underground and continue to fight for the Coalition to this day. Sadly, the Coalition is unaware of their existence, and even if they did, they'd shoot them dead like any other mage.
  • Laser Blade: Cyberknights and Mind Melters wield these puppies, which they can create with their minds. Magic versions (yes, that means Flaming Swords too) are also available.
  • Lego Genetics: The Gene Splicers. While some of their experiments involve tinkering with DNA to see how a creature might have evolved under different conditions, their name comes from the fact that they like to combine genes from disparate species to do things like give people wings or tentacles.
  • Ley Line: The source of supernatural power, the cause of the cataclysm that ended civilization, and the key to a great deal of magical workings; where they meet, Rifts open.
  • Life Energy: PPE, Potential Psychic Energy, used to power most magic, comes closest; there are several species that are PPE vampires, and PPE is released in doubled amounts at the moment of death. ISP, Inner Strength Points, used to power psionics, are another contender in terms of actual game mechanics, but running out of either will not kill. Mostly such drain is tracked using damage mechanics in the semi-rare cases it comes up.
  • Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards: Played straight for the most part, though considering the game's love of More Dakka, warriors do have a chance of catching up if they want.
    • Wizards increase their personal power a lot more as they grow in levels. Anyone without powers, however, is defined more by their gear than by their skills, so their level doesn't matter quite as much.
  • Loads and Loads of Races: Pretty much every game book added a couple dozen PC races or classes. This is not much of an exaggeration. The GM's Guide has an index of playable races that goes on for pages, and it's just a listing of names and where to find info on them. And this book came out before D-Bees of North America, a book dedicated solely to playable races.
  • Look on My Works Ye Mighty and Despair: Not so much with the Coming of the Rifts itself, but with Atlantis. They had founded a major civilization based on magic back in human prehistory. The Atlanteans became so vain and power-hungry that they attempted to push the magical envelope, with dangerous consequences. Their experiments accidentally unleashed demons and monsters all over the Earth. By the time the Atlanteans had done all they could to undo the damage, the magical levels of Earth had dropped so low as to be almost non-existent, and Atlantis itself had been shunted into a pocket dimension.
    • See also the Ancient Nazca civilization, which managed to create entire cities out of pure magic energy. As you may have figured out, that whole mess the Altanteans caused really screwed them over.
  • Magical Native American: The Sourcebook Spirit West, as the name would imply, plays this trope straight. Another example is Sir Winslow Thorpe, companion and bodyguard of Erin Tarn. As a Cyber-Knight, he's not actually magical, though he does have psychic powers.
  • Magitek: There's even a Techno Wizard character class!
  • Mayincatec: The Inca gods have returned, backing a new Kingdom of the Sun in its fight against the invading alien Arkon race.
    • Possibly subverted averted. The Incan and Aztec gods are quite distinct, and the Incan Kingdom of the Sun was designed by an actual South American, so the mythology is actually fairly accurate.
  • Morality Kitchen Sink: The inevitable result of this many factions and a codified Character Alignment. Where any particular character falls is designated, where any faction falls is subject to debate.
  • Mini-Mecha: The sourcebooks themselves note that a number of nominal powered armor designs are in fact Mini-Mecha.
  • The Multiverse: Palladium Books is possibly the Trope Namer Trope Codifier via its "Megaverse".
  • Muggles Do It Better: Offensive magic and psionics is roughly equal to technological weaponry in per-shot damage, but not nearly as quick and easy as pulling a trigger. (A mage/psionic usually gets two or three attacks per round with their powers, but whereas mundane attack methods often allow three or four. Power armor/vehicular combat training and the appropriate suit/vehicle stacks a couple more on top of that.) It's much harder to 'reload' when you run out of PPE/ISP than it is to carry spare E-clips to boot. Smart wizards therefore almost always carry technological weapons for killing things, and use their magic more to shape or prepare the battlefield.
    • Other smart wizards split the difference and use Magitek weapons. All the convenience of a mundane gun, all the flashiness of actual magic. Plus, you can use your own magic energy to reload it in a pinch.
    • Still other smart wizards buy a talisman or two, which function like rechargeable magic batteries the mage can draw upon at will.
  • Munchkin: Most of the overpowered stuff mentioned on this page were created by former staff writer C.J. Carella, who always seemed to be trying to outdo himself in terms of the power scale.
    • Of course, even with Carella gone, the power level is still going up (except in the Chaos Earth setting, which is a deliberate scale-down).
  • My God, What Have I Done?: King Creed, in the final moments of Tolkeen's war with the Coalition.
    • Also the citizens of Atlantis, way back in prehistory. Their magical experiments led to hordes of demon and monsters being dumped on an unsuspecting Earth (which became the source of our legends about such creatures).
  • Negative Space Wedgie: Arguably, the entire planet is one. Specifically, the titular Rifts open up a portal to anywhere and possibly anywhen. The intergalactic/interdimensional neighbors are not friendly far too often.
    • Tolkeen during the final siege and some other extremely highly magically charged areas, like an ongoing Ley Line Storm or inside a ley line triangle, have a variety of possible conditions summed up as "Reality Fracture". From the law of gravity being repealed to a total lack of sound, these are generally not good.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: See Punk Punk
    • Where else can a Cyborg Ninja with a lightning-shooting Rune Sword battle a dinosaur-riding psychic Rubber Forehead Alien cowboy sharpshooter only to be interrupted by the living dead at the command of a BFG wielding vampire necromancer?[3]
  • Noble Bigot: Triax and the NGR get played up as this. They're anti-nonhuman and drive all D-Bees out of their turf, but because they don't actively run seek-and-destroy missions on anyone except the Gargoyles and Brodkil, we're intended to think of them as the good guys.
  • Noble Savage: Deconstructed in the case of the various types of American Indians found in Spirit West.
  • Not Evil, Just Misunderstood: While there are plenty of evil Shifters out there, not all of them are. It's just that people tend to assume that Shifters are either evil or insane (or both). This is because they specialize in summoning and dominating supernatural creatures, who are usually nasty and evil themselves. Also, as one might imagine, it's the evil Shifters who unleash demonic beings upon unsuspecting and helpless people that get all the attention. Anyone playing a Shifter in a Rifts campaign should expect sidelong looks at the least, and possibly outright hostility from anyone who finds out what they are.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: The Vampires who pretty much run all of Mexico make sure that areas North of their kingdoms are overrun with Wild Vampires, so that the powerful nations of the former United States assume that all vampires are stupid savages and not really worth worrying about.
  • Obviously Evil: Just in case their xenophobic attitudes, Fantastic Racism, and massive war machine wasn't enough to clue you in that the Coalition is evil, they helpfully remind anyone who sees them by painting all their vehicles and armor black, and covering them with images of skulls (which is why Coalition soldiers are known as Dead Boys). Of course, in-universe this is done as a psychological warfare tactic. Facing down a platoon (let alone an Army) of Faceless Goons in armor that looks like an animated skeleton is downright scary.
  • Old Shame: All records of the Coalition Magic Battalions have been eradicated from state history, lest people start to doubt the government line that all mages are capital E Evil.
  • Omnidisciplinary Scientist: The Rogue Scientist class can be made into one of these with great ease.
    • The CAF Scientist from the Three Galaxies setting was more or less designed to be this.
  • Our Centaurs Are Different: Along with the standard type of Centaur, Rifts has the Cyber-Horsemen of Ixion, which are Centaur Cyborgs.
  • Our Dwarves Are All the Same: Played straight with modern dwarves, short bearded people who live underground and are natural miners and smiths. Though go back into the race's history, and it's mentioned that they were once masters of ancient magic, and the inventors of rune weapons. In the modern age of the Palladium Fantasy world, all dwarves, even the most vile outcasts, universally obey the cultural taboo against magic as if it were a law of physics. However, this isn't a can't, but a won't, and dwarves on Rifts Earth are more flexible.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: Dragons in Rifts are psychic, intelligent, are born able to do things like speak and do math due to Genetic Memory, and can shapeshift and teleport as easily as they can walk or fly. Oh, and hatchling dragons are available as PLAYER CHARACTERS!
  • Our Fairies Are Different: See The Fair Folk, above.
  • Our Gods Are Greater: The book Pantheons of the Megaverse provides stats for the gods of many ancient religions, including Norse Mythology, Greek Mythology, and even a couple religions that still exist, such as Zoroastrianism and Hindu Mythology. The book even provides tips on how to play a truly omniscient God.
  • Our Genies Are Different: Genies in Rifts are based off legends of the Djinn, and as such are more like Wishmaster than the Genie from Disney's Aladdin.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: Ghosts, poltergeists, etc aren't remnants of the deceased, so much as energy beings from another dimension that are psychically attracted to mortals. Haunting Entities (AKA ghosts), for instance, are described as "psychic bloodhounds" who are drawn to places of intense emotion, and as they feed off the residual emotion, they are compelled to act out whatever happened there.
  • Our Orcs Are Different: While Orcs and Ogres do exist in Rifts (along with many, many others), the Brodkil are the race that most often fits the bill: tall, brutish, stupid, war-like and cannibalistic, though with a fondness for cybernetics and high-tech weapons. They also tend to be mercenaries, bandits, raiders, and generally form large armies of disposable Mooks which work for various villains, factions and empires. Their stats get reprinted a lot so the writers must expect to get a lot of use out of them in campaigns over all the other monster races.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Vampires are effectively remote feeding terminals for Eldritch Abominations, and any kind of conventional weaponry will either fail to hurt them at all, or might as well have; you can hose a vampire down with your plasma cannon for a full round and it'll fall over dead. For all of 15 seconds. Then it's back good as new.
    • On the other hand, you can kill them with squirt guns. Or flashlights with a cross silhouette on them.
    • There's also three varieties of vampire: Master, Secondary, and Wild. Master Vampires are very few, and are mortals who willingly became vampires to help a Vampire Intelligence (the Eldritch Abomination) to gain a foothold in this dimension. Secondary Vampires are less powerful, and a bit more obviously monstrous, created when a Master Vampire (or another Secondary Vampire) feeds on a person with the intention of creating a new Vampire (called the Slow Kill). Wild Vampires are more animal than man, roving in packs like (and sometimes with) wolves feeding on anyone who gets near.
  • Our Souls Are Different: One of the most Squicky villains in the game are the Soul Harvesters, an offshoot of necromancers who (you guessed it) steal the souls of other living beings. Their goal in harvesting souls is to bring their Eldritch Abomination/god Nxla to Earth.[4]
  • Pet the Dog: Despite their overall Empire-ness, the Coalition sometimes gets to do good every once in a while, such as assisting the New German Republic and New Navy in an operation against the Gargoyle Empire.
  • Potty Emergency/Failure: The Ludicrous Mage's Diarheea spell gives the affected 30 seconds to find a bathroom or they crap their pants (even if they're wearing Power Armor), also if the affected manages to find a lavatory and doesnt succeed in removing the armor they crap their pants, the mess takes a week to clean out.
    • It should be noted that this spell and class come from a book that was printed as an April Fools joke.
  • Powered Armor: in every possible size and shape
  • Power Creep, Power Seep: the disparity in power levels between different Sourcebooks and different authors over the years is a source of regular Complaint.
    • Occurs in-universe as well, when characters from mega-damage worlds move to SDC worlds and become far more fragile and less powerful.
  • Power Tattoo: The Altanteans were given the secret of magic tattoos from a race of dragons who created them. All Atlanteans are given tattoos known as the "Marks of Heritage;" a magic sword tattoo on the right wrist, and a tattoo of a wooden stake piercing a heart on the left for protection against vampires, the ancient enemies of Atlantis. Some Atlanteans go even farther, covering their bodies in magic tattoos that can conjure magic weapons, create animal or monster companions, or grant them other supernatural powers. The Splugorth have also discovered the secrets of magic tattoos, and create their own T-Men to be sold as slaves.
  • Prequel in the Lost Age: Most of Palladium's modern-day game-lines, such as Heroes Unlimited, are considered Alternate Universes to Rifts instead of true prequels. However, Beyond the Supernatural is set up so that it may be a true prequel. Kevin has intentionally not made a final verdict on that, because Rifts is also supposed to be the future of our world.
  • Proud Merchant Race: Naruni Enterprises. Their modus operandi is to go to a warring planet, sell one (or both) sides weapons on credit, and then take over if when the winner can't pay up. If they go to a planet that isn't at war, they'll probably start one. In places like Rifts Earth and Phaseworld, where there's actual competition to worry about, they play the trope completely straight.
  • Psychic Powers: one of the major character class categories.
    • According to the rules, any character (especially if human) can have a degree of psychic powers, unless the class specifically forbids it for some reason. During character creation, players are allowed to make a random roll determining whether they have minor (two or three psychic powers) or major (six to eight), on top of everything else they get for the class. Other classes, like Crazies or Mystics, automatically get psychic powers as part of the package without being considered a psychic class. The actual Master Psychic Classes (like Bursters or Mind Melters), get a lot more, as well as access to powers that are unavailable to non-psychic classes.
  • Psycho Serum: Juicers, sort of. There's nothing technically psycho-inducing about it...but with only five years to live as a superhuman, or three if you quit before your body burns out, it tends to bring out the inner madman.
    • Some forms of Juicer (such as the Dragon Juicer) actually are psycho-inducing.
  • Public Domain Artifact: A man in England named King Ar'thuu is running around with a psychic-powered sword called Caliber-X, and the Philosopher's Stone has shown up in Poland, to name two examples.
  • Puny Humans: Most non-human races get at least one attribute that's higher on average than a human's. Many also have natural MDC bodies, meaning they can survive attacks that would reduce a human to red mist. They also generally get special natural powers like heightened senses or the ability to fire energy blasts from their hands.
  • Putting on the Reich: the Coalition States - Justified in that Emperor Prosek really is consciously emulating Those Wacky Nazis.
    • Averted, naturally, with the Germans themselves. The New German Republic is human supremacist, but not to the same degree as the Coalition, and doesn't actively go out of its way to shoot non-hostile nonhumans.
  • Punk Punk: pretty much all the Punk Punk settings are represented in Rifts in some form.
    • Biopunk: Sprinkled here and there throughout the game. Notable examples include Atlantis, the Achilles Republic and other areas in South America, and Lone Star.
    • Cattle Punk: The New West.
    • Cyberpunk: The Republic of Japan (and Ichto) are full-force cyberpunk. The Coalition and the New German Republic also have plenty of this.
      • The Warlords of Russia have ever more.
    • Dieselpunk: A fairly common aesthetic for the Sovietski.
    • Dungeon Punk: Places like Lazlo or Tolkeen, where magic is used in place of technology. In the case of Lazlo, magic and technology are combined to create Techno-Wizardry.
    • Ocean Punk: Rifts Underseas.
    • Steampunk: The New West has a lot of this, mostly because the Black Market and the techno-wizards tend to think it's cool.
      • The Iron Juggernauts in the Siege on Tolkeen series have a Steampunk aesthetic (brushed, riveted metal and steam pouring out of them), though they're actually powered by magic.
  • Punch Clock Villain: The average Dead Boy (Coalition soldier). The typical grunt soldier is a perfectly normal person when he's not slaughtering villages of helpless aliens or shooting mages in cold blood. The sad truth is that they've been indoctrinated from birth to believe that all aliens and magic constitute a very real threat to them and their loved ones. It never occurs to most Dead Boys that they're killing people just like them, with hopes, dreams, and their own families. Those that do tend to perform a Heel Face Turn the second the opportunity arises.
    • Often averted for the Coalition's most recent opponents. The people who rallied to the banner of Tolkeen to fight the Coalition were by and large untrained civilians, psychologically unprepared for the stresses of long-term combat and lacking the support structure the CS uses to keep its soldiers sane. A disturbingly large number of Tolkeen fighters at every rank adapted to the war by going Axe Crazy.
  • Pyramid Power: The Atlantis sourcebook features these as Ley Line dams used to store and regulate magic energy for purposes such as opening rifts.
  • Recycled in Space: The Mutants in Orbit and Three Galaxies Sourcebooks are Rifts IN SPACE! Note that the Mutants in Orbit book is primarily a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Other Strangeness Sourcebook, but it has a Rifts section as well.
  • Retcon: The New German Republic's human supremacy was only canonized in its own book. Previously in the Conversion Book, a Rahu-Man (a Four-armed giant) had been mentioned as a hero of the NGR.
    • Canonized again in the second NGR book, which reintroduced Rasheen (the Rahu-Man) as an NGR hero with an unofficial title of General. In fairness, NGR racism is rooted more in the fact that they ended up being the only safe haven for human survivors of the Great Cataclysm in Europe and at the time they lacked to resources to protect and feed alien populations as well. But even their current president supports allowing more non-humans to become citizens of the NGR.
    • The Cyber-Knight class, originally all-purpose do-gooders with Psychic Laser Blades and built-in armor, get reworded as having explicitly anti-tech abilities during the Siege on Tolkien book series.
    • In-universe, Chi-Town staged the demolition of the finest library on the continent and banned private book ownership expressly to make retconning history easier for them.
  • Rubber Forehead Aliens: Depending on the level of commitment of the players; the Lone Star sourcebook offers plenty of material to help you deconstruct the Rubber Forehead Alien status of your Dog Boy or similar canine, and similar achievements are possible with some of the more well-described species.
  • Rule of Cool: What really powers the Rifts.
    • Killer whales in powered armor. This is not a joke. Crack open your Underseas book.
      • Techno Wizards seem to purposely evoke this trope. Look at TW wing boards, which are basically flying surf boards. They are powered by Ley Lines, severely limiting their effectiveness as a mode of transport. Awesome but Impractical.
  • Rules Conversions: Ruthlessly averted. Nothing stops a person from making their own conversion... but if you have the audacity to actually put your conversion rules online, you can expect a cease and desist letter to appear in your mailbox post haste. Kevin doesn't like people touching his things at all.
  • Sapient Cetaceans: Rifts Underseas actually allows you to have a Dolphin, Orca, or even a Humpback Whale as a player character. They even have Powered Armor designed for Dolphins and Orcas to use. There are also the Pneuma-Biforms, Cetaceans mutated by an Eldritch Abomination to be slaves, and have the ability to switch between Human and Cetacean forms. This allows a player to be a Dolphin or Whale, but also participate in land-based adventures as well (as long as they keep a large water tank handy).
  • Scary Black Man: Desmond Bradford. He's physically imposing (6'2" and 210 lbs) on top of being a megalomaniac Mad Scientist with a god complex. As head of the Lone Star complex, Bradford has access to one of the most advanced Pre-Rifts genetic engineering facilities on the planet. And since he's a childhood friend of Emperor Prosek, he has free run of the place with pretty much no oversight. This allows him to tamper with genetic codes in ways that even the Coalition would find horrific. About the only thing that keeps him in check is that he believes that Prosek is also a god, and one who recognizes Bradford's own apotheosis.
  • Scary Dogmatic Aliens: And humans.
  • Scavenger World: A lot of the technology used on Rifts Earth comes from before After the End. The most notable example is the Glitter Boy: practically all of the suits in use outside of Free Quebec (and even a lot of the ones there) have been handed down generation after generation for several hundred years.
    • The series has been steadily averting this since the beginning. Most available technology is of recent construction. There are however still a number of places (mostly in the Australian Outback) where most tech is scavenged (or stolen from soldiers from the city).
  • Schizo-Tech There's a good chance that farmer tilling his fields with a horse-drawn plow has a laser rifle stashed away in his house in case of trouble. Justified Trope in that the game takes place a couple hundred years after After the End.
  • Secret Government Warehouse: The Coalition's Black Vault where they keep confiscated magic items.
    • All That Glitters: A large amount of the "dangerous" magic items locked in the vault are in fact childrens' toys or other mundane items.
      • Justified Trope, at least in the Coalition's eyes, since according to their propaganda, all magic is dangerous, regardless of how it's used.
  • Serial Escalation: Each new book (except the Chaos Earth line) dials up the power level yet again.
  • Set Right What Once Went Wrong: The Rifts Adventure Guide has a section that consists adventure ideas which are a sentence or two long, just enough to give a GM a jumping-off point for a campaign. One of them involves a mage opening a Rift and explaining that it goes through time to just before the Coming of the Rifts. He claims that if the PCs go through the Rift, they will be able to stop the Great Cataclysm from ever happening.
  • Shown Their Work: In the weapon compendiums.
    • Though Kevin Siembieda is mostly known for making stuff up or using liberal applications of Rule of Cool, he occasionally does his homework. One notable case is the book Mystic Russia. Siembieda poured over many volumes of Russian Folklore to create the magical creatures and mortal magicians in the book, to ensure an authentically Russian flavor.
  • Slasher Smile: Two of the new types of SAMAS, the Light Assault and Super Sam varieties, have manic skull-like grins on their faceplates as part of the overall "Death's Head" motiff. Their in-universe nicknames are "Smiling Jack" and "Grinning Demon," respectively.
  • Soviet Superscience: The Sovietski, naturally!
  • Space Opera: Not in the main setting; flying off the planet via conventional means is all but impossible because of a surviving defense network in orbit. However, leave Rifts Earth via any number of convenient portals, and you might reach the Three Galaxies, an intergalactic setting following the same "anything goes" multiversal philosophy.
  • Spikes of Villainy: Pretty much part of the dress code for villains in Rifts. The Xiticix have these as part of their body. Even the Coalition is not exempt. Psi-Stalker Dead Boys have spikes on their helmets, possibly meant to symbolically represent their Psychic Powers. Also the Glitter Boy Killer power armor (so named because they're designed to exploit the weaknesses of Glitter Boys) has vicious-looking spikes on the arms, feet, and knees. However, unlike most examples of Spikes of Villainy, these actually serve a useful purpose when engaging Glitter Boys in melee combat.
  • Spontaneous Weapon Creation: Several psychic classes, like Cyber Knights and Mind Melters, can create Psi Blades. Tattooed Men and Conjurers can do it with magic.
  • Soul Jar: The Koshchei, Greater Demons out of the Mystic Russia book, are also known as the Deathless Ones. They are effectively immortal because each one's soul is stored in a chicken egg. Breaking the egg is the only way to kill one for good.
    • A spell allows the caster to do this to a victim. Supposedly Alistair Dunscon, the current leader of the "True" Federation of Magic, has the soul of one of Coalition Emperor's sons in one.
  • Squishy Wizard: Magic users can't wear environmental armor, or armor made of metal or ceramic, as it interferes with their ability to work magic. As a result, they're usually stuck with light armor. There are a few exceptions, such as heavy armor made from Mega-Damage animal hide, or the Warlock Combat Armor from the Three Galaxies, but these are generally rare and/or prohibitively expensive.
  • Starfish Aliens: Quite a large number, both as NPCs and available as Player Character races. Pretty much all Alien Intelligences fall under this category, but a number of mortal, D-Bee races do as well. One classic example would be the Xiticix. Even though most of them are at least vaguely humanoid in shape, their life cycles are more like insects than mammals (grubs, pupae, etc), they are organized like an insect hive, and their psychology is so alien that even the people of Lazlo admit they can't be reasoned with.
  • The Starscream: Averted in the case of Joseph Prosek II, son of Emperor Karl Prosek and next in line for the throne. Despite the way things normally go with an Evil Overlord and his equally evil and ambitious son, young Joseph is completely loyal to his beloved father and is perfectly content to wait until his father dies of natural causes to assume the throne.
  • Stripperific: Many females depicted in the books, but special mention goes out to the Blind Altara Warrior Women, an entire race (they have no men and reproduce asexually) who runs around in nothing but a helmet, some jewelry, and a skintight one-piece bathing suit that leaves almost nothing to the imagination. The only thing that prevents Chunky Salsa Rule in their case is that the jewelry are actually magical items that provide, among other things, magical armor.
  • Stupid Jetpack Hitler: The Coalition States are this dialed Up to Eleven.
    • Almost literal case in the Coalition SAMAS flying body armor, which has a black skull as the headpiece.
  • Technology Marches On: In the first edition of Rifts published in 1991 and taking place about 300 years in the future, the hand-held computer listed in the equipment section is described as having a "dual drive system, 150 megabytes hard drive with 4 megabytes of Random Access Memory (RAM) and uses one inch disk." Later reprints removed specific capabilities on the computers and simply had it state that they are simply a lot better than the ones that are used currently.
  • Techno Wizard: A literal case. In North America, there's a special brand of wizards who combine magic and technology to create things like guns that shoot fireballs and flying boards powered by ambient magical energy. They're called....Techno Wizards.
  • Teleporters and Transporters: The Rifts are gateways to other worlds. There are spells that lets you open a Rift manually or teleport to another dimension. They're at the highest levels of magic.
    • Dragons and certain other magical creatures can teleport as a natural ability. Some can even teleport across alternate dimensions. Shifters (mortal magicians who specialize in summoning and teleportation magic) can instantly and flawlessly teleport themselves back to their home dimension for a small expenditure of PPE.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Rifts plays the "only hitpoint that matters is the last" rule deadly straight for supernatural creatures even in the fluff, which means that professional military and police forces use this as standard operating procedure. If your opponent has not been reduced to bloody scraps, there is an unacceptable chance he will get back up!
    • The Coalition military uses this often enough that it has a name: "misting."
  • The Theme Park Version: Used and invoked deliberately and in-universe. One of the ways people have coped with the fall of civilization is to try to return to or imitate the past before the last era, with varying levels of success (people in the American West, for example, look up to and emulate historical western figures such as Wyatt Earp, Jessie James, and The Lone Ranger).
    • This is even Lampshaded in one book where the Sundance Kid (the real one, via a random Rift) mentions he doesn't remember any cowboys named John Wayne from his time.
  • Touched by Vorlons: In various degrees, from Coalition-made mutant animals to magic cyborgs made in another dimension by Sufficiently Advanced Aliens.
  • 24-Hour Armor: Some suits of power armor, such as the Glitterboy, are literally designed for this; Glitterboys only need to be exited once a week. In the field, given how vulnerable a human is without MDC bodyarmor, it's rare to see someone take off more than a helmet or faceplate.
    • Though it does say in the Glitter Boy class that the character should at the very least get out of his suit and exercise for a couple hours every day to avoid muscle atrophy.
    • Cosmo Knights from the Phaseworld/Three Galaxies setting are this played completely straight.
  • The Usual Adversaries: Tolkeen was a peaceful, accepting, integrated kingdom in a mainly magic-based society. The Coalition States went to war with them, forcing them to leap off the Moral Event Horizon in an effort to survive. It ultimately failed. This is not the first time the Coalition has done this. Similarly, Free Quebec was actually a member of the Coalition, but felt they were getting sidelined, possibly lied to, and quite frankly getting tired of having their doctrines dictated to, by the Coalition's leaders. All their suspicious were absolutely true, resulting in a costly war between what should have been natural allies. Even for those who think the Coalition might be right, they're hard to love.
    • At the same time, Chi-Town (founder and seat of power for the Coalition) was pretty tolerant and open until Nostrous Dunscon decided to declare war on them and fling hellish magical Nightmare Fuel at them. Kinda hard to blame them for thinking magic was evil after that.
    • Frankly, nearly every continent has at least one race or state that fits this trope. Sometimes two. Vampires, D-Bee barbarian marauders, Alien invaders, Demonic hordes, and worse.
  • Vampire Hunter: Reed's Rangers is a famous group of vampire hunters operating in the American Southwest. To the people they've saved from vampire attacks, they're Knights In Shining Armor. In truth, though, half of them fall somewhere between Villain with Good Publicity and He Who Fights Monsters. Another notable example is the Atlantean Undead Slayer, magically-empowered warriors who specialize in hunting and killing vampires.
  • Vibroweapon: Called vibroblades in-game. Based on designs the Coalition had been sitting on for years, they were finally mass-produced for use by the Dog Boys, since the human supremacist Coalition was wary about handing guns to mutant animals. They proved so popular that they're now a standard part of just about every character's starting equipment. Pretty much every conceivable kind of bladed weapon has been made into a vibroblade, from knives to halberds. Many suits of Powered Armor, Mini-Mecha, and even some suits of body armor come equipped with vibroblades built into the arms for melee combat.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: There's a whole lot of these in Rifts, but the biggest one is probably Emperor Prosek. Within the Coalition States, he is considered to be incapable of doing any wrong. He gave a live televised speech announcing that he was plunging the nation into a series of unprovoked wars, including a Civil War against one of their own states, and he was cheered on for it. Outside his nation, he is regarded as a Jerkass, Magnificent Bastard, or Complete Monster, but inside the Coalition States, he's unanimously regarded as the savior of Humanity.
  • War Is Hell: The Siege on Tolkeen. The Sorcerer's Revenge is almost a literal case of this.
    • The Minion War sourcebooks are an even more literal example. Hell(s) at war. With each other, no less.
  • What Might Have Been: In the early days of the Coalition, magic was a valid military and civil tool, but was abandonded after a brutal war with the Federation of Magic. In-game, it is speculated that if this hadn't happened, they may have loosened their human supremacist stance over time as well.
  • When the Planets Align: The nuclear exchange that triggered the Rifts occurred during a rare conjunction of planets. This, combined with the fact that it happened at midnight during the Winter Solstice, caused the ley lines to surge with a level of energy that hadn't been felt on Earth since the disappearance of Atlantis. The instantaneous death of several million people, their own mystic energy pouring into the ley lines, resulted in the magical equivalent of an overloaded circuit, creating the Coming of the Rifts.
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: Juicers, Crazies, the list goes on.
    • It's a deliberate theme in the game. All the forms of human augmentation come with a price tag. Crazies, as the name would imply, become more and more mentally unbalanced as time goes on due to the implants in their brains, Juicers only live on average five years after taking the augmentation (provided they don't die by violent means first), and cyborgs find themselves becoming removed from humanity as they lose their human bodies.
  • The World Tree: Millennium Trees
    • Also, Pantheons of the Megaverse has Yggdrasil, the World Tree of Norse Mythology. The section on Yggdrasil includes a description of godlike powers a player character can be granted by impaling himself on the tree for nine days (a la Odin). As one can imagine, the rolls required to survive the ordeal are pretty rough.
  • Younger Than They Look: Dragon Hatchlings used as Player Characters are usually very young. There's a random roll table for determining a dragon hatchling's age at the start of a campaign. The oldest possible age is 48 days old. The youngest is six hours old. This, as well as the fact that dragons don't become adults (and become more powerful by a couple orders of magnitude) until they're 500 was likely done to make it harder for players to make adult dragon characters via Loophole Abuse.
  • Zerg Rush: This is how the Xiticix handle threats.
    • The Coalition tried this in the opening months of the Siege on Tolkeen. They discovered to their misfortune that rolling over a small village with a few practitioners of magic, and attacking an entire Kingdom composed almost entirely of mages, is two very different things.
  1. the former state
  2. technically, psychics and magic users can get implants too, but they tend to interfere with the character's natural powers, and more than a few will completely destroy their ability to use magic or psionics
  3. Note: None of this is hyperbole. Everything mentioned in the previous sentence can actually be found in the books.
  4. Siembieda realized that the concept of soul stealing might be too intense for some, so he provided a disclaimer at the beginning of the section warning off anyone who might be offended.