1 "Gypsy Magic is hated, feared and avoided."
2 "When not actively engaged in hurting or molesting humans and D-Bees, demonkind can be found torturing animals, plucking the wings (and other body parts) off of Faeries, gorging themselves on food, drinking themselves into a stupor (many build stills and brew homemade alcohol of potent quality), swapping stories, searching for lost treasure, sleeping (most are lazy), and gambling."
3 "Rule number two, NEVER think that one can outsmart, outmaneuver or deceive a Wolf-Serpent."
4 "Other favorite antics include moving or hiding objects (often into the pockets of unwitting bystanders and then tattling on them with accusations of thievery), picking pockets, tying shoelaces together, physically tampering with weapons, spoiling food or milk, howling, hooting, stomping or banging around, whispering lies, telling wild stories (all or mostly all untrue), tattling on others, frightening big people, misleading them so they get lost, pinching, pulling hair, stealing freshly baked bread, fruit pies, milk, jam, honey, candy and wine (the latter four they love with a passion), and other similar mischief."
5 "This magic can also afflict human mothers trying to breast feed; same basic process but with the witch pinching a breast."
6 "Necromancers of a good alignment are NOT possible!"
7 "The Mystic Smiths understand that the items, especially magic horseshoes, magic weapons and armor, and M.D. weapons and material can change the balance of power in a region or bring tragedy instead of prosperity."
8 "Note: Gypsies lie a great deal, and do so cheerfully, although not necessarily to cheat or deceive."
9 "According to Gypsies, all men can be like God (good and kind) or like the devil (evil)."
10 "We added 16 pages to this book and we still don't have enough space for everything that our wild Cossack Siembieda wants to include."
11 "He is cannibalistic, which means he'll slay and eat other gods and supernatural beings — and also demands human sacrifices from his worshippers (eats 2D4 people a week, and often gorges himself on the battlefield where he may devour as many as a hundred warriors, living and dead)."

"Gypsy Magic is hated, feared and avoided."

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Rifts World Book 18: Mystic Russia posted:


One, two, three...

Rifts World Book 18: Mystic Russia posted:

Violence and the Supernatural

... twenty-three, twenty-four, twenty-five...

Rifts World Book 18: Mystic Russia posted:

The fictional World of Rifts® is violent, deadly and filled with supernatural monsters. Otherdimensional 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 book.

... forty-eight, forty-nine, fifty...

Rifts World Book 18: Mystic Russia posted:

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

... ninety-eight, ninety-nine, one-hundred...

Rifts World Book 18: Mystic Russia 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.

... one hundred and ninety-eight, one-hundred and ninety-nine, two hundred... Jesus...

Got me cursing like a Christian here. Well, you can see Palladium's usual warning above. But here's my warning: there are well over two hundred instances of the g-word in this book. Some readers may find these elements of the review inappropriate for anyone. We suggest reader discretion. As mentioned before in Warlords of Russia, I won't be using the term further, but it will come up in quotations and header text where I'm drawing from the book directly. Speaking of which...

Rifts World Book 18: Mystic Russia, Part 1 - "Gypsy Magic is hated, feared and avoided."

So, Siembieda admits he didn't know much about Russian folklore before researching it, but now realizes that Russian people have a rich mythology that survived alongside Christianity!

Rifts World Book 18 posted:

The premise of Rifts® Mystic Russia is that the Russian people's steadfast beliefs in magic and the supernatural was well founded, and that their belief and ancient knowledge helped prepare them for the return of magic to Earth.

Rifts World Book 18 posted:

With a few exceptions, like the Aborigines of Australia, few people on Rifts Earth possessed as keen an understanding and innate acceptance of the supernatural as the Russian people.

Unless you also count the druids of Britain (Rifts World Book 3: England]), ethnic wanderers (Rifts World Book 5: Triax & the NGR), Voudo practitioners (Rifts World Book 6: South America), Japanese people in general (Rifts World Book Seven: Japan), the people of the Andes (Rifts World Book Nine: South America), and - let's not forget - Indigenous Americans in general (Rifts World Book Fifteen: Spirit West). Oh, and Wendigos. Remember them? The friendly bigfoot people that survived alongside humanity even during the unmagic times? Those too.

But other than that (oh, and the China books in the future), few people. Few people like the Russians indeed.

"The cover is by John Zeleznik, and depicts a Gypsy Sorcerer summoning spirits from a fire. Behind her is one of the few rebuilt cities of Western Russia — probably Kiev." - Siembieda

Rifts Russia & The Supernatural

Rifts World Book 18: Mystic Russia posted:


Mystic Russia is inspired by the ancient myths, legends, folk tales and superstitions of the ancient Russian people. The monsters, demons, magic, and Occupational Character Classes (O.C.C.s) that appear in this book are not real. They are fictional conglomerations inspired by myth, heavily changed and extrapolated upon, and spun into fictional magic and imaginary characters by the fertile imagination of the author. None of the magic or monsters are real.

Likewise, no real-life people, gypsies, cultures or religious faith have been portrayed. Although Christianity played a large role in Russian history, it is only occasionally and vaguely presented as a bit of color and background. This is a work of fiction about a future and alien Earth where magic and technology collide and ancient legends and mythical gods and monsters walk the planet.

You can do that? Like you can say, "Oh, I'm not talking about Russian culture, I'm just talking about my fantasy nationality that are called Russians, based on Russians, but take my word for it: they're not Russian."

Cue 1 micron squint. This book has just started. For the record, I'll be shuffling around the order a bit because the opening section has a lot of redundancy and a tendency to forget what was just written.

So, Russians continued to believe in the supernatural for... mysterious reasons... and the old folk tales now work in their favor. However, most of this is just practical knowledge, and actual use of magic is considered dangerous and fearsome. While they respect the expertise of sorcerers and the like, and try not to anger them, they think of such as something to mostly be avoided. Supernatural creatures are generally seen as the creators of all ills, and aren't likely to befriend the local human population. Similarly, ley lines are seen as accursed sites that spawn monsters. Wait, I thought the Russian people had been well-prepared by their traditional myths and stories? I mean, it seems to have given them some useful protips, but also turned them into anti-supernatural bigots. And it certainly hasn't kept them from being menaced by the supernatural, as we'll see.

Next, we get a breakdown of magic classes in Russia. Mystics are the most common, being seen as wisemen and women of sorts. There are also Ley Line Walkers, a new "Mystic Smith" class, and the new "Old Believer" class, the last of which is a very loose version of Slavic paganism. However, "Gypsy Magic", Necromancers, Shifters, and various types of demonic witches are anathematic, though.

Rifts World Book 18: Mystic Russia posted:

Gypsy Magic is hated, feared and avoided. Generally speaking, Rifts Russians regard Gypsies, as a whole, as deceitful, self-serving thieves and cutthroats who will dare anything and associate with dangerous magic and demonic forces if they think they can profit from it. Note: See the section on Russian Gypsies elsewhere in this book for more information.

Oh, we'll be waiting, I'm sure.

There are also Mystic Knights (from World Book 16: Federation of Magic), but given that was a form of magic unique to America, I'm not sure how. Their presence will never be noted again or explained, in any case. They specifically don't have any Techno-Wizards, and apparently all Russians are superstitious folk that would bust up your cool techno-magic shit. We also have some flagrant errors already- we're told that there's going to be a Superhuman Hero class that's loved by the people (isn't on the class list, might have become the Slayer?), there's a class referred to called the Znakhari that's presumably supposed to be the new Born Mystic class, but that term is never used again. Lastly, Ley Line Walkers are referred to getting access to the new Living Fire magic spells, and they don't- they get access to other new magic while Living Fire gets its own new class.

I get the impression this book was a bit rushed.

"I understand you need a lot of demons for this book? Looking forward to some stats..."

The Demon Plague

We're told only China has a greater amount of supernatural beings (I guess Atlantis doesn't count?), and most people see this is as an everyday source of trouble. In addition, there are the fearsome threats of evil witches, necromancers, and... gypsies, again. In any case, even simple woodland spirits are seen as a menace.

Mind, it seems nearly every village is plagued by a supernatural threat, though it may be secret or subtle. Well, Geralt has to find regular work somehow, I suppose. We get a long laundry list of terrible acts demons and monsters might visit upon villagers, and the r-word is included amongst them. No, not R-ussia. After the last book, I feel just exhausted bringing it up, so I'll leave it at that. Apparently most local demons like tormenting and troubling humans rather than outright destruction. Also, they hate beauty and goodness! Mostly, though, like the majority of Siembiedan villains, they're just sadistic. More rarely, a powerful one will take over a whole community, and some rare ones just wander around bitin' off heads, but generally their behavior is more trollish and cruel than ambitious.

Peasants not included.

The Peasant Homestead

There are a fair number of describing peasant homes, but we can skip most of them. Most are essentially medieval. In winter, there's a tradition of reluctant hospitality- they generally suspect visitors of being monsters or mages, but offer basic amenties to try and avoid inadvertently getting a curse or the like. Full hospitality isn't likely unless a local vouches for you, however.

"Blam! You're dead! No need to stat you up, now!"

Adventurers & Demons

Wandering adventurers are generally enlisted by communities to deal with their supernatural problems, though rarely this can be a ruse if they're in league with (or intimidated by) a local supernatural monster. Generally, it's considered best to outright kill demons and menaces so they don't visit their wrath upon the village. Faeries and woodland spirits are more easygoing, and can be made to back down or move. However, these creatures often conflict with each other, meaning they don't generally gather in force. All largely a framework to try and give Russia more of a folkloric feel, but painted with a ridiculously broad and generic brush. Eleven time zones and they all seem the same.

Next: They hate you because you're beautiful.

"When not actively engaged in hurting or molesting humans and D-Bees, demonkind can be found torturing animals, plucking the wings (and other body parts) off of Faeries, gorging themselves on food, drinking themselves into a stupor (many build stills and brew homemade alcohol of potent quality), swapping stories, searching for lost treasure, sleeping (most are lazy), and gambling."

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Rifts World Book 18: Mystic Russia, Part 2 - "When not actively engaged in hurting or molesting humans and D-Bees, demonkind can be found torturing animals, plucking the wings (and other body parts) off of Faeries, gorging themselves on food, drinking themselves into a stupor (many build stills and brew homemade alcohol of potent quality), swapping stories, searching for lost treasure, sleeping (most are lazy), and gambling."

Supernatural Horrors

So, most of this section will be turned over to "Russian Demons", who apparently aren't related to the demons from Hades (from Rifts Conversion Book). Instead, they're an older race of demons known as "Archaic Demons" from another dimension, and are considered to be backwater barbarians by the demons of Hades. Though Archaic Demons resent being treated as lessers, they generally "accept their place" as subservient when the two conflict. Apparently they created dimensional links to Russia 15,000 years ago, and fought the True Atlanteans at some point, but went away with the fading of magic. The're apparently not into culture or civilization, and see humanity as just either playthings or prey. As such, they tend not to organize beyond a dozen unless under the leadership of a more powerful supernatural being. Somtimes rivalries crop up, but for the most part they just disregard each other unless there's a clear reason to conflict. Weaker ones tend to respect more powerful demons for the clear practical reasons. They see gargoyles and brodkil demons as inferior "sub-demons", and the fact they've established "empires" in Europe is confusing and annoying.

There are common elements here, of course. Did we mention demons are sadistic? Don't worry, it'll come up again. Most are vulnerable to silver weapons, or wooden weapons made from a juniper, birch, or millennium tree (and sometimes ash, it's not consistent). Those that are vulnerable to daylight are also vulnerable to the globe of daylight spell, so be sure to pack that on your character sheet. Most are tougher at night. They're consistently described as hating good and beauty. I can understand hating good - that kind of stuff gets in the way of spoiling milk and eggs - but beauty? How does a thousand-year old demon that's never been to Earth know what standards of beauty they are? Well, maybe they interdimensionally subscribed to Cosmopolitan, that'd explain it. Also, they all have dimensional teleport at some low % roll, so they can peace out with a good enough roll. How often can they roll? Who knows?

Oh, and a lot of the demons' spells reference Rifts Conversion Book or Rifts World Book 16: Federation of Magic. Better hope you have a copy of each on hand, because they're used extensively here!

Lesser Demons

But can demons get cancer?

The Unclean are demons that fear light (aside from ley lines) and gain strength in the darkness (that is, Strength and M.D.C.). They usually travel in small groups or follow more powerful demons. Though they vary a lot, they're usually hooved, horned, and generally just ugly little 4'-5' satyrs. Have we mentioned they like causing trouble and generally being sadistic? In any case, they're physically adept but generally dim and relatively weak mega-damage creatures. Still, they get a smorgasbord of abilities, including dimensionally teleporting, flying on the winds of a storm, turning into a variety of spooky animals, and magic spells leaning towards illusion and darkness. They're your generic baseline Russian demon.

It's supposed to look like a giant hand? Kind of?

The Demon Claw is a crab-centaur thing with four legs and two oversized claw arms. They like dank bodies of water (swamps, deep lakes, etc.) and generally murder or bully whatever they encounter. Sometimes they're muscle for bigger demons, though, because we have to structure combat encounters somehow. They're strong, big, dumb, and modestly tough. They can walk on water or "ride the waves", which makes me think of one on a really unusual surfboard. They're weak against magic fire, but ironically get some fire spells. They're your generic thug Russian demon.

Hairless Horse Hellion.

The Hell Horse, aka "Chertu Baran", aka the Devil's Mount, was once said to be the souls of those who committed suicide, damned to be a demon's beast of burden for eternity. But it turns out they're just dumb demons who look like horses. So they mostly just give demons a ride towards a destination... of evil! They can disguise themselves as normal horses for shenanigans. They can also turn themselves and their rider into a lightning bolt at night to travel up to a hundred miles. They can also fly around at 80 MPH. They're bad horses.

A group of demons is a legion, of course.

Il'ya Demons are winged humanoids with animal heads that ride into our dimension on ley line storms, so they have a very loose storm theme... we're told Perun, the "God of War", rides after them sometimes during these storms to hunt them down. Yes, that's the sum total of explanation as to who Perun is within these pages, and that's under a later spell description, not here. In any case, they usually shapeshift into another form to hide from Perun and mortal heroes. They can take the form of whatever animal they have the head of, though those with a dog or wolf head can also take human form. Other than that, they have a number of curse and air-themed spells. They apparently like kidnapping people, attacking pets and livestock, and "frighten, bully and hurt children, the elderly and impaired." However, they can't enter a home unless invited, which is apparently why a lot of villagers are hesitant about allowing strangers in.

Garbage pail kid all growed up.

The Kaluga Hag gets back to the deepest, darkest fear of folklore and fantasy RPGs: warty old ladies. It is the "ugliest and most feared" of the demons as a "leprous old hag". She has long snake-like tongue action, and her tongue can poison any fluid or bare skin (1d4 x 10 damage direct to HP, which is often instant death for most skin that's not M.D.C.). In addition, she has "poison pimples" that spurt acid when she's touched or struck in melee. Though it doesn't do a lot of damage, it can't be healed normally outside of some really powerful healing magic or the hag's mercy. She's generically sadistic and likes to torment or dominate whole villages. As a modest mega-damage necromancer and spellcaster, she's tougher at night, and of course can turn into a beeeyoutiful lady so she can kill dudes by slipping them the tongue and teach us all valuable lessons about sexual promiscuity. Well, except for the dude who got the tongue. He's just dead.

(And this is Palladium in 1998, let's not pretend anything other than dudes is intended here.)

"What, you think I should use these clamps I use every day at every opportunity?"

The Kladovik Guardian are used as either shock troops or to guard over spooky places demons want to protect. They fight to the death, apparently delighted by any chance for fightin', even if they know it'll get them killed. They're sadistic and - in traditional Siembiedan fashion - love "cat and mouse games". They can change into a fist-sized spider at night and get a handful of spells, but otherwise are combat wombats with seven attacks and zero personality.

They're twistin', twistin' | They're twistin' the night | Let's twist a while

The Midnight Demon, aka the Polunochnitsa, is a demonic head and arms emerging from a black cloud that can only show up between midnight and 3am. They like to manipulate people so they do bad things! Also they kidnap children. They're sadis... they like... people... hurtin'. They take half damage from everyting but psionics, can turn into raven, kinda fly, and have magic loosely based around ESP and manipulation. However, if you encounter them outside of their chosen time, or hit them with lightning, they turn out to just be a 2' imp with a squeaky voice you can push around. What're you gonna do, Polunochnitsa? You gonna cry? You gonna cry, huh?

Not pictured: the 10+ so strikes it takes for this demon to chop off that arm.

The Nalet is a pretty generic demon - red guy with horns and wings - that likes diveboming people and also making false promises of aid, then abandoning people in their hour of need. Since they do this every time, you'd think people might generally wise up, but I suppose not. Also they're sadi- "bloodthirsty and cruel in the extreme". In any case, they can fly around and shrink, aren't too tough but take half damage from any man-made weapon, and get a variety of fire and light-based magic. Given the supposed attitude of most Russians, the idea of a red nudist demon coming up and being like "Hey, who's your buddy?!" seems like it should fall awful flat.

"Pet rock?! Why are you doing this? I loved you, man!"

The Stone Demon is like an evil elemental spirit that possesses a big rock. It likes to torment... and destroy things of beauty...

... huh, wha? What was I doing? Oh, right, I was reviewing this. Right. Um. Creative name, "stone demon". Well, it's terror-torial. It can make a body out of earth and rocks, and if you blow it up, it has a 2/3rds chance of just being forced into hibernation for 3d6 months, or a 1/3 chance of being knocked back to its home dimension for 2d6 x 10 years. The only proper way to get rid of them is to do an exorcism on the key locale they've possessed, but they'll fight you for it. Because it's made of rocks, it's one of the few not vulnerable to wooden weapons. It gets a bunch of earth warlock spells and some random stuff loosely based around illness. Makes at least for some creative fight potential, but it's characterization is, if anything, even duller than the rest.

"Wait, have we been drinking her all along?!"

The Water Demon, aka Bereginia, looks like a beautiful but spooky pale woman, and sometimes has the lower half of a serpent. Like the Stone Demon, it's also territorial. It likes troubling humans in a lazy way, but is vengeful and jealous and... you know, I don't know why I'm using the term 'it'. They're stereotypically feminine in their evil, in the "some woman looks prettier = murder" sense. They can get a bunch of water facts and water magic, as well as a bunch of rando spells. Kinetic attacks only do half damage, but they're vulnerable to fire and objects made of ice. Like the Stone Demon, No word on whether or not they're afraid of juniper sticks, but probably not. Like the Stone Demon, you have to exorcise their home pool or there's a chance they'll just go into remission.


The Wood Demon is... like the above two, but it's a tree. It's subtle and likes to bedevil those in natural areas. It knows nature facts, and has wood magic. Look. You get the picture by now. Evil tree. Evil scary tree. Worst of all, it has the carpentry and whittling skills. Those are its woody relatives! Monster!

Who's a bad boy? Who's a bad boy?

The Serpent Hound is demon business up front, serpent party in the back. It's a generic thug that likes working for greater evils because it has less than personality. It can turn into a big snake or an elkhound, breathe fire, and cast fire spells. It's the kind of thing you get when you want both a hellhound and a hellsnake and you just can't decide.

Whew! That sure is a lot of demons. Certainly all the demons you need, given they share maybe two personalities between them all. There's some stuff your you to go slaying or witching as you like.

Next: Greater Russian Demons.

oh, well

"Rule number two, NEVER think that one can outsmart, outmaneuver or deceive a Wolf-Serpent."

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Rifts World Book 18: Mystic Russia, Part 3 -: "Rule number two, NEVER think that one can outsmart, outmaneuver or deceive a Wolf-Serpent."

Rifts World Book 18: Mystic Russia posted:


Heroic tricksters are not in my database; I process RPG books about mythology; insert myth here to receive statblock; thank you and have a Megaversal Day!

beep boop whirrr click

Greater Russian Demons

"I think I've got something in my eye."

The Khitaka Abductor is a 9' tall mess of horns and claws. It likes to kidnap people and abduct them for blackmail and torment. This is also a thing Il'ya and Midnight Demons do, but this one is more powerful. Totally different! They also sometimes take over bandit gangs or towns. But they'll betray them because lulz. In any case, they can become invisible outside of daylight, glide on winds, take half damage from man-made weapons, and get a variety of useful spells. Feels like a boss version of "The Unclean".

Don't miss the tiny pincers down low.

The Nightfeeder is a devil-skull monster with crab-claws attached to its stomach. It mainly just likes to eat humans and "true" atlanteans (old foes, as previously mentioned). They like bossing around other demons and creatures to get a feeling of authority but rarely have any particular plans or direction, only seeking the ego boost. If they're not the local boss, they'll just obsess on becoming the boss. In any case, um... tough, can ride the wind, turn into an ugly old person at night, half damage from man-made weapons, gets a bunch of variety spells, and gets a bunch of attacks with its little nippy pincers. There is... seriously nothing all that unique about this one (again) other than tummy claws.

"I did play a githyanki in a TSR book once, it's true."

Koshchei the Deathless Ones are definitely in the vein of the Dungeons & Dragons medusa, taking a singularly evil deathless wizard from mythology and and instead making it into a bunch of deathless demon assassins. Sure, okay. I mean, I'm not really worried about being accurate to mythology, because myth-tellers rarely were, but why even use the name at this point? In any case, they're one of the few demons that dedicate themselves to organizing the others and thinking strategically. They can also craft magic weapons they dole out to the loyal. We're told they can take on 40 soldiers single-handedly in 15 minutes and wipe them all out, but given they don't have an automatic dodge, I'm not seeing it - they just don't have the attacks or damage to manage it mechanically. They'll soon be out of attacks to avoid catching rail gun rounds until dead. They have impressive spells, but each of those eats up even more of their attacks. Granted, they put their soul in a duck egg (like the myth they are very, very loosely based on) and if you can't find it and smash it, they return after three days of being dead. If you do, they die instantly. But they can't be more than 300 miles away from it! So if you triangulate their sightings, you can try and figure out where that duck egg is within a hundred miles or so. Easy-peasy!

"Well, I just have the one shoulder plate, it's a starter armor."

The Morozko Frost Demons are the supposed offspring of "Old Man Morozko", a demon lord who is-

Rifts World Book 18: Mystic Russia posted:

... 12th level, 2000 M.D.C., anarchist, possesses all the magic known to the greater Frost Demons, plus all level 1-3, and 15th level wizard spells...

Sure, sure. (Wait, he's not technically evil?) But it turns out they may be liars and not actually related to him, but superfans of him instead. Even though they have the same powers! Sure, makes sense. And they're callous and... sadistic. Unlike other demons, they recognize the power of technology and might use guns or devices. They have a variety of snow powers, like skating across ice, and though that's useful, I can't help but think seeing a near-nude blue guy skating at you might inspire more laughter than fear. They have a frost breath, can become invisible only to machines and only while in blizzard or covered by snow, and glide around in snowstorms. Naturally, they suffer around heat and fire. They get a bunch of cold-themed magic, of course. Sure, makes sense.

I guess they're tormenting a dragon? Maybe?

The Whirlwind Air Demons are cherubic but with bird-like characteristics.

Rifts World Book 18: Mystic Russia posted:

Many, especially the males, are gluttonous and obese.

Rifts World Book 18: Mystic Russia posted:

P.B. 1D6+7 (males), 1D6+14 (females)

Ah, no fat demon chicks. I get it.

In any case, they're supposed to be erratic and unpredictable, and of course they "delight in tormenting" and are "abusive and cruel". They're arrogant and even think other demons are pretty shit. In any case, they like divebombing and wreaking havoc and whatever happened to demons being subtle, unseen tormentors? Well, it was nice while it lasted. They can turn into a whirlwind or an "attractive looking human", and get immunity to a lot of forms of harm while in whirlwind form, but we also get an extensive list of spells that might mess with them as such. They get air spells, of course.

Rifts World Book 18: Mystic Russia posted:

They are friendly rivals with Wolf-Serpents and like to think they can manipulate these craven and cunning demons, but 99 out of 100 times it is the Wolf-Serpent who manipulates the Whirlwind, often without the Air demon realizing it.

Oh, we can get started on them, then.

Seems trustworthy.

The Wolf-Serpent is a serpent with "the head of a man-wolf" which is supposed to be a corrupting, tricky figure that makes deals for information, but the information is always harmful.

Rifts World Book 18: Mystic Russia posted:

For instance, a jealous man, suspicious that his wife is having an affair, may enlist the aid of the Wolf-Serpent. The next day the demon has information like, "Yesss, I followed your wife as you asked of me, and yesss, I sssaw her at your neighbor's home. He was most familiar with her and they laughed about you." In many cases, this is all the Wolf-Serpent may need to do, because the husband may now return home to beat his wife and/or kill her or her apparent lover. The monster just happens to leave out the reason she is seeing the man is because he is arranging the delivery of a special gift for the husband's birthday.

"You know, I love my wife, but you're a very convincing dog-headed snake. I feel like I can trust you. Trust you with abuse." uuugh And in case you're wondering, it doesn't any power of hypnosis or complusion, just a decently high Affinity. Of course, it also then requests payment of services or goods that might be damning.

Then, Siembieda bounces off the board and goes straight for the deep end of WTF:

Rifts World Book 18: Mystic Russia posted:

Some rules of thumb for dealing with Wolf-Serpents:

Rule number one, NEVER go to a Wolf-Serpent for help in the first place! It's not worth it! Don't do it! It will only lead to moral decay, tragedy, sorrow, and death or ruin. Player characters of good alignment may drop to selfish then evil alignment if they willingly or regularly turn to a Wolf-Serpent for aid and advice, especially if the demon and his advice leads them to inadvertently hurt innocent people and/or murder and other acts of treachery and evil. Even the most simple and innocent "favor" is usually much more than it seems and will result in the hurting of others.

Rule number two, NEVER think that one can outsmart, outmaneuver or deceive a Wolf-Serpent. NEVER! The damned creature will twist and warp whatever good one may think they will accomplish into something evil or hurtful. If not, it is because the Wolf-Serpent is setting that person up for future trouble or the deed is setting some other, yet unseen, set of events into motion.

Rule number three, those who cheat, trick or renege on a Wolf-Serpent will pay. And the price will be a horrible one.

Rule number four, the only way to escape the wrath of a Wolf-Serpent is to destroy it. Slaying a Wolf-Serpent will not be easy.

Rule number five, forget rules 2-4 and don't ever turn to a Wolf-Serpent to begin with. They are evil incarnate!

Like, are... are you trying to offer personal advice, Kevin? Have you had an encounter with a Wolf-Serpent? Are you speaking from experience? It's cool. You can tell me all about the bigbad Wolf-Serpent...


Anyway it gets rando spells turns into a wolf or snake has a poison bite has seduction at 75% wait what the fuck seduction at 75% what the fuck is it seducing it better not be people it's not like it shapeshifts to do anything but spy suddenly this went from weird to just super gross.

Next: Not demons! Moving on!

Maybe it's related to that beast that sunk the Titanic.

"Other favorite antics include moving or hiding objects (often into the pockets of unwitting bystanders and then tattling on them with accusations of thievery), picking pockets, tying shoelaces together, physically tampering with weapons, spoiling food or milk, howling, hooting, stomping or banging around, whispering lies, telling wild stories (all or mostly all untrue), tattling on others, frightening big people, misleading them so they get lost, pinching, pulling hair, stealing freshly baked bread, fruit pies, milk, jam, honey, candy and wine (the latter four they love with a passion), and other similar mischief."

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Rifts World Book 18: Mystic Russia, Part 4 -: "Other favorite antics include moving or hiding objects (often into the pockets of unwitting bystanders and then tattling on them with accusations of thievery), picking pockets, tying shoelaces together, physically tampering with weapons, spoiling food or milk, howling, hooting, stomping or banging around, whispering lies, telling wild stories (all or mostly all untrue), tattling on others, frightening big people, misleading them so they get lost, pinching, pulling hair, stealing freshly baked bread, fruit pies, milk, jam, honey, candy and wine (the latter four they love with a passion), and other similar mischief."

You'll end when I tell you do, sentence, and not before.

Suddenly, a terrible lack of danger gripped their hearts.

Woodland Spirits

So, these are supposedly related to faerie folk, but they don't use any of their mechanics. Though they're "spirits", they're not related to the spirit world or any of the mechanics from Spirit West. Instead, they're just purely physical, mega-damage, magical beings that are nature-themed. Generally speaking, they're not harmful unless their home is threatened or they're interfered with - unfortunately, their definitions of either can be pretty literal. Also, sometimes they screw with people like faeries do, and generally act like annoying children. Often the can be kind, but the kindness often comes with a modest price. For some reason, all these get long diatribes as to how suitable they are as PCs. Generally speaking, they're not without some serious clawhammering. Here's an single example:

Rifts World Book 18: Mystic Russia posted:

Player Note: If acceptable to the Game Master, he or she can allow a Polevoi as an optional player character. This character will tend to be fickle, bombastic and independent to the point of causing trouble for his companions. Polevoi (pronounced pole-voy) act like spoiled children who frequently say and do as they please, wander off on their own, insult and annoy, and provoke brawls and conflict with their condescending and haughty words and attitude. Although limited in their range of skills and abilities, most make good scouts, spies and thieves. They prefer grasslands like the Steppe and wide open spaces. The longer they stay in a village, town or city, the more irritable and mischievous these troublemakers become. They have no understanding of human laws and etiquette, and consider themselves above "human law." Consequently, short visits to a village and civilization are recommended; 1-4 days would not be too painful. Moreover, the Polevoi's free-spirited, selfish and anarchist nature just doesn't mix well in groups — the Polevoi like to do as they please and cause mischief no matter what.

On the other hand, they are resourceful and adventurous beings who are not afraid of anybody (even when they should be). They are also reasonably good fighters and users of magic. Furthermore, most have no love for demons, witches, necromancers or other evil and destructive creatures. The nature spirit has little need or interest in money/credits/gold or other valuables, or modern technology, but is attracted to valuable gems and magic items. They are chaotic and troublemaking free spirits who care more about themselves, playing jokes and causing trouble for others, than anything else. Having a Polevoi in the group is probably more trouble than it is worth.

Imagine something about half or twice this length on every entry! This is how you fill space on a late book, I suppose. With that established, we can move on to the entries.

A different type of fursuit.

The Domovoi, or House Spirit, is a two-foot-tall little furry guy who busts into your house and starts doing work while trying to avoid the notice of adults, and warn the household of intruders. It expects to have food and treats left out in return. They generally like children ("especially females") and will visit retribution on those who abuse them, including murder if the abuse is serious enough. Still, they try and do it in roundabout ways or faked accidents. There's one in "30-40%" of Russian peasant homes and 75% of peasants appreciate them. Percentages clarify everything!

They're not terribly exceptional save for endurance. Their M.D.C. is troublingly low for a PC option (1d4 x 10 + Physical Endurance) and never increases, but they can turn invisible and are pro sneakers (at 70%, which also never increases), turn into dogs or cats, and cast a variety of minor spells. Deeply niche as far as PC options go.

PC Suitability: If your campaign takes place entirely in a house, maybe.

"I kill for the trees."

The Leshii, or Forest Spirit, is a ten-foot-tall fuzzier satyr-type that's more about preserving nature than boning of any time. They protect forests against any sort of wanton destruction or murder, and will usually chase such threats out of the forest or otherwise sabotage them. But they're a friend to all children. They generally stick to the forests, though.

They're exceptionally strong, tough, and fast, and can transform into a variety of animals or an elderly human, shrink down to six inches, and some nature-themed spells and minor psionic powers.

PC Suitability: If your campaign takes place entirely in a forest, maybe.

Forest spirit or C-list Dragon Ball Z character?

The Polevoi, or Field Spirit, are just self-centered jerks who go around playing "mean and often deadly" jokes. That's literally the whole of their characterization. They're physically adept and usually have a stick or scythe to use as a weapon. They're able to turn into hares or squirrels, and "during noon to 3p.m." they can become a raven. They have some earth and trickster magic, some minor physical psionic powers, and become twice as tough during "midday". Mostly, though, they just going around being shits for no particular reason.

PC Suitability: Hahaha, no, fuck that.

Of course the female spirit has her wobblies hanging out.

The Rusalka, or Air Spirits, are beautiful, nude, green-skinned "maidens" that like playing and dancing around but then will trick or murder humans just because. They like to seduce guys and then rob or murder them. In any case, they're physically adept as well and pretty, double their toughness at night, transform into a "beautiful human maiden" unless seen under the full moon, and get some fire, air, and illusion magic. They also have minor mental psychic powers. Did we need another inhuman seductress in this line, much less this book?

Of course they hate other beautiful women and try and ruin their lives. Didn't we already see this before in this book? We did. Fuck this.*

PC Suitability: No, seriously, fuck this.

Wavy hair.

The Vodianoi, or Water Spirit, is a nature protector like the Polevoi, only based around bodies of water and far more murderous on average. They're particularly aggressive towards the Warlords because they're "are seen as despoilers and haughty invaders". Sure, sure. Some are nicer, though, and look prettier as a result. Of course, guys are dumpy and chubby while the rare female Vodianoi is thin and svelte, of course, and if they're good then they're hot, guys, hubba hubba. Not that their statblock accounts for that. They're generally strong and tough, and are twice as tough at night. Naturally, they can survive underwater, turn into moist humans (no, seriously) at night, into mer-people, and cast water spells. Of course, they have some minor psionics and hydrokinesis.

PC Suitability: A loner that hangs around a pond and murders people for looking too proud? What could go wrong?

Too bright to picture.

The Russian Firebird is a golden, glowing pheasant (that can fly) that can ward away vampires and "creatures of Darkness". If you get one of their feathers, it'll have the effect on a smaller scale for decades. "However, plucking more than 33% will kill the bird." It's not particularly bright, but is smart enough to stay away from most humanoid beings. But occasionally it's helped people out by protecting them, or giving a feather to a nature-lover. They're beautiful and charming but not particularly tough. They can disguise themselves as a normal pheasant or hummingbird, cast a variety of minor spells, and have some healing psychic powers. Their high PPE levels, however, make them a target of eeevil spellcasters.

PC Suitability: Explicitly banned for their low intelligence, which is ironic, since they're the most suitable so far.

Just picture a cool grey wolf. No, cooler! No, way cooler than that!

The Spirit Wolf is a wolf but also a spirit. Some are benevolent, but they tend to be free spirits - so to speak - who could care less about the "laws of men". Like the Polevoi, we get notes on how if you play one, you better cause trouble with your wild nature and get into trouble all the time!... though less so, thankfully. As characters, they're physically capable across the board (including Beauty) with a high mental endurance. They can turn into a "handsome human", but "unusually hairy" with long grey hair. I can see Siembieda's mind hasn't turned to the notion of female Spirit Wolves. They get some really dinky sensory and illusion magic and psionic powers, but also... hydrokinesis? Sure, okay. I think the author accidentally copied the Vodianoi psionic list, because it's identical down to the ISP number they get. Of course, they're vulnerable to silver, but more oddly... lightning?

PC Suitability: They're probably the best of the lot overall? I mean, other than the ongoing "You better cause trouble with your wild ways!" diatribe.

A terrifying yawn.

Lastly, we have the Man-Wolf or Ruvmanush, which is not really a spirit as far as I can tell. It's also out of alphabetical order, which points towards it being added after the rest of the section was completed and not really having any other place to put it. Man-Wolves are humans who feel estranged from the rest of humanity, either through misanthropy or exile of some sort. And so the they become more bestial and live as animals, becoming werewolves. You know, like you do. (Mind, this is different from usual Palladium werewolves, which are their own species.) Scholars think this is because Russian belief and magic enables this, about the second time we've seen "belief affects reality!" as a notion (the last time was in Spirit West). Mind, subjective reality pops up when it's convenient for an explanation and just goes away otherwise.

As characters, they get really good physical attributes (save Beauty, which is normal). But their MDC is relatively low, so they're a glass cannon - woe to a Man-Wolf who eats some tremendous attack by a person who presumes they can take it like a normal werewolf could. Either way, they become wolves by night and get a little tougher then, and can only become a wolf for about ten minutes during the day. They get some ESP-themed psionics, and... that's about it. Ones that go off the deep end of evil become known as "Devil-Wolves" and run around murdering, stealing, and doing the r-word and hating beauty and uuuuugh-

PC Suitability: Strangely, probably okay, if an odd choice. Their lack of toughness (only roughly 50 MDC) and issues with armor due to shapeshifting are a dilemma, though. Also, for some reason they level at the same rate dragons do, which is hilarious because dragons are exponentially more powerful.

We also get a note that Werebeasts and Vampires exist, referring us to their respective books on them (Conversion Book and Vampire Kingdoms, respectively). Specifically, there are werewolves, weretigers, and werebears. Prize that mention of bears. They're the closest thing we'll have to bears in both of these Russia books.

Next: Step back, Wiccans.

* I'm sure somebody's going read this and be like "well that's just accurate to the mythology", as if RPGs and specifically Rifts have ever cared overtly about being accurate to any sort of mythology. It's always a choice of what to include or exclude, and the writer decided he needed it twice in one book, and once is more than enough as it is.

"This magic can also afflict human mothers trying to breast feed; same basic process but with the witch pinching a breast."

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Rifts World Book 18: Mystic Russia, Part 5 - "This magic can also afflict human mothers trying to breast feed; same basic process but with the witch pinching a breast."

Next, we move into the "Russian Magic" section, which means covers new classes and the spells they get.

Russian Witches

Rifts World Book 18: Mystic Russia posted:

Please note, that none of the so-called, stereotypical evil "witches" presented in this book are meant to represent any real religious belief, faith or practice, and should not be confused with Wicca.

Not that there are any "good" witches in Rifts that I can recall. I mean, there's a morally grey one later on, but generally speaking, Rifts witches deal largely in evil power.

We get "An historical glimpse of the Russian Witch" which talks about the mythological basis of the Russian witch and historical beliefs about them, but none of that has any actual impact on the Rifts setting directly, so I'm just moving on past. As always, the % by the name is your chance of qualifying to play that class. Because the classes are complicated magic classes this time around, often with unique magic systems, I'm going to give them longer writeups than most of these have been getting lately. (And yet, I'm still skipping a lot of fine detail.)

The Pact Witch

This is the new title for the Witch from the Conversion Book (and Palladium Fantasy) that makes a deal to serve a demon or "supernatural intelligence" for supernatural power. This differentiates them from the upcoming witch classes. It refers us to that book for more details, but we're told they're "relatively common" in Russia.


Night Witch O.C.C. (85%)

Rifts World Book 18: Mystic Russia posted:

Note: The Night Witch O.C.C. presented in this book keeps with the Russian view of the evil, haggish Witch of myth and superstition. A foul, depraved and cruel creature who associates with supernatural evil and uses foul magic. The character is presented as an evil, Non-Player Character villain. No slight is intended to well intentioned modern witches or traditional practitioners of wicca, druidism or shamanism. The Night Witch is a fictional presentation and not meant to portray any real-life people or religious belief.

"Well-intentioned modern witches". I guess that means there are "ill-intentioned modern witches" that they're fine with casting slights on, then? Also, it's not an NPC. Throughout this section, one thing I'll point out right away to remember, to burn into your brain, because it's hilarious:

This class is listed as an Optional O.C.C. and the writeup is written with PCs in mind; it differentiates what PC and NPC Night Witches get. If your GM allows, you can play one of these! Granted, I have a feeling the rushed quality of the book might have meant he changed his mind partway through, or just written in an unclear fashion, but I just have what I have listed on the page.

Night Witches are bad witches, to be certain. They love evil and hate beauty. They seek to corrupt and any aid they offer is with the goal of driving somebody further towards suffering or malice. They often seek to offer deals to do dark needs for others in order to taint their souls. In fact, we get a note that anybody who makes a deal with them can have their alignment drop towards evil just as if they performed the deeds the Night Witch performed. (This is also true for Necromancers and demons, and is one of the few mentions of an "alignment drop" in the game.)

Baba Yaga was a Night Witch, and they perform a form of "necromantic sorcery" (though they only get a handful of necromantic spells). Mind, it's never really described how to become a Night Witch - they just are, I guess. Who needs a backstory? Half of them are cannibals, while others kidnap children for slavery or sacrifice. They also consort with other evil beings as part of the typical Palladium Evildoers Union. Naturally, people don't really like that, and the Warlords in particular oppose them - though Pact Witches and Night Witches undermine them in turn.

In any case, they're minor regenerating MDC being with supernatural strength, and gain bonuses to speed, strength, and toughness at night. They get a bonus to beauty when young (and we're told "90% are females"), and get an enhanced lifespan, but their Beauty drops with the decades down to a minimum of 4. They can shapechange a number of animals, or into a specific person if they have a piece of that person (hair, nail clippings, blood) or an article of their clothing. They get a free low-end demon helper for every 2 levels they have, and can make deals to get more. And other than some bonuses against fear or possession, their chielf power is to get some minor wizard or necromancer spells, and then all "Spoiling Magic" spells, which we'll get to in a bit.

However, they're weak to fire and "rainwater collected during the first thunderclap of a storm" can damage them, so you can literally Wicked Witch of the West them if you're savvy. They gain random insanities, don't like daylight or holy water (no mechanical effect, mind), can't get any bonuses on saving throws against magic, and are "vulnerable to their own greed, lust, and vengeful nature". We're told they make "great recurring villains", but Siembieda is generaly focused on making any villain with a name a "great recurring villain".

But you could just play one instead.

Spoiling Magic

You know how people throughout the ages have blamed things going bad on nebulous witches and sorcerers out in the wilderness? Like, the milk going bad or getting an illness or having bedbugs? This is that. And you know, for the most part it seems annoying, and possibly life-threatening to a subsistence-farming peasant, but if it seems largely ineffective against most adventuring parties, you'd be right. I guess if you're in the wilderness and your food gets spoiled, likely you'll be inconvenienced, but most parties will have a vehicle, hunter, or wizard that can aid in going to get new rations. At yet, we're told it's "impressive and terrible". Well, we'll see. Only Witch O.C.C.s can take these spells (including the Pact Witch, now).

Oh, and a lot of these spells allow the target to make a save even if it's an inanimate object, like a jug of milk or a basket of eggs. Granted, it's at a -4 penalty, but that means about 20% of the time some of these spells will just fail at 1st level. Just fail. Once again, unattended milk gets a saving throw. That milk's not even in the cow anymore. C'mon.

There aren't many spells, but even with that there's a lot of boring stuff that doesn't need to be covered. Spoil water, curdle milk, spoil wine, and spoil eggs can be done with a good stare. There's also spoil & taint food, but that requires the witch to literally sprinkle the effected with powdered insects... which... how is that different than, say, poisoning it? Well, it genuinely isn't. In fact, it's particularly ridiculous when you have the spell use poison flawlessly, which lets you avoid the common accident of self-poisoning that's afflicted RPG characters since Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. Mind, there is no such mechanic in Palladium games, but that's never stopped Palladium writers. Cursed bread lets you make bread that gives people tummyaches. Oh no! Dry mother's milk lets you prevent an animal from lactating if by tying a knot in an animal's tail, but it can be undone by untying the tail, cutting it off, or casting remove curse. I guess unfucking an animal's tail might be harder than it sounds ("stand still, goat!"), but that goes for the witch, too.

Rifts World Book 18: Mystic Russia posted:

This magic can also afflict human mothers trying to breast feed; same basic process but with the witch pinching a breast.

How do you tie a knot in a breast?- you know what, nevermind. Spoil concentration and spoil memory can at least give hours-long penalties, but it's not until you get spoil the mind with numbing madness (pithy spell name, that) that you can just render somebody near-catatonic for minutes to a half-hour or so. Wither thy enemies is a wasting curse that wastes somebody to death with horrendous penalities unless the spell is cancelled by the witch, remove curse is cast, or the witch dies. Demon charms lets you curse an food preparation tool like a spoon or pot to seriously poison anybody for days who eats food prepared with it - likely lethally. But, once again, it's not that much different from actual poison.

It turns out taking folk beliefs and translating them into a fantasy game is often more than a bit crap. It's something you see a lot in heartbreakers trying to do more "realistic" magic for their darkest ages realness, but it doesn't really work in Rifts. Furthermore, a lot of it is just farcically low-key for a setting where magic is supposed to be amped-up. Shouldn't it be less "making a basket of eggs rotten" and instead making a whole coop or village produce cursed eggs? Or make a basket of eggs burst into a flock of demon chicks, adorable and terrifying? Something. But no, it just spoils some eggs.

Witch: "No witches here, right?" Cat: "Nope."

The Hidden Witch O.C.C. (73%)
Also Known as the Gypsy Witch

So, these are women (well, once again, we're told 90% are female, and that 48% are "gypsies") that practice dark magic for their personal self-interest without being outright eeeeheee heee heee evil like the Night Witch is, but that they're "masters of deceit and treachery". We're told some try and do good, but most are puckish rogues or outright murderous criminals.

Rifts World Book 18: Mystic Russia posted:

The Hidden Witch is said to originate among the Gypsies, and is frequently found among their clans. Consequently, she is also known as the "Gypsy Witch," and because the Hidden Witch usually commands the powers of both life and death, pain and pleasure, she is often known as the "Mistress of Life and Death."

In any case, the Hidden Witch is similar to the Night Witch. They become regenerating minor MDC beings, can turn into a few types of animals (cat, raven, fox), and gets a spell list by level that's nearly entirely fixed. To some extent, she's actually better than the Night Witch at bedeviling people, because she gets a variety of ailment-afflicting wizard spells at first level. As she levels up she gets an animal familiar, healing spells, illusion spells, and a variety of effects beyond that. Whole levels of spells you gain reference Rifts World Book 16: Federation of Magic, so you better have a copy of that! Also, in the world of broken unintended mechanics, turning into an animal reduces skill rolls by -80% (and also prevents spellcasting), meaning you can turn into a fox that is practically incapable of sneaking, climbing, tracking, etc.


Their big penalty gimmick is their "Inner Demon", which is a small demon spawned by the witch's subconscious while she sleeps to trouble those who threaten her or those she cares about. For good Hidden Witches, it becomes a moth, while evil ones are birds or bats. It usually only emerges only once a week, and only bedevils the same target once a month. It isn't that tough by Rifts standards, only having a fraction of the Witch's spellcasting capability and low MDC, though it'll make short work of an unprotected human villager. How bad this turns out is really down to your GM's mercy and cooperation; it could be a vehicle for rampant dickery or an interesting plot element depending on how it's handled. It's an interesting notion as far as Rifts classes go, as it pushes the envelope a little with its weakness, though the use of the g-word puts it out of the realm of good taste.

Next: Necromancing the Bone.

"Necromancers of a good alignment are NOT possible!"

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Rifts World Book 18: Mystic Russia, Part 6 - "Necromancers of a good alignment are NOT possible!"

"... I could realy use some more skulls around."

The Necromancer (15%)
NPC Villain & Optional Player Character

There are three straight pages of on the Necromancer, first tracing its origins (Africa, China, or ancient Atlantis) and then its origins in Russia (demon worshippers or refugees from Africa, Iran, or southern Europe). And while Necromancers seemed poised to be the dominant power in Russia some time ago, the Warlords of the past worked hard to eliminate them. Of course, they were only partially successfully, and there are are still cults and obscure communities where Necromancers reign. In turn, Necromancers tend to hate the Warlords in general, and often work to sabotage them and their followers. Then we get a regional breakdown:

"And now, the barbershop quartet of the dead!"

The Russian Necromancer O.C.C.

The book goes on glowing terms about how they make wonderful villains, but then handwrings for over half a page about allowing them as PCs.

Rifts World Book 18: Mystic Russia posted:

The Rifts® role-playing series offers an exciting array of characters to choose from, so please respect the G.M.'s decision and move forward with the game.

Rifts World Book 18: Mystic Russia posted:

The Necromancer as a player character is not recommended.

Rifts World Book 18: Mystic Russia posted:

Evil player characters are likely to have a difficult time and a short career (or life) trying to work with predominantly good player characters. On the other hand, Unprincipled or Anarchist Necromancer characters may be able to adjust their murderous and ghastly rites, magic and behavior to an acceptable level within the player group, but such "adjustments" will limit their
overall Death Magic abilities, ruthlessness and effectiveness.

Rifts World Book 18: Mystic Russia posted:

These sensibilities may limit the availability of P.P.E. and prevent the use of certain unsavory spells.

Rifts World Book 18: Mystic Russia posted:

Furthermore, few people ever allow themselves to completely trust a Necromancer, so the player character is likely to operate under a constant veil of suspicion. In addition, the reputation of the Necromancer is such that even the most well intentioned and unusually noble and honorable character will be looked upon with great fear, suspicion and revulsion by most ordinary and good people.

This is literally a small sampling of the shade thrown. The first paragraph explained enough, but it just has to go on and on and on like we're the world's biggest idiots in the Detroit Gaming Center. It also emphasizes they always stay armed with their necromantic accoutrements, so don't expect to catch them with their leather pants down.

"Does this demon arm look good on me? Be honest."

Rifts World Book 18: Mystic Russia posted:

Extremely rare and/or valuable items such as the claw of a dragon may be concealed in a pouch, sack, or backpack and NEVER leave his side.

It's like a necromancer's safety blanket. And if you do create Linus Van Pelt with a skin blanket, I want credit. Wait. No. Scratch that, you can take it. Some march around with undead minions even though that seems to be inviting Warlord bullets, while others engage in bone home decoration so they can animate them for defense.. or presumbly just have a chair of human hands that can carry them to the fridge.

I already covered the Necromancer in Rifts World Book 4: Africa, so you can largely refer to that for the skinny for the rules on boneguys. The TL;DR version: they can transform their limbs into animal ones by attaching dead parts, add additional (dead) limbs to their body, animate the dead, can't be made into a vampire, and can cast necro-magic / bone magic / limited wizard spell list. Though they can cast any wizard spell that's not on their list, but it costs twice as much PPE if it isn't on their list of wizard spells. The only real change is that they get two additional "bone items", which aren't a thing in this book? I can only guess they mean "Bone Spells", which we'll get to in just a moment. Non-Russian Necromancers don't get Bone Magic, but now get additional Necro-Magic spells, giving them the slightest of power bumps.

Necro-Magic Descriptions (new)
By Kevin Siembieda with additional text
and ideas by Mark Sumimoto and Randi Cartier

So, the new form of magic Necromancers get (in addition to Necro-Magic from Africa) is Bone Magic, which is about animating, altering, and manipulating bones. Now, one of the issues here is that Bone Magic and Necro-Magic are put together here as part of the same spell list with no obvious differentiation (other than whether or not they deal with bones). And this is important, because some classes get Bone Magic and not Necro-Magic. In fact, the only way to definitively know what spells are Bone Magic is to look at the "Quick Reference" from the Index of Contents, which has a listing of them. And I only know this because it's noted in a later class; otherwise I could have entirely missed how to puzzle that out!

And some of the spells from Africa are reprinted, now with spell levels. As usual, I'll only be covering a small chunk of a long list.

"Alas, Poor Yorick, I knew him! But now he's a totally sweet magic item."
"This is humilating!... but at least you're evil. We're cool."

Lastly, we get a listing of arbitrary prices for monster parts, in case you need a Cyclops brain. I have no idea why you'd specifically want a Cyclops' brain, but it'll only run you a half-million credits!

Next: Mystics of Russia.

"The Mystic Smiths understand that the items, especially magic horseshoes, magic weapons and armor, and M.D. weapons and material can change the balance of power in a region or bring tragedy instead of prosperity."

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Rifts World Book 18: Mystic Russia, Part 7 - "The Mystic Smiths understand that the items, especially magic horseshoes, magic weapons and armor, and M.D. weapons and material can change the balance of power in a region or bring tragedy instead of prosperity."

We've got a looot of classes still left to go through. In fact, most of the rest of the book is just classes and spells. We've got two other types of magic to cover as well - Living Fire Magic and Nature Magic. Let's hurry it up.

"Necromancer? No, that was the last class, I'm a mystic. I just like skulls."
The swagsmith.
Never judge a class by the class art.

Oh, and just as a nitpicking side-note while I'm thinking on Federation of Magic - you may remember how spellcasters couldn't wear regular metal or plastic armor in that? Yeah, that notion's already been forgotten, as the casters here just wear normal Mega-Damage armor. That was only two World Books ago! Well, given Palladium already switched class names from the introduction to this point, I can't expect too much in the way of consistency...

"Whoops! Sorry, Mr. Demon!"

Living Fire Magic

We don't get much detail on what this exactly is other than it's a secret magical tradition that seems to have connections to ancient Slavic gods. Did we mention it's secret? It's secret... because... it's secret! It also has an odd mechanic sometimes where a spell will require new fire, which is a special pure fire created by... rubbing two sticks together. But you need a spell to do it. And some spells require new fire to be lit to use as a trigger or fuel source, and won't work with other sources of flame. So, remember that to take as one of your three starting spells if you want to do any spells that require it. (Really should have been a class power, there.)

It has some flavorful spells with only slight effects: finger sparks makes your fingersnaps into a lighter, pluck & handle flame lets you handle and even pocket a small fire (it vanishes if the duration runs out), smoke smell serves as a distraction if not much of an effect. Stuff like extinguish fire, circle of flame, ignite fire, impervious to fire, fireball, fire sword, etc. give you exactly what you'd expect. There are some more "holy fire" sorts of effects - bonfire of explusion terrifies the supernatural, Perun's fire scourge sets demons on fire for slow but long-lasting ongoing damage, and healing fire does what it says when people leap into it. The Torch & Wheel lets you roll a torch-adorned wheel around a village to purify it of illness and disease. The essential dilemma Living Fire Magic has, though, is of any combat magic in this system - spellcasting is too slow. While there are some powerful high-end attack spells like desiccate the supernatural that does good damage and prevents regeneration, or dragonfire at least does rail gun-level damage, it's often more effective to just wield a gun instead.

"And that's why they call me 'the Jesus of Pagans'."

Nature Magic

Like spoiling magic, this is what you get when you try and add folklore magic to high fantasy - for the most part, you get hilariously specific or underwhelming effects. For an example, it has a lot of bee spells. Spells about bees. And honey. Which could be cool if taken to a ridiculous level of riding giant bees and burying foes in wax hives... but... well, here's what you get. These often have a special note where it says:

Rifts World Book 18: Mystic Russia posted:

Note:Ancient and rare Beekeeper's magic.
I think it might be rare because not many learn magic arts just to be a beekeeper, not because it's potent. Pretty sure. Here's every last ancient and rare beekeeper spell!Granted, it's not all just dumb beewax nonsense. Some of it is other nonsense! Crunching egg shell lets you make an alarm trap out of scattered eggshells. [b]Bake magic kulich[/i] lets you make a bread that can feed somebody for a whole meal on two slices. You still have to bake the bread normally. Similarly, Sustained by the Earth lets you eat dirt for food andColored Egg lets you make a dyed egg that will feed somebody for the day. So you can be the party cook, if they're willing to survive on bread, eggs, and dirt. Glimpse of the Future A Wood & Water Divination is too many words for a ritual involving throwing a garland of birch, which can be used to predict disaster for a community... or a young woman's marriage and family prospects. You know, for a setting where magic is supposed to be supercharged, this isn't really working. A magic bread that still has to be baked? You can't just summon up the bread? And it barely has any supernatural effect at all? And it still costs PPE-

Granted, it's not all just folkloric headscratchers. Magic knots is actually pretty interesting, having a variety of small effects from just better knots to binding ghosts or executing mega-damage creatures with a hanging. Strength of the earth at least makes you supernaturally strong, and living bones of stone makes you supernaturally tough. Demon's mock funeral lets you trick supernatural creatures into thinking somebody's passed away with a funerary ritual. Swords into snakes is what you'd expect, but snakes into swords lets you turn snakes (or even the smaller worms of taut from Conversion Book) into mega-damage weapons! (It's not that effective, but it's thematically neat.) Enchant the mighty rooster lets you turn a rooster into an undead-detecting alarm and tracking device that also doubles as a fear effect against the undead. Summon fog, calm storms, and summon rain are as you'd expect.

So not all of is completely awful, but often a lot of it is straightforwardly weaker than just being most other sorts of spellcasters. And, of course, you have terrible "trap" options like sacred oath, which does literally nothing beneficial. It lets you swear an oath on Mokosh - Mmmooooiiist Mother Earth - and you get horrendous casting penalties if you break it, requiring extensive penance and a permanent power loss of HP and PPE to regain your power. "But what's the benefit of this spell?", you may ask.

None. It has no benefit. There is no point to casting sacred oath over just saying an oath that you can choose to break or not break. It's not even obvious that it's a spell, so you can't even use it as reassurance unless somebody has a means to notice or detect spellcasting. Why would you put this on your character sheet? It's the worst spell I've seen in any Palladium book so far, and that's quite the cake to take.

Next: The part I warned you about.

"Note: Gypsies lie a great deal, and do so cheerfully, although not necessarily to cheat or deceive."

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Rifts World Book 18: Mystic Russia, Part 8 - "Note: Gypsies lie a great deal, and do so cheerfully, although not necessarily to cheat or deceive."

Hoooooof. Where do I even begin?


Russian Gypsies

Rifts World Book 18: Mystic Russia posted:

Note: All material presented on Gypsies is an entirely fictional and fanciful portrayal of these historically nomadic and enigmatic people. We make no attempt to portray the Gypsy in any "real" or "historical" way. These portrayals are not meant to present any real-life race, people, society, organization, or culture. Nor does anybody at Palladium Books encourage the exploration of the occult or use of magic. All magic and powers are fictional. We hope we have not offended anybody.

Well. Keep hoping.

So, despite being "not meant to represent any real-life race", the history traces when back to northern India - i.e. where the Romani likely came from. We're told they're passionate, magical, and daring... and sneaky and clannish. Er, "subtle" and "part of a team". But they're cheerful, despite the fact that everybody still hates them. Yes, the apocalypse came and went, but hating rakish wanderers still remains in style. Of course, we're reassured some ethnic wanderers are real criminals, but many are not. Mostly, their outlaw status in Russia comes largely from the fact they're willing to explore magic and relate with the supernatural and creatures of magic. This is apparently because they have a "unique view of the world without boundaries" and being adaptable. They also often put on an image of being more saavy and tough than they may otherwise be, making them seem unflappable. But apparently to the average Russian, all this makes them seem more sinister.

Rifts World Book 18: Mystic Russia posted:

The Warlords and their War Camps buy into the worst of this crap (hey, it's human nature to believe the worst and be tantalized by the mystical, mysterious and dangerous).

And so these wandering folk are often subject to harassment and abuse by the Warlords as not really "Russian", and are interrogated or tortured or... shit. Well, there's r-word. The r-word and the g-word, together at last. It's a collision of insensitivity and ignorance that's I'm committed to chronicling up now. The Warlords are really, really bad to them. That's the core point we're hammering home.

Of course, it emphasizes that these ethnic wanderers are the sort to accept or join a motley crew, meaning player characters might travel with them, or one might join a group of player characters. They apparently hate "the cocky Exohunter" (Ecto-Hunters? It's not clear.) and the Warlords, though, and most are opposed to obvious sources of evil. Apparently the Mystic Kunzya gets mixed feelings, because they never want to ask for anything but would be glad to have their gifts. Apparently they'd... rather steal or "win" goods than ask for them and despite charity being shown to them. We get a list of classes they might take aside from their specific classes, which are mostly a mixture of adventurer sorts, criminals, and some of the spellcasters from this book.

"'Star in an RPG book', he says, and then this shit happens-"

Rifts World Book 18: Mystic Russia posted:

The Gypsy Code

Gypsies have no home or dream of a homeland ... all the world (Megaverse?) is theirs.

Utopia is no place.

The past is naught but a haunted memory. Live for the present and look to the future.

Celebrate life and yearning for it gives birth to passion and adventure.

Life is an adventure.

Change is good. Adapt and keep moving or lose sight of freedom.

Be loyal to true friends, never betray a friend, willingly die for a friend, for true friends are the greatest of life's gifts.

Do not lie, embellish. Make the world colorful, cheerful and full of wonder and surprises.

Note: Gypsies lie a great deal, and do so cheerfully, although not necessarily to cheat or deceive. They like to embellish upon real events. It's part of their storytelling legacy, in which a tale is spun not simply to relate the facts but to enthrall, impress and entertain. Of course, this penchant to enhance and playfully misguide makes them masters at the art of lies. Most can weave convincing tales, explanations, plausible excuses or reasons, pretend to be somebody else, and so on, at the drop of a hat. The more subtle and sincere sounding, cleverly mixing truth, (seemingly genuine) emotion and sharp observation with falsehood, the better. For many, telling lies and convincing (but untrue) stories really is an art to be proud of. Player Note: This should all be part and parcel of role-playing the character. If your Gypsy can spin wondrous tales and talk the tail off a monkey, do it — play it. Conversely, not all Gypsies are good at lies and deception. Unfortunately, since the reputation of Gypsies is otherwise, his teammates and associates are likely to "assume and expect" that he can. This can get the character into all kinds of interesting or tight situations where he is expected to talk or fake his way in or out of a situation, giving the player (or G.M. using an N.P.C.) the opportunity to bungle, stutter and perhaps get the group into trouble because he can't do it. Besides, it's always good to have fun with, play, tease and confound the "gadji" or "gadjikano" — non-Gypsy.

Uhhhhghghgghgahghghaga gfuffufufuffufuffuffuffuuuuuuueharjehjrklahrjklew-

deep breaths

They have a secret language nobody else is taught, even if your'e a "blood-brother" that apparently is a mish-mash from a "dozen different languages" and of course they're make fun of people for not knowing the language they teach to nobody. Other people have a penalty on learning so high you may as well not bother: -60% for the spoken version, and -90% for the written. As a reminder, skills cap at 98%. It also has some warning symbols, but only a "Layer of the Law and other Elders" apparently know the whole written form, as most ethnic wanderers are illiterate.

They have, of course, colorful wagons as seen on teevee. Some have mega-damage vehicles that two them, while others use mega-steeds - usually horned steeds or ursan forest steeds. These days they're often made of mega-damage material (how?) and have some spells like sanctum or magic circles to protect them. Even though magic circles are primarily the domain of the Diabolist (from Palladium Fantasy via Rifts Conversion Book), who hasn't even gotten a mention here, but... y'know... maybe they paid a Diabolist.

Lastly, some know how to travel between continents using rifts, because of course they have that kind of secretest knowledge. Mind, the book implies they might travel to North America this way, but... the two rifts mentioned that they know of (the Calgary Rift and the Devil's Gate) are massively, exceedingly unsafe for travel because they barf out demons and monsters on the regular. I guess that's why adverts for this book touted "a dangerous connection to the Americas", but it's a weird thing to have in an advertisement, because the whole notion is hardly detailed or elaborated on. It's just there.

Next: Nine classes. They get nine unique classes. Nine.

"According to Gypsies, all men can be like God (good and kind) or like the devil (evil)."

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Rifts World Book 18: Mystic Russia, Part 9 - "According to Gypsies, all men can be like God (good and kind) or like the devil (evil)."

"We all have to drink pretty hard to be in this section..."

Gypsy O.C.C.s

Unlike their appearance in Rifts World Book 5: Triax & the NGR, we're told most Russian wanderers are human with only 1 in 4 being D-Bees, and that they're more traditional and... magical. As such, they avoid human augmentations like juicing or cybernetics. So much for personal freedom, I suppose. Also all the classes from Triax & the NGR are reprinted here, in case you missed them. You can see my previous review for those. The "traditional" classes that get reprinted are the Traditional Gypsy Thief O.C.C. (38%), Traditional Gypsy Wizard-Thief O.C.C. (24%), Traditional Gypsy Seer (16%), and the Gypsy Healer: The Gifted (16%). Similarly, the Hidden Witch O.C.C. was previously detailed. The new classes are:

"... or get pretty stoned."

"I don't know why I thought this form was a good idea, honestly!"

The wrecked Triax armor is a nice nod to previous manterial.

It's funny how few ethnic wanderers will actually qualify for ethnic wanderer classes. Only the Hidden Witch has a better than 1 in 2 chance of qualification. I guess that's what's Vagabond Non-Skilled O.C.C. is for...

Anyway, are we done? Is it safe?

Next: Sovietski surplus section.

"We added 16 pages to this book and we still don't have enough space for everything that our wild Cossack Siembieda wants to include."

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Rifts World Book 18: Mystic Russia, Part 10 - "We added 16 pages to this book and we still don't have enough space for everything that our wild Cossack Siembieda wants to include."

More on the Sovietski War Machines

So, the Sovietski vehicle section didn't have enough space in the last book, so here it is. Ironically, for some reason the section on Russian gods gets pushed out of the book. Well, I guess tanks are their own kind of magic.

Bear in mind all of these have less MDC than a heavy cyborg with heavy armor on, because Rifts has no real grasp on scale.

"Ear protection? Is that what you said? Can't hear so well anymore!"

The Thunderbolt Assault Truck (175 MDC) is a half-track that carries the same cannons used by the Thunderstorm cyborg from the last book (the one that looked like an ape), along with a "Cyclone" laser pulse rifle on a cupola turret. It has a surprising amount of firepower, but it's a figurative glass cannon.

Because some vehicles of the 2090s will look 90% like those from the 1990s.

The "Bulldog" All Weather Tracked Vehicle (340 MDC) is practical tread vehicle, if not exciting, with lasers and a rail gun turret. There's Polish knock-off manufactured by called the "Mighty Little Hound".

H.A.V.O.C.? Mad Dog? G.I. Joe had a lot of vehicles like this...

The Thundersword Multi-Combat Platform (530 / 600 MDC) feels like it must be inspired by something else, but I can't put my finger on it. It's an APC with a flexible midsection used for tight turns and high grades. In any case, the front section holds the crew, a laser and a rail gun, and Gratitious Guns - a "pop-up" mini-missile launcher. The rear holds troops and or hovercycles, and though there's a rear bay door, we're told in proper toyetic fashion that the two turrets can slide apart and troops can fly or crawl out of the top. The top has two heavy lasers and medium-range missile launchers, but both are almost candidates for Gratutious Guns. We're told the lasers are "triple barrels protected by an outer cannon-like covering" and the missile launchers don't look nearly large enough for medium-range missiles. Overall, it's got a lot of firepower, but it has a lot of weak points like the midsection or treads. (For some reason "rear treads" are listed twice as well, presumably one of those sets are supposed to be the front treads.)

Tills as it kills.

The SU-52 "Groundthunder" Heavy Tank (375 MDC) was apparently one of the last pre-Rifts conventional tanks, still used in the face of hover tanks thanks to their reliability and lower price. The high-powered cannon, though, does no more damage than a man-portable rail gun or even the hatch / cupola rail gun above it. There's a laser in front, but all of the damage is likely to come from the medium-range missiles on the turret and mini-missiles in front. It also has smoke dispensers (no rules for smoke) and can run over things with those spiked wheels for decent damage. The ram does more than it's main cannon...

Hummer's Slummers.

The SUH-86 "Hailstorm" Sovietski Hover Tank (410 MDC) is really an combo APC / tank, we're told, since it can carry two squads of cyborgs, which apparently are fired off into combat while this is going at full speed. It's got a rail cannon on top (more damaging than the Groundthunder's), a laser turret in front, medium-range missiles, and Gratuitious Guns in the firm of "pop-up" mini-missile launcher we're told are next to the main gun. Why did it need mini-missiles added? Why not go mad?

Hoover's Sloovers.

Finally, we have the SUH-88 "Maelstrom" Sovietski Hover Tank (540 MDC). It's a newer design with a plasma cannon with reduced range which we're told is an "experiment", but given it does two to three times the damage of the other tanks, I'd say it's a success, particularly given that this moves faster than most other tanks. It also has an ion gun, a hatch rail gun, and Gratuitious Guns - a "pop-up mini missile launcher" and "concealed mini-missile launch tubes". This is probably the only tank of the three that's worthy of the tank label, but it's still deeply underwhelming compared to a pair of cyborgs.

Finally, we get a note that the Sovietski used Novyet vehicles, and we finally get some details on who Novyet is. They're a company named Novyet Manufacturers, based out of Kiev (that's Warlord Romanov's region), but with factories in the Sovietski New Moscow as well. We're told that most Soviets citizens only own a bike, horse, or motorcycle.

Rules clarifications on dodging energy blasts

For some reason, we have a new rule on energy blasts, buried in the backmatter of Mystic Russia. Why? Well, when you hear what it is, it gets even worse. Apparently dodging energy attacks and rail guns now carries a -10 penalty and is done without any bonuses within 100 feet of range. Siembieda may as well have just written "Try and dodge a laser? YOU FAIL." Bear in mind dodging eats up an action for character types without the "Automatic Dodge" feature, and being able to parry them is extremely rare (and usually penalized when available).

Oh, but if you're over 100 feet away or have potential cover, the penalty is reduced to a mere -8. No dodge bonus. If you forfeit all your attacks and do nothing but dodge for a round, you can reduce it to -6.

Here's the thing: energy attacks and rail guns are already some of the best attacks in the game! Melee attacks tend to have equal or weaker damage, and parrying doesn't take an action, so they're inherently less accurate. I'm bewildered why a ruling like this is done so late into the game line, in a game where lethality is already a major issue. Bear in mind this enhances the already dominant Glitter Boy armor to godlike status with normal foes, since now it practically never misses and can soak a ton of damage. And what is dodging even good against otherwise? Arrows, spells, and missiles - the former of the two really need the help, but at least missiles aren't any better than the best they already are.

This is exceedingly bad. All I can think of is this is intended to make characters with an automatic dodge more balanced, but basically turns combat into a game of initiative and damage when it comes to high-tech weapons, since most characters will have effectively have dodge removed as an option when these weapons to come into play- the only time it's worth dodging energy weapons is when the attack might kill you otherwise. This also punishes magic characters further beyond the damning "clarifications" in Rifts World Book 16: Federation of Magic. It's ironic that the books that want to encourage spellcasting just keep making it worse and worse as far as options go.

Justice League of Rifts Russia.

Cool Reference Books

We get a listing of other magic books to buy for Rifts and other Palladium games, but we also get a listing of the reference works Siembieda used: Russian Folk Belief by Linda J. Ivanits, Russia and the Golden Horde by Charles J. Halperin, Essential Russian Mythology by Pyotr Simonov, Russian Tales & Legends by Charles Downing, Bury Me Standing - The Gypsies and their Journey by Isabel Fonseca, and Heroes, Monsters, & Other Worlds from Russian Mythology by Elizabeth Warner.

There's also the usual wonkiness of the XP tables (why is the Gypsy Wizard-Thief one of the slowest to level, it ain't great?) and the book is done. But I'm not done, as it turns out. There's cut material from this book out there in The Rifter #6, so we'll be finishing up with that.

Next: Moist Mother Earth.

"He is cannibalistic, which means he'll slay and eat other gods and supernatural beings — and also demands human sacrifices from his worshippers (eats 2D4 people a week, and often gorges himself on the battlefield where he may devour as many as a hundred warriors, living and dead)."

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Rifts World Book 18: Mystic Russia, Part 11 - "He is cannibalistic, which means he'll slay and eat other gods and supernatural beings — and also demands human sacrifices from his worshippers (eats 2D4 people a week, and often gorges himself on the battlefield where he may devour as many as a hundred warriors, living and dead)."

Finally, we have deity material cut from Mystic Russia that appears in The Rifter #6. Kent Burles (misspelled as "Buries" in the credits) does a great job with the art, so I'm glad it came about, but the descriptions... are typical Palladium fare. These writeups also refer to Dragons & Gods for the descriptions of some godly powers, expecting you to buy a book for Palladium Fantasy in order to use them, even though they already require several Rifts supplements (Conversion Book, Federation of Magic, Mystic Russia, etc.) So, uh, hope you've got that wall of Palladium books! All the same, let's get to them.

"Dear Moist Mother Earth: don't stand up!"

Mokosh (18,000 MDC), aka "Moist Mother Earth", is the only female figure from the Slavic (the book calls it "Kievan Russian") pantheon, and is an earth goddess figure. As such, she oversees farming, fertility, and women. Apparently she speaks a strange language only the Millennium Druid, Old Believer, and 8th-or-higher level druids can understand. Yep, Brits can understand her better than a lot of Russians, go figure.

However, apparently she likes to speak to demon fighters like bogatyrs or "Cossacks" and give them inspiration. She has an effect where she can grant somebody blessings that improve their bonuses against illness, disease, and death saves. She also has a "disdain" curse that does the opposite. Naturally, she has all the earth and air magic from Conversion Book and all the nature magic from Mystic Russia, along with the plethora of other deific abilities. She most often manifests out of nature, so like a big talking rock or hill. We're told she's also worshipped in China, randomly. Like most gods, she hates all the evil, but not more than actually doing something about it, and only acts mysteriously and enigmatically because... um... that's what it says in the script.

Not mentioned here is the worship of her by praying to breast-shaped rocks or her tendency to have a dick at times because she's also in charge of male fertility. Ah, fertility god worship, always good for a good modern titter snicker. Her name really did mean "moist", but you don't have to rub that in, Siembieda. Moiiist.

There are also a lot of feminine gods missing here, like Kuplala, Marzanna, Dodola, Devana - he mentions Lada but that hardly anything about her. Well, hardly anything is known about Svarog, and he found room for him! So it goes, I suppose.

"No, over here- over here- I'm five hundred feet tall, pay attention!"

Perun (20,000 MDC) is the sky-father leader of the pantheon, and is apparently the god of war and storms. And like a storm, he's a moody old dude, and he's strict and tempermenntal. He hates deception and theft, and loves courage and Slavic people. We're told he fights demons "constantly" and often but will show up at the eleventh hour to aid heroes fighting grand evils like demon lords or alien intelligences in a big kaiju god-duel. Apparently he's showen up a dozen times to fight alongside the "Warlords of Russia and other valiant heroes". I don't know if the Warlords could really be considered "valiant heroes" in a broad sense, though. Apparently his distant wife, Mokosh, is the only thing that can calm this cranky god down. Also sometime he's a bull or a tornado.

In any case, he can do things like throw an axe that does ridiculous damage twice a turn (1d6 x 100 Mega-Damage). But that's not all! He also can send out special birds! Messenger Bird makes messages! Rain Bird makes rain! Basically has all air and electricity-themed spells, has a bow made out of a rainbow that can shoot lightning, etc.

All the "Russians kept their magic traditions alive!" talk at the start of the book ignores how Vladimir the Great tore down all his statues of Perun and had them beaten before throwing them into a river. Well, maybe not all of them.

"I'd shake your hand, but mine are on fire for some reason."

Khors (11,000 MDC) is apparently the sun god and "symbol of absolute good". And as a symbol of absolute good, he rarely intercedes in mortal affairs. Makes sense. Apparently he created Living Fire Magic and gave it to humanity instead. Sometimes he fights evil gods, though. Apparently he is a "crony" of Thoth, because Thoth is such an unbelieveable author darling that gods from unrelated pantheons call him boss.

He can grant a blessing that gives a +2% bonus to skills. Yep, that's some godly power, alright. "One out of twenty or fifty times you succeed? That's me." In any case he's buried in magic, having all wizard spells. Living Fire Spells, and Temporal spells because the sun travels or something. Also he can turn into a firebird and zip around at the speed of light as a spaaacebird.

Technically his name should be "Dazhbog"; Xors is the collective name for the moon god and sun god together, though sometimes that's a sun goddess. If Siembieda wanted a god that was better remembered, Jutrobog (the moon god) was worshipped until the 1800s in Ukraine. Also he's bald because the moon, get it.

"What do you mean you want your sword to be 'human-sized'?"

Svarog the Divine (14,000 MDC), Weaponwright of the Gods, is supposed to be the oldest all-father of the Russian gods. Which isn't accurate to mythology, but we hardly know anything about this god historically, so I guess Palladium can make up whatever. In any case, he's the creator of the Kuznya magic, and can use it to double effect compared to human smiths. In general, he thinks humans should lift themselves up by the bootstraps and doesn't interfere with the real world too much, which at least fits with his Anarchist alignment.

He has sun and wind powers, fire and air magic, and has a hammer that does 1d6 x 100 MDC. Seems like we're getting some godly power creep, but at least some of the gods here could have a fight with another god and have it not take more than a few hours of rolling. That's progress in Palladium rules!

As mentioned above, we hardly know anything about this god other than a passing mention in a text. We're reasonably certain he's a smithing god. That's about it!

"I think Svarog got carried away when I told him I wanted 'a bird theme'."

Svarozhich (5,000 MDC) is the God of Light & Fire, and is a bit of a rogue Promethean figure since he goes around helping humans and shared with them the secret of mystic smithery twice (once millennia ago, and then after the rifts). He's a bit of a black sheep because of this, and generally gives the other gods a bunch of rebellious tongue-lashings for not doing more. Seems legit to me.

Predictably, he has light and fire powers, and can turn into a "bison" and fly around bisoning eyebeams at people. He's a weaker god in general, which is what you'd expect from somebody that actually wants to help.

Nothing too far off from what's known about him, but I don't know his relation with Svarog is actually a thing in myth. He is a teacher of humanity, though, so the mystic smith stuff fits with his mythical counterpart.

"Take whatever the hell this is, whatever the hell you are!"

Dazhbog (5,500 MDC) is where things get really confused, since technically Khors above already was Dazhbog, so we've got some mixed-up research here. He's said to be a sun god (covered by Khors) and of beauty, light (also covered by Khors), and harvests (covered by her moistness). He fights demons (like Perun or Svarovich) but does so in more moderation in a pantheon-approved way. This guy definitely seems like the plus one of the entire pantheon.

Light and fire powers, I know, we already had this shit, WAIT FUCK HE TURNS INTO A BEAR, BEAR ALERT , RARE RUSSIAN BEAR IN A RIFTS RUSSIA BOOK- wait, this is in The Rifter. Well, I'll take the flying flaming bears I can get.

As mentioned above, this is just mixed-up research and the idea of two sun gods doesn't have much of a basis or a need. There's only one sun, Siembieda!

"Can I go sledding with you guys?"

Stribog (12,000 MDC) is the frost god and is the god of winter, rival of the other gods, and seems to associate with like-seasoned demons to overthrow them. He can't really even remotely hope to beat them in a straightforward way, instead allying with demons of a similar temperature to bedevil humans as a sort of deific trolling. He's a sponsor of witches and is, uh, sadistic in that he often lets foes live so he can trouble them again. "... a vindictive enemy for life."

Naturally, he has cold, water, and air powers, and can inflict a curse that gives minor penalities and makes people jealous. Also he has a staff the size of a tree he can plant into a ground to freeze an area of 50 miles at the rate of 1 mile per day, which I guess makes a decent adventure hook.

While he's a grumpy god in myth, he's not evil and is an ally of the other gods, actively fighting evil as a warrior. I guess Siembieda was desperate to have a generic evil god instead, even after populating Russia with up to a million demons. There aren't any big evil gods a la Loki in this pantheon, but there are a fair number of sinister or feared minor gods that could have filled this role.

"Why-" "-is the ceiling-" "-so low?!"

Sventovit (13,800 MDC), the "barbarian god", is apparently an egotistical, "savage" warrior. Also he's a cannibal, which means he'll eat gods, and apparently noms 2d4 people a week. He hates the gods of light in a general, but it isn't so much personal as just generic dark rivalry. Despite this, he's clairovoyant and his visions come true 99 out of 100 times. You'd think this would give him a huge advantage, but apparently not. After all, it mentions he's thinking of offering to beat up the Gargoyle Empire for Germany, and "will be surprised when he is refused and attacked". So much for that clairovoyance. But he wouldn't destroy the gargoyle anyway, but would take them over, and likely will seek to do so anyway when rejected.

He has four heads - one knows fire magic, the other air magic, one knows eeevil magic (Spoiling and Necro-Magic), and one is super-psychic. He gets a lot of attacks as a result.

Once again, not an evil god in myth, but one of just war and fertility, and whose priesthood engaged in horse-based or dice-based fortune-telling. Yes, horse-based prediction of the future. How could you leave that out of a RPG book? Geez. Have your Mega-Horse show you the Mega-Future! Anyway, they could have used feared gods like Nemiza, Ny, or mother fucking Chernobog! Well, I guess we needed to make sure we had evil of a more generic stripe.

And that's it. The Rifter will be getting some more coverage in the near future, because there's more to dig out of it than I expected on a re-review, like this article in particular (that, mind, came out about a half-year after Mystic Russia.


Mystic Russia continues to be what's the curse of the Palladium line - magic-centric books. England is considered by Siembieda himself to be the most disappointing Rifts book, while Africa and Spirit West are probably the worst books I've had to cover. Federation of Magic is probably the best of the lot, partly due to wonderful Perez designs, and partly because it avoided the core point where Rifts falls down the hardest and most embarassingly - depicting indigenous people and their mythologies. Of course, even it did a lot to undercut the use of magic in general, because for some awful reason they decided to bring the magic of Rifts in line with the updated magic rules from the Palladium Fantasy RPG. Well, I guess we just can't have have nice things.

It's sad to see, because I don't think there's any active racism or maliciousness in it- it just mostly comes from the closely-held stereotypes of the writers and their inability to present indigenous people as individuals and not just broad masses that can be stamped with the same ink. Between Africa, England, Spirit West, and Mystic Russia, how many [u]characters[/i] do we get between all the shamans, druids, and priests presented? Like, three or four? Technological factions get a murderer's row of Warlords, commanders, and mayors. But magic is held by faceless, generic stereotypes, with Federation of Magic being the lone exception.

Of course, there was a writer better at handling this- Carella. The parts of South America he wrote blend psychics, magic and technology more smoothly, meaning it doesn't stand out as much. But, thankfully, there aren't many "magic books" left. I don't know if I'll ever get to the China books, but they'd be the major ethnic-flavored book left in the line as of this writing. But those aren't by Siembieda - they're one of the only books Erick Wujick did for the line. Of course, those who have read Ninjas & Superspies will know deeply well that Erick Wujcik - for all the positive marks he made on the RPG industry - could fall victim to the same cultural stumbling folks when it came to exploring Asia.

To be fair, the book has neat ideas. The treatment of witches and ethnic wanderers falls pretty flat, but most of the other classes are fine conceptually, even downright cool... it's just the mechanics often fail them. The Mystic Kunzya is a cool class with a clipping drawback. The Slayer is all the 90s edgelord you need... who's not actually that great in a fight. Living Fire is neat but, once again, bad in a fight most of the time.

Well, I praise what I can. Art's cool. Russia's done, at least until Rifts World Book 36: Sovietski.