Scholar's Review #17: Rifts World Book 12: Psyscape
Author: Kevin Siembieda
Release Date: 1997
This was a World Book that had been a long time coming. The ode to the psionics classes, there are a great number of amplifications to the psychic classes and a number of ways to boost your player characters into something more formidable than originally presented in the Rifts RPG. It also introduces a truly macabre and Cthulu-esque entity that the folks of Psyscape are battling, and goes pretty far into a horror-style entry. It provides a good bit of world building for a GM to use, in particular to how the setting fits within the Magic Zone, as well as something for everyone using a psychic or a GM wanting to implement one of the multiple entries as a bad guy.
Legends. A historical perspective as presented by none other than Erin Tarn about the mysteries and marvels of Psyscape. I found it’s a fun enough read.
Dark Harvest. Well now, this is where the book goes full on macabre, which is a refreshing twist to some of the previous books. Soulharvest is explained, along with the Harvester OCC (makes a great necromantic magic user antagonist) and Soulless Xombies. There is some great horror atmosphere drawn out of these entries. Then we have the powerful alien intelligence, Nxla; feared even by the Splugorth, Nxla may or may not be a dreaded Old One? Then I looked at his MDC and PPE; Nxla in the blue corner, Lord of the Deep in the Red corner for most outlandish alien intelligence in Rifts. I place even odds on who would win in a fight.
Enter Psyscape. The Yin to the Nxla Yang. The Psynex entity is a benevolent psychic being co-populating the astral plane as well as a nexus point, which it manipulates much in the same way as a Millenium Tree. The city of Psyscape and its Astral equivalent are covered in detail. I am left wondering how a beacon of light and goodness such as this could survive the predations of the Magic Zone, particularly in the shadow of Nxla and its minions....
Psychics and Psionic Powers. An overview of terminology and then the laundry list of psionic powers overall, with some new ones presented. I was never drawn to psychics; if you are, this may be your jam.
New Psychic Character Classes. Many of the older classes are revisited, such as the Burster and Mind Melter. New classes include Nega-Psychic and Psi-Nullifier, Psi-Slayer, -Tech, -Ghost, -Druid and -Warrior, as well the Zapper (Burster’s electro-magnetic cousin). Some interesting classes that I have definitely used as NPCs before. There may be a few of them popping up in my fan fiction, A Scout's Honour, soon enough as well.
Psi-Cola. An interesting (if optional) narcotic drink for psychics, with tables for addiction to the effects.
Monsters & D-Bees. An amalgam of good guys, bad guys and in between entries. There are some really interesting ones, others less so. There is a clear necromancy vein running through the book, well reinforced with some of the bad guys like the Lipoca Sun Demon (ironic as most “sun” referenced beings are good alignments) and Necrophim & Soul Snake entries. There is an interesting Note on the Spiny Ravager. The Yhabbayar and its Bubble Magic is truly unique, if not questionable for in-game application.
The CS and Psionics. An interesting amplification on the CS use of psychics and the Psi-Battalion expansion into a full-fledged Division of the CS Military. Psionic technology, impacts to abilities and several devices of note are presented; a follow-up section includes some CS anti-psionic devices and some TW devices.
Upon Release (5/10). I was never really a fan of the psychic classes and found psionics didn’t offer much for me in game; my personal cross to bear; YMMV (your mileage may vary), but for players who like psychics, it was a fresh boost to the game. The world building was well presented, finally able to get more in-depth into the collective and city of Psyscape. I have to admit, the first time didn’t really give me much to work with and thought there could have been more pages devoted to the city of Psyscape and their place in the grander scheme of things, other than fighting the good fight against Nxla. Then there is the ridiculous amounts of power Nxla has as well. The atmosphere really drove home the nastiness and horrific power at play within the Federation of Magic. The artwork did a really good job supporting the entries.
Current Assessment (7/10). Having re-visited Psyscape, there are a number of entries that can really boost a player character’s background and/or a campaign. The Cthulu vibe from the Nxla entries are actually really interesting, much more so this time around. From a storytelling or campaign design perspective, this book has legs, as well as the endurance to translate across all player character backgrounds: CS and psychics and how they use the class, expansion on psychics (duh!), additional information on the Magic Zone and players from the Magic Zone (mages), or mercenaries/unaligned groups operating in the region. When I re-examined Nxla’s entry, a Lord of the Deep sized facepalm occurred, but I have to grudgingly admit it supports the Cthulu vibe. The artwork of this book really supports it well, my absolute favourite located in the two-page spread on page 142-143. The one issue with many of the psychic entries is that some were superseded by vastly better options for the classic OCCs in Rifts Ultimate Edition, which I thought was a shame. A new edition rendering upgrades across the classes in general would be nice, but ultimately not necessary.
Continue to Scholar's Review #18 (World Book #13: Lone Star) (forthcoming)
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