Rifts Coalition Wars 5: Shadows of Evil by Alien Rope Burn
"It has become a murderous vendetta driven by a demonic lust for blood and revenge, and many want no part of it."Original SA post
Coalition Wars 5: Shadows of Evil posted:
So if the Coalition is evil...
Coalition Wars 5: Shadows of Evil posted:
Violence, War, Magic & the Supernatural
... and Tolkeen is evil...
Coalition Wars 5: Shadows of Evil posted:
The fictional world of Rifts® is violent, deadly and filled with supernatural monsters. Other-dimensional beings often referred to as "demons," torment, stalk and prey on humans. Other alien life forms, monsters, gods and demigods, as well as magic, insanity, and war are all elements in this
... why are characters supposed to care about what happens?
Coalition Wars 5: Shadows of Evil posted:
Some parents may find the violence, magic and supernatural elements of the game inappropriate for young readers/players. We suggest parental discretion.
I mean, maybe they're just mercenaries exploiting the situation, but clearly that's not the intent.
Coalition Wars 5: Shadows of Evil posted:
Please note that none of us at Palladium Books® condone or encourage the occult, the practice of magic, the use of drugs, or violence.
I guess Cyber-Knight Refugee Evacuation Crisis would have just taken up too much real estate on the cover, tho.
Coalition Wars 5: Shadows of Evil, Part 1- "It has become a murderous vendetta driven by a demonic lust for blood and revenge, and many want no part of it."
Well, here we are. After a full book of just wheel-spinning with the Cyber-Knights, what do we have here?
Really, I imagine Siembieda envisioned this as six books because, hey, that's a nice number. Six is a very nice number. We don't have nearly six books of content, which is why we just spent a book educating readers on the Code of Chivalry according to a Michiganian game developer. Tolkeen won in book 3 and the Coalition gets to win in book 6, the only book that really matters. So what do we do in the meantime?
SPIN DEM TIRES GUYS
"They're trying to murder us for trying to murder them, is this legal?!"
The Coming Storm
So, this book is supposed to be the "calm before the storm", where the "calm" is "nothing happening". Well, okay, some things are happening. Mainly, Tolkeen's army is starting to fall apart. Some are leaving because they think the war is over, others are disillusioned by Tolkeen working with eeevil monsters and slaughtering retreating troops, and lastly, some mercenaries have come to the conclusion they're not getting paid and are looting and leaving.
You know, it's kind of funny that slaughter of retreating Coalition troops is treated as a moral break point, when it turns out the Coalition is going to be back again. Yeah, if they had legitimately retreated, sure, but they're honestly regrouping, not retreating. Killing surrendering troops is definitely capital "b" bad, but... well, they do capture a good number of troops.
It just falls flat when it's clear the Coalition still intends to wipe Tolkeen off the map. Speaking of which, the Coalition Army is recovering. Though they lost half the invasion force when Jericho Holmes' force was forced into the Xiticix Hivelands, and there's been the distraction of an assassination attempt against Emperor Karl and another against members of his family, they're reinforcing their troops along the Mississippi. In addition, it turns out the Tolkeen plot to lure the Xiticix to Chi-Town failed due to Coalition agents. This is despite having a whole plot involving the PCs in Coalition Wars 4: Cyber-Knights; canon takes over and renders their involvement needless. The Coalition Army will be back to the original levels of the first invasion force fairly soon. But where are they getting all these troops from when they're fighting a two-front war? Well, don't worry about that, I guess...
"It's not a hellscape, son, it's a free sulphur sauna!"
The Kingdom of Tolkeen
So, Tolkeen was originally formed from five "baronies". How did people become barons? Nevermind that! Who are these barons? They sound important... well, no. Don't worry about them too much. They're not. Why aren't they important? Will you stop asking questions, straw man, I have a book to review!
Anyway, they're Mizereen to the Southeast, Rivereen to the Southwest, Tolkeen in the middle, Markeen in the North, and Wildwoods towards the Northwest. So many -eens.
Where most of the fighting took place was in Mizereen - yes, despite most of the fighting happening here, this is our first time discussing it - and became a blasted zone known as "The Barrens". Not "The Barreens"? I'm disappointed in you, writers, that was a real softball and you whiffed it. Also, it's "Mizereen" because of misery!... well, okay, I don't know that, but I presume so. Furthermore, Tolkeen has used elemental and other magic to make a lot of fortifications... which seems like a questionable use of resource when the Coalition can just fly around in their giant skull transports, but I'm no wizard-general. In theory they seem to think flying vehicles are dangerously "out in the open", which... not really? At least, we haven't seen that Tolkeen has any counter to air forces other than their own air forces. In any case, we get a lot of details on these magically mega-damage fortifications, which mainly consist of:
- Spikes of Stone:, which are four to seven foot-tall stone spears sticking out of the ground to slow advancements. They seem to be big enough to help as cover, though...
- Giant (Flat-Topped) Mounds: So, these are tall buttes used as elevated scout and firing points for Tolkeen troops, as well as landing pads for air support.
- Towers of Stone: These are smaller versions of the above, sometimes clustered together.
Given the subtle appearance of creatures from the "western" World Books, I think we have repurposed art here.
Next: Just roll % until your fingers bleed.
"This is no monster to be scoffed at or dismissed, the Demon Beaver of Nez Perce legend is a fiend to be reckoned with."Original SA post
Coalition Wars 5: Shadows of Evil, Part 2- "This is no monster to be scoffed at or dismissed, the Demon Beaver of Nez Perce legend is a fiend to be reckoned with."
Know your -eens.
These are sites where thousands of Coalition Skelebots were cut down in big battles, and the main focus here is... well, the Skelebot Graveyard Salvage Table to enable the search for loot. Granted, we already had salvage tables back in Rifts World Book 3: Sorcerers' Revenge, but these are... different tables! We also get notes that the Tolkeen military pays a bit more than the Black Market (as detailed on tables wayyy back in the Rifts corebook) but that bandits will pay less.
So let's say we have a four-person party searching for eight hours, which gives us 4 rolls. What's listed is the sale price.
- 1 Triax TX-24 Ion Pulse Pistol with 4 full E-Clips. Worth roughly 6,500 credits.
- 2 C-12 Heavy Coalition Assault Laser Rifles, with one empty E-Clip and one full E-Clip. Worth about 5,500 credits.
- Usable robot or machine parts but only if you have somebody with the Mechanical or Electrical Engineering skill to recognize such. Worth 7,000 credits.
- ATV Speedster Hover Cycle with a 10% M.D.C. loss. Jackpot. Worth about 175,000 credits.
- Tolkeen Graveyard Trap: This are some demons that were summoned to ambush those sneaking around ruins - six in total. There might be alu (evil mega-damage wolf-people), lasae (eight-inch evil bug-men that love going after eyes or genitals), or shedim (evil male harpies). Not that tough an encounter, all things told - a combat-ready group should make short work of these.
- 3 Coalition Skelebots: A pretty easy encounter, though it's definitely some wandering damage if the skelebots successfully ambush them.
- Tolkeen Stone Tower Trap: A seemingly abandoned tower that has a 6th level Earth Warlock, a 2nd level Water Warlock, 2 minor Earth Elementals, and 4 Tolkeen soldiers lying in wait for any Coalition soldiers to investigate it, or "scare off" others. If only we had stats for Tolkeen forces... well, make 'em up yourself, GMs!The elementals would absolutely the worst threat here, though Coalition groups would presumably have some kind of power armor or robot vehicle to match them.
Siembieda literally has Burles doing forts and wastelands here. Really?
Monster Encounter and Adventure Table
Most of this isn't about the table, but instead, is a long section of advice on Siembieda on how to use monsters. He gives several suggestions. One, using monsters as just combat encounters to "spice up the action" and liven things up. Secondly, come up with some role and motivation for the monster as a guardian, follower, slave, avenger, etc. Maybe the monster is the wronged part or being manipulated, and isn't an outright Bad Guy. Alternately, they might try to manipulate the characters by faking that. He suggests making sure you think about how the monster relates to the area and what consequences might come of dealing with them.
Rifts Coalition Wars 5: Shadows of Evil posted:
See how easy it is to take just a simple encounter and spin it into something much more than a brief interlude to "kill the monster." These are the kinds of questions I ask myself whenever I write a story or build an adventure, whether it is for publication or a night of gaming. - Kevin Siembieda
Which is solid advice for building encounters into hooks. Though, if every encounter is a tweeest, then players will harden to that. In any case, you better hope you're up on your Rifts books, because the actual random monster table references well over a dozen other books, including Rifts Coalition Wars 6... and though I suppose it's nice to have some future-proofing, it's a bit much for a table that already spans enough books to be considered a teenager. Also, you may say, we already had random encounter tables for Random Villain Encounter Table or the Random Encounters with Tolkeen's Magic & Supernatural Forces. But this is a new table just for monsters! Totally different!
"I'm sure they would have done the same to us, if they had done the same to us!"
Lake & River Danger Zones
Because of the wide array of lakes and rivers in Minnesota, small-scale naval actions are hardly unheard of. Aside from a pitch to make sure you buy Rifts World Book 4: Coalition Navy, Tolkeen uses water elementals, and has Simvan Monster Riders and Shifters employ aquatic monsters. We get some details on the creatively-named River Masters, a Simvan tribe that used to trouble Tolkeen but has become strange bedfellows with them thanks to the Coalition threat. They get extra free water skills if you decide to play one, so if you're going to play a Simvan, may as well write yourself up a River Master and score yourself a swim percentage.
Next, we have the Random Lake & River Monster Encounters. It notes that monsters might be under the control of Tolkeen spellcasters if they like. Once again, this list covers over a half-dozen books, trying to pack in every aquatic monster that could vaguely fit... and some that don't make much sense, like a Demon Bear that's a polar bear, a too-big-for-lakes Horned Demon-Fish mysteriously summoned by wizards or something, and... Sedna, the Sea Hag of the Inuit. Sure, an arctic sea goddess just fits right in at Lake Winnibigoshish, makes perfect sense, Siembieda.
Ride the skeeter.
We also have Danger Table for The Barrens & Waterways that's three and a half pages long. Is it for water? Land? Fuck it, we need a really long table if we're gonna keep spinning these wheels! Roll it!
- Two Minor Earth Elementals: Though placed to attack or block any Coalition movement, they're dumb as rocks and will attack anybody with skulls or dark armor. That means you, PCs! This is your punishment for cool black armor and/or skull accouterments! They're big damage sponges, of course.
- Six Travelers: ... two of which are disguised Cyber-Knights.
- Tolkeen Ambush Bunkers: Disguised so you have to make an Detect Ambush or Detect Concealment at -10% to notice them. Wilderness Scouts and Psi-Stalkers can detect them at -10% with [insert unknown skill here]. However, they only have a skeleton crew of troops.
The real conflict is between the artists and the writing, sometimes.
Oh, fuck, you best bet we have a table for Coalition Encounters in The Barrens, why wouldn't we? But before that, we have details on some of the new Coalition forces being fielded, like experimental equipment taken from Rifts World Book 11: Coalition War Campaign and more mutant animals from Rifts World Book 13: Lone Star. You do own those books, yeah...? Anyway, let's roll some encounters:
- Light Robot Ground Unit: Two IAR-4 Hellraisers, two IAR Hellfires, two Mauler Power Armor suits, and two Skelebots. How is four mecha and two suits of power armor "light"?
- Hellion Skelebot Patrol: Eight of the demon-looking Skelebots that will attack any non-Coalition armed humanoids or any D-Bees or monsters, but will avoid fighting if there are sixteen or more enemies (or any Iron Juggernauts or Daemonix).
- SAMAS Quick Response Team: Three Super SAMAS suits, two Striker SAMAS suits, and three Wind Jammer Sky Cycles.
Next: Mad Town. No, not Madison.
"While one might think women to be more refined and gentle, this place has its share of brawls and duels."Original SA post
Coalition Wars 5: Shadows of Evil, Part 3- "While one might think women to be more refined and gentle, this place has its share of brawls and duels."
"It has come time for a rap battle, mortal!"
Still detailing Mizereen, next up is a discussion of Elemental Alley. A warzone centering around where the Mississippi River goes up into Mizereen, Tolkeen's Warlord Thadeus Grimm (first mentioned here) has overseen the widespread use of Warlocks and their summoned elementals in this area, eventually rendering it a wasteland. Though the Coalition tried to find a way around through Markeen, Tolkeen overextended in order to fool the Coalition into thinking Markeen was better defended that it is. For some reason there's a claim that "Tolkeen created magical defenses that effectively negated any air war..." No, not really? I mean, yes, they have a force field over Tolkeen itself that prevents bombardment, but there's still a lot to do in the air, particularly for a group like the Coalition with their large air transports. But Siembieda wants a ground-pounding WWI of a war rather than anything that would make sense with the technology they have.
"You don't have to be crazy to live here, and it really doesn't help."
Madtown in the Mizereen Barony
A large town of Humans and D-Bees - mostly Larmac, Vanguard Brawlers, and D'norr Devilmen (gotta feature some of the new D-Bees here) - this is a town that mainly caters to
Not unexpectedly, Tolkeen has done a lot of hiring here, though a fair number of local soldiers try to keep a distance from the war effort. The conflict has drawn a lot of opportunists, bandits, and refugees, and generally the local law tends to try and just control rather than confront, leading criminals to sometimes get away with more than they should. Similarly, the Coalition almost certainly has spies stationed here.
And so we get another convenient space-filler: Notable Places at Mad Town. This follows, as many Palladium Books do, the old Judges' Guild citybuilding method of throwing numbers on a map of square buildings and then defining them one by one. A lot of this is skippable- they have a lot of their important buildings as mega-damage and they try and keep defenses subtle and understated so the warring forces don't see them as a military camp.
"I don't see any cops." "The apocalypse happened." "Sounds like a cop trick to me."
The Grove Lake Neighborhood is the residential area, but they have a tendency to take in refugees and protect them because REASON NOT FOUND. Some of the local safehouses are backed by criminal organizations like the Black Market, Pecos Empire, or Cyber-Knights- whups, that last one doesn't fit. Well, leave it in.
- 3. Renford Manor: This is a manor run by Renford the Rebel, a High Magus from the "True Federation of Magic" who fled after a failed attempt to oppose Lord Dunscon. Modestly evil if not eeevil, and likely to be plotting a way to throw out Dunscon and reclaim his position. Seems to be a common notion for Federation exiles in these books, not that any of them ever end up being of consequence.
- 8. Boone Manor: Originally belonged to the Boones, the town founders, but they left for the West long ago. The Bartaine family owns it now, and is associated with local entertainment and hotels, though there's a rumor they're the local branch of the Black Market. Given the skills on the NPC writeups working for them, that seems pretty likely.
- 9. Light of the Redeemer Church: The most popular church in town. What do they worship? Nevermind that, enjoy this detailed map of the secret underground bunker underneath!
Center Court is the business district. Yep. It is.
- 16. The Clock Tower: ... is actually a mega-damage watchtower with sensors, missiles, and positions for snipers.
- 17. The Park Fountain: "Can also be used as a fortified position; has a total of 560 M.D.C." Uh, sure? Nice cover if you don't mind soaking your ass, I guess.
- 18. Sheriff's Office - The Law at Mad Town: Run by Sheriff Bullet, a Grackle Tooth gunfighter with a number of spellcasting deputies. They generally prefer to lock people up short-term to "cool them down" or order them to leave the town entirely. However, they're not hesitant to use force when necessary. "Sometimes ya jist have ta put a mad dog down. Thas a simple fact. Nothin' ta be sad 'bout or slow ta do. A mad dog is a danger to hisself an' ta others.
South Corner caters towards drinking adventurers and adventurous drunks.
- 26. The Bunker House: This is a mega-damage bunker converted into a tavern / arena. This generally learns towards enhanced clientele since it can handle the occasional good-natured brawl, with hard liquor being their specialty.
- 27. The Barracks: A saloon that caters to people who think they're too good for the Bunker House.
- 28. Mighty Oak: A place for wilderness folk because it's made from wood and has furs and a Xiticix corpse, because rangers have a lifestyle fashion to maintain.
- 29. Magic Cloud: ... and this is for wizards.
- 30. Watering Hole: ... for criminals.
- 31. Femme Fatale: ... women.
- 32. Wise Owl: ... nerds.
- 33. The Techno-Cave: ... cyberpunks.
- 34. The Gun-Nest: ... gunfighters.
- 35. The Dancing Skirt: ... chauvinist scumbags.
- 36. The Bordello: "No disguising this place of ill repute. At least it's out of the way."
- 39. The Lion's Den Arena: A "homespun arena" run by the Bartaines. Seats 17,000 - so much for "homespun" - despite the fact the town is usually 5200 people and has "exploded" to around 13,200 people. It also has an attached saloon run by an ex-Juicer named Cougar, who's rumored to be a Tolkeen agent and is an activist in trying to make sure Juicers detox before it's too late.
You'll have to look elsewhere for Cheers.
Lastly and with no further explanation, we get Other Places of Note at Mad Town.
- 44. Mom's Shop: They do Mind-Over-Matter, aka "Crazy" conversions here - get it? Do you get it? They have sponsors who are willing to front conversions in exchange for a half-decade period of indentured service.
- 45. Big Sam's Salvage: A salvage and pawn shop run by Big Sam, an N'mbyr Gorilla man "assassin" (is he retired, then...?) who gambles most of his money away, tries to cheat people, and also sells information and forged documents. He has a rogue Kill Hound dog boy who watches his junkyard.
- 48. Maybell's Boarding House: A boarding house run by old spinsters. "Even characters of evil alignment take a liking to these generous and kind women and watch out for their well being. If anything untoward should happen to one or both, or to the establishment, the perpetrator(s) will be hunted down and brought to justice — depending on who gets the perp, that justice might come at the end of a rope."
- 49. The Blue Flame: A magic and techno-wizardry shop run by Old Gabe, who "everybody in town is convinced is a 20th level Ley Line Walker" even though he's just a "15th Level Scholar". I don't know if that means people in town think that levels are an in-world reality or that they think he's somehow more experienced than is literally possible. He's pro-Tolkeen but considers himself too old to get involved.
- 50. The Bionic Resale Shop: No, please, please stop milking this, there is no way there are 50 relevant locations- 60? We have 60 locations. Guh.
- 59. The Black Hole: ... for criminals. Wait, didn't we already do this one? Wait, no, that was "The Watering Hole". There's just too many holes here.
Rifts World Book 5: Shadows of Evil posted:
Note: Remember, these are just some of the most notable places in town, the G.M. should feel free to add his own. After all, businesses come and go at places like this, and there are a lot of little dives that have not been covered.
So, how's that war going? Nothing still going on with that? Nearly halfway through the book here? Still nothing? Okay, just wanted to be clear.
Next: Small-town life.
"A spider's web with the resident practitioners of magic the bloodthirsty spiders, the townsfolk their helpers, and the Coalition soldiers the unsuspecting flies."Original SA post
Coalition Wars 5: Shadows of Evil, Part 4- "A spider's web with the resident practitioners of magic the bloodthirsty spiders, the townsfolk their helpers, and the Coalition soldiers the unsuspecting flies."
And so, we continue on with discussions of locations in the Mizereen Barony.
This is not remotely what happens in Salvation.
Salvation is essentially a magical university town, but has lost most of its wizards to the war effort, as most of them joined with Tolkeen and have perished. The town is embittered by this, to the point that some local mages are secretly providing aid and information to the Coalition. They've lost all hope and don't have any delusions of the Coalition actually helping them in the long-term, but instead want to get revenge on Tolkeen itself for their losses. Moreover, they've given the Coalition a magical device they say will get them past the shield, and this is true. However, it will transport tens of thousands of troops within Tolkeen itself, were they'll be wiped out at tremendous cost to Tolkeen. They intend to have fled at that point, and avoid the eventual Coalition retribution.
"Rise, my undea- wait, were none of you buried with pants? Ugh."
Specter is a shantytown with only a handful of hostile residents. Ultimately, though, it's a trap for Coalition soldiers, as any visiting soldiers are greeted in a friendly or terrified manner, depending, and then the local necromancers release hordes of zombies on unsuspecting soldiers. While the zombies aren't big threats, they basically try and swarm and grapple soldiers for execution, after which they're just added to the horde complete with their armor. They have a longer-term scheme for when the Coalition returns to infiltrate the forces, disguising themselves and their zombies in Coalition armor. This would seem to be a flawed plan, but I'm no scheming necromancer. "Can I get your name and number, private?!" "nnnuugh" "NAME AND NUMBER, PRIVATE!" "NUUUUGH."
. o O ( This one seems more sinister than the usual 'Burbs recruit. Officer material?! )
"What's that, boy? A Coalition soldier stuck in a well? Well, just leave him there."
Lucky is a farm town and trading post that seems to have good fortune in both wealth and safety, with major troubles either being averted or passing them by. The locals are convinced they have preternatural luck and that they'll avoid the worst of the war. It's left to the GM whether this is happenstance or they really have some magical defense, but highlights this as a place to save (and the PCs' intervention backs up the town's reputation) or as a safehouse they can lie low in. "Of course, Lucky is not an invisible shield, so this will only work once or twice."
Blueline is built between two ley lines, and is a Techno-Wizard town responsible for many of Tolkeen's innovations (including the Iron Juggernauts) - as such, it's heavily defended and is a launch point for troop movements involving ley lines. No visitors are allowed here without explicit permission, and it's largely a military community. We get a laundry list of nearby communities and the specific things they build. The most notable innovation they have is "The Bridge", which is an artificially created means to join two previously unconnected ley lines into a ley line nexus. This doesn't provide the extra P.P.E. of a nexus - it mainly just lets it act as a highway junction of sorts between lines, and shuts down a lot of the magical spells that interfere with ley line usage. Also, it has more M.D.C. than most gods for some reason, and has 25,000 M.D.C. (?!). But hey, it only takes 15,000 of mega-damage to make it nonfunctional. A bargain! The Coalition just thinks it's a defensive bunker for some magical defense or secret.
And that's that for the Mizereen. What, you say you want to hear about Tolkeen? Well, uh, you'll have to be a bit patient... well, okay. A lot patient.
Next: Adventures solved while you wait!
"If the player characters haven't dealt with the vampire problem, the Cyber-Knights should have."Original SA post
Coalition Wars 5: Shadows of Evil, Part 5- "If the player characters haven't dealt with the vampire problem, the Cyber-Knights should have."
Tolkeen Force Five- GO!
The Barony of Rivereen
As aforementioned, the Tolkeen forces were able to convince the Coalition this was too well-defended to bother with it over Mizereen. As such, this hasn't seen the same level of combat, though the scars of war still show here. I have to wonder how convincing the thin Tolkeen defensive line would be (with essentially nothing backing it up), given that the Coalition could take spy plane shots, but... that sort of notion seems to have evaded them. Granted, wizards and dragons can hide amongst the populace, but the absence of Daemonix and Iron Juggernauts would be a bit obvious. In addition, a pullback thanks to the recent loss of troops in Tolkeen is making it vulnerable to bandits, predators, and Coalition special forces.
Even as a refugee, never neglect your mullet.
Vosberg, the town bedeviled by a vampire in Rifts World Book 1: Sedition, is now presumed to be vampire-free. It's now run by a Cyber-Knight named Lady Carmen the Wise, aka Lady Wise, as it deals with a rush of refugees. We're told that if the PCs didn't solve the vampire issue, cyber-knights did it for them... or that the refugees have made it easier for Carlotta to feed.
Trapper-Woodsman O.C.C.: So, if Street Wise is for the street, and Forest Wise is for the forest, Lady Wise is...
Alien Rope Burn: No.
Camp Fatale, the psychics-posing-as-refugees to ambush Coalition soldiers from Rifts World Book 1: Sedition, got found out. The Coalition has discovered them and nearly wiped them out, but they recovered for a time with new recruits. However, Coalition soldiers supposedly gunned them down and believes them dead. Yeah, just forget anything your group may have already done with them, I guess.
"I, Fireheart, am the only one with art! Tremble!"
Boulder Ridge is a set of fortifications made by Warlocks similar to that seen earlier this book. However, the handful of remaining defenders makes this vulnerable, and locals refer to this as "Suicide Ridge" as the remaining defenders have sworn to defend this to their death. "This is Rivereen's Alamo." We get details on the Warlocks here - Elderroc of the Earth is stoic and muscular, Blue Stone of the Water is "fluid as water", Fireheart of the Eternal Flame is... angry, and look, it's another set of Warlocks that embody their elements conceptually, even though we had that notion just two books ago with the Joruveka. But at least we're spared an air fellow. Instead, Blue Stone has a younger sister, there's a vengeful fire dragon, and a handful of Larmac guards here on Hamburger Hill...
Trapper-Woodsman O.C.C.: Eh? Eh? ... Eh?
Alien Rope Burn: "... and a couple of Trapper/Woodsmen..."
The Gate is a tiny town and fort built on a ley line nexus that was famous largely for opening rifts at their locations to pull out reinforcements from other worlds. However, right now it just has a relative skeleton crew who plan to bug out through a rift when things get rough.
I'm dying to make some of this interesting. Well, not literally dying. I'm not dying in this war! I want to live!
Next: Name, skull, serial number.
"They may be cold, unfriendly living environments, often ill-equipped and where punishment can be extreme and life harsh, but they are NOT death camps where the prisoners are earmarked for extermination."Original SA post
Coalition Wars 5: Shadows of Evil, Part 6- "They may be cold, unfriendly living environments, often ill-equipped and where punishment can be extreme and life harsh, but they are NOT death camps where the prisoners are earmarked for extermination."
"W-would you believe I'm actually a very good person?"
Tolkeen's Prisoner of War Camps
As mentioned above, it's time to talk about P.O.W. camps. In general, Tolkeen's are pretty rough, but are at least intended to keep their prisoners alive if not intact. There are five of them - Alpha through Epsilon, and a special prison in Tolkeen itself used largely for VIP interrogation. In general, they construct their camps out of S.D.C. for the prisoner areas, mostly because their prisoners are largely human and it's cheap- and attackers have to take care not to just blow through the whole camp and murder their own. For enhanced enemies like Dog Boys, Juicers, or Crazies, they largely rely on group punishments to discourage them. Cyborgs are generally disabled, literally speaking.
Unusually for a Palladium game, we suddenly get prison archetypes, which I guess is important if you're... actually planning for a group of Coalition PCs to end up doing hard time in Tolkeen? So if you want to know have descriptions of soldier groups, escape teams, rebellious prisoners, wallflowers, bullies, snitches, etc., it's all here. But it's not terribly relevant to an overview of the book. Or, well, relevant in general.
The conditions in the Tolkeen camps may shock you with their relative decency.
We get two different overviews of punishments because editing ain't Palladium's forte. In general, they don't punish escape attempts overtly unless they do a lot of damage unless they're repeat offenders. However, solitary confinement, starvation, hard labor, and exposure all come up for various offenses. Actually harming guards, other prisoners, or the camp is likely to result in severe capital punishment. On the far end, torture, "experimentation", interrogation, and executions aren't unheard of. We get some nice random rolls for punishments like 2d4x10+12 days in solitary confinement, in case that sort of thing matters to your game. ("Hope you got a good charge on your phone, Ann - looks like your character's going to be in solitary for two months.") There's that mash of vague descriptions occasionally broken up by specificity, which gives us nonsensical sentences like "Approximately 3% die from 'standard beatings,' half die from beatings that get out of hand." Well, how many beatings get out of hand? Do is that like have of 3%, or... well, we just don't know. In general, though, the guards don't care too much about what happens to most prisoners, and- well, it's a good opportunity to show off how fluffy this section is.
Rifts World Book 5: Shadows of Evil posted:
This means, if Private Johnson arrives for morning mess with a black eye and bruises all over his face, one of the guards might ask what happened, but will accept the lamest explanation; 'Oh, I had a bad dream and I fell out of my bunk.' or 'I walked into a door,' or 'Nothing, I'm just feeling a little under the weather is all.' Should a suspicious guard push the issue or demand the truth, an officer is likely to step forward to confirm the explanation. 'I saw Private Johnson walk into the door Corporal, so if that's all then.' And the guard will let it drop. This can be carried to extremes. For example, an officer might stand coolly before the Camp Commander and a gaggle of guards and state that a dead snitch with ligature marks around his throat or knife sticking out of his ribs, died of natural causes. 'Sad, poor Johnson died in his sleep. Weak heart you know. Now, if you'd like, I can put together a burial team to dig his grave.' If necessary, a hundred witnesses will step forward to confirm the (impossible or unlikely) event. The camp administrators back off and let it go because they have learned to leave well enough alone. To do more will cause rioting and/or unrest.
I like how all the fresh-into-war Coalition soldiers are suddenly acting like hardened crims and Tolkeen citizen-adventurer-scholar-soldiers are all settling into prison stereotypes within the conflict going on for around a year - and a lot of the prisoners coming from the Tolkeen offensive about a month ago. (Yes, I'm familiar with the Stanford Prison Experiment, but I'm also familiar with its severe methodological issues.)
Of course, we get a whole prison map for the typical layout complete with M.D.C. areas for the administration and personnel. They generally have machine-guns, railguns, and tear gas grenades at the towers, along with some water cannons. Also, they have a garden for prisoners to grow flowers and vegetables. Aw, look at the tomatoes Herr Skullboy planted? Don't they just look delicious?
Unlike a normal prison, psychics, spellcasters, and monsters like witchlings, black faeries, or demons are commonly employed. (Exactly how they might or might not keep creatures like demons from getting out of hand isn't quite so clear - it's not like the game has a "control demon" spell.) And so magic gets used to contain prisoners, interrogate or monitor them, torture them, track them, etc. However, the presence of Coalition Psi-Stalkers and Dog Boys often means that prisoners are often aware when magic is used around them.
Lastly, we get details on what must be the shittiest camp, Camp Gamma. Not shitty in terms of prisoner treatment, mind, but shitty in the sense that it's badly run. In some undetailed fashion, the prisoners have actually managed to regularly find a way to escape and return to the war, using their time outside to gather intelligence and assist Coalition squads with a cache of equipment. Yes, it's Hogan's Heroes, only this time the Nazis are the heroes? Werner Klemperer would be pissed. This... like, doesn't make a lot of sense given they don't seem to have vehicles, or... maybe they do...? But if they have vehicles, why don't they escape? And if they don't have vehicles, how do they travel around in time to avoid being noticed, I- I mean-
Next: Virtue signalling.
"He is always acting the clown and even makes wisecracks, puns and jokes during combat and after a kill. He also likes to make up ridiculous and silly songs to sing about his enemies, opponents, important events and teammates, as well as play practical jokes, instigate brawls, tattle on his teammates (which instigates brawls) and similar smartalecky things."Original SA post
Coalition Wars 5: Shadows of Evil, Part 7- "He is always acting the clown and even makes wisecracks, puns and jokes during combat and after a kill. He also likes to make up ridiculous and silly songs to sing about his enemies, opponents, important events and teammates, as well as play practical jokes, instigate brawls, tattle on his teammates (which instigates brawls) and similar smartalecky things."
So, now we drunkenly swerve to another topic in this filler fluff parade: gangs loosely working for Tolkeen. You may think we got that kind of thing already, back in Rifts Coalition Wars 3: Sorcerers' Revenge, but these ones are working in Rivereen and Markeen. See? Totally on-topic.
It's time to play the game again: "Rifts PC Group or 90s Superteam?"
The first to get discussed are The White Knights, a group of shady fallen heroes led by a Fallen Cyber-Knight who goes by "Lady White". They're supposed to be super badass and scary, not relying on stealth or trickery, just giving scary threats and then engaging any who don't run. They've killed a bunch of Coalition soldiers and it's said they draw their power from the dead souls of the war (nope, not really) and have become boogeymen to the Coalition war effort. This was a cute note when (Bill Coffin's) Jara Kado had a similar reputation in Rifts Coalition Wars 3 that was falsely earned, but Siembieda just overplays his hand. They get Horror Factors like monsters do, and 1d6x10% of any Coalition force fighting her "typically" just flees. Despite being so feared, they protect civilians, give charity, and give fleeing foes the chance to run away. However, if they fight the same people twice, they'll just kill them.
- Lady White (9th Level Cyber-Knight) is a Fallen Cyber-Knight who was broken by the cruelty of the war, and has become hardened and deeply bitter. Though supposedly having Fallen, she mostly just feels ruthless, merciless, and dysfunctional, but for all her grimness is sold more like an anti-hero than a villain. She gets a realllly long writeup, complete with guidelines for her rewritten Code of Chivalry, and a litanry of ridiculous magic goodies like a "true" samurai rune sword originally taken from a museum, Splugorth magic items, multiple suits of power armor, blah blah blahdee blah.
- Silent Wind (7th Level Spirit Warrior): Once again, Silent Wind is "so driven to destroy evil and protect the innocent that he has become evil himself!" Uh, okay. Once again, he seems just fairly ruthless against the Coalition and supernatural evil, not selfish in any sense. He has a variety of magical fetishes and Native American superpowers. Occassionally, this has driven them to fight demons under Tolkeen command, but the others don't mind for the most part. And... they're still freebooters under Tolkeen...?
- Tank (5th Level Grackle Tooth Military Specialist): A cheery guy who likes explosives and isn't particularly evil, acting as a Tolkeen patriot, which seems to be counter to working with guys who go ham whenever they see a Tolkeen demon... but eh. He's supposed to be the blithe good guy of the group, even though there's no sign he's any less ruthless. "I like to make sure my opponent is down and out, why take chances?" are his words, after all.
- Ice Man (8th Level D'norr Devilman Ley Line Walker): Named for running around with the magical sword Frostblade, he had a fortune-teller tell him he'd die at the hands of a technological device rigged to blow. And given the rest of her predictions eventually came true, he became phobic of using technology. He has a pet dragondactyl (like a pegasus, but with a more a dragon-horse instead of a bird-horse) he uses so he doesn't have to ride in vehicles. Despite being listed as a Ley Line Walker, all of his class abilities listed are that of a Water Warlock. Ooops.
- Enerton the Destroyer (7th Level Yeno "Assassin"): No such class, but we'll roll with it. We roll with phantom NPC classes a lot. Anyway, he's a generically megalomanical psychopath that's will execute fallen enemies unless stopped. He obeys Lady White, Tank, or Silent Wind because... I don't know. He goes into murderous rages when annoyed, which seems to be a problem with the whole "no civilians" attitude of the group, but this collection of folks hasn't made perfect sense yet, so why start now?
- Giz the Fixer (8th Level Aardan Tek Rogue Scientist): A scientist so obsessed with gathering knowledge that he came to observe the war effort for... science!... I suppose. He is detatched and is "well on his way" to becoming a sociopath as he loves science over anything else. That's how sociopathy starts - with science!
- Malcolm (7th Level Crazy) is the group Deadpool who goes around making jokes and singing and cracking wise and is obsessed with fighting the Coalition and is also hyperactive and is phobic of dragonflies and helplessness and Iron Dragonfly Juggernauts! Ha ha, how kooky. He's so kooky he grants enemies a unique penalty to hit him! Special unique NPC powers, go!
- Hack & Slash (4th Level Tirrvol Sword Fist Grunts): A pair of overconfident sword-handed swordsguys, they're arrogant despite the number of times the others have put them in their place. They'll probably get themselves challenging or insulting the wrong person someday, but not yet. Also they do everything together because they're twins! Twins do that!
Why, yes, Siembieda just took a piece of race art from a previous book and doubled it. Class act.
They also have a generic bunch of followers. I just have to scratch my head trying to work out how they function for more than a week without falling into infighting between characters like Tank, Enerton, and Malcolm. They're also... just not that evil, even though the book wants you to think that, aside from Enerton. They strike me as "average PC material" for the most part.
Totally drawn to go together.
Next, the Hounds of Hell are a group of Dog Boys and other canine-themed characters led by the "Wolf Lord", a 13th Level Mind Melter who uses psychic powers to brainwash mutant animals and use them against the Coalition. He was once a leader in the Mizereen Barony on a diplomatic trip to Tolkeen when his home city was wiped out, and he went crazy and feral and developed his wolfish supervillain theme. He's insanely focused on wiping out the Coalition, and probably will try and take his skullkilling work directly to the Chi-Town 'Burbs if he survives. He has a mysterious supervillain ally called The Seeker, a Shifter that controls some Loup Garou as part of the scheme and is generically mysterious and evil. Also, he's sadistic, so take a drink in the Rifts drinking game, if I ever wrote one up. They mostly rely on Kill Hound minions, as apparently their minds make them easier to control, but have some normal Dog Boys as well. It seems like the Wolf Lord at least has a fun gimmick for a villain group, though The Seeker seems superfluous and dull.
Either she's crazy tall or Big Jack here is the smallest Brodkil ever.
Lastly, we have Jack's Hacks, a group of "cyber-snatchers"... equal-opportunity bandits and scavengers that focus on cybernetics, selling them back at Mad Town. Tolkeen has given them freebooter status, much to the chagrin of the Cyber-Knights, and an attempt to arrest them has given them a rivalry with Sir Rigeld (of Rifts Coalition Wars 4: Cyber-Knights. Their members include:
- Big Jack (7th Level Brodkil) is their leader, and is... sadistic and murderous, and usually uses purloined Coalition equipment. Not interesting in the least.
- Little Jack (5th Level Military Specialist) is Big Jack's best friend and "a human with the soul of a demon". He's a sneaky ex-Coalition soldier, having a Cyber-Disguise implant, and is tiresomely generic and evil.
- Tools (6th Level Operator) is a mechanic who hates brutality because it's too noisy; he prefers to ambush quietly. He's greedy, supposedly charming, and... evil.
- Chop-Doc (2nd Level Aarden Tek Cyber-Doc) is... sigh, evil and sadistic and loves to fuck around with installing or removing cybernetics on live targets despite being "barely competent".
- Weaver (4th Level Mastadonoid Ley Line Walker) was a Tolkeen loyalist who became evil because war.
ERROR: INTEREST NOT FOUND
Next: More dots on a map.
"Roughly 3D4x100 visitors come to see the museum on any given week, even during the war."Original SA post
Coalition Wars 5: Shadows of Evil, Part 8- "Roughly 3D4x100 visitors come to see the museum on any given week, even during the war."
Though not as hard-hit as Mizereen, the presence of Tolkeen mines and factories meant Markeen was singled out for Coalition offensives. Markeen City was the capital, and its complete destruction through undetailed means has driven Baron Varn Cromwell on a quest for vengeance. He leads demonic forces for Tolkeen because that's how eeevil vengeance has driven him!
But before we go any further, let's give a big hand to Varn, one of the only two barons we'll see in our review of five baronies! Congrats, Cromwell. Also, the Wolf Lord's real name was "Wallace Cromwell"; maybe they're related?
But the baron doesn't get a tenth of the time given over to random cybernetic-nabbing psychopaths just a few pages back, so we have to move on. We get some details on other towns, the populations of which of which were either evacuated, slaughtered, or captured and sent to Coalition Death Camps. Furthermore, the Coalition army driven North into the Xiticix Hivelands has Xiticix scouts swarming outward, expanding their borders temporarily- or so the locals hope.
Lastly, the Town of Solomon detailed in Rifts Coalition Wars 1: Sedition was eventually wiped out and the survivors sent to Death Camps. However, it's presumed the Coalition never found the Key of Solomon or the Orb of Solomon, so that door's left open. As far as the Coalition knows, the scheme to use the Orb was a failure "as far as they know".
No War Orphan O.C.C.? Such restraint.
Mostly just Tolkeen's frontier region, we get some details on New Wilmar, the largest city in the Barony. Best known for its pre-Rifts collection of artifacts at their Museum of Antiquities, the Coalition is looking to capture it rather than destroy it- which is what's kept them safe so far. They rely mainly on wizards and Iron Juggernauts for defense, and the Baroness Carol Marshall has refused to work with demons or monsters.
Another hand for Baroness Carol Marshall! Not more than a name, of course. We ran out of space while describing all the local bandits and sadists.
Wildwoods is also known for its faerie population. However, their biggest issue has been refugees, as well as bandits and con men looking to rob and exploit them. Many are seeking to find new homes, much to the chagrin of locals, and theft of food and ravaged farmland is common. While Cyber-Knights are trying to keep the peace, there just aren't enough of them.
"I'm not Coalition, I just- I wanted a prosthetic skull on my real skull, okay?
Finally, Tolkeen gets a writeup. Finally!
Rifts Coalition Wars 5: Shadows of Evil posted:
The heart of this kingdom of magic is Tolkeen. A city of diverse people, technology and magic. A city that braces for a possible final siege by the Coalition Army. With any luck, the CS has had enough, and will return (if it returns at all) only to rattle its saber, make threats and back off. If they should test the Tolkeen defense force along the Mississippi they will be met with intense opposition and (should) retreat to avoid another Sorcerers' Revenge. At least, that is the plan. The CS can ill afford another crushing defeat like that. Everyone knows it, from kings to peasants. That is why so many assume the war is, indeed, over.
Tolkeen is far from defeated, and even with the mass attrition it has suffered since its great victory against the CS Invasion Force, it still commands the (arguably) third most powerful standing army on the continent after the Coalition States and Free Quebec (the alien Xiticix don't count). Moreover, Tolkeen still has a few surprises up its sleeve. Find out what in the 200+ page conclusion of Coalition Wars™, Chapter Six: Final Siege.
that is the text
why the fuck
we know all this just tell us about the fucking core location of the event
"But I'm not Scottish!" "Just stick to the trail, Scotty."
Though most of this is home to "trappers, woodsmen, small bands of Indians and Psi-Stalkers", farms, homesteads, some of the Barrens spill over into this state. Furthermore, Tolkeen "monster squads" keep an eye out here, much to the chagrin of locals, there are rumors the Daemonix are planning to make this their new homeland. As a result, some Psi-Stalkers and Native Americans have begun to skirmish with them. Furthermore, the expansion of Xiticix borders in the North has presented a growing threat to a region.
Next: The Coalition Strikes Back.
"Like Hannibal crossing the Alps on the backs of elephants, they had just accomplished the impossible and all were eager to deal out some payback to the Tolkeenites."Original SA post
Coalition Wars 5: Shadows of Evil, Part 9- "Like Hannibal crossing the Alps on the backs of elephants, they had just accomplished the impossible and all were eager to deal out some payback to the Tolkeenites."
After nearly two whole books of nothing happening, it's time for things to happen again! I never thought I would be hungry for the metaplot, but I've been drowning in discussion of small towns and bit part villains. So, let's brace outsides.
For some reason that's specifically a Federation of Magic mage being held down (they have a very distinct fashion sense).
Most of the Coalition's failure has fallen on one head: General Micander Drogue, the head of their death camp initiative. Many have turned on him politically within the Coalition, either as an opportunity or out of sheer distaste for him. Apparently, his failure has caused many who followed his questionable example to... realize how flawed and evil his conduct was. Yep, because that's how people deal with and rationalize failure. Also, I'm being deeply sarcastic.
While Drogue is still technically in charge of the invasion, he knows he's set for a fall unless he can deal a decisive win in the field. Moreover, he's run into the issue where his Death Camps were never officially sanctioned. It's said the higher-ups like Prosek would have never approved of them, because...
... wait, the same guys who think Lone Star is an acceptable operation would think... I... what? Weren't they occasionally just annihilating towns anyway for having too many bumpy heads? Well, Drogue is doing what he can to have his men "mist" the camps- that is, completely flatten them with Mega-Damage weapons and murder everybody involved to cover them up.
And that's when we switch to the next chunk of fiction for Sergeant Deon Canton. On account of his former war crimes, General Drogue appoints Deon to wipe out "Death Camp Grace", which our... protagonist?... openly agrees for, spouting the party line. However, when he gets there, he tells his soldiers that there's "been enough killing" and orders them to release the prisoners, and to leave the camp standing, having a change of heart after getting saved by a D-Bee last book. "I want somebody to know that Tolkeen was not the only side in this war with monsters." I don't think that was a mystery, or was it somebody else that was going on about the need to kill babies just a few books back?
We then get The Rescue of Camp Glory. While we're told Camps Prosek, Purity, and Victory all get annihilated as part of Drogue's plot, we get an adventure hook where the PCs hear of the plot to wipe out Camp Glory shortly before its destruction from... eh, somebody tells them! And so, being good folks, they have to stop several dozen Coalition soldiers from "misting" the camp, and it suggests having the PCs pick them off one group at a time. Ideally, they help the prisoners escape, leave some part of the camp standing after the crossfire, and help the newfound refugees find a new home. We also get a map and a mercifully brief writeup for the camp. "Explore the possibilities and have fun."
Why do you keep nagging at the boy? Why don't you let him sit back and enjoy the war!
"So! They laugh at my boner, will they? I'll show them! I'll show them how many boners the Coalition can make!"
And we're back to fiction, this time about "Operation North Wind". There's a lot of , but it makes up the big cliffhanger of the book. Remember the Coalition army that was driven into the Xiticix Hivelands? The one that was presumed dead? It's back.
Rifts Coalition Wars 5: Shadows of Evil posted:
General Jericho Holmes is a living legend for a reason, and his bold maneuver to escape the destruction of the Sorcerers' Revenge by plunging into the Xiticix Hivelands is a great example.
Essentially, Holmes planned the retreat into the Hivelands once he saw his forces were overwhelmed. He tried to pack as many troops as he could into transports, grounded all flyers, and then told soldiers not to engage the enemy. They were allowed to try and beat the Xiticix back in melee and used smoke, but they apparently remained loyal as they were slaughtered by bug-people, not opening fire. Because that sounds likely, I write with the rich tones of double sarcasm. Eventually, though they lost tens of thousands of troops, the Xiticix concluded they weren't a worthwhile threat, and fell back to occasionally harassing them. After several weeks, they escaped the Hivelands, and then regrouped north of Tolkeen. Now, two months or so later, they're apparently waiting for the right opportunity to attack Tolkeen's practically unprepared Northern side. They haven't informed the Coalition, believing they can't risk revealing their valuable position before they attack Tolkeen.
And so, 308,000 soldiers survived before over two months with no supply lines in a hostile near-alien wasteland, ready to sneak attack a city without ever having resupplied food, ammo, medical supplies, or having any obvious access to repair facilities... after a series of major battles that significantly wrecked their shit! Furthermore, they're looking to bushwack a city with no shortage of precognitive psychics and a literal foretelling skull (alas, remember Poor Yorick?). Apparently the psychics couldn't find out about it because there were Xiticix in the way and I guess nobody in Tolkeen thought to use astral projection or second sight or oracle or scout with enslave entity and- fuck, I'm only thinking of corebook powers and spells that neither our super-genius general or the Xiticix have any easy way to counter. Also, later we'll find out Poor Yorick did predict the attack - he was just ignored or misinterpreted by King Whoever Rules Tolkeen I Can't Be Bothered To Look It Up. No, seriously, I'm not making up the fact I can't remember at the moment.
Whatever, we're about ready to put things to bed. Stuff is happening! Yay! I'm excited to see what happens! It's just a shame we already know. It just feels like Siembieda's been wasting our time for two books in a row like a master - it's not that the books don't have some use, but compared to how this space could be spent... well, it seems like an awfully high opportunity cost to talk about cyber-snatchers and little lucky small towns when there's still vital information about Tolkeen and the Coalition sitting on the shelf. And we don't have much time left to do so, because we're at...
THE END OF "SHADOWS OF EVIL". 224 PAGES REMAIN OF THE COALITION WARS.