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  • Writer's pictureFrancois DesRochers

Scholar’s Review #64: World Book 33: Northern Gun 1

Updated: Jun 8, 2023


Author: Matthew Clements & Kevin Siembieda

Release Date: Oct 2013


GENERAL


General. Ever since the Rifts RPG came out, we’ve heard of this upstart city-state of Northern Gun, producer of a multitude of robots, power armour and small arms for Player Characters. After nearly two decades, we finally get to see what this part of the game space looks like, and things are looking good! Lucking out by being relatively remote from the truly heinous aspects of the apocalypse, Ishpeming was not immune to the problems that ravaged North America. They leveraged robots and their manufacturing capabilities to keep ahead of the curve and carve out a niche position for themselves, while supporting the “little guy” across much of North America. If you like robots and weapons, this book is going to really scratch your itch.


SECTIONS


Megaverse Insiders. A long list of names that provided financial backing to Palladium Books back when they needed it. You see a lot of the Ultimate Insiders, Benefactors and Ultimate Benefactor names pop up throughout.


Northern Gun & the Republic of Ishpeming. Where the former entity overshadows the latter, it is NG that makes decisions that affect the sovereignty and future of the republic, including signing of the nonaggression pact with the CS during the Campaign of Unity. From weapons and armour, to non-military vehicles/electronics and basic equipment/tools, NG has a hand in almost every type of mass-produced goods imaginable, making them a multi-market manufacturer of necessity. Under the tagline “durable, dependable, deadly,” this has translated into a loyal customer base for myriad product lines. The integration of state and corporation is along the same vein as Triax and the NGR, but in this case the Republic exists to serve NG and oversee civil affairs (not *quite* as symbiotic). A nice analysis of the major arms dealers and how they rank amongst each other (from Atlantis to Wellington Industries).

  • NG Products. In what seems like a mismanaged section, it is more telling that this section speaks to the zeal and elitism of NG employees, as well as the corporate identity the NG pushes across the Ishpeming’s worldview. Pride and corporate culture are fully on display; somewhat surprisingly, this extends to D-Bees, so there certainly is room for some conflict with the CS or campaign ideas to be exploited.

  • NG Policies. Several general statements and world building information on how NG deals with or thinks of the following:

    • Magic. Officially outlawed, but not zealously enforced unless it’s TW-related (which threatens market share). Magic is dangerous, keep it out of our lives, end of debate.

    • D-Bees. Largely treated as a second class citizen under this simple dynamic: if a good customer/worker, tolerated; otherwise, not so much.

    • Spies/Theft/Corporate Espionage. Ironically this applies to those working for NG. For any merc/contractor working on behalf of the NG to spy or conduct espionage activities, it is made clear that extreme measures (e.g. murder, violence, extortion) are not tolerated, resulting in terminated contracts and getting blacklisted by the NG. There are some interesting notes in relation to stealing trade secrets without the manufacturing capability to exploit the designs. Ultimately, I found the idea of their spies *not* using extortion or blackmail more than a little naïve, as most corporate espionage involves some levels of extortion and blackmail to leverage people into providing information. So not kosher in a post-apocalyptic setting? I quibble.

    • Reverse-Engineering. One of their hidden trade secrets is their labs’ ability to tinker with equipment, weapons and robots/power armour, including CS and Triax, as well as several TW-related and Splugorth items. Also, some notes on how Titan Robotics are baffling them with anti-tamper devices – possibly alien technology… Some information on the NG Reverse Engineering Labs.

  • NG Research & Development. Based on the Golden Age tech scrounged in the aftermath of the apocalypse, NG leveraged their relatively intact manufacturing capability and have not stopped tinkering since then. There is a lot in here that resembles the Triax ‘story,’ and I found there was a little more ‘hand-waving’ to explain how they made it through the dark ages and up to the current date in the game state.

  • Loss Prevention Office. Combination intelligence/police/paramilitary force. Interesting element of world building I found both plausible and pleasing to read.

  • NG Trade Council. Eight executives that wield pretty much the ultimate authority in NG. A nice and short overview of the positions with adventure tie-ins. The info is crisp and cleanly presented (not bogged down with fluff). Defines the NG/Manistique Imperium credits, hinting at the monetary system in play across North America. The MBA geek inside of me was *really* happy to see this included, but I’m sure most will get much less mileage out of it. It also flows nicely into the segment discussing the Showrooms.

  • NG Foreign Relations. Are the CS overlords or allies? How does the neighbour Manistique feel as the little brother? What about the Black Market? Naruni? Hint: not cordial. Throw in the usual suspects, including Lazlo/New Lazlo and Triax and this is pretty much the segment we’ve all been accustomed to seeing.


The Republic of Ishpeming. With a population topping at 1.5 million, this is a major center of human civilization, where literacy rates hover at around 63%. This section gives a better look at how the society and technology has developed in the region, as well as the HQ building that ostensibly controls it all. The remainder of the capital is summarized, including the Mall of America, embassies, and how they handle farming.


Ishpeming Region. With a handy map, we cover the major locales and a bit of the history that led to the modern Ishpeming. Includes a quaint but brilliant entry for the “multi-marathon.” There is a lot of worldbuilding in here that GMs can sink their teeth into and generate adventure ideas.

  • Wisconsin Border. Otherwise known as the Iron Curtain, is a strategic line of defensive sites and mining operations that obviously support NG’s production requirements.

  • Lower Michigan. Largely a monster infested wilderness.

  • Green Bay. The pre-Rifts city is no more, the region now a refuge for pirates, mercenary interlopers, or random monsters.

  • Wisconsin. An odd entry. Similar to, yet worse off than Lower Michigan.

  • Lake Superior. With a key interest in keeping this region safe, NG has several fortified locations along the coast to guard against the vacuum the Tolkeen forces left after defeat, as well as observation and delay of any Xiticix expansion.


Ishpeming Military Contract Network (IMCN). Unlike the CS, the NG military is a hodge-podge of contracted mercenary companies. They are hedging their bets, but thus far it seems to have worked, as each company negotiates their own contract and can be generalist or specialist in their approach. They also have a specialized academy, training on robots/power armour, piloting aircraft and other specialties most independent city-states are incapable of providing. Also provides four merc companies the GM can tap into.


NG Bounty Registry. Much like the one presented in MercTown, this is easier to access and dovertails with the MercTown version. With over 50 tasks/bounties to read through, a GM has little difficulty fleshing out an adventure.


NG OCCs. What’s anew book without more OCCs?

  • NG Bush Pilot. Can operate aircraft, ground vehicles, watercraft, robots, or all of them. Basically your Rifts version of a long-haul trucker/pilot with some interesting special abilities.

  • NG Loss Prevention Officer. Basically your Intel-Spectre/Spy for the NG.

  • Monster Responder. A special forces soldier that, basically, well, hunts…. monsters.

  • NG Police Officer. Take your Merc Soldier OCC and apply some new MOS specialities.

  • NG Robot Control. A specialized Operator that deals with rogue robots and power armour.

  • NG Sales Rep. An Adventurer-style OCC that really, brings little to the table. It has a hodgepodge of skills, terribly niche special abilities (that are not so special). Oh, maybe the 1D4x10 copies of the NG catalogue may come in handy? I understand where they were going with this, but such a bad O.C.C…..ugh.


Freighter Traffic on the Great Lakes. After Sourcebook4: Coalition Navy, it was nice to see this included. A series of random charts to determine what ships may be encountered. Given the pirate presence, Xiticix, the Minion Wars and Coalition State of Iron Heart nearby, this could be the nascence of an entire campaign alone.


NG Hovertrains. Because of their relative safety, NG creating this strategic resource makes sense. They are massive haulers of goods, which require significant security. Several types of cars and defensive systems are detailed, and random charts provide onboard defences as well as escorts for encounter generation. Nothing like a good train heist to pull off or defend as an adventure.


NG Robots. Most famoursly known for, it would have been antithetical to not include a series of new robots. There are 30 entries for gearheads in here, some just updates of classics (e.g. Hunter Mobile Gun), while others are brand new.

  • Solid Oxide Fuel Cells. Not a robot, but an alternate fuel source developed by NG to replace expensive nuclear power cores.

  • Beachmaster. An amphibious assault robot with underwater sensors and a few tricks up its sleeve; great for coast guard and privateers.

  • Behemoth Explorer. The classic from the Rifts RPG is back!

  • Behemoth Super-Explorer. Because the original needed to get bigger and badder. Now has 4 legs!

  • Bigfoot. The robot found on the left of the front cover. Basically a walking tank blistering with heavy weapons.

  • Bison Battler. Originally from the Roboto Gladiator Arena, this iconic championship winning robot has now been marketed to the public.

  • Blocker. Picture a robotic version of a heavy-duty linebacker, sporting a massive shield. Not a powerhouse for damage output, but can soak a ton of damage.

  • Bruiser. A more close-combat oriented robot, complete with pile-driver fists. Thought to be a possible key component to anti-Xiticix operations. I understand why they made the piston-driven punches a two-attack power punch; this could have been a characterful, single attack “thing” to differentiate from other robots.

  • Buffalo. A main line combat robot. Nothing fancy, gets the job done.

  • Bulldog Explorer. A much smaller, exploration focused version of the Super Explorer.

  • Gunbot Robot Killer. Another mobile weapon platform; more guns than armour, with surprising mobility. Interestingly, the image on page 128 appears to be a colour picture of the illustration from the previous page.

  • Gunwolf. A monster fighter, with weapons specifically designed for killing demons and monsters – oh yeah, and a wolf’s head complete with silver robotic teeth. Bristling with short-ranged weapons and “finite payloads,” often finds itself in close-combat with monsters, for which it is designed. Not usually one to call BS on payload capacities, but I think this one takes the cake.

  • Grizzly. A mobile bunker and armoured troop support model with loads of modular long-range weapon systems that can be chosen from.

  • Hunter Mobile Gun. The original and possibly most iconic robot.

  • Hunter Mobile Gun Block IV Upgrade. An up-armoured version with several optional weapon systems.

  • Mobile Medical Robot. A first-responder style robot to save the pilot from a destroyed robot/power armour. Can provide immediate medical aid with a series of specialized tools and scanners. Limited offensive weapon systems.

  • Mini-Mobile Medical Robot. A smaller version of the previous entry – duh!

  • Multi-bot. Another original model from Sourcebook 1, with an unusual design concept that “never took” with consumers.

  • Megabot. Building and adapting the Multi-bot design philosophy, they corrected the issues and made it more combat capable. Retains the whole detachable hover vehicle design

  • Ogre. A ponderous brute of a robot with a compartment able to house four people comfortably. More of a utility robot than a combat model.

  • Okemos Explorer Robot. A light, two-legged vehicle. I can’t help but imagine a robot chicken with a turret on its back, with two arms instead of wings.

  • Scorpion Battler. A complete departure from the previous designs, a literal scorpion-shaped vehicle with pincer-like weapons and a tail-mounted ranged weapons.

  • Sunfire. A compact model for exploration and remote defense. Relies on solar power cells to help charge weapon systems. Comes with a holographic defense system.

  • Super Labour Robot. Giant humanoid robot; no frills, but cheap as chips.

  • Super Max. NG’s answer to the Triax Ulti-Max; more of a robot vice power amrour.

  • Thundercaster. The most recent release, this little robot packs a wallop. Armed with an all-purpose artillery cannon and other weapons.

  • Viking. A walking bunker, this is an intimidating combat robot built for raw power, destruction, and combat. Apparently, it can hold its own against 2-3 Glitter Boys; I have my doubts.

  • Volcano. Apparently in the monster fighting niche of robots, fire was a missing element. This robot brings it in spades.


NG Weapons. Literally pages upon pages of handguns, rifles and close combat weapons, both old and new.


IMPRESSIONS


Initial Assessment (9/10). I only recently received this book in my last Palladium Books Christmas Surprise package. Always an intriguing aspect to the Rifts lore, Northern Gun has *always* been there, so it’s really nice to see this region explored. The world building in this book is fantastic and paints the picture of a distinct country within the Rifts Earth dynamic – it’s not perfect, for sure, but is certainly different from the CS. The pages preceding the O.C.C.s contains a massive amount of information a GM can leverage, and this only took 75 pages. For comparison, most of the remainder of the 222 pages in this book presents robots and weapons. That they accomplish so much in so few pages is a testament to the authors’ efforts and the quality of the product. The artwork also does an incredible job supporting the text. Chuck Walton gives us a great cover and provides some absolutely stunning pieces throughout. The multi-page piece for the hover train and the Bulldog are crisp yet somehow come across as gritty as well. Truly fantastic art from the other artists as well, something that really does this book well in terms of readers wanting to go back and have another look. As a World Book, it spends much of the time presenting robots, which is an understandable focal point that I don’t fault, simply because the first 75 pages were able to accomplish so much. If you’re playing in the North American sphere, this is a highly recommended piece to supplement any campaign, allowing the GM to touch on the Tolkeen War, the Xiticix, or the Minion Wars. Solid entry!


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1 Comment


Keith Hunt
Keith Hunt
May 10, 2023

I've been sitting on Northern Gun Book One and Two for about a year now. Too many other books to finish up. Been really looking forward to them though. Glad to hear that you thought so highly of this one.

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