Scholar’s Review #43: Rifts Adventure Guide
Author: Siembieda, Coffin & Wujcik
Release Date: 2002
Note: This review is of the Special Hardbound Edition, released April 2021
A book of ideas. That’s the best way to introduce this one. It includes pages of discussion on creating games, tips for game mastering, and the craft involved in keeping your players engaged with compelling adventures and settings. There is a nicely presented segment on the CS ‘Burbs, which provides a good baseline discussion on what they are and how to adventure therein, with a fantastic series of adventure ideas for a campaign. This leads into the creation design systems for cities/towns, organizations/syndicates, and welcome reprints of creation designs for mercenary companies and travelling shows. What follows is, literally, 101 adventure ideas that any GM worth his salt will be able to exploit into their current campaign, or draw from to create an adventure for their players. Very much a compendium of ideas and triggers for a GM looking to get ideas. For new GM or someone new to the Rifts RPG, this is a must have.
Role-Playing. A series of small treatises on the general aspects of role-playing. The players’ role is ultimately to create the fictional character and derive actions in reaction to the GM scenario, concentrating on teamwork, asking questions and working with the GM to help drive the narrative forward.
Getting Started. Some information on outlining the plot, providing direction to your players.
Inspiration. Derived from myriad sources, with a laundry list of ideas.
Build On the Idea. Plot the major elements and encounters that lead to the climactic end game. Be cognizant of your players’ interests and cater to them in building your adventure. Examples of various authors and artists are given as examples, as well as some discussion on “power gamers.”
Outlining the Story. Structured into acts, beginning-middle-end, what have you. Discussion on movie structures and “classic” five act drama.
You Are Power. Notes to reinforce that GMs are in charge; some notes to lower the anxiety that may overcome newer GMs. Addresses the possible pitfalls of concentrating on the mundane to the exception of the adventure; keep the story moving and be flexible/inventive. Try to dovetail one encounter’s end into the narrative of the next. Some notes to ward off of railroading.
Elements of the Game. Discusses dice, luck and fair play, as well as fair play and alignments, secret information, options and chance, consequences and logical progression. Some input on the adventure ending too soon, how to handle “player” versus “player character” knowledge, and how many players per session is best.
First Time Adventuring. A series of checklists to guide players and GMs.
How Siembieda Does It. What it says on the tin; an overview of how Kevin visualizes his adventures from idea to execution.
Game Master Tools
The Dungeon Crawl. The basic concepts, and using dungeons properly (in Rifts Earth).
Archetypes. Conflict types (Man vs. Nature/Man/Society/Himself/Fate), about two dozen Character archetypes, and about twenty Dramatic archetypes (e.g. quest, rescue).
Wujcik Words. An in-depth discussion on the use of names, what they imply, thinking big (building up from small scale encounters to ever increasing surrounding regions). Interesting thoughts.
The CS Burbs. So, we finally get an official account of what the CS Burbs look like, and how they canonically fit into the Rifts RPG Megaverse. and how the ‘Burbs are legally unrecognized
Structure of the Burbs. Covers the basic structure, how the concentric levels of poverty and desperation, notable businesses, slang, and types of gangs. Some good information.
Phantom Cities. Legal non-entities with zero protections by CS laws. How the CS patrols, the different levels of lawlessness in different ‘Burbs and how the CS intervenes, a list of (lucky) 13 conditions as reality a ‘Burb resident must accept as truth (with no guarantee this allows them to evade trouble in general or with the CS), and finally from the CS viewpoint, the 6 ‘big problems’ they have with the ‘Burbs.
‘Burb Adventures. A full 32 suggestions that can form the basis of a campaign idea within the ‘Burbs. Combined with the 6 ‘big problems’ and you have most of the shell for a campaign sorted out and ready for your details and input!
Apocalyptic Earth. Summarizing the events of the apocalypse, followed by a really solid discussion on various points of the post-apocalyptic age, including wilderness communities and life outside major established centres, barbarians that prey on the weak/unprotected, what people of the Dark Age thought of their world, and some thoughts on ruins of the Old World within the context of current PA role-playing.
Creating Towns and Cities. In the same vein as the Circus and Mercenary Company creation design system, we now get a system for creating towns. I’m a huge fan of this, and found that the system presented herein gives a nice, clean and easy way for a GM to make unique and compelling locales.
Organizations. Yet *another* creation design system, this time for syndicates and secret organizations. Ever wanted to create a crime syndicate for your campaign? Look no more! Want to create a guild of Operators or Techno-Wizards? Here you go!
Mercenary Companies. Well hey, who knew? Reprinted from Rifts: Mercenaries, but nice that they added it here.
Travelling Shows. For those that remember World Book 1: Vampire Kingdoms, we get a reprint of the system that started it all.
Player-Created Organizations. Some notes on how player characters can pool their resources and generate an organization/syndicate of their own. A really nice addition that provide players flexibility, and the GM a road map on how to support it.
Trails of Adventure. Literally 101 adventure ideas. Not all of these will pique your interest, but as a GM looking for ideas to start an adventure or flesh out a campaign in North America. There are a few entries for adventure ideas outside of North America as well.
Rolling for Rifts. Some random tables to roll on for Ley Lines and dimensional portals, with additional details for occurrences during an equinox/solstice or full/partial eclipse, and how to create your own tables.
Initial Review (10/10). Having seen this in the catalogue for the longest time, I never really found myself wondering what this book contained. Anecdotally, I found my imagination and capabilities as a GM were sufficient. I found a hard copy version completely by chance after visiting a local comic book shop that just happened to have some RPGs; hidden among the plethora of D&D 5e stuff and other RPGs, were several hardbound Palladium titles. Not knowing what to expect, this book dives into a rather dense discussion on role-playing and the function of the Game Master. There are some really good discussion points to be had, and I found a lot of the text reinforced much of what I already knew. That said, for a new GM or someone just starting to run Rifts adventures, there is some invaluable information presented. The details on the ‘Burbs are a nice entry; I’d say this really could have been combined with and further fleshed out in the Adventure Sourcebooks into a single source. That said, it is a nice primer to lead into the Rifts Anthology – Tales of the Chi-Town ‘Burbs. The remainder of this book provides an absolute treasure trove of ideas and methods to flesh out an adventure or campaign, that begs the question how this publication never got labelled as the Game Master’s Guide. As a resource for GMs, I honestly don’t think I can extoll the virtues of this book enough. Speaking about the artwork, it starts with a bang-up cover by Zeleznik. Interior art cleanly supports the mood of the entries; the ever-revealing Wilson art in Creating Adventures is a nice touch; he and Apollo do yoeman’s service throughout. My favorite piece is the trio exploring the underground library on page 109, in particular the books on the top shelf. A solid book, one I would say any GM should buy right after the RPG/RUE, and then flesh out with World Books and Sourcebooks from there.
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