Scholar’s Review #32: RIFTS World Book 29 - Madhaven
Updated: Jan 16
Author: Brandon Aten and Taylor White
Release Date: July 2006
Once again, we revisit one of the strange locales from North America, the ruins of the once great New York City. This book takes us into the strange and maddened regions that, once succumbed to the ravages of the Apocalypse, has risen up into a new form. The effects of such a massive loss of life will drive the most insane (even more worrisome for a psychic class!), and the ravages that the apocalypse and the subsequent effects had on the landscape were truly disastrous. And yet, the landscape has been partly reclaimed by nature, presenting massive canyons of toppled sky scrapers, nestling valleys of verdant green, which cover myriad collapsed structures and underground complexes. A really unique and terrifying environment with massive adventure potential. Risk versus reward; all that pre-Rifts tech and bounty to be found, just at the risk of your own sanity. No fuss!
Madhaven Historic Overview. An exposé on the developments of New York City through the Golden Age. We start to get some event-specific world building around the 2060-2080 timeframe, with a lot of familiar names (Triax, et al) and concepts (e.g. biomedicine, robotics, human cybernetic augmentation) coming to the fore. Then came the cataclysmic tidal waves that wiped clear the majority of the Eastern Seaboard, including toppling the near entirety of the Manhattan and greater New York City. The results, a haphazard series of canyons formed by fallen skyscrapers, piles of detritus and sections reclaimed by nature and greenery. Told from several perspectives, it gives a nice tone to the book.
Madhaven. Stories of the pre-Rifts treasures still buried among the ruins and underwater draws adventurers, the curious, the foolish, and forces from Atlantis and the Horune. It is heavily infested with Haunting Entities and other ghostly minions. With the concentration of dead, the sense of dread, sorrow and fear is palpable. Hope you rolled a high M.E. and are not playing a major psychic (lists various impacts to psychic OCCs – those Mind Melters, ouch…..). Those negative impacts still impact those in power armour and robots! Goes over the current state of renowned sectors of New York City and Jersey, including some updated nomenclature for how locals are referred to, something that really adds to the atmosphere. Oh yeah, there's that pesky Ley Line Nexus in Harlem, and the Splugorth have a slave raiding post on eastern Staten Island (which somehow escaped total submersion).
Mystic Knights of the Order of the White Rose. A breakaway group of Mystic Knights (see WB 16: Federation of Magic) that have taken on the mantle of protection, vice wanton cruelty, in order to protect the mystical flora that is the group's namesake. Rifted into The Garden (Central Park), they sheltered in the one zone the madness does not permeate, under the illusion of a massive ghost infested crater they created to keep unwanted intruders away. They have recruited and grown slowly, reaching out to like-minded states. Includes the White Knight OCC, Squire OCC, Gateway Knight, Keeper of the Garden (also describes the ‘white rose’ properties) and provides some NPC entries for the Order.
The Garden. Base camp for the Order of the White Rose, with detailed descriptions of notable places in typically Palladium fashion for any towns or military encampments. Headquartered out of ‘The Met’ (somehow survived destruction). There is some interesting tie-ins to WB 4: Africa and the god Set, setting some of the evil Mystic Knights after Cleopatra’s Needle from Central Park (how Gateway Knights transport folks in and out).
Mutants of Madhaven. Many of these are actual descendants of the Post-Apocalypse humans of the area, horribly affected by the radiation and mutating magic that cascaded across the region. They have "evolved" into MDC creatures with very non-human appearances. Formed into clans, they are very territorial and function in a tribal sense. Some good detail on how they interact with various groups, as well as their combat techniques, and where/how they live.
The Mutant Clans. Covers the eight different racial groups and clans by location. Nice little section that sets up the next one….
Haven Mutant RCCs. Aside from the obvious, a really characterful presentation of these bizarre classes.
Beast Men. Appear as part gorilla/Sasquatch; the ‘brains’ and typically technically inclined. Their Horror Factor entry got a laugh.
Dyno-Men. Bulky, aquatic humanoids resembling theropod dinosaurs; hates magic only slightly less than technology. Considers Haven Mutants as the next evolutionary step.
Leopard Men. Hot-tempered ruthless close-combat brutes that also buy the “next evolutionary step” story.
Mantis Men. Philosopher-adventurers for the most part, but borderline sociopaths that will not consort with non-mutants.
Metal Morph. Strangest and most tragic; born sickly and weak, graft metal to reinforce their weak physical structure; can replace damage by fusing new pieces to themselves. Love knowledge and scientific study.
Pseudo Men. Mostly humanoid with some abnormalities (extensive table to roll from) with an affinity to Head Worms.
Quill Men. Porcupine-esque speed freaks with a love for theatrics, guns and small (but fast!) vehicles, including an absurdly unique, class specific motorized unicycle.
Savage Lummox. Big, strong, none too smart; covers their MDC bodies with scrap metal armour.
Shaman Mutants. A few details on how to create a Shaman.
Raving Lunatic NPC. Admittedly did a double-take and then realized just how pertinent this entry is.
Weapons of Note
Bone Weapons. Actually made from the bones of dead mutants. A little macabre but very thematic for these scavenger clans. Swords, axes, clubs and armour.
White Rose. TW weapons and armour for Mystic Knights. Also details “The Curtain,” which is a giant TW protective circle and illusionary device shielding the Garden from intruders, along with a series of other TW devices.
Monsters of Madhaven. Some truly bizarre entries, LOL. Caterpillar Men, Devil Kraken that mysteriously needed to have the Swim skill listed (otherwise, woah), Giant Ruin Worms, Head Worms, Onion Heads, Phantom Wolf, Ruin Lizard (size of a horse), Ruin Rats (size of large dogs), Toothback Wallcrawler, Undead Horrors, and War Birds.
Ghosts of Madhaven. Some new, supernatural entities, including Gluttonous Entitiy, Beautiful Ghosts (both good or vengeful), Harmful Ghost, Madness Ghost, Conglomerate Entity, Contagion Entity, and Rotting Entity. Includes some conversions for these beats into Beyond the Supernatural. Also includes a 51 entry table of encounters for Madhaven.
Current Assessment (8/10). This was a recent acquisition for me. I wasn’t necessarily interested in the New York region for my games, and it never interested me enough to get into. Cracking this open, I was hugely surprised! First off, the macabre setting was really well presented and surprisingly nuanced. The atmosphere is one of a macabre landscape, where insanity is a palpable part of the world building. The one challenge may be how well the GM incorporates the macabre atmosphere of the setting without turning it into a kill-fest – the encounter table helps. I groaned a little at the Order of the White Rose, but it grew on me and I found they did more with it than the obvious bad-guy-turned-good trope, though the true value of the White Rose’s abilities left me wanting something more impactful; the tie-in with Rifts: Africa was nicely done – bravo! I most appreciated the realistic futurisms in a ruined cityscape 300 years in the future, where some places developed into overgrown flora covered hills, with valleys between ruined skyscrapers and a massive subterranean system, presenting a truly three-dimensional element a GM can really have fun with. One thing I thought they could have incorporated was some rudimentary conversion information for possible use of the Mutants in Orbit or After the Bomb mutation tables to create even more unique mutants of Madhaven. Had they spent another 10-20 pages, this would have easily been a 9/10, likely a 10/10. The artwork was superbly grotesque and unnerving at times, really supporting the text – the Dyno-Men on page 64 and Savage Lummox on page 77 personal favorites). A very niche locale, you could get by without the purchase unless you sent a party directly into Madhaven; conversely, I found it one of the finer pieces of world building in the Rifts World Book series and a real treat.
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