Thursday, June 17, 2010

RPG.NET rant #17 The Bad Rifts Project

RPG.NET rant #17
The Bad Rifts Project

originally posted to on 05-22-2005, 04:15 AM


When I got to Denny’s Blobert Smith was there waiting for me in a family sized booth. A pile of RIFTS books and notepapers were at his side. I was more than a little surprised to find myself gaming again. It was the winter of 1991 and while my love life was still a spectacular disaster I was confident that Bill Clinton was going to win the election this year and that I would never have to hear the term 'President Bush' again.

Blobert Smith: "Much like the end of the disco era, you're early."

Me: "Well I know how long it can take to set up a Palladium character so I thought I would get here early."

Blobert Smith: "Please help yourself to paper and pencils."

Me: "Thanks. So where will we be playing?"

Blobert Smith: "Here."

Me: "I thought this was just some kind of a pre-game get together."

Blobert Smith: "I am afraid not. My parents have banned all gaming related activities since I tried to have a Vampire LARP in the basement."

Me: "I don't think - You tried to run a LARP in your basement?"

Blobert Smith: "What better place to evoke the dark mystery of the Mind's Eye Theater than a dark underground room reeking of mothballs and an ill-kept furnace. My only sin was allowing the event to become too intense. I said time and time again that the players in my dark psychodrama could bring katanas and hatchets but they were only for ornamental purposes."

Me: "Oh no..."

Blobert Smith: "Indeed. A swordfight at the mouth of my parents basement. How sublime."

Me: "Blobert you should have known something like that would happen. LARPers are the crazy ex-girlfriends of gaming.... and are you sure that having a game at a Denny's is a good idea?"

Blobert Smith: "Why not? After all are not most of the most important events of our lives accompanied by food?"

Me: "I suppose."

Blobert Smith: "Life is a single serving buffet Ab3, pile your dish high."

Blobert could be pretty deep for a guy wearing a frilled shirt, leather pants and a paisley vest. I put together a character, I decided to play a mostly regular joe who got swept into the crazy RIFTS multiverse. Deviant Boy was the next to show up, he brought with him a longhaired kid with a sleepy disposition.

Me: "Hey long time no see."

Deviant Boy: "I thought you were done with gaming."

Me: "Well after my adventures I think I can kick back and enjoy a game now."

Deviant Boy: "You've been having adventures?"

Me: "Oh, I've had adventures. I'd tell you about them but I wouldn't want to blow your tiny little mind."

Blobert Smith: "Wow."

Actually I'd spent most of my summer playing STARFLIGHT on my Sega Genesis but I damned if I'd tell them that.

Deviant Boy: "And this is my new roommate Collateral Darren."

Collateral Darren: "Yo."

Blobert Smith: "Surely not THE Collateral Darren?"

Collateral Darren: "Yo."

Collateral Darren was another local legend. His specialty was destroying role playing games with point based character generation systems. In don't think he did it on purpose but he was one of those people with a genius that bordered on madness. His nickname was based on his famous CHAMPIONS character 'Collateral Damage' - a super hero whose special power was the ability to make hostages explode.

Me: "Is this everyone?"

Blobert Smith: "Weasly has yet to arrive."

Deviant Boy: "You invited Weasly? How could you?"

Blobert Smith: "But you never had objections to Weasly's presence before."

Deviant Boy: "But Wesley is letting El Disgusto crash with him!"

Me: "And the most dangerous place in the world is between El Disgusto and a game."

Collateral Darren: "Isn't he that kid that smells like breaded fish?"

A few minutes later Weasly and El Disgusto showed up, it suddenly became very crowded in that family sized booth.

Weasly: "Hey all."

El Disgusto: "Hey its Ab3, I thought my failure sense was tingling."

Me: "What's with the attitude? I haven't seen you in months."

El Disgusto: "Attitude? You try getting fired from your job and then having to spend the last few months on the run, a fugitive from a dozen credit card companies and a jury duty summons and see how sunny your disposition is!"

Blobert Smith: "Why did you get fired?"

Deviant Boy: "Because his bosses found out he was going commando under his Chuck E Cheese costume."

Me: "What?"

Collateral Darren: "I was shocked to find out the Chuckster was a guy in a costume too."

Blobert Smith: "Could I please have everyone's character sheets?"

Weasly: "I decided to make a Techno Wizard. I call him Merle Owen."

Blobert Smith: "I have always felt that every time a pun like that is made somewhere in the world a nerd dies."

Collateral Darren: "I was born to play a Juicer, this one happens to be named Karl."

Deviant Boy: "My character is a former Coalition Borg named Monte Markham."

Me: "Wow and people say I make obscure references. That's like a 9 on the Dennis Miller scale."

Deviant Boy: "It can't be you every time."

El Disgusto: "I am playing a Crazy called Fuckyouupforlife-san. He's so crazy he thinks he's a ninja."

Me: "You playing him as yourself?"

El Disgusto: "You're cruising for a helping of chicken fried whoopass."

Blobert Smith: "And your character Ab3?."

Me: "I made a mildly psychic Rogue Scholar. His name is Rex Connor."

El Disgusto: "Oh man that has sucks written all over it. Is sucks like the watermark on you paper or something because damn if it always doesn't come through."

Me: "Will you back off?"

Collateral Darren: "If you two guys hate each other so much why do you game together?"

Me: "It's a funny story Darren. You see when I was a young boy walking along the beach in Lake George I came upon something shiny half buried in the sand. I dug it up and it was a lamp like from Aladdin."

Weasly: "Uhhhh...?"

Me: "So I rubbed the lamp and out pops this cut rate genie! He said to me 'Since I am a cut rate genie I can only grant you one wish. Tell me Ab3 would you like a million dollars or a giant dick?'"

Deviant Boy: "He's finally snapped."

Me: "I thought for a long time and since I've never been a monetary kind of guy I said. 'I'd like a giant dick.' The genie and his lamp disappeared in a puff of smoke. The very next day I met El Disgusto."

El Disgusto: "Hey if I wanted a pointless humorless story that drags on forever I'd read a White Wolf novel!"

Blobert Smith: "Perhaps now we should begin the game. Our story begins on the borders of Coalition territory and a desert wasteland in a- "

The waitress approached, she was very good looking, dark hair, dark eyes and a name tag that read 'SAM'. She obviously disliked us immediately, that somehow made her all the more alluring.

Sam: "You guys ready to order? Our soups for the day are-"

Collateral Darren: "Hey lady, if we want soup we will ask for it. Just because your company owns stock in a soup concern doesn't mean they can shove it down our throats."

Weasly Crusher: "Hey. Soup is good food."

Collateral Darren: "No man, soup is gravy with shrapnel in it."

Deviant Boy: "But ironically enough you love chili."

Collateral Darren: "Chili is WARHAMMER FANTASY ROLE PLAY, soup is D&D."

Blobert Smith: "I don't think I have ever had my ringpiece blown out by a game of D&D."

Me: "Well you are fairly new to the Albany gaming scene. Give it time."

Sam: "Would somebody please order something?"

Blobert Smith: "My pallet desires pie but what kind of pie? The patriotic fervor of apple? The esoteric revelations of blueberry? Perhaps the October dream that is pumpkin? Or perhaps the culinary dichotomy known as rhubarb? Or even-"

Me: "For Christ's sake just order some cheesecake!"

Blobert Smith: "Capital idea! capital!"

Sam: "One cheesecake. What would you like to drink?"

Blobert Smith: "Milk."

Sam: "Next."

El Disgusto: "Patty melt with an extra side order of fries. Got any Mountain Dew?"

Sam: "We have 7UP."

El Disgusto: "Sheesh, well I guess you don't then. I'll have an orange soda."

Sam: "Ok and you?"

Weasly Crusher: "Just a water please."

Sam: "Great. Next?"

Deviant Boy: "A salad for me. I'm watching my physique... if you wanna help just let me know."

Sam: "Not a chance. To drink?"

Deviant Boy: "A chocolate shake."

Sam: "Whatever. Are you read to order?"

Collateral Darren: "What are your soups today?"

Sam: "Sigh. Minestrone and cream of mushroom."

Collateral Darren: "Do you have any Italian Wedding soup?"

Sam: "We have minestrone and cream of mushroom."

Collateral Darren: "Are you sure? Can you check?"

Sam: "All we have is minestrone and cream of mushroom soup."

Collateral Darren: "Then I'll have the turkey club and some iced tea but no ice in the iced tea."

Sam: "Fine. And you?"

Me: "Well I would like a burger, fries and a large coke."

Sam: "Done."

Me: "Thank you Samantha."

Sam: "What? What did you call me?"

Me: "Samantha?"

Sam: "My name is Sam you little freak. Can't you read?"

Me: "Well Sam is short for Samantha.. isn't it?"

Sam: "Who are you the fucking nickname police?"

Me: "I didn't mean to offend. What is it short for?"

Sam: "My name is Sam, just Sam to you!"

Me: "Sorry..."

The waitress stormed off. I sat there blushing madly, staring at the table listening to the guys sitting around me choking back giggles. I knew that the first one of them to crack a joke would be destined to become my enemy for life and that someday we would have to fight to the death in a sinking ship with flaming shovels.

El Disgusto: "Man you're like not going to get laid ever are you?"

Well that came as no surprise to anyone did it? Once everyone else had stopped laughing we got started.

Blobert Smith: "Our story begins on the borders of Coalition territory and a desert wasteland in a- "

Weasly Crusher: "Can you back up? I mean I skimmed the RIFTS book but I don't really have a good grasp of what the world is like."

El Disgusto: It's got ninjas and robots what more do you need to know?"

Collateral Darren: "If Ronnie James Dio and Piers Anthony wrote a role playing game it would be RIFTS."

Blobert Smith: "It is all that and none of it. RIFTS is a world beset by strange magic and mad science, an apocalypse and a rebirth, a reality where cliches from a dozen different genres make war and love beneath against a backdrop of metatexual fan fiction."

Weasly Crusher: "Oh..."

El Disgusto: "If Kevin Siembieda were here he'd slap your fat face."

Blobert Smith: "Be that as it may our story begins on the border of Coalition territory-"

Weasly Crusher: "Coalition?"

Deviant Boy: "Republicans with power armor, just roll with it."

Blobert Smith: "-on the border of Coalition territory and a desert wasteland in a strange city known only as The Interzone. Clusters of minarets and skyscrapers cast the narrow streets into shadow. At the heart of the city, in a disused park is the bazaar, where anything can be bought. This is where each of your player characters find themselves. Why do they find themselves in this exotic and inviting place? The reasons are contained in these envelopes drawn at random."

Me: "Random plot hook generation? Well I'll try anything once..."

As we were opening our envelopes our food arrived.

Sam: "Water for you."

Weasly Crusher: "Thanks. This is a clean glass isn't it?"

Sam: "Yes. Here's your cheesecake."

Blobert Smith: "How sublime. Please allow me to place an order for my second piece now."

Sam: "Your turkey club and ice tea without ice."

Collateral Darren: "Was this turkey fresh?"

Sam: "Denny's is dedicated to bringing you fine quality foods at great prices. Your patty melt, fries and orange drink."

El Disgusto: "I didn't order an orange drink I ordered an orange soda."

Sam: "Is there a difference?"

El Disgusto: "Is there a difference between a magic user and an illusionist?"

Sam: "Is there a difference?"

El Disgusto: "Well I guess when you see your tip you'll know won't you?"

Sam: "One salad and one chocolate shake."

Deviant Boy: "Thanks. You know you should smile more. I mean you've got the body of a 20 year old but when you frown its like you've got the face of a 30 year old."

Sam: "Good thing you sat in my section, I might never have known."

Deviant Boy: "Hey I'm a full service kind of guy."

Sam: "And lastly we have the open face meat loaf sandwich with extra cole slaw and a diet Fresca."

Me: "Uhm... didn't I order the hamburger platter?"

Sam: "Did I bring you the hamburger platter?"

Me: "No... but I did order it."

Sam: "No you didn't. You asked for the open face meatloaf sandwich."

Me: "But..."

Sam: "I remember because I thought you were a meat head and you asked for a meat loaf sandwich. It stuck me as kind of funny."

El Disgusto: "I love observational humor..."

With that the waitress left. The open faced meatloaf sandwich was fine but to this day the taste of humiliation reminds me of the taste of diet Fresca.

Collateral Darren: "So the piece of paper in the envelope says that I came here because my character is jaded and wants new experiences. Cool."

Me: "And I'm here looking for Dr. Benway. I want revenge for the illegal operations he performed on me as a child?"

Blobert Smith: "As you can see I have drawn a picture to show where the questionable orifice was installed."

Deviant Boy: "And my character is here because he is trying to deal with his addiction to... bug powder?"

Blobert Smith: "Bug powder is a most potent opiate in this world."

Weasly Crusher: "And my techno-wizard is here to hire his services to the highest bidder or the most appropriate NPC."

El Disgusto: "Ok this is bullshit. My character is here because he killed his wife trying to shoot a glass off he head? No. Not happening."

Blobert Smith: "It is just a simple background story to allow you easier integration into the campaign."

El Disgusto: "Hello? Stupid! I'm a ninja and ninjas don't miss."

Me: "Tell that to Weasly's toilet seat..."

El Disgusto: "What?"

Weasly: "Please! I said nothing!"

Blobert pressed on, managing to get the party together and on their way to their first mission by the time he was on his third piece of cheesecake. We were contracted by hirsute and transgendered Dr. Benway.

Weasly Crusher: “So this is a cabaret with an outpatient surgery center?”

Blobert Smith: “Yes. It is called Cafe Flesh. Dr. Benway calls you all over to a table and straddles a chair while speaking to you. You cannot help but notice the sinewy legs barely contained by silk stockings. ‘What pleasure it is to make all of your acquaintances.’ Dr. Benway says. ‘And at such an opportune time.”

Collateral Darren: “I ask Dr. Benway if there is anyway I can get unaddicted to bug powder.”

Blobert Smith: “Dr. Benway’s ruby lips purse beneath a bark goatee.”

Collateral Darren: “Uh is that like a yes or a no or a...”

El Disgusto: “Anyone here touches my character and they die.”

Deviant Boy: “Hell with it, my cyborg gets into the mood of the whole thing. I’ll see if any of Dr. Benway’s singing nurses wants to ratchet my nuts.”

Blobert Smith: “All of Dr. Benway’s singing nurses are castratos.”

Deviant Boy: “Hey I love Italian girls.”

El Disgusto: “Can we please cut out this nonsense and get on with whatever mission there is?”

Blobert Smith: “Dr. Benway explains that the Cafe is in dire need of the mutant centipedes that lurk in the wastelands. From their poison sacks Dr. Benway is able to create the panacea needed to cure both bug powder addiction and trenchmouth- it is also the special ingredient for their chicken wings. If you will journey into the wastelands and harvest a few of these centipedes Dr. Benway will reward you richly. Dr. Benway asks if you have any questions.”

Me: “Now, about this orifice...”

We all agreed to the mission and as a reward Dr. Benway allowed us to have the run of Cafe Flesh for the night. After some debauchery described in Blobert's florid style we were off.

Blobert Smith: "While your memories of the evening's events may be faded and uncertain the truth of what happens lingers on as a tingle in your hypothalamus glands."

Weasly Crusher: "That Interzone is one weird town."

Deviant Boy: "This is a lot more interesting than some weird old dungeon crawl."

El Disgusto: "Figures you'd like it 'Dances With Mugwumps'."

Blobert Smith: "Suddenly you are attacked by -"

Sam: "Hey. Is there anything else you guys need?"

Blobert Smith: "No, six pieces of cheesecake is more than enough."

Sam: "Well are you guys ready for the check?"

Blobert Smith: "Oh not for a few hours yet I think."

We watched the waitress storm off.

Me: "She looked pissed."

Collateral Darren: "Who cares?"

Blobert Smith: "As I said, you are all attack by mutant brigands."

Weasly Crusher: "The very worst kind!"

(One long brutal combat later)

Me: "Wow. We did great. Not a scratch on us."

Weasly Crusher: "Our characters' love of combat is only equaled by their love of swimming, bodybuilding and martial arts."

El Disgusto: "I hang one of the mutant brigands from a cactus and scrawl on his chest with his own blood 'THEY DIDN'T LISTEN'"

Collateral Darren: "Hardcore!"

We traveled further into the wastelands.

Deviant Boy: “We park our motorcycles by the run down building.”

Blobert Smith: “Inside, among the cobwebs and inches of dusk you old arcade games and episodes of Battlestar Galactica on laserdisk.”

Collateral Darren: “There is still enough juice to run these things?”

Blobert Smith: “Somehow yes.”

El Disgusto: “You got lucky.”

Weasly Crusher: “Instead of Battlestar Galactica do they have any old episodes of the Dungeons and Dragons cartoon?”

After another day on the road day we encountered another group of strangers.

Deviant Boy: "Who are you people?"

Blobert Smith: "One of them explains - 'This is a Ley Line mon so we be Ley Line Walkers mon.'"

Me: "Rastafarian Ley Line Walkers?"

Blobert Smith: "'Yeah mon.'"

Me: "Suddenly those lisping Glitter Boys make all the more sense."

Weasly Crusher: "What are they doing out here?"

Blobert Smith: "' Don ya be knowin' dat all the best ganja grow along da ley lines mon.'"

Collateral Darren: "I kill them and take their stash."

El Disgusto: "Hardcore!"

Sam: “Can I get anything else for you guys?”

Collateral Darren: “No we’re fine.”

Me: “Guys maybe she needs to booth for someone else. We should probably wrap this up.”

Deviant Boy: “The suns not even up yet.”

Sam: “Hey baldy. I don’t need you to speak up for me ok?”

El Disgusto: “Baldy! She called him baldy!”

Me: “Uh, Sam it looks like we got off on the wrong foot here and I – ”

Sam: “Wrong foot? What the Hell is that supposed to mean?”

Me: “I... I...”

Sam: “These are orthopedic shoes, they may look funny to you but I wear them because I am on my feet all night dealing with drunks and weirdoes like you. They’re different colors because that was all I could afford. I am here to wait on you not amuse you.”

Me: “What the Hell is this? What are you talking about? When did I end up in a scene from GOODFELLAS?”

The waitress stormed off, she wasn’t cursing under her breath that was for damn sure.

El Disgusto: “You should totally ask her for her number.”

Me: “Oh you’re reveling in this.”

El Disgusto: “Reveling in it? I haven’t been this happy since the Knight Rider marathon!”

Deviant Boy: “You know what your problem is Ab3? You don’t use enough hard consonants when talking to girls. Girls get turned on if you do that.”

Eventually we got back to the adventure. The deeper we got into the wasteland the stranger the encounters we got were. I am sure Blobert saw them as role playing opportunities, some of the team saw them differently.

Blobert Smith: “The woman wears a ruined wedding gown and carries a bloodstained parasol, the doll she carries smells vaguely of meat.”

El Disgusto: “I attack!”

Finally, after another hour our characters found themselves at the centipede nesting grounds.

Things did not go as well as we hoped.

Me: “You would think Dr. Benway would have warned us these were giant centipedes.”

Weasly Crusher: “Well we aren’t dead. We might still be able to escape.”

El Disgusto: “They beat us down, tied us up and laid hundreds of eggs in our backs.”

Deviant Boy: “And now they’re singing show tunes.”

Me: “This game has exterminated all rational thought.”

Collateral Darren: “There has to be something that can save us.”

Me: “The police?”

Blobert Smith: “There are no police in RIFTS.”

Me: “Yeah but there is a policeman in Denny’s and he’s this way.”

El Disgusto: “If anyone asks my name is I’m Ol’Yellowbelly.”

The Nice Officer: “Evening gentlemen.”

Blobert Smith: “Good evening.”

The Nice Officer: “If I might ask, who is the owner of the blue Gremlin with the yellow and red racing stripes?”

Collateral Darren: “Heh. Actually those are Corellian Blood Stripes. Don’t they teach you guys anything at the police academy?”

The Nice Officer: “Well would you mind telling me why there is a LAW rocket in the back seat?”

Collateral Darren: “I don’t think that’s any of your business.”

We managed to get clear as the policeman wrestled Collateral Darren to the ground, cuffed him and led him away.

Collateral Darren: “It’s diffused! It really is! I’m holding it for a friend! It’s totally a bong...”

Deviant Boy: “I lose more roommates that way.”

Me: “Well on that note I think we should call it a night.”

Weasly Crusher: “Yeah. I’ve got to start my paper route in an hour or so.”

El Disgusto: “Well all we have to do now is divide the check up five ways.”

Weasly Crusher: “That doesn’t make sense.”

El Disgusto: “I don’t think we’re going to get any cash out of Collateral Darren do you?”

Weasly Crusher: “Yeah but I didn’t order anything.”

El Disgusto: “Oh yeah? And what’s this?”

Weasly Crusher: “A water.”

El Disgusto: “That you ordered. I rest my case.”

Weasly Crusher: “But – ”

El Disgusto: “I. Rest. My. Case.”

Weasly Crusher: “Ok.”

Me: “You know there are prison bitches with relationships that are more life affirming then the one you two have. You guys divvy up the check, I need to use the rest room.”

I excused myself to the rest room but what I really did was wait for a moment to catch Sam’s attention. I spoke to her by a moment over by the payphones.

Sam: “What do you want now?”

Me: “I’m sorry.”

Sam: “What?”

Me: “For whatever it is I somehow did or didn’t do to so drive you crazy tonight... I’m sorry. I know having us sitting there for five hours must have been a drag.”

Sam: “Well you did frighten off that screaming homeless guy.”

Me: “Apology accepted?”

Sam: “Yeah I guess.”

Me: “I think they’re ready for the check.”

Sam: “Finally?”

Me: “Yeah finally.”

Sam: “You know you aren’t such a bad guy really... your friends don’t make you look very good though. I’ll go get your check.”

I waited until Sam was out of sight before I punched the air once or twice. All I needed to do now was eat here once a week or so for the next few months and then I might finally get the nerve up to ask her out!

Imagine my surprise when she came back with a phone number on a slip of paper.

Sam: “By the way, here.”

Me: “Oh. This is...”

Sam: “My brother’s number, he’s into that Dragons and Dungeons stuff you guys were playing. His name is Guido, you might be able to get into one of his games sometime.”

Me: “Well, thanks. That’s very kind of you.”

Sam: “And here’s your check.”

Me: “Ok I’ll bring it back to the guys.”

Sam: “Don’t you know? They all left.”

Me: “What?”

Sam: “I guess they all got to arguing over something and they all stormed out.”

Me: “Well, isn’t that... hmmm... now that we’ve bonded here Sam, do you think you might be able to give me a running start?”

Sam: “Sorry no.”

So that’s it, I came to play RIFTS but I ended up doing dishes. I suppose there is some kind of poetic metaphor I could make about that, but lets be honest, that’s more of Blobert’s kind of thing.


  1. Blobert sounds pretty cool. He'd be a good GM if it wasn't for the prevalence of bizzare and/or transgendered characters he makes.

  2. Honestly, Blobert is the least offensive one there. Which is saying something

  3. The fact that you got this far without actually murdering one of them is a testament to your self control sir.

  4. The William Burroughs references were Blobert's doing, I presume?

  5. No fucking way would I have taken that kinda abuse from a fucking waitress

  6. The waitress was being a complete dick to be honest mate. You'd be well within your rights to complain to the manager.