Scholar’s Review #39: RIFTS Siege on Tolkeen – Chapter 4 (Cyber-Knights)
Author: Kevin Siembieda
Release Date: December 2000
The continuation of the series that details events of the Coalition States’ Siege of Tolkeen. This book primarily covers the Cyber-Knights (duh!), that most storied and honourable group of defenders of the weak and vulnerable for Rifts North America. An homage to the Cyber-Knight OCC, it provides an in-depth analysis of the class, updates the rules with some really potent Zen Combat rules, and gives players and GMs alike a veritable tome of background information to use. As the battle for the very existence of Tolkeen continues, a schism has erupted amongst this fellowship; some have committed to defending Tolkeen and fighting to stem the Coalition States’ aggression, while others remain loyal to the edict to stay out of the conflict, issued by their most venerated and founding member of the Cyber-Knights, Lord Coake himself. Lots of background and stories to provide a great background to the storied history of the class and their place within the Siege.
Prologue. Interestingly provocative continuation of the video diaries sent by Sgt Canton to his wife via non-official channels; this alone would likely be something that would get him re-assigned to some arse-end assignment….. oh wait, yeah, already there.
Cyber-Knights. An overview of the class and its history across North America; includes a segment from Erin Tarn, a somewhat silent figure thus far in the series.
Cyber-Knight OCC. We get the revamp of the class, with some welcome additional powers and abilities that bring it more in line with some of the more current Men-at-Arms classes. The Cyber-Armour, class bonuses get updated, and they have added in Zen Combat rules that progress as the character levels up.
Dreams. A short story leading into the segment that does a deep-dive into the four motifs most Cyber-Knights espouse (Courtiers, Crusaders, Champions, or Fallen, with a bonus Hermetic Knight). Covers the Code of Chivalry and its seven tenets; really useful for any PC playing a Cyber-Knight, or a GM looking to throw in an NPC.
Courtiers. Covers the Code of Chivalry (life, fair play, nobility, valor, honor, courtesy and loyalty), which one could argue is a pretty central characteristic of a Cyber-Knight Player Character. The in-depth discussion over multiple pages provides a great resource to base your character’s disposition on. Includes some notable NPCs.
Crusaders. A segment on these specific knights and their four precepts (poverty, humility, purity and generosity), which again provides a great resource for role-playing this kind of character. Includes some notable NPCs.
Champions. The more martially inclined of the group. Speaks to tests of skill, strength and endurance, as well as Blood Oaths. Includes some notable NPCs.
Fallen. Yin to the normative Yang. Includes the Blackguards, those who have formally forsaken their chivalric code to become Robber Knights, Justicars, or Despoilers. Includes notable NPCs.
Hermetic Knights. Basically your Cyber-Knight coming back out of retirement (or not). Not to be outdone by the other segment, you guessed it - includes notable NPCs.
A Fractured Fellowship. Those that followed Lord Coake’s instructions and did *not* join Tolkeen in their war against the CS number a mere 900 to 1,300. From the presentation thus far, one could assume something on the order of the same *did* join Tolkeen (up to this point there was not real Order of Battle for Tolkeen, or the CS for that matter). The results of the split and the outlook of the fellowship of Cyber-Knights gets some attention. Lord Coake himself gets a full NPC breakdown, and several other notable Cyber-Knights are detailed. Damned if that doesn’t seem like a particularly low number of Cyber-Knights to me. I would have imagined much more, something akin to adding a zero to the end of those numbers….
HLS Adventures. Just as advertised, several fairly well detailed HLS adventures to peruse and use at your discretion.
Cyber-Knight Armour. A few pages devoted to the various styles and grades of armour available to the Cyber-Knight. Perhaps not universal, my First Printing includes a Palladium marketing page, typically reserved as a back-facing for the last page, smack in the middle of this section – odd.
Initial Assessment (6/10). As a part of the Siege collection, I found this one stood apart, a standalone that likely could have existed as its own Sourcebook. Given the ties to the storyline of the Siege, I am not surprised to see it folded into the grand scheme of things. The updates to the OCC were desperately needed, giving the added boost to make it more than a glorified headhunter with a specific code, some fancy armour that acted more like a liability (an AR for MDC armour, phew-boy), and a sword he could activate with a single thought. I thought the book held up well enough in the manner it updated the class and kept the storyline for the Siege moving forward, even if only incrementally. I appreciated the fact that there was a political schism based on the overall tenets of the code coming into direct conflict with their restrictions to levy direct support to a specific city-state, adding a realism to the group of warriors that demonstrated that not all sides necessarily have to be good, but some are worse than others. The art work was superb and one of the really appealing aspects that shone through.
Current Assessment (7/10). This book, in keeping with previous books that examined and revamped some of the original Rifts Main Book OCCs, launches the updating of one of their iconic original classes. It also provides a neutral, third-party perspective, with a worldview that likely most clearly connects with many of the readers. This is done most certainly to lend some justification and credence to the effective degradation of Tolkeen into a mirror reflection of the Coalition States in terms of how they conduct their war efforts, and to what lengths they would be willing to go. I appreciated this narrative mechanism, demonstrating that the controversies and horrors of warfare, including maltreatment of the enemy at their most vulnerable, are not necessarily limited to the CS. This book could easily be used as a standalone for any player who wanted updated, in-depth background on the class; the Siege of Tolkeen provides a context that could be transposed anywhere, really. The artwork is truly superb; Freddie Williams II and Michael Wilson produced some truly epic pieces. My favorite has to be the full page Cyber-Knight saluting with his Psi-Sword on page 8. The cover continues the Siege on Tolkeen series’ spectacular levels of artwork. Given that the rules for the Cyber-Knights were updated into Rifts Ultimate Edition, is this book necessary anymore? Strictly speaking, no, with one caveat. This book provides a lot of background and character for playing Cyber-Knights; thankfully these aren’t your stereotypical Paladins! The adventures presented herein are worth the read and may well find a place in your campaign; again, substituting Tolkeen with your campaign’s flashpoint of choice would likely work fine. A solid enough Sourcebook for the class, despite some redundancy with the OCC's game mechanics largely reprinted in RUE.
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