Scholar's Review #8: RIFTS World Book 4: Africa
Author: K. Siembieda
Release Date: 1993
The World Book for this continent spans an area greater than all of North America and most of Europe combined, something expounded on a number of times throughout. That is a vast landmass, which understandably promotes a wide range of cultures and languages. This book attempts to give an overview of those cultures and the differences that have led to a post-apocalyptic society. It also provides information on the primary powers across the continent, including a possible world-ending scenario.
Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Inspired by the truly epic drawings of Kevin Long, the Four Horsemen have returned and they are looking to combine together into a super being to destroy all humanoid life on Earth. As one can imagine, the stats for Death, War, Famine and Plague are mind-boggling. Individually they are tough enough; add in their minions and special powers and you get something only god-like characters have a chance against. Kevin Long’s artwork is stunning.
Gods of the Nile. Presents the Egyptian pantheon, with familiar and recognizable names and personalities. For the gods of darkness: Set, Anubis, Apepi, Amon, Anhur, Ammit, and Bes; gods of light: Osiris, Ra, Thoth, Isis, Horus, Bennu, and Apis. As one would expect, their stats are over the top with MDC ranging from 3000 to (MUCH) more, plus armour in the four digits, along with thousands of PPE and ISP. The gods of light are offered in subordinate position to their counterparts, likely as a plot device to allow the PCs to assist in keeping bad guys in check.
Minions of the Gods. A round up of the more common beasts from Conversion Book 1 in the Africa setting. There are also a few playable RCCs; as minions of gods, understandably high power options. It also gives a nicely developed concept for the Jinn (wish granting types), not at all like the personalities found in Disney’s Aladdin.
The Mystic World of Africa. Beliefs, magic and mystic leaders of Africa and some optional OCCs, including African Witch (NPC Villian), Medicine Man, Rain Maker and Priest, along with a series of spells and a ceremonial magic section. Some of these present some flavourful and unique abilities. First printing of the Mind Bleeder RCC (shows later in Rifts WB 12: Psyscape) and the Necromancer optional OCC (not for every one) with its necro-magic.
Rifts Africa. Highlights the different regions of this vast, expansive campaign setting. Much like the Rifts RPG, it gives a quick historical context and breakdown by country/region. North Africa is largely a mega-Sahara Desert, Lower Africa is heavily forested, with a Millennium Tree and Jungle People RCCs, East Africa and the multitude of tribes living there, and South Africa with its Pyramid of Mystery and Kalahari Oasis. There is a very brief segment on animals and monsters of Africa.
Phoenix Empire. Aside from the Splugorth slave raids along the western coasts, the ruler of Phoenix Empire is the monstrous power in the region. Led by Pharaoh Rama-Set (with detailed NPC entry), he rules over an area of influence basically including all of present day Egypt, Sudan, Chad and Libya (according to the maps). Provides some context of their dealings with the Splugorth and into what is occurring in and around the New German Republic (presented in Rifts WB 5: The NGR). Keeping in mind the gods and the Empire’s direct dealings with things like the Splugorth, there are several over-the-top entries.
NPC’s Of Note. Finally presented with the NPC stats for Erin Tarn, Sir Winslow Thorpe, Victor Lazlo and Lo Fung (chiang-ku dragon)
Adventures. A few pages with some adventure ideas and some implications of this book in relation to various other powers across Rifts Earth.
Upon Release (4/10). Initially this book did little for me. My interest in the African continent was limited, the forces described seemed overpowered and catered to the negative power gamer image Rifts was beginning to catch at the time. The concept for the Four Horsemen was really interesting, and the magic OCCs were a fresh take on things. I never really grasped the true size of the setting back then, and unfortunately my attempts to incorporate the apocalypse prophecy into our campaign didn’t click with my players. I could have gotten them there but they felt like they were getting railroaded. In so many words, it never clicked with them either.
Current Assessment (5/10). Re-reading this really gave me a different appreciation for what Kevin was trying to achieve. To be honest, I think the scale and scope of this one likely got away from him. This could have easily been two books with greater depth. The gods and Phoenix Empire remain largely overpowered antagonists, more like a background puppet master for characters to work against. The additional information of the Splugorth raids on the western coast and the interaction with the European conflict(s) with more detail felt like a missed opportunity. From an editorial perspective, the sudden shift in font sizes to save page length impacted the book’s overall presentation. As a setting piece, I give it props for a decent job at overviewing the various regions, with some compelling and significant monsters/demons to drive a campaign and great artwork support throughout. At this point in the reviews of the Rifts library, I feel like this book (the Splugorth and Phoenix Empire each in particular) deserves a revised version with an additional 60 to 80 pages of material.
Continue to Scholar's Review #9 (World Book 5: Triax and the NGR) (forthcoming)
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