Scholar’s Review #30: RIFTS World Book 24: China 2 – Heroes of the Celestial Court
Author: Kevin Siembieda & Erick Wujcik
Release Date: January 2004
This World Book takes us back into the mystical and depraved lands of what was once China. This time, we’re concentrating on the forces of good and those that stand against the Yama Kings. This book presents a LOT of martial art forms, as well as a plethora of new OCCs such as the Demon Quellers, and their specific abilities. We get introduced to the Green Scarf Sect and the Geofront, survivors from pre-Rifts China now in the thick of debate on what, how and why should they interfere with the Yama Kings’ hells in their homeland.
Introduction. Not something normally seen in many Rifts products, this really whet my appetite for the remainder of the book, providing simple, clean and clear definitions on the differences of what will be presented to what we have come to know as the baseline for dragons, psionics, magic, basically the gamut of mechanisms and background. This is followed by a complete list of skills, both current and new ones specific to the China setting. There are also several new HTH: Advanced, essentially variations on the Martial Arts skill; wasn’t expecting the projectile vomit ability from the Drunken Style Kung-Fu, so, yeah, I guess I failed my HF check while reading it. I’m sure there is a way to game these to best try and break the game in some way, but I honestly could not be bothered.
Mystical Martial Arts. Several forms of mystical Kung Fu: Ba Gua (8 Trigrams), Bok Pai (Crane Style), Gui Long (Dragon Blade), Hsien Hsai (Immortality Training), Mien Ch’uan (Cotton Fist), Pao Chih (Animus Development), She Shen (Snake Style), Tien-Hsueh (Touch Mastery), Tong Lun (Praying Mantis), Xian Pu (Drunken Style), and Xian Tai Chi Chuan (Chi Manipulation). Much like the Kung-Fu Martial Arts abilities above, a laundry list of different abilities and powers specific to each can likely be manipulated through some analysis to maximize things; once again, not my intent to game theory the game to break it. As you can see, variety certainly is the theme.
OCCs. A dozen new OCCs are presented, broken into 4 categories:
Martial Arts Warriors. Jian Shih (Warrior of Celestial Court), Chun Tzu (Philosopher Martial Warrior), and the Nei Chia Wu Shih (Meditative Martial Warrior).
Martial Arts Monks. Wai Chia Wu Shih (Open Handed Martial Artist), Chi-Gung Seng Ren (Monk of Internal Energy) with a slew of class-specific abilities/psionics and text that makes me think of the Netflix Iron Fist series.
Diviners (Psychics). Soothsayer (fortune teller/sage/healer), Spirit Host (a really odd master psychic class involving communing with spirits and ghosts, as well as merging with a chosen animal spirit), Mang Wu (Blind Mystic), which is actually a Chinese version of the classic Mystic, and incontrovertibly blind.
Demon Quellers. Fu Yao Da Chia (Great Demon Catching Hero), hero of the Celestial Court of the Jade Emperor and a class that tries rehabilitate demons, Nu Li Zhang Wo (Demon and Dead Slaver), a class that headhunts and profits from sales of demons and undead, Mo Di Mu Yang (Goblin Wrangler), a class with some interesting elements to it – not your typical munchkin class.
Demon Queller Body Hardening Exercises. About a dozen different exercises or disciplines that boost the character’s capabilities. Includes such notable entries as Demon Digestion (which honestly led me to wonder what kind of character and campaign Rifts China was trying to promote) and Dislocation Training (as someone who has at one time or another dislocated both knees and a shoulder, I vehemently beg to differ with the “benefits”). Includes a section of Demon Secrets and Foibles, which include general sloth, greed and laziness, aversion to music and being ticklish. I’m sure there is something for a GM to use, just not sure how….
Enlightened Demon RCC. Something of an oddity, but discussed in the previous OCC sections, is the idea of reforming demons. Well, just like it says on the box, this is the RCC.
Magic Items of the Green Scarf Taoist Sect. Equipment and items that can bind demons, magic pearls imbuing special powers when used/consumed, magic scarves, magic weapons of various types and body armour. Now then, if someone could please point to me where it explains in any detail what the Green Scarf Taist Sect is all about….
The Geofront. Originally built as a feasibility project to test off-Earth colonization, the site is located in the Longgong Caverns. When the cataclysm came, they benefited from the latent mystical energy of the Yin Caverns. Over the centuries they have secretly observed and plotted limited actions with the aim to eventually overthrown the Yama Kings and free China. Their military, some itching to make a grand push for liberation from the Yama Kings, rivals that of the Coalition States or NGR. Really just another group of pre-Cataclysm humans that went underground and rode out the nastiness and are resurfaced now.
Geofront Military OCCS. A lot these are reworked CS classes, with some added rules for the purposes of the new Chi powers and other special rules presented herein.
Modifying Characters. In case a player had visions of porting a character class from China elsewhere, the impacts this would have, primarily on Chi and other powers, are explained herein. Long-story-short, most special powers dissipate once they leave China.
Vehicles and Equipment. Human tech, daemon weapons, armour and power armour, and other vehicles of note.
Current Assessment (5/10). The second of two books devoted to Rifts China, I had also given this a pass when it first came out. Unfortunately, just like China 1, my opinion of China 2 pretty much supports the initial decision. There are literally dozens of OCCs, many of which could have been cut (Geofront), and why nearly five pages were wasted listing skills eludes me to this day. There were a series of interesting Chinese-inspired OCCs (a whole lot of them!) with specific powers that I appreciated, but it never really presented me with the overarching conflict between the Jade Emperor and the Yama Kings; the Celestial Court knows the Yama Kings are mucking around, but no sense of what their plans are to counter them. I would have expected something more on the Jade Emperor, perhaps a series of NPCs and other resources to get a better idea of how this bit of Rifts Earth is dealing with the demonic infestations. Heck, it's in the title of the book, yet nothing really about any Celestial Court heroes... Then there is mention of the Green Scarf Taoist Sect, which lists some magic items, but no context on who they are, where they are located, intentions, leaders, how they are interacting with the Yama Kings, the list goes on. Five pages of skills and a couple of OCCs could have easily provided room for these oversights. Admittedly, I’m not a huge fan of martial arts for the sake of “adding more Kung-fu” to make it cool, so the copious styles and whatnot didn’t really catch my attention; your milage may vary. That said, as was the case with China 1, the information is well presented and gave me a good sense of the setting, just not the world building I had hoped. The artwork throughout is decent and supports the theme. Is there enough here for a GM and/or player to sink their teeth into? Sure, but I found from a world building perspective and with the questionable inclusions of filler text, there were several missed opportunities. For those keen on the setting, this will likely give you what you want. For myself, both this and its predecessors would be hard passes for me; still (marginally) better than England and Africa.
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