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  • Writer's pictureFrancois DesRochers

The Bazaar #57: OCC Overview – Burster



One of the more popular Classes from the release of Rifts was the Burster. Not quite as iconic as the Juicer or the Glitter Boy, nor as flashy as the Mind Melter or Dragon Hatchling, the Burster certainly left its mark. The idea of playing a character that can suddenly (oft times violently) burst into flames, has an appeal to many that I can understand. The character has also gone through certain evolutions over the years, but it still bears the hallmarks presented in the Rifts Main Book (RMB) back when Rifts first released in the 1990s. Perhaps not the strongest of psychic classes available, they have their own element of flair and certainly provide a level flair.


Type of Characters. As a Psychic character, it’s all about the flames. Most Bursters are either controlled good guys (Principled of Scrupulous), or fiery evil doers (Miscreant or Diabolical). As a symbol evil and destruction, or idealistic peace and order, they demonstrate a fierce passion for their position, and use their expressive latent psionic powers to reinforce it. Passion, conviction, and the means to become a beacon of hope or a focused bonfire of despair. The trope is relatively common enough in science fiction, so no great surprise to see it here. As a psionic character with some innate powers for combat that don’t draw on I.S.P., this makes them a bit of a jack-of-all-trades, with a leaning towards the combat side of things. Let’s not forget they also have several other psionic powers to choose as well, but not much more than a Major Psionic would employ.


Key Characteristics of the O.C.C. Well, to just state the obvious, they like fire. How this manifests is largely dependent on the character’s alignment. There are plethora of innate abilities, all of them fire-related (duh!). The most obvious is they are impervious to fire and heat, including several Mega-Damage sources, such as plasma, napalm, magic, or dragon’s breath; this benefit also extends to smoke inhalation. Other options include sensing, fuelling, or extinguishing flames also come part and parcel with the Class. Lastly, there is also the ability to erupt in flames, as most times they are portrayed, which provides a certain level of protection and Mega-Damage Capacity. They have some options for additional powers (from a limited list) with a healthy level of I.S.P. to back it up. This is backed by a rather low-key entry that describes the effects and influence of ley line energy, which is nice to see. But let’s be honest, the bottom half of this paragraph is not why you choose to play a Burster. You choose this class because you like fire and flame and the panache that this class brings with it.

Relevant Books with Updates. One of the original psionic Classes, there were a few updates over the years that had impacts on the Burster. Several of these books took things into the current dynamic, presenting a Class that gives the Player several options. Note: Links lead to Scholar's Review posts on the referred to publication.

  • World Book 11: Coalition War Campaign. Really just a clarification on the CS use of Bursters as members of their Internal Security Specialist, which includes the monster hunting Non-Human Tactical Strike and Eradication Team (NTSET) or Psi-Net (civilian security) or Psi-Battalion (military intelligence).

  • World Book 12: Psyscape. In addition to some new psionic powers, updates the minor power selection to include some of the newer ones and begins to include the dynamic of limited Super Psionics as part of the “other powers” a Player Character can elect. It also introduces the M.D.C. protection afforded when they Flame Burst.

  • Sourcebook: Heroes of Humanity. Under the auspices of the Advanced Training schools, there are some neat ways to tailor your CS-aligned Burster. Pretty much all the programs are available to the CS Burster, though some are obvious ‘duffs’ in terms of synergizing with the Class’s capabilities.

  • Sourcebook: CS Manhunters. Presents CS Bursters that are part of the Manhunter program, along with several Training Packages and Manhunter-specific bonuses. A few new innate abilities appear, while others get slight updates. In all honesty, I have issues with the presentation in this book – it’s a good book but comes with some baggage. The shadow updates to the class should be universal to all Bursters; this goes for all the psychic classes included. But hey, they are there for those looking for them.

  • Rifts: Machinations of Doom. No rules update, but provides a Burster NPC for use, as well as nice graphic novel representation of how a Burster could be played.



How I Would Play This OCC. I mean, straight away, this character is meant to be a number of things at once. The flamboyant attitude means it should be a very active role-playing character, while the Class abilities make it want to contribute to combat in ways that might exceed its limits. Given the powers, as well as the minor psionics the Player Character may employ, an imaginative Player can likely come up with some really impactful plays or ways to change the dynamic of the situation. I mean, there’s nothing stating you have to solely rely on the innate “flame-related” powers; one could get M.D.C. armor and an energy rifle and support that with innate abilities. But that seems to take away from the baseline characteristics of the Burster. I’d probably still arm and armor the character, but crack out the innate abilities as the combat scenario required (an extra set of tools in the toolbox, so to speak), or as role-playing decisions allowed. I’m not much for playing evil PCs, but an Aberrant Burster with a decent background might make for a compelling character; otherwise, good alignment and saving the day.


The Burster in Context

  • All Human. The Burster comes with a slew of innate abilities that are largely unmatched by other classes. It’s not a skill jockey, even for a psionic character, but makes up for it in other ways. The Burster can be a very impactful PC, providing covering “fire” and helping in a fight with or without conventional weapons. Depending on the psionic powers chosen, there are a few options, but most are internalized powers (e.g. Resist Hunger, Mind Block). They are a jack-of-all trades O.C.C. that delivers on a number of fronts, so really an open option space for the Player. The GM and Player should likely keep in mind the role-playing elements associated with the class. I’m not one to insist on stereotypes for game play, but this is not a laconic kind of character.

  • With the Big Boss(es). The powers help tender the power curve a bit, bit there is only so much I.S.P. to ‘burn through’ (pun intended). The M.D.C. protection from Flame Burst is also limited. You’re looking more at a character that plays a supporting role, which may fit the ‘fiery’ and bombastic attitude the Burster is associated with. They bring a few sensitive abilities that some of the tankier and heavier-hitting Player Characters may not be privy to. Essentially you want to find you niche in the group and carve out your own little corner of gameplay to manoeuvre through. Just don’t expect to compete with the heavy hitters in combat, or the Scholars in terms of skills, or the Mind Melter in terms of psionics…. Hrmmmm…. Maybe not selling this so well.

  • With the Demi-Gods. Well, let’s call a spade a spade. The Burster is not expected to compete for any of the spotlight in terms of combat output. That’s fine. In some ways, they are in the same boat as other psionics; even a Mind Melter is playing a supporting role. The difference might lie in their innate abilities to influence the environment or combat scene. The imperviousness to fire damage, even dragon’s breath, doesn’t save the PC from a dragon’s punch or bite. Depending on how much of a lay-up the GM leaves for the Player, a Burster can start lighting gas tanks, or any number of other issues for antagonists to have to deal with. Just don’t make too much of a spectacle of yourself or the enemy will target you as an easy target vice the demi-god you’re standing next to who should be soaking most of their attention. Then again, you’re flamboyant, and ‘fiery,’ with a ‘blazing’ attitude and a ‘burning need’ to be the ‘beacon of light’ for the downtrodden. You go and be your best Burster self!

Rifts Main Book (RMB, or Grey Book) to Rifts Ultimate Edition (RUE). There are several critical updates that occurred from the RMB to the version in RUE. Many of the flamer-related powers remained the same, with a couple of key exceptions. The Flame Burst Body Protection (Special) is an ability they gained throughout their evolution and is baselined in RUE (provides limited M.D.C.). Given the nature of the game and how important this level of protection is to most games, it seemed like a given despite the anemic protection it affords. Another glow-up was the selection of other psionic powers, now from a list much expanded from the original iteration. Oddly enough, one of the other benefits to the RUE version is simply how Palladium Books chose to present the Skills selection part of the O.C.C.; despite the annoying font change in RUE, the RMB version leave something to be desired…. Otherwise, largely the same less a couple of key “upgrades.”


Final Thoughts on the Burster


This is a very characterful psionic character class that provides a neat baseline of abilities that fit the character design. It’s certainly not the most powerful character one could select, but it brings that panache and flair the Player might be searching for. It’s also something that could be found in any setting across Rifts, so nothing geographically limits their powers (well, except the Underseas, duh!). I like the Burster as they are presented. The Class has improved over the years, and still leave them a little limited to force the Player to leverage their imagination a bit to best exploit their abilities and psionic powers. Are they a ‘gimme’ in terms of choice for a party? No, but that’s not the point. In a game where the Mind Melter is meant to be the penultimate psionic class, they needed to impose limitations, and I think they’ve done a fine job navigating those to create a unique class with its own voice.

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