Scholar's Review #19: Rifts World Book 14: New West
Updated: Jul 23
Author: Christopher R. Kornmann & Kevin Siembieda
Release Date: 1997
The New West is the barren expanse of the remaining United States west of CS Chi-Town and CS Missouri; yeah, that’s a lot of land. If you like spaghetti Westerns, you’re gonna get a real kick out of this book; if you’re not a fan, this book still has tons of information to drive a campaign. A good overview of the lay of the land and a strong list of OCCs drives the narrative of a vast, unregulated frontier just waiting to be explored/exploited. There is a healthy mix of technology, magic, D-Bees and monsters throughout, making this a hodgepodge of information that does a really good job of setting the stage for adventures and encounters, in particular anything around Arizona, Colorado, or regions abutting the Coalition States and Tolkeen.
The New West. Basically, everything west of CS Chi-Town, CS Missouri, CS Arkansas that doesn’t already include CS Lone Star – essentially, half of the United States has reverted to a spaghetti western with laser rifles. It does a really good job covering the atmosphere and providing what it “feels” like to be in the New West, including some common slang and how credits don’t quite fit the needs for those living or adventuring in the New West.
Overview of Territories. A state-by-state overview of the major issues and settlements; lots of maps. There is a lot of information here for any GM looking to build a campaign and move from one state to the next. Major groups are covered to some extent, including Cyber-Knights, Pecos Bandits, Native American Indians, etc. Much like the world overview in the Rifts RPG, this gives you just a taste of what lies in the New West, with a lot of adventure ideas and possibilities.
1st Apocalyptic Cavalry. Formed by a young man who survived a D-Bee slaughter of his home village, “General” Kenneth Sprite formed a small cadre to hunt down the offenders. Since then, the group has grown to about 1000 persons. Essentially a mercenary company espousing all the pro-human and anti-D-Bee fanaticism of the Coalition States, but has a hate for them as well since they “allowed” the slaughter to happen. Honestly, a take-it or leave-it entry in my opinion.
Arizona. Goes into great detail on the regions, villages, groups and personalities. Introduces the Lyn-Srial, a D-Bee race committed to peace. Their unique brand of Cloud Magic is presented.
Colorado. Much like Arizona in overview. The town of Silvereno is given some good detail, including major NPCs with some surprising twists for a GM to exploit. The Colorado Baronies are discussed in some detail, followed by a section for Rodeos, Medicine Shows and Other Travelling Shows, an example using the format presented in World Book 1: Vampire Kingdoms.
New Skills. As advertised on the tin; all of these are folded together into Rifts Ultimate Edition.
OCCs and NPC Villains of the New West. Some new Men-At-Arms and Adventurer OCCs that could be used anywhere, not just the New West. Like any new OCCs, some are hits, some are misses.
RCCs Common to the New West. Some notable RCCs that really one would find mostly in the setting, like Cactus People, Fennodi, and others.
Monsters Common to the New West. A long list of relatively interesting monsters (Tree Spiders, ugh <shudders>). Some of these can make for really interesting random encounters.
Bandito Arms. A part of the Black Market in terms of sales, they are (of course) based in Area 51. In here we have what amounts to an appeasement to the internet community at the time (this was a hot topic on their message boards) about laser weapons and how they operate and “sound.” Back to business, we have a series of weapons, armour, and power armour (including an original version of the SAMAS). A series of bionics and New West Cyborgs are covered before some robots and vehicles, including a (somewhat ridiculous) Tarantula model robots, followed by some robot horses and dogs.
Wilk’s Laser Technology. We finally get a bit of a peek behind the curtain on the infamous weapons manufacturers, but mostly a whole new line of weapons to choose from.
TW Weapons. Not to be outdone, some magic-user weapons and TW horses. What would the New West be without trains you ask? Well here comes the TW Ironhorse, the locomotive fueled “by the rage of three Baal-rog demons trapped inside” that travels along ley lines. The idea is neat, but seems to ignore the devastating impact ley lines reportedly have on people when too close to a ley line storm. All aboard…..?
Upon Release (7/10). New West is a pretty ambitious book that largely did what it set out to do. It relies a little too much on the spaghetti Western clichés to support much of the content, but for the most part that doesn’t detract too far from the intent. I felt they missed an opportunity with the Pacific Coastline; the only thing really mentioned is a single paragraph on the desolation of California. There were some interesting points and certainly enough adventure ideas to keep a campaign running along really well.
Current Assessment (8/10). This book still keeps giving, even this long after publication. It spans a great deal of territory, and as such fails to get too far into the weeds but provides a GM and players enough information to conceptualize and tailor the campaign as they see fit. The OCCs are a bit of a wash as some have been outdated or players are better served choosing something from Rifts Ultimate Edition and going from there. The Colorado Baronies came across as the real winners to me, giving enough information in a region close enough to all the action that campaigns could tap into CS Lone Star/Pecos Empire, Vampire Kingdoms, as well as later publications like the Siege Against Tolkeen and the Coalition War Campaign writ-large, or the Demon Wars. The second in a suggested trilogy of books, campaign design potential is really vast. I’m a relative fan of the spaghetti Westerns, and this book delivers that atmosphere in spades. The artwork, in particular from Ramon Perez Jr, is top-notch and really evokes the spirit of this vast and unregulated expanse.
Continue to Scholar's Review #20 (World Book #15: Spirit West) (forthcoming)
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