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Quality in Rifts: Remembering Pete Overton

Quality In Rifts: Global Dispatch

By Pete Overton

Last Updated: 05.25.2004


On the Quality in Rifts list, we very occasionally discuss things, and sometimes out of those discussions comes a heap of frustration and headbanging, mostly. Once in a long while, however, an exceptional idea arises out of the perpetual flatline of conversational tone. :) No, no, it's a great list, and this is a great idea. It started when we were discussing about how Palladium lays out its setting and it remaind fairly static, as a rule -- PCs, while "larger than life" heroes, are not really supposed to affect major change in the world. There's some things in canon that "one just does not do." This stasis of setting is demoralizing for the players and annoying for the GMs, as we diverge more and more from the canon we have to create almost novel-sized House Rule & World Update files too. Note the "Battle of Tolkeen" that has been promised since Rifts first came out nearly a decade ago. Palladium does not like it when you mess with their static setting.

This in turn led me to bring up the White Wolf supplement "The Hunter's Survival Guide" for their Hunter: The Reckoning game. This supplement was designed to give an overview of the world, but it was novel because the entire thing was written in-character and gave no statistics or new toys, but rather detailed parts of the world through the characters' eyes. A city would be explained from a viewpoint, safehouses told of, law enforcement and local issues stated, that sort of thing. It was all delicious.

So naturally the next step was to combine the two above ideas. Rifts needs more dynamism and updates to its locales periodically, and thus was born the idea of Global Dispatches. These are in-character writings that detail thoughts, feelings, locations, plots, conspiracies, or what have you of the world of Rifts. From all over the globe, places and people are best represented from a local viewpoint.

This consists mostly of optional material for the GMs, and like the Inconsistencies, is driven by your submissions (we usually post them to the Quality List first for feedback). Create a character and write about your favourite part of the world, how you see it changed in however long it has been since Palladium last visited it. Once you see some of the samples, you'll understand, I think. But this isn't about introducting unstoppable characters or silly culture, but rather INTERESTING personalities, unique places, plots, schemes. The information may be all there or may be lacking. Use your imagination and above all, remember where it's being posted (here) and try to subscribe to the tenets of this webpage. :)

My thanks to Braden Campbell, Hugh, John and the Quality List in general for all their wonderful work and wonderful ideas. To them do we owe this page.

Volume 1

Dear Emperor:

My Son has gone to war. I am a professor at the Army medical school, and my feelings and opinions have gotten my family, and me in trouble before. I should have been an officer, serving in the strategy corps, but my security clearance was damaged by a long, heart-felt, tirade to my recruitment officer. He placed me into infantry, and from there I worked a thirty-year stretch to officer status, and my position as one of the best physicians in the Coalition military.

I am dying now, and my only son is many miles away, fighting a war, I understand cannot be won. My mind was meant for strategies, but now a disease, which resists treatments eats at it's lining, allowing infection and rot. I've spent the last years making friends in the Coalition Intelligence field and army branches. When they get sick, they tend to find the best doctors, and acclimate to them. I've traded kindness for a picture of the world that few Coalition citizens or even military personnel receive. You cannot win a war against the many fronts you have engaged.

Quebec will defeat us. Their borders are smaller and easier to defend, weather and terrain favor the home team, and our weapons are poor defenders for our countryside. Our allies, like Iron Heart, are weak and nothing reveals a weakness like enemies at your gates. Friends of mine, wrote me a letter from the new factories of Iron Heart, and suggested that the people should return to using flint tools and a hunter-gatherer society, for their bac kwards-manufacturing methods, which rely upon human labor, rather than automation. Quebec will strike Iron Heart with assaults meant to terrorize a populace. How can their Human run sweatshops endure terrorism and morale breaking defeats, as well as Chi-Town's robotic factories do?

Quebecois weapons are also designed for more deadly campaigns within our own countryside. A military specialist, in the area of small and large artillery pieces, suggested that the Glitterboy was useless in the regards to rapid assaults, but was one of the most effective field defense pieces in Quebec's arsenal. Quebec will send teams of Commandos, small terrorist bombing groups, and fanatical troops, to take small farming communities in the countryside. In the military Vacuum following their assault and departure, Quebec will install units of two hundred or more Glitterboys, which will serve as garrison, until concrete embrasures and whole scale devastation can be instilled in the town. Like the Elephants of Hannibal, these units will terrorize our countryside, bringing Chi-Town to the brink of devastation. In the State of Iron heart, these activities will force the nation state to surrender, like Mussolini's Italy, leaving a new front to defend and possibly an Ally for Quebec to exploit. Quebec will never be capable of assaulting Chi-Town proper, but a state of siege will ruin our economy, starve our children, and jeopardize your government.

While we re-deploy our best troops--like my son in Tolkeen—retired Colonel Marcus Larsen, will be leading troops against our weakened positions. I've served in the military for a very long time. I remember your father's campaign against the Federation of magic—through stories and tales told by officers, long since gone to rest--and I know that even with the technology of our day that there were fiends that took the field of victory, because there was nothing within our power to defend us from them. Tolkeen will use these against our massed mechanized troops, and hopefully, my son will be many miles from the engagement. I will have died of this strange disease, but Tolkeen will ravage what the Quebecois would not have touched. We will be forced to sue for peace in a world, which will break our armies and dictate terms of peace. Perhaps you will be forced to sit across from a demonic power, which demands your worship, for your country's safety. I know that you will be unable to live with a defeat of this nature. A pistol by your bedside and a hero's funeral will leave your own proud son to deal with the failures of your empire. Perhaps your son and mine will be friends. Perhaps they will allow for a recovery, or perhaps you will read my words and make a better world for both of our children. Call off the dogs of war, and fight monsters and demons in our own lands. Consolidate your power, and build bases in every farming city you possess. Use any form of labor you can beg, borrow, or steal. When the country is twice it's current population, build an army twice the size it is today, or better yet, let our sons build it. In twenty years you will crush Tolkeen, and Quebec will have forgotten it's enmity with you. Crush one nation at a time, and build our allies into a stalwart force. Give nothing to our enemies, and continue to advance Science, as our state religion. Trust me, your empire will be far lasting, if today you are a Cicero, rather than a Cato. Gather our strength, and take care of our children. I deed you all of my money and possessions. I grant you the lands I have purchased, and all of my personal files. They are little compared to your own wealth, but they could be some small addition to the empire, which might save my son's life. That is the only inheritance I could possibly hope to give him. I beg you to read these words and consider them.

In best and loyal regards,

Colonel Tyler Salks

[Written by Jason Starin]

Dear Dad,

I arrived at my first assignment today, Platoon Commander Foxtrot Platoon, 2nd Battalion "Screaming Demons", 1st Chi-Town Airborne Brigade. Sounds like a mouthful, doesn't it? I can assure you. the soldiers in the unit are a handful. Although we're all Airborne trained the difference between my enlisted men and my fellow officers is surreal, as an officer I understand the consequences of war, I've been trained to understand them and deal with them. My men have not, they know only that we are about to fight the enemy, to be defenders and saviors of humanity, they are noble and motivated, but also ignorant in the most dangerous sense.

I realize my thoughts sound callous and traitorous but do not worry, my loyalty to this great nation and its goals is unwavering, my concern lies not in the Coalition itself but in concern for the welfare of those under my command. They seem reckless and unafraid of death, and they act as though we are invincible. All my men have field experience but never have they faced an overpowering opponent, never have they fought in sustained conflict, never have they suffered defeat, and never have I. The impact of such a large scale conflict is one foreign to my men, death seems a far and away notion, and so it should, my communications Corporal is only seventeen years old. If he dies I will tell his mother that he died honorably in service of humanity, and that the human race owes him a debt that can never be repaid, the life he wasn't allowed to live.

My men await the order to move out, as part of the Rapid Deployment Force we will no doubt be a part of the spearhead assault on Tolkeen being dropped in behind the lines to seize key bridges, or disrupt communications and supply lines. Although I share their anticipation of the order to move out, I do not share their desire to face a well armed, well trained foe. We shall prevail, but we shall not escape unscathed. Being responsible for the life of another man is difficult enough, however, when that man has no understanding that his life is in danger the task becomes increasingly difficult. Perhaps my Staff Sergeant described their attitude best "they're like virgins on the wedding night sir, they just wanna get some, they ain't worried if their dicks are too small."

Send my regard to mom and anyone else who may be interested in knowing that I am alive and well. It may be difficult to communicate to you from the field, so know that I am well and plan to stay alive. Hopefully, the timeline for our assault will be met and I shall arrive home within a few weeks.

Nigel Forsythe, Captain
Foxtrot Platoon, 2nd Battalion, 1st Chi-Town Airborne Brigade

[Written by John Stevens]

Enter John Waldemar, playwright extraordinaire.

John Waldemar was born in Laszlo in 77 PA. Son of a wealthy businessman and a professor of History at the Victor Laszlo University, Johnny Boy was very unlike his pragmatist father and elder brothers, and more like his mother -- a dreamer.

He followed in Mom's footsteps, and became a historian. However he always had another passion -- writing. For as long as he could write, he wrote fiction stories of all types, from furiously-paced action to tear-jerking drama. After graduating in History, he became enomaroted with Medieval passion plays, and this became his favorite style.

He was very critical of his own work and showed it only to those closer to him. No one could deny that lil' John had a gift.

When, at 20, he finally got the balls to show it to a publisher, his manuscript -- an epic about the war between Chi-Town and the Federation -- was turned down because it "glorified the vile, totalitarian and genocidal Prosek dynasty while being offensive to all freethinkers, lovers of magic and dimensional beings."

John was angry. He did not glorify or put down CS or Federation. His play was not about "good guys and bad guys", "good or evil." It was not a treatise on morality or a four-color pulp story.

It was tragedy. It was real life. It was happening all around us, even within the ivory towers of Laszlo -- let alone out there, in the wilderness, beyond civilization.

John decided to show them what was going on out there. He prepared himself to face the great wilderness beyond Laszlo's walls. He learned how to fight and how to survive.

Travelling alone would be suicide, so he decided to tag along a friend -- a geografer and anthropologist named Eric Manning. John, Eric, a small contingent of armed men, and a wizard, all set out to the great wilderness.

Eric and his companions were experienced adventurers. They knew how to carry themselves around the wastelands of North America, and John learned much with them -- from how to prepare dinosaur meat for dinner to how to reason with a CS officer (yes, they can be reasoned with).

After five years (in 102 PA), John settled down in New Laszlo and established the Waldemar Theater Company, a travelling company of actors, headed by himself. Like any good travellers, Waldemar's actors are tough men and women who have been trained to survive the post-Rifts landscape.

In three years, his company has been critically acclaimed from Free Quebec ("A post-apocalyptic Moliere" -- Jeanne Laubardemont, Quebecois art critic, on Waldemar) to Los Alamos (where he recently presented his latest (and most polemic) play, "Julian I", recounting the life story of the Juicer calling himself Julian the First, who established the Juicer Liberation Army and led most of the Juicer Uprising. The play earned him the scorn of anti-Juicer conversion advocates and the respect of much of the North American Juicer community).

Needless to say, John Waldemar's works have been outlawed in the CS, and there is a bounty of 10,000 credits on his head. However, John is no fool, and has hired some of the best bodyguards money can buy (in fact, some are actually volunteers -- including two Juicers from Los Alamos, who were deeply moved by "Julian I" and all but swore fealty to Waldemar).

[Written by Gustavo Iglesias]

Dear Col. Collins:

Hey Dad! How you doing? It's Matt here writing from the front lines. We just got to our forward base at [censored]. This place is a hub of activity. We've got soldiers coming in and going out at all times of the day. Other than that, it seems just like the base near Chi-Town. We've even got our own football league going here! I'm a starting tailback on the 2nd Company Road Warriors. We're tied for first in the standings, but it's pretty tight. It doesn't matter that we've only played one game.

I went out on my first patrol today. We moved through the area on hoverbikes mostly. The Lieutennant was in a SAM. Johnny Becker was in front of me. You remember Johnny, right Dad? He visited with me when I came home on leave before we went upcountry. Anyway, we came upon a stand of ash trees. The LT slowed down, said something didn't feel right. Then a flash of red light came out of the grove. It hit Johnny's bike. I pulled out my CP-40 and sprayed the grove, trying to hit anything. I looked over at Johnny. He was checking the damage. It was steaming pretty good. Then he just looked up at me. I could hear him over the comm. He just said, "Matt! Oh, shi-" and them BOOM. I don't remember much after that. I woke up back at base. The LT said that the shot must of hit one the fuel cells. Blast knocked me out. The other guys said that they got the sniper. He was wearing a fleur-de-lis. You know. The Quebec symbol.

One shot Dad. That's all it took. Don't tell Mom, but I'm scared. If it could happen to Johnny, what's stopping it from happening to me? It's not like you see in the vid-news back home. They show us soldiers just walking in, kicking ass, and not bothering to take names. But they don't show when they shoot back. I'm scared Dad.

Now that I've gone and worried you, I'll tell you not to worry. I'm in the best squad on base and they're not going to let anything happen to me. Tell Mom I love her. Only two and a half months til I get some leave. I'll come down and see you then.

Your son,
Private Matt Collins, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Company, 81st Mechanized Infantry.

[Written by Canadian Liberator]

Major John Payne, A CS Action Hero

Colonel Joseph Prosek II, heir apparent to the Emperor’s reign and Head of Propaganda for the Coalition States, never would he see action in battle, never could he experience the glory of fighting for his country. There are millions of other Coalition citizens like Joseph Prosek who are not in the armed forces, millions who have to stay at home and work in factories and on farms, who are too young and too old.

Enter, Major John Payne, a fictitious RPA Elite, SAMAS pilot who fights glorious battles on television and movie screen for the benefit of those citizens who cannot take an active part in the their country’s military. Major Payne is the primary propaganda machine for keeping the citizens of the Coalition fully behind their armed forces personnel. His on screen battles with demons from the Federation of Magic, Evil Xiticic, and foul hearted Tolkeen Mages are broadcast across the Coalition and beyond to help instill confidence in the Military Machine, to build the illusion that they are truly invincible.

In actual fact “Major John Payne” is Lieutenant Dan Dieter, an officer in the CS Propaganda Office whom Joseph Prosek thought had the face and voice to charm the masses. All Major Payne movies and television series are based on actual engagements, from a variety of theaters, although they are highly dramatized and skewed toward the Coalition the citizens don’t care, they eat it up. In fact, many of the highly illiterate and unknowing masses of the Coalition think that Major Payne is a real officer in the CS Army this attitude even runs through the enlisted ranks of the military as well. Kind of like the CS version of Santa Clause or the Easter Bunny, Major Payne is a common figure in the CS culture. Sayings have emerged like mothers saying “Be good or Major Payne will put you on extra duties” even quoting the Major’s trademark phrases such as “Welcome to Earth, bitch!” “Go back into the Rift you crawled out of.” and “Get your own damn planet!”

Major Payne often makes appearances in public, especially around Chi-Town, feeding the frenzy that has developed around his make-believe escapades. Once the “Major” even took a salute from a graduating class at the Chi-Town Infantry School, much to the delight of the graduates and the onlookers. Joseph Prosek has even gone so far to arrange for an alien looking d-bee to run loose in the streets of Chi-Town, and have Lt. Dieter ready in his Major Payne uniform to kill the creature in a highly publicized and dramatic manner.

Lt. Dieter himself is simply a CS Technical Officer with excellent “stage presence” and a regimen of daily physical exercise to give him the poster boy look. Actually the Lieutenant has seen only limited field action and that was as a General’s Aide at an outpost near the Magic Zone. Despite all his attention Dieter is surprisingly humble, and has the utmost respect for soldiers in the field and will gladly talk to them if he sees them on the street and loves to hear about their own experience in the field.

CS player characters who see Dieter, or “The Major” as he is commonly known, will most likely recognize him and act like any person of today would if they saw their favorite actor or sports hero on the street. The propaganda machine adds to the fever of fan devotion, with posters, product promotions, and the whole nine yards. Truly an effective and positive weapon in combating those rouges who try to dissuade the people with contraband written propaganda against the CS.

[Written by John Stevens]

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All incidents, situations, institutions, governments and people are fictional and any similarity to characters or persons living or dead is strictly coincidental.