While Techno-Wizardry may be the quintessential theme of Rifts, the Splugorth are the setting’s quintessential villains. Atlantis, as presented in World Book Two: Atlantis, took all the new age influences on the game (ley lines, crystal magic, pyramid power), and brought them together in the most unexpectedly sinister of places – the lost continent. Atlantis is the dark and frightening Mordor (or underdark) of Rifts Earth. It’s a place where the bad guys won and heroes soil their power armour just thinking about (since, as presented in the book, it was pretty much instant death if you actually went there). This is what made the book great, not that it was really useful as a supplement for adventuring in Atlantis (it really only provided the briefest of sketches of the key locations – about ten pages), but it made Atlantis scary enough that should the PCs encounter the minions of the Splugorth (who are detailed in the rest of the page count), it gave them the kind of gravitas GMs strive to imbue their villains with. Plus tattoo magic was badass.
The Splugorth specialized in Bio-Wizardry and Rune Magic, which would either warp the bodies and minds of their slaves into useful tools or bind their souls to power impressive magical weapons. Boy were the items impressive. They also had price tags that prohibited players from getting their hands on them. Back in the nineties, we would dream about the kind of mayhem we could wreak, if only we managed to somehow find a sword of Atlantis. Rather than question the wisdom of the sheer volume of these kinds of weapons in World Book Two, I had a great time stealing them for this last instalment of 10 Omega Tech cards in my ongoing series on using Gamma World in Rifts (just click on the picture at the end of the post for the PDF – I’ve combined whole set of 30 cards for ease of printing). I’ve mentioned before about the beauty of Omega Tech cards as treasure, and I have to say it felt liberating throwing these iconic items into the deck – items I had always thought were cool but had never seen in actual play because they were too crazy (well, we did see zombitrons and magic talismans get used, but never any of the rune weapons).
I followed the pattern set in the Magic and Techno-Wizard cards and included two salvageable items. This time a one-handed ranged weapon and a two-handed melee weapon (I was thinking of making the magic talisman salvageable, but the weapons from Atlantis are so much more interesting than the defensive items).
One of the charms of the Bio-Wizard symbiotes and parasites from Rifts is that they are often as harmful as they are helpful. It added to the whole intimidation factor of the Splugorth, and I wanted to preserve that feel when it came to their Omega Tech cards. Luckily, a quick flip through the Omega Tech that came with my Gamma World boxed set revealed the blueprint I was looking for: many of the cards had some negative effect (usually another attack targeting the user or her allies) on a miss. This mechanic lets the cards be attractive enough to use, but dangerous enough not to be taken lightly. Just the kind of thing Lord Splynncryth would find amusing.
A final word (rant), about the Splugorth. I never really liked the portrayal of Splynncryth in the Rifts books beyond World Book Two. I felt they played up the ‘used car salesman’ aspect of its personality, making Splynncryth seem more human in its motivations and less like an otherworldly, alien monstrosity. Sure there’s a bit of that there in World Book Two, but Siembieda never lets you forget that this thing is the spawn of the Lovecraftian Great Old Ones, extracting decadent and weird pleasures from the torture, humiliation and annihilation of entire worlds. That’s the kind of villain the PCs can dedicate their lives trying to fight.