Rifts is a TabletopRole-Playing Game with a combination of Cyber Punk 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 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.
Contains examples of:
Adaptational Villainy: Pantheons of the Megaverse (and the Egyptian pantheon in Africa) makes sure that nearly every pantheon has gods with unquestionably evil morality, even if they have to flanderize or rewrite the myths. The Greek pantheon has Hera, the Norse have Hel, the Hindus have Kali, Yama and Varuna (and Shiva doesn't come across well either), and the Egyptian and Babylonian pantheons have a lot of examples. The Chinese Yama Kings probably catch the worst of it. Ironically, the Aztec deities don't really catch this; after all, Human Sacrifice is canonically evil anyway.
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.
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 afterAfter 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 rightAfter the End.
A.I. Is a Crapshoot: A.R.C.H.I.E.-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 went both insane and sapient, and has dedicated himself to ruling all humanity.
All Myths Are True: As well as a plethora of original material, creatures/artifacts/locations from Earth's myths pop up frequently. If some myth isn't mentioned in the books, it's either because the writers haven't heard of it, or haven't yet worked out a way to fit in into the setting. Even real life people who got a Historical Villain Upgrade and/or had strange powers attributed to them sometimes get brought up, especially in books written by C.J. Carella.
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.
Explained in Chaos Earth by two South American nations nuking each-other during a planetary alignment. This led to a chain reaction of psychic energy (which doubles every time something living dies) flowing through ley lines around the world, causing earthquakes that killed even more people, which released more P.P.E., etc. etc.
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; 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.
Astral Projection: A Psychic Power. It can be used either to travel invisibly and intangibly in the mortal realm, or the psychic can travel at will to the Astral Plane. Either way, the psychic's mind leaves the body, but remains tethered to it by a silvery cord which can be used to return to the body. However, it is not wholly without risk: those who can see the invisible (either through magic, Psychic Powers, or naturally) will be able to see the astral traveller. And though normal weapons cannot harm an Astral Traveller or the cord connecting him to his body, magic and psychic attacks can. If the cord is destroyed, the mind will be unable to return to the body, and both will die.
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.
An earlier book on the war posted the possibility of using a magic artifact and a Barrier Maiden to pull this off on Big Bad Prosek himself, but put in no uncertain terms that anyone who tried it was dead meat even if they succeeded.
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 likeRifts 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.
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 available as armor.
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.
Bag of Holding: Though not nearly as ubiquitous as the D&D Trope Namer, the Temporal Magic spell "Dimensional Pockets" functions the same manner. The main difference is that Dimensional Pockets are temporary constructs.
Bee People: The Metzla and Xixticix, among others.
The Beforetimes: Modern day Earth, up until the Coming of the Rifts in 2098. Known variously as the Golden Age of Mankind, the Time Before Rifts, and the Time of Man.
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.
Parodied in the Rifter 9 1/2, which featured Giga-Damage guns. Most of them are over-sized to the point of ridiculousness, with descriptions like "looks like a bigger version of Han Solo's gun in Star Wars."
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.
ARCHIE-3 exploits this trope to conceal his true nature, having a fake control unit he calls "A.R.C.H.I.E. 3-OZ" designed to resemble a human brain scaled up to massive proportions (it's 9 meters in radius). Even Hagan, his best friend, doesn't know that this is a fake designed to mislead would-be heroes (hence the OZ designator; a reference to The Wizard of Oz) and the real ARCHIE-3 is basically a black box-shaped device 12 inches tall and 18 inches square hidden deep within the complex.
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. A very important point of the setting is that nobody on Earth is able to successfully launch anything into space without it being destroyed by unknown forces. This denies even advanced nations like the Coalition States or the New German Republic the use things like global communications or surveillance via satellites. In reality, the space colonies have placed Earth under quarantine and an elaborate setup of counter-orbit debris, killer satellites and manned patrol ships destroy anything that tries to reach orbit.
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 Coalition State of Iron Heart, as well as note the former state 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. Ironically, this has resulted in people (human and Deebee) in areas policed by the Tundra Rangers flying Canadian flags in their communities and self-identifying as Canadians. Certain Canadian legends, such as the loup garou and Ogopogo, are also given stats in the book.
Canine Companion / Non-Human Sidekick: There's a good reason why the Coalition decided to engineer dogs into psychic humanoid supernatural detectors. Though other animals might have been better suited for combat, you can't beat dogs as loyal companions to man. This has actually come to bite the Coalition High Command on the ass, as some feel that Dead Boys forming attachments to Dog Boys is putting a toe over the line of their staunch human supremacist rhetoric. Some have tried to make soldiers in the field form a similar attachment to Psi-Stalkers, who are human mutants. Unfortunately, the bald, white-skinned mutants make normal humans feel uncomfortable, due in large part to the Uncanny Valley.
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.
Cant 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 Kittani (a slave race of the Splugorth) created their own plasma variant.
Character Alignment:invoked 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.
Amusingly, each of the above listed alignments still roughly corresponds to one in the traditional Dungeons & Dragons array, leaving out only True Neutral and (somewhat randomly) an analog for Lawful Neutral.
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 MDC, or "Mega Damage Capacity". 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.
City of Adventure: Center on Phaseworld in the Three Galaxies setting. Also any city on Rifts Earth that gets described in detail in the books (like Kingsdale, New El Paso, or Firetown).
Sapient Steed: Megasteeds from Mystic Russia are this. The description even says they can be player characters, if the GM allows it. Blood Lizards from South America 2 are basically a Horse of a Different Color version of this.
Cool Old Lady: Erin Tarn; adventurer/historian, a champion of the downtrodden, and Coalition Enemy Number One. The people of the New German Republic positively worship her. Erin is so famous that her name and writings are actually known in other dimensions! 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.
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.
It should be noted that it's not so much that Archie cannot have ideas of its own as that it doesn't believe its ideas are any good. As explained in the second Rifts Sourcebook, amongst Archie-3's many mental issues is a serious case of low self-esteem. Archie just never can believe its own ideas are worthwhile, and the rare occasions it does try to do something independent usually goes wrong, which only further hurts Archie's ego. For example, Archie-3 gets the idea to experiment with dimensional magic and accidentally unleashes the Mechanoids upon Rifts Earth, something that the sourcebook notes will make Archie-3 refuse to ever get involved with dimension magic and leylines again.
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 QuebecSourcebook 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. Triax, however, has applied their German engineering to schematics obtained from Free Quebec and produced both a markedly superior model with additional weapons systems, as well as the first ever flight-capable Glitter Boy. People with the old-style USA-G10 models would drool with envy.
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.
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 implantsnote 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, 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 being the meat original.
Deadly Upgrade: Juicers gain Captain America 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 publicly-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 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.
Do Androids Dream?: The sourcebook makes a point of noting that full-conversion 'borgs still dream.
Dungeonmaster's Girlfriend: The April Fool's Joke book, The Rifter 9 1/2, included a letter from a fan (which may or may not have been real) from a guy who tried to get his girlfriend into RPGs by letting her play Erin Tarn.note For those who don't know, Erin Tarn is a very major NPC, and the closest thing to a worldwide celebrity in the main settingAnd then got her killed off, probably on purpose. The letter writer asked for advice on how to handle this, since he didn't want his group to become known as "the group who let Erin Tarn get killed." Kevin Siembieda advised the man to Retcon the whole thing by claiming it was some sort of Erin Tarn impersonator, while Percy Ferkleberger (A.K.A. Kevin Siembieda Lampshading a meddling executive) called the guy an idiot for even letting his girlfriend play such an important character.
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 (and possibly in another dimension).
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.
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. Though it's not the only of it's kind, such nexuses are very rare. Eldritch Abominations flock to Rifts Earth because of this unique status.
Eldritch Abomination: Alien Intelligences are a catch-all 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.
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 stance on magic/nonhumans places it squarely in the trope.
In the Three Galaxies setting, the Transgalactic Empire plays this trope completely straight.
Lightning Gun: Literally, in the case of some Techno Wizard weapons.
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.
Archie-3 and Hagan are noted in both sourcebooks to literally consider each other to be their best friends, and are quite loyal as a result.
As mentioned in The Starscream below, Emperor Karl Prosek and his son Joseph II. They're both about as evil as two otherwise normal humans can be (the son is actually more evil in some ways), yet they love and trust each other with their lives.
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 protection. 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).
Averted during the Siege on Tolkeen, when (certain members of) the Coalition went whole hog Nazi and set up concentration/death camps in Wisconsin. In the book where they're first mentioned, a smuggled letter from a prisoner inside one of the camps describes the horrors taking place inside the camp. The letter writer says at one point that he didn't think even the Coalition could be so cruel.
Another example is the "Stalag of Doom" adventure seed. One Coalition commander decides to set up a concentration camp for torturing and experimenting on captured D-Bees. The twist is that his superiors didn't sign off on this particular show of initiative and will not be happy if they hear of it.
Everybody Hates Hades: Aside from Osiris (the one exception), Hades is actually the nicest death god around, and he's a Jerkass and a Knight Templar with no concern for human life. Nearly every other death god is an Omnicidal Maniac, regardless of their portrayal in their original mythology.
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.
This trope is also the reason why so many alien and Eldritch Abomination races who normally ride roughshod over entire galaxies have to treat Rifts Earth with a relatively light hand. For instance, take the Splugorth. Under normal circumstances they would have enslaved the entire Earth in a matter of days. However, they've had to content themselves for the last century or so with controlling just Atlantis, because any time they step outside their borders, they have dozens to hundreds of other would-be conquerors to contend with.
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 Drug: the Juicer UprisingSourcebook has a section on designer drugs meant to simulate to varying degrees the effects of the more elaborate drug harness system worn by actual Juicers. As well as stats for the effects of the drug, the section also describes the symptoms of withdrawal, and the effects of addiction. The section is headed by a Dont Do This Cool Thing disclaimer.
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.
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.)
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.
Flat Earth Atheist: The writers on Psyscape realized that the Nega-Psychic from Beyond the Supernatural, a Flat Earth Atheistwhose 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 (as well as those that don't). 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 wonder what they should actually do with these super soldiers.
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.
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 Cataclysm.
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 Soldierbears, 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-Busting: Rifts is not part of any genre, it's an amalgam of so many genres that it is practically a genre unto its own.
Genre Roulette: It's hard to pick a genre that Rifts hasn't covered in one or more books.
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 from 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.
Go Mad from the Revelation: In a pyramid in Atlantis, there's a permanently open Rift that defies all attempts to close it. Though Splynncryth has had minions experimenting on it for years, they haven't been able to determine where it goes. All they know is that anyone who even looks directly into the Rift becomes incurably insane, gains Psychic Powers, and has his alignment reversed.
Good Weapon, Evil Weapon: You can usually tell whether a race/organization is good or evil at a glance by looking at their weaponry. Good guys tend to have normal or flashy-looking weapons, and guns that look more functional than pretty. Bad guys put Spikes of Villainy on everything, even gun barrels, and it's not uncommon for their melee weapons to look like something H. R. Giger might have designed while on an acid trip.
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."
The Great Politics Messup: 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.
Gun Fu: China 2 has the Gun Master O.C.C. They are warriors trained in Tao Jen Qiang, "The Way of the Patient Gun." It is a martial art that lets them become one with guns in ways that would make Chow Yun Fat look like a novice. For instance, at first level they can kill MDC monsters with SDC bullets, which is normally an impossibility in Rifts (see Chunky Salsa Rule above for more details). At higher levels they can shoot ghosts.
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 sub-races (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 did the marketing for said books decided to portray her as a well-builtknockout 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.
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.
Also Qin Hui, an infamous Chinese traitor who, while working for one of the Yama Kings of hell, came across a statue of himself and his wife. One that has been traditionally spat upon (and worse) to this day. When he touched the statue, his soul was split partially into the statue and he got to experience all nine hundred-plus years of that.
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.
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 or more of his stats. Note that 10-12 is considered average.
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.
Hypocrite: Standard for the charismatic leadership of the Coalition States, especially Emperor Prosek, who out-Hitler's Hitler! Even worse is his son though, who writes most of the CS propaganda, including their extremely detailed rants about exactly why all magic is evil. Yet behind the scenes he secretly knows about, and assists, the Vanguard, a group of pro-Coalition mages that are the descendants of the CS military's former magic division, which was disbanded when anti-magic sentiment became too widespread among the general public.
Infant Immortality: The New German Republic has started to avert this, with a series of tiny disposable infiltration robots designed specifically to sneak underneath Gargoyle eggs and explode.
In Name Only: Rifts Manhunter, the only official Rifts book not published by Palladium. The now-defunct Myrmidon Press was given permission to use Palladium's Megaversal Rules System in making Manhunter, and the Rifts title was tacked on almost as an afterthought. About the only parallels this game has to any other Rifts product is that magic and science exist side-by-side, and infrequent, awkward mentions of rifts in time and space suddenly appearing in the setting. The book has been out of print for a very long time, and extant copies are so rare most Rifts fans have never even heard of it.
Insistent Terminology: In an odd case, virtually every single mention of the city of Ishpeming will be described in the books as Ishpeming (Northern Gun) (after the local cartel/weapons manufacturer), even if it has been called exactly that not one page prior. Very rarely will you see it actually called simply Ishpeming.
Chi-Town is always referred to as a Mega-City, possibly because Siembieda didn't realize that a term already exists for cities like Chi-Town. Even later books by other authors that use the correct word (arcology) will still include "Mega-City," usually combining the two as Mega-City/arcology. Even on this very page, as in Alternative Calendar, above.
The Coalition High Command would really prefer it if you referred to their genetically engineered soldiers as "Psi-Hounds," not "Dog Boys," thank you very much. Ironically, the only people likely to do so are the Dog Boys themselves.
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. Cosmo-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.
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.
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.
Magic Versus Science: It's not universal, but there are several cases of pro-magic, anti-tech sentiment in the world, and equally, several cases of pro-tech, anti-magic sentiment. The latter is often mixed up in human-supremacism, but not always (El Dorado, prior to joining the Coalition, welcomed D-Bee citizens despite being firmly against the use of magic).
Japan in particular has Magitek essentially limited to tech-ninja clans (who don't play by the rules anyway) because of this; the main technological faction (the Republic of Japan) has little access to magic (though they're not necessarily against it, they don't use it) and the main magical faction (the New Empire) is firmly anti-tech. There are non-ninja factions that use both magic and technology (most notably Takamatsu), but they don't headline the book. However, it's worth noting that the New Empire and the Republic are friendly allies who mutually respect one another.
The Siege on Tolkeen was made of this: the fiercely anti-magic technocrats of the Coalition States invaded the Magical Kingdom of Tolkeen, pitting high-tech soldier against spell-weaving mage. Though the books point out that the war was just as much about geography as ideology. The Coalition wouldn't have hated Tolkeen quite so much if they weren't so close to Chi-Town.
Mars Needs Women: The Splugorth Slavers, who look like giant slug/lizard things fused to floating barges, are always accompanied by 4-6 beautiful women in one-piece bathing suits. One picture that gets reused often shows a Slaver holding one of them close to him and licking the side of her face. Not a completely straight example, as the women aren't actually human, but it's almost impossible to tell the difference.
Massive Race Selection: 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.
Mayincatec: The Inca gods have returned, backing a new Kingdom of the Sun in its fight against the invading alien Arkon race.
Possibly 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.
Mega Corp.: A number of pre-Rifts megacorps that survived the Great Cataclysm have attained this role. Triax fits this trope perfectly within the New German Republic, where they are the primary engine of the country's economy and at present the CEO is also the President of Germany. The Cyberworks Aerospace Networks likewise holds this position on the Moon, where their moonbase was the first offworld community to declare nationhood after the Great Cataclysm. KLS Corp is the dominant economic presence on Freedom space station. In the Three Galaxies setting there's Naruni Enterprises, a corporation so large it counts as a multi-galactic Empire.
Minor Injury Overreaction: The books mention that creatures with Healing Factor battling the New German Republic would generally fight until they were low on health, then flee, wait a couple hours, and pounce fully healed on the weakened soldiers. This worked fine until the NGR started issuing soldiers rail guns that fired rounds made from Uranium, which negated said healing abilities. The enemy would invariably freak out upon realizing their injuries weren't healing like they should be, and became easy pickings.
Mini-Mecha: The sourcebooks themselves note that a number of nominal powered armor designs are in fact Mini-Mecha, where the pilot sits in the body of the armor and operates the arms and legs with controls.
The Minion Master: The Shifter class is a magic user that focuses on dimensional teleportation and Summon Magic. They can contact and attempt to control supernatural beings via a battle of wills (and if this fails, they can attempt to overpower the creature by more conventional means). Unlike D&D summon spells, there is no time limit, though the book suggests forming short term contracts, as forcing a demonic being to remain under a Puny Earthling's control for an extended period is likely to hazardous to said mortal's health.
More Dakka: Parodied in the Rifter 9 1/2 with Giga-Damage, a new set of rules which poked fun at the claims that Rifts is all about Munchkinism and Power Gaming. It featured comically oversized weapons that were literally millions of times more powerful than anything else found in the books.
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).
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.
N.G.O. Superpower: The setting is full of them, you can barely cross a continent without tripping over two or three weapons manufacturers who rival their governments in power. Triax, H-Brand, Northern Gun, Armatech, and above all the others Naruni Enterprises.
The Northern Gun Sourcebook comes right out and says that the government of Ishpeming is basically a rubber stamp committee for the corporation.
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?note None of this is hyperbole. Everything mentioned in the previous sentence can actually be found in the books.
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 genuinely dangerous Gargoyles and Brodkil, we're intended to think of them as the good guys. To be fair this was done for pragmatic reasons, as the NGR was (and still is) having enough trouble keeping all the humans within its borders safe from the rest of the world and so the decision was made to put humans first. Depending of the GM, there's a sizable underground of German D-Bees and human sympathizers trying to get around government policy.
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.
This happens fairly frequently, appropriately for the setting. Magic in many communities is viewed suspiciously, but there are plenty of good magicians: The same thing is true with psychics, mutants, D-Bees, and humans. Mystic Knights are evil, but if one is playing a member of the Order of the White Rose, one will have to deal with the reputation of those evil Knights.
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 Chi-Town Magic Battalions have been eradicated from state history, lest people start to doubt the government line that all mages are capital E Evil.
The CAF Scientist from the Three Galaxies setting was more or less designed to be this.
One-Gender Race: The Blind Altara Women. They reproduce asexually, via a process that's a mixture of egg-laying and budding.
One Nation Under Copyright: Naruni Enterprises in the Three Galaxies setting (in the main setting they're just arms dealers). Worlds under their control are referred to only by serial number, and their citizens/employees aren't treated much better than drones.
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 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 Gargoyles Rock: Come in four varieties. Most serve the Demons of Hades, but an independent force in Europe has formed an Empire currently at war with the New German Republic.
Our Giants Are Bigger: Rifts has several races of "True" Giants (i.e. mystical giant races rifted in from The Palladium Fantasy RPG), as well as many other oversized humanoids. They range from types culled from mythology, like Cyclops and Nimro, to more original races, like the Seekers and four-armed psychic Rahu-Men. Trolls are also considered a race of giant in Rifts.
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 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. note 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.
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.
Wooden stakes to the heart will not kill a vampire, only put it in a state of suspended animation. Remove the stake, and within 15 seconds the vampire will be back to full health, hungry as hell, and biting at the neck of anyone within arm's reach. However, once it has been incapacitated by a stake, the vampire is vulnerable, and can be killed by separating the head from the body and burning both to ash.
Our Werewolves Are Different: In keeping with the Fantasy Kitchen Sink, several varieties of werewolves exist. The Conversion book has several brands of lycanthrope, including werewolves, werejaguars, etc, which are basically creatures that can take on a human or animal appearance. They are essentially aliens, not cursed humans, and can't transmit their lycanthropy to others. Different kinds of werewolves exist in other settings, such as Russia and Canada, based on local folklore.
Overlord Jr.: Joseph Prosek II. Bonus points for being even more evil than his father Emperor Karl Prosek,note Joseph II is named for his grandfather and yet still completely loyal to him.
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 by a Forsaken Child: The second Atlantis SourcebookSplynn Dimensional Market contains Faerie Weapons. These are not weapons made by faeries, but weapons powered by enslaved faeries trapped glass jars.
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.
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.
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.
Those who don't believe in (or weren't told about) the shortened lifespan go pretty nuts as well. Superhuman strength, speed, and endurance can be intoxicating. An entry from a Juicer's journal in Juicer Uprising indicates he's become such an adrenaline junkie he sometimes throws himself off rooftops for the rush.
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.
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. See Noble Bigot, above.
Steam Punk: 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 Steam Punk 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.
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 Tolkeen 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.
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.
Siembieda has admitted that this is the reason why dragon hatchlings are available as player characters.
Rules Conversions: 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.
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 in that the game takes place a couple hundred years after After the End.
Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: Played painfully straight in the Three Galaxies setting. All spaceship weapons have ranges, with 100 miles being among the furthest effective ranges (whereas in Real Life, jet fighters often engage at farther distances than that). Also, the major governments of the setting are massive star empires strung out along three Galaxies, and are somehow able to maintain cohesion despite the mind-boggling distances between their constituent worlds. And one city manages to serve as a major trade hub for the whole of the Three Galaxies. Granted, it's a massive city, and the world's sufficiently advanced technology allows ships to instantly teleport to its star systemnote though they still have to use conventional means to get back home, but it's still pretty insane.
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, 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. Well, not really, the power goes up and down, but it was the case for the first handful of books.
Set Right What Once Went Wrong: The Rifts Adventure Guide has a section that consists adventure ideas which are a paragraph 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.
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. He was so fascinated by it that he even provided a bibliography for anyone else who might be interested.
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! For instance, they have the largest 'Borg in all the books. They can go toe-to-toe with Humongous Mecha, and can be fitted with indirect fire mortars so massive the 'Borg has to lope like a gorilla while wearing it.
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. Old Style Dead Boy armor has spikes on the knees and left shoulder. Both old and new Psi-Stalker armors 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.
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 had it state that they are simply a lot better than the ones that are used currently.
The Boom Gun railgun of the famous Glitterboy shoots projectiles at Mach 5, around 1700 meters per second. The Main Gun on the M 1 A 2 Abrams has a muzzle velocity of 1,580 to 1,750 meters/second. Real Life railguns in testing have a muzzle velocity of 5700 meters per second.
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.
This Is a Work of Fiction: Every Rifts book comes with a large disclaimer at the very beginning explaining that Rifts is entirely fictional, and its depictions of magic, the supernatural, et al. is not meant to be taken as realistic in any way. Sometimes disclaimers will precede specific parts of books. They also request that Rifts fan websites use the disclaimer. This is not done because they believe Viewers Are Morons, so much as a way of heading off Moral Guardians who might try to sue the company. And to be fair, considering the trouble games like Dungeons & Dragonsnote See Mazes and Monsters and GURPSnote Their offices were once raided by the Secret Service because the Feds mistakenly believed that their Cyberpubnk sourcebook contained actual instructions on how to hack computers have gotten into, they're probably being Properly Paranoid.
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 Unpronounceable: The Xiticix race comes pretty damn close. According to Siembieda, the Xiticix were named by Kevin Long, the artist who designed them, and he's regretted going with that name ever since. In an essay he wrote about naming things, he flat out called it a "terrible name." The name is so unwieldy that Siembieda's father referred to them as "City Chicks." For those of you who are wondering, the correct pronounciation is "zeye-TICK-icks."
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 (they even had their own magic military unit at the time) 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.
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 Jerk Ass or Magnificent Bastard, 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.
We Are Struggling Together: The Federation of Magic in North America, who are united by little more than hatred of the Coalition, and generally fight with each other more than their common enemy. The sourcebook mentions that even Alastair Dunscon, heir to the "True" Federation of magic, only controls about 15-20% at any given time, and even his father was only able to rally a little more than half for his war against Chi-Town.
What Might Have Been: In the early days of the Coalition, magic was a valid military and civil tool, but was abandoned 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.
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.
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.
Wreathed in Flames: The Burster class. They are psychics who specialize in pyrokinesis. They get their name for their most impressive psychic power, which is to surround themselves in a flaming aura. There's also a mutant jaguar race in the first South America book which can do this.
The Kittani, an alien race who enjoy making plasma weapons, have created a technological variant of the Burster's ability. They're mostly used by races/classes who are resistant to fire (such as Bursters) because the Kittani never quite worked out how to keep the person wearing the plasma harness from burning up while using it.
Wretched Hive: As one might expect, Rifts Earth is fairly overflowing with these. However, the ones that get the most press are the 'Burbs of Chi-Town. They are an unofficial sprawl of shanty towns and slums surrounding the arcology of Chi-Town like a besieging army. The 'Burbs are filled with rejects, criminals, and scum. The older areas, typically those closest to Chi-Town, have been around long enough that they're become fairly affluent communities, and are mostly populated with people on the waiting list to become Coalition citizens. The Coalition refuses to recognize any authority that might pop up in the 'Burbs, and usually only makes its presence known when it instigates a purge to wipe out trouble too big to ignore (and they don't care who they step on along the way). The Coalition does employ some Dead Boys to patrol trouble areas to keep an eye on things, but these "peacekeepers" are completely biased towards humans, and mostly corrupt as well. It's not uncommon for one to step over the body of a dead D-Bee with a knife in his back without so much as a "What happened here?"
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.
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.