Tabletop Review: RIFTS: Vampire Kingdoms (Revised)

RIFTS: Vampire Kingdoms
Publisher: Palladium Books
Release Date: 08/08/2011
Page Count: 224
Cost: $24.95
Get it Here: Palladium’s official store

Here’s a fact that every horror genre afficionado knows:

There’s nothing fresh about vampires. Naturally, that doesn’t stop people from getting it on with the vampire love, sometimes literally if Anne Rice and Stephenie Meyer are any indication. Like most varieties of creative output, some vampire stories are good, and some are not so good, and some frankly, downright suck. Rifts: Vampire Kingdoms – from the perspective of a horror aficionado is passably good, but from the perspective of a gamer and sometime gamemaster, it suffers from the usual amount of problems associated with any Palladium game.

Rifts is a massive game. I’ve devoted an entire bookshelf to supplements big and small, thick and thin, and have plenty of fond memories of my ever mercurial gaming troupe cutting and blasting and smashing swathes through the multiverse, chasing whatever plot bait I put out for them. One of the first things I realized when going through literally any Rifts book is that while the books will be long on story and setting, they’ll also include a ridiculous amount of unnecessary rules. The pattern has been that the story world is lush and layered with a virtual cornucopia of elements steeped in dramatic opportunity, and then the mechanics are such that gameplay is dragged out into the street and beaten like a dog.

Rifts: Vampire Kingdoms isn’t any different. The approach is from the perspective of a report by vampire hunter Doc Reid (of Reid’s Rangers featured in the original book). It gives a rundown on who the vampires are, where they are from, how they spread and how to kill them. It makes use of tropes anyone familiar with horror, and vampires in particular, will be able to instantly recognize and appreciate. The mood Reid inspires is tense, with a hint of the sick moral craziness associated with any good horror yarn, and then it devolves into three or four pages of convoluted very specific rules about how to wack one of these nameless faceless antagonists in the heart using mallet, crossbow, and any other weapon under the sun. Now if that’s your thing and you like it when your games devolve into mathematical exercises in probability featuring dice, clandestine mathematics, and detail oriented rules, then this is for you. But if you’re like me and you play these games with the idea of telling a compelling story and scaring the crap out of your players with mood, ambiance and tragic, doomed characters, then toss out the extraneous rules and make them up on the fly when you need them. If you read just the teaser for the game, the copious amounts of rules kind of gives an idea of what the actual book is going to be like, and if Palladium’s track record holds true, then this book won’t be any different from the others. But hey, at least the vampires don’t sparkle.







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