Scholar’s Review #22: RIFTS World Book 17: Warlords of Russia
Author: Kevin Siembieda
Release Date: 1998
After spending some time in North America, we now traverse to northern Eurasia to see how the massive upheaval of Rifts affected the Russians and their zone of influence. A comprehensive overview of the major movers and shakers, as well as the history of how the Russian winter basically turned it up to 22 on a dial maxxed out at 10. In the wake of the receding mini-ice age, feudal warlords have come to dominate the land, fuelled by a desire to control their fates, the land, and beat back those that would oppose them. Bionics is a theme that courses through this book, which looks to set it up as the other side of the coin to the following World Book, Mystic Russia.
Introduction. Introduction that deals with a freelancer submission; not something I agree on, despite explaining the delays. Leads to inevitable Erin Tarn and then Russian scholarly perspective; gives background to setting, including differentiating Warlords from the Sovietski faction; outside of the small pockets of civilization, Brodkil, Gargoyles and other monsters.
Russian History. So the old Russian-style communism took hold again, a booming economy based on a massive oil field and bionics. Post Cataclysm, they suffered, hard. Millions died, and then an 80-year winter pushed most over the edge; Moscow nothing but a massive crater. The hospitality section really just reinforces the stereotype of the stoic vision westerners have.
New Western Frontier. Some notes on the truly massive land and scale between pockets of civilization, as well as the dangers of travelling the various paths and network of paths through the heavy forests of the region. Includes a geographic overview with requisite maps and details provided for each region. Some great tidbits about the regions a player of GM could exploit for some fun. There is a few pieces of international relations with Poland and the NGR (who *really* don’t get along).
Role of the Warlords. After the absolute abolishment of the demonic, relatively hands-off overseers who manage the “peace” through influence or direct intervention within their Spheres of Influence; not to say they are the benevolent rulers we hope and dream for. D-Bees and any communities they develop are considered squatters without real rights. For all their petty faults, they are the best humanity has in the region. Some note on gender roles in the new Russia and details on how the “camps” are organized by role and function; for the camps and surrounding countryside, they are “the law.” Much like the CS, they claim control of vast areas they can’t possibly maintain positive control over.
The Warlords of Russia. The namesake portion details the seven Warlords and their respective camp’s nuanced differences; some nice tidbits here and there. Of note, there are some annoying syntax errors in the text blocks.
Yuri Alexseyevna. Bit of a loner based in the northern Urals (former city of Likhta) with 54,000 troops; aged 101, full conversion. Bit of a schemer.
Mikal Burgasov. Named in succession to former warlord’s deathbed over his own sons. Based in Novgorod with 98,000 troops (largest of any Warlord). Currently 54, partial conversion due to battle injuries. The honourable sociopath.
Stephan Kolodenko. Educated in NGR as an engineer, with 26,000 troops (smallest of any Warlord). Claims the Caucus Mountains and lowlands around Black Sea and Caspian Sea. In ongoing war with Sokolov.
Boris Orlov. Stereotypical deranged barbarian-raider-made-warlord and full conversion cyborg, based in Donetsk with a ridiculously long and thin strip of influence. Built his army of 87,000 troops around alien D-Bee support (and then slaughtered said aliens).
Tatyana Romonov. Strong, compassionate and charismatic full conversion warlord with a dream to unite the Warlords into one entity; got her position defeating the previous, demon-possessed warlord. Based in Kiev with 76,000 troops, they are the manufacturing and farming heartland.
Igor Seriyev. Suave, backstabbing spylord/killer warlord using Romanov alliance as cover. Partial conversion and based in Minsk with 36,000 troops; includes spy network throughout Russia and into Poland/NGR.
Grigori Sokolov. Violent thrill-seeker who cultivates his persona of a wild savage; buddies with Orlov, hates Kolodenko. Has 78,000 troops in a vast strip on the southern border of Orlov’s territory.
OCC Descriptions. Basically a round-up of OCCs found in other books most commonly found in Russia. Introduced a few new Adventurers: the Bogatyr (hero-knight of Russia); Ectohunter (Eurasian demon slayers); Explorer (Rogue Scholar meets Wilderness Scout); Huntsman-Trapper (something similar seen again in WB 20); Travelling Storyteller (Rifts version of the D&D Bard, but with REALLY low minimum stat requirements); and Villager (Eurasian Vagabond).
Warlord Troops and Men-At-Arms. A nice summary of the camps’ composition. Introduces the Cossack OCC (horse riding shock troops) with Clan allegiance above all else (including Warlord); Reaver (Grunt/Warrior) that also describes a portion of the Warlords’ forces of non-Russian lineage/D-Bees/magic-users/psychics/etc; Reaver Mech Cavalry (special suicide-flip-from-vehicle-into enemy-formation manoeuvre), Reaver Assassin (lone wolf saboteur and assassin, duh!), Reaver Wilderness Scout (Wilderness Scout with military background); Reaver Bandit (looks like something out of New West….); Soldati (think CS Grunt), Smoke Soldier/Spy; War Knights; Warlord Cyber-Doc (methinks there is a theme); and Wingrider RPA Piots.
Russian Bionics. If you haven’t caught on, Russians like cybernetics and bionics, with technology and manufacturing on par with the CS, slightly below NGR. There are a slew of entries that players and GMs could leverage pretty much anywhere.
Cyborg OCCs. Either a light (partial and human-sized conversions) or heavy machine (more massive full conversions), this section provides several different models to build from, including the Shocktrooper. The ‘archtypical’ variants for each Warlord are detailed. Some interesting entries.
Russian Vehicles and Warmachines. A series of SDC vehicles, hover vehicles, jeeps, bikes, and other sorts.
Mega-Steeds. A series of MDC steeds and horse-like creatures, including a massive ostrich thing, leading into a few bionic horses.
Body Armour. A series of MDC armour entries.
Russian Weapons. A series of MD weapons – rifles, pistols, missile launchers, cannons, and various other equipment.
New Skills. Like advertised, a few new skills that are largely wrapped up in RUE.
The Sovietski. An ultra-modern military base with 26,000 troops and room to spare hunkers down for the nuclear winter. After developing their holdings, the Warlords began to make their presence known, slowly chipping away at the Sovietski, Orloff more than any other. Centered near the ruins of Moscow, they developed the cities around their bunker base under old Soviet style Communism. A few notes on the economy and surrounding cities, followed by ruling NPCs and characters of note.
The Sovietski War Machine. A few notes on their military, followed by some Police OCC entries (good for any setting) as well as Sovietski Soldier OCC. As expected, they have Cyborg OCCs of the heavy and light variety too.
Current Assessment (9/10). I only recently acquired this book, so no Initial versus Current contrasts this time. That said, I found this to be a really well presented World Book. It touches a little on the pre-Rifts history, but only insofar as it sets up the current setting and the Warlords influence over their regions and in competition with each other. I really got the sense this is what the Coalition States would feel like if each of them had their own Karl Prosek in charge. This also touched a nostalgic nerve in me, as it really dives in heavy with bionics and cybernetic augmentation, which was a heavy theme in the original release of Rifts. This felt like coming home, if home was a winter-blasted landscape ruled by Ruskie versions of Mad Max villains. I really liked how the book covered a lot of world building in the space it had; job well done. Loads of ideas a GM and player can leverage to make a riveting campaign out of, with easy ties into NGR and their space. A few issues I had: the (groan) stereotypical “Russian Winter of Doom;™” Romanov is a bit of a Mary Sue, and several notable typographical and syntax errors. The artwork isn’t something that grabbed my attention, but that isn’t a detractor to what this product provides and it matched the tone for the text. As far as introductions to a new region of the world, this book hits all the marks: history where bad things happened, and the struggle to reshape a safe haven in the remnants, for better or worse.
Continue to Scholar's Review #23 (World Book #18: Mystic Russia) (forthcoming)
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