General. In the original Rifts Main Book, the CS Military Specialist was the catch-all officer and special forces character. It had access to a host of skills the other CS OCCs did not, making it a de facto PA/Robot Pilot, wilderness scout, commando-esque character. Over the years, this OCC has seen a number of other classes overtake it and realistically overshadow it to the point where it seems to lose much relevance to the game. This of course negates the possibilities of playing virtually any CS officer, which has access to the Chi-town war machine’s resources. It is also, of course, a CS OCC, which means by definition there are several GMs and/or Players that will outright refuse to consider playing it. I will say this several times through; that choice is fine, if that’s how you wish to go about it. Myself, I only ever used it as an NPC but found it provided great opportunity to role-play, passing my PC off as a generic mercenary Headhunter. Whether the CS is too much to chew on, or newer OCCs have outshone this one (and you’d be right), I think there is a niche place for this character in the game.
Types of Characters. The CS Military Specialist is a Men-At-Arms OCC, meant to create one of the more elite warrior officers of the Coalition States. Tailored for espionage and reconnaissance, they benefit from cybernetic augmentation. Quite possibly one of the OCCs that saw the most degradation to newer OCCs taking up one of the more niche aspects and doing it better, the CS Military Specialists are a bit of a dark horse class. It is a bit of a skill jockey, which is not the norm for Men-At-Arms. The fact this is a Coalition States OCC is likely a deal breaker for some, which is fair. If you are unwilling to role-play into that aspect of this game, I will be the first to back up that decision, though I would wager there are some compelling elements to the game that you may be missing out on. To each GM their own table to make these decisions.
Key Characteristics of the Military Specialist. The OCC is one of a few baseline OCCs with a fairly high entry requirement: 12+ for I.Q. and M.E., 10+ for P.E. Other than that, it is a fairly wide-open OCC with a surprising number of skills slots available. As a skill jockey of sorts within the Men-At-Arms category, this indicates there is not much more to this OCC in terms of special abilities, and you would not be too far off. That said, it is one of the few OCCs for the Coalition States that allows selection of more Espionage/Rogue skills, typically reserved for the Special Operations classes found elsewhere (e.g. Commando, Special Forces). They also have the skills slots and categories to make a decent PA/Robot pilot type of mercenary. After skills and the generic benefits of being an officer within the Coalition States military machine, they are a class that relies heavily on cybernetics to augment their performance, including (but not mandatory) a bionic appendage. It is a class of special operations classes for the CS military that makes them reliant on technology, perhaps psionics, in order to accomplish their tasks. Given the mission parameters though, a Player could have the PC handling and dealing with magic, despite a personal distaste or hatred for the thing/person, making it a very good sort of undercover “mercenary” within the Party Group. Otherwise, the OCC provides no other bonuses to the PC than those gained from skill selection.
Relevant Books with Updates. None really, aside from the gains made by the gear and cybernetic and/or bionic options presented below:
Coalition War Campaign (WB 11). The CS war machine got a serious glow-up and additional options for weapons, gear and tech. Dependent on the mission packet, much of the power armour and robots or vehicles are likely not very high on the PC’s list, with exception of the SAMAS variants.
Heroes of Humanity. The Advanced Training courses eligible provide a much-needed boost to the class. Not a requirement, but definitely a huge boost.
Bionics (SB 5). A compilation of cybernetics and bionics from all the Rifts books to that point. Provides a one-stop-shop during character creation and options for later on.
How I Would Play This OCC. From a role-playing perspective, this class comes with several opportunities. Playing an undercover CS officer is one, defecting from the CS another, or simply portraying a loyal CS citizen soldier looking to keep mages and D-Bees from over-running North America. In perhaps all but one of those, there is a hurdle the Player and/or GM must overcome, which is playing a CS character. For some this is insurmountable, and that’s fine. Myself, I’ve done the deep dive into the world view of the CS character and feel it is something that could make for a compelling PC. Dependent on the GM of course, I’d likely play this as an undercover officer posing as a Mercenary Soldier or Headhunter and work out a backstory that the character is sent out on secret missions to support the CS by gathering intelligence on foreign nations and hostile groups. I’d definitely go heavy on the cybernetics but likely skip the bionic arm. I would choose to make him at least nominally self-sufficient Skills-wise, and gear him out as best possible given his cover. This would give the GM a host of injects into the adventure or campaign, and allow me to stretch some role-playing legs, so to speak.
The Military Specialist in Context
All Human. The Military Specialist is a tempered combat character, with a good range of skills to support them in either an urban or rural adventure. Armed with an energy rifle and body armour, they present much like any other mercenary, so long as the Dead Boy armour has its original serial numbers filed off. There is a certain element of the OCC that is lost when not leveraging a CS-based adventure, leaving the CS war machine and their support behind to go sneak-and-peak on behalf of the Emperor. Not quite the combat machine as the ‘Borg/Crazy/Juicer, they are a combat OCC.
With the Big Boss(es). Facing much the same problem any Men-At-Arms without major technological modification faces, the Military Specialist trails off rather quickly. Mages and Psionics have powers to boost their performance, while other classes relying on technological enhancement (e.g. ‘Borgs/Crazies/Juicers) or PA/robots have their ‘thing.’ What the CS Military Specialists is some cybernetics, several skills, and a plucky attitude if not directly supported by the CS military machine. They outperform some of the non-Men-At-Arms classes, but some of them present with unique capabilities, so, yeah, there’s that. Not horrific, just not great.
With the Demi-Gods. Things fall off fairly quickly at this point. The Military Specialist falls back on a skills list that may not be replicated by other PCs, but most of them will have significant powers to compensate and/or overcome those same obstacles. The limited cybernetics and bionics will not keep up, and there is always the issue of the PC having to explain about their employer. This is where the PC’s backstory really can come in to make or break this character’s chances. Not too sure how many demi-gods would take kindly to the spy in their midst, so to speak. Who knows, a clever GM could always make the PC the scapegoat for hanging around such powerful creatures. The PC couldn’t possibly keep the faith while hanging around a pair of veritable demi-gods, could they? LOL.
Rifts Main Book (RMB, or Grey Book) to Rifts Ultimate Edition (RUE). The CS Military Specialist OCC went through a very limited series of changes from the RMB to RUE. I mean, the introductory paragraph is three sentences, the RUE adding a further clause to one phrase only. From there the OCC Skills gets boosted percentage bonuses, with more skills of better variety that lean away from making it a power armour/robot pilot. The Other Skills selection is relatively unchanged, right down to the bonuses. After that, things remain almost exactly the same; right down to the monthly salary – so much for a cost-of-living bonus! What I’m really (**really**) trying to communicate is the relatively unchanged OCC from RMB to RUE.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON THE CS MILITARY SPECIALIST
Playing any of the CS OCCs is something of a hurdle that Players and GM will have to deal with at one time or another. Unlike the CS Grunt, which was written to almost push the Player to leave the comforting embrace of the CS war machine, the CS Military Specialist is a true believer that is out on their own in order to support the regime. Relying on cybernetics, wit and skills, this class doesn’t give much for the Player to work with, except for a killer back story that can really be a gift to the GM. It’s an interesting OCC in that it has a fairly wide range of options for how you gear them and outfit with skills, this PC can become a kind of chameleon among the Player Group’s other characters. I’m not saying he has to pull a Hand of Vecna (link to Critical Roll Youtube video) kind of switcheroo, but the options are certainly there!