Scholar's Review #23: Rifts World Book 18: Mystic Russia
Author: Kevin Siembieda
Release Date: 1998
The companion book to World Book 17: Warlords of Russia, this one continues to provide details and explore the vast region. Concentrating on the supernatural and the magical, it makes a fine counter-point to its predecessor. Culturally, Russians view the supernatural differently; and their monstrous denizens are unique to the region. A copious number of demons and monsters are presented, each with their own bits to add to the world building. Russian magic is defined, with old classes redefined, new ones added. Finally, the Gypsy culture is better expanded upon, adding to the initial information presented back in World Book 5: Triax & the NGR. Whereas Warlords focused on bionics and machines, here we find the magic and the supernatural take center stage.
Rifts Russia and the Supernatural. Discusses some cultural differences in how Russians view the supernatural that a Western reader may not realize. Some interesting worldview and world building aspects here that a GM could really use to differentiate the setting from North America.
Supernatural Horrors. A bit of detail on the landscape, and then into the "Archaic Demons" that inhabit this part of Rifts Earth. These provide an interesting adaptation compared to the other demons we’ve seen thus far, and add a really well-developed backdrop for Russian campaigns.
Lesser Demons. Includes the Unclean, Demon Claw, Hell Horse, Il’ya Demons, Kaluga Hag, Kladovik Guardian, The Midnight Demons, Nalet, Stone Demon, Water Demon, Wood Demon, and Serpent Hound. Some real flavour to each and a variety of them presented.
Greater Demons. Khitaka Abductors, The Nightfeeder, Koschei the Deathless Ones, Morozko Frost Demons, Whirlwind Air Demons, and Wolf Serpent.
Woodland Spirits. About a dozen various creatures of magic and Fairie Folk from the Russian cultural milieu. Provides a wide variety to play with.
Russian Magic. A slew of new classes and new ways of playing some of the more prevalent classes you know and love.
Russian Witches. Includes the Pact Witch from Conversion Book 1, as well as the all-new Night Witch villain with some new Spoiling Magic spells.
Hidden Witch (aka Gypsy Witch). Interesting Inner Demon rules.
Necromancer. Another old class with Russian specific highlights for this villain class. Also includes the Bone Magic, which has been combined with reprinted Necro-Magic from Rifts World Book 4: Africa.
Born Mystic. Fundamentally the Mystic Class from RUE.
Russian Fire Sorceror. Often mistaken for a Fire Warlock, includes some new Fire Magic spells.
Mystic Kuznya. Magical weapon smiths, with a sort of ‘Cyber-Knight wandering the countryside helping villagers and fighting evil’ vibe. An interesting class with some creation rules for weapons and armour.
Russian LLW. Some cultural and rules conversion notes.
Russian Shifter. Basically, a note that it was removed for space limitations.
Old Believer. Over-simplification, a Russian Druid. Includes the new Nature Magic.
Slayer. Dedicated to eradicating evil supernatural beings, including Archaic Demons, dragons, dangerous Woodland Spirits, Necromancers and evil Witches, etc. A combat-oriented spell-slinger with some Cyber-Knight vibes.
Russian Gypsies. A lot of new material for this cultural group that spans across the Asian and European continent. Some stuff reprinted from World Book 5: Triax & the NGR, but fleshes this out into a much more satisfying bit of world building a GM or player can develop for their campaigns. I would imagine most players skip right over this section, but a GM could really leverage this part when campaign planning.
Sovietski War Machines. So, a jarringly out of place series of entries, included here due to space limitations in World Book 17: Russian Warlords. Includes an artillery truck platform, tracked APC, tracked main battle tank and a hover tank, as well as a tracked multi-combat platform. All solid vehicles; why would they be in the "mystic" book is beyond me.
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 continues the discovery of the Russian setting, with a very different vibe to its predecessor. Whereas Warlords was all about cybernetics, this one gives us the overview of the more rural settings and the various beasts and creatures one may find away from human settlements. I found myself liking this book much more than I thought I would. The Archaic Demons were a nicely defined sub-set of monsters that felt unique and improved the setting’s atmosphere. Russian Magic was a bit of hit and miss, with some reprints and some elements missing “due to space limitations,” that I thought would have greatly benefitted the final product. I know there are enough players and GMs out there that balk or laugh off the Gypsy element, which is perfectly within their purview; I found this additional information and classes really stretched out the possibilities a clever GM could implement into their sessions. The Sovietski portion was entirely superfluous and quite frankly, unnecessary for this book. It actually detracts from the remainder, subverting the limitations presented at the Shifter segment. A special mention to the artwork that really supports the ambiance; I especially liked the Fire Mage and Khitaka shown on page 110, as well as the truly decrepit illustration of the Kaluga Hag on page 27. Of note, this book was part of Special Printing #6, and the printing had some issues with larger scale pictures showing printer streaks as they laid down the black ink; nothing major, but worthy of note. Otherwise, this is a perfectly fine complement to an already solid Russian Warlords book, and rounds out the setting really well.
Continue to Scholar's Review #24 (World Book #20: Canada) (forthcoming)
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