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  • Writer's pictureFrancois DesRochers

Scholar's Review 14: Rifts World Book 8: Japan

Updated: Jan 6

Author: Kevin Siembieda

Release Date: 1995


The book details what occurred to the island nation of Japan. Ravaged by the coming of the Rifts, there is definitely a plethora of source material to play with, both ancient and modern, something Rifts: Japan certainly doesn’t fail to exploit. The concept of samurai, ninjas, ancient Shinto beliefs and magic, ancient Japanese monsters, demons and dragons, as well as the super-advanced technology are all merged together.


The Japanese Islands. Given the catastrophic impacts of the coming of the Rifts, no big surprise that Japan is a secluded series of islands; largely influenced by the nearby Dragon’s Triangle, surrounded by pirates and sea faring monsters, and the influence of monster-ridden China and Russia.

  • The New Empire. Massively affected by the waves of the apocalypse, Japan is largely an agrarian society; well, except for Kyoto, with 1.2 million people in a city built around the confluence of the Millenium Tree, and the Republic pocket dimension thing – more on that later. After reverting back to bushido principles (and its caste system), they apparently banded together against the common enemy; oni and demon followers. Largely anti-technology earning the ire of technology based neighbours. Gives a breakdown of the various provinces and their political leanings. A decent breakdown of the society overall.

  • Republic of Japan. Not much presented, other than they like tech. More detail later on.

  • Ichto Province. A very small collective along the southern coast of Japan; essentially the area that encompasses contemporary Hiroshima City and outskirts. Home of Ichto Robotics, there is heavy reliance on tech. They ousted many anti-techies from New Empire along their border. Returned from a pocket dimension where they rode out the worst of PA tragedies. Robots and PA nuts, rejoice!

  • Takamatsu. Reasonably modern society residing on Shikoku Island. middle of the road, feeling tech and magic can co-exist. Japanese Lazlo? Leverages a rift to an apparently uninhabited version of Earth and has set-up resource harvesting/mining and selling to the other city-states across Japanese Islands.

  • Otomo Shogunate & H-Brand. Takes up the contemporary region of Nagoya and Toyota. Reliant on tech and apparently willing to embrace all manners of technological modification. Super-secret plans™ to infiltrate and become dominant power. H-Brand is the tech powerhouse, not unlike Triax to NGR, only not quite as symbiotic.

  • The Zone. Essentially the wild unknown encompassing much of the northern half of Japan, outside of the Freelands. Land of oni and adventure.

Kyoto Millenium Tree. With some reprints from WB 3: England, provides some context for the tree and the Shinto priests. Otherwise lots of reprinting with some exceptions for Japanese-styled weapons, as well as rune katana, because Japan. There are some truly interesting magical items though.

New Empire and Traditional OCCs. You couldn’t publish this book without the Samurai and Mystic Ninja OCCs. Nor could you not cover the Code of Bushido. New HTH type for Samurai OCC, with some interesting family background elements. Yes, there are some over-the-top OCCs (Bishamon).

  • True Samurai. Presents a "Rifted" version of the classic trope.

  • Ronin. Not sure why this is even a class, as it is largely based off the True Samurai class with some side-grades and down-grades.

  • Mystic Ninja. Presents a "Rifted" verison of the classic trope.

  • Bishamon Fighting Monk. Leveraging special powers and training, they fight the oni and evil.

  • Sohei Warrior Monk. Shinto warrior monks.

  • Yamabushi Mountain Priest. Yielding what amounts to "mind over magic," these wandering vagabonds apply themselves to healing and helping the people. The class is described with over five pages of text....

  • Demon Queller. Exactly as advertised. Go forth and kill oni, demons, evil things.

  • Tengu Winged Goblin. The goblin nomenclature may be misleading. Shape-changing beings, they are highly skilled in magic and have their own HTH skill.

The Republic of Japan. Based on the city of Hiroshima that went into a pocket dimension; 16 million returned after 300 years away; immediately set upon by demons. Truly a people out of time, leveraging extensive technology (e.g. borgs, crazies, juicers) to keep the enemies at bay, and accepting the few D-Bees around. Oh yeah, they have Glitter Boys as well. Essentially a Ghost In the Shell environment in a Rifts setting. I love GitS, so yeah, cool. Several new OCCs:

  • Cyberoid. Essentially a Japanese City Rat.

  • Cyber Samurai. Partial conversion borg.

  • Tech-Ninja. Basically a super spy Headhunter, with heavy reliance on cybernetics.

  • Ninja Juicer. A Juicer, who's a ninja. Yeah.

  • Ninja Crazy. A Crazy, who's a ninja. Okay, yeah.

  • Ninja Borg. Who'd have thought, a full conversion Cyborg, who's a ninja. Done.

  • Ninja Techno-Wizard. Do you sense a theme? A Techno-Wizard, who's a ninja.

  • SAMAS Samurai Pilot. Give an RPA pilot the code of Bushido. And, go!

  • Infantryman

  • Robot Pilot

  • Glitter Force Trooper

  • Police Officer

Cyborgs of Japan. A series of entries (some reprints) about creating a cyborg and the options for weapons, gear and equipment, some specific to Japan. We get the Republic of Japan Cyborg OCC, along with a Dragon Borgs:

  • Wing Blade. A borg, shaped like your stereotypical dragon. Wings with blades, yeah, we get it.

  • Tsunami. Combat model to deal with oni and other supernatural threats.

  • Imperial. Basically the cyborg is now a four-legged powerhouse, with an abundance of weapons.

  • Flame Cloud. A jet-propelled four-legged beast with plasma weapon as a 'breathe weapon' of sorts. Closest a Cyborg player can get to also playing a dragon.

Cybernetics and Bionics. A series of cybernetics and bionics.

High-Tech Weapons. Goes over a series of ArmaTech, H-Brand, Ichto manufactured vehicles, weapons, vehicles, power armour, including some alternate Glitter Boys and body armour. Reams of entries for the technologically inclined.

  • Power Armor

  • Armatech SAMAS. Make a SAMAS look like a flying samurai, with an upgraded particle beam rifle? Done.

  • Glitter Boy. Your bog-standard USA-G10.

  • "Point" Glitter Boy. The USA-G10A covers the reflective armor in camouflage, and replaces the Boom Gun with something more befitting a reconnaissance model.

  • "Hawkeye" Glitter Boy. A GB given anti-aircraft weaponry, no longer requiring the pylons to be activated.

  • ATPA-85 "Power Spy." Really this is an exoskeleton, not power armor.

  • H-Brand Ninjabot. A low-grade power armor tapping into the "mystique" of the samurai.

  • Ichto PA and Robots

  • IPA-40 Dai-Katana Bugei. Standard suit of PA for Ichto forces. Your basic SAMAS with vibro-katana in the forearms and a few other stylistic trappings.

  • IPA-45 Ikusa. Make a SAMAS resemble a full-blown samurai; with missile pods, and a demonic mask. LCF at it's finest.

  • IPA-50 Grenadier. Literally bristling with weapons and heavy armor. Thought to be designed for anti-GB operations. I have my doubts.

  • IPA-60 Tazu-Tengu. Resembles the Tengu RCC. One of the few suits also sold on the commercial market to civilians; limited to no weapons.

  • IPA-62 Super Tengu. A heavier version of the Tengu, with an expanded weapons package.

  • IPA-70 Mizu Mi. A maritime operations suit of PA.

  • Robots

  • AT-1053 Ka-Kuma. The Metal Bear is an ursine shaped construct with two massive artillery barrels mounted at the shoulders.

  • AT-1063 Hi-Tora. The Fire Tiger is an infantry support vehicle to combat supernatural threats. Give a giant samurai feline features, you get the Hi-Tora.

  • IR-2015 Kani. The Crab Walker is literally that. A three-person crab-shaped robot.

  • IR-2020 Wrecker. A demolition/construction robot. Not meant for combat.

  • IR 2040 Destroyer. For urban and mountain combat, with a pair of retractable smaller arms in the main body.

  • IR-2050 Apocalypse. A recent Ichto creation for combating demons and oni. Includes a detachable VTOL drone for recon and a boat-load of weapons.

  • IR-2060 Banshee. An Ichto creation that takes the Super-SAMAS to new levels. Includes a pre-Rifts sonic weapon.

  • IR-2070 Gemini. Ichto protoype employing a pre-Rifts cloaking field. Still in testing stages.

  • IR-4000 Tatsu. The Dragon, inspired by the dragon borgs, is a mammoth design that can face off against adult dragons.

Japanese Skills. No surprises here, a few skills with the Japan setting and flavour in mind, including a series of martial arts styles.

Mystic Martial Arts. Various chi-powers and spirit powers equating to magic spells.

Monsters of Japan. A neat series of tables for creating random-styled oni and some other greater oni. Several interesting and compelling lesser demon equivalents, followed by some Japanese dragons (colour me surprised).


Upon Release (4/10). Admittedly I never purchased this book because I never had much interest in the setting. I also had the impression this was really just a grab at japanophiles. Shortly after the release I heard several accounts of the over-powered nature of the book and the potential overplay on the Japanese culture that catered to power gamers and those a little to hardcore into anime for my tastes at the time, which wasn’t my “thing” back in the day. It was a hard pass for me, despite the interesting artwork on the cover.

Current Assessment (8/10). In retrospect, this was yet another World Book that I largely overlooked when it first came out. This re-read really impressed me this time around. The presentation of an iconic cultural influence, it certainly draws on the plethora of source material. Ravaged by tidal forces, the Japanese fought back to control their small piece of the world; the pocket dimension return of Hiroshima and surrounding cities to form the Republic of Japan provides an interesting twist to the venue and a great place for players to base their campaigns from. The ability to tie in to surrounding regions and exploit other books (Underseas in particular) give GMs a great amount of latitude. There were a few moments where I found myself put off at the disjointed presentation of information: introduction and overview of each “kingdom” with stats that went into details I would have expected further on with the more locale-specific entries. We can skip over the massive population size for the major population centres as well; well at least Hiroshima can gives a reason. There were definitely a couple of crutch moments: yet another science fiction, futuristic presentation of bushido and the historic martial cultures, ninjas and all. That said, I found myself really liking the overall feel of this book, which, by the way, is really supported by some fantastic artwork; personal favorite is the full-page image on page 25.

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