Scholar’s Review #47: Rifts Adventure Sourcebook (Chi-Town ‘Burbs: The Vanguard)
Author: Kevin Siembieda
Release Date: September 2003
Something of a niche entry in the four-book series of Adventure Sourcebooks, this one specifically examines the mythical sect known as The Vanguard. This ultra-secret, multi-generational group of practitioners of magic, secretly supports the Coalition States from the shadows, including their policies on human supremacy. Knowing that current policies brand them as dangerous elements incompatible with current CS society and security, members of The Vanguard gather intel, disrupt and attack various actors that plot to kill or harm CS citizens and overall security. The fourth entry in a series of books examining the ‘Burbs, we also get a bonus addition to Fire Town, the map further expanded upon.
The Birth of the Vanguard. We start with a bit of a history lesson, discovering that in the early days of Chi-Town, the Vanguard’s magic users were not only part of the military, they were respected in their scientific approach to leveraging magic as a force for humanity’s benefit. The difference between them and the Federation of Magic was the latter’s acceptance of D-Bees and monsters. We see that, despite the Coalitions States’ human supremacist policies, the Federation were the initial aggressors; this triggered after routinely being snubbed by the Chi-Town political elites that barred the Federation's entry into the Coalition States. The Federation’s initial attack would spur Chi-Town’s reactionary Bloody Campaign of 12 P.A., and ultimately made the Vanguard’s place in Chi-Town society untenable. The conditions of their departure are, surprisingly, very forgiving and generous.
Secret Protectors. Early efforts of the Vanguard kept Chi-Town informed on various enemy antagonists, much of it from activities conducted in the ‘Burbs. A true family business, many current Vanguard members are second- or third-generation relatives of the original magic users that left Chi-Town. Much like the Black Vault, there are whispers and myth of their activities and membership throughout the ‘Burbs and in CS Military Intelligence; only a select few know the truth of their existence and function, and only Joseph Prosek knows the *full* story.
The Vanguard Today. Currently they help track down dissidents, magic users and Tolkeen retribution squads out to inflict damage on Chi-Town, and the various dragons, demons and monsters that infiltrate the ‘Burbs. I though that the security acid-test of Ernst Vinien was a really nice touch. Set-up much like any unconventional warfare group, these small cells and loners know only a few salient connections to other cells. The section on common missions and goals provides a nice segue into Playing the Vanguard as Villains and Vanguard as Player Characters, giving players and GMs alike a dearth of information.
Vanguard OCCs. Eight new OCCs, the two most common are Vanguard Espionage Agent and Vanguard Mystic Spy. Also provides insights on Vanguard views of other types of magic, limitations and ones they would find acceptable as allies. To be honest, we fall victim to Palladium Books’ ever-increasing list of OCC entries; the section readily admits that baseline OCCs from RUE can be adapted.
Vanguard Espionage Agent. A variation of the LLW, they trade some baseline OCC abilities for more espionage-related abilities and skill selections (duh...).
Vanguard Conjurer. Essentially the OCC presented in World Book 16: Federation of Magic. Very few in the Vanguard.
Vanguard Ley Line Walker. The namesake OCC, rolled up in as in RUE, with a few tweaks.
Vanguard Waylayer. Another variation from the LLW, these enforcers and “heavies” of the Vanguard specialize in combat magic.
Vanguard Savant. Something more akin to the LLW, has the aptitude to learn “outside the box” magic (i.e. Cloud Magic, Ocean Magic). Has some of the espionage-related abilities.
Vanguard Translocator. Most baseline LLW abilities plus a special Streetwise skill and access to dimensional/transportation-based magic. Basically a living, breathing transporters.
Vanguard Mystic Spy. Your Mystic from RUE, with specializations on stealth, intelligence and espionage.
Vanguard Mystic Thief. Another Mystic-related class, more concerned with theft and has links to Black Market and the more disreputable mages (i.e. Witches, Shifters, Necromancers) to disrupt their schemes.
Fire Town Part 3. We return, with some more information on Abandoned buildings and Vanguard safehouses. An additional 20 locales, replete with adventure hooks and ideas, as well as an expanded map, giving you the complete view of this ‘Burb.
Initial Assessment (6/10). Giving a bit more information on the ‘Burbs, as well as the cloaked and fabled history of Chi-Town in the early days, this Adventure Sourcebook gives players and GM’s alike something to play with. I’d like to think the OCC section to be the ‘homage to the Ley Line Walker,’ similar to previous books developing baseline OCCs, but these are too specific to fit that bill; they are tailored for Vanguard PCs/NPCs. Some of them present some decent alternatives and would be of interest to play, but in reality they are variations on the baseline OCC that begs the question: why include them at all? The idea of playing a human supremacist practitioner of magic may be antithetical to many players, but the option is there; personally, I would find it very interesting to play/write about. It gave me no less than three storylines that I’d like nothing more than to flesh out. The other significant portion of this book adds further details to the ‘Burb Fire Town, something I have already glowingly approved of. These entries folds Vanguard PCs/NPCs into the narrative and give even more to work with. The artwork for this one takes it up a notch; Freddie Williams and Apollo Okamura deliver. Personal favorite is the Freddie Williams dynamic combat scene on page 8, with the mage’s shield soaking up laser fire as two CS soldiers recover to get back into the fight. The information is decent, which is demonstrated in the score, and commensurately docked due to presentation of the Fire Town details over numerous sources vice a single publication. This could have been a 7 or an 8, but the OCCs are all a little too niche and ultimately not even necessary, and these four Adventure books beg to be combined and presented as a single World Book.
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