Scholar’s Review #59: Rifter #85
Updated: Jan 21
Guest Editor: Sean Owen Roberson
Coordinator & Editor In Chief: Wayne Smith
Contributing Writers: With over a dozen, I’ve annotated author’s names for each section.
General. The Rifter, back in an annual format; a combination of various articles submitted by fans, for the fans. Palladium Books strives to ensure all the gaming systems are represented, which is laudable and largely succeeded in this issue. The submissions certainly leaned heavy on the Rifts content, which was expected. That said, this is a relatively thick tome for the Rifter. At 224 pages, it exceeds many of the published World Books for Rifts, equaling or exceeding most of the beefiest entries for most other systems as well. There is a good collection of GM material and background material (including works of fiction), which should satisfy most fans.
From the Desk of Kevin Siembieda. I labelled the whole first 21 pages under this title. In actuality only two pages are from Kevin, another from Sean, with the remainder taken up by Table of Contents, copious news and advertisements and the catalogue checklist. Total honesty, I appreciated the updated layouts for the advertisements, but would *strongly* prefer those get shunted to the back of the book, and find a way to cut down the page count. Otherwise, the messages from Kevin and Sean were well appreciated and genuine.
Soul In Flames (Barry Wright, pp 22-35). A Rifts adventure where the party meets a lost girl, takes her to her town and adventure/mayhem ensues. Not initially well suited for parties with heavy D-Bee presence or practitioners of magic. The flow of the adventure is quick and well structured; quite suitable for a single-shot adventure. Essentially the origin story for Charlie, if you choose to continue leveraging the character. A nice adventure module. (7/10)
The Colony of Gonarn (Glen Evans, pp 36-73). For the Palladium Fantasy RPG fans, a beefy entry. The colony was established as part of a resource rush into the Great Northern Wilderness. This entry provides a rich background to the geographical setting, the politics, with detailed entries for places of renown, key sites within Gonarn, and several neighboring start-up villages and outposts. Not having made my way into reviewing the PFRPG library, I’m sure this review fails to do it justice. That said, at 36 pages in length, there is a fair amount for GM/Player alike to sink their teeth into. (7/10)
Scout’s Honour (Francois DesRochers, pp 74-75). It would be the height of naive egoism to actually write a review of my own work. That said, whatever mark I would give I’d drop a point for a laughably glaring typo in the text (how on earth did spell-check miss that - super-frustrating). I’ll leave you with this though; I had fun writing it and will be submitting subsequent pieces.
Vehicle Encounter Table (Lloyd Blair, pp 76-85). Optional material for Dead Reign, it can easily be leveraged for any other modern/sci-fi setting (Chaos Earth, Rifts, BtS). Essentially a series of random tables that give derelict vehicles a bit more life when discovered by the PCs. Everything from the type, condition, common items (list uses a d100), as well as specialized equipment that could be found. Really, a nice add-on for just about any of the PB games (less PFRPG, obviously). (8/10)
Beyond Midnight (Dan Frederick, pp 86-91). An adventure module that starts with a nice bit of dark fiction, set in a remote roadhouse, deep in the Australian wilderness. It does strongly suggest starting with the Boxed Nightmares adventure, and/or use premade characters from BtS to kick off, but essentially the PCs will come in to clean-up the mess. It then presents some interesting seeds to link across any of the PB games (including PFRPG, intriguing). (7/10)
Rifts Novella: Last Strike (Dan Frederick, pp 92-109). A continuation of Reaper Cell (presented in Rifters 71-72). From an editing standpoint, there were several issues with verb tenses, perspective changes mid-narrative, and some unfortunate info-dumps. Without the background, I must admit I found the chapters jumped around * a lot* and introduced too many characters for my taste. The plot line takes you through some nice transitions and has the baseline for a great story. (5/10 with a bump to 7/10 if properly edited)
The Redeemer (Kyle Osterberg, pp 110-113). An optional OCC for Nightbane, this former Witch has broken with their pact and now hunts those seduced by the Nightlords or other Supernatural evils. Certainly not a new idea, but it provides an option that can really be plumbed for character arcs and adventure ideas as the former master seeks to toy with or punish their former servant, all the while knowing there is the risk of the Redeemer once again turning evil; the ultimately satisfying irony. Not overly familiar with power levels for Nightbane classes, my out-of-context review: I liked what I saw. (7/10)
A Tribute to Heroes Unlimited (written and drawn by Freddie E. Williams, pp 114-115). This beautifully rendered two page comic, with technically 11 panels (one cuts across both pages), relates the author’s introduction and leveraging of HU at an early age to bolster his self-confidence. It is a moving story with some great art, transmitting a great deal of emotional context within the limited space. Freddie nails it, and the poignant contrast between the first panel and the final one is truly remarkable. Pretty much the showcase piece of the book. (10/10)
The Brotherhood (Kyle Osterberg, pp116-199). A Rifts short story set in a CS fort-city alongside the Mississippi. Elias, king of the criminal underground of Port Girardeau, has concerns about his legacy and has found himself on the cusp of something greater than his petty, material enterprise. The story flows well, despite a couple of points where we are ‘told’ vice ‘shown, and the story culminates very well. A nice piece. (6/10 with an easy bump to 8/10 with a few minor tweaks).
Magic Items of Lore (Christian Bonawandt, pp 120-127). A series of collectible magical items for use in any PB system with magic, really. The entire series of items are nicely described, the powers neatly developed. Solid entry and usable across a variety of adventures/settings. (8/10)
The Naruni Civil War (Scott Gibbons, pp 128-137). Developing off the Hartigal Combine (see Rifts Dimension Book 5: Anvil Galaxy), a break-away division from within Naruni Enterprises, a series of Hook, Line & Sinkers (HLS), interspersed with some very short vignettes/stories, presents a new dynamic for player groups. Does Naruni Enterprises’ efforts to squash the upstart rival succeed? Does the Hartigal Combine make a miraculous comeback? Solid entry for any GM looking to jump into Phase World or develop their campaign. (8/10)
The State of Rapid City (Sean Masters, pp 138-147). A Rifts setting, the city of Rapid City is built upon the success of Wilk’s Laser Technologies. What you get is a good representation of the city government, economy and major organizations, and foreign affairs. There are some odd references to the Magic Zone threat to the city, which I found odd considering the geo-political realities and sheer distance to the Magic Zone. That said, it is a solid entry for a GM to leverage adventures in the New West. (8/10)
Hardware Expanded (Howard Daley Jr, pp 148-155). A deep dive into the Hardware OCC from Heroes Unlimited. Provides some nicely done additional rules and optional approaches to the class that flesh it out nicely. Nothing more to say than it is a solid entry. (7/10)
Dark Deadline (Addison Vigil, pp 156-159). A Dark Reign adventure set at the Roosevelt Haven ranch. Set in four scenes, the adventure details a mysterious wanderer’s visit and the mayhem that ensues. Set over four scenes, the party tries to recover the situation and restore peace and good order. Solid adventure entry. (7/10)
Palladium Gaming Using Savage Worlds (Sean Roberson, pp 160-162). Sean gives a precis on the Savage Worlds (Savage) line of books and how they complement the Palladium Books Rifts library. The Savage books are all set in post-109 P.A., which allows them to provide expanded material for each setting, which PB Rifts gamers can use to augment the material presented in Rifts: Aftermath. Plot points and major muscle movements of the published Savage adventures remain intact for use; specifics for rules interactions and skill checks can easily be substituted for those found in RUE. Basically another venue of adventure resources, if you so choose.
The Glitter Boy Brotherhood (Will Erwin, pp162-169). Outside of the Free Quebec forces, most GBs are piloted by a hodge-podge of loosely aligned groups. The OCC sees some expansion, and we dive into several tactical studies on how to employ this mythical suit of power armour (though my tradecraft would have to disagree with the Hills segment). A really nice piece that gives a good precis to the power armour and role-playing options for use in adventures. (8/10)
In Shining Armour: Culture of Glitter Boy Pilots (Johnny Roccia, pp 170-173). The idea of the Chromium Codex, a quantum-based computer in each GB is a really neat idea. Augmented with some traditions and superstitions for GB Pilots and the brilliantly twisted idea presented as the Chrome Bounty, this really augments the role-playing options for the PC. (9/10)
Upgrading a Legend: Repairing and Modifying the USA-G10 (Will Erwin, pp 174-191). The enigmatic element of repairing a GB is fleshed out very well here. There is also a segment on “hot-rodding” the GB with extra gear, equipment and weapons, including some (blasphemous) TW options. A selection of legendary GB Pilots and their specially modified suits are detailed, as well as a nice section specifying markers & patches a pilot can earn and wear to demonstrate their success among their peers. Great information for GM and PC alike. (8/10)
Relics of an Empire (Ian Herbert, pp 192-224). The final article, we get a hefty PFRPG entry that presented the remnants of Elven strongholds that once dominated the region. You get a detailed overview of each of the cities, their breakdown and how they deal with each other and the remainder of the PFRPG world. This gives GMs a great little microcosm to enable their campaigns, or simply be a stopover from one adventure to the next. A nice little bit of worldbuilding. (7/10)
Initial Assessment (7/10). Like many of you, it’s been a while since I’ve had the chance to review a Rifter. As is the case with most of them, there are some articles that meet expectations, other disappoint in how they fall short, others surprise you with how they exceed. As a contributor, I quite easily recuse myself from comment on my own piece, and certainly welcome anyone’s opinion and/or constructive criticisms. That said, the variety of articles is well supported; just about every game system is represented. The standout pieces for me were easily the Freddie Williams tribute to Heroes Unlimited, followed by the overall series of articles by Will Erwin on the Glitter Boys (no bias, I swear). There is a lot of useful content in here, if perhaps not for everyone. The artwork throughout was great (once again extolling Freddie’s piece, phew!). As a contributor for Rifts a long time ago (World Book 22: Free Quebec), I know the thrill of seeing your name in print, and having contributed a small entry into this issue, there is no change, and certainly enough of an impetus to continue contributing and submitting more material.
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