1 "Johnny Z is a realist (not to mention an all-around great guy), so he had agreed early on to let me fill in the blanks and fine tune things as an co-author on the book."
2 "This saliva-like fluid is called Sleg, and gives the appearance of an unsightly, uncontrolled body function, i.e. drooling or frothing at the mouth like a mad dog when a Tarlok is injured and angry, and during lengthy combat."
3 "Even speaking is difficult and the loudest noise possible is a mean or a hoarse whisper with words ... spoken ... very ... slowly ... broken by ... pauses ... like this."
4 "This exterior skin ranges from from a hard rubbery texture, like that of a wet suit or bicycle tire, to a glossy smooth surface like thick latex or smooth stone with a bit of a give to it."
5 "Yes, gentle reader, that is the foundation of the adventure you are about to embark upon."
6 "Outraged and infuriated, Tarlok BloodChief Krynok issued a public warning denouncing these 'ruffnecks' and all who supported them."
7 "The skin of both sexes is extremely smooth, soft, and supple."
8 "Alias: 'DangerDespair' and 'No Hope' - he often carves the words 'No Hope' into his victims or scrawls it in their blood."
9 "The most famous and respected Skrayper in the world (Enemy Number One on the Tarlok's list, with the Burning Scythe number two), Victor has become a symbol of nobility, courage, compassion, and hope; a, seemingly, incorruptible power for good."
10 "Tarlok weapon bonuses never apply to anybody except the Tarlok (requires strength and training)."
11 "For the Tarlok, the discovery of this fabulous place is like a child stumbling into Disney World."
12 "It is virtually impossible for him to walk unnoticed, because he looks more like a knight or robot than an Ordinary Joe."

"Johnny Z is a realist (not to mention an all-around great guy), so he had agreed early on to let me fill in the blanks and fine tune things as an co-author on the book."

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Rifts Dimension Book 4: Skraypers posted:


... hey, kids!

Rifts Dimension Book 4: Skraypers posted:

Violence and the Supernatural

... are totally awesome!

Rifts Dimension Book 4: Skraypers posted:

The fictional World of Rifts® is violent, deadly, and filled with supernatural monsters, mutants, and stranger powers. Other dimensional beings, often referred to as "demons", torment, stal, and prey on humans. Other aliens, monsters, villains, gods and demigods, as well as magic, psychic powers, super abilities, insanity, and war are all elements in this book.

... to the extreme!

Rifts Dimension Book 4: Skraypers posted:

Some parents may find the violence/magic and supernatural elements of the game inappropriate for young readers/players. We suggest parental discretion.

... NOT!

Rifts Dimension Book 4: Skraypers, Part 1: "Johnny Z is a realist (not to mention an all-around great guy), so he had agreed early on to let me fill in the blanks and fine tune things as an co-author on the book."

So, time for a story: John Zeleznik turns in a draft, it's not good enough, Siembieda takes over and re-writes the whole thing- well, it's a familiar routine for Palladium fans. The twist ending this time is that Zeleznik is fine with this, from all accounts, being more of an artist than an author. So, like Wormwood was a showcase for the ideas of Timothy Truman and Flint Henry, this Dimension Book is basically a vehicle for Zeleznik's art. Zeleznik is an artist who at this point had done cover pieces for a variety of game lines, including Shadowrun and GURPS. He's also done work for novels, toys, magazines - and is still putting out covers on Palladium Books even recently.

However, this is a clawhammered book by any stretch. Despite attempts to tie it in, it doesn't really have any strong connection to the Rifts line - even less than Wormwood did. It's really more like a book for the Heroes Unlimited game, and is even marketed as a Rifts / Heroes Unlimited book. But the idea of dimensional portals and the basic interdimensionality of Rifts is seriously downplayed. It's basically its own thing, and probably would have been better off as a Heroes Unlimited setting book or its own game. As it is, it's a forgotten corner of the Rifts setting, and so I won't be giving it a lot of time. Sorry, Zeleznik. In addition, I'm going to have to do that just because it's dense. Even though it's 160 pages, Palladium clearly put it down to a smaller font (9 point) than usual, meaning there's a lot of for me to process.


Rifts Dimension Book 4: Skraypers posted:

John spent most of his spare (and not so spare) time in 1995 working on the "Scrayper" project (later changed to "Skraypers" with a "k" because John though it looked more exotic and made for a better logo design.

Rifts Dimension Book 4: Skraypers posted:

Some Words from John

+4 to strike, +2 to parry & dodge, +10% to save vs. coma/death?? Yikes!! I'm exhausted!

I've been painting covers for RPGs for nine or ten years and not until now have I realized the monumental effort and creativity required to make the inside of one of these damn things.

Well, let's get... let's get started. You may wonder what the hell a "Skrayper" is. Well. Get ready to wait, because first we're going to talk about the bad guys of this setting...

The Tarlok Empire

Dino-people from a dino-world, the Tarlok struggled for survival in a very harsh biosphere full of massive packs of not-quite-velociraptors. When they were enslaved by the larger sentient species of their world, the Lonara, they gained the protection they needed to multiply and forge civilization. Eventually they would overcome and succeed the Lonara not through revolution, but through through the slow erosion of population growth and civilization. The Lonara are now gone, while the Tarlok live on. Which is kind of a neat backstory. If only the Tarlok themselves maintained that sort of clever nuance. But no. The more I found out about them, the less interesting they became.

See, the raptor-eat-dinoman world of the Tarlok made them hyperaggressive. Once they developed spaceships roughly a millennium ago, they set out to conquer. Mind, they've had fifty millennia since they threw off the yoke of constant war and struggle, so you'd think they'd have developed somewhat. But no, not so. They're still hung up on fighting for the glory of their empire, gladiatorial games, and wrestling for the last raptor nugg. They're a strict stratocracy (that's rule by the military) with class being based on their length of military service and medals, with those not in the military serving as a minority underclass. We get a long line of titles from Emperor to BloodChief to Lokdog. Bloodchief. That could easily have been a Rob Liefeld comic, I'm pretty sure.

More spikes means more evil. That's a bonefact.

Supposedly they're highly honed kickassers thanks to the evolution on their world, and live up to to 300+ years today, and we get a lot of on their biology, like:

Rifts Dimension Book 4: Skraypers posted:

The fin and/or spine-like projections that crown the head, and protrude from the chin, jaw and eyebrows protect the face in a similar manner to the fins along the spine. The wildly biting jaws of swarming carnosaurs were much more likley to gran these hard protrusions rather than the (comparatively) soft issue of the face or eyes. To prevent the eyes from being torn out of their sockets, they are small, recessed, and protected by thick eyebrow ridges, eyebrow spines, and high, bony cheekbones.

I, okay, this is a lot of head detail-

Rifts Dimension Book 4: Skraypers posted:

The Tarlok's thick skulls and dense bone structure affords them tremendous physical protection. A single powerful or repeated blows to, or severe shaking of, the human head will cause the brain to slam in to the skull casing and cause the brain to swell and even hemorrhage (resulting in concussion or worse), but not so with the Tarlok, for even their skull and brain cavity are designed for combat. The head-fins, spines, bony ridges and outcroppings often deflect the force of strikes to the th head. Their thick-hard skull is one inch thick at its thinnest, and 4-6 inches are ridges and areas built up with bone.

Okay I think we got the skinny on their skulls-

Rifts Dimension Book 4: Skraypers posted:

This affords them great protection in and of itself, but the skull is shaped in such a way that it absorbs impact and disperses trauma. However, the most impressive defense against brain injury is the fact that the Tarlok brain is encased in a mucous membrance filled with a dozen small air sacks that cushion it from impact, not unlike the air-bag in an automobile.

We have the breakdown on their bones-

Rifts Dimension Book 4: Skraypers posted:

Combat Note: The hard, bony fins, spines, and spike on head and face can be used to butt, jab, and even gore an opponent. Being on the receiving end of a Tarlok head butt feels like getting hit by a sledgehammer (equal to supernatural punch damage +1d6).

This concludes the very good reasons why I'll get to skip over enormous chunks of this book.

Dear Siembieda: don't you dare complain about not having enough space to fit something in a book ever again, because I've got four or so paragraphs on the healing properties of Tarlok saliva I never needed or wanted, but there it is. Including how they sometimes pump their own spit through their armor so they can- no, no, we're skipping. We're skipping the spit.

In space, nobody can see your rad spikes.

And since we're doing machodinos, time for some about how female Tarlok are banned from battle because "they are only 15% smaller and weaker than the males" and relegated to the "great honor and respect" of being housewives with 100-200 children. Wait, really? By themselves? Pretty sure anybody who can raise 200 children is going to be the more terrifying, badass gender, but that's just my view. Apparently that number comes from their long age and being relegated to being brood mares from the ages of 20 to 200. Such "great honor and respect" to remove all choice from the lives and reduce them to baby farms, I'm sure. We're told 75% of children are male, as if that makes any sense at all. Women over 200 years of age can join the military in purely support and clerical roles. As long as we're covering inequality, those with birth defects are generally killed by the mother and eaten by the father. "Man, I'm hungry, are you sure he doesn't look a little... off? His head's a little nommy, isn't it?" In the modern age sometimes they impose genetic alteration on those with obvious "faults" to become badass superwarriors, but traditionally it's bad babies get in daddy's tum-tum. Well, I guess they are bad guys.

Next: How to play a baby-eating misogynist dinosaur.

Rifts Dimension Book 4: Skraypers posted:

Appearance: A thick, craned neck tapers to a small, squat head. One or two large fins crowd the head, while a number of small fins, spines, and spikes adorn the head in a wide variety of shapes.
A very good joke, indeed — an excellent jest.

Rifts Dimension Book 4: Skraypers posted:

S.D.C. or M.D.C. by Location:
Main Head Fin (1) - Equal to 20% of the main body.
Secondary Fins and Spikes (many) - Equal to 15% of the main body.
Head - Equal to 30% of the main body.
But is it not getting late? Will not they be awaiting us at the Detroit game center? Let us be gone.

Rifts Dimension Book 4: Skraypers posted:

The fins that run from the top of the head, down the neck and long the spine evolved as a natural defense against small carnosaurs who swarm their prey and strike at the spine, neck, and joints to incapacitate their prey. The fins also serve...


"This saliva-like fluid is called Sleg, and gives the appearance of an unsightly, uncontrolled body function, i.e. drooling or frothing at the mouth like a mad dog when a Tarlok is injured and angry, and during lengthy combat."

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Rifts Dimension Book 4: Skraypers, Part 2: "This saliva-like fluid is called Sleg, and gives the appearance of an unsightly, uncontrolled body function, i.e. drooling or frothing at the mouth like a mad dog when a Tarlok is injured and angry, and during lengthy combat."

Finally you can play a Covenant Elite Turian Tarlok! (This book predates those games by a good while, to be honest.) However, "baby biting bib" is not included on their equipment list, for some reason.

Some general facts: Tarloks are superior to humans in every respect except intelligence (equal) and affinity and beauty (lower). They also get a special aging system where their Endurance (both types), Prowess, Speed, Strength, and M.D.C. increase slowly with age up to 270, then decrease slowly. In addition, they all have a natural "Healing Factor" power, supernatural strength, a surprisingly high horror factor (14) for something the PCs will be fighting all the time, and a tremendous set of built-in martial arts combat bonuses that increase as they level. However, they can't develop or learn magic, and can only gain psionics through some specialized classes they have.

Wildly impractical weapons are the true mark of a warrior race.

Male Tarlok have to choose a military or combat O.C.C., while female Tarlok get seriously reduced combat bonuses and can only take adventurer O.C.C.s. There's no tradeoff there; female Tarlok are just weaker. Any Tarlok player characters are presumed to be traitors to the Empire, and the Tarlok have a special means of branding such if caught. Of course, it notes PCs could be undercover agents pretending to be traitors as well, but doesn't really discuss the implications thereof. Either you're playing a character with a betrayal expiration date with the PC group, or you become a traitor for reals, but there's not much other way to resolve that sort of problematic concept.

Torture nerds and cyber-nerds.

With that out of the way, let's get to their class list. Unlike human classes, they have no stat requirements, so anybody can play any type of Tarlok. Their new ones are:

Captain Caveman and Major Management.

There are no real guidelines as to whether or not some Tarlok might or might not be playable; the Dreadlors would seem to have real problems as PCs, being dumb and/or insane without a Dreadmaster to keep them in line. For all the detail we get, the Tarlok are mainly a one-note warrior race, with the only exceptions being the evil, sadistic, and deeply generic mad scientists of the Shertar. I guess as baddies they don't have to be too nuanced, but, you know. They eat babies.

Next: The non-baby-eating peoples of the baby-eater empire.

"Even speaking is difficult and the loudest noise possible is a mean or a hoarse whisper with words ... spoken ... very ... slowly ... broken by ... pauses ... like this."

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Rifts Dimension Book 4: Skraypers, Part 3: "Even speaking is difficult and the loudest noise possible is a mean or a hoarse whisper with words ... spoken ... very ... slowly ... broken by ... pauses ... like this."

Charizolon Planetary System

So, without interstellar flight technology, the conquests of the Turlok have so far been limited to their own system, Charizolon. We'll get some confusing contradictions later on, but for now, they can only travel to their own system. They've conquered just about every world in their system, with only the planet of Seeron still maintaining a constant resistance. Each world is generally Star Warsish, with a single terrain type dominating it.

Starting with the places who hardly matter: Charizol is the sun. Vuulok is the Tarlok homeworld; you'd think we get more on it. But no, we get no useful detail other than a rehashed description of the Tarlok themselves. Trath is the outermost world - as such, it's a Pluto analogue, and only has some Tarlok mines and a spaceport.

And we can move on to places with actual detail.


A gas giant with five moons and locked in a binary orbit with another world (Avulor), of which the only one with real detail is Raazul - it's a jungle / swamp moon that the Tarlok have heavily colonized. The natives are the Glinerach and Nazzer. The Glinerach (gline-rock) are slug-people who led an idyllic life until the Tarlok hit them with and engineered plague that wiped out half their people. It's the kind of blatant tear-jerker tale that Siembieda loves, where a noble, kind race is boot-stomped repeatedly to make the baddies look even badder. The Nazeer are armed snakes that are "natural hunter-killers" who have become favored minions of the Tarlok. And you can play them, of course!

I'll let you figure out which the bad ones are here.

A waterworld with very little land, though it's not technically water, but instead a heavier, lavender fluid called "Breen". The natives are the Cyden, who are creatures from the world lagoon. Though the Tarlok have colonized their world and rule them in name, the Cyden are left to mostly do their own thing and really don't care about what happens elsewhere since the Tarlok can't really invade or interact with them without environmental suits. Only a handful of them actually serve the Tarlok because... why do they serve? Well, I guess because they're the evil ones, and that's what evil ones do.

Just a swift current away from a full frontal view.

"The sprawling jungles and forests of Talavera are what set it apart from the rest of the worlds in the Charizolon System." Wait, wasn't Raazul another jungle zone? Well, it's not technically a world, I suppose... anyway, there were three races that lived in harmony and peace with the environment until the Tarlok shit-kicked them. Seems to be a theme. The big difference is that they were making peaceful interplanetary contact with Seeron, but Tarlok's invasion and engineered diseases cut that short. Time for some playable races, then!

The good, the bad, and the stupid.

A mountain planet where the Tarlok mine and occasionally capture new slaves from the local populace. We get a lot of on mountain heights and tundra facts you'll likely never use.

It's time to talk about the pterodactyls and the bees.

The main Earth-like setting of this Dimension Book. It'll get its own chapter... at some point.

Next: Noble, benevolent fetish suits.

"This exterior skin ranges from from a hard rubbery texture, like that of a wet suit or bicycle tire, to a glossy smooth surface like thick latex or smooth stone with a bit of a give to it."

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Rifts Dimension Book 4: Skraypers, Part 4: "This exterior skin ranges from from a hard rubbery texture, like that of a wet suit or bicycle tire, to a glossy smooth surface like thick latex or smooth stone with a bit of a give to it."

Beyond Charizolon

No, no, we're not going to cover the actual core part of the setting yet! We have to cover what's outside of the setting first! It's the Palladium way! So, we get three races from outside of the Charizard System - one race of superpowered meddlers, and two races of slavers. We'll also have Splugorth later on, for four factions of slavers in this setting. Basically, it's slavers all the way down. Also, we start getting references to the Phase World setting (from Rifts Dimension Book 2 and 3, previously reviewed by occamsnailfile) because - though it hasn't been clearly stated yet - it turns out Skraypers takes place in the backwater of that setting.

"Huh? You think flying around butt-first is weird?"

The first extra race are the Blhaze, "mega-hero" energy beings with fetishsuit-like exteriors. The "mega-hero" is a special class for unbalanced superheroes from Heroes Unlimited, so it's your keyword to remind you these aren't remotely balanced compared to, say, the monkey-like Shrilt. Granted, they don't get everything mega-heroes normally get, they're just classified that way for GMs that ban mega-heroes from play. They're generically good and forthright, and have come to Seeron to help the local populace fight off the Tarlok. But in the standard handwaving you see of superpowerful beings, they won't help out too much because they have to help them help themselves. This is supposed to be noble and wise, but just seems intensely patronizing to me. I'm sure all people being enslaved, oppressed, and imprisoned are like "Well, I guess learning to overcome this on our own is the important part!"

Well, it's like Abe Lincoln said: "And by virtue of the power, and for the purpose aforesaid, I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated states, and parts of states, are, and henceforward shall be free, but only if they engage in their own rebellion, what am I, their nursemaid, free your own darn selves, you lazy so-and-sos." Well, okay, he didn't say that, but if he did, it would have been some paternalistic bullshit. But that's the Blhaze attitude: paternalistic, privileged bullshit, and I'm calling it out. Come at me, leather space bro.

In any case, their attributes are all very high, they can shoot lasers, take half damage from everything except punches, explosives, rail guns, and magic/psionics (very arbitrary), bend light, fly at supersonic speeds, are super-strong, have various forms of vision, can absorb energy, and... manipulate static electricity. That last one feels thrown-in, but sure. They can also leave their fetish suits to fly at lightspeed, but have to make a flat roll at the end of every round (after a grace period based on their level) to keep from gathering cumulative penalties and lose M.D.C. (which can result in death), but they can regenerate their skin in two rounds if necessary. They also get a flat but miniscule chance to resurrect upon death. Also, they're attracted to humans and find them sexy but can never really fuck them, oh, the tragedy of being a cosmic fetishsuit!

Limbs: totally atrophied. Pecs: still awesome.

The Rithe are psionic, floating, manta-bug conquerors. They showed up to trade with the Tarlok as peers in interplanetary domination, but they have warp drive technology that they have so far kept to themselves. They generally trade technology for slaves (it's supposed to be a big mystery where they go, but I super don't care), and are most interested in superbeings. Oh, right, superbeings. We'll get to those. The Tarlok are hoping to get enough superbeings to trade for the warp tech. As for the Rithe, they're cold, calculating... and... sadistic, one of Siembieda's favorite villainous adjectives. It might be hard to find a Rifts book that doesn't use it. Apparently they exist in the Phase World setting as scummish villainy from some undetermined locale, and have heard about "Rifts Earth" and are trying to find a way there so they can access other worlds and generally fuck with people.

In any case, they're generally... superior to humans in all but looks and smarts, can float naturally, turn invisible, have a "heightened sense of touch" superpower, a tail stinger, and have psionics focusing on detecting dimensional disturbances and telekinetics. Oh, and they're mega-damage, of course. Oh, and you can play a "young, inexperienced one", if being a mysterious space slaver is your thing. It's not your thing, right? That wouldn't be a great thing to have as your thing.


Lastly, we have the Tandori, a delicious way to cook chicke- wait, no? Okay, these interstellar mercenaries that work in the slave trade. They're mysterious (again?) and have to wear environmental suits!... that let their tongues stick out. This made sense to somebody, I'm sure. Supposedly they generally work for various eeevil factions and profit. They're basically Boba Fett-rengis with loose tongues that have shown up to merc for the Tarloks in exchange for slaves.

So, their attributes aren't too weird outside of a high affinity and prowess, and a low beauty (but nobody knows what they look like, so...). Though they're not mega-damage creatures, they're always in mega-damage armor and die if removed from it. They get a military espionage package of skills and, most of their effects come from humanoid or serpentine power armor. The Tandori Robot Power Armor / Serpent's Tongue EVA Body Armor (80 M.D.C.) augments their strength, has a laundry list of gadgets and features, and a jet pack. The Tandori Serpent Power Armor (400 M.D.C.) is just slightly bulkier but is a more fully-featured power armor with mini-missiles and lasers. You get both if you decide to play one of these guys, but you get the usual passive-aggressive "everybody of your race is gonna think you're a dumb weirdo if you help people out, just FYI", because evil races never develop connections or debts or schemes beyond the most sinister and obvious, I suppose.

Next: Finally, a place that matters.

"Yes, gentle reader, that is the foundation of the adventure you are about to embark upon."

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Rifts Dimension Book 4: Skraypers, Part 5: "Yes, gentle reader, that is the foundation of the adventure you are about to embark upon."

The Story of Seeron

So, this is the most recent world the Tarlok have conquerered; it's essentially an Earth near-future equivalent, save for the face that there are mainly three humanoid races: Humans (you may be familiar with these), Seerman (psionic humans with bumpy chins), and Talus (simian-ish humans with tails). The only other large population is the large number of Seleniak (the duckbill dino people from Talavera) who immigrated here. Just about all the Tarlok slave races are here as part of their invasion force... and there are 50,000 Tandori here working with the Tarlok here and still nobody has seen their faces.

We get a long breakdown of the brutal invasion, perhaps the highlight is when the Terlok invaded the "pleasure moon" of Etopia and it's revealed that-

Rifts Dimension Book 4: Skraypers posted:

Of 23 million, only 53,791 survived, and most of them (75%) died under torture and vivisection at the hands of their Shertar interrogators.

That's roughly 17,209,656 torture and vivisection victims. Have they industrialized this, or something? I mean... why does Siembieda write these numbers when they clearly don't make the slightest bit of sense? Maybe they mean that of the survivors, 40,343 were vivisected? Then why are they survivors, if that's the case? I'm probably going to have to sit down for a bit on this one.

Tarlok UnderChief: "Greetings, bruh. What have we learned from the torture and vivisection process?"

Tarlok DreadChief: "After 213,351 successful torture sessions, I'm confident we've learned everything there is to know about these new species!"

Tarlok UnderChief: "Hm. You sure about that, bruh?"

Tarlok DreadChief: "Well, we are slavers. We should just enslave the rest, maybe sell them for a nice profit in space credits-"

Tarlok UnderChief: "Sounds like you're getting lazy, bruh, you'd best torture and vivisect the rest."

Tarlok DreadChief: "But-"


Eventually, the Tarlok murdered Seeronians until they just surrendered. However, when they tried their plague-weapon they used on Talavera on this planet, it mutated and instead started granting people superpowers in children instead. Whoopsie! And so the Seeron gonvement went underground, hoping that they could create an underground of superhuman freedom fighters as people had super-babies. And so, though the Tarlok generally have control, it's rather tenuous, with large areas being outside of their influence. Right now, the Tarlok are focusing on trying to figure out what causes the superpowers and how to replicate them, but they're big dummies on both accounts so far.

The Cities of Seeron

So, with massive skyscrapers and flying cars, a lot of Seeronian cities are really tall, as for some reason they largely "built up" to give themselves flying sci-fi cities. This will be super-important to the origin of the "Skraypers". It's lamer than you might guess!

"A sword through one of our heads? That's the best symbol you could do?"

The Bureau of Control & Registration

Aka "Control" aka "BCR", this is the Tarlok agency that has been formed to try and register and monitor superbeings, mandating superhero registration... hm... anyway, they try and kill, capture, or intimidate anybody that's non-compliant. They're largely led by Dreadmasters and Dreadlor, but also have a variety of minions from throughout their empire, along with Tandori mercenaries (buttery, delicious mercenaries).

"The Tarlok will come to fear the name of Squiggly Forehead!"


Now, we're going to finally reveal it, who the Skraypers are.

We're going to find out where they come from.

What makes them tick.

Their ultimate secret.

The very premise of this game will be revealed soon.

Any day now, any day.

The truth will out.

Finally, the answers are here.

All about them.

The light will expose them.

What are they?

Soon, we'll all know.

The mystery will be solved.

On second thought.

Nah, it's stupid, we'll skip it.

Next: Okay, fine.

"Outraged and infuriated, Tarlok BloodChief Krynok issued a public warning denouncing these 'ruffnecks' and all who supported them."

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Rifts Dimension Book 4: Skraypers, Part 6: "Outraged and infuriated, Tarlok BloodChief Krynok issued a public warning denouncing these 'ruffnecks' and all who supported them."

"I will become what superstitious Tarlok fear, I will be... Ankylosaurusman!


Ooooohkay. Time to talk about the origin of the Skraypers.


So, at one point the Tarlok instituted things like a dress code and other oppressive laws in the city of Rylor on Seeron, along with the headquarters of the Bureau of Control and Registration. But some darn kids decided to flaunt their newfound superpowers by dressing in fancy clothes and fighting Tarlok oppression. Though their resistance was more symbolic than impactful, it started to inspire other resistance, and so... well, I'll let the book tell the tale.

Rifts Dimension Book 4: Skraypers posted:

Outraged and infuriated, Tarlok BloodChief Krynok issued a public warning denouncing these 'ruffnecks' and all who supported them. He walked about the skyscrapers serving as the rebels' battlefield of choice and how they used the maze of towering buildings to escape, hide, and launch new attacks. The BloodChief used the slang term, "scrapers", to refer to the gleaming 100-200 story skyscrapers of Rylor. However, the people took his words to be a metaphor for the heroes themselves.

"The 'scrapers stand bold and tall in the sun and you think they are strong. You think they can protect you. You take refuge in these 'scapers, but they cannot shield or hide you forever. No doubt, you have found some secret network within the buildings that shield you from us like rats scurrying into their holes. We are new, but we will learn the 'scrapers' secrets. We will sniff you out and, when found, we'll tear out you hearts and eat them. If all else fails, we will obliterate your 'scrapers and you with them. 'Scrapers are nothing to us. Do not press me on this. Stay in your rat holes. We don't care. Dare to rebuff us, and you and the 'scrapers shall be smashed into oblivion."

The "scraper rebels" increased their activities and continued to elude capture. Three months later, true to his word, the BloodChief, convinced that the local citizen in that sector of town were helping the rebels, made an example of them by having the space fleet atomize seven city blocks of Rylor. One hundred and sixty-two thousand people were killed. Apparently, the rebels along with them, for they were never seen again.

From that day forward, superbeings who dared to defy the will of the Tarlok became known as "Skraypers". The "K" substituted for the "C" and the "Y" added to make the distinction between the buildings and the heroes.

Yep. That's... that's the story. The story of 'Skraypers.

That it is.

Math-aware people take note: to get that kind of damage out of seven city blocks, the city would have to have a population density roughly five times that of Hong Kong. Maybe you could no-prize in some spillover damage to the surrounding area, or claim that they had densely-populated, closely-packed residential skyscrapers. But it's an odd number, at the very least. Also if the Tarlok can just atomize whole areas unopposed, that raises a whole set of other questions that will go entirely unanswered, such as "where is the moral high ground in punching bad guys and spray-painting walls if you know over a hundred thousand people might die as a result?" Moreover, if they do this over a group that was mostly an embarrassing nuisance, what would they do to a group capable of doing real damage to their occupation? I mean, their normal procedure is to annihilate half a planet's sentient life through biological warfare, so it's not like they really care about wiping out several billion people.

Then again, they'd have a lot less people to vivisect and torture in that case. Anyway, nitpicking aside, skraypers-

... I'm going to have to use this word and just get used to it. Skraypers. So, "Skraypers" generally refers to freedom fighters and superheroes of Seeron. And to some extent it's seen as a romantic ideal on Seeron to become a Skray... Skrayper, but we're quickly reminded their likely fate is to die in battle at a young age. Alternatives include turning traitor, surrendering to be enslaved or killed, or going underground to try and retire. Many Skraypers, however, aren't so much rebels as they are just colorful, superpowered gangs. Granted, not all group together, and some remain independent for various reasons. However, Skrayper groups often help cover for each other and provide secret identities and support. Though may Skraypers have to work day jobs to keep the lights on, some larger communities get secret support from the general populace. Though most are powered, it's not a prerequsite to be a hero. Er. I mean. A Skrayper. Granted, some aren't all good guys either, and either take up the cause for selfish reasons or as a cover for less savory activities. However, the Tarlok also recruit superpowered Seerons as their lackeys or "Supercons". No relation to Decepticons, mind.

Also, the Tarlok call freedom fighters "ruffnecks" as a reference to them being seen as dirty and crude. They never use terms like "freedom fighter" or "rebel", but instead like words like "terrorists" and "criminals".

Other than "Skraypers" or superhumans, and "Norms", people without powers, we have:

Yep, just your average human planet. Filled with humans. Like Earth!


Bio-Freaks are just superhumans that are mutated in such a way as to look obviously "inhuman" or otherwise are repulsive. As such, they're popularly rejected by society. Which seems like a bit much for a society under the heel of fascists, but I guess we still have to learn a thing about not judging people for their looks, because this is a Siembieda thing where maybe the monsters aren't real monsters and makes you think, huh. Most are "noble and heroic" while others are "psychotic monsters and sociopaths".

Rifts Dimension Book 4: Skraypers posted:

Note: Such misanthropes and embittered villains are typically selfish or evil alignments. Five percent are the product of new, Shertars genetic experiments.

Did you know that, thanks to earlier numbers, there are one billion Bio-Freaks? (That is, about 5% of the overall populace.) That means if 5% of them are products of experimentation, that means the Tarlok have experimented on 50 million Seeronians. Okay, though, mind, maybe he just means 5 percent of the evil, turncoat bio-freaks. Even that's only 10% of them, that's still 5 million experiments in 30 years. And then you would have all the experiments that failed for whatever reason, which you'd presume would be larger.

Remember, game designers, use numbers responsibly.

Next: Make way for the homo superior.

"The skin of both sexes is extremely smooth, soft, and supple."

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Rifts Dimension Book 4: Skraypers, Part 7: "The skin of both sexes is extremely smooth, soft, and supple."

Indigenous Seeronians

As mentioned, there are three races on Seeron, all of them nominally variants on Homo Sapien: the baseline humans (homo sapiens sapiens), the psychic seerman (homo sapiens olecrus), and the simian talus (homo sapiens talus). Looks like they goofed the genus-species naming conventions, but they're alien and can do their own thing, I suppose (For the record, I couldn't find any basis for "olecrus" and "talus" is an ankle bone in Latin or a slope in English.) Either way, they can crossbreed, but how that it turns out is undetailed.

Is that what a human looks like? I always wondered.

For some mysteriiious reason, they all speak English - it's implied they likely originated from Earth via a rift, and somehow had English either spontaneously evolve or had it introduced by time-traveling Earth natives. There's also a throwaway note that Atlanteans think Seeronian humans are a lost tribe from Atlantis. Sure, okay. Humans not effected by the virus are known as "norms". And they each get race writeups, and each race also gets its own random chart of superpowers they can get. The superpowers you can choose from depend on what you can roll, but usually you have 3-6 powers, with usually no more than one or two being "major" powers and the rest being "minor" powers. Like normal humans, they're not mega-damage save via powers that grant that. It's also worth mentioning that since this setting doesn't have magic, generally you can't take a wizard class and become a superhero + wizard... but if you happen to end up on Rifts Earth, well, it's not your fault you became loaded down with enough powers to resemble an MMO character five expansions in.

"It was either being a PC race or trying my hand at syndicated sci-fi." Also despite being oractized hobos, Bio-Freaks get "Money: About the same as human Earthlings."

Breaking through the shining cloud I'm gonna stand around, stand around

In case you didn't already notice, the Talus and Bio-Freaks are excellent ways to squeeze in a more powerful character. Either you're playing a Talus for the superpowers of your choice plus free automatic dodge, or a Bio-Freak to try and beg playing a mega-hero out of your GM (presuming you have a copy of Heroes Unlimited 2nd Edition to exploit that with)... and then adding a powered class on top of that, like a psychic or magic class. A Talus Battle Magus? Well, if you have the stats for it! A Mega-Hero Bio-Freak Mind Melter? Hey, why not? All you need is the ability to slip that one past the GM and you should be good; you can get characters on the level of Godlings and Demigods this way. "But," a straw figure whines, "they're not intended to use in a Rifts game, they're intended for use in the Skraypers setting." Then, we apply the sickest of flames to the straw figure, saying smugly and smartly, "These are broken even within the Skrayper setting, compare them to playing a Shrilt - an 'ideal' player character, we were told - the Shrilt will be the goddamn Gleek running around with the Superfriends. Even the Tarlok are gonna be weaksauce compared to a properly powered Talus. Quod erat demonstrandum, motherfucker." And then the strawman explodes and how cool are we? Granted, none of this properly demonstrates how sloppy these rules are; I'm going on best assumptions and ignoring some of the mealy-mouthed stuff like "In a Rifts® setting, Bio-Freaks can learn about magic, but are not likely to become practitioners of magic. They rely on their unnatural mutant powers." Doesn't sound like a "no" to me!

Skipping the bio and going straight to freak.

Also some of the races refer to getting "Latent" Psionics, which is not a mechanic in Rifts but instead is a mechanic from Beyond the Supernatural. Given that uses an entirely different of assumptions regarding psionics, I have no idea how you're supposed to implement them in Rifts, and neither does this book.

Cobra vs. G.I. Joe.

Moving on, I'm going to skip ahead and cover all of the O.C.C.s in this book. They're sandwiched into the NPC sections, but they're short and unexceptional enough to just cover here.The ultimate in O.C.C. design, really. They could have just included one class called "Agent" or the like and saved themselves about 3 or 4 pages. Also, the bad guys are just marginally better because... they are. If that wasn't enough, the Freedom Fighter and Elite Freedom Fighter halve the amount of skills they get if they have powers, while the "Control" Agent has no such restriction. Nor does any other class, seemingly... if the intent was for superpowered characters to get less skills generally, it's not mentioned in the race section. Meaning you're actually better off playing a trash class like the corebook City Rat than playing a Freedom Fighter. Basically, you don't want to actually use the classes in this book, because your character's almost certainly bad at freedom fighting. Ooops.

Next: Bad dudes.

"There's a special random table result so you can look just like me! Check it out!"

"Alias: 'DangerDespair' and 'No Hope' - he often carves the words 'No Hope' into his victims or scrawls it in their blood."

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Rifts Dimension Book 4: Skraypers, Part 8: "Alias: 'DangerDespair' and 'No Hope' - he often carves the words 'No Hope' into his victims or scrawls it in their blood."

Bad Guys

As if the Tarlok weren't enough, we get some supervillains to fight our superheroes.

"I have other people to hold things for me."

First we get The Burning Scythe, who's the would-be world conquering Dr. Doom sort. He used to be a major Talus crime lord who apparently was one of the first mutated by the Tarlok's plague attack. With perfect retconned timing, he was able to raise an army of superbeings (wait, what, I thought it had taken longer for them to notice powers?) and led an evil team called the Epoch Riders to try and overthrow the government of the "Eastern Sector" (Rylor, the city mentioned earlier, is in the "Western Sector"). However, he was caught and sent to a prison on the moon, where the Tarlok freed him during their invasion. He convinced the Tarlok that he hated his homeworld and was allowed to organize a number of the prisoners to undermine the Eastern Sector during the invasion. It was all a ruse, though, and he personally blew up the Tarlok command ship, delaying their invasion. The Tarlok seemingly killed him shortly thereafter.

However, Burning Scythe reemerged as a freedom fighter a few years ago, along with a new version of the Epoch Riders. It turns out he's been taking over the underground there, as well as undermining rebels in the Eastern Sector to ensure that they would be desperate upon his reemergence - as well as willing to accept his leadership. It emphasizes a lot of the people under him are either just criminals-in-rebellious-clothing or extraordinarily ruthless freedom fighters, and wants to make sure we know his rebellion is a bad thing and he's just looking to take over the the planet... or the Eastern Sector, at least. However, he's supposedly putting on a good enough show that most people in that region support him. Well, "30% + 6D6%", so maybe a majority, maybe not? A majority on an average roll

He's a "mega-being", which means he gets the mega-hero buffs from Heroes Unlimited (mainly immortality), and is a 10th level... it doesn't say. I guess he's built with Heroes Unlimited so he doesn't get a class. In any case, he's a modest mega-damage being with a ridiculously high Affinity and exceptional attributes across the board except for Beauty. He has super-strength, doesn't have to breathe, is near-immortal and regenerates quickly, can make energy sickles on command, shoot energy beams, fly, and gets a ridiculous number of attacks along with an automatic dodge due to being a Talus. He's vulnerable to magic!... which is convenient given that there's hardly any magic in this setting. Also he's a literal trillionaire, which I swear is not a joke. Sure, okay, that's a lot of dirty money. In any case, this is enormously self-congratulatory and back-patty, as many Siembieda villain writeups are, but there's at least some interesting nuance in him being eeevil but also loyal enough to the world to fight the Tarlok.

Do what you can with the hair you have.

Then, we get his thugs, the first of which is Three Eyed Klynt, a bad seed psionic Bio-Freak who joined with the Tarlok to do bad things, but found them boorish and escaped their training. Scythe recruited him and he sees working for Scythe as being on the winning side. Most of his psionic powers learn towards mental fuckery with a side of combat, and he has a bionic hand that has undetailed torture devices.

The carefully calculated 'weasel" look.

The second thug is Pytr Piper, a psionic Seerman being mentored by Klynt. His powers are more combat fuckery with a side of mental, and he's a generic crime hardass.

I guess that's a boomerang? Maybe?

Lastly, we have Booma, a cyborg that's somehow of no relation to Bubblegum Crisis - apparently this world has cybernetic technology, which is news to me - who originally was turned into a cyborg Skrayper to get vengeance on her family members killed by the Tarlok. Who did this? How did they- nevermind that, because she was eventually captured by the Tarlok, who tortured her for two weeks. Though her friends rescued her, but the torture made her insane and evil, like torture does. So she basically went around willing to murder and torture anyone if it meant another Tarlok dead, and so her friends disowned her. Scythe recruited her, and when her friend and former lover "Glory Guy" tried to stop her, she killed him and went full evil. Also she has a weapon that's kind of like a boomerang? Sort of?

Good at murder, bad at cat's cradle.

Next, we move on to independent villains. We have DangerDespair, a serial killer and freelance hitman who is - sigh - sadistic and prefers to target beautiful people. It's unclear if he's a Bio-Freak or an alien, but can go intangible, negate superpowers, inflict various bad touches (blindness, paralysis, pain, or save-or-coma), and fly. He's a bunch of boring edgy serial killer tropes in character form with no actual personality, and they forgot to give him mega-damage armor so a single shot from a mega-damage weapon will murder him if he turns tangible.


Dark Quorn is "yet another deranged superbeing", making it sound like even Siembieda is tired of these guys. He was a Skrayper named Thelgiar Quorn who was captured by Control and brainwashed to be their servant, but broke their mind control and became... Dark Quorn. Yep, another hero who was tortured into evil. He leads a gang of supercriminals, but his twist is that he has three personalities - the evil Dark Quorn, the heroic Quorn, and also a rarely-manifested child Quorn. So sometimes he'll randomly show mercy or rescue somebody. He actually has a impressive amount of M.D.C. (429), super-strength, flight, invulnerability, and can shoot lightning. We get very brief glimpses at his gang, and I'll just give the names: "Quizzler", "Red Mad", "Bad Axe", "Nax Malc, the Imitator", and "Killer Klav". Well, it was the nineties.

Not to be confused with Peacestik.

After that, we have some villains that are turncoats working for the Tarlok and their Control organization. There's Fightstik, the result of a illegal genetics experiment that went on during the invasion. He became a superior physical specimen and came to dominate a sport known as "Quikstik", which we get no details on. He became bored with being a super-rich sports star and decided to go around committing robberies in disguise, but Control caught him and he now works for them. The Tarlok were hoping they could turn his fans to their side by coopting Fightstik, but most people just see him as a traitor. He has a special unique power that lets him copy the melee bonuses of anybody he fights (including doing mega-damage if they do mega-damage) and he has super-healing. The way his power works means you only ever have a flat 25% chance of hitting or defending against him in melee.

I wonder why this picture got way more detail? Hm.

Shok was "a super model at the tender age of 15" who then had electric powers emerge. Control snapped her up and made her into a model agent for the Turlok. She enjoys the power and fame and is mostly just remarkably self-centered. Other than having electricity powers, she also is super-tough and is treated as mega-damage.

Slinger uses a hook, Hammerjack uses fists, and Nightwitch uses... um... what is that?

Lastly, we have the Power Brigade, a supervillain group that works out of the Western Sector. They include:
Knocker and... Five-Barrel? I'm only counting five.

In case you had to ask at this point, many of these characters have overblown or ridiculous stats, some of which would be literally unrollable by PCs. In addition, none of them have classes because they're built with Heroes Unlimited and not Rifts, which has you pick a power category and random roll an education to lay out your skills. Of course, a number of that defy that character creation process too... but there's only so much nitpicking I can be bothered with. Really!

Next: Good dudes.

"The most famous and respected Skrayper in the world (Enemy Number One on the Tarlok's list, with the Burning Scythe number two), Victor has become a symbol of nobility, courage, compassion, and hope; a, seemingly, incorruptible power for good."

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Rifts Dimension Book 4: Skraypers, Part 9: "The most famous and respected Skrayper in the world (Enemy Number One on the Tarlok's list, with the Burning Scythe number two), Victor has become a symbol of nobility, courage, compassion, and hope; a, seemingly, incorruptible power for good."

Skraypers of Note
Time to note all the famous Skraypers that are more famous and accomplished than the ones you'll be playing.

This is actually the first illustration in the book.

Victor is a 12th level Blhaze alien (the energy super-beings from earlier) who showed up after the Tarlok claimed Seeron, and was become the most famous Skrayper in the world; its Superman, essentially. He mainly wants to help Seeron fight for itself in the same paternalistic sense as the main Blhaze description. He's aware of Scythe's schemes, but apparently just hasn't had the time to worry about them too much.

For those wondering: no, she doesn't actually look like the Blhaze description.

Nebular is another Blhaze alien that's far more ruthless, seeking to drive the Tarlok back to their homeworld. She's supposed to be the morally questionable sort... but given the Tarlok have been demonstrated to be as evil as evil can be, with their torture and dissection farms, so it feels a bit late to try and make killing a bunch of genocidal, baby-eating slavers a moral quandary. But apparently she wiped out a species once... wait, and she's "leaning" towards evil? Man, pay attention to your own alignment system.

The eye doesn't actually do anything.

Dragon Eye is a veteran hero famous across the world; apparently the fact that he's a Bio-Freak is generally ignored. His name comes from the fact that he looks "dragon-like" - Seeron has dragon legends or dragon visitations, I guess? He's super-strong, invulnerability, can manipulate fire, perform mental attacks, and gets a variety of sensitive psychic powers. He's generically heroic.

Spike Tail. And spike arms. And spike hair.

Then there's Spike Tail, a Bio-Freak who started live as a rebel before going to a "juvenile correctional facility for Bio_Freaks". But he escaped from Control, and most of his family was executed as a result. He joined a gang, but during a robbery-

Rifts Dimension Book 4: Skraypers posted:

When five of his cohorts began roughing up the terrified victims and threatened to rape one of the women, Spike Tail to action prevent it.

That's not a typo- well, not my typo, anyway. It turned out Dragon Eye was watching the scene and helped him out, and mentored him until Spike Tail became his own Skrayper. He "no longer lives for revenge" (did he ever?) and has become the cocky, devil-may-care sort of swashbuckling hero.

The optimal mode of movement.

I think it's pure coincidence that Truk moves like a monkey, not a truck. He's a Seerman genetically modified by the Shertar, and has a bunch of superpowers PC Seerman can't have or roll up, like super-strength, invulnerability, can stick to walls, modest super-speed, and healing factor. He also gets a super-willlpower (one of the few powers that PC Seerman can roll) and some sensitive psychic powers. In any case, he was freed by Victor and has dedicated his life to fighting the Tarlok. He has his own team that includes the following luminaries: Night Tiger, Mad Melbone, and Thrashmaster. However, he's looking for some new recruits, which I guess could be PCs? Personally, I'm looking forward to the fight between Red Mad and Mad Melbone to determine the maddest superhuman around.

Of the above, only Nebular and Spike Tail seem to have any discernable personality, and so having these guys be the baddest ever doesn't really do much but show the player characters up. I mean, if somebody like Victor, Dragon Eye, or Truk had an angle other than "show up and nod sagely at the PCs' efforts", it'd be fine having them be these top-level heroes, but as it is, they feel an awful like like the dreaded "gamemaster player characters". Also they have stupid unrollable stats, but you knew that by now. These are Palladium NPCs.

Also, for all the talk of the rebels having colorful superhero costumes, they all seem to be in regular clothes - except for the aliens. Weird. It's almost as if the artist and writer weren't entirely in sync. But that's a ridiculous notion!

Next: Things to stab player characters with.

"Tarlok weapon bonuses never apply to anybody except the Tarlok (requires strength and training)."

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Rifts Dimension Book 4: Skraypers, Part 10: "Tarlok weapon bonuses never apply to anybody except the Tarlok (requires strength and training)."

Yes, even though it's a game where most of your fighting is done with eyebeams or falcon punches, we still get-

Weapons & Technology

but mostly just weapons

Practical weapons.

So we get "Tarlok Energy Melee Weapons" first, which are all so big anybody without massive super-strength can't use them without penalties (though apparently they make downsized versions for minions with reduced damage), and non-Tarlok get none of their bonuses. Almost all of them can do mega-damage or shoot blasts of non-denominational energy. The Tarlok Energy War Club is the only one that really feels unique, since it has a built-in taser that inflicts horrendous combat penalities for a good minute or so. The Byomer-Axe is a vibro-weapon that can't shoot blasts but gets the highest combat bonuses, and the Tarlok Battlecleaver does the most damage. Other than that, there's nothing particularly exceptional about the Tarlok Energy Beaked Axe, Tarlok Energy Mace "Skullbasher", Tarlok Energy Short Sword, Tarlok Energy Dread Axe, Tarlok Energy Spear, Tarlok Energy Death Pike, and the Tarlok Slayzer. They do different damage values, but the first three weapons are the only ones you ever need to choose between.

You can tell the alien weapons by the fact you could accidentally stab yourself with them.

Next up are "Guns, Rifles, & Cannons" - specifically Tarlok ones, though that isn't in the header. The Tarlok Tranquilizer Gun knocks you out on a failed save, but if your Physical Endurance is high you just get horrendous penalties. Completely unclear as to whether or not it can affect mega-damage targets. The Tarlok Ripper Pistol and Tarlok Tri-Blaster do modest damage, though the pistol has a bayonet with no damage value. The Tarlok Sidewinder Plasma Cannon is the only one you're like to actually use, though, since it does 1d6 x 10 damage, a far cry from the 4d6 you might get from a pistol or the 6d6 from a battlecleaver.

We get only one suit of armor, the Loksuit Power Armor, because it's used by TarLoks, get it- it's basically a really heavy suit of armor (115 M.D.C., with a 230 M.D.C. variant that has no balancing drawbacks) that doubles as a spacesuit. It also has a built-in vibro-sword, lasers, and grappling hook, but all of those are weapons of desperation at best.

Oh, did you spend a power slot on shooting lasers? Sorry, you could've just bought one.

"Seeronian Weapons" are generic and unexceptional if you've ever seen a Rifts weapon section. The Seer-10 Ion Blaster, Seer-15 Laser Mini-Pistol, Seer-100 Dual Pulse Rifle, and the Seer-230 Shattergun all do thoroughly average damage for their given weapon types, leaning towards the lower end to reflect their lower technology level compared to the Tarlok. The SR-05 Sub-Machinegun is "used by the rebel forces" for some reason even though it doesn't do mega-damage and can only tickle Tarloks. The Seer-200 Double-Rifle is the only one to really use, though, at 1d4 x 10 mega-damage.

If it flies and has no wheels, is it still a car?

A variety of flying cars round out "Vehicles". There's the Seeron Urban Assault Car (240 M.D.C.) which apparently was used by the police and now by Control - it has lasers and mini-missiles, and can fly at 320 MPH. The Aerial Road Slider (190 M.D.C.) is a civilian car that goes about 150 MPH, ho hum. The Tarlok Annihilator (350 M.D.C.) is a transatmospheric fighter that goes up to MACH 5 and has lasers and mini-missiles. The Tarlok Killship (600 M.D.C.) is the tanky version of the Annihilator that goes up to MACH 6, but gives a penalty on skill rolls with it. It has more powerful lasers, mini-missiles, and medium or long-range missiles in case you need to provide intercontinental fire support to bombard the PCs with. Sure, makes sense.

How much more exciting would Star Wars have been if tie fighters took 20 shots to kill? Twenty times as exciting, I'll bet.

It bears mentioning that there are no alterations to the damage values to cope with the fact that the average character is going to be much more durable in this setting, due to the addition of powers. Did I mention the average Tarlok (going by the average age of 200 years and 8th level from the tables provided) has 520+ M.D.C.? Man, I already thought fighting Coalition soldiers with 90 M.D.C. body armor was sloggy, but an armored Tarlok warrior (not the kind you can play, which are way weaker, of course) will have 600-700+ M.D.C.! That's verging on Glitter Boy or Invulnerable superhero levels of durability, and is nearly unplayable in terms of actual repeated conflict. If you're firing a Seeronian Double-Rifle, it's going to take about 20 to 30 successful hits to bring down a Tarlok. Even if you're equivalent (8th) level and can shoot lasers from your hands, you can only do about 10d6 damage, which means it'll still take 15-20 blasts to bring down one of these baddies. It's exceedingly bad design, making players have to rely solely on dirty tricks like gravity manipulation or status effects to win fights. Doctor Laserhands is way, way better off blinding his Tarlok foes than actually trying to hurt them, and that's a real problem.

But this setting is full of problems. This is just one more.

Next: The writer remembers to make this a Rifts book.

"For the Tarlok, the discovery of this fabulous place is like a child stumbling into Disney World."

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Rifts Dimension Book 4: Skraypers, Part 11: "For the Tarlok, the discovery of this fabulous place is like a child stumbling into Disney World."

The Rifts® Connection

Phase World

So, we're told the Charizolon System is only "a few light-years" from Phase World, which makes them part of the setting detailed in Rifts Dimension Book 2: Phase World and Rifts Dimension Book 3: Phase World Sourcebook, even though that isn't actually made clear until this far in the book. The Tarlok discovered Phase World 40 years ago...

Wait. The Tarlok don't have interstellar space travel. This was made very clear. What's not clear is how the hell they ended up on Phase World. It's implied they may have hitched a ride (with their slaving peers, the Rithe or Tandori?) or traveled there via some kind of sub-light drive that takes over a decade, but that's just supposition; the book doesn't bother making a proper explanation. The Tarlok aren't so dumb as to think they might conquer Phase World, and see it as an opportunity to explore (and likely conquer) other dimensions, as well as purchase technology from the various races present. And in case you're wondering; no, Phase World didn't seem to notice or care about this burgeoning space empire only several light years away, despite being run by the ultra-advanced Prometheans. "Hey, is that interplanetary genocide going on over next door?" "Can't stay I rightly care, Mick."

The Three Galaxies

Though technically they're part of the Three Galaxies setting bought up in previous Dimension Books, the Charizolon System is basically considered a third world backwater because they hadn't discovered interstellar travel (no, seriously, we're back to that point again without explaining-) run by petty tyrants. Most people don't even know about them, and we get a long, long diatribe on why they'd remain undiscovered. This is supposedly because, of course, this setting uses a warp technology that doesn't involve visiting any locations amongst your route. Still, it doesn't make a ton of sense, because it implies nobody bothers to investigate the immediate region around Phase World, arguably the center of the that particular universe, and certainly the most pivotal locale. One would think people would be interested in setting up shop nearby, or at least mining and exploring, but apparently not... well, outside of the Rithe or Tandori, but this section also pretty much forgets they exist. Mostly, this is a hook to use the Tarlok in your Phase World games. Granted, Phase World already has a generic race of conquering baddies (the Kreeghor), but I guess if you need another group with inflated M.D.C. values, the Tarlok are there for you.

True Atlanteans

So, it turns out if the ancient, dimensionally-wandering "True" Atlanteans find out about Seeron, they'll immediately come to the conclusion that the Seeronians are descendants of Atlantis. Apparently the fact that Seeron has no apparent remnants of Atlantean culture, language, or heritage is no barrier to this assumption. In addition, any one of the Seeronian human species are far closer to baseline Earthly humans than Atlanteans. Despite this, so some of them will come to Seeron to help their wayward siblings out! Also, the Tarlok will quickly find themselves archenemies of the True Atlanteans... when the Atlanteans can be bothered.

Rifts Dimension Book 4: Skraypers posted:

However, True Atlanteans will be disheartened to learn that these "cousins" have forgotten their heritage, and they will be infuriated that Seeron has fallen under the yoke of alien oppression and is polluted by genetic mutation.

"Polluted?" That's one of those terms that usually goes with... but they couldn't mean...

Rifts Dimension Book 4: Skraypers posted:

While True Atlanteans will embrance the (not so) indigenous homo sapiens of Seeron, they will feel closest kinship to the ordinary humans. It is they who will be most often given magical tattoos and invited to learn about their Heritage as True Atlanteans. The evolved Seerman and Talus, and the superhumans mutants transformed by the Tarlok's virus will be regarded as truly "distant" cousins who have lost some measure of their humanity, and thus, their full heritage as "True" Atlanteans. While this smacks of racism, is the way of the elitist True Atlanteans.

... oh. No, Siembieda. It doesn't "smack" of racism. It is just racist. Treating somebody as inferior or less worthy is a fully featured and complete form of racism.

Rifts Dimension Book 4: Skraypers posted:

Yet, paradoxically, most True Atlanteans will respect each person as an individual, and may come to accept and value certain Talus, Seerman, and superhumans more than their own blood relatives. True Atlanteans tend to respect courage, integrity, and compassion regardless of race, so the Seeronians who struggle for freedom, and battle evil in all its forms will be seen as noble heroes and given the respect they deserve. Furthermore, the True Atlanteans will regard even the mutant Seeronians as a source of pride - True Atlanteans in their heart and soul, if not in their appearance. In the minds of the Atlanteans, it is little wonder that so many Seeronians have risen above every adversity and fight like Atlantean heroes - it is in their blood (or so they believe).


Rifts Dimension Book 4: Skraypers posted:

For the most part, True Atlanteans will leave the people of Seeron to find and achieve their own destiny.

Racist, paternalistic bullshit. I've gotta move on.

The Splugorth

Aw, shit. Yes, Siembieda's pet monsters are back. See, they basically throw a tentacle around the Tarlok's shoulder on Phase World, and are like "You've got a friend in me!" They're exploiting the cold reception the Tarlok have generally gotten on the interstellar world stage to use them as thugs and agents (particularly as disposable or deniable ones), as well as get access to Seeronian slaves. In time, they may consider them for recruitment as client race. It suggests this as a means of linking Seeron with Rifts Earth, by having Seeronian slaves brought to Atlantis or who are fleeing the Splugorth. There's a lot of talk on this, but mostly it's just a constant streak of smuggery about how much smarter Siembieda's villains the Splugorth are than Zeleznik's villains the Tarlok.

This is the only piece in here that isn't reused art.

Relations with Others

The Tarlok are generally regarded as sinister bumpkins. The Kreegor and Naruni see them as upstarts, and the Cosmo-Knights see them as a potential threat. the Tarlok are interested in magic but will have no talent for it. We get a blow-by-blow of how Tarlok technology compares to Coalition technology because we have to find out how the the Tarlok compare, and we're reassured that the Coalition could hold their own against the Tarlok. This doesn't make much goddamn sense, given that the Tarlok have things like orbital bombardment and engineered plagues, but I guess we can't even have the Coalition get shown up by little interplanetary empires.

The Megaversal Perspective

And though it has nothing to do with the subject book (other than it loosely being about another dimension), we get a discussion of how Rifts relates to another Palladium game lines. I haven't really gone over these even with all these reviews, because they're all listed in other game lines. In particular, Rifts relates to the Beyond the Supernatural game in that it borrows most of that game's metaphysics - ley lines, most of that game's monster section, the term "Potential Psychic Energy", and so on. Previously, Rifts has been presented as a likely future of Beyond the Supernatural, since characters like Victor Lazlo occur in both game lines.

In addition, the Heroes Unlimited supplement known as Villains Unlimited had a number of connections to Rifts setting elements. Companies like Cyberworks (creators of the the mad AI Archie-3 from Rifts Sourcebook) and the KLS Corporation (designers of the Glitter Boy from Mutants in Orbit) made appearances, for example. In addition, a Chiang-Ku dragon (from Rifts World Book 4: Africa) made an appearance as a supervillain in the same book. As such, it also seemed like a possible, though less likely past of the Rifts universe.

And so, this book then explains away the connection by claiming the three settings are just dimensionally "close" and have connections and common elements as a result. It also retcons the notion of Victor Lazlo (of Rifts World Book 4: Africa) having traveled through a rift from Beyond the Supernatural to the future of Rifts. Instead, it says that the Beyond the Supernatural universe is contemporary to the Rifts setting, and he just rifted between dimensions instead of through time. And so Victor Lazlo mistakenly believes he's time traveled, and isn't aware that he could potentially travel back home.

Mind, this minutae is given two whole pages and many more just recapping transdimensional information we already know, but it at least gives a clear explanation for the hints dropped between the various game lines.

Next: Super Rifts.

"It is virtually impossible for him to walk unnoticed, because he looks more like a knight or robot than an Ordinary Joe."

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Rifts Dimension Book 4: Skraypers, Part 12: "It is virtually impossible for him to walk unnoticed, because he looks more like a knight or robot than an Ordinary Joe."

This section has no art, so I'll just use what I didn't elsewhere.

Super Abilities
Descriptions for Rifts®

And, for the final thirty pages of the book, we get an abbreviated version of the superpower rules from Heroes Unlimited. These are divided into two types: "minor" super abilities and "major" super abilities. Minor abilities tend to have a limited scope and effect, where major abilities have a more broad set of connected effects or a single very powerful effect. Generally speaking, most powered characters get at least two to five abilities, with generally only one or two major abilities. Of course, Palladium being Palladium, the effects can still have wildly different efficacy within those categories. For example, "Flight: Gliding" is objectively inferior to "Flight: Wingless", but they both take up a single pick for a minor super ability. Or, alternately, having Tentacles is considered equal to Magnetism (which is like putting Constrictor on the same level as Magneto). In Heroes Unlimited, this is "balanced" often by forcing players to roll randomly for powers. However, Rifts Dimension Book 4: Skraypers just has players pick their powers instead during character generation. As such, there's not a lot of reason to take Heightened Sense of Taste unless you really, really want to be a super-taster.

In any case, the minor super abilities include:

Adhesion, Bend Light, Body weapons, Energy Explusion (choose from Electricity, Electrical Field, Energy, fire, or Light), Energy Resistance, Extraordinary ____ (choose from any attribute except I.Q.), Flight (choose from Gliding, Winged, or Wingless), Healing Factor, Heightened Sense of ____ (choose from Hearing, Smell, Taste, or Touch), Impervious to Fire & Heat, Manipulate Kinetic Energy, Mental Stun, Nightstalking, Power Channelling, Radar, Superhuman Strength, Supervision (sight, not management, choose from Advanced Sight, Nightvision, Ultraviolet & Infrared, or X-Ray), and Underwater Abilities.

The following power is listed as being in the book but is absent: Horror Factor. Presumably they cut it after creating the list, and forgot to note that fact.

The major super abilities include:

Alter Limbs, Alter Metabolism, Bio-Armor, Chameleon, Cloaking, Control Elemental Force (choose from Air or Fire), Control Others, Copy Physical Structure, Create Force Field, Darkness Control, Disruptive Touch, Divine Aura, Energy Absorption, Energy Weapon Extensions, Force Aura, Gravity Manipulation, Growth, Immortality, Intangibility, Invisibility, Invulnerability, Item Reduction [shrinking], Karmic Power, Lycanthropy, Mechano-Link, Mimic [powers], Multiple Beings/Selves, Natural Combat Ability, Negate Super Abilities/Powers, Shrink, Sonic Flight, Sonic Speed, Sonic Absorption & Reflection, Stretching/Elasticity, Super-Energy Expulsion, Supernatural Strength, Teleport, Tentacles, Vibration, or Weight Manipulation.

The following powers appear in Heroes Unlimited but not in this book:

Adapt to Environment, Alter Facial Features & Physical Stature, Alter Physical Structure (Electricity, Fire, Ice, Liquid, Metal, Plant, Plasma, Smoke/Mist, or Stone), Animal Abilities, Animal Metamorphosis, Bio-Ghost, Control Elemental Force (Earth or Water), Control Kinetic Energy, Control Radiation, Control Static Electricity, Gem Powers, Holographic Memory Projection, Magnetism, Multiple Lives, Negative Matter, Plant Control, Slow Motion Control, Sonic Power, Spin at High Velocity, and Transferal Possession.

Space is nowhere near as empty as I expected.

A full description of each power is going to be beyond the scope of this review; for those that need the fullest skinny, MegaDumbCast has been doing a year-plus long discussion of Heroes Unlimited. Instead, I'm going to focus on what the one thing every Rifts superhero has to worry about, which is "how do I survive mega-damage?" Well, here's your "Survival Guide to Rifts Superpowers".With that out of the way, super-powers also let you do an end-run around some of Rifts' setting elements, since they bypass a lot of the detection methods used to notice supernatural creatures, magic, or psionic powers. Control others is a form of mind control that bypasses normal psionic defenses (like the mind block power) and most bonuses to save against psionics. In addition, it bypasses other forms of detection, like the supernatural sensitivity of dog boys and psi-stalkers. Similarly, other superpowers will often bypass most forms of detection until obvious or used. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, but can upend the normal course of a campaign.

So, what are we left in this book? Well, we have the XP tables, which leads to the funny fact that most (non-bio-freak) superpowered characters from this book use the XP table for their R.C.C. So you could be an invulnerable, super-fast, super-strong Seeronian talus human, then go and take the Vagabond O.C.C., and level extra-fast. In fact, you can trivally level faster than weaker character types like the Lashreg. They also forget to give the Seleniak an XP table, even though they're one of the core races available on Seeron.

Bio-Freak? Alien? Insert your justification for this art here!

Heroism and Rifts

And that's that for Rifts Dimension Book 4: Skraypers. The core idea of "superheroes fighting an alien invasion that won" isn't a bad idea at all, but mainly this book runs into a lack of focus. A good fourth of the book is dedicated to all the Tarlok client races that just aren't of much consequence compared to the Tarlok themselves. Furthermore, adding in a bunch of supervillains muddies the waters, and with the severe in-setting consequences for rebellion makes it confusing as to what exactly most characters can even do against an invasion that can just orbitally bomb any resistance. While far from unsalvageable, a gamemaster's going to do a lot of heavy lifting to put together an actual campaign structure out of this. Of course, more realistically, players are going to raid this for superpowered characters for the normal Rifts setting, and it seems unlikely the Seeronian setting itself has ever seen much use.

But this book had me think of what Rifts' core values are. We've had over two dozen books to work out what Palladium thinks is right and wrong, and I feel like it's been on the tip of my brain, but it's only recently come together. So let's go over what I've worked out. Bear in mind there are a lot of exceptions to this - but you'll find them solely in books not written by Siembieda. Carella, in particular, led to a much different feel for the regions he wrote. But when Kevin's exerting his editorial and authorial control, this is what we see.

Authority is corrupting and evil. This is true in most RPGs, but is especially true in Rifts. Governments devolve into intolerance (New German Republic) and often fascism (Coalition States). Businesses like Atlantis or Stormspire are exploitative, inhuman slavers. We almost never, ever see organized religion, but when we do, it's inevitably an evil or deceptive cult like the Cult of Dragonwright. Mind, small city-states can still be good (Lazlo or Psyscape), small businesses can be fine, but individual priests can be as benevolent as can be. But when they become an institution, they become an authority, corruption is inevitable. For example, you have New Camelot being undermined by a supernatural intelligence, or the New Empire of Japan being undermined by a bloodthirsty, power-hungry warlord.

War is only performed by the foolish or mad. A small band of adventurers undoing schemes is the ideal, but whenever things get scaled up, things get bad. The Coalition commits to war the most often, and is run by a literal madman. The New German Republic is presented as morally grey even as they fight a defensive war. Even when fighting dyed-in-the-wool evil like the Coalition, Tolkeen itself will be portrayed as corrupt and foolhardy. War is inherently bad, even defensive war. After all, the Seeronian most actively ready to wage war on the Tarlok - Burning Scythe - is portrayed as a corrupt powermonger.

You have Victor, who's presented as the "good" Blhaze hero, who only performs limited intervention and refuses to use his power to actively take the fight to the strongholds of the Tarlok. However, you have Nebular who is the "bad" Blhaze hero, and presented as mad and unreasonable in the fact that she's willing to just slaughter the Tarlok to drive them off of Seeron. And that'd work if we were working in a purely comic-booky environment where villains didn't murder billions as a matter of course, but when you count up the amount of deaths the Tarlok have caused across their system, throwing death plagues on literally every sentient species in the system, well. It doesn't square.

People have to be inspired to fight for themselves. Basically, the only just conflict is a popular one. In other words, rule of the mob. Mind, this would work better if the average Seeronian had any power at all. Only spontaneous, small-group guerrilla actions seem to be justified. You know, like Star Wars. Or Dungeons & Dragons. It's a type of morality uniquely suited to justifying a small group of PC world-savers, but it doesn't seem particularly practical. Once you start organizing things and forming an army, you're back to point #1.

It's unfunctional, in the end, requiring that there be some central power reactor for the PCs to blow up and save the day, or similar plot device. And if the game was built with that in mind, that'd be fine. It can work if it's intentional. But as Rifts tends to be written, these three principles prevent the world from ever truly being saved.

But you can change that if you like.