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  • Writer's pictureFrancois DesRochers

Scholar’s Review #73: World Book 35: NG2


Author: Matthew Clements and Kevin Siembieda

Release Date: May 2014


GENERAL


The follow-up to World Book 34: Northern Gun 1, this tome of technology, equipment and weapons, gives GMs and Players alike a whole raft of choice. Literally scores of entries, it reads almost like a modern-day catalogue, or for those long-in-the-tooth, like a Sears Catalogue. We see a bit of an introduction to the Robodome, providing a form of entertainment for the masses, as well as a proving ground of sorts. We then dive into the commercial aspect of the NG economy, all those environmental body armour, power armour and robots, hover craft, hovercycles and various other products on display. Fair warning, this thing has a veritable boat-load of entries to flip through!


SECTIONS


Ishpeming Robodome. What happens when you create a giant coliseum meant for the violent combat executed by nothing other than massive robots? Well, you’re likely in Rifts Earth and in the Ishpeming region, enjoying gladiatorial combat of the highest possible destructive violence. There are other spectacles that robots though, such as Cyborgs, Juicers, Crazies competing against each other, or sometimes teamed up and facing off against a giant robot. Juicer sports and piloting competitions (e.g. hovercycles, robots), or human versus are also a mainstay.

Note: Erick Wujcik is immortalized as one of the more famous Cyber-Knight gladiators.


Robo-Gladiator Games. The highest draws are always the one-on-one combats. Provides some information on things like half-time shows, how injury and death is treated, typical prize purses, preparing for a match, pit crews, the bookies and how they make their money (e.g. betting on the results), and the restrictions on what is allowed to compete (e.g. no Atlantean D-Bees or equipment, no CS personnel or equipment, no nukes). The actual fights are divided into three weight classes:

  • Lightweight: Cyborgs and light power armour

  • Middleweight: Heavy power armour and robots less than 18 tons

  • Heavyweight: robots of 18 tons and more.


Robot Gladiator O.C.C. A pilot that specializes in the gladiatorial combat of the Robodome. Comes with some serious bonuses to M.A. and interaction modifiers, as well as a Special Ability that reads like it was written while watching Mortal Kombat and they heard the phrase “Finish Him!” Also gives a list of the noteworthy Robodome Gladiatiors, as well as fleshed out NPC entries for the current champions. A number of interesting characters, including some tie-in to the Titan Robotics release.


Pirates of the Great Lakes. Apparently Green Bay is now the haven of a number of pirate factions; since the Dark Ages, the coast of Wisconsin has been a breeding ground for these types. Describes a number of pirate havens, the Raid Council (gathering of pirate captains), and several fleets outlined using the Mercenary Company generation rules. I found this aspect of the book criminally underdeveloped. So much more could have been made of these.


Northern Gun Clientele. A nice little segment that covers some of the markets Northen Gun taps into that helps drive those ‘oh so sweet’ profit margins. Leads into a series of Huntsman armour, fatigues, and other bits of M.D.C. clothing.


Hovercycle “Ride” Armour. A series of M.D.C. armour specifically for hovercycle pilots. Basically a jumpsuit with some level of protection. All are light with minor penalties to Climb, Prowl, and the rest that are normally pinched by full environmental armour.

  • Bullet. Lightweight and aerodynamic.

  • Cannon Ball. A more heavily armoured version. Has some odd M.D.C. values (e.g. Main Body – 42 (+10 to the chest and neck area) – what the heck does that even mean?)

  • Roadrunner

  • Viper


Other Non-Environmental Armour. A fair number of reprinted entries from previous World Books, Sourcebooks and the like. All offer some range of protection; otherwise down to aesthetics.

  • Cavalry Armour. Armour for horses.

  • Huntsman. See RUE.

  • Juicer Assassin Plate Armour. See World Book 10: Juicer Uprising

  • Maverick Riding Armour. See World Book 13: Lone Star

  • Patrol Armour. The suits employed by the NB police forces.

  • Range Riding Armour. See World Book 13: Lone Star

  • Robot Command Armour. New entry, designed for robot pilots in mind.

  • Scout Armour. A new and wildly popular suit rapidly taking up market share over others.

  • Soldier Body Armour. A set made specifically for larger D-Bees (e.g. Grackle Tooth, Ogres).


NG Environmental Armour. A series of entries for various styles.

  • Anti-Ballistic. An experimental armour that departs from the normative NG design. Takes half damage from kinetic attacks…… interesting.

  • Aquatic – Bullfrog. Armoured diving suits; what else did you expect?

  • Aquatic – Deep Zone Walker. EBA handles depths up to 1 mile (1.6 km).

  • Aquatic – Mud Skipper. Your basic SCUBA EBA that is more mobile the the two previous suits.

  • Buffalo Riding. See World Book 13: Lone Star

  • Bushman Composite. See Sourcebook 1.

  • Bushman Trooper. Slightly bulkier version of the Bushman with more armour.

  • Crusader. See RUE.

  • Explorer. See RUE.

  • Gladiator. See RUE.

  • Mega-Juicer. See World Book 10: Juicer Uprising

  • Peacekeeper. Primarily marketed to the law enforcement folks.

  • Plastic Man: See RUE.

  • Stalker. Experimental design for infiltration, sabotage and other cover operations.

  • Titan Plate. See World Book 10: Juicer Uprising

  • Trekker Pilot. Designed for hovercycle pilots.

  • Vibro-Spike. Want your Juicer to look like a porcupine? This is your suit.

  • Urban Warrior. See RUE.


Northern Gun Power Armour. There are 32 entries in this section. So no, I'm not going to review all of them. Only new entries listed:

  • Aurora Blazer. Based on the Triax Terrain Hopper, allows for jet-propelled running leaps, but has extra thrusters for greater control and underwater operations. Links the power of the reactor to the assault rifle weapon system.

  • Blue Boy. The NGR’s answer to the CS Dead Boys. As power armour, it provides more protection than the Dead Boy environmental armour. Gains the name from the tint created by the polymers in fabrication. Has a multi-platform weapons system with a blurrying array of statistics for each weapon type….

  • Blue Hawk. An airborne Amphibious unit (a bit of an odd attempt), whereas the sister model, the Red Hawk, is more a land-based unit. The Blue Hawk also comes with a plethora of weapon systems.

  • Cougar. Close combat assault unit. Designed to complent the Lynx in the upcoming fight with the Xiticix. There have been some secondary and tertiary benefits from the design that have come out (e.g. great for urban combat too). Flame throwers and vibro-blades galore!

  • Coyote. Light assault units that are more a hybrid of power armour and environmental armour. Makes it a great suit for spies, special forces, raiders, thieves, and assassins. Light enough that overcoats and the like can conceal the fact the user is wearing it. Comes with a dual sniper rifle weapon system.

  • Delilah. Whereas the Samson is the flagship power armour often compared to the Glitter Boy in terms of its iconic image, this was originally designed as a more feminine model. Comes in a more feminine form, or a masculine form.

  • Demon Slayer. Like advertised on the box, this suit was meant to combat demons and monsters, or supernatural threats. Wooden stakes, silver-lined spikes, and other elements to support the design philosophy.

  • Enforcer Guardsman. Police Power Armour is an all-purpose unit meant to go toe-to-toe with powerful or fast D-Bees, cyborgs, and those equipped with Mega-Damage weapons. Has a neat criminal I.D. recognition system and some seriously wide ranging optics and sensors.

  • Forester. A unit focused more on rural settings; forest operations, pathfinding, trail blazing.A light reduction in protection is done to support stealth and speed. Includes some UV and electronic trackers, and a vibro-chainsaw.

  • Grease Monkey. Mobile support and repair unit. Typically piloted by Operators and the sort with diagnostic computers, optics and sensors, and multi-tool and precision repair instruments. An instant success.

  • Ironwing. An intimidating flyer apparently inspired by the CS SAMAS and Triax Predator; I’d peg it more like a knock-off of the FQ Violator SAMAS, but what do I know? A multi-role combat flyer it was designed to combat airborne threats. Comes with some great weapon systems.

  • Lynx. Co-designed with the Cougar to fight the Xiticix threats. Meant to rocket up and down the vertical shafts and engage in close combat, benefits from heavy armour and support systems that also make this great at urban combat. Also makes use of the Universal Energy Link that permits weapons to draw from the main reactor.

  • Mantis. A robot killer, conceived to stalk monsters, battle Xiticix, and chop robots to bits. Built for speed and destruction, not stealth.

  • Med-Rec (Medical Rescue). Designed for medical and rescue operations with greater mobility than larger robots. Typically piloted by Medical Doctors or those with Paramedic skills and supporting scientific skills; first responders and fire fighters. Weapon systems and special instruments thematically support the role.

  • Midas. Similar to the Samson, the pilot is in an elevated position inside a robotic shell. The main weapon is a long-range laser cannon and a massive vibro-blade, making it a all-purpose, heavy assault unit for monster hunting and close combat.

  • Night Reaper. This lightly armoured stealth unit is meant for finesse and night/special forces operations often mistaken for Bushman body armour. No integral weapon systems but can carry most rifles and has the Universal Energy Link option. Has an impressive system of sensors and extra features.

  • Pit Fighter. A (very) customizable gladiator power armour that allows the user to invest in more armour that is designed to fly off when damaged, and optional weapon systems.

  • Prophet. Conceived for law enforcement, it utilizes a lot of the options from other power armour suits and maches them all together. Named for the plethora of enhanced sensors and advanced computers.

  • Protégé. The man-size, scaled down power armour based on the Samson. Works very well with the bigger brother. Given its heavier armour plating, is popular with the adventurers and mercenaries.

  • Sabre Espionage. First to introduce the UEL system, this is more a man-sized weapon platform, like the platemail of old. Uses just about any energy rifle as a main system; no built-in systems, very few sensors.

  • Sea Demon. A somewhat bulky design of a chassis meant for amphibious operations. A favourite for mariners, privateers and pirates for its capabilities to battle sea monsters and perform boarding actions alike. Quite an awkward and bulky main weapon that fires mini-torpedoes (basically aquatic mini-missiles) or a harpoon

  • Silent Shadow. Meant to fill complementary roles in concert with the Night Reaper, this one is the heavier of the two, making it the heavy hitter. Has a unique form of stealth against enemy radar (oddly missing from the Night Reaper); it doesn’t mention how magical detection will be affected (methinks not at all). Comes with limited weapon systems, relying on handheld options.

  • Stormhammer. An artillery support unit designed to pack a punch (don’t they all?). Sacrificing speed and versatility, it comes packing some serious firepower. Of note, very few of the weapons are actual ‘artillery’ or indirect in nature.

  • Thunder Hound. A bit of an odd departure, this suit is made for Dog Boys (e.g. helmet opens to allow use of natural detection Special Abilities), but comes in human compatible versions too. It reads like a proof-of-concept project the NG did on behalf of the CS that never found traction, so they released it on the mass market. Mostly only armed with vibro-blades, requires handheld weapons that can use the UEL system. Designed to accompany the Gunwolf.


NG Hovercycles. A bit of a review of the form and function of the hovercycle, as well as a nice little market analysis of the most common purchasers by group. Not something most GM’s might get but provides a possible adventure idea in terms of supporting or undermining sales through protection/theft missions. The NG series of hovercycles comes with a wide range of interchangeability (e.g. sensors, armour, laser weapons, missile systems), which is a feature that makes sense in a very commercialized setting. This leads to one of my critiques of the current setting, which this book perpetuates to some extent. With fourteen (14) versions, I’ll be commenting only on the newly presented ones.

  • Cobra Turbo. A combat unit, so not meant for urban environments per se. Said to be able to handle Cyborg pilots. To be honest, I’m surprised there is no penalty for pilots that weigh as much as a combat cyborg.

  • Hornet. A model relatively close to the Stinger (found in WB 13: Lone Star), it also presents a nose-mounted heavy weapon and missile pods, but can be tailored to the pilot’s wishes. The Ishpeming Police have a souped up version not available to the mass market.

  • Jouster. Combining aircraft principles with hovercyle engineering, it becomes much nimbler at higher speeds. Popular for its low maintenance and relative silence and versatility. Oddly listed with precisely 128 M.D. for the Main Body – why not 130, or 125?

  • Rampage. A strudy, reliable entry with stubby wings and thrusters that support stunt driving and the armour to handle adventuring. An instant hit among adventurers and men-at-arms of all flavours. Comes with some integral nose-mounted weapons that can be upgraded/swapped as you wish.

  • Windfire. This expensive, high-end combat hovercycle comes with standard (fixed) weapon load-outs, with energy weapons tied to the nuclear power source. Because of its engineering, not quite as nimbles as other entries. A robust entry that apparently has the CS concerned about the innovative design.

  • Wave Cutter. A submersible hovercycle you say. Allows the pilot to traverse across land, cut the VTOL and engage submersible propulsion. The pilot is completely enclosed in a pressurized compartment with a clear canopy. I would suggest certain properties of physics haven’t been properly considered when a body in motion impacts water, but I digress. Nice design for a pretty niche market application.

  • Windshark. A “water-capable” model that can either use thrusters to ride along land, or across the wave like a jet ski motorcycle; has pontoons to keep afloat if stopping over water. Booster jets help it escape wave tops. Another with a very odd M.D.C. for the Main Body, at precisely 122.


NG Aquatic Vehicles. With a total of 11 entries, two of which are the Wave Cutter and Windshark listed above, lets look at this segment of the NG offerings.

  • Alligator Amphibious APC. An enclosed troop transport that functions like a boat to conduct beach landings and raids. This massive thing can carry 10-16 men in body armour or 6-8 in power armour. Given the length of current APCs, it seriously calls into question the stated capacity. Comes with mini-missile pods and a top-mounted hatch laser.

  • Aquapod. Advertised as both a hovertruck and a boat. Also has a detachable mini-sub. This is a weird unit. Provides stats for the main truck unit and the submersible unit.

  • AquaWalker Tires. A unique entry that basically replaces tires on wheeled vehicles to allow them to now traverse water; not designed for use on land.

  • Beachcomber ATV. Part ATV, part boat. Okay, I get it. Again, something that claims to be able to carry much more than I would be willing to buy.

  • Crayfish Submersible. An amphibious vehicle that does itself no favours in terms of curb appeal. That said, with its tracked locomotion and two robot arms, this is a great vehicle for harbour patrols, exploration, and underwater salvage.

  • Crocodile Tank. Basically, someone took inspiration from the Russian BTR-80. Now NG sells a version of this amphibious vehicle. Given the main weapon, I would be hard pressed to call this vehicle a ‘tank’ per se.

  • Harbourmaster Missile Boat. A small attack craft that is bristling with weapons. Combined with some of their power armour suits, makes a very effective maritime strike package. Probably best compared to the CS Barracuda (Sourcebook #4: Coalition Navy), with an odd discrepancy in the damage for short range missiles for the Barracuda.

  • Sandfish Landing Craft. Just like advertised, allows maritime shipments of personnel or cargo to disembark at any flat beach. A tough, support vehicle with tank tracks allowing it to get right to the edge of the water regardless the draft depth.


Jetpacks. Without getting into the weeds, a few new jetpack models.


Aircraft. Something I would have expected the Northern Gun would be more inclined to get into; robots especially, but power armour is expensive to produce, aircraft is much less so. The intro to the Dragonfly claims that power armour essentially nullifies this market segment, something I would argue is in fact not the case. But I digress. Only new entries of the six total.

  • Dragonfly. Given the transition to nuclear or solid oxide provides more room for weapon systems, this is essentially an Apache with loads of anti-robot weaponry.

  • Skybunker Hover Carrier. Essentially what it says, a giant flying bunker inspired by the CS Death Bringer. Provides a more agile entry vehicle than the amphibious or land-based vehicles previously covered.



NG Land Vehicles

  • Motorcycles. Basically, eight entries for those looking to purchase a crotch-rocket. The classics Wastelander and Highway-Man return.

  • Trucks and Cars. A series of commercial haulers and other vehicles to transport materiel or personnel from Point A to Point B; 15 entries, all told. Classics like the Big Boss and Mountaineer included. Some new notable entries include the Centipede Robot Transport/Recovery vehicle and some military-grade hovertanks or hovercars.

  • Robot Drones. Unmanned and automated for a variety of functions. Of the 11 entries, a few could be repurposed for combat in a pinch. Fido stands out as a robot companion/cargo hauler for the adventurer looking to travel light and not worry about a pack animal. We also see the triumphant return of many a robot drone entry from Sourcebook 1.


Adventuring Gear. Basically, another four pages of detailed gear entries to support those found in the RUE or any of the multitude of references thereafter. Also has some robot and vehicle upgrades; certainly not the list of additional features you’ll find at a local car dealership.


CONCLUSION


Initial Assessment (7/10). Ishpeming finds itself benefiting from a confluence of geography and geopolitical stability relatively unique across Rifts Earth. With its strong allies, and even greater economic influence over the region (if not North America), few are willing (fewer ready or even capable) or challenging this economic juggernaut. The length of this post simply in naming a lot of the new gear should indicate this. Combined with Northern Gun 1, it almost makes one think the region is just a futuristic version of North America today, just without the Amazon delivery and add in the demons and monsters hiding in the dark. The artwork throughout is real treat, with the bulk provided by Chuck Walton. His style provides a very clear focus on the technological aspects, his work reminiscent of Kevin Long in terms of immersion.

 

I have to say, from the GM or Players’ perspectives, this book is a gold mine of choices. Along with World Book 34: Northern Gun 1 and a few other sources, you have more than enough to run a successful campaign. This makes for a stable base of operations for a lot of GMs to exploit in terms of adventuring and how to integrate the party of Player Characters into the mix. There is an overdose of choice and technological gear to choose from, almost to the point of analysis-paralysis. Some of them provide very little in terms of real differentiation, which is a shame; I understand the reason for reprinting a lot of the gear from previous entries, though I challenge why the ones in RUE are here again. Minor quibble for the page counts they occupy. Ultimately, I found this was more acceptable as a Sourcebook. I mean there is very little world building involved. It’s a massive inventory of technology and equipment. That said, I don’t see a North American campaign finding a problem using some to much for the contents.


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