Scholar’s Review #48: Rifts Merc Town
Updated: May 11
Author: Pat Nowak and Kevin Siembieda
Release Date: March 2005
What happens when a town can’t afford to pay the mercenary companies contracted to defend them against a menacing threat? The mercs take over, and you get… a… MercTown… Despite the lacks for originality in the name, the presentation in this book gives a GM and players a fully fleshed out city to use as a base camp for their campaign or adventuring. A town, run by mercs, for mercs, this high-tech mecca is on par with Ishpeming and Manistique, sits just on the east side of the Mississippi River (technically in the Magic Zone) but considers itself utterly, completely neutral. From cover to cover, you are getting a detailed breakdown of a major centre of trade and activity.
CS Threat Assessment. A fresh way of introducing the information, instead of Erin Tarn postulating on a region of Rifts Earth, we have an intelligence major’s back brief to a general and his staff. He runs down the salient points of the city’s history, and the mercenary companies that ended up “inheriting” the city of approximately fifty thousand. This is a substantive population centre to be playing with, occupied by is a solid mix of humans and D-Bees. Magic is accepted (no surprise as they are technically in the Magic Zone), and with a significantly high transient population, this ironically makes MercTown a hub for the intelligence community of all interested nations. There should be no shortage of adventure ideas and chances to dovetail plot points with the PC's missions.
Welcome to MercTown. The standard Palladium Books city overview, with a bit on the city’s history, population breakdown, geography, government and society, including prominent organizations. Unlike the majority of cities or towns across North America, anything but heavy weapons are permitted into town, and all manner of products, weapons and services are available (well, except slavery), making it a bit of a boom town. This is best demonstrated by the local hospital, the best medical facility outside the CS. It provides technical augmentation (Juicer, MOM, and full/partial bionic conversions) as well as psychic and medical treatment. As one would expect, the armed forces defending a city of this size and with such a varied list of services, combined with their location within the Magic Zone (only around 100 miles (160 kms) from the St Louis Gate), are rather formidable.
MercTown Highlights. In standard Palladium Books style, we have a district map, which is then broken down into individual entries of note.
Outskirts. Includes the Prouse Memorial Airport (bustling centre of commerce in a post-apocalyptic era; a median regional airport hub), Ostrosaurus Express (Pony Express, except with dinosaurs and other D-Bee mounts….), Headhunter Academy and Weapon Storage Facilities (for visitors to park their giant robots or heavy particle beam rifles; just remember your checked item tag).
Paducah Estates. The affluent suburb of MercTown. Includes the walled compound for Naruni Enterprise employees (come join the Naruni sales team, nothing but the best!). About a dozen (12) entries.
The Hub. Beating heart of the city’s commerce and government and downtown core. Includes the Battledome Arena (think modern day Gladiator), the MercTown State Hospital (a crowning jewel of technological, magic and psionic healing), Mercenary Plaza (your modern-day Rifts shopping mecca) with several key head offices and points of sale (Wilk’s, NG, Larsen’s Brigade, Wellington, to name a few), the Palace Hotel & Casino, Naruni Enterprises, and a slew of others. Approximately thirty (30) entries.
The Spokes. As one would expect from a hub, one finds spokes. Bad puns aside, the majority of business is actually conducted in this district. Over sixty (60!) entries, from news racks, to restaurants, to banks, even a laundromat.
The Arms Bazaar. Something of an extension to the Hub and Spokes, most arms dealers and organizations headquartered in The Hub have their primary points of sale in this section of the city. About fifteen (15) entries.
Mystic Quarter. As one would imagine, magic shops and psionic practitioners lie here. There is a small ley line nexus and a “magic college” built on the site. There are some really interesting entries in here, with several adventure ideas popping off the page. About twenty-five (25) entries.
The Warrens. Basically the “shanty town” portion of MercTown, it is an urban jungle with much of the business enterprises under the control of the Black Market or their partner/competitor the Thieves’ Guild. Several notorious gangs are fleshed out that can really help add character and flavour to the interaction in MercTown. Over fifty (50!) entries.
Dockside. Located on the banks of the Ohio River, connecting to the Mississippi and Tennessee Rivers, makes this a key brown water port. Mostly port operations, ship wrights and other commercial/industrial enterprises. About fifteen (15) entries.
MercTown Notable Personalities. As one would imagine a series of NPC entries to provide context, background and flavour text. For a GM to use of ignore as they see fit.
Geoff Blackman. CEO of Blackman Intelligence Resources.
CS Major Jameson Brock. Aside from the name that harkens to something you’d expect from a 90210 extra, the lead for CS intelligence efforts in MercTown, and the character conducting the intelligence briefing at the fore of the book.
Annias Cercy. Archmagus and Guildmaster of the Collegiate Arcane (aka magic college).
Tennessee Jack Crabtree. A Headhunter for over 40 years, runs the Headhunter Academy.
Ted Dutcher. MercTown Black Market Kingpin. Includes basic entries for his personal Elite Enforcers named Murder for Hire, Ltd. Nice to know they found someone to incorporate their activities and legitimize their raison d'être.
Maritus Flavarrel. Secret guildmaster to Ravenshome. Shady character with a healthy dose of self-importance. Includes a couple of his favoured assassins.
Cliff “Fixer” Jones. Born in the ‘Burbs, found his way to MercTown and is an Information Broker extraordinaire.
Jacius Larkent. Former senator or Manistique sent packing for a minor fracas that included trying to make himself Emperor of that country. Sets up in MercTown as an influential merchant with delusions of returning to a hero’s welcome and first emperor of Manistique Imperium – I mean hey, it *is* in the name…. Includes information on Larkent’s Legion (not to be confused with Larsen's Brigade), a personal group of mercenaries Larkent has bamboozled into thinking they are all splinter cells of a *much* larger force that will take Manistique by force.
Mercenary Organizations of MercTown. Mostly camped on the outskirts of MercTown, these are presented to act as antagonists, villains or rivals to the player characters; insert plot points/hooks for the party.
Air Superiority. Specialized in combat aircraft, providing close air support, interdiction, aerial reconnaissance, and patrolling. I’ll let this one slide, but without putting too fine a point on it, there is no way to justify the viability of this merc company.
Mayhem’s Marauders. Hailing from the Magic Zone with diverse magic, psionic and D-Bee/monster capabilities. Has a certain panache for getting into and winning battles with CS troops.
The Tennessee Headhunters. A miniature version of Larsen’s Brigade, don’t ever mention the similarity in front of the Crabtree owners. A small but long-lived outfit with solid tactical acumen and reputation to match.
Combat Medical Services. A contract medical care service provider on par with a CS military field hospital. Services range from First Aid training (did your certificate expire?) to cybernetic surgery/replacement.
Initial Review (8/10). This was another recent acquisition that, quite frankly, surprised the heck out of me. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but what I read exceeded my expectations. As a GM looking for a base of operations for your campaign, you could do several magnitudes worse than this book. Leveraging what is essentially a fully-fledged city study, with detailed maps that surpass many of the previous attempts to do the same, in a region that has access to almost any and all North American regional conflicts, this book hits it out of the park. The information provided for over two-hundred entries (200!) gives a GM a wealth of material to weave into their campaign, not to mention the innumerable plot hooks to tie into. This does force a fair bit of pressure on the GM to spend the time to read, digest, and adapt the information into something they can gainfully use in their campaign. Located where it is, this could easily dovetail into a pro-/counter-CS campaign, adventures in the Magic Zone, a sojourn to the south and the shenanigans found in the Mexico/Pecos Empire/New West, up along the Mississippi to join with or fight against Tolkeen, or into the Dinosaur Swamps and along the eastern seaboard. For a book that covers such a diverse series of entries, the artwork is equally varied; none of them stand out for me, but holistically they provide a good addition to the book. One of the more subtle bonuses to this book was the inclusion of the maps for each quarter, as detailed as they are, within the context of a smaller overlay with the outlines for the various other districts that make up MercTown. This gives a quick and easy reference to the locales in relation to the remainder of the city, as well as what neighbouring sectors need to be referred to elsewhere in the book. I had a few minor quibbles with some of the entries (e.g. Air Superiority), but as a book supporting adventure ideas and a GM’s campaign construction, you can do little better. The only thing is that this book is really a GM’s resource, vice something for the players: there are no OCCs, lists of spells, gathering of gadgets or warehouse of weaponry. For that reason, I’d say the book does a *spectacular* job at what it intended, but won’t be a must-have investment for every gaming group member.
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