Scholar’s Review #51: World Book 19: Australia
Updated: Jan 21
Author: Ben Cassin Lucas
Release Date: 1999
So, Australia certainly has not escaped the ravages of the Apocalypse. With only two major cities escaping absolute ruin, the continent has been massively reshaped and impacted by a near total isolation from other developed and recovering nations in Rifts Earth. The two cities of Melbourne and Perth are walled-off meccas of technology and relatively modern life, while the Outback is dotted with struggling communities, roving bands of bandits, as well as monsters and demons, and the resurgence of the Aborigine people who have regained magical powers. Originally presented as the first of a likely duology or trilogy, the details herein provide a GM a good start on adventuring in this remote locale. For those wondering, this isn’t just your Mad Max Rifts style, which was a welcome aspect, but nothing stops you from injecting that into your campaign.
Introduction. Straight into the Table of Contents, we’re beset with maps demonstrating the *massive* geological changes that has rent Australia in a shade of its former self. A giant inland ocean has consumed much of the interior. Knowing that most of the population lives along the coast, and after conferring with Google Maps, topographically it doesn’t initially present as a massive loss; mostly remote arid mountains and unpopulated. One could imagine that the giant tsunamis and the level of tectonic activity to consume half a continent would have massive play against the population. Let’s find out! The introductory words from Ben leave me intrigued, and pleading to myself we avoid the Mad Max cliché.
Glossary. An intriguing addition that I could see a GM leveraging; with a bad, fake accent to boot.
Overview. We begin with three perspectives on the post-apocalyptic landscape, very much akin to the Erin Tarn entries we are used to: Native tracker (assumed Aborigine) speaks to the magic that has been restored, the return to their cultural roots; a pilot from the Melbourne military is shot down, giving the sense of a Coalition-like entity at play; and, an outback explorer with an outside-looking in approach. This is followed by a quick geographical overview (population, etc.), along with a depiction of the scenario immediately after the apocalypse. There are a great number of ley line nexus eruptions across the landscape, making it a location frequented by copious demons and other D-Bees, with only Melbourne and Perth escaping with some technological advantage and semblance of pre-Rifts life. The Landmarks section teases a lot of interesting details, epitomizing the early Rifts atmosphere of a scavenging wasteland with few high-tech centers and numerous threats.
The Outback & The People. Essentially anything not part of Melbourne and Perth regions, life is rugged and difficult. Hardworking family units combine to make small communities work, scrounging for resources, farming barely above subsistence levels, and where technology of any kind comes at a mega-premium, most likely broken apart and repurposed for immediate needs. The Code of the Outback provides a nice element of the Australian worldview for the GM.
Creating Outback Communities. Leveraging the City Creation Rules found in the Rifts Adventure Guide (and elsewhere), it allows the GM a resource to formulate their towns/cities. There are some nicely designed additional elements to the design process, and a few example communities for use by GMs.
Outback OCCs. Some new OCCs for you, including:
Bushman. A nomadic scout of sorts, with minor Psionics and our first glance at WP Boomerang.
Bushranger. Your basic bandit villain.
Aboriginal Wilderness Guide. Aborigine that ‘walk with’ the white man.
Jackaroos. The Aussie version of the Cowboy OCC.
Merchant Trader. Fast-talking smooth operators (not the mechanic-extraordinaire) of the bush.
City Trader. Ruthless, cutthroat, city versions of the Merchant Trader; really presented as the GM’s go-to, villainous Black Market type of NPC.
Outback Runabout. Another Aussie Cowboy-esque class with visions of nobility and adventuring.
Raider. Commando-style characters that live to rob the big cities of their technology.
Roadganger. Outback villains and savages. With cars and bikes. Set up as NPC villains with options for Players to take the class, we’re basically playing an extra from Mad Max (with obligatory ‘Witness me!’).
Road Sentinel. Well, we found our Mad Max reference...
Sham-Man. A cute play on words for your Aussie Ley Line Walker, not to be confused with the true-born Aborigine Shaman.
Songjuicer. A really interesting class of magic user that leeches the latent PPE from their surroundings with Juicer-like bonuses and penalties for prolonged usage
Notes on Other OCCs. There are some key notes on importing other OCCs into the Australian setting. There are also notes on the follow-on products, such as Mystic Australia to provide the Aborigine culture and resources, followed by an ambitious Australia 3: Dreamtime, which sounded *really* intriguing.
City Blueprints. Melbourne and Perth are pretty much isolationists in extremis, basically restricting access and fighting off the hordes outside their walls (whether human or not). Unlike Chi-town, the population is 100% literate and educated.
Melbourne. Detailed overview of this (literal) break-away city state of 3.4 million people on what is now an island off the coast. Includes the administrative bodies, places of interest, and a central computer that has ominous similarities to ARCHIE-03.
Perth. Located on the far side of the continent, this city of 2.25 million escaped the brunt of the apocalypse and rebuilt their city from scratch on the old city’s ruins. Includes administrative bodies, places of interest, and interestingly, and a super computer that helps run their lives.
Features to Both Cities. Some commonalities the GM can apply to either location. Some really well-presented world building. Includes some pretty details laws & punishments (one straight out of A Clockwork Orange - shivver).
City-Based OCCs. Straight-up presented as military classes or villainous civilians, because near all the citizens are not interested in leaving their cushy lives.
Administrator. Your villainous personality; think Mr. Smith from Matrix, if they were human.
Cyber-Spectre. City Rat style hackers extraordinaire.
City Police. Well, yeah. Cops.
Police Tactical Response Group (TRG). Super cops, with serious tones of Judge Dredd.
Sportsman. Your professional sports player and populace idol for a number of different sports.
Technologist. Your Aussie Operator?
Aerojock. The Cities’ air force pilots.
Infantry Grunt. Your Aussie version of the CS Grunt.
Special Operations Soldier. Aussie Special Forces dudes.
Navy Sailor. Did you really think they would have skipped these guys?
Mutants. A series of new mutations from the effects of the apocalypse on the Australian population. Includes a series of random tables for appearances and abilities.
Kwarla. Koala mutant aliens…. That hunt demons. Let that sink in…. Includes a ‘Warrior’ and ‘Mystic’ class.
Mokoloi. Alligator mutant aliens…. For a group that pretty much keep to themselves, there are a series of weapons and armour, including a TW power armour suit.
Shadow People. Little grey men, Aussie style!
New Rifts Skills. Pretty self-explanatory, but a disappointing use of page count.
Monsters and a Few Animals. Some notation on the precipice the Australians are perched upon; the prevalence of magic is much less than elsewhere, while the technology that could make the most impact is mostly restricted to Melbourne and Perth, letting demons and monsters relative free reign.
Monsters. Desert Worms (inspired by Mutants Down Under), Giant Cockroaches, Giant ‘Dwombats, Giant Kang (D-Bee kangaroo…. Really? We went there?) and Razorback (aka Demon Boar), as well as a number of region-specific demons and monsters.
Gods of the Dreamtime. Bunyil (Creator God of the Aborigine), Rainbow Serpent (with a measly 12,000 MDC, 10 attacks per melee at 1D6x100 MD, and a HF of 18), and Tikilik (Aboriginal Devil in the shape of a frog) and its frog demon minions.
Weapons and Equipment. Some good points on the remote, isolated nature of the Australian setting. With the exception of Melbourne and Perth, scavenging and scrounging is the name of the game, more so than any North American adventure. Of interest, the Aussie dollar remains the currency of note, but likely most everything outside Melbourne/Perth remains barter. There is the bog-standard Palladium list of weapons, equipment and armour. A surprising amount is devoted to SDC weapons; given the nature of the environment, not a huge leap, I guess. There is very little in the way of power armour, but a few entries grace the pages along with some land vehicles, boats (not ships) and some aircraft.
Initial Review (8/10). I ordered this book only a short while ago, mostly due to the thought ‘I am likely *never* going to end up adventuring in the Outback.’ When I did take the plunge, my only expectation was that they not present a Mad Max for Rifts and get caught out chasing cliches, like Palladium Books did with World Book 3: England. When I started flipping through the pages, I have to say that I was surprisingly impressed. Sure, there are some Mad Max inspired entries, but nothing that hits you over the head. The presentation and the amount of world building provided is really clean, giving the reader a clear sense of the atmosphere for the beleaguered continent. This really is a scrounging society, where the idea that might makes right could easily be applied; outside of Melbourne and Perth, technology much rarer to find and maintain. Magic is much less impactful than elsewhere. There is a lot here for a GM to use, but mostly restricted to Melbourne, Perth and the scavenging elements of the Outback. The one issue is the complete lack of the Aboriginal culture and entries, which were set for a follow-on book that I think could have really complemented this one. The artwork did a superb job supporting the narrative, with some truly impressive works from all the artists; props to Perez for his OCC illustrations, with a note for the truly gruesome and impactful full-page image in the Road Sentinel on page 78. Overall, I must say that this product far surpassed my expectations in its presentation and the feel from the world building. I dig it. The two mega-cities provide a great base for characters to adventure from, equally so as the protagonist they are fighting against, plus roving gangs in the Outback, monsters and demons galore. Despite not including much of the Aboriginal aspects of the setting, this is a great introduction to the land and the environment, setting players and GMs up with some great adventure ideas. Likely suffering from the ‘removed setting’ issue, this likely isn’t a high-profile purchase for many because of the same reasons it took me so long to get around to reading this book. Frankly, that is a shame. Great art, great atmosphere, a Rifted character group could find loads of enjoyment adventuring here.
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