Sunday, December 20, 2009

The RPG Library: Rifts Lone Star - World Book 13

This is the first installment of the RPG Library, a new series of posts in which I plan to discuss all the great books from a wide assortment of RPGs that I have snapped up at the local used book stores recently to use for inspiration in my Mutant Future campaign.

Both Emerald Comics and Second-Story Books  here in the Eugene/Springfield area have great selections of Palladium's Rifts books, and I recently picked up a handful of them to mine for ideas.  Let me first say that Kevin Siembieda must have been one hard workin' dude.  How many game books can one man write?  Not to mention that he seems to have done quite a lot of the illustrations as well.

I never played Rifts (or any non-Dungeons & Dragons RPG, for that matter) when I was growing up; the only way I even knew about it was watching a few high schoolers play when I was in 8th grade and taking a computer class over at the high school.  The cover art was awesome, and I loved the stuff I was hearing about giant robots, lasers and missiles.  Unfortunately, there was no gaming store in my small home town in Alaska and the internet was not really a thing yet.  So I kept trucking along with D&D, eventually creating my own variants on the rules to play in a futuristic sci-fi world of my own creation.  When my parents sent me down a huge box full of my old gaming stuff recently, I was pleased to re-discover the material I wrote for this homebrew sci-fi D&D; perhaps I will post some of that stuff soon, it was pretty cool and could be converted easily to Mutant Future.  But I digress.

One of the Rifts books I ended up with is Rifts Lone Star (World Book 13)

The single biggest problem with using this book as a source for Mutant Future material is that the Palladium system is quite different from the B/X D&D heritage from whence Mutant Future sprang by way of Labyrinth Lord.  Rifts uses a skill based system, and the damage and HP equivalents are so different as to be more or less unusable.  This book provides great inspiration, but you will have to make your own game stats for the creatures you find within.  On the positive side, I could easily see running an entire Mutant Future campaign set in post-apocalyptic Texas using this book.  The book has two main focuses: the "Lone Star" military complex, a huge underground military research facility; and the major NPCs and factions present in the area complete with their goals and motivations.

For my purposes, the section on the Lone Star military complex is pure gold.  It has a lot of parallels with the military complex that my players have been exploring - it is a self-contained complex with its own nuclear power plants, hospitals, barracks and extensive research labs.  It is, however, quite a bit bigger than my complex (30 square miles!).  There is a short history of the complex, detailing its discovery by the Coalition States (a pseudo-fascist regime that has sprung up centered around the ruins of Chicago in the Rifts setting), but it would be easy enough to strip the setting details (which are pretty minimal anyway) away and use this in any Mutant Future campaign.  The book does not present maps and keys of the complex, but it does have an extremely useful list of all the major features of each level.  I think I could run months worth of sessions with nothing but some unkeyed floor plans, some encounter tables and these lists, improvising the details as I went.  I will certainly be using them for the two large areas of my complex that the players have yet to explore, the Alien Weapons division and the Trojan Horse project.  So you get an idea of what I am talking about, here is the short list for level five of the Lone Star complex:

"Underground Level Five:  GED (Genetics Engineering Division)

  • Huge state of the art Genetics Research Facility subdivided into numerous small labs.
  • Secondary Cloning Labs
  • Forensic Medicine
  • Cybernetic R&D Center (Experimental Works & Bio-Systems)
  • Bionic R&D Center (experimental
  • Small Crazie/MOM [M.O.M. is explained as a program designed to create controlled mutations in a test subject, which has been spectacularly unsuccessful so far!] conversion Studies Center
  • Confinement Hospital for Experimental Test Subjects, with isolation wards.
  • Small Interrogation area.
  • GECA (Genetic Experiment Containment Areas): Several small and large, prison-like housings and habitats mainly for experimental mutants and exotic animals for study; medium security.
  • Zoo and Lab Animal Pens
  • Housing for Science and Research Staff.
  • Mess Halls and Restaurants
  • Recreation Areas, Gyms & Theaters
  • Level Five Life Support"
One of the great things about the Rifts books (and all the Palladium books in general that I have picked up) is the amount of artwork included.  There are a lot of quality black and white drawings in this book - here is one of my favorites, showing one of those GECA containment areas mentioned above (I love the scientist with his jaw dropped and the papers spilling out).

The Coalition States have been conducting their own genetic research in the facility, and the book details quite a few mutant animal warriors that have been created, focusing mostly on the Dog Boys.  Covering the creation of Dog Boys, how they are raised and trained, detailed information about their life cycle and more, this is one of the lengthiest chapters in the book.  This section is going to be transferred almost whole cloth into my game, and could serve as an inspiration for any Mutant Lord.

Dog Boys or Psi-Hounds are mutant dog-men that serve as special forces for the Coalition States in Rifts.  In my game they have just been created by Julius Corple as he continues the experiments that he has been running ever since his mutations occurred.

Fascinated by the alien virus that he has identified as the cause of the mutations, he has made more progress in a few short weeks than the Ooh-Oh Monks have made in hundreds of years toward understanding and controlling mutations.  At his disposal he has the immense computing power of the super-computers in his old labs in the military complex, the genetic sequences of nearly every animal that existed before the FDF7 virus mutated and began changing the genetic structure of all living organisms, and the brains of several crack military commandos fully uploaded into computers and ready to be inserted into whatever body he can create.  The Dog Boys are the first stable mutant creature he created and he has made four "models", each with the brain of a different soldier and a body mutated from a different breed of dog.  I will post complete Mutant Future game stats for them at a later time.  Corple is currently finishing up a modified body armor that will fit the dogs.

There are also Ursa-Warriors (mutant bears),

 Battle Cats (mutant felines),

 Monkey Boys (mutant primates, which I have already covered in my facility with the Warangutans and the War Chimps, but I have been planning on having the party run into one of the War Gorrilla Enforcers for a while and now I have a great illustration to use!) ,

Mutant Bats

and Mutant Rats (these are presented as a vicious and anarchistic by nature, and a large group of them escaped from the labs and have built extensive warrens in and under the unfinished lowest levels of the complex)

Of particular use to Mutant Lords is the discussion of cloning and animal genetic enhancements.  You could take this list and create an army of custom genetically engineered animal warriors, no two alike, to wreak havoc on your unsuspecting PCs!  These enhancements are discussed in mostly game neutral terms, and would be easily converted to Mutant Future.

The section on the Lone Star complex also includes a lavishly illustrated chapter of the weapons and armor used by the Coalition State forces stationed there, and several pages of hoverbikes!

When are they going to come out with a real life hoverbike already?

The second half of the book focuses on the NPCs and factions active in the area, starting with prominent Coalition States personnel before moving on to the bandit lords that are the defacto rulers of most of the Lone Star Territory (the areas controlled by the bandits are collectively known as the "Pecos Empire")and the alien races that have emerged from the rifts to stalk the badlands. Each major NPC detailed has a portrait and a section of "adventure notes" that provide a dozen or so adventure hooks that would make it easy to drop any one of these guys into your game.  This section could be used as a springboard for a whole campaign based in post-apocalyptic Texas; there is a lot of good stuff here, including random bandit gang generation methods and an overview of the complex relationships between the larger gangs.  Also included is a geographic overview of the area, with maps and a gazetteer that provides brief descriptions of the most important locations (the page on the "Haunted Ruins of Dallas" is very inspirational) - this is very useful stuff that would need little to no conversion to use in Mutant Future.

I suppose I should conclude this with some sort of numerical review, so I will steal James' review format from Grognardia;

Presentation: 8 out of 10
Creativity: 9 out of 10
Utility (for Mutant Future scavenging purposes): 8 out of 10


  1. Nice review - looking forward to seeing more post apoc resources! Rifts really has some evocative artwork!

  2. Nice write-up. I've got this one also and your are spot on with your assessment.

  3. I have to agree: Great artwork.
    I particularly like the bear and the cat.

  4. This is definitely one of my favorite Rifts sorucebooks. The first monster illo you posted (as well as the hoverbike picture) are Ramon Perez, far and away the best artist Rifts ever had. I did a whole post on his stuff earlier this year.

  5. @sirlarkins

    Thanks for the link! That post is a great collection of Perez artwork. I often find that a good illustration is, as they say, worth a thousand words when it comes to inspiring me while preparing for a game session.

  6. I agree with you guys,
    Ramon Perez is awesome. Sadly I don't think he is doing art for Rifts anymore, the recent books haven't had him that I've seen anyway.

  7. Yeah, it seems he's moved on to bigger fish. His website lists "CLIENTELE include but are not limited to Marvel Comics, DC Comics, Wildstorm Comics, Dark Horse Comics, Owl Kids Magazine, Risk Insurance Magazine, Hasbro, Lucasfilm LLC, Wizards of the Coast, Palladium Books Inc., Alderac Entertainment Group, and Steve Jackson Games."

    Shame. I would've loved to see him become a Palladium house artist, but I suppose he's got to go where the money and career opportunities are.



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