Let's talk a bit about Southern Gothic, shall we?
This actually sounds like a fun read, and some of their other games sound interesting too--of course, I've never heard of any of them so I lose hipster cred and also wonder if they have systemic issues in addition to being kind of niche themes.
And of course, the ladies of the Toast are already sipping those mint juleps.
|# ¿ Jan 12, 2016 01:09|
|# ¿ Dec 5, 2023 05:35|
Marauders work perfectly as mages who have completely given up on trying to get along as a person in the world and have just stopped recognizing outside input, resulting in a personal reality bubble where things work according to their crazy rules and other people don't get to have a say. That makes them the deep end of "mages reject your reality and substitute their own," and you'd get your mint-julep Southern Heritage marauders, your Galtian marauders, or whatever.
I tend to agree with this interpretation. Quiet being a magical version of insanity works, and being a Mage really really lends itself to dangerous solipsism. Nothing and nobody exist except as pawns in my game! See how my powers let me validate my awful ideas!. In some ways it sounds like Marauder Quiet is what happens when a mage loses empathy entirely--who cares if Paradox strikes down the innocent? They don't matter. They aren't real. Mage doesn't really have a morality track like Humanity or whatever IIRC? But as much as I hate that mechanic generally it does read a bit like a character who has fallen below 2 on the little boxes.
|# ¿ Jan 14, 2016 00:54|
Isn't Voodoo the book that introduced the ritual casting rules in place of the regular magic system? That's my association with it anyway, my group had a customized version of those we used extensively.
But having not read the book itself, 'Magical Race War' sounds cringeworthy enough to overshadow any rules advancements it made.
|# ¿ Jan 26, 2016 11:58|
Honestly I would love a game system which took pains to emulate the shonen trope of slobberknocker extended battles against the ultimate bad guys, but I actually can't think of any that really have gotten that "you beat the living poo poo out of each other and the clutch win comes from a new power, a last minute team-up, or whatever."
Most RPGs have you throwing your best resources out first, versus the dramatic trope of 'escalate from jab to strong to fierce to shoryuken'. I mean 13th Age tries with the Escalation Die and people mentioned TBZ and doesn't Double Cross also do something like that with your virus level? But it's hard to do 'nothing is truly effective until NARRATIVE FIAT happens' spontaneously. For one thing, you have to have players who are able to think dramatically beyond "I get even ANGRIER." I suppose when I've had fights that were 'exciting' from a mechanical rather than narrative standpoint, it's usually been because the balance came out juuuuuust right and we were down to fumes/last clips/etc when the enemy finally dropped. That's hard to do.
|# ¿ Feb 14, 2016 08:42|
When I joined a new campaign (and this happened a lot, the stories about 'we played the same characters for TEN YEARS and EARNED OUR FUN' are mostly myths) we just made characters of X level which in 1st/2nd ed was not a very taxing endeavor and set off. The DM would roll any appropriate magic they felt we should have and adventure was had. 'Too much treasure' seems like really shoddy usage of treasure tables and/or just more of this mindset where PCs having any agency or power in a setting is verboten.
|# ¿ Feb 17, 2016 05:48|
I realize that I actually remember finishing Pool of Radiance from the Gold Box series way back in the day, and you finished at...a decent level, 8th for Fighters and Thieves maybe? Not too far up. You got a lot of treasure along the way though, and at the end of the module you got handed poo poo like, I think, a Vorpal Blade. One of the special sword types anyway. You got it and then the game ended, yay! Lots of cool toys!
If you then transferred this save to Azure Bonds, you were immediately stripped of all that poo poo. Like, anything above +1 (I think) and any interesting sort of wand or whatnot was declared overpowered and taken off you, no compensation, gently caress your narrative. Too much treasure!
|# ¿ Feb 17, 2016 05:57|
Just take childhood stories and replace your idiot friends with critters. What's that you say, your childhood stories don't have broad, sweeping plots? That's fine, someone falls down and busts their chin open, everyone runs around panicked for half an hour is a perfect little Golden Sun Story.
There's also inspiration from, in the west at least, stuff like the Andy Griffith show oddly enough--people in a small town who are not genuinely malicious end up with problems like cheating in a pickle-making contest that requires two characters to eat like, fifteen jars of pickles. A lonely older person manipulating the legal system to conceal their loneliness. Home maintenance issues gone awry. Pets that go missing for non-nefarious reasons. That kind of thing.
|# ¿ Apr 7, 2016 08:19|
This needs Jenna Moran.
So, most of the time I wouldn't agree with this guy, but this time--
|# ¿ Apr 29, 2016 09:44|
I always (in general) liked the Exalted setting. It was ambitious and imaginative and went outside the Hollywood idea of all-white Medieval Europe for its cultural inspirations and dropped the Tolkien Comfort Zone races and 'arc structure' of having the one Big Bad threatening all the things. Instead there's a dozen Big Bads who all have kind of a valid point somewhere in the carnage, and the Good Guys have some serious issues they should really examine.
The system has always killed it for me though. Third is...improved by the looks of things but still, ugh.
|# ¿ May 10, 2016 14:26|
AnitiDae&Dae, or AD&D for short.
Since nobody else is giving this love,
|# ¿ Oct 3, 2016 15:33|
There are rules for extended tests in Awakening and later CoD but these tended to work in 'hours' rather than 'seasons' a la Ars Magica. Ars also encourages mages to work on completely crazy useless academic crap to prove a philosophical point to the local dragon or something while Awakening has you occasionally crossing paths with very violent angels working with obscene machinery underlying reality or werewolves tearing apart the local landscape or whatever. It's hard not to think a little bit of lightning in such cases.
Possibly one could keep a more Constantine-esque tone by slowing down the pace of an Awakening game but that's hard to do both socially in the modern world and and mechanically without a lot of re-writing. There's also just going to be part of the playerbase (and probably designers) who want Dresden no matter what you tell them.
|# ¿ Oct 17, 2016 19:47|
Wait, people you encounter outside of Earth have a significant chance to be non-sentient beings, like the robots in Westworld?
Having not read whatever rationalization is in the book, I would almost 100% assume it is to make NPCs that are disposable. I mean the level of amoral behavior that some PC parties engage in is staggering at times and this setup pretty much just completely enables it. Monte & friends probably weren't looking at 'war crime fun time' but were thinking of how their world-hopping heroes would meddle in basically everything they encountered and tried to make it less terrible/consequence-laden/butterfly-effecty
|# ¿ Oct 18, 2016 07:23|
TGMM has that dreaded cloud of inevitability about it ('you cannot stop the March') but since the adventure is not about stopping the main event but reacting to and dealing with the consequences of it, it doesn't feel like a railroad adventure to me. Particularly since the NPCs in the first part aren't idiots but they also aren't solving all their own problems, so there's a lot for the PCs to do to be involved.
Also I just love Modrons like so many others, I hope there isn't a section later where some scurrilous magical documentarian is running them off cliffs to show how they migrate.
|# ¿ Oct 25, 2016 17:22|
So Godbound sounds pretty sweet, actually, and the system is one I could probably tolerate with my hippie storygaming self. Has anyone read the published module for it, Ten Buried Blades? The setting sounds full of things to adventure about and the random generators are helpful for making seeds but I'm curious about an example of what the writers feel is a Godbound adventure.
|# ¿ Nov 12, 2016 19:59|
This is absolutely amazing and it's hilarious to see the other side of the "weird foreign RPG" thing. The fact it covers a lot of relatively obscure weird stuff is even better, but I guess that makes sense in its own way too, since the mainstream stuff is a lot more predictable. There hasn't exactly been a big push to translate Sword World or something after all (unless I missed that...)
Re: Sword World translation, basically that game had the problem of anime licensing in that the creators felt their product was worth WAY more than it would actually make if anyone bothered trying to translate and sell it here. It's mostly only interesting in being western fantasy through a Japanese sort of lens, and some of the other more quirky/cute games already give us that. Ryuutama, what we've been able to see of Meikyuu Kingdom, etc.
|# ¿ Nov 28, 2016 17:01|
So it's been too long and completely my fault but now it is time for more Rifts! We've finally reached World Book 8: Japan! Featuring tradeoff between me and ARB, with color commentary included.
Rifts World Book 8: Japan Part 1: *gong* What do you imagine when you think about Japan?
It is time to journey westward. Far, far westward. Past San Francisco, and all the islands of the Pacific...all the way to where west wraps back around to East: Japan. Land of the Rising Sun, Origin of the Animes, Geek Fetish Kingdom 1995-Present. The name conjures up a lot of images in peoples’ minds, many of them more wildly inaccurate than average when thinking of a foreign country. First published in 1995, Rifts Japan is surely going to be a respectful and carefully researched treatment of a complex nation.
Directly after Kevin’s usual warning about how this book will not teach your children to be cyborg ninja-samurai there is a dedication:
Rifts Japan posted:
Dedicated to Maryann, who has the spirit of a warrior and the tenacity of an oni. And to Erick Wujcik and Julius Rosenstein the only samurai I have ever known.
I am assuming Maryann is his wife and I suppose that is sweet in a bumbling middle-aged midwestern sort of way, but I have not read many tales of the ancient samurai clans of Wujick and Rosenstein.
There is also a special thanks to Wujcik for “sharing his of his (sic) vast knowledge about the Japanese culture, people, traditions, myths, and history.” As we know, this is the man who wrote Ninjas and Superspies and also Mystic China. So yeah, he knows Japan.
Alien Rope Burn: Maryann was indeed his wife (and Palladium employee), but they divorced awhile back. It should be noted that Patrick Nowak and CJ Carella also contribute to this book. Nowak will be an ongoing contributor to the line going forward, while CJ Carella’s contributions should be well-known to anybody following these reviews at this point.
Full disclosure here: I hate talking about this online, but I have a master’s degree in Asian Studies (“The influence of Nationalism on Sino-Japanese relations” ), studied Japanese for several years and lived there for one year. There’s a lot of historical inaccuracy in this book and I will try to address it as briefly as possible, so my summarizing may be flippant.
I was also, at the time this book was published, an anime-obsessed teen girl who believed all the magical fairy tales (even as they conflicted) about Japan being this special mystical wonderland and yet also a superfuture arcology full of wonders.
Some things obviously changed between then and now, and I haven’t looked at this book in a really long time. I remember liking a lot of it when I was a kid, though reading Rifts statblocks with a lot of skepticism was advisable even in the teenaged years. By World Book 8 I’d seen enough trap options to be wary.
Now? I fully expect to hate it. I dislike nearly all anime and have been burned so many times by “no really this one is really good” that I will cut you for trying that, and have forgotten more about Japan than Erick Wujcik ever knew. I also just sort of suffer silently through any time western media does anything related to Japan. But I’m going to give it a real go, because part of me still loves Rifts way more than it deserves.
probably cooler than anything you can make
As mentioned earlier, Americans have pretty conflicting images about Japan. On the one hand, it’s a place lost in time with mist-filled bamboo groves surrounding beautiful ancient shrines staffed by cute girls in period costume. On the other, it’s a bustling metropolis where businessmen work themselves literally to death in order to destroy American manufacturing. Also, ninjas and stuff. And geisha. All women in kimono are geisha right?
Siembieda starts off his introduction with basically that, talking about all the cool stuff about Japan that he wanted to include. He doesn’t mention anime by name, but he doesn’t need to at that point, and also people were still calling it “Japanimation” half the time. He is also really fixated on the idea of the “oni,” like way more than Japanese myth is, and certainly culture. Like, he had space oni in Phase World and of course they’re going to show up again here. Did he just really love the Ogre Magi?
The word “exotic” is used repeatedly and includes pre-rift cities “having been rifted into limbo for 300 years, experiencing only three days” before being brought back into modern Japan. That’s right, Japan
Kevin also promises a huge tome of Japanese myth, lore, and monsters to come out in 1996, saying it would be Conversion Book sized and be titled something like “Gods & Oni of Rifts Japan.” Needless to say this never happened, or was even mentioned again IIRC.
Alien Rope Burn: The book also promises a variety of books, some of which wouldn’t be released for over 15 years. It also adverts for “The Omegan Order”, a book that’s a complete mystery that was never released, and for a Windows-based “Rifts Game Master Companion” program, which was supposed to have a character generator, campaign manager, an index to “ten Rifts books” (woefully inadequate even at this point), and a variety of other promised functions. Though there would eventually be Rifts Indexes and Rifts Game Master Guide in physical form, the program itself would never emerge.
insert coin now and receive 2 free ninja magics!
This rendition of Japan will be a little weird for not having cell phones. I mean a lot weird. This book was published in 1994 so this was slightly before the cellphone craze really got started, but it's such a fixture now that it's hard to see Japan without them. Especially since modern Japanese cities (but not Tokyo!) have made it through. The lack of satellites might inhibit development of a full network in Rifts Earth but my understanding is that a tower network doesn’t rely on those. So that will be different.
Alien Rope Burn: To be fair, Siembieda is a guy who still thinks the M48A3 Patton will still be used by the US army in 2100 AD.
It will also be weird for the reasons Rifts is weird about everything. Next: We shall begin on the islands themselves!
|# ¿ Jan 30, 2017 17:39|
Rifts World Book 8: Japan Part 2: The Japanese Islands and the New Empire
So, now we get our geography lesson. I can’t wait for the percentile population breakdowns by race and OCC! Most of the planet, we are reminded, is a hostile wilderness dotted by pockets of civilization. We are of course still ignoring just how far and fast nuclear-powered aircraft could travel to emphasize that Japan is all isolated and stuff. Most of Russia, China, Mongolia, India and “Asia” (listed like that) are overrun by monsters. I am sure Rifts Russia pts 1 & 2 and China 1 & 2 have some further commentary on that, but paradoxically despite having their pantheon written up, India remains inscrutable to documentation.
Given this monster-filled wasteland atmosphere, it any surprise that the Chinese and Koreans surrounding Japan are primarily freebooters and pirates? It is not, according to Rifts Japan. Way to play to nationalistic stereotypes there buddy.
Quite a few are spent on how dangerous and difficult it is to get to Japan with a subtext of “so don’t you even think about it, Eurotrash.” “Less than 30% of most airborne or ocean travelers ever reach their destination.” Really? Under thirty percent for any voyage? I mean given that the Horune pirates from Underseas should have basically populated every ocean hex with a massively OP ship I suppose that number is actually high, but all those other pirates seem to manage their sea voyages okay.
Also there’s another one of those Bermuda Triangle thingies southeast of Japan, called the Dragon’s Triangle of course.
Then we are informed that the cities rifted into the future are Hiroshima, Kure, Iwakuni and “Ichto.” Seriously, no Tokyo? I guess the ocean ate it when the coastlines changed, but if that were going to happen basically every major city in Japan would be gone, rifts or no rifts.
Now, hurray, we get a population breakdown for the New Empire: 6,800,000, 1.2 million of which live in a presumably-rebuilt Kyoto. 73% of these are Japanese humans, 8% ‘non-Japanese’. 20% Eta/D-bees. These already tell us some important things about the beliefs of the New Empire, namely that humans shall never live in peace and harmony with bumpy-headed Star Trek aliens, no how. There’s also “15% Oni & Others” who are counted among the population figures despite not being described as citizens, but “creatures that live in the more remote and mountainous areas.”
2% of this population total will be magic-users of one sort or another, 12% spiritualists/priests (that seems high for professional religious classes, though their magical utility makes it more supportable), 22% Warriors (again high), 50% farmers, laborers, etc (way, way low) and 14% Eta (butchers, tanners, laborers who do things considered ritually impure, at least as they were traditionally conceived).
Religion-wise, they’re 92% Shinto, 4% Buddhist, 4% Other (can’t even say the word “Christian” eh?), 88% Unshakable Anti-Technologists!, 7% Want a higher degree of technology but are tempered with a high regard for nature, the environment, spiritualism, bust most abide by Shinto teachings (which are what? Seriously Shinto doesn’t have much to say on tech) and 5% Like and use higher technology; mostly non-humans, eta and mercs.
Alien Rope Burn: Shinto and Buddhism are exclusive now? So much for Wujcik’s “vast knowledge”.
Obviously there’s a table heading missing there, dealing with beliefs about technology. It’s a preview of what we are to receive however: The New Empire is a bunch of agrarian village-dwellers governed by samurai, because the instant modern order is removed, everyone jumps straight back into the most stereotypical notion of the past that Siembieda can conceive of. They did the same thing with England with all the stupid kingdoms but it’s even worse here, as to be “spiritual” the New Imperials have to explicitly reject technology, and even though the Japanese would tell you the Heian period is the cultural ideal they’d want to revert to (I mean, sort of, it is at least the most-romanticized) this is clearly based on the Tokugawa as envisioned by someone who read a popular book on Japan written in the 80s at some point.
Also: Fewer than 50% of Japanese identify themselves as members of an organized religion, as of 2008 or so. 35% identified as Buddhist versus 3 to 4% who actively identified themselves as Shinto practitioners. This is complicated by the fact that being ‘Buddhist’ in Japan still means you can (and probably do) visit and pray at Shinto shrines and so on. It’s a lot more syncretic and flexible than we’re used to. “92% Shinto” has been true of Japan basically never. In pre-modern times the Buddhists and Shinto sects had sectarian wars and stuff and one side (or sect) might be ascendant for a time but it was never that unified--and Shinto itself is not a super-unified thing. I should also note that this is the only time I can find that Rifts has given a religious population breakdown.
It seems like there should’ve been one in Wormwood, but of course Wormwood had a large central Church about whose actual beliefs and liturgy we are given nothing. In England we had yet another Arthurian rehash that carefully elided any mention of Christianity when talking about pastiches of those most Christian knights. In Africa we had literal pygmies who loved nature or something but no formal name for their religion beyond ‘medicine’.
In Japan we are told that Shinto is powerful and centralized and universal and this is the only time a real religion is even mentioned in Rifts--and they’ve done a really lovely job with it. Just really lovely. The last time Shinto was a central state religion ah, ended badly shall we say.
practical dress for encountering the challenges of the modern rifts world
The New Empire is not very unified for an Empire, being as mentioned a bunch of agrarian weirdos who don’t want to use all the nice guns that would fend off the apparently endless stream of oni living up in them thar hills. Kyoto is the Holy City and has been rebuilt in the shade of a Millennium Tree because them trees know where the tourist dollars will be a-comin’. Many petty shogunates and such sprung up in the region after the cataclysm basically wiped the islands clean, but somehow they all just sort of peacefully merged to form the New Empire. This, again, peaceful unification is not a thing that has happened in Japanese history. Erick Wujcik your “vast knowledge” is failing us!
In the background of this is Mount Fuji, according to the book. Here is a protip: You cannot see Fuji from Kyoto. You have to take the train. A bunch of colorful characters live there now, I’m sure we’ll hear more about that later.
Having namechecked some landmarks, we now go on to why the Japanese decided to go back to largely feudal subsistence farming. Basically, having seen the chaos of the great cataclysm and the release of enormous magical energies, people decided that technology was evil and they had lost touch with nature and that was why the “bachi” (罰) was visited upon them. “Divine Cataclysm” isn’t what that word means, it’s more like...general purpose karma but, w’ev. Priests began teaching against any technology and everyone just up and converted easily, no resistance or polarizing charismatic leaders required. This was easy because the Japanese people are ~so spiritual~ you see. Guns are bad, magic is good, but they still only have 2% magic users despite that now being their only weapon against a hostile world.
“Bushido” has been reinstated, never mind that is a social technology from the 19th century grafted with medieval roots. Eight Daimyo now have samurai again, who oversee the peasants and kick the eta around and etc. There was at least some period of civil war I see, but mostly the threat of constant invasion by demons and monsters caused unification by 1 PA, right when the Coalition was founded. “At the demand of the Emperor,” who apparently jumped fully formed out of the Millennium Tree, they formed a government they could live with. Oh, and the Emperor can be female now. It’s just mentioned. All eight daimyo have to contribute 20% of their samurai to the national army under the direct command of the shogun because again we’re not really studying Japanese history here, just sort of cosplaying it badly.
There’s also an Imperial Court but they’re mostly advisors and relatives of the Emperor and not particularly important. The Shogun “accepts the Emperor’s power and is satisfied with his position.” Pfft… There are eight daimyo, I’m guessing at least one is secretly evil and one is a sexy lady. The samurai are an elite class of warriors, often landowners, and “Most are noble, honorable, and heroic knights of the realm dedicated to keeping the New Empire safe.” Of course they are Kev-chan. Of course they are. Peasants are farmers and laborers who don’t touch meat or decay (roughly) and eta are the same thing but they do. Both of the latter two classes are forbidden to bear arms, and there is no social advancement short of joining a religious order or becoming a “kabuki entertainer” because that’s the only kind of theater Japan has.
Most peasants are described as reasonably happy and most administrators as reasonably good, this is explained by the Emperor’s extraordinary leadership and the actual presence of spirits and gods who punish the wicked sometimes. The eta, meanwhile, are abandoned even by the capriciously limited statblocks of MDC gods and have little protection even while they do all those nasty jobs that must be done to avoid literal poo poo and corpses piling up everywhere. 65% of the eta are D-bees of various sorts, 15% are Japanese humans and the rest-- Being freely abused by those in power, they are most likely to turn to darkness for some payback.
Merchants were omitted from the peasant section, and in the true Tokugawa fashion, currency-handlers are disdained as being ignoble, but they are tolerated to run the samurai businesses for them. Of course, if things were going to exactly mimic historical patterns, they’d have the whole daimyo system precariously in debt by the time some external power stops by to force the equilibrium to shatter. Ninja are mentioned as...a thing, it isn’t specified if they’re illegal or what, they just exist. Doctors also exist and apparently so does pathology. Monks and priests have a poorly-defined religious space where they are defended but don’t really seem to be based anywhere much or state-supported. Wizards are unaligned as far as the caste system goes. Cyborgs seeking to get back in touch with their natures or whatever are okay, apparently 48 cyborgs (specifically) have come to reside in the New Empire for purposes of spiritual healing. Lastly, outright slavery is not permitted, though peasants and eta are indentured to a samurai-class landowner.
We get a very brief, very weak statblock for ‘peasant’ which gives some complete crap skill selections and notes only 15% are literate. Looking at the end of the book, they don’t even get an XP table. That’s okay, gaining levels in Palladium games doesn’t matter that much anyway.
Samurai are the military ruling class and also primary protectors of the realm. I sure hope they figured out how to do mega-damage with swords. Also, only the samurai are allowed to openly carry weapons. Punishments for crimes range from death (possessing technology) to confiscation of weapons and lashes (weapons charges), to whipping (peasant riding a horse), to more whipping and fines (theft) to a stern lecture and public humiliation (possession of technology? ) to execution or banishment for murder. Use of charms and magic to swindle or cheat people is a “serious offense.”
situated in what is roughly the ‘Kinki’ region of Japan
The New Empire doesn’t spend a lot of time on foreign relations. They tried sending expeditions to China but found the place infested with “oni.” They are devoted to making the Republic of Japan, their immediate westerly neighbor, see the error of their ways. As a military society run by a warrior class they do this with peaceful protests and philosophical discussions. Surprisingly, here we have two human nations who disagree about the magic/technology thing who are not actively at war. They disagree but they don’t fight about it. “Ichto” province are apparently the bad tech people who have outlawed all that hippy-dippy talk and are mean to New Empire folk. Takamatsu kingdom seems to put the lie to the anti-tech by keeping things in harmony. Otomo Shogunate & H-Brand are corporate enemies of the Empire. And then there’s The Zone. Encompassing most of central Honshu, this seems to be a place full of demons. They have no contact with all those other lovingly detailed nations from other Rifts books, so be prepared to Perry it up if PCs from elsewhere come knocking. They don’t even know the Pacific sea nations aside from the Horune and Naut’yll raiders.
Phew, that was long. And I knew there would be something like this but they still managed to impress me with their level of fetish for “traditional Japan” as seen through a crazy lens.
We shall continue next time with more places, starting with whatever Takamatsu is.
|# ¿ Jan 31, 2017 15:48|
Rifts World Book 8: Japan Part 3: Continuing our tour
Takamatsu is our second stop on this wild tour of Rifts Japan. The population is about 320 thousand people total, so a mid-sized city, primarily based on northern Shikoku. It’s interesting how completely Siembieda rejected Tokyo, which is very much the center of Japanese life, and focused on the Kanto region. The Takamatsu kingdom is reasonably modern with early 20th century level industrial capabilities. Their main asset is the use of a stable rift to raid the natural resources of a seemingly uninhabited Earthlike dimension. That’s kind of huge, it seems like a lot of enemy powers would want that very badly. Also, it’s surprising their industrial base is that poorly advanced with those kinds of resources. The Republic of Japan (whom we haven’t met yet) are somewhat dependent on Takamatsu for resources and considering signing a closer alliance with them.
honestly? reminds me of the city set in Crackdown
Takamatsu is a huge melting pot of conflicting cultures and ideas, high-tech and low, magic and mundane, humans and non-humans. It is tolerant and diverse and. That’s as much as we know about their society and government. The name says ‘kingdom’ but nothing else is written about what’s involved there, if it’s a constitutional monarchy, or anything else. The population is 43% D-Bees so I guess they’re pretty open to new experiences. Really though, this area just screams ‘adventurers recruit here’ since you can easily justify any concept running around, but they give us nothing at all about this place. It’s just generically friendly-modern.
Next is “The Ichto Province.” I’ve put that in quotes because “Ichto” is missing a letter somewhere and I can’t figure out if it’s meant to be Ichito or what. Its location doesn’t correspond to any major Japanese city; Fukuyama, more or less. The Ichto Robotics Corporation is an ancient rival of Armatech and when those portions of pre-Rifts Japan returned to Earth, it ended up deciding to go independent rather than join in solidarity against the waves of monsters attacking everything. So these guys might be kinda dicks. Despite calling themselves the Ichto Province they are not a province of anything and are one of those belligerent little independent places--they call it a kingdom again but the government is actually run by the Ichto corporate board.
Alien Rope Burn: Yeah, I can’t make heads or tails of what “Ichto” is supposed to be. It’s not proper Japanese and there are no major locations I can find that the name might have been mangled from.
For all that they’re kind of jerks, Ichto has fairly modern and relaxed laws which permit open immigration and borders with many of their neighbors. They sell techie stuff like cybernetics and juicer implants. To anyone. This has upset the Republic of Japan on more than one occasion because that includes unsavory pirates and monsters or whatever, not that most supernatural creatures can use cyber legs. And more’s the pity!
They argue a lot with the New Empire for obvious reasons, and they don’t suffer hippies gladly in their territory. Security forces will harass and spy on anyone without an iPod. They have a bunch of people in prison on charges related to anti-technological activities, but “only in 15% of cases are the charges true or completely accurate.” I get them jailing dissidents who question the authority of the mighty Ichto Corporation but but apparently criticizing technology is considered insurrection against the government. I guess they don’t have a lot of tech bloggers reviewing new pieces.
Ichto is arrogant enough that they just ignore Otomo and H-brand, two more factions we’ll meet shortly, and for this they are hated in turn.
just you try and sort out the limbs in this picture
Though they are industrial-heavy, Ichto still needs some farming villages and these are apparently back to feudal hand- and animal-powered technologies. Because reasons. :eyeroll: Apparently Ichto Human Resources don’t believe in wasting money on book learnin’ for shitfarmers. I’m sure that will work out well for future food security.
Now, The Otomo Shogunate. 5,400,000 population roughly. About half the population is in the city of Otomo, about 30% are the marvelous new “Eta/D-Bees” category. The Otomo Shogunate is “a strange blend of tradition and magic, with several levels of technology.” Otomo itself was built by survivors of the cataclysm who cobbled together whatever they could to retain their way of life and very survival, rejecting the anti-tech rantings of what would become the New Empire. Of course, they did that, but they also used the Tokugawa as a model for their government because that is Proper Japan according to midwestern white guys. In doing this they naturally chose to use supertech cyber-samurai and made their power armor look like samurai armor instead of more Kevin Long anime-rips.
They conquered (this one at least acknowledges that military dictatorships do not vote new states into their polity) other burgeoning warlord states and slaughtered armies of demons to carve out their little safe haven of feudal supertech warrior heaven. They were doing fairly well for themselves by allying with H-Brand when the Republic of Japan appeared out of the ether and
If they stay on their current course they’re going to destroy or be destroyed by the other human powers in Japan. They’re a brutal dictatorship and “a land of decadence and cruelty” but they are also a stable government that keeps the oni at bay, so it’s going to suck a lot for everyone involved no matter what happens. Obviously they will not be swayed or rethink this course of action.
They are obviously enemies with the New Empire. Given that the New Empire just uses a few highly-trained but fairly squishy magic users and highly-honorable samurai , and the Otomo have power armor and MDC guns they can shove in the hands of conscript soldiers, I would say advantage Otomo. They’re expansionist so they keep trying to bite off pieces of other peoples’ (and demons’) lands and this makes them few friends. They’re not big on green initiatives and they’re the kind of capitalists who chant ‘free market!’ while using slave labor. They’ve made a non-aggression pact with the oni to their north not to retaliate for attacks on human areas controlled by RoJ, Takamatsu and the New Empire while they plan an invasion of the latter. There’s a specific “Note: It is impossible for Otomo to conquer more than a quarter of the New Empire’s territory.” And of course, the oni are totally going to honor their pact while the two big human kingdoms whale on each other.
The Otomo have strained relations with Takamatsu. They were stockpiling supplies until recently, then demanded that Takamatsu break off all relations with the RoJ, which was refused with a ‘pfft’, and now they’re refusing to pay their tab or buy more goods. This seems short-sighted given the resource limitations Japan faces normally. Otomo has been sending a lot of (completely not obvious) cyborg and juicer ninja agents to conduct sabotage in Takamatsu and would really like to bring them down and take their stuff for themselves.
The Republic of Japan remains Otomo’s main rival, and they are much more resistant to the spies and ninja dispatched to try and disrupt their operations. Basically they are The Worst. As mentioned before they hate Ichto because Ichto can’t be bothered with them. If Ichto were to take an interest in Otomo’s actions, it could be an important lever in the course of events. Mostly, the Otomo are engaging in the most obvious treachery imaginable and making the dumbest deals possible to screw over everyone completely when their plan blows up.
H-Brand is an independent power within the Otomo Shogunate (those being something military dictatorships love) with a corporate power structure. They more or less respect the authority and laws of the Otomo, however, being aware of which side their bread is buttered on. They’ve been allies for almost 200 years. Instead, they just get a lot of special economic treatment, tariffs and intimidation against their competitors and government protection from spies and sabotage attempts. I really don’t see why they’re independent, they work hand-in-hand at every turn. Anyway, their own private forces are only 10% smaller than the Shogunate’s (again, this is not something a military government would put up with) and include thousands of borgs, various ninja, cyber-samurai, 4000 power armor troops, 1200 robots and 21 total Glitter Boys in two designs.
i’m not sure why they installed a dryer hose for her neck
H-Brand has never met Naruni Enterprises but they have similar life goals and NE might even offer to buy H-Brand as a wholly-owned subsidiary and make them an official distributor within Japan. As of now, H-Brand is mostly a mercenary-and-arms dealer to basically anyone with cash.
We’ll stop there for now. Next we get into some of the scattered smaller kingdoms and demon-infested areas.
|# ¿ Feb 1, 2017 19:44|
Eugh. Throwing around the term "Eta" like it's nothing is something I'm not particularly fond of seeing in BattleTech either.
Yeah, when this book was published I don't think it was really common knowledge that 'eta' is a slur, though the research done for this book is not...great. Lumping them together with 'literally not human' is pretty mean no matter what though.
Rifts World Book 8: Japan Part 4: Other Places of Note
The Zone is the domain of the oni and they are apparently not good at names. What few human settlements exist are enslaved by monsters and abused freely. The only upside to the chaos is that the oni, kappa and other demons are not organized--they exist in tribal units who contest each other for territory constantly. Many of these tribes are nomadic, moving through an area until the hunting is depleted, then moving on. I suppose it is somewhat refreshing to see a force of evil that isn't tightly unified and poised for conquest.
dunno why this inkblot is ‘monsterland’ but it is
Once in a while some great monster or warlord might unify the oni tribes enough to come roiling over the mountains at the human kingdoms, but this is rare. Apparently we shall be getting a companion book to Rifts Japan which describes “The ainu (sic), more oni, elementals, gods and supernatural beings.” Perhaps it is available for pre-order.
A few other places are mentioned extremely briefly:
[*]The Domain of the Gods: On Hokkaido, few humans around, but some of the Ainu are still there. Oni, dragons, and Japanese gods also live here. There’s a secret Millennium Tree hidden in a mountain valley.
[*]Surusa is a small feudal kingdom on what was once the Bōsō Peninsula of Tokyo Bay, now an island. They use whatever they can get--Samurai, magic, tech bought mostly from H-brand.
[*]Yukimura is another small shogunate located near Surusa and Tokyo that is more or less a haven for pirates and brigands, but still a human settlement.
[*]Toshiie is a militant shogunate of anti-technologists near Yukimura and they’ve had the New Empire-Otomo fight in miniature for generations.
[*]Other Islands: Japan has a lot of outlying islands and these are mostly untouched and not resettled by humans. A pre-rifts project, the Undersea Naval Platform, has been taken over by Horune pirates.
[*]Sakhalin and the Russian coast: Mostly fishing villages if anything, some pirates and some very low-level industry. These were not exactly friendly coastal regions before the Rifts and they aren’t great now.
this is kind of a cool pic, i am not sure who drew it
[*]Mainland China: This got covered later but it’s listed here as a living nightmare completely dominated by monsters who’ve enslaved everyone because certainly China had no soldiers or industrial base for fighting back when the cataclysm started.
[*]Korea: They noticed Korea exists! Long enough to state that only about 3% of the population survived and live in fishing villages. Supernatural creatures fill the interior wilderness, including ‘faeries, goblins, trolls and elementals.’ One small pocket of interest is a burgeoning kingdom near Seoul, run by a Master Khan, secretly a Chiang-Ku dragon. He’s created a bevy of tattooed monks to defend the kingdom, and teaches enlightenment. That’s more than China got I guess.
[*]Taiwan: Completely destroyed, only repopulated at all recently.
[*]Philippines: The rising of the oceans mostly destroyed this island chain. The US naval presence there was sunk and hasn’t been retrieved, though after three centuries it’s not much more than scrap.
Nothing about the rest of Southeast Asia, but that may be for the best.
Now we get to hear some more about Millennium Trees, specifically the Kyoto Millennium Tree which we heard about back in the New Empire section. A lot of this is repeated from England, describing how Millennium Trees are a thousand feet tall and feed on PPE but not in the way that all those nasty supernatural monsters do, no, they just set their roots on a ley line nexus and get to eating. Shinto priests label the tree as a powerful kami which is not entirely out of character. However, they go on with explaining that the coming of the rifts has proven many of these Shinto beliefs to be true. I mean, this guy is so stuck on the Satanic Panic that he can’t even type the word “Christianity” in an RPG book but he’ll assert that Shinto is validated by the existence of the supernatural? I do not get it but it’s kinda racist.
They call the tree the ‘himorogi’ which Siembieda asserts is “Sacred Tree.” (it’s not) Because Rifts, the tree just popped up in the city of Kyoto, justifying it as an ancient sacred place, and they keep asserting that Kyoto is in the shadow of Mt. Fuji which it is not. Fuji is closer to Tokyo than it is Kyoto and even then it’s not ‘in the shadow of,’ it’s ‘in train distance of’. Shinto priests, Bishamon fighting monks and sohei warriors all live on and near the tree, since it helpfully provides housing on its body. The tree has existed for about 260 years but there aren’t records of its growth, only its existence in its current state. Supposedly it was gifted by the kami, but that’s probably Shinto myth. Nobody can talk to Millennium Trees directly, though they emanate “good vibes” and have been known to send visions of danger to those they deem worthy. The Shinto again describe it as able to hear everything under its branches in all languages which is minor-creepy; I guess folks don’t usually mind if a tree hears them boning.
obligatory postcard, wish we weren’t here
Millennium Trees are able to drop branches and leaves and these are magical items with various powers. These are mostly lame but sometimes useful and detailed in Rifts England. They create really dangerous explosions when people try to harm them, starting at 2d4x10 for one leaf. They also create ley line storms when severely threatened. The trees aid healing to those sleeping nearby, they can regrow limbs and even raised the dead sometimes if people are brought to them swiftly enough. They’re overwhelmingly good things to have around. I’m going to skip listing all the specific items and powers that they have because I did that already in reviewing England and there are no changes in the twelve pages of reprinted content they were kind enough to provide here.
I’ll stop this one here, since next we get into a bunch of Japan-specific magical items by CJ Carella. That has the potential to be kinda cool if still very stereotype-driven.
|# ¿ Feb 2, 2017 13:59|
Yeah, it's all either Edo period or William Gibson with nothing really inbetween. There's Takamatsu, but they're strangely just a footnote despite their massive "access to an entire Earth worth of resources" hook. You'd think that'd be a central point of conflict, but nobody seems to care.
Carella seems to have done the magic items section, which is actually one of the better (for certain low bars to hurdle) parts of the book except for the usual Rifts lunatic economy. I try not to harp on it also but even the New Empire, technological backwater, uses the universal credit.
But yeah, the book sort of assumes that the modern-er parts of Japan are more or less like the US, but you know, "Japan." Even their understanding of the feudal elements is pretty weak. This is the era before RPG books routinely included suggested sources and bibliographies so I have no idea what nonsense he'd been reading.
occamsnailfile fucked around with this message at 19:14 on Feb 2, 2017
|# ¿ Feb 2, 2017 19:10|
Rifts World Book 8: Japan Part 5: All the things you could ever want to throw
After we’ve done our whirlwind tour of the major powers of Japan (which are almost entirely independent entities, not even any Splugorth meddling) we are abruptly sent to an equipment section. Usually Palladium books reserve the full gun show for later in the manual, but somehow they felt these were more important to present than all the various flavors of ninja they were promising to the weeaboo fanbase.
“The following items are a handful of magic weapons and equipment that can be acquired by adventurers, warriors and priests in Japan.” Glad to know wizards are out. This section is written by CJ Carella, so it may have a different tone than some other areas of the book. Siembieda seems to have been hovering over Japan protectively as a special magical place where he’s allowed to say the names of real religions so other authors have to get smaller sections with their own bylines.
Elemental Shuriken: Favored by ninja and martial artists. Typically these come in sets of five, representing the five elements. Of course, Siembieda assigns these as “water, fire, earth, air and wood.” That’s wrong but it’s more interesting to look at the mechanical effects assigned.
These don’t automatically return when thrown, and given their effects, throwing them seems like a quick way to lose a 700,000 credit investment. These are kinda cool, not wildly unbalanced, but you’re basically going to have to kill someone and take them, there’s no way for normal PCs to meet that price.
TW Power Shuriken: I’m envisioning like some kinda magic buzzsaw here. “A common Chinese techno-wizard item.” This is getting better and better. 2D4+4 MDC as a single-use electrical attack. 500 credits per. These are both too expensive and too weak to bother using. The New Empire's stance on TW items wasn't made entirely clear but I imagine if they mimic an old-timey cosplay item they're probably okay.
TW Fire-Breathing Apparatus: The fluff text for this is just really weird, I think I’m just going to reproduce it here:
When the first European travelers arrived in Japan, they brought muskets and arquebuses (bell-shaped, short-range shotguns), which greatly impressed the islanders. Japan was manufacturing copies of these weapons in a matter of years.
There is just so much wrong here. With real world history, with Rifts’ own continuity, with the assumptions it makes about Japanese technological progress. I do not know where to begin and Carella, I expect better from you. Also: ‘TW Fire-Breathing Apparatus’ is a dumb name.
These things look like matchlock muskets or whatever and they belch out fire blasts that stink of brimstone. 5D6 MDC, 800 ft range. Unlike many other TW weapons, these guys fire 3X a round as long as Earth has magical energy. If they didn’t cost ‘upwards of 200,000 credits’ they’d be a perfectly valid thing to give any PC. The lack of ammo worries is their big advantage, but their damage is so thoroughly average and their range so short that I can’t bring myself to be concerned.
Magic Powder Grenades: These are elite grenades for elite ninja. They’re based on the notion of eggshell bombs but rigged with spells to make them more potent.
There’s an additional note that the prices may vary as much as 10% less to 50% more since they’re made by random artisanal mages and dragons rather than an assembly line I guess. At their standard prices these are not fantastic except for the blinding ones, but they are fairly strong debuffs.
Singing Arrows (Nari-Kabura): In the past, Japanese archers sometimes used hollow arrows that would make a buzzing or whistling sound as they flew. These were used a signals and startles. Now some are enchanted to be magical also. They shatter after being fired and discharging their magic, and all are 16 or higher to save and count as 5th level.
Again, all fairly decent, all very expensive. The Exorcism one in particular needs to be cheaper.
Tanto of Hellish Poison: Elite ninja only, this special poison can affect even dragons and supernatural creatures. 3D6 SDC to normals, 4D6 MDC to supernaturals and even artificial stuff like borg armor is affected. If flesh is touched, a save of 15 or higher is needed. On a successful save, 3D6 more damage still happens, directly to hit points or MDC. On a failed save, take the damage, -2 to combat rolls, lose one attack for 1D6+2 hours. Each hour, 1D6 additional damage is done, plus the victim temporarily loses 1D4 points of PE. If it hits zero, they die. Various forms of supernatural regen cannot heal the poison damage until its effects end.
Those are some pretty huge effects. For one thing, affecting supernatural creatures at all is pretty big--almost every single one of those is immune. The poison effects don’t do enough damage to kill quickly, and it’s not clear if the applications stack. They’d need to, if this thing is meant to kill anything more serious than an average joe, but who knows. Because these weapons are actually effective, most good guys consider them perpetually tainted and won’t use them, and they cost as much as a rune weapon at eight million credits anyway. Still, this is kind of cool, and again, not immensely overpowered (depending on the stacking issue) but quite vicious.
”Ten-Thousand-Strength” Nunchaku: “These were enchanted by Okinawan mystics in the years before the Rifts.” Several of these items suggest themselves as pre-Rifts. That’s kind of a major continuity violation and also not something that was suggested about the various European cultures who had mystical traditions. If magic actually worked to any degree pre-Rifts, the Japanese would not be the only ones who remembered it. I mean, Native Americans, duh.
this section doesn’t have enough pictures, so here is some numbchuks
Anyway, these do 3D6 MDC per hit and grant one additional melee attack per round. These are pretty rare, it’d be a shame if say an Apok or something got hold of these and made them terrifying wouldn’t it? 500,000 credits.
Whirlwind Naginata: Created for the highest female samurai, and sohei monks like ‘em too. Only a few dozen in existence. 3D6+6 MDC, and it has two special powers: Art of Defense, which, if a character makes no attacks in a round, will auto-parry any non-laser attacks against themselves except for criticals, up to their melee total, and Whirlwind: Four times a day, the wielder can call upon a magical whirlwind by spinning the naginata overhead for two melees. This whirlwind can fly them up to 60mph and deflects all arrows and thrown weapons, but not bullets or lasers. Five minute duration. Five million credits. These are kind of nice but totally not worth five mil, c’mon.
Zen Master’s Bow: Longbows of the Japanese type, intended for Zen archery. Only a few dozen of the lesser types exist, and maybe a dozen of the greater. They appear ordinary unless one is ‘knowledgeable of Japanese arts’ at which point they have a 30% + 5% per level of realizing these are yet another example of the magical Japanese pre-Rifts tradition. When wielded by a user of the Art of Bowmanship (Kyudo) the bow contacts the wielder (by courier?) and instructs them on its powers. For everybody else it has some piddling bonuses and does SDC damage.
In proper hands, lesser bows have two of the following, greater have all:
These are basically unobtainable with money, aside from the fact that they look like normal SDC weapons which any sensible person in the world of Rifts would discard. I can’t see it. They’re fancy but really quite weak. Doubling one’s rate of fire is useful, but it also doubles the PPE cost of shooting arrows, and most human users don’t have that much. True samurai would get a frightening rate of fire with one of these but they’d be out of PPE or chewing through magical arrows very quickly.
After this there's a section of just magic samurai swords. I honestly like a lot of these items--they have varied effects and they aren't super-powerful. Of course, being ~magic~, they're unobtainably expensive so railguns it is. What I don't like in this section (and in the upcoming swords part) is the suggestion that some of these items were enchanted before the time of Rifts. Nobody else got to do that, and there were plenty of other mystical traditions that survived into the modern era in one form or another. Fetishizing Japan as a spiritual wonderland that preserved its traditions unblemished by magic-ruining western rational thought is dumb and racist and also absurd if you've ever been there or even studied the country closely.
|# ¿ Feb 3, 2017 14:03|
Did I miss the post on the Republic of Japan?
No, Palladium books are "organized" more or less in the order the sections got written--at least as far as ARB and I can tell. The RoJ is coming up, but first we get magic items and New Empire OCCs.
|# ¿ Feb 3, 2017 18:25|
Rifts World Book 8: Japan Part 6: Magic Katana Section Go
Greater and Greatest Daisho Rune Swords: Here we go, magic katanas. Perfect for hanging on the wall where guests can see them, just like the katanas of yore. Of course, how the Japanese swordsmiths learned rune magic is an exercise left to the reader. Seriously, it’s not explained. For as much as the line has made a huge deal out of anybody having rune magic, this is kind of a serious omission. I think Carella is just using 'rune swords' here as Rifts-speak for 'very powerful magical item' but that's lazy, and in a system that was happy to make up a whole new system of magic about building pyramids I feel like they could cobble together a new poorly-translated term.
There’s a few different kinds of these. We start with the Daisho of the Relentless Warrior. These swords have white scabbards and handles with a dragon pattern inlaid in gold and jade for the dragon’s eyes. It was forged in the 16th century by a legendary swordsmith. I need a ‘teeth grind’ emoji but will have to do. Supposedly it only appears to be wielded by the greatest champions of Japan and was last seen about ten years ago.
What does it do?
That is a pretty strong set of weapons, leaving aside the noble-Japanese-savage origins of the thing. Having it appear to a worthy champion is an obvious hook. The damage is comparable to a regular railgun and since they're indestructible they can parry MDC attacks. The strength and healing aspects are really minor, honestly, though a physically-trained human will have a reasonable amount of SDC, and having that as MDC even briefly could be a lifesaver. Two minutes is eight agonizing rounds of Palladium combat after all.
Daisho of the Storm: Ten sets of these were made. They were dedicated to the terrifying weather events that have plagued Japan throughout its history. They didn’t become magic until the rifts arrived in this case, making them at least make sense in what few ways Rifts cosmology ever does. The whereabouts of three of the sets are known, two belonging to direct descendants of the swords’ original owners in the New Empire. Okay, that is immensely unlikely. The third belongs to a shifty ronin. The rest are currently lost.
What do they do?
So that’s fairly nice too. The wind and rain powers are pretty immense actually, coupled with the swords’ decent damage to supernatural enemies.
Ghostly Katana of Soul Slaying: Specifically katana, no wakizashi were made. They were created by a “Hideo the Mad,” a legendary sorcerer, swordsman and sword-maker. Not historical as far as I can tell. Supposedly he rolled with demons in his youth, but straightened up to become a good guy later in life. The katanas themselves are made with “Soulstuff,” a new and especially ~mystical~ alloy distilled from the life force of living beings. Hideo made all four swords basically simultaneously and then at the end seemed pulled in four directions into the blades themselves. Okay, that’s cool. This is when the book specifically mentions this is magical technology from Wormwood. All of this occurred pre-Rifts of course.
Anyway the swords look normal until they’re used in a fight, then they go all transparent and spooky. They pierce armor, strike supernatural and devastate the undead, so much so that vampires have supposedly hidden two of them. Somewhere in Mexico I guess? It’s also possible that antique dealers bought one or two of the swords and took them specifically to Chicago. How that came to be recorded is unclear. They can also hit insubstantial beings including alien intelligences in energy form.
[*]1D4x10 to supernatural, 2D4x10 to vampires, 6D6 SDC to beings that contain so little blood.
[*]Ghost blade: This blade ignores all armor, including power armor, force fields, and other barriers to inflict damage directly to the body of the wearer. It says it does not pierce robots or vehicles, so I am not sure if it just plinks off those or what.
[*]Sense Evil: Presence sense, sense magic and sense evil within 30 ft per level.
Piercing armor is pretty amazing, though 6D6 SDC damage is less than one thinks against an optimized character. And Wormwood? Mostly with all of these supermagic swords they have tried to tie them into Japan’s super magical history because, you know, Europe never had any magic swords. Rifts has always struggled with grabbing onto entirely arbitrary bits of the past and holding onto them but it gets a bit extreme here. The swords themselves are neat in terms of their effects, though of course they are super-double mega Yu-Gi-Oh rare so melee characters should not hope to get one and do damage comparable to a small railgun.
We finish with swords and go on to more “Magical Items" that somehow couldn't have been in the other section of magical items before the sword section.
First is the Bottomless Purse (kanebukoro): These are magic purses meant to supply worthy travelers with basic necessities, but the greedy who might exploit such a thing are always foiled by their magics.
Three varieties exist, producing one or a few items: Money, which gives old-school silver coins worth 2d6 credits each, ten times a day. Rice cakes and similar bland but nourishing foods four times a day, for one person. The last is the purse of wishes, which can grant any small ordinary object wished for, from food and drink to a “grappling hook or a sword.” It only works three times a day, and can produce food, 1D6x100 credits (worth more than food), and small mundane items that are specifically not bullets. Well, it doesn’t say ‘not bullets’, it does say no energy weapons or magic weapons or alien tech, so probably not mini-missiles anyway, but railgun ammo might be okay.
In addition to the daily use limits, anything not used by the end of the day disappears. Trying to get around the limitations of the purse supposedly leads to curses, with a note to GMs to screw over players who try to pull a fast one with their rice cake purse. The purses only work for those they’re given to--they can be freely passed on, but if stolen they won’t work.
Fan of the Forest Wind: A fan that when waved about creates breezes and floating leaves, kind of scenic and cool until you do it for a full round at which point there are so many drat leaves that the wielder and others in the area are -5 to hit. Also makes a mess. 50K credits.
Hat of Invisibility (kakuregasa): I’m including Palladium’s supplied Japanese names for items since they included them, I'm not generally checking them for accuracy. Anyway this looks like a straw hat, sometimes the conical sort, others the face-basket sorts of things that monks sometimes wear. Six times per day the hat makes the wearer invisible for up to an hour. No listing on limitations about attacking, or how hard it is to hit this particular kind of invisibility since they all get their own rules. 30 to 100K.
Heavenly Speaking Flute (ame-no-nori-goto): A mundane looking flute which can play three special tunes, three times a day, for up to an hour each. I hope your lips are strong.
Song of Heavenly Senses: Can see all manner of invisible jerks including energy creatures and presumably even those 4th dimensional assholes. Can sense ley lines and such within 5 miles, and sense evil to 60 ft.
Song of Spiritual Comfort: This is a song that pleases good spirits and pains bad ones. Good thing we have alignment so we know which is which. 50-50 effect for ‘selfish’. Good spirits will often reward characters in some way for an hour of music. Bad ones must save or flee (14 or higher) and even if they remain they’re at half everything within 300 ft or hearing range.
Song of Summoning or Banishing: Makes an attempt to summon or banish an entity of choice, the entity gets to save versus 16 or higher. Other exorcisms performed while the music plays get +20%. There is no mention of being able to control a summoned entity so ah, use with care?
These only work for good-aligned characters, though ‘unprincipled and aberrant characters who have vowed to fight demons have a 50% chance to ever use a flute’. The item itself is fairly neat--specific focus, limited effects, and useful against some of the nastier annoyances in the game. Of course, it does require someone to be the flute guy while everyone else does stuff. 50-100K
Holy Incense Burner: A special incense burner that uses specially treated anti-spirit incenses. It creates a 30ft cloud that requires a save against 16 or higher for the targeted type. Those that do enter take 1D6 damage per round and are at -2. 30 ft is not a very wide radius against spell-casting fire-breathing gun-toting supernaturals, but it’s something. These target specific ‘families’ of beings like Oni and Demons, Ghosts and Spirits, etc. Trying to buy one is a real bitch too, being ‘at least’ 200,000 credits and the incense packets are 1200-1800 each. I’d give it a pass probably.
Lantern of Protection: Can be lit for 24 hours total usage. Evil supernaturals must save vs. Psionics (no DC listed) to approach within 20 ft and they’re at half of all things if they do approach. Also +3 to save vs. supernatural to all non-targets within 20ft. The big limitation on these is that they have 12 SDC, being paper lanterns, and they wear out. 50-200 credits though, so worth keeping a few around.
Living Kami Statues (kiagan-kuyo): These are masterwork statues that they can be animated by the god or spirit represented for a short period of time. Hundreds of these were built up over Japan’s history, and enough of them survived that they are now fairly common guardians, especially of temples. Their stats range from 1D4x10 MDC with 1D4 MD damage (death kitten) to big ole war buddhas with 1D4x100 MDC and supernatural PS damage + 2D6 with a weapon. A recommended method for trying to discover these in a ruin is to try and shatter any statue with a hammer since these are all MDC and normal statues are not. Archeology Jeebus will cry though. 50K to 500K by size, and they’re basically golems that will deactivate if asked to do evil.
Mirror of True-Seeing: Small hand mirrors. Six times per day it can be tilted to show an image of a person. The reflection will show their true nature, including shapeshiftedness, possession, but also alignment (check them renegade scars), disease and mental health. 200K - 400K because mental health funding is very poor in Rifts Earth.
Powder of the Heavenly Winds: We’re skipping the part where it tries to discuss the history of the word ‘kamikaze’ here. A bunch of air elemental charms are written on scrolls which are ground into powder. When some of this powder is tossed in the air, the tosser can control winds of up to 200mph for 1D6+2 minutes. This will knock down most characters under 15 tons, no save apparently. Once per round they can shoot a cutting blast that does 3D6 MDC or 4D6 SDC per minute to such vulnerable things. This is extremely destructive to weak materials, fortunately it’s rare and one-use; 200-400K.
And lastly, Tattoos of Strength: Yakuza magic tattoos. Not the same as Tattoo Magic (proper noun) but a similar sort of idea. Three times per day, they can be activated, making the tattoo glow greenishly and granting PEx3 MDC (cumulative with other sources apparently) and +6 to PS which becomes supernatural. There’s no listed duration, so assuming the wearer doesn’t outright die from exhausting their little MDC boost, it’s a three shot force field. They count as a supernatural being though, so take extra from basically every weapon in this section plus special twigs. 60K for a suit and probably better be part of a gang.
That was a longer section than I anticipated. A longer section of just magic items than we’ve seen in almost every other book it feels like. A lot of them have kind of interesting effects, though they’re saddled with Rifts’ completely insane concept of pricing. How dare PCs want a magical weapon or a flute that dispels ghosts. They’re also often a continuity disaster, but w’ev at this point. I honestly wish Rifts had more interesting magical weapons and equipment--what's presented is often very weak and sterile, and always impossibly expensive.
|# ¿ Feb 4, 2017 13:31|
Shadowrun is such a cool game, it's a shame you have to play Shadowrun to enjoy it (I kid, but the clunk takes a bit of getting used to.)
Shadowrun seems to share the problem with Rifts where it's very much about toys and trying to shift the setting to another, less gear-heavy system would lose some of what makes it appeal to the fanbase. Fiddling with dozens of little widgets to create the optimal Street Sam loadout seems to be a very integral part of the experience that friends of mine who have enjoyed Shadowrun remember. Of course, trying to churn out huge pages of mechanically meaningful but still-balanced gear is extremely hard, and support for ongoing gear upgrades would require continuing to write that kind of crunch.
Some of the Murphys people have posted about SR have been amusing, like the Face with the uber-pistol that fit comfortably in a sleeve or the many faces of the Physical Adept.
|# ¿ Feb 4, 2017 22:42|
Rifts World Book 8: Japan Part 7: Are you a pure enough dude to be a samurai?
Now we get to the first set of OCCs, the ‘Traditionals’. These are all fairly original to this book, even stuff like the “Mystic Ninja” which could have leapt straight from the pages of Ninjas & Superspies. They’re also...questionably accurate as one might expect. The “True Samurai” in particular is going to get a lot of tiresome dry-humping but we’ll do the best we can.
The True Samurai opens the section, and does so with a quote from a passable history book from the 80s.
”Stephen R Turnbull, Book of the Samurai: The Warrior Class of Japan” posted:
Few countries have a warrior tradition as long and as exciting as that of Japan. It is a tradition found particularly in the person of the romantic, loyal, and self-sacrificing knight of old Japan, the samurai. He is the valiant lone swordsman, the ultimate individual warrior. He is the esthete, appreciating in the beauty of cherry blossom, and seeing its brief career his own short and glorious life. He is the commander of a host on the battlefield, the assassin in the night, the keeper of peace, the aristocratic administrator and the avenger of his master.
This is kinda shoddy history writing but it’s thirty years old from a guy who at least earned a PhD in the area. Of course, Asian Studies people turn a very jaundiced eye to their orientalist forebears. But either way, this quote does contain some of the many ways the samurai is romanticized and portrayed. The varying realities of poverty and brutality will probably go unaddressed.
Since a large section of Japan’s survivors ditched modern technology and democracy in favor of ‘nothing’ and ‘Tokugawa cosplay’, there is a samurai caste again. Samurai family and clans “can trace their lineage over 200 years,” with some going back before the coming of the rifts. Seriously, they didn’t even bother addressing this in England and here it’s just dumb. Samurai caste people are landowners, scientists and engineers (in this anti-tech society) as well as the traditional military governor/defender jobs. They’re legally allowed to carry weapons, which other citizen castes are not. Non-citizen travelers are allowed to keep weapons but advised to keep them covered.
As with so many western portrayals of samurai, this class is very fixated on the swords over the bow, but it does acknowledge that they use archery as well. We haven’t gotten to the part yet where they explain how mundane arrows hurt MDC Oni. They’ve also brought back the topknot hairstyles of the past to signify status.
No section on an honorable warrior stereotype in a Palladium book would be complete without an extended code of honor section. Yep, we get a long list of bushido code rules. I’m not going to analyze these because they are tedious as hell and the modern conception of bushido is entirely made-up bullshit from the 19th century. The full history of the concept is much more complicated than that and somebody else (I know you fuckers know this) can do an effortpost about it if they want. Let’s just say that Kev-chan’s Simplified List of Rules is inaccurate and the text also treats this very exacting code as something most if not all True Samurai actually adhere to versus “something that was presented as a good idea but wasn’t really followed that much” like actual chivalric codes. Now, Siembieda did this same thing with the knights in England and at least one of the knightly orders in Wormwood and probably someplace else I’m forgetting where that stupid chivalry list was reprinted, but it remains dumb. L5R has shown us a more nuanced (a little bit anyway) examination of a strict honor-based society and it has huge extensive rules for fighting about honor and dealing with all the little rules involved and also explores the many, many ways that these codes are interpreted or broken by members of that society. This text does none of these things.
After the bushido stuff we get some real talk about the specialness of “true” samurai swords, which apparently all “true” samurai have--I don’t know why this section starts putting the “true” in quotes, maybe Carella slipped some sarcasm through KS’s serious-screen. The swords themselves are “minor rune weapons” (those are my quotes) which has the problems mentioned previously with every other source in Rifts cosmology presenting rune-anything as vanishingly rare and hard to create.
These swords are made with the famous “folding” method that worked the blade 400 times. These special swords are folded 1000 times! ...Which as I understand it actually would spoil the metal, the 400-range was actually specific and not the smith going ‘welp’. “True” swords though, after all that folding, must be tested by chopping off all limbs and the head from a live person, generally a criminal. Oh, it’s okay though, because 80% are “volunteers.”
These swords, once fed the blood of a criminal, are slightly intelligent and linked to their master, nearly indestructible (and regenerate), and inflict a heaping 6D6/4D6 MDC for katana and wakizashi respectively, against supernatural beings. SDC against mortals. Does that include mortals in power armor? Because I’d consider that a downside. They don’t even do extra damage against vampires, and even twigs from a Millennium Tree do extra damage on vampires. You do get a +1 bonus to all saving throws though. Also, if the samurai is of incompatible alignment to the swords, they do half damage. Most of these swords are some variety of Palladium-good despite harboring the soul of a criminal. Oh, there’s a note that 1 in 4 of the samurai and the swords themselves are anarchist or evil--that must be an awkward matching process. “I’ll take the set that’s weeping blood and growling please.”
The samurai is also gifted with a suit of magical samurai-lookin’ armor that can be crafted in special magic ceremonies (for which we do not receive rules for once), gifted by the gods (what), captured from oni, or occasionally granted by monks who make them out of Millennium Tree bark. They typically have 100 MDC but up to 180 MDC is possible but ‘uncommon’, and they are not environmentally sealed so all those nasty chemical weapons Coalition grunts can ignore will totally take out these elite warriors.
Samurai also receive multiple skill-based abilities like a 54% chance (+4% per level!) to ride a horse and shoot an arrow at the same time. The very next entry is “bowmanship” which allows a samurai to ride and shoot “without penalty.” As far as I can recall there isn’t anywhere that gives penalties for riding and shooting. Samurai are at a ‘mere’ -2 to dodge arrows and -4 for energy blasts, and can fire 3 arrows a round at level one, +2 at level three, and +1 more at 4, 6, 9 and 12. That is a fair number of arrows, which might be useful if they’re magic or something.
Swordsmanship gets its own section and declares that true samurai are master swordsmen and study Zen. They get +1 on init, +3 to pull their strikes and one additional attack when using the paired swords. They also get a “Chi M.D. Death Blow” which is just such a delightfully awkward phrasing. This attack is used by samurai and some other folks to inflict mega-damage with a melee or hand-to-hand attack and you kick a monster so hard it can’t heal the damage for 1D4 hours. It cannot be used in anger (bah) and must be used without regret for one’s action of using it. Takes two attacks, won’t work on techfoes, just supernaturals, samurai cannot expend their immense rate of bow fire with it, and never states how much damage it actually does or how much PPE it costs. Instead we learn that samurai also carry an iron fan around with them for use with their teeth I guess since their hands are full of swords and can be used for parrying. “It also functions as a fan.”
pretty sure i saw this in a museum somewhere
We still haven’t reached the actual normal statblock area for the true samurai class. Instead we’re going to have some more special training in the form of “zanji shinjinken-ryu” which is something that Siembieda heard somewhere as the name of samurai sword training. I don’t care enough to even look this up. Anyway, it’s a sword methodology that survived the time of rifts and is designed to kill! emphasis theirs. I guess this is a long and complicated form of WP: samurai swords, it grants miscellaneous bonuses including +2 to PP still more bonii to using the paired swords in addition to the ones already given. Each level includes a new special bonus but not all the explanations are reprinted from Ninjas & Superspies, like the bonus for level 9 which is “Death Blow!”, end of entry.
Alien Rope Burn: ”Zanji Shinjinken-Ryu” is from Erick Wujcik’s Palladium game Ninjas & Superspies and is almost certainly a fictional concoction, given the only references I can find to it link back to Palladium sites (or bullshido sites that literally stole from N&S’ martial arts listings ). To be fair, a number of the martial arts in that game are intentionally fictional - like Dog Style Kung Fu (fight on all fours) or Taido (battle twirling) - but “Zanji Shinjinken-Ryu” is a mess of broken Japanese. It’s probably meant to be something like “Lightning Divine Sword Dragon” but “Slightly Delayed Newbie Coupon Dragon” would be a far more accurate translation.
After this we get a “Samurai family background” table. Rolling 1-10 gets you one of the coveted pre-rifts daisho sets because your family traces its line back that far. All of them grant three skill choices in various areas, some of which are “choose anything from physical or wilderness” which experienced Palladium players will recognize as “choose Acrobatics and Gymnastics and Boxing” while others are “choose anything from medical or science in this agrarian anti-tech community” so clearly not all outcomes are equal, even aside from social status.
Finally we get the stats. 33% principled, 16% scrupulous, 33% aberrant, 8% anarchist and 10% “other.” They get skill selections more or less in line with what one would expect, their special magic swords and armor, “samurai silks”, several changes of kimono (specifically mentioned), sandals, a utility belt (bat-samurai) and other basic gear including a good horse. They also get a bow with 20 normal arrows, 6 silver-tipped arrows, and 6 magic arrows of unspecified type, plus two extra weapons of choice as long as they aren’t magical. 3D4x1000 credits in valuables + 1D4x1000 in a monthly stipend, this being one of the rare occasions when PCs with a steady job are told how much they are paid. Also 20% of all booty gained goes to the daimyo, 20% to the Empire and 20% to the family, but hey, free meals.
praise the rising sun
As ever with any class that’s even vaguely mystical, they refuse cybernetics, though as normal humans they wouldn’t experience penalties for using them and most of their powers don’t need PPE.
Lastly there’s a small note that female samurai are taught kendo instead of zanji-whatever and get PPE x3 instead of x2 and notes that most female fighting samurai arise out of vengeance but some are just born warriors. Kendo is detailed in the back in a separate martial arts section.
That’s it for the true samurai class, and that was a whole lot of It’s not like it’s a surprise, weeaboo sentiments didn’t just originate recently, but I forgot how much the book gushed on this topic.
Next time: The samurai’s dark other, the Ronin! Will they get dicked around as much as in L5R?!
|# ¿ Feb 5, 2017 18:09|
Considering the amount of Shadowrun chatter, I'm not sure I need to be doing a F&F of the game...
Nah, do it. Clearly there's interest in SR discussion.
|# ¿ Feb 5, 2017 22:41|
I suppose one could try using a 'space' attribute on cyberwear, and/or power consumption, which simply places a physical rather than mental or metaphysical limit on how much cyber you can have. Obviously players would aim for becoming larger than human, literal tank people--but that would limit the capacity to do covert shadow running, and also the power consumption thing would have to become an issue.
There's also certain degrees of legality ('must look humanish and fit through doors') and while players would totally try to find ways around that, it lets the GM gate 'the good stuff' for a while as a goal to achieve.
I never read the GitS manga but SAC was great, a beautiful, smartly-written, incredibly expensive failure. I'm told they took a lot of the author's kinky nonsense out of the anime, though Major Kusanagi still had to wear combat garters. Speaking of literal tank people, the episode about the disabled engineer who put himself into an experimental military tank was pretty amazing and an example of where 'runner' gear just fails against real military hardware.
|# ¿ Feb 6, 2017 15:30|
Rifts World Book 8: Japan Part 8: Lonely grizzled wanderers looking to challenge warlord please use rear door
Ronin are masterless samurai. These only occur when a daimyo is slain, we are told, since the new daimyo won’t hire any of the old guy’s guys and nobody else wants a samurai who let his boss die so they go rogue until they maybe get lucky and overcome discrimination against the unemployed to find a new home. Also, ronin occasionally quit for various reasons, the ole ‘can’t obey a tyrant’ being the most popular. Now, we were told earlier that the New Empire has eight total daimyo. So like, killing one would be a big deal and put a substantial part of their armed forces out of work. If that happens at all often there must be a lot of ronin around.
lone wolves for nixon
Sometimes they get work as mercenaries to do things the daimyo don’t want to admit to doing but need somebody to do anyway, and other principalities in the region care a lot less about all of this crap so they might seek their fortune elsewhere.
Alignment-wise they discard their high principles once they get laid off apparently as the majority are unprincipled, anarchist or evil. They get the same skills as the true-sams but have a 50% chance of being able to gain new technological skills as they loosen their anti-tech stance. They basically get all the stuff that the regular samurai get, including the groovy swords, but they have no steady income or shelter and they tend to not like guns much even after stepping out of their comfort zone.
All in all they aren’t at too great a disadvantage--they lack the social support an employed samurai would have but they aren’t mechanically penalized in any significant way.
Alien Rope Burn: I have to say I legit like the ronin art probably the most of any art piece in the book, because it’s one of the few that looks like a post-apocalypse survivor character. While it makes some sense with the premise, the fact that Japan is all just remarkably clean feudal citizens and cyberpunk guys is relatively dull visually. It doesn’t hurt that it’s one of a few pieces in the book by “rk” Post, a great artist probably best known for his work on Planescape and Magic: the Gathering.
The Mystic Ninja is next up.
Rifts Japan posted:
Yes, the ninja, the magical People’s avenger. continue about how the samurai of old existed as much to keep the peasants in line as anything (with their principled alignments) and the ninja were peasants who developed combat skills that could be hidden under the noses of their sworded masters. The truth is that historically we know very, very little about actual ‘ninja’ but some of them at least were samurai-class and they more or less faded from existence once the Sengoku era ended (1603) leaving few traces behind. The mythological history is more fun for an RPG however, so we’ll go with that, and here we have another pre-rifts mystical tradition that Japan has carefully preserved when all other nations somehow lost their occult heritage.
Rifts ninja are split into the genin-chunin-jonin hierarchy and care only about completing their mission--killing is not required, but certainly not forbidden as long as it is in line with the work. Being captured does not require suicide unless the mission would otherwise be fully compromised; most ninja have false identities and move freely among the eta and others who work below polite society’s radar. The game also advises allowing a ninja player to conceal their actual OCC from the rest of the group and pretend to be a monk or ronin or something, party secrets always work well right. Or they can be openly ninjish, being all black-clad and face covered. I like that second one better because it’s so ridiculous--’hey weren’t there seven of you?’ ‘look in the corner’ ‘oh, right, i should move that gardenia’. Of course, either way the ninja player is going to have a secret mission that might cause party conflict. Failing to do their mission means ninja vengeance, which is surprisingly harsher than samurai get for going ronin--the samurai just gets walking papers, the ninja gets hunted down.
see? intra-party conflict
In return for accepting the shuriken, ninja get some powers of course. They can temporarily convert themselves to mega-damage, though their punches and kicks still do SDC. Three minutes per level, costs 35 PPE. They...also get to choose powers from the Art of Stealth every three levels. These are explained at the end of the book. The Art of Escape allows the ninja PC to learn self-dislocation of joints to squeeze into and out of things they have no business doing, plus knowing about knot-tying like good ninja scouts, and concealing small things. In 1D4 rounds they can escape from handcuffs, locked chains, ropes, or zipties automatically with no roll. Straightjackets and such take 1D4 rounds and a successful skill roll starting from 46%. This art also lets characters escape melee holds in one action and joint locks in a full round.
Mystic ninja are also psionic because of course they are. They get bio-regeneration and induce sleep, and gets one power from the physical category per level starting from 2, plus psi-sword at level 6. It’s not clear from the text if it starts out at full level 6 damage or not, I’d assume yes.
Since samurai get the way of the horse and the bow, the ninja get their own version. Their riding skill is identical, but they use a special shortbow and lose their bonuses to strike and halve rate of fire when shooting while moving or off-balance, they can’t even roll under skill like the samurai to keep it. They get some dodging, -3 to arrows and -6 to bullets and lasers. They shoot arrows a bit more slowly, two at level one and a more stately progression after that.
They also get two false identities they can assume, and it doesn’t specify which nation these are in--a lot of the assumptions here seem to suggest the ninja would be operating in the New Empire exclusively but I don’t see why they would, the government would want them going after enemies. They start out with 1D4x10+PE in PPE, which has a decent chance of leaving them without enough to do their mega-damage transform at first level and they’re specifically barred from using ley lines and other methods for bonus energy which the samurai are not.
Of course, since samurai get their fancy arts, ninja need some of that action and so we get tai-jutsu. This adds some bonuses to attributes, and gives hand-to-hand attacks that do some minimal damage, SDC of course. Death blow! makes a return, and the stat raises are comparable to the samurai bonii and give more impact to gaining levels than usual for martial characters. Of course only Asian fighters can have such power.
For the rest of CG stuff, ninja can be of any alignment, PP of 14 or higher is required which severely limits the non-cheaters who can qualify for this class, and it offers a fairly wide selection of skills--including the forbidden tech/medical/science skills that the New Empire is supposed to reject, though they “stick to ancient weapons” because magical ninja honor I guess.
They get rubber-soled tabi boots though, two pairs. Technology!! Also a bunch of disguises (I’m envisioning a selection of hilarious mustaches, even for the women), one (1) set of nondescript peasantish clothing, and a black or camo-colored ninja outfit. Weapons-wise they get 12 shuriken, two ancient weapons, a vibro-blade and 1D4 ‘Ninja emergency kits’ to be detailed later. The mystic ninja is flexible enough to use technology to some degree though they don’t rely on it heavily--it would start sticking out. Like, for instance, rubber-soled shoes. 2D6x100 starting credits means they won’t be loading up on too many hi-tech toys to start with.
Now we get an extended section on ninja equipment. This is just a listing of mundane versions of all the stuff ninja are supposed to get in their semi-plausible historical versions. Uniform, ‘emergency kits’ with smoke bombs and survival stuff, hang glider, climbing claws and spikes, still more heavily specialized climbing tools, caltrops. Most notable is the mundane eggshell bomb--save vs non-lethal poison (16 or higher) or be at -6 for an unspecified duration. A lot of creatures and people in armor will be immune to this, but not the samurai who are specifically not in a sealed suit. At 35 credits, you can just chuck these things around pretty freely.
Ninja gimmick clothing gets its own special section to tell us about how they can have concealed SDC armor, concealed pockets, concealed tools, expanding belts, fake stage blood packs (for whatever reason), reversible clothes, and shoe bomb compartments. This looks like a reprint from Ninjas & Superspies but it’s been too long for me to say for sure.
The ninja couldn’t stand up to the samurai in a fair fight and that seems as it should be. Given the psychic and magical powers at work in the world, I’m not sure their stealth abilities are all they’re cracked up to be if they’re just minor conversions of N&S material, and they probably are. With the suggestion of fermenting conflict with the ninja’s secret mission and the tedium that is having to run separate stealth missions for one player, I can’t recommend people play these. As a flavor element they were unavoidable.
Alien Rope Burn: Some are and some aren’t. Thankfully, it’s not a conversion of the ninja class in Ninjas & Superspies, which hilariously nerfed them into the Earth’s mantle in the revised edition. For example, they don’t get Prowl (i.e. stealth) automatically, and can only take it as a secondary skill with no bonuses! So in case you were wondering, the superspies win.
So we have samurai, ninja and ronin--three of the most recognizable stereotypes down. The ronin comes closest to not being essentialized mythologized crap and still gets the major combat stuff of the samurai, so it’s kind of the best of the bunch.
Next we’ll get into even more wildly ahistorical classes!
|# ¿ Feb 6, 2017 15:37|
I don't know why but I can't stop laughing at the whole idea of the standard-issue Ninja Gear Kit.
A long time ago in a silly-ish superheroes game we had an antagonist group called the Exploding Dragon clan. They exploded when defeated, see. The way their training went, they were allowed to create an Amazon wishlist full of ninja stuff and when they graduated they could order it and don their official Exploding Dragon (TM) kit.
|# ¿ Feb 6, 2017 15:57|
Rifts World Book 8: Japan Part 9: ‘We somehow forgot all the other directions’
So now we're going to go through several different priestly OCCs. I have complained in the past about Rifts completely failing to address religion even in circumstances that desperately required it. Now I wish it would shut the gently caress up because Siembieda is so clueless and incapable. This section took me months to write because it is racist and ill-informed, but also unimaginably tedious and repetitive.
Now we have the Bishamon Fighting Monk. The what now? I haven’t spent a lot of time reading about the sectarian conflicts within Japan but as far as some cursory searching can tell me, this group is basically something invented whole cloth in Rifts. There was probably some obscure sect they based this on, but now in Rifts Japan they’re “one of the most popular” religious groups active. “Bishamon” is the name of one of the four directional guardians, the guardian of the north. In Rifts Japan the other three have been forgotten, apparently going for unidirectional madness like Zax who carry literature. The fighting monks wander the countryside, heal the sick and battle demons...with aikido. They’re described as generally very jovial, humble, and willing to pitch in at any level to help out. They pretty much only wear Millennium Tree armor along with a brown robe, and use a two-handed sword or long spear to fight.
the mark of enlightenment is never opening your drat eyes
Again we get a list of special training and powers the Bishamon monks have. A lot of these feature lists are cribbed or inspired by Ninjas & Superspies which had some pretty buff character options for an SDC world. For Rifts, they’re just alright. The Bishamon monks have “Chi-Gung” as a way to toughen themselves. They automatically get +90 to SDC...and for 1 PPE every two minutes they can convert all their SDC to MDC. They get the ‘Chi M.D. Death Blow’ (somehow I think this must be a kung-fu medical procedural) and they can select some special martial arts powers at various higher levels.
Bishamon monks get a pretty broad selection of psionic powers, mostly those that heal, and decent ISP. PPE is PE x2 which is decent since only one of their powers uses one point every two minutes.
They get the special skills of Begging (10%), Fasting (33% to avoid weakening or getting sick after two weeks), Bishamon Meditation (20%) that lets them recover resources at a rapid rate, and “Oriental Philosophies” which is really a choice of Japanese mythology, magic lore, haiku poetry, go, or Zen gardening.
To be a Bishamon you must be human, human only, no bumpy-head d-bees even. They receive a selection of monkly skills including the option for Mystic Herbology from England, several changes of clothes, a backpack and some other survival gear and food. They have a Millennium Tree staff and an ancient weapon of choice. They also specifically always have a pouch of medical supplies and 1D6x5 non-magical herbs so have fun going through that stupid list in England and “the character is always interested in healing and magic potions, teas, herbs and ointments.” At 6th level, if they’ve shown sufficient sacrifice, they might get one of the better Millennium Tree staves. At no point does this equipment list mention getting the big sword or spear mentioned in the initial description aside from the one weapon of choice, which is an SDC implement and so useful for applying butter to bread. But not supernatural butter.
Money is not a large concern for the Bishamon monks. They might use some loot to better their gear since they are an adventuring class, but otherwise they give it away to the order or sometimes the needy. Also, there are no lady monks, it is just dudes all using Aikido on the monsters. As well, Aikido’s full bonuses are in the back of the book, in a section devoted to various martial art forms. That’s cool and all, it’s just more of Palladium’s schizophrenic organization.
Now we’re done with the Bishamon, we get to the sohei warrior monk. Now these were real dudes but they were specifically Buddhist which surely did not escape the writers here--
Rifts Japan posted:
a rifty rendition of a warrior dervish of some kind
The historical sohei were more or less the military arm of the Buddhist sects who were not under the jurisdiction of the emperor or the shogun and picked quite a few fights until 1603 when the Tokugawa stability more or less ended the need (and the tolerance) for their existence. They traveled in military groups with portable shrines that tended to keep ordinary non-monk soldiers away from them because committing violence in front of the shrine was a damning offense--unless it was monk-on-monk violence, then it was crushing the non-believers and that was cool. Rifts sohei are described more or less exactly like Bishamon monks, being lone wanderers who travel around helping people out, babysitting the kids or fighting demons or whatever.
We get some more of those lovely bafflingly specific stats--a typical temple will have 2D4 jodo masters at 1D4+9th level (yeesh), 4D6 experienced monks (1D4+5th level), 6D6 young monks (1D4+1 level), 1D4x10 1st level scrub monks and 1D6x10 novices with 1D4 years of training to go. Two large monasteries as well as a Bishamon monastery are located within a half mile of the Kyoto Millennium Tree with a big ole shinto complex dominating the tree proper. The sohei and Bishamon have been “friendly rivals” for generations. Man, if there was one thing the sohei did not do, it was friendly rivalry.
They are listed as wearing a knotted towel (that’s a weird way to spell ‘cowl’) over their shaved heads, often cut from Millennium leaf, and a white robe with a darker tan or brown outer robe, and carrying a naginata or staff, their ‘signature weapons’.
As is coming to be typical of Japan’s layout, Sohei receive a list of martial-arts powers. Theirs is jodo, “The way of the staff.” Rifts asserts that this was developed because the staff isn’t considered a weapon and so anyone can use and have one. This is false--it’s true the Tokugawa banned all non-samurai from carrying weapons of war, but part of that ban was because of the sohei, who pretty much carried the same kinds of weapons the samurai did.
They also get the Chi M.D. Death Blow (this will never not be funny to me), and a choice of one body hardening power at level 1. They also get the begging and fasting skills plus feng shui which permits evaluation of PPE flows in an area, including good/evilness, natural or not, and when people are using it. At least, if you can make the 15%+5% skill roll. They have sohei meditation and “oriental philosophies” as well, pretty much identically to the Bishamon monks.
The sohei have fairly low attribute requirements, a pretty scattered alignment range, and permit non-humans to join--women have their own orders (and separate OCC). Since they don’t have any default way of mystically MDCing themselves up, it’s not a bad idea to choose a naturally MDC race like Wormwood Human. Sohei get a fairly obvious selection of monkly skills, plus jiujitsu (explained later) which can be changed to ‘teng-jutsu’ at the cost of three ‘other’ skill choices.
For equipment, they get a suit of MDC armor, typically Millennium-based, at 6th level they get a set of 120M DC bark armor. This is worn under the robes. They have some minimal clothing and supplies, a naginata, the Millennium staff, and that’s about it. At 6th level they might get a cooler Millennium staff. Honestly, making up a few other variant magic staves would have been nice for this book and also for in general.
They have almost no money (3D4x10 credits) and tend to be given free food and shelter anywhere they go (at least in the New Empire) and have their material needs met by communities grateful to have them around.
The sohei warrior nun comes right after this with a big flop. They’re basically identical to the male version but they learn a few different skills, including cooking and sewing. The sohei females tend to be focused on homestead arts, teaching, crafting and whatever but wandering adventure nuns do exist. Honestly this didn’t need to be a separate class and the sohei on the whole are just markedly inferior to the Bishamon monks--the Bishamon get natural MDC, psionics, healing herbs, the ability to have money of their own, and the magic staff guaranteed, and aikido is grossly overpowered even (and perhaps especially) compared to 'teng-jutsu'.
not a monastery
The last priestly OCC is the Yamabushi Mountain Priest. These guys are followers of the Shugendō religion, which is a syncretic mystery religion that focuses heavily on ascetic discipline in order to seek enlightenment. Another term for followers of this religion is familiar: shugenja. The yamabushi tend to focus on oneness with nature through various tests or trials of discipline. The book gets this much more or less right, then immediately compares them to western druids. This is one of those weird classes that is described as being mostly non-combat. The yamabushi maintain no temples or monasteries and wander alone through the countryside, assisting the people they meet along the way as followers of peace. They will sometimes join small groups of adventurers just to see where the wind carries them, and some of the more towny members of the New Empire think they’re uncouth unwashed mountain weirdoes, which is accurate, and they’re also suspicious of the yamabushi accepting basically anything into their order, and consorting with tengu, goblins, fairies--basically whatever walks the earth and doesn’t try to kill them.
In this respect they can be useful to rural communities by trying to find nonviolent solutions to disputes. For this reason apparently they are widely feared by various demons and oni. These guys (they’re not all guys I guess but in general) tend to go for the hobo-chic, with fairly ragged clothing, poor hygiene, long hair worn loose and plenty of trail dirt and clinging grass. They don’t have any particular uniform to identify them.
They get supernatural powers of course, that’s the whole point. These powers use PPE though they are expressed as not being “magic” in the classical sense. W’ev.
Phew, that seems to be it for this stupid class’s powers. These are so random and weird and often useless and they take up multiple pages of rambly nonsense. Further statistical data: they get normal mediocre PPE, some bonuses to save vs Horror Factor, possession, and elemental magic and they can’t be psionic.
Oh wait, there’s a couple more:
Equal split between men and women, generally scrupulous or unprincipled, no minimum attributes. Any race may become yamabushi if they really want to eat rocks and sit on rocks and look closely at rocks for days at a time. They get some various selections from Siembieda’s idea of medieval Japanese skills, a few other sorts of skills, a small pouch filled with 20-30 small stones (BUT NO MORE), clothes, no starting armor, several empty sacks (MORE STONES), a backpack (not for stones), water skin and rations. For weapons they get a skinning knife, butcher knife, a small combat knife, a frying pan, grappling hook and cord (for climbing), mallet and wood or iron stakes (for climbing), small hand axe (for chopping wood and climbing), wood or iron staff, and weapon of choice (reflective of WP) (for climbing)
They get no money and no cybernetics because they are rolling monks who acquire no moss.
This class is nuts, packed with useless and weird powers based on an esoteric minor sect in Japan. I mean doing some background research for the write-up, the faith they’re sort of inspired by sounds interesting in its way but not nearly this insane and I can’t help but wonder what old orientalist book on Japanese religions Siembieda dug out of early 90s Wisconsin to come up with this writeup. Probably from the same place he got his dictionary. There’s also no non-wandering priest class, all religion is itinerant I guess.
Next time: Another OCC and their mysteeeeelious arts.
|# ¿ Feb 7, 2017 17:27|
Rifts World Book 8: Japan Part 10: “Most Demon Quellers have a weakness for beautiful women”
So, today we are visiting the Demon Queller OCC. He is a “truly unique character,” as no other class in this game line or even this chapter is devoted to fighting demons, no sir. These are monastically trained demon fighters and 70% of their monasteries are located in China. That’s almost more specific info about China than we’ve learned anywhere else to date. Anyway, these guys really hate demons, because gently caress demons that’s why, they’re gonna kill them some demons, and when they’re done, they’ll go kill EVEN MORE demons.
But hey, just because they love to hate demons doesn’t mean they don’t like to party! They totally like to party. So much that demons will send girls out to party with them as spies or maybe hold a maiden hostage because they will do anything for the ladies. This is why Demon Quellers usually travel alone, or join forces with other heroes and demon slayers. Nobody knows how many of these hard-partying demon-quelling dudes there are, but maybe a lot! Maybe a whole lot but nobody knows, not even the demons.
The stereotypical Demon Queller is a large, muscular man, usually of Chinese (emphasis theirs) or Japanese heritage with a wild, bushy beard and mustache. They wear ornate silk robes (because armor is for pussies and demons), a “Chinese scholar’s cap”, and large black boots. They are loud, direct and outspoken, as one is after a monastic upbringing. When not fighting demons, they party. Their favorite weapons are large swords, axes, and polearms. Bonus round question: Which Dynasty Warriors character am I?
Alien Rope Burn: I’m 98% positive this is Yin Chik-ha, the ghost hunter from 1987’s A Chinese Ghost Story.
Theoretically women can become Demon Quellers but nobody in Japan has ever seen one.
To the Powers List!
That’s actually it. After the yamabushi this is astonishingly brief. They get very modest PPE, but since the main thing they have to spend it on is hardening their muscles every two minutes (eight torturous Palladium rounds) they won’t burn through it all that fast. Unless they want to exorcise something, in which case they better be on a nexus. They get some modest combat bonii, plus immunity to possession (actually pretty strong in a world with Alien Intelligences everywhere), and immunity to vampire bites and mind control. +1 to save vs. other kinds of mind control, like sexy lady mind control.
Alignment is again on the scrupulous-unprincipled-anarchist axis. ME 14 and PS 12 to play. Any race and any gender may theoretically join, but most of them fail the critical ‘looking like Guan Yu’ requirement in some fashion. Their skills are primarily non-technical martial, and despite being completely devoted to doing nothing but fighting and flipping out on people they are forbidden to take acrobatics and boxing.
They ‘seldom wear armor’ because that 200-some MDC is going to last all day. They do get a silk robe, several sets of general clothing, boots, gloves, rope, sacks, backpacks, survival gear, and if they can ride a horse they are generously allotted a horse. Weaponswise they get a “high-quality, large sword (or two)” which leaves them still SDC weapons they probably shouldn’t break on demon hides, a knife, and three weapons of choice, which can be vibro-blades or guns or other modern tools. 2D6x1000 credits to start, and while they often make a lot of money, they often spend it lavishly. Other less well-compensated OCCs with very similar roles sometimes resent the Demon Queller.
This class would be balanced and decent if enemies in Rifts did not all have such incredibly inflated MDC totals, and if technological characters didn’t start out with much, much better stuff both in armor and weaponry. Why be a dinky little bearded drunk guy when you could be a SAMAS pilot with more MDC, the ability to fly at 200MPH, a railgun and missile barrages? Yes, I did just answer my own question there but statistically the Demon Queller doesn’t really live up to their fluff text, which is par for the Rifts course.
Tengu are a famous feature of Japanese mythology, occupying a number of different roles depending on the legend in question, sometimes as trickster, sometimes teacher, always mysterious. In Rifts they “tease, criticize, mock, annoy and play practical jokes on Buddhist priests (ancient rivals of the Shintoists who are their friends) and those “who worship technology.” They especially hate posers who claim to be priests, ninja or samurai but use power armor or cyber-limbs or anything else.
Tengu pranks tend to be ridiculously annoying, like moving things even to the point of tossing them into tree branches, tying shoelaces together, turning on gun safeties (), setting fires (hilarious prank!) and enjoying the chaos. The text refers to them often as ‘mountain goblins’ which seems a bit reductive.
They also hate Chinese and Indian mystical creatures and gods. Just, because. Especially Garuda and the ‘t’ien-kou’ Celestial Dog which is not statted in this book.
Of course, if you’re a “true” samurai, mystic ninja, or one of those other numerous wandering luddite classes that clings to the fairyland image of Japan, they show respect. Others who seem close to nature get less shade thrown as well, including druids, psi-stalkers (?!), Dog-boys (lotta those around Japan), simvan, and Wolfen--but not the other canids I guess. The good-aligned ones are also nice to poor people.
They protect Shinto buildings and sometimes help out monks and priests by doing chores or leaving food. Sometimes they even provide religious instruction directly. Good-aligned ones again tend to protect humans from demons and even from the worst depredations of their own brethren. Also, because they’re all martial artists and weapon masters.
Evil tengu are just dicks, whose pranks often turn dangerous or vile such as kidnapping children as slaves. People leave them offerings to try and get them to leave, but basically they’re jerks who are more creative than the usual ‘enjoys torturing and killing people’ level of Rifts monster.
Apparently a bunch of them are supposed to live on Mt. Kurama, and playing a gleeful prankster is noted as a delightful diversion to lighten up any group! Everyone loves kender after all. Evil ones of course make nice NPC villains who can create a lot of chaos.
On to the powers!
[*] Shape-change into a human: They often take the form of religious persons matching the tengu’s own biological sex. 12 hrs duration, and they can only appear Asian. Good thing that’s a narrow category with little variation. Limited to between 6 ft and 3 ft (!) tall.
[*] Possess Others: They can possess people, how charming. This only allows speech through the affected person’s mouth, and only on a willing victim, or one asleep, unconscious, or in a trance. One minute per level, and they speak and language the host does. I can't see the point of this unless there's a language barrier maybe but--nah.
[*] Spells: they have several spells they know instinctively and can teach to others if they wish.
[*] Teng-jutsu: They have a special martial art all their own which I’ll get to in a minute, and NPC tengu also know another art in addition. Go for that sweet aikido.
They get pretty good PPE, some pretty strong natural bonuses including immunity to normal fire and half from magical and mega-damage fire. They also fatigue at 1/10th the rate of humans, not that we have a lot of mechanics for that.
We heard a lot in the fluff text about good- and evil-aligned tengu; turns out 3% are principled, 12% scrupulous, 20% unprincipled, 30% anarchist, 5% aberrant, 20% miscreant, and 10% diabolic. So the scale’s a bit tipped.
They get good attribute rolls (PP 2D6+12), natural MDC of 3D4x10+PE, nightvision, see the invisible, sense supernatural, and regen 3D6 MD per hour. They naturally punch for 1D4 MD and kick for 1D6. They get a lot of old-timey skills though can also learn sciences, and “Technical: Any (+10%) except computers or any tech skills.” Okay.
They are prominently described as having wings but nowhere in this statblock do they have the ability to fly. They get almost nothing for equipment and are described as a bit magpie-like in being drawn to silk and shiny stuff, but they don’t usually hoard.
So the tengu, being Oriental mountain-goblins, have a secret martial art all their own. They also gain all special powers for the art at level 1, versus making everyone else wait to get their stuff. They do get bonuses at every level but they are fairly average.
The specal powers are:
[*]Tengu acrobatics, giving even more bonuses but not as many as the default Acrobatics skill.
[*]Tengu Leap: 10 ft +2 per level.
[*]Tengu Automatic Leap Dodge: An automatic dodge done acrobatically with accompanying wisecracks. This is confusingly phrased: “Each leaping dodge uses up one melee attack, but can be done indefinitely to avoid attack and damage as if it were a parry.” I--okay. I guess you lose one attack a round for automatic dodges thereafter? It also says that the tengu often use this to frustrate and anger opponents, making snide remarks at every missed attack, much like an entire race of Nightwings. “A frustrated or angry opponent tends to become reckless, will tire himself out foolishly, and focus on his leaping opponent rather than what’s happening around him.” No mechanical support for this statement.
Alien Rope Burn: I swear I’ve read this mechanic like ten times trying to figure out what the everliving gently caress they were trying to convey and I’m still coming up with nothing.
[*]Tengu Timed Leap: I’m seeing a theme here. This is a carefully timed leap meant to make an opponent strike something inopportune, like a rock, or another opponent. Only a +2 and PP bonuses allowed, no other bonii.
[*]Tengu Kick Attack: Instead of punching, they can use kicks. Amazing. Add 1D6 MDC if you’re a tengu, SDC if you’re a meatbag.
[*]Tengu Power Kick: Humans can do 2D6 MDC, Tengu do 5D6, and it counts as two attacks.
[*]Tengu Power Punch: 1D4 MD for humans, 2D6 for tengu, two attacks. Absolutely no reason to use this over the kick unless you fear enemies seeing your petticoats.
So 'teng-jutsu' isn't all tha great on the scale of Palladium martial arts honestly, Rifts always makes a huge deal out of ordinary humans being able to do MDC with punches and kicks but it's always so little as to be meaningless. All the other stuff, various kinds of jumping around, aren't much more than flash. The Automatic Leap Dodge might be good if you could ever figure out what the hell they actually mean by it, but the type of player who would choose a tengu is likely the sort who would make unendurable bad wisecracks every dodge roll so it's probably better if you don't try and figure it out.
Next: NOW we get to the Republic of Japan.
|# ¿ Feb 8, 2017 15:16|
Yeah, I noted it wayyy back in my review of Triax & the NGR, but I didn't know of those variants, thanks! Likely the later artists of Rifts World Book 8: Japan didn't know about the swipe or were trying to avoid it. The Ulti-Max from Rifts Sourcebook is also reminiscent of the MADOX - I noted it felt like a swipe at the time of that review, l but didn't recognize what.
I just think it's funny that after several books of Kevin Long anime-rip mecha, the Japan ones are all very Westernized designs meant to 'look Japanese'.
|# ¿ Feb 15, 2017 20:17|
Alien Rope Burn posted:
I just...why did they give the crab tank fists!? I had forgotten about that. Is it a boxing crab? They don't even shoot out rocket-punch style. Fisticrabs is heresy!
|# ¿ Feb 16, 2017 22:57|
What's really funny is we have this entire section for two classes that get one (1) of these powers at level 14. Look forward to that, Bishamon dudes!
|# ¿ Feb 18, 2017 00:22|
I've been behind on the thread for like a week which is too bad, because the Nazca are kind of cool which is what I remembered from before--relatively egalitarian, willing to use technology and magic for the greater good, protected by neon space kaiju, (though I remember the stat blocks for those being somewhat underwhelming for things that were supposed to fight space ships) and working directly with their gods who are less dicks and stereotypes than the other pantheons to date. I mean it's still not great writing but Carella actually explained how the government worked to some degree, which a lot of Rifts nations don't, just saying 'there's a King or a Shogun or something but also a Board, I dunno'.
It's also kind of peak weird Rifts gonzo with mummies and returned gods and space wizards and kobold aliens and all that kind of thing.
|# ¿ Mar 1, 2017 22:09|
The Incas' population includes a lot of post-Rifts survivors who had been native to the region doesn't it? They would remember, though that seems like a simplistic rendering of NA/SA relations, particularly in a world that long ago lost its old national boundaries. Then again, wasn't the Time of Rifts started by some kind of brushfire war the US was involved in down in Brazil or something? Mostly though, that reads like another one of Siembieda's arbitrary 'good guys don't like each other because I said so' moments.
|# ¿ Mar 4, 2017 19:44|
I would absolutely watch this movie
|# ¿ Mar 9, 2017 14:14|
The space-time capybara and the lone vengeance dinosaur should do a buddy cop show. The DA would have to be one of the birdmans of course.
|# ¿ Mar 10, 2017 01:40|
The colloquial definition is usually a game produced by somebody who's only played one (or a few) games and so develops a game that's has some new idea they've had that will change gaming as we know it!... except if they'd played other games, they'd know "D&D without classes" ain't a new notion. Or alternately, they have some idea that's generally kind of cool tacked onto a bunch of outdated or flawed mechanics.
This is more how I perceive 'heartbreaker', like I recall the original essay stating that these broke the writer's heart because they clearly were such a labor of misguided, myopic, poorly-researched love...the creators were obviously very enthused about the hobby and dropped a decent chunk of change on printings (those writings having all predated POD by several years at least) and hoping to gain fame and recognition as pro-tier RPG writers or whatever. In that sense, it broke the original essayists's heart to read them, and probably the creators' as well to see their babies ignored, maligned and forgotten. They don't even have the infamy of FATAL.
|# ¿ Mar 17, 2017 00:24|
|# ¿ Dec 5, 2023 05:35|
I only just now managed to catch up on F&F thread. Juicer Uprising was the first book of the Rifts line I didn't buy when it came out (I think I might have skipped Index & Adventures too but I am not sure I ever even saw that one in store) partly because I was moving away to college and losing my group that would sometimes play Rifts, or at least attempt it, and partly because Juicer Uprising? Really? There are enough Juicers to form an uprising? In the core book they were just drug-addled mercs with one decent ability and didn't seem nearly interesting enough to devote that much space to--the Juicer sports and such are kind of interesting, and expanding on some of the various 'kingdoms' around the CS was alright, though of course then we get more Coalition-wanking later. This is new ground in the line for me though so keep going ARB.
I'm also glad someone is doing Atlantis--I like the setting for trying to do a sword & sorcery world that jettisons some of the problematic aspects of 'traditional' S&S and also goes for different source material instead of trying to ram in Tolkien standbys in loincloths. They also have a great name for the monster manual--The Theragraphica, though the magenta title font on the book cover is...unfortunate.
I also kickstarted the Atlantis main book and I got the shipping notice, but didn't get any package for over a week--because of my dumbass sister. I had contacted Jerry Grayson by this point and he just sent me a replacement, no questions asked, so that when dumbass sister remembered she had my package I had two copies. I sent one back with a note and an apology since that wasn't his fault. The KS fulfillment was pretty solid as well, minimal delays and pretty clear timeline.
|# ¿ May 2, 2017 23:27|