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  • Writer's pictureFrancois DesRochers

Scholar’s Review #44: Rifts Adventure Sourcebook (Chi-Town ‘Burbs: Forbidden Knowledge)

Author: Kevin Siembieda

Release Date: March 2003


It’s the post-Tolkeen War period, and we the reader finally get ourselves something that develops the Chi-Town region, more specifically the ‘Burbs. This introduction gives us a first taste into the conglomeration of the various districts that have built up (and in some case smashed in a blaze of glory) in the shadow of the city fortress of Chi-Town; some details provided for notable Old Towns (longest standing and richest, and hyper-vigilant/supportive of CS policies), New Towns (established for more than a decade, a melting pot), and Shanty Towns (home to the desperate and destitute, criminality abounds). The general ‘Burb society and the criminal underpinnings that drive much of what a player would likely interact with is given significant focus, while feeding GMs context and background information. Lastly, we are presented an example of a New Town (called Fire Town), which familiarizes us to a fully mapped ‘Burb. For any GM looking to style an adventure in the ‘Burbs, this is the place to start.


Chi-Town ‘Burbs – Today (Summer 109 P.A.). Tolkeen has recently fallen and the ‘Burbs are buzzing like a crazed beehive with jubilant pro-CS support, while simmering below the waterline are the discontent, those forced to emigrate from Tolkeen and find themselves in the ‘Burbs. An overview provides details on the ‘three rings’ of communities around Chi-Town (Old Towns, New Towns, and Shanty Towns); some of the more notable are given some basic details (e.g. racial mix, literacy rates, psionics and magic users). A series of slang terms are provided; not necessary but a nice touch for those looking for them.

A Brief Overview of ‘Burbs Society. What could one expect if they found themselves in the ‘Burbs? What passes for criminal activities? Notable Towns in the previous section are further detailed and broken down. The everyday lifestyle for Old/New/Shanty Towns gives a nice amount of detail for the reader to develop; either a GM for their campaign, or a player for PC background details.

Forbidden Knowledge. It basically boils down to two things: magic, and free thought/opposing views. Anything magic is relatively obvious, but we go over several segments of the latter, including the works of Erin Tarn, books and literacy in general, pretty much any pre-Rifts entertainment (particularly movies for a largely illiterate audience).

Streets of Opportunity – The Chi-Town ‘Burbs. In the aftermath of the Tolkeen war, there is a plethora of action in the ‘Burbs; refugees seeking a new home, bouncing through as a waypoint to elsewhere, selling magic items/artefacts, you name it, it’s flowing through the ‘Burbs. Loads of potential for campaigns that never leave the shadow of Chi-Town.

Fire Town – A New Town ‘Burb. The meat of the book, we have a ‘generic’ New Town that gives the GM a great template to build any other personalized ‘Burb for their adventures. In typical Palladium Books fashion, there is a black and white map showing the majority of structures and numbered entries of interest. There are 19 entries, most of them given **copious** levels of detail and adventuring ideas (others detailed in the subsequent Adventure Sourcebook). This is really one of the selling points for this book. Case in point, entry #1 (Hayley, Mind Melter for Hire) is over four pages of content, and quite frankly an adventure module hidden in plain sight, just waiting for a GM to use it (or perhaps be adapted into a series of fiction submissions…. Hrmmm….). Not every entry gets this level of attention, but nearly all of them have adventure hooks.


Current Assessment (7/10). At only 48 pages, my first read of this little publication impressed me; it punches way above its weight. We finally get a glimpse at what the ‘Burbs look like in gaming terms; otherwise you can get a sense by reading through the Rifts Anthology: Tales from the ‘Burbs. The overview of the ‘Burbs and the background information gives a solid baseline for a GM to start playing campaigns in that setting. This is a massive leap from most adventuring through the wilderness settings or remote locales, giving both players and GMs the chance for a palate cleanser. The brilliant thing is the ability for most classes to blend in with the majority of people in either Shanty or New Towns; D-Bees and magic users are at least tolerated, there just might be a few more encounters with CS shakedowns to role play through. The introduction to Fire Town, a New Town style ‘Burb, gives a great template to build upon or use as is, handy map included. Shanty Towns are basically less built up, Old Towns closer to what you would expect a modern metropolis would present. I’m not lying when I saw the 19 entries for Fire Town each provide a plethora of adventure clues, some are closer to full-blown modules, which was a very pleasant surprise. The artwork, for what there is, suffers some repetition from earlier books, but overall supports the content, despite no clear standouts. The one significant critique I have is that this was so obviously split between two or more books, with Black Vault and Vanguard as two additional books that should have all been combined. That said, for the 48 pages presented, there is a smorgasbord of information to digest. Could have been an 8 or a 9, but docked due to presentation over multiple vice a single publication.

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