Scholar’s Review #36: RIFTS Siege on Tolkeen – Chapter 2 (Coalition Overkill)
Author: Kevin Siembieda & Bill Coffin
Release Date: August 2000
The continuation of the series that details the events of the initial phases of the Coalition States’ offensive actions during the Siege of Tolkeen. Primarily covers the Coalition States’ stance and reactions to initial military setbacks (delays and defeats) handed to them from the plucky defenders. Put bluntly, the Coalition has had its nose bloodied and is now looking to shift gears and their mindset in how they go about the business of war. For those who hate the Coalition, this book will simply solidify their position; the shift in mindset and approach among the key leaders of the Second Wave is decidedly more extreme. For fans of the CS, this presents a much darker shade to the model presented back in the Rifts RPG and further developed throughout the World Books to now. We get introduced to some of the key players for the Coalition States, and more in-depth analysis on the ‘why’ and ‘how’ for the Second Wave approach to this war.
A Clash of Titans. An overview of the initial phases of Coalition States’ military advance, and the major issues they faced (hint: overconfidence and poor campaign design). Because of their overconfidence, Tolkeen’s response to the invasion bloodied the CS Army’s nose and basically halted the advance at the front lines of their initial advance. The Coalition leadership, reeling from the more capable defensive measures than they expected, has started to turn it around by adapting tactics and a change in the mental approach to the conflict. Of specific note, under the Author’s Notes segment, they specifically call out how this book will either shock/disappoint fans of the CS, or further justify those that view the CS as the worst thing to walk the earth. Yep.
A Rising Evil. After the initial shock and awe, and in some respect the death of many of the leaders that failed to respect Tolkeen’s drive to survive, the Second Wave of leadership has started to promote a much more extreme approach; atrocities are more accepted, and in some cases expected or reinforced. The leader of this Second Wave, General Micander Drogue, and several other major players, are detailed with backgrounds and stat sheets. Also includes the Dirty Thirty, a platoon of CS Special Forces with some backgrounds to allow a GM some flavour and NPCs to use. This is followed by pages of NPC Stats and typical combat OCCs (basically every CS OCC available) for a GM to use.
Coalition Bounty Hunters and Mercenary Agents. A nice segment that discusses the various mercenary groups that would be drawn to this conflict. There are nice breakdowns of the various class blocks and how they would be employed, with some interesting examples.
The Twin Face of Evil. A series of short stories that expose the various perspectives at play within the conflict. Some well-presented readings.
General Drogue’s Projects. Here we get a bit of a deep dive into the four pronged approach General Drogue is applying to the Coalition’s war effort.
Operation Hardball. In order to reduce Tolkeen’s spirit and reduce civilian resistance, the CS forces have begun corralling civilians into concentration camps/slave labour in order to: captures and segregates magic users from civilians; reduces pool of guerilla warriors; slave labour for the CS; and, separate humans from mages/D-Bees for “re-education.” Details for typical camps are laid out, as well as several key characters.
Operation Spoilsport. Special Forces teams inserted behind enemy lines to commit acts of sabotage, assassinations, wholesale slaughter, and general confound the Tolkeen forces.
Operation Kingkiller. Rather obviously a covert operation for the purposes of killing King Creed and members of the Circle of Twelve.
Operation Hailstorm. The main army’s push forward.
Tolkeen Triumphant. A precis on Tolkeen’s military tactics; the ‘what’ and the ‘how.’ Their goal is to stop the enemy, not annihilate them, in order to increase the CS frustration and force them to recommit to campaign planning. By encouraging fear the use of fear, and striking CS formations under Tolkeen’s terms (primarily through teleportation), using the power of nature against the CS (elements and elementals), magic-based machines of destruction (Iron Juggernauts), alliances with greater magical beings and daemonic forces (Daemonix), and Necromancers resurrecting fields of dead CS soldiers, they have tilted the operational and tactical field advantage from the CS. Note: This section and the information presented in Siege of Tolkeen Books 1 and 3 will trigger a few follow-on posts on military operations at the strategic/operational/tactical levels, boiled down as optional information for GMs in application to their campaigns.
The Daemonix. The giant, monstrous, hideous supernatural monstrosities have come to the aid of Tolkeen. With huge reserves of PPE but no practical way to use it, Tolkeen’s benevolence and vast array of Techno-Wizardry devices and weapons have greatly benefited these beasts. They often engage in contentious bickering and fights with other sub-demons, causing most Psi-Stalkers aligned with Tolkeen to abandon the cause. There are over thirty thousand (30,000) of these brutes in the service of Tolkeen. The five types are broken down:
Feculence. Foul-spirited and malicious. The scouts, spies, assassins, interrogators, and torturers.
Manslayer. Towering giants and natural killers who live for war. Foot soldiers of the group.
Immolator. These massive brutes are oddly calm when not on a quest for destruction.
Hangdog. A hideous four legged monstrosity used as combat riding animals with a pilot/gunner mount.
Basal Overmaster. Leaders of the Daemonix, the only TW devices they received were legs. Extremely cunning but duplicitous.
Adventure – Asher’s Remains. A little adventure GMs can use within the context of their campaign or as a bolt-on to something already in play. It presents players with a more detailed account on the malicious side of the CS war effort, as well as the impacts on civilians. A microcosm adventure that reflects the overall Siege on Tolkeen.
Initial Assessment (7/10). My initial impressions were really favourable for this book. It finally started diving into the nitty-gritty of the conflict, giving me, as a GM, the tactical impacts of CS decisions, their strategy, as well as the initial onset of failed plans due to lack of oversight, experience and a malaise brought on by severely underestimating the enemy. The fact that the CS has taken one on the chin and effectively ground to a halt was expected and a welcome event in the overall scheme of this storyline. At the time, I had always thought that individually, magic had so many restrictions on the mechanics of it; range, number of attacks/actions that could be used versus shots from a standard CS Grunt, the list went on. As I continued reading, I was increasingly uncomfortable with the way the CS was leaning in terms of how they would move forward, but the way it was presented made sense in terms of the canon and lore presented thus far. We finally get to see the Daemonix in their glory; massive, vindictive, lumbering TW behemoths and their place within the overall defensive forces of Tolkeen. The art was a major selling point for recommendation as the pieces, in particular some of the more complex and larger pieces, told the story in a snapshot. Overall, I was really impressed by this addition to the series.
Current Assessment (8/10). For such a small book (comparatively, about the size of a Sourcebook), it punches way above its page count. Assuming you don’t just go off and make your own assessments, the key factors of TTPs (tactics, techniques and procedures) are better fleshed out from both sides of the conflict, something that would provide a GM with invaluable information on how to better play each side as presented. The background from a CS perspective provides all the motivation needed for some classic protagonists for a campaign, while also fleshing out the Tolkeen forces and what they are trying to accomplish. For a GM, this book is a genuine gold mine of information; for PCs, some really good stuff as well. In all honesty, I can’t figure why they could not have packaged these two books together into a single entry, perhaps pulling some of the entries (e.g. the juggernauts) out to the next book. That said, this book really answered the questions and problems from Sedition. There are some worldview aspects to the Coalition States, as presented herein, that current GMs will have to address in a respectful and measured manner; this applies equally well to the Tolkeen forces, which is something I was very glad to see addressed (Note: this is something that I will be addressing in further posts). The artwork, once again, is superb. Some of my favorite pieces, and with the more iconic imagery, includes the Perez illustration right on page 1, as well as Breaux’s penciling of the Daemonix in battle on page 86, which gives some great scale. After the initial disappointment in SOT 1: Sedition, I found this book carried forward the narrative and gave much of the detail that had been missing from its predecessor.
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