Scholar's Review #21: Rifts World Book 16: Federation of Magic
Author: Kevin Siembieda and Kevin Murphy
Release Date: 1997
Presenting the first magical foil to the Coalition States. The Federation of Magic is definitely *not* the whole Magic Zone, but plays a major part in its overall reputation and development. There are a lot of different players, representing wildly divergent views on what to do, what lies ahead for those that call the Magic Zone home, and what to do about the ever-present threat of the Coalition States. Set as a magic counter-point, we explore the major powers and the history that brought them to now, as well as present some new magical OCCs, a slew of Techno-Wizardry, and some secrets of the Federation the Coalition States has no idea of yet. The world building gives GMs and players something to sink their teeth into, and a clear start point for further debates to the magic versus technology arguments.
Note: This review is for the original product; my book is a first printing from 1997, not the Revised and Updated version.
The Federation of Magic. A historical overview of the region and the advent of magic’s return to Rifts Earth and what it meant to humanity. It paints a rosy picture of the champions of humanity defending others with their newfound powers, while others sought a different path by abusing their powers to benefit themselves. Lazlo, Tolkeen and the Federation were promising allies in the beginning. In the end, it was Nostrous Dunscon’s exclusion from the Coalition States that launched the magic-technology dichotomy now engulfing the continent.
The Federation Today. Covers the City of Dwoemer, including its military and foreign relations. The Lords of Power, a triumvirate of super-powerful MDC beings are at the heart of the pre-eminent power in the region.
The “True” Federation. Dunscon’s son, Alistair, has taken his family’s name-sake and sought to recreate his father’s vision. Add in some megalomania, a grudge against the Prosek family, and support by some diabolical and miscreant allies, you get the vibe. Goes over the City of Brass and the City of Dunscon, their military forces, foreign relations, as well as key characters in this motley group.
Brotherhoods and Places of Note
Fadetowns. An interesting idea, where places literally fade into a pocket dimension at random.
Grey Seers. Neutral Mystics passing along their psychic premonitions.
Grim Reaper Cult. A small and unpopular Juicer Death Cult; well, Dunscon thinks they’re “misunderstood.”
Society of Sages. Hold the secret of Dragon Juicers.
Cult of Dragonwright. Favour dragons as gods and saviours.
Mystic Triad and Magestar. Three errant Magi set apart from Dwoemer and established their own little corner of the Federation.
Stormspire. TW paradise run by a Lizard Mage with a tower that teleports away before any errant missile strike bothers his day.
Plying Magic Characters. A good section for players and GMs alike on the role-playing aspects of the character classes preferring to sling magic than bullets or laser bolts. Some good stuff in here that gives you a good “feel” for the mages of this setting. For those that play and love the mage classes, nothing new to see here; for guys like me, it provided a sober second thought on the topic.
OCCs of the Federation of Magic. After reviewing a list of common classes already found there, we get to the money, Magus OCCs.
Battle Magus. Spell-slinging ninja-esque characters with access to some truly ridiculous weapons and class bonuses. Interesting nonetheless.
Controller. Basically your magic-based robot RPA.
Lord Magus. Yeah, I played one of these for a short stint. Has more spells to start than some classes get by level 15; and the PPE to fuel for days.
High Magus. The creators of the automotons that help defend the Federation from the Coalition.
Conjurer. A relatively “new” form of magic, literally creates things out of thin air.
The Corrupt. Mages that sacrificed their souls for more magic. Predictably not the good guys…..
Grey Seers. Mystics with even more (MOAR) sensitive abilities.
Mystic Knight. Evil dudes with mucho power to back up the bad attitude. Hired out in small groups to other baddies in the region (Alistair, Splugorth, necromancers, etc).
Magic Automotons. A series of giant magic-fueled robots and the stompy line of defense for Dwoemer and the Federation of Magic if the CS should ever get an itchy trigger finger – well, more if the weapon points their way. Big, beefy and powerful robots with scads of MDC and powers to face off CS robots or huge threats.
TW Devices. You want a massive list of new TW devices to play with? This is your book then. Pistols, rifles, larger guns and vehicle-mounted weapons galore. Also includes several TW vehicles.
Spell Magic. A treatise on spell casting, levels and numbers of spells per melee, basically an update on the technical “how” of magic users in the Palladium rules system. Followed by a laundry list of new spells, about thirty pages worth that lead you right to the back cover.
Upon Release (7/10). The Federation of had long been a highly anticipated book. As the old yarn of “technology versus magic” debates go, this was the first real crack at demonstrating what magic could do in opposition or at the very least, in complement, to technology. What we got didn’t quite fit that billing. The overall setting was decently well enough covered, as far as world building was concerned. The Playing Magical Characters segment was nicely done, the Magus OCCs nicely, clearly different from the Main Book classes; the Lord Magic and Mystic Knights both clearly on the upper part of power spectrum (perhaps only just shy of broken). I wasn’t a fan of the magic automatons, but I suppose the Federation needs big stompy robots too. Big winner was the Techno-Wizard equipment and weapons segments. What really keyed in was the fact that the Federation is far from diametrically opposed to the Coalition States in how they run their internal affairs; essentially evil facing evil at the highest levels of leadership, cronies dealing their own brand of justice and morality, which is slim to none. Artwork clearly stood out, starting with that magnificent cover and continuing throughout. Despite never being hugely drawn to playing magic users (in any game system), this book did give GMs and players something to work with, but not as expansive as I thought it could have been.
Current Assessment (6/10). I had a really hard time assessing this book years later, finding it a bit of a missed opportunity. The idea that the swath of the map known as the Federation is really nothing more than a few small but powerful, self-serving nation-states really stands in contrast to the technological powerhouses of the continent (read: CS). The remainder of the Magic Zone, quite frankly, are minor townships and villages where magic users are the primary classes, humans and D-Bees likely living in something much less than the picture-perfect harmony most players and GMs probably develop in their minds. In fact, short of a Coalition States invasion, there is little intention of any of them likely working together very well, or for very long. As for presenting the argument that the CS are the sole actors of cold-hearted nastiness, I thought this presented a well-developed counter-argument; the Magic Zone is not the paragon of your 20th century western liberal worldview and values, and is clearly presented as quite the opposite. For those that rail against the CS for all their faults, consider this book as putting the Magic Zone in the glass house with the CS. Aside from world building, the book addresses the decades-long issue of spell casting, which was a long-due and welcome change. The magic user OCCs were nicely differentiated, with a few stand-out votes for over-powered (Lord Magic and Mystic Knight). It seems odd to say this for a book about the Federation of *Magic*, but a lot of space was, in my opinion, wasted on more spells that should have been presented elsewhere in a more wholesome manner. Instead, we got this morsel of limited use, higher-powered spells. Artwork really stands up, my personal favourites being the full-page Perez workshops on page 50 and 58, as well as the Dubisch full-page battle scene on page 12. Finally, does this book help the GM and players? Yes, and no. The Federation of Magic presented herein is so much less than I thought it would be, and daresay hoped for. There are some redeeming qualities to be leveraged, I just wish more could have been presented.
Continue to Scholar's Review #22 (World Book #17: Warlords of Russia) (forthcoming)
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