The Publisher's Soap Box

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So, in keeping with our latest round of Palladium exploration, I present you all now with Palladium's first (and sort of last) foray into an entirely new and unplumbed wilderness!

Rifts:™ Dimension Book One: Wormwood Part 1: “The Publisher’s Soap Box”

In publication order, Wormwood came out right after England, and closer to on time than many other Palladium offerings. It was teased in England without much detail, but now it is ready for us. You see, in addition to the blasted and changed wasteland that was Earth, Siembieda intended for adventurers to be able to go around exploring other entire worlds as well. The rifts are two-way gates, after all, and there is probably some dimension that is even now trying to build a gigantic dimensional fence just to keep out the rabbits.

But first we get Wormwood. Here’s the cover, to start us off:

As covers go it’s alright, certainly that guy looks like a badass wanderer in a forsaken land. The book starts with Siembieda’s usual warning about violence and the supernatural and as a bonus feat, accompanies it with this image:

he may be undercutting the kid-friendly image of Rifts there

This book credits Timothy Truman and Flint Henry as ‘Created By’ and then KS as ‘Written By’ which may be some of that famous control freakery at work. Truman and Henry are credited with interior art as well, along with Siembieda and Roger Peterson. Truman and Henry are working comic book artists, though often on independent or lesser-known titles like Grimjack and Jonah Hex. Reading up on Truman, he’s more significant than I realized, though not someone I’ve ever followed. I recall this book looking a little bit different than some of the others, we’ll see.

The Wonders & Horrors of Wormwood

This section starts off explaining that Wormwood is a land of struggle between men and monsters, and then goes on to talk about what dimension books are meant to be. In brief: extradimensional adventure worlds, of course. More importantly, they’re meant to be stand-alone capable, that is, you should be able to run a whole campaign just from the book’s presented classes and material, using the core rules, though you can also combine all the other things together because why wouldn’t you do that? This is Rifts, this is grabbing your toys by the handful and setting up huge battle-scenes. We will find out in time that this is a lie, but it’s a nice thought at least.

Apparently Truman had known Siembieda for a long time and called him up to pitch Wormwood as an RPG. Kevin said ‘why not make it a Rifts book?’ and Truman agreed. Kevin explains how he had been busy with stuff like trying to get Rifts Miniatures going. He brags on himself a while about how Truman and Henry submitted some awesome proofs and he totally worked it into the Megaverse to make it awesome.

the guy with the sword is like, super-high

This illustration is side-by-side with another column titled the Publisher’s Soap Box which is a second warning that Wormwood is a work of fiction and nobody should try this at home and some dumb college jocks tried to imitate that movie The Program and now some of them are dead and everyone wants to censor things when that happens but you should know the difference between truth and fiction.

This is the first few pages of the book with any non-index text on them, and so far we know nothing except that Wormwood is a world where great evil threatens to overwhelm the forces of good and that we should consider it fictional.

Next: An intro comic by a couple actual industry pros

Souls for Lord Lesion

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Rifts:™ Dimension Book One: Wormwood Part 2: “Souls for Lord Lesion”

So, since this book was created by a couple of comic book artists, they decided to do a little intro comic for it. It has a definite 2000AD/B&W comic style to it, the art is not bad at all. The writing is pretty heavy-handed but I wasn’t expecting much there. But here, let’s look at the first page:

So we’ve introduced a tiny bit of the history of the world, and named the main character, and established that he’s sneaking into somewhere and he’s all shadowy and cool and stuff. Vespers proceeds to sneak into the room of a sleeping boy and comments on how he’s a freelance exorcist who usually expects to get paid, but this suffering child gets his help for free. He casts a spell, the boy’s parents hear the ruckus and kick him out for being a freelancer traitor, not for being a weirdo in their son’s room at night. Apparently nobody can ever understand why he broke his ties with the church. As he is ruminating on a high ledge, he sees the “soul-raiding Horde” flying their skelter bats out.

We then see innocent bystanders and their seriously leprous-looking priest pray for salvation before being descended upon by some extremely goblins using a giant multi-pronged fishing pole.

Vespers comments on how he expended too much of his energy to help them and I am glad they do not say “PPE” in character because really. The raiders are taking people back for various terrible fates in the Crawling Tower of Lord Lesion.

He continues expositing about stuff he can’t even see and explains that the knights of light (Rifts has a lot of knight taxa) are having morale issues because fighting Lesion is hard and the Knights Templar have resumed their rivalry with the Knights Hospitaller. I am going to just guess which of those has been secretly infiltrated by evil to turn on the others and say “both.” But they have to stay together to guard the last few crumbling citadels of man, like some messy knight-divorce.

At this point the view shifts though the voice still seems to be Vesper and we meet Char. Char is a knight. She looks like this:

displaying a proper knightly wax

As the panel says, she is presented as being pretty badass, and she has to breach the Crawling Tower to get the ‘soul cell’ which is a battery made from the people stolen before. She has to fight a bunch of evil fish to do this.


She gets the soul cell gem-thing and hauls ass back to someone she calls Pilot in a big shiny temple. Pilot sticks the soul cell in the “energy chamber,” and comments that at least these doomed departed wretches can serve the Light again which is a bit and this makes the temple light up--and turn into a giant robot called a battle saint.

The battle saint’s timing is convenient, because the Horde had sent a giant building-sized ‘shock parasite’ to chase Char, so it wakes up just in time to rip that thing to pieces. Vesper has stopped narrating at this point since there are usually two or more people on panel to explain things. That doesn’t mean there’s no trouble left though, there are apparently ‘flankers’ and then ‘a lone figure fighting through the Horde!’

It’s the guy from the cover!

sorry if this post is a bit image-heavy

The Horde calls him a traitor this time, and when he takes off his mask he says he is called The Confessor. Then the knights call him a traitor too, guess nobody likes a good skull mask these days. Another knight riding a motorcycle says they should give him a chance.

Then, suddenly a D-port (a rift) is opened right beneath our heroes’ feet! Really you should just see this page, here.

i don’t know what the demon head on top is connected to

The Confessor exclaims that this isn’t Lesion’s work, it’s his dread lap-dog Salome. At this point Vespers shows up out of nowhere and seems to have regained enough of his energy to rift himself into Salome’s sanctum to challenge her directly, though he says he doesn’t wish her harm even though she totally just sent a bunch of demons to kill people. I should note that Salome actually gets to wear pants, but probably uses Marge Simpson-levels of hairspray daily.

They have a very brief wizard duel which Vesper wins by mind-blasting her when she’s distracted, and he grabs her ‘control gem’ which causes all the demons outside to go back where they came from. He comments to the reader that no one will ever know who was responsible for the knights’ salvation but the war shall go on, because he is way too cool to claim credit where it may be due.

Anyway, that’s the intro comic. It dumps a bunch of names and ideas at the reader in a pretty heavy-handed fashion but it is at least trying to explain the world. The writing is pretty leaden and I worry about meeting these signature characters in-character; the TOC says that Vesper and the Confessor get writeups so we’ll see how they work out in the wild world of Rifts NPC statting. I actually like the art generally, though there are a few places that don’t flow as well as others. It establishes a visual style for the book anyway.

Next: Erin Tarn

Condensed excerpts from her soon to be released book

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Rifts:™ Dimension Book One: Wormwood Part 3: “Condensed excerpts from her soon to be released book”

We knew she’d be here. There’s no escaping Erin Tarn She told us she’d been to Wormwood at the beginning of England. Here she’s presenting us with some pieces of a book she’s writing about her experiences in Wormwood. She describes how they were hot and tired and just wanted to get where they were going and the Mexican ley line walker opened the rift and it was really cool and impressive and “Maybe it’s because I’m a woman, but I always thought the rifts looked like a womb.” Really, you have to go there, and then can’t bring yourself to say ‘vagina’?

Anyway, more about how interesting and painless stepping through it was, and I suppose some description of the actual act of walking through a rift was needed since it was not clear if it had any other effects.

Wormwood is a living planet, she tells us, and maybe it was created by cosmic-level bioengineering, maybe there’s a connection to the Mechanoids (there isn’t) but we’ll never know. The day is 25 hours long, thirteen night and twelve day. There are two moons. The sky is yellow with bluish hints (which would be green then?) and the landscape tends to be pastel pink and tan. If they’d ever made a color version of this comic, eyes would bleed. Also there are no trees, there are these stone-like pillars, with occasional shrubs or vines and such but they’re invasive species.

Even the buildings are grown from the planet’s substance and ‘have the texture and warmth of the hide of a rhino-buffalo’ which sounds singularly unpleasant. She compares this to how she’d read about Millennium Trees and their little houses. Apparently all the home furnishing is done by priests or ‘shamen’ (sic) called wormspeakers. Oh good, after all those classes in England who just made potions and cauldrons, I was looking forward to one that just did interior decorating.

Also, apparently Wormwood people speak perfect American, having adopted the language before the time of Rifts. Because reasons. They learned this because they met a group of adventurers who helped them get out of the demon wastelands they rifted into. Apparently a shifter on Wormwood let in the Host led by something that calls itself the Unholy. All the bad guys are Forces of Darkness and they are very bad, they’re all into using souls as mystic energy.

only picture in this section

The wormspeaker summoned all their food, which was grubs and worms from the ground. Erin Tarn did not care for this a lot, preferring “vegetable-like” fibers from food caves, but you eat what’s available. Wormspeakers are apparently kind of gross, with worms instead of a tongue and worms on their bodies that serve as armor and stuff.

At one point while they were resting, Erin noticed that one of the weird stony pillars had moved. Everyone got alarmed that there was a Crawling Tower nearby. The priest in the little adventuring unit summoned some little domes for them to hide in as some of the evil bat warriors from the comic flew overhead. Apparently everything on Wormwood is mega-damage, including the humans, and the Unholy has found ways to mutate its living structure.

Travelling through Wormwood, they saw frequent signs of death and destruction and recent ruins. I would say this is not different from Rifts Earth really but the ‘recent’ part does change some of the ruins a bit. And that the ruins would heal themselves so just the corpses would be still lying around.

second to only picture in this section

And at the last, Erin and friends paused to gather some food from a food cave. Two “Leaper” parasites jumped out, being ridden by demonic humanoids. Apparently they are insectoid, and Sir Thorpe started fighting them. More “Tick” parasites appeared and the priest turned them. The Leapers seemed to be causing some significant trouble for our hardy band when a dude in blue and silver appeared and told the monsters to go home and they were all “Lazarus Vespers, you’re a jerk.” I may be embellishing the dialogue slightly, GMPC to the rescue of another GMPC. When GM-worlds collide.

Anyway the monster points and there’s a big demon with an axe. Wait! No, it’s just the Confessor. He scared the demons back into their cave and then took off his mask to show his handsome handsome face. “It was quickly apparent that he and Vespers were uncomfortable companions. Neither seemed particularly comfortable with one another.” Yeah, okay. They were in town because of the crawling tower spotted previously, and Vespers had to go but but the Confessor would escort them.

Erin then concludes that they travelled for five weeks more, through a bunch of communities of dirty and tired people. Some of them rallied around local heroes, though the Confessor always made them leave because the towns were more likely to be attacked and also there might be spies. End of transmission.

So this time we got an expository comic and an Erin Tarn letter. The letter is about as heavy-handed as the comic though it told us some necessary things (living planet) the comic left out--it’s just way less metal and way more full of

Next time: Key Locations in and around the Kingdom of Light. I’m glad this is at the front this time.

Battle Star, non-galactica

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Rifts:™ Dimension Book One: Wormwood Part 4: “Battle Star, non-galactica”

I was wrong, we are far from done with Erin’s ramblings. They decided to put some key locational info in the front, but from everyone’s favorite unreliable narrator, Erin Tarn

Of course, Erin dots her writings with Kevin Siembieda’s love of random geographical and population figures. Apparently most settlements are 2,000 to 10,000 people and 20 to 50 miles (32 to 80km) apart. Also people treat the Confessor badly because he used to work for the Unholy or something.

The first named community the party reaches is called Battle Star. The city has a large wall around it, and lots of interior fortifications, which must be awkward when half the forces of evil just fly over it. It has the name “Battle Star” because there are five battle saints are located around it in a five-pointed configuration on hills around the city. This “city” of 10,000 people somehow supports a warrior population of 8,000. Mostly human, a few D-bees.

From Battle Star and Stone Haven (details to follow) one can see the Northern Mountains which mark the border between the Kingdom of Light and the Unholy’s empire. Supposedly the mountains were created by prayer for a natural defense, but they’re still full of monsters.

Stone Haven is another cluster of communities “a day and a half” from Battle Star. They are named for having built parts of their community with imported stone from other dimensions. Okay. Rifts Earth stone isn’t naturally mega-damage so that might not be a great bet.

There’s also Stone Wall, which is not a community of demon-slaying gays, alas. It’s a 30-ft tall crescent that stretches eleven miles, apparently a defensive fixture whose builders have been forgotten. This is probably at least partly because a random 11-mile wall is not all that useful.

this is one of several panels from the comic that have already been re-used in the book

Kravenville! A promising name. Only a third of this city of 11,000 is composed of soldiers. Why did they choose a prime number for their fraction? I hate you, Palladium. They get attacked a lot and are wary of strangers but not hostile. Again, they made a bunch of their city out of imported stone, but ‘Stone Haven’ and ‘Stone Wall’ were already taken so...time to kill Spider-Man? Okay, here’s at least some explanation for the stone: Thomas Kraven, city founder, wanted walls that enemy priests and wormspeakers couldn’t breach. That is an actually valid reason. It’s just that thing about the stone again, where did they get it from? There’s a decent-sized stone castle on the Kraven estate, and there are a fair number of temporal wizards here, because Thomas Kraven was one I guess--it doesn’t mention them being evil or even suspicious so this might be a rogue school. The T-wizards couldn’t immediately rift Erin & crew back to Earth because “The Cathedral” needed them for a battle the next day, but they’d discuss it later.

Next, Stone Finger. Come on . The town is home to a Thunder Lizard dragon and some other warriors, including a Holy Terror named Max, and the dragon built a big stone pillar, thus the name. Holy Terrors remind Erin of robots. From the one stone pillar we get to the Forest of Pillars which is a bunch more of those stony pillars that pass for native vegetation thick enough to be kind of a forest, defining the eastern border of the Kingdom of Light.

In the western distance were the Resin mountains. These are apparently full of wild parasites and skelter bats, as well as flying animals from other dimensions, and bandits. Apparently the mountains are made by a mucus-y secretion of the planet and people use it to make stuff. All kinds of stuff, furniture, chainmail, what have you. Giant planet-snot IKEA. Two mining towns called the Hammer and the Chisel rest at its foot. Hammer shapes raw material venting from the planet, Chisel does finished goods and artistic stuff. They have some knights and such. Past the mountains are some more small hills, thinly populated.

here, have some knights to break up the text.

Erin continues on from here with more rambling about the Kingdom of Light, which I thought we were already talking about. Though we weren’t, too much, as this is a kingdom whose king has not yet been named. And they have a lot of ‘knights’ which suggests some kind of nobility, but Erin just kind of glossed that generally too, except to mention the currently-reigning Kraven brothers.

So next time: Kingdom of Light, for real

The three major cities part 1

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Rifts:™ Dimension Book One: Wormwood Part 5: “The three major cities part 1”

I am really hating this Erin Tarn geography lesson thing. I complained all through England that they talked about New Camelot and its problems for the entire book before just shoving that in at the back, this time all the setting stuff is up front, which is good, but written by a snowflaky old bat.

Anyway, this “Kingdom of Light” has three major cities: True Heart, The Golden City, and Cathedral Stronghold. Lots of smaller towns and a large military presence, probably a total population of 5 to 10 million--which is a lot of variance but is at least a respectable figure larger than these hamlets they’ve been calling cities.

Since they mentioned the three big cities first, we’re going to talk about a secondary city next. The Greenery has 34K residents at the northernmost edge of the Kingdom. It is named for its extra-terrestrial gardens, basically the ‘elder counsel’ (sic) imported dirt and plants from a bunch of worlds to make a garden. This is actually kind of neat as a city feature on a very alien planet, though Erin talks about how overjoyed she is to see plants and rolled around on the grass and such.

She also talked to some monks who get their own boldfaced section. They don’t say what order they’re from, just that they’re committed to peace and justice but very, very argumentative and constantly criticising the Light governments, especially the Cathedral. Tarn wasn’t real sure about this as they seemed way nicer than anything you might find in the Coalition. They also warned her about High Priest Matthew Pentecost, uncle of heroic young Dorsey Pentecost. The latter is the third ‘NPC hero’ who gets a writeup along with Vespers and the Confessor.

They did not visit York Town which is home to the Monastery of Inner Strength, perhaps home to those monks above. Then they went to True Heart, the first of the three main cities. Their priest had to take off to go report to his superiors here. 100K residents, 60K soldiers of various kinds. It is apparently the home base of the Knights of the Hospital and they like to ride motorcycles. Wormwood doesn’t have any indigenous equivalent to horses so motorcycles rule the day, often converted to Technowizard versions that use psychic or magical energy. They also saw a lot of Coalition/Northern Gun/Triax armaments, and even Kittani stuff because this is a stand alone supplement.

And here’s some more of Rifts dropping random rules into place descriptions: Apparently a lot of the knights like to use TW versions of old black powder guns from the American Revolutionary War. The dumbness of that aside, they detail some stats for these weapons in the city description. Where you’ll never find it. And even if you are “skilled” in an undefined way, you still have to spend a melee action to reload your average-damage guns.

Tarn goes on to talk about the Knights Hospital a little, saying they’re the more blue-collar knights compared to the Templars, who “come from noble heritage.” At least there is a continuous culture that could breed up a nobility here, rather than the shattered randomness of England. They’re just, you know, using a historical knightly order from Earth for their name and then admitting anyone whether they were noble or not and only maybe taking a vow of poverty if they feel like it helps them avoid temptation. I’ll probably complain more about these respective knightly orders and their use in this book in the class writeups.

i’m not sure how to describe this...Mad Max meets Robin Hood?

And then like, a shitload of about how the Hospitallers are struggling with conflicting vows of service to the Church and to more general principles of justice and whatever. Basically the Cathedral has been getting high handed and snooty and treating apoks and freelancers badly and kicking out knights who dissent and such. It’s more or less exactly what you’d expect to hear about an organization claiming to serve good in a Rifts book.

Next: the rest of this goddamn letter

The three major cities part 2

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Rifts:™ Dimension Book One: Wormwood Part 6: “The three major cities part 2”

Having heard these vague rumbles of discontent, our intrepid heroine made her way to Cathedral Stronghold itself. 500,000 people in one place, why, it’s a veritable sea of humanity. Only 110,000 warriors though. It’s apparently very big and gleaming with lots of pomp and ceremony. The Cathedral campus itself is a two mile area and very lavish, perhaps one might say ‘Vatican-y’. One of the two battle saints in the city sleeps under a hill on the campus, and they have a big parade ground for all their knights. Of course, Erin describes all this and then says they remind her of the CS, the seeds of corruption are taking root even though these guys have really good intentions, etc.

But more about that later, first we’re going to talk about the Templar knights. In some ways this is almost refreshing that they’re just a bunch of arrogant asshole knights rather than a conspiracy theory. But they are definitely described as haughty jerkwads. They’re still a symbol of hope and still fight for the Light or whatever but they’re arrogant and dismissive of everyone else.

i don’t understand the cross imagery in the context of Wormwood

Matthew Pentecost enters the picture next, as Tarn talked to his nephew in True Heart and figured his uncle would also be chill. She was very wrong. He basically interrogated the group for hours about stuff their priest guy had already told him, and she chalked this up to him being a mean petty tyrant. He also said the Cathedral could not devote any resources to rifting her party back to Earth, which seems weird since it’s fairly clear by now that elements of this society visit Earth fairly regularly.

With that pronouncement, Erin and Crew packed their things and left Cathedral Stronghold and headed to the Golden City, which is a “sparkling clean place inhabited by sparkling clean people.” Kay. The wormspeakers and priests can apparently change the colors of the buildings a little bit though it isn’t clear if this is unique to the Golden City or they just like doing it more. It’s a thriving metropolis in which one might briefly not feel like being in the middle of a warzone. That’s because it’s for rich people. It’s an upper-class suburb-city. They met up with their temporal wizard friend from Kravenville and he was all impressed with Erin Tarn now, having gotten ahold of “an NGR edition” of one of her books--isn’t she also banned in the NGR now? Who cares.

They had to go from richtown to a place called Worldgate. They do so by teleportation, and Tarn contradicts herself by saying that unlike their rifting to Wormwood, there was no sensation of travel or disorientation. This place is apparently a dimensional trade center with a lot of rifts in it. Cool, fine, actually nice to see some interdimensional trade not firmly in the claws of cartoonish cackling evil. Tarn didn’t care for it, it reminded her of the Chi-town burbs and it was all noisy with kids playing the raps and carrying on.

Anyway, Worldgate is “the last of the powerful free cities” which I assume means “not in the Kingdom or the Empire” but then that’s made extremely unclear by explaining that King Luke Shrombek is the benevolent ruler at 14th level Shifter with unprincipled alignment. The Ruling Council is a Temporal Raider, a Temporal Wizard student of the raider, a Morphworm (one of the few anarchist members of this humanoid-eating species), a sowki (who is aberrant evil) and a techno-wizard. They all mostly pile into Palladium’s neutral-esque alignments which would almost make them unusually nuanced for Palladium if the alignments weren’t so crazy. They dislike the Cathedral and the Cathedral’s bullshit and the Confessor says that while they let things like Sunaj in, it was just so they could plant spies in the monsters’ ranks. Sure it is, buddy. You win the medal for most naive former demon-slave. Erin Tarn of course was flattered to be trusted with this delicate information.

The Cathedral dislikes Worldgate right back, but have decided they don’t merit military action...yet. It probably helps that these are easily the most prolific arms and stone and other imported goods dealers in Wormwood. In Gnomoria you could get rid of all your extra dirt by ‘selling’ it at 0 value to a merchant. Now I know where it was all going.

Rifts Earth is a popular destination, to nobody’s surprise but Erin’s, and the Earth rift director is a fan. She paid for their passage home with autographs. Of course, they could only fly them to England and besides that book came out first.

It ends with Erin comparing Wormwood’s desperate struggle with the Coalition’s, and understanding some of the fear that clutches at the hearts of the masses. Of course, she still condemns them and they’re big skull-fascist jerks, and warns everyone to not be like them or we’ll have become the monsters . Ugh, I am so glad this is over.

Oh, there’s a map

i’m not sure if this is meant to cover the whole geography of Wormwood or just like, a main part of it or what. also is battle star marked with a star because it’s a capital or because it’s literally star-shaped?

What was not explained in this superlong rambling travelogue: the government of the Kingdom of Light. It does not seem to have an actual king. Looking ahead a bit into the Cathedral section, it suggests that they rule directly and theocratically in some areas. The Cathedral was always a paramilitary organization and I could easily see them having stepped in to take control if a previous government fell but this is never explored. I don’t want to be too hard about government on a living planet covered with demons but I feel like a GM would have to sort of make this up on the fly, in some cases for each city because some pledge to the Cathedral and some just support it and some are ambivalent and etc. We’ll revisit this in the Cathedral section a bit.

Next time: More about the planet, like ecology and stuff

Ego, the living planet

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Rifts:™ Dimension Book One: Wormwood Part 7: “Ego, the living planet”

So now we’re out of Erin Tarn’s documentary narration and back into some normal Siembieda-ish exposition about the specifics of how the planet functions. This is important because it is extremely alien. Wormwood appears to be an artificially designed living being meant to grow into a suitable human habitat. Psychics trying to object read on it discover that every single ‘rock’ and weird protrusion are alive and part of its body, therefore cannot be read. It doesn’t say what happens in trying to use telepathy. The only other living planet known is Eylor, though that’s a well-kept secret of the Splugorth and doesn’t appear to be related.

Supposedly it’s about half the size of Earth (anyone feel like checking that against the map, go ahead) and they don’t explain why the gravity is the same. It doesn’t have regular plants, insects or wildlife, just an artificial ecosystem designed to create the environment. Invasive species have moved in a bit, but Wormwood is pretty hostile to most Earth-like life. The origins of the first humans on Wormwood is unknown. Colonists, prisoners, builders, finders, it’s completely lost.

Wormwood is alive, but doesn’t appear to be sentient. It seems to have a great deal of instinctual programming that causes it to create a livable environment for humans. Some people want to draw similarities between Wormwood and the Millennium Trees. These people are dumb. It does explain that the planet does not communicate psionically as the trees do.

this section is really image-sparse, so have a byrne

The planet grows habitats for people, generally in rounded or otherwise organic-looking shapes. They have mouth-like doors that open on approach or command, though this makes me wonder about locks. Sometimes they grow horns or teeth or similar things as decorations, which, eww, I don’t want a house with teeth. They have ingrown indoor plumbing and garbage disposal. The buildings will grow and change according to the needs of inhabitants, and cities will change size likewise. If abandoned, over decades, the dwellings will sink back into the ground.

Priests and wormspeakers can manipulate these constructions more directly to make them grow faster and more elaborately. The forces of the Unholy have warped the planet into growing the Crawling Towers by their dark nature. The towers don’t skitter on a million centipede legs (which would be awesome), they sort of ooze or flow along the ground more like a snail I guess.

damn crows

Wormwood’s surface is generally smooth and kind of desolate, but it does grow the occasional pimply hill or scarification of mountain. The book states that they are sometimes ‘generated to create recognizable landmarks for its human inhabitants’. Also there’s all those stony pillars instead of trees. Many of the recorded mountain ranges sprang up within the last few hundred years of recorded history, as barriers to the Unholy.

The big mountains are just jagged upthrust Wormwood matter, up to 2000ft. The small ones up to 900 ft are “secreted mucus or resin.” The resin is compared to lava but is not hot when it flows out and is completely non-toxic and can really only hurt someone if they lie down in its flow and allow themselves to suffocate. The resin can be poured into molds and will harden. It’s pretty unclear to me why it is liquid at first if it isn’t heated to dangerous temperatures. Once hardened it can be sculpted a bit like rock, though its consistency is closer to plastic. Here the book chooses to refer to the resin as “all-purpose boogers” to give voice to what we had all been thinking.

This is not the end of Wormwood’s useful secretions however. Angel Hair is white, yellow or tan fiber from 6 to 12 ft long that just magically appears in the air and floats to the ground. It’s like cotton, but three times stronger, and gets used for cloth stuff. Water, likewise, is stored inside the planet--there are no seas and rarely rain. Priests and wormspeakers can summon water through fountains in the planet’s surface, and they pop up naturally here and there, especially near large habitats.

Next: Food, Symbiotes, and some other stuff. This section is really verbose.

Slimy but Satisfying

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Rifts:™ Dimension Book One: Wormwood Part 8: “Slimy but Satisfying”

Food was discussed a bit in Erin Tarn’s rambling travels, and consists primarily of edible fungus and worms. There are also various invasive species from other dimensions running around at this point, so you might be able to get that ratburger of your dreams. There are also food caves that generate a natural greenish light and grow green and brown fibers along the floor and walls. The green are sort of spinachy and the brown like a squash and the caves tend to form near human settlements.

Also, fairly obviously, Wormwood has a breathable atmosphere. It seems to keep itself regulated and prevents cosmic radiation from penetrating. Occasionally “hot spots” appear in the path of invading demons, with temps of 100 degrees, but otherwise it’s about 80, everywhere.

not sure if symbiotic

There are some native fauna to Wormwood besides humans. Worms, crawlers, claws, angels, battle saints, crystals and blood stones are all listed as living manifestations of the planet. These symbiotes generally don’t disfigure or damage the host body and provide beneficial powers, which puts them up by two on all the symbiotes from Atlantis, though the ‘don’t disfigure’ thing is kind of a lie as most of them have a PB cost. The Cathedral doesn’t like the symbiotes for <reasons>, but they grasp the judeo-christian imagery of the angels and battle saints and latched onto that. The Forces of Darkness have found ways to create or summon aggressive and corrupt versions of these things of course.

That leads us into talking a bit about the Infection, aka the Unholy and their ilk. The germ analogy is hammered thoroughly into the ground and it is the job of the human antibodies to drive them out. Wormwood has done what it can to try and burn the infection away with bad weather and hostile terrain manifestations but these have not been nearly enough. The invaders are like an autoimmune disorder that starts turning parts of the body against itself, creating hostile parasites and towers and soul-draining cauldrons and all sorts of nastiness. If they win, Wormwood will die. Which the Unholy might actually find inconvenient.

Much of Wormwood’s history is shrouded in mystery. Its origins are long lost. It’s clearly engineered to act as it does but by whom and for what purpose is unknown. They make a few obvious suggestions like ‘maybe some humans from a parallel Earth’ or ‘True Atlanteans’. There’s a myth that Wormwood was once wholly peaceful and happy but such times of plenty always lead to idleness and greed and hubris and the builders of Wormwood started trying to conquer other supernatural worlds. This went more or less exactly as one would expect, though the myth says that the Host were called up deliberately to halt the original problem of enslaved demons getting loose, and turned into a far greater menace themselves. And this is why old ladies should not swallow flies. The current era is the Age of Darkness and true to form for a Rifts book, it looks pretty grim for the good guys.

Next: Technology! With worms.

(This is a short post because it looked longer in draft, and also because I don't want to spam the thread. I think everybody went back to school.)

No high-tech facilities for mass-production whatsoever

posted by occamsnailfile Original SA post

Rifts:™ Dimension Book One: Wormwood Part 9: “No high-tech facilities for mass-production whatsoever”

Wormwood has zero real industry. There’s no metal to mine, for one thing. They know what technology is and are prolific interdimensional traders, but they don’t make any of their own. They just make Wormwood stuff, which they can do with PPE expenditure mostly. Certainly the world does provide for a lot of basic human needs, but not really so much with writing utensils and paper, so that might be why they lost all their history.

People use a lot of techno-wizardry since that’s the only way to make magic wands without Millennium Trees apparently. They also have a fair number of Shifters and Temporal Wizards--which, the latter are quite useful but really defeat the idea of this being a sort of stand-alone book if you have to buy England to make the setting work right.

Wormwood does not have ley lines, so hope you didn’t roll a line walker. In fact, the absence of such is written as being profoundly disturbing to line walkers and druids and such, and you can almost see Siembieda hesitating over ‘roll on insanity table’ before thankfully not putting that in.

The absence of ley lines means that the planet is very difficult to discover by accident as well, apparently, but Erin Tarn sure managed it. Basically it’s in a ‘blind spot’, and this may be why Eylor from Atlantis has remained undiscovered by non-Splugorth as well. I always just went with ‘the infinitude of universes means it’s hard to reach a particular one’ and most dimensional teleporting requires prior knowledge of a place.

Wormwood instead has magic pulsing through its body like veins, beneath the surface. It takes several months (though not a die rolled number) for mages from ley line worlds to realize this; places that produce a lot of the symbiotes are where the veins are nearest the surface and can be tapped for magical energy like ley lines. Some of the symbiotic items produced by Wormwood also store PPE energy. The Forces of Evil have their own versions of these, and of course practice human sacrifice for all that juicy energy.

Obviously this means that ambient PPE energy is more abundant underground, though aside from food caves, Wormwood doesn’t seem to have a lot of caverns. There is a myth of an ‘inner world, deep within Wormwood’ but nobody knows how to find it, not even this book. Burrowing into the planet is difficult since it's an incredibly tough mega-damage structure.

Man this is a long dull text-heavy section. Next Kevin tells how each type of mage is specifically screwed:

Elemental magics are basically fucked. There’s no regular weather, no lava, the ground is not made of earth. Dust storms and stuff still work. But boy, if you had an evil elementalist, those people building houses out of expensive imported stone might be in for a surprise.

Psionics are not native to Wormwood--it doesn’t address the constant immigration to the planet or how those psionic genes might get passed, just nobody is natively psi. Travelers from other dimensions will sense that the planet is alive and so is most of the stuff it makes. They can’t communicate or bio-manipulate the planet. All range is reduced by half, duration by a quarter, some powers are nearly useless. Awesome.

Meanwhile, Wormwood symbiotes, crystals and stones don’t work in other dimensions. This seems like it’d limit the ability of Wormwood folk to export useful goods since the rest of what they have is basically solidified monster snot and weird homespun non-cotton. Wormwood-powered characters like wormspeakers who leave Wormwood also suffer power loss for leaving, which kinda actually sucks a lot for those classes. I mean Wormwood may be passably complete as a campaign setting but if you’re playing Rifts you are probably eventually going to go to Earth if you didn’t start there, and those classes are the more distinct elements of the setting.

And then we get to the single stupidest thing in this book.

All natives of Wormwood are mega-damage creatures.

That means humans. It has been discussed in the past how MDC is a dumb system and how you should just get rid of it entirely and so Wormwood is perhaps trying to do this. The problem is that these mega-damage humans still do SDC with their hands. Barfights must be very tiresome and plastic bags banned as murder weapons. They don’t get a lot of MDC either--you know how you’d roll for SDC starting out and then forget what the number was because it really didn’t matter at all against even the weakest gun in the game? Well it’s still that number. Physical skills seem to stack with this, for those few not specifically forbidden to take the good ones. And of course, if they travel to non-MDC worlds they become SDC, just like everything else. It’s really too late for this change to be made, if one is using MDC in general, and it isn’t well addressed. Someone pointed out earlier about how mundane grooming would be basically impossible, it's the old Superman problems again except folks don't have heat vision to cut their hair with. They also love the visual of hand-to-hand weapons and I admit that a knight riding around on a motorcycle with a sword is pretty neat, but mundane weaponry is not automatically mega-damage. Basically everything in the book is broken if MDC is used.

The second stupidest thing in this book: The language of Wormwood is Earth English. With 20th century slang. There’s some stuttering justification for this but it's really silly. Also demons of Wormwood speak ‘Demongogian’. Ugh. Book, stop being annoying and have more pictures.

Next: Dimensional Doorways

Earth has always been a favorite trading zone

posted by occamsnailfile Original SA post

Rifts:™ Dimension Book One: Wormwood Part 10: “Earth has always been a favorite trading zone”

So, it’s been made clear that Wormwood has a lot of extradimensional technology floating around. This section opens with “it is likely that some of the myths, legends, and stories regarding ancient gods, wizards, (and every other category of strange being listed afterwards including alien abductions) can be attributed to Wormwood.” I mean aside from every strange mythical monster and pantheon and chiang-ku dragon claiming to similarly be responsible for all of human history, really? They visited and traded with us regularly and we never noticed them back?

It follows this up by saying that both human and demon forces send not only scouts and traders but small armies even. Really. And Earth never recorded this as anything but a weather balloon. Ugh. Anyway, they have a bunch of Earth stuff, and probably not just Rifts Earth but alternate Earths because I guess they’re good at opening rifts to places and not being found easily in return. They raid and trade with basically every state that’s been named in the series so far though nobody, not even the Splugorth, has realized these indie-comic post-apoc raiders have more than a distinct visual style, they’re from another dimension that systematically visits Earth.

Supposedly there are four permanent rifts to Earth. The oldest and biggest connects to Lalibela in Ethiopia and has been open since 6000 BC . And nobody ever noticed it or the weirdos coming out of the mountains. These days of course that area is New Phoenix Empire who probably get on fine with the Unholy and friends. The second rift is in Calgary and a third in Romania, thus all the Triax gear. The newest is in Old Detroit’s ruins. There’s also apparently a rift to the dimension where the skelter bats come from because they’re not native bats? Okay, w’ev.

they are really mining the comic-vein heavily.

Temporary rifts are used all the time, though there’s ‘the usual limitation of having visited or knowing the target location’. Also the Unholy and Host can’t ever leave Wormwood ( ) but they can send ‘raiding parties’ into Earth. They aren’t trying to work with other evil powers and worry about drawing the attention of alien intelligences. That would be a valid worry if the reaction of evil to evil in Rifts wasn’t generally to hi-five and drop a keg down for a party.

It goes on a bit about how raiding parties are super-stealthy and successful and suffer less than 10% casualty rates and nobody knows about Wormwood except Erin Tarn who is the first human to visit in 3000 years.

Since Erin Tarn opened the floodgates, now we get a few predictable reaction shots from Earth Powers who notice.

So now we’ll see how Earth-types who suddenly twig to the constant stream of undocumented travelers will react to this incursion. Some of them will be completely predictable. In fact, most of them will. That’s why I’m going to summarize heavily.

1. The Coalition: They’re going to freak out. Magic is evil. Wormwood is fulla magic. Discovering Wormwood will make them want to attack Tolkeen more. They certainly will not help the Wormwood humans because they are dirty mages living on a dirty mage world.

2. NGR: Like the CS, but less ‘dirty mages’ and more ‘don’t want to also fight the Unholy’. Though there is that permanent gate in Romania to worry about. It will also make them hate non-humans more because reasons.

3. Palladium World, because we totally care about it. They’d see it as a plane of hell or a demon domain (fair) but they’re from ‘a more noble and heroic age’ and so will be more likely to help, also they have touched magic and it didn’t bite them when they were a kid. Too bad they’re SDC.

4. Beyond the Supernatural/Ninjas & Superspies or other modern times: This is either ‘earth of the 1980s in Kevin’s head, which never ended’ or ‘some version of something like the real world’, depending on the setting. They’re going to be a little rattled at this ‘magic’ stuff, and those ultra-secret raiding parties will just keep on getting written off as conspiracy shit Wormwood folk become SDC but Earth folk do not become MDC, and getting back to Wormwood may be hard without a lot of human sacrifice because PPE is scarce.

5. “High tech worlds of science” are immediately likely to reject any concept of magic as nonsense and dismiss unknown phenomena out of hand, because that is how science works. It ignores quantifiable results unless they are labeled properly. Of course, once it is proven firmly, they have railguns.

6. Pantheons of the Gods: Since we’ve established that basically all gods are jerks, they will probably make everything worse by getting involved. Fortunately, they are stated here as basically having any and everything better to do and likely only minor godlings and the like will get involved, PS buy Rifts Conversion Book 2: Pantheons of the Megaverse, out in like a year or two.

And that’s it. Next is the people of Wormwood. Nothing about the Splugorth who might have kind of a nuanced is this worth conquering/this looks kind of difficult reaction, nothing about the New Phoenix Empire which has a permanent gate in the middle of its territory, no general ‘other intelligences’ responses--no vampires seem to have made it to Wormwood for instance, and this is a planet with no running water .

Also, and this is more interesting to me--it seems pretty easy to open rifts from Wormwood to places, which means that they really could make themselves a pretty tidy little trading network. Of course it also raises the usual security concerns that rifts themselves create in general, and might make Wormwood defense more complex than it already is. It’s just, you know, not addressed well or even at all in some important cases.

An Atmosphere of Terror

posted by occamsnailfile Original SA post

Rifts:™ Dimension Book One: Wormwood Part 11: “An Atmosphere of Terror”

So now we get to learn a little about the people of Wormwood. Good grief this book is taking forever. I mean trying to describe a whole setting is going to be but this is a bunch of Kevin-ramble sparsely broken with recycled panels from the intro comic. Enough bitching, on to the people of Wormwood.

The Unholy is a brutal dictator who tries to destroy and terrorize any who disobey. Here the Unholy is being presented as the de-facto ruler of the world as ‘all organizations and churches are illegal’ which must again be according to the Unholy, about whom we know little except that he’s evil etc. Humans who submit to this reign of terror are allowed a poverty-stricken fear-filled existence, dissidents are crushed, and rebels killed. There’s a sample speech that the Unholy would make but I’ll spare you.

All of this sounds fine for territories under the control of the Unholy, but didn’t we have an extended section called “the Kingdom of Light” which is the biggest part of the map and for which we were given an extended geography? Didn’t Erin Tarn even specifically note when she was taken out of the “Empire of Darkness?” Rifts, goddammit.

also, leprosy is in fashion

Average citizens have apparently mostly given up the fight and fallen into despair. They don’t interfere with the Cathedral and other Champions of Light but they don’t help them either, they’re too beaten-down. The only help they’ll provide is indirect, deniable matters like leaving a barn door (for what livestock? they went on about this specifically!) unlatched or otherwise things they can remain ignorant about.

Basically PCs can’t expect much direct help from the people, but they won’t go out of their way to turn them in either. Of course, some humans have turned to serve the Darkness directly (about 25% it says) which is unsurprising, and they’re rewarded with better broken worn-out stuff than everyone else. Most well-to-do merchants and village leaders and stuff are turncoats like this. Of course they are. This is actually more information about the government of the region than Erin Tarn chose to provide us with, though she did specifically avoid the towns. There are of course those who serve with the demon hordes directly as warriors, priests, assassins, etc. They’re still second-class demon-citizens but some can rise high in the ranks. Of evil.

an original Siembieda, how nice

This is a short post but the Cathedral section is next, and it’s very wordy and also explains to us how the good guys are themselves also bad.

Champions of Light

posted by occamsnailfile Original SA post

Rifts:™ Dimension Book One: Wormwood Part 12: “Champions of Light”

So there are a few who still fight the Unholy though the last section really really made it sound like this is a lost cause, pack up and move off-planet guys. I mean Rifts is prone to overpowering the bad guys and making everything sound scary and miserable but that part was written like we didn’t just read an extended geography of areas not dominated by the Unholy. Way to keep a consistent tone.

Anyway, There’s some lists of classes which we shall address in turn, including other awesome classes you can play from the core and England books including the Vagabond and Wilderness Scout, because those are real classes with real potential. If one were running a Wormwood-native campaign the class list is okay I guess, but almost a quarter of it is from England (Knight, Temporals) which is kind of a problem.

Now we get a big boldfaced heading for The Cathedral. “The social and political orientation of the people on Wormwood is religious, spiritual and mystical.” Everyone is very because they’re in a magical place with churches in it and if you worship the church the non-sentient planet will help you? Religion is a powerful game theme but this pseudo-christian stuff just seems out of place and chosen to try and visually draw in the audience of Rifts rather than creating something that seems like a living entity.

Anyway the Cathedral is all the bad stereotypes of Catholicism armed with giant robots and motorcycles. There used to be other churches and religions but they all got et or corrupted. The Cathedral believes this is the Great Tribulation and that they are being tested. They use a lot of religious language to describe things like blessed/damned and pure/corrupted and etc. No mention is made of what god they actually worship and what afterlife or reward they seek from their trial. Really, it's the height of Christian chauvinism to just assume we can figure out their theology, and just throwing all those crosses and stuff on things does not actually make clear what they're doing. At a guess I would say Truman wanted more explicit religiosity and Siembieda cut it because he doesn't want to get lumped in with all those devil games teaching kids real magic.

“The Cathedral functions as a secret (and not so secret) network of resistance fighters”. Yeah, not so secret. Like, having a giant campus in the middle of a city? But supposedly the Cathedral has a bunch of spies for justice all over everywhere, maybe even in the highest circles of the Unholy. The Unholy keeps conquering stuff, but the Cathedral’s little circle of resistance fights on. The Unholy sends spies and plagues and stuff back, and basically being openly good results in an endless torrent of bad coming for you.

this is actually from the Apok section since they got like four images and this section has none

This means that some communities (who are not the ‘most people have given in to despair’ from the previous section I guess) just quietly work against the monsters who torment them. Secret bands of heroes roam the land, sheltered by these undercover supporters. Earth scholars might think of Zorro and Robin Hood because everything comes back to 20th century pop culture.

But all is not good in goodland! There is darkness within the Cathedral. You knew that from the beginning because this is a Rifts book and there are no good guys who are not secretly evil or don’t at least have their thumbs crammed firmly up their asses. Sometimes both! In this case it’s church leaders who want temporal power and manipulate this whole endless war on terror to get it. Questioning them of course results in gaslighting and manipulation against the speaker, leading up to branding them traitors and so on. Our heroes Lazarus Vespers and the Confessor are among such dissidents, in case you didn’t pick that up.

This next bit is puzzling. “Social Positions, Power & Money” okay. It explains that the value of a person by human beings is generally based on their position within that society. O...okay. “Material goods have little effect on a person’s place in that society.” I mean, it’s true that Wormwood provides for a lot of peoples’ physical needs but it is hardly post-scarcity. Monsters rule much of the world but they only get hate, not respect.

Then it goes on about standing a little bit. A high priest is the absolute highest social rank one can achieve (so about that ‘Kingdom’ thing again--) with the possible exception of a “sainted” hero. High priests are like kings, spiritual and political leaders, but there seem to be more than one of them. Average people jump to serve them, and of course, such power breeds corruption. We are not told how many of these there are, or if they form a college, nor do they seem to name a battle pope.

Regular old non-high priests are second only to the high priests (awfully flat hierarchy) and they’re leaders and heroes to their communities. Sure, sure, fine. They have a lot of healbot powers it sounds like, and can manipulate the Wormwood to bring food and water and house people and the like. Now see, if the Cathedral worshiped the living planet, that would make total sense, but it has not at any point told me that they do.

After priests are wormspeakers who are...somehow different from priests but also manipulate Wormwood directly. Then we get ‘True Champions of Light’, which are hospitallers, techno-wizards, and templars, in that order.

Then there’s basically all the regular OCC classes, and then average citizens starting with elders, parents, children, and then single adults. Sorry childfree, you’re just not worth as much as their spawn.

Then below that are the temporal classes, D-bees, non-humans generally. Even the Vagabond gets put up in the middle class which is weird given their uselessness and general vagabondery. And absolutely everyone hates the apoks unless you’re Erin Tarn and just don’t know any better.

It also appears that most trade is done via barter, which is strange for an old and well-developed civilization. The credit already stretched credibility but this ‘to each according to their rank’ thing is worse.

The hierarchy is repeated in chart form and then we start going through the OCCs.

OCCs of Wormwood

posted by occamsnailfile Original SA post

Rifts:™ Dimension Book One: Wormwood Part 13 “OCCs of Wormwood”

Now we get into the OCCs for Wormwood. I read this book when it came out but I barely remember anything about any of these, Wormwood just never stuck out much to me. Hopefully they’ll be less utterly forgettable than the druids from England.

First up is the Priest of Light. These guys (the text uses ‘he’ exclusively though no gender exclusion is listed) used to be scholars and healers and spiritual leaders. These days they’re also warriors. The priest can commune with the Wormwood and manipulate its substance directly, so they’re also civil engineers and pest control. Most Priests of Light are stated to be ‘good and compassionate’ individuals who go around helping people. Their theology, what makes them ‘priests’ in particular, is not explained.

in final fantasy tactics, one of these would be the female version

They get some PPE like a caster, but they can’t draw energy from ley lines aside from Wormwood caves of power. They can use blood sacrifice or offerings from other priests, and they have to meditate and pray to use a lot of their powers and restore PPE at a decent rate. They get 20 extra MDC, plus 1d6 per level. They get a list of powers which we’ll go into later, a smattering of skills, including Lore: Wormwood, a new (and obvious) skill. For some reason they get 1d4 wooden stakes and a mallet with their equipment, along with a few weapons, and lists off some types of armor without saying which they get. They don’t use or know much about cybernetics and don’t use symbiotes aside from "the summonables."

Next is the High Priest, which is an NPC class. Oh, here they say there’s a ‘congress’ of priests who operate as the Cathedral’s ruling body. That would have been good to know in the section about the Cathedral. Most major cities have one high priest, those whose territory have been conquered are generally in exile and/or leading freedom fighting units. Obviously, the Cathedral Stronghold has the most. They’re usually 9th level or higher and make laws, administer justice, and lead armies. Okay, that clarifies some things about the governance if not the theology.

Most of the high priests are good with about 10% outright bad apples. Their stats are mostly like regular priests with some small MDC and PPE bonuses and some extra abilities.

The Wormwood spells will be discussed later, but a lot of them are not combat-oriented. The priest in particular gets a short, set list and then is supposed to get more as they level, but leveling in Palladium games is long and tedious. Gaining spells is almost the only case where it even adds a lot. A lot of characters get relatively little besides skill percentages and maybe a combat bonus here and there. They're pretty much vital to Wormwood communities being able to exist at all (remember, half your food is summoned grubs) but aside from that we don't know what their religion is or why they dislike symbiotes or anything else about them.

Next is the apok, our friend from the cover. These are servants of Light who fell to Darkness and then came back out again. Because of this turncoatness they are viewed with great suspicion even though they are deeply self-sacrificing and repentant. I can’t say I entirely blame people for viewing them with some suspicion.

the dress code doesn’t help

The text states that they 100% cannot be bribed or turned from the Light again, which--well I hate using absolutes, even if these guys might be truly repentant. Also, some of them sass the corrupt elements of the Cathedral and that doesn’t win them any favors. The apok are hated and feared by the Unholy above all others because they dress scarily I guess. To become an apok, a character has to pray and meditate, then step into a ‘life vat cauldron’ and then restart as a 1st level apok, getting their mask, and their alignment will change to Principled or Scrupulous--which you thought would have been a prerequisite. It is estimated there are fewer than 1000 of these wandering around, not a big surprise.

totally on the side of good

Statwise, the apok gets some decent PPE but will never use blood sacrifice even of “the most foul villain” which suggests some questionable aspects of the Cathedral’s justice system. They get +40 native MDC and the usual 1d6 per level. They have a static list of Wormwood powers though it’s a big list. They’re immune to Horror Factor, possession and mind control which is actually pretty significant. They also have supernatural strength.

The Demon Mask they all wear is a sign of their repentance (sure, whatever) and each is unique. The mask is supposed to give some hint to their past crimes, but I’m not big on my skull mask heraldry (phrenology?). The mask cannot be forcibly removed. They gain Horror Factor 16 to all demons of Wormwood, and 10 to good aligned characters. Their attacks all do double damage to all supernatural beings, Wormwood or otherwise. This is all attacks, including ranged weapons, and even SDC weapons do MDC to supernatural beings. They also get +1 attack per melee, to initiative, and +200 MDC with 10X faster healing and the mask cannot be destroyed.

yes we know who your favorite child is, godduh

They get a normal spread of skills though they rank among the many, many classes forbidden to take Acrobatics. Maybe nerf that skill instead of just banning it? Again they have wooden stakes and mallets. A bunch of knives and swords, two weapons of choice and one magic weapon of choice, says they usually use ancient/magic weapons exclusively which totally makes sense when those do the least possible damage that gets doubled. Also they can only wear light leather, padded or resin chain mail but ‘mostly for show’ because why wear more armor when you have a skull mask?

They aren’t forbidden cybernetics, they just don’t usually have them since Wormwood doesn’t produce them natively. They also will never use any symbiotes but the Battle Saint or Orb. They don't need a lot of enhancement but the one area where they might get it is specifically blocked. However, they don't lose their powers for leaving Wormwood, so there's that.

This class is pretty buff, and while they might not be able to take down a dragon on their own, they could certainly put a hurt on a lot of fairly tough enemies. The double-damage thing in particular just screams for a railgun. 200 + 40 + armor MDC is pretty significant for what PCs can get, especially as starting characters, and they can regenerate a lot of that total. The downsides are everybody hating and fearing you but murderhobos don’t need no friends.

That’s enough for this one, next up are Monks, which might be their own post, and Wormspeakers.


posted by occamsnailfile Original SA post

Rifts:™ Dimension Book One: Wormwood Part 14 “Monks”

Continuing with the classes of Light, we get to the Monk. The ‘monks’ represent a loose-knit organization of splinter sects from the Cathedral who think the Cathedral is too removed from the people and concerned with temporal power, clogged with bureaucracy, etc. Basically your average radical sects. The ‘monks’ want to destroy all monsters and help the innocent, have taken a vow of poverty and disavowed political aspirations. I think it’d be more fun if they had a few competing orders with some variant theologies but that is clearly not going to happen. They’re commoners, rather than the nebulously defined ‘noble’ class that seems to exist.

They’re also kung fu monks who train away from temptation and are very obnoxious to the Cathedral. They treat apoks like celebrities for being extra-good monster destroyers.

They have decent PPE and MDC, up to 70, though ‘few monks ever wear armor’ because that just wouldn’t be cool, you can’t be an edgy religio-anarchist wearing armor . They have a few Wormwood powers, and also their own set of abilities called “Powers of Mastery.”


Each monk chooses one of three areas: The Art of Defense, the Art of Offense, and the Art of Meditation. Defense characters are kind of pacifistic and tend to be calm and polite. They also get automatic dodge . That thing that juicers have--dodge instead of parry without losing a melee action. They get 2d4x10 extra MDC, half-damage from MDC fire and cold. They can block MDC attacks barehanded, and do a little bit of MDC with punches and kicks. They can also do a “Tumble strike” that gives +3 to dodge and will knock down opponent upon hit, costing the enemy one attack and initiative along with doing regular damage. With no save. This appears to be a single melee attack.

Offense characters are bolder and more hot-tempered and blah blah anyway they get an extra melee attack and Acrobatics and Boxing as free skills so that’s like +3 already. They can also do Spirit Punches and Kicks that do MDC--1d4x10 for the punch and 1d6x10 for the kick. The only reason to ever use the punch is that the kick costs initiative for the next round. Both of these count as two attacks. They can also do a ‘Spirit Leap Kick’ which uses ALL attacks for the round and does 3d6x10. Once this attack is done the monk can only defend themselves by parrying or dodging, though they’ve used up all their attacks so not much dodging going on. Lastly, they get a ‘Vital Strike’ which can do one of four things and succeeds on a 17-20, otherwise doing normal damage but still taking up two attacks. The effects of success are 1. Disarm and knock weapon 1d4x10 feet away and gives the monk a temporary horror factor of 12 for ‘seeming in control of the fight.’ 2. Knock down and stun: Lose two melee actions and initiative. 3. Critical Bull’s Eye strike: Double damage on a called shot. 4. Nerve Strike: Paralyze a limb for 1d4 rounds.

Offense kinda sucks, your attacks do decent damage but they require a lot of expenditure and leave you with little defense if they work at all, compared to the Defense monk rolling around knocking people over like ninepins.

Meditation & Spirit monks are less direct fighters and more career philosophers who can also kill people barehanded. They can generate an ‘inner strength’ that is not related to psionics, and this increases their PS and Speed by 6, which, well, they still don’t do MDC with their hands. 3/day. They can use ‘spirit strength’ which overcomes any sort of physical limitation, including psionic and magical effects. 3/day, since a lot of magic is no-save this is fairly useful. ‘Third Eye’ lets them see invisible, sense magic and evil, +4 to HF, and be immune to possession and mind control, and makes them immune to temptation.

Last is ‘Death Strike’. It is used with great reluctance and may kill the user. They must use at least 20 PPE and strike barehanded, automatically. They inflict 2d4x100 damage. If the target survives, the character is paralyzed and unconscious for 2d4 minutes and are woozy for 1d6x10 minutes. Drains all PPE and no other martial arts powers work for 24 hours. They recover after 12 hours or so. This set of powers is fairly useless, extremely damaging super-attack aside. Basically you have a one-hit missile you can use once a day and otherwise have some minor advantages against magic. Of the three, Defense seems like the winner, especially since these monks are allowed to use any weapons they want .

chant...chant for your lives

As a class, they’re restricted in their physical skill choices as those are freebies to the different ‘ways’. They get weapons of choice, and use them freely in combination. A good weapon with the Defense monk’s bonuses would make them fairly formidable, while the other two need some degree of barehanded attack and give up a lot to do so. They ‘mostly don’t wear armor’, only things with no prowl penalty because what else is going to make the Knight classes interesting except that they can wear actual armor?

Otherwise they're basically a random insertion of kung fu into our catholicism and they seem to congregate in isolated monasteries but you'd only know that from Erin Tarn making a passing mention of one she didn't visit.

That is long enough for its own post, given the ability selection there. Take Defense. It’ll save your poorly-armored life.

Wormspeakers & Friends

posted by occamsnailfile Original SA post

Rifts:™ Dimension Book One: Wormwood Part 15 “Wormspeakers and friends”

Wormspeakers are the lonesome indies of the Wormwood-praying world. They’re ‘from the peasant class’ and generally not affiliated with any larger organization. Regular folks consider wormspeakers to be holy people and oracles. Which, the wormspeaker as kind of a pagan/outsider alternative to the more hidebound doctrines of the Cathedral would be kind of neat. It just isn’t spelled out or explained much. Also, for some reason, 95% ( ) of them are male. Basically these folks meld themselves with worm-like symbiotes and gain various powers from doing this. This whole symbiote thing makes them very in tune with nature (as understood on Wormwood) and also kind of gross, as detailed by Erin Tarn.

They get some extra PPE and MDC, and a set list of ten Wormwood powers. The apok also gets a set list of ten, which sound more combat oriented. It also states that the wormspeaker can’t take ‘impervious to symbiotes’ for obvious reasons, and won’t create some of the more ominous sounding artifacts. They also get ALL (sic) worm symbiotes which we shall hear about in detail later I suppose.


They get a random splattering of skills and one common magic weapon. Their symbiotic worms give them some armor, generally worn under robes, and they can wear light armor otherwise. I’ll cover the symbiote powers in that section, I really don’t remember how good they were and next on the list is the Symbiotic Warrior anyway.

The Symbiotic Warrior is a human or D-bee fighter who gets powers from Wormwood symbiotes, so like a cyborg, but won’t work off the planet. For some reason they also get this: “As a rule, the majority (if not all) of the character’s attributes are average or below average.” Well, mathematically, yes, that is true. But--okay. Also Darkness has dark symbiotic warriors, they’re evil aligned.

armor is okay but not pants

They get a little MDC, some limited Wormwood powers, and four symbiotes of choice: one claw, one crawler, one star, and one worm. They get new ones every other level and have no hesitations with specific symbiotic products. They also get one common magic weapon (by this the book seems to mean ‘techno wizard items’) and they can wear any armor they want, it just doesn’t seem to be default equipment.

How powerful this class is depends on how strong the symbiotes are, and which one chooses I imagine.

Next we have the Holy Terror. This is an RCC. They’re basically armored fighting machines--or seem to be anyway. They never take off their armor and nobody knows what’s inside. They first appeared 55 years ago at ‘Demroggan’, presumably a stronghold of evil, when some fool shifter opened a rift to them. Unlike most otherdimensional beings, they sided with the humans immediately and sent an army to help. Of course, they killed the shifter who opened the gate and don’t know how to get back. So there’s a few thousand of these wandering around. They tend to choose slightly silly names like “Brok the Destroyer” and "have a full range of emotions, with a deep respect and patience for life."

gait may be a little stiff though

They’re almost all good, never outright evil. They’re vulnerable to rune weapons and fire. They can grow from 10 to 20ft tall, see invisible and turn invisible at will. The invisible thing is kind of hilarious, a 20ft invisible monster. They also have a range of natural magic weaponry including lightning bolts (1d6x10), laser eyes (5d6), fire body spikes (up to 16 per day, 4d6 each), and as a bonus attack they can breathe a toxic cloud in a 20x20 area. This cloud can be sleep gas, equal to a fifth-level spell, blinding mist (lose half actions and speed), toxic cloud (6d6 or 1d6x10 to supernatural and reduce attacks by one and bonuses by half). That last is fairly nasty, but a huge number of things in-setting are immune to poison or in sealed armor. They can also cast a list of several spells twice per day, including Call Lightning and Fireball which seems redundant.

They have some minor psionic powers and 2d4x100+200 MDC. These things are walking tanks, and they regenerate every other round and grow back limbs in two days. They weigh 7 tons though so they may be best kept on the ground floor. They don’t get any equipment, but who needs it? These are instant twink-bait, even more than the apok. A wide selection of good damage and status effects, spells, and lots of abilities. The problem is that you don’t really get much after this, your skill percentages and combat bonii go up but you are going to be using the same stuff at 15th as at 1st. Also lack much character arc besides destroy evil.

Okay, that’s long enough. Remaining are the freelancer and both knightly orders.


posted by occamsnailfile Original SA post

Rifts:™ Dimension Book One: Wormwood Part 16: “Men-at-Arms”

The freelancer OCC is listed as ‘a good intentioned mercenary or adventurer, wizard, warrior, cyborg or even a dragon or supernatural being who fights against evil’. Way to be broad, broady. Though they go on to say that the “classic” freelancer is a human man at arms allied to but not a member of the Cathedral.

that is a good-intended sign of chaos

A lot of freelancers want to be knights but many of them are peasants and often illiterate, they just dislike this demonic incursion into their homeland and want to kill it. The class finally nails itself to a role by saying that unaligned but good aligned PCs can be any class, freelancers work for the Cathedral.

Freelancers then roll on a chart for what special thing they have. These can include extradimensional weaponry like Kittani weapons, a magic item of ‘medium power’, extraordinary physical strength and endurance (re-roll this character), extraordinary PP and Speed (enh, 1d4 to PP is good but not that good), or a small selection of symbiotes. This already leaves the class all over the map but still markedly inferior to things listed above.

There’s also a chart to roll or pick for background, at least it’s optional. They get a few small bonuses, a selection of weapons entirely at player discretion, and can wear any armor but tend towards the heavier varieties because they aren’t dumb. Of note, they keep giving the stats for the armors in each class listing, though this is the first to really include plate/banded/higher D&D armors. Also apparently they like shiny costumes and motorcycles and stuff.

Next we get the Knights of the Temple. As mentioned, I am glad they are not some conspiracy thing this time, even if the name makes no sense in this world. They generally come from long militant lines, and Wormwood has a contiguous enough history that an aristocratic population could exist. Their role is just not well-explained outside of being ‘noble’. The Order has a strong culture of loyalty to the Cathedral which does not permit questioning its dictates, and they are themselves favored by their position as a result. This would be fine if the book did not go on to compare them to Earth’s samurai in how haughty and indifferent they are to ordinary people.

that armor gives him +5 to smug

They have a code of honor which replicates some of the knight code from England but with some key modifications like “never use a weapon on a human opponent not equal to the attack,” which in England lacked the word ‘human’. It also says that section isn’t applicable to ‘lower class’ enemies, as well as D-bees and demons and whatever. It’s still a super-dumb code but it left out the stuff about women and added some human supremacy, clarified a couple things, and requires obedience to the Cathedral. The class does not restrict itself by gender.

They are almost completely identical to the freelancer in getting a choice of armor and weapons. They just require PS and PE of 14 or higher. Some of them ride motorcycles, some ride various animals or robot animals or mythical beasts. They dress vaguely like rich pricks, in blue and gold and such, but there’s no uniform. They’re just specifically not allowed to use symbiotes, and they get more respect in this moneyless society.

i feel like i can almost name which 40K unit this is

Knights hospitaller are the nicer knight-guys still directly serving the Cathedral but less known for being classist. They also are “eternal optimists” and so require a high MA and ME. “On another world, in another time, they might be considered noble and courageous paladins ” oh come on Kevin look up what those actually were outside of D&D. They’re incorruptible and compassionate and some of the Cathedral higher-ups think they’re a little rogue in their do-gooding ways. For the moment, the evil of the Unholy is far more serious than war profiteering however, so the hospitallers leave the corruption of the Cathedral for later. Especially since if they openly question or defy it, they get sent on suicide missions.

optional: dress like Odin

They also have a stupid code of honor which is nearly identical to the templar one, down to certain sections applying only to noble humans, and put back in the specific respect for women. It also says to never attack an unarmed foe (even monsters) which may be hard to really quantify given the profusion of fangs, claws, poison breath, etc. that supernatural enemies sport. Otherwise almost completely identical to the templar class except only 30% of them ride motorcycles.

That’s it for the native OCCs of Wormwood. Some of the Core classes are encouraged, including ‘dragons’, and of course temporal classes play a more prominent role here. Calling the two knightly orders the ‘templars’ and ‘hospitallers’ is dumb. They have zero connection to the historical origins of those names. They could be the ‘Knights of the Star’ and ‘Knights of the Crown’ or any other pair of vaguely symbolic references one wanted. The whole christian iconography thing is pretty silly but I’d be willing to ignore it if they didn’t keep almost bringing it up and then not addressing it.

Anyway there’s some standard Champion of Light squad lists that follow, they’re uninteresting. Next is our three statted signature characters, The Confessor, Lazarus Vespers, and Dorsey Pentecost.

Non-Player Heroes

posted by occamsnailfile Original SA post

Rifts:™ Dimension Book One: Wormwood Part 17: “Non-Player Heroes”

Today it is time to meet a small selection of GM sockpuppets who can eclipse the PCs and drive the story forward. I mean, assuming your GM is a jerk.

you knew some version of this picture was coming

First is the Confessor, poster-boy of the revolution etc. He is feared by many minions of the Unholy and humans feel that if the demons are afraid, they have even more reason to be. His reputation is not helped by having killed at least two priests he claimed were corrupt. This is as interesting as his multi-paragraph bio gets.

He has the usual unrollable collection of attributes and is 11th level. Mostly he just has all the apok stuff leveled up and some of what I assume are healing worms (worms of mending) and some really dumb weapon choices (3d6 claymore?) but the axe Erin Tarn specifically mentioned him using is not listed. He has 306 native MDC and 25 MDC ‘light armor’ for show. Outside of the great power apoks start with, he isn’t all that exceptional--he just has a rep that the PCs are never going to be able to match.

this is another re-used comic panel. unlike the Confessor, they didn’t seem to like him enough to draw more pictures of him.

Lazarus Vespers is a mysterious enigma wrapped in a riddle etc etc. He appears in battles, making key strikes. He heals people, exorcises demons, fights the Forces of Darkness but doesn’t serve the Church. People aren’t sure how he knows so much and he also let evil queen Salome get away that one time so maybe he’s a double agent. He works behind the scenes a lot generally only associates with ‘small groups of warriors or adventurers’. Guess who you get to meet and be overshadowed by? Also he thinks the Confessor is ‘too intense’ and he reminds Lazarus of Salome, both lost to obsession.

Apparently Lazarus and Salome studied magic at the same college of wizards (wait what, where) and years later they met again at a ‘Splugorth prison’. I thought we had a long section about how Wormwood was double-secret and not e--nevermind. He helped Salome escape and she went evil on him. It also always lists them as ‘friends’ which is perhaps a refreshing change unless it’s meant as UST. Vespers knows how the horrors of the Splugorth changed Salome and wants to save her and she’s never killed him either despite being evil, and someday they’re going to have a confrontation and he’s not sure he can bring himself to kill her. Enjoy watching his story unfold with PCs in the background.

He’s again a super-character with no attribute below 12 (and that’s Speed) and apparently he’s not a Wormwood native which is a surprise not explained in his background. He’s a 10th level ley line walker, and has major psionics. His equipment is fairly sparse aside from a lesser rune weapon and he doesn’t wear armor at all Okay so maybe he’ll just be a bloody spatter the PCs wander past without noticing it on their way to a very puzzled villainess.

i guess he was in the comic, just not named

Last and entirely least is Dorsey Pentecost. He is the youngest Captain in the history of the Hospitallers. He has, also, apparently been busted down to corporal twice and come back up. He’s not bad though, he’s just prone to getting into trouble with all his youthful enthusiasm. He takes stupid risks and ignores orders and sasses his elders. Erin Tarn says he’s like D’artagnan come to life.

Dorsey pretends to be rough trade but really he knows stuff, like all kinda stuff, like about Earth even, especially 20th century slang. Bodacious. He judges people by their actions and not their scary demon masks and he is totally nice and a good guy and this is deeply embarrassing to his noble family of Pentecost. His uncle, mentioned in Erin Tarn’s ramble, is Matthew Pentecost, who might be the next not-pope and Dorsey being a rebel and Hospitaller instead of Templar is quite the problem.

PP of 22, 7th level Hospitaller Knight (do you have to start over at level 1 if you change orders I wonder?), broadsword with whatever a ‘doubling crystal’ is that does 2D8 or 4D4 MD, and two black powder pistols and one shotgun. He also has a TW motorcycle and some crystals, wears light armor because he’s hardcore I guess.

I wouldn’t hate this guy so much if he weren’t dripping with his specialness--I mean a lot of players will create characters exactly as boring and one-note but the book clearly wants to validate this guy in particular. He’s not so powerful statwise that PCs can’t run with him, as levelling in Palladium doesn’t really matter that much compared to the weird equipment he has, but he’s really uninteresting.

And those are our signatures. The Confessor is basically what you’ll get out of any apok character, just ramped up to nearly max level. Vespers has an arc with the villains the PCs can never match but he’ll probably die when an MDC mosquito bites him. Dorsey is a bland addition to make conflict with Matthew Pentecost who isn't even statted.

Next: Wormwood spells.

Communion with Wormwood

posted by occamsnailfile Original SA post

Rifts:™ Dimension Book One: Wormwood Part 18: “Communion with Wormwood”

So here we get to the Wormwood spells. Obviously these spells work only on and with Wormwood the planet, so people relying on them should never leave it. Priests have the largest access to these in theory though they start with fewer. They just get greater choice over time apparently. Monks, apoks and wormspeakers get fairly set lists and dark priests apparently have limited access more on par with the wormspeaker.

Also, the theme of ‘Communion’ here seems like it could be more powerful that it is, given that Wormwood is a living thing. Eating the body and blood of one’s savior as a sole form of sustenance seems like it could be something profound to people to have to live there. Mostly it’s just a list of game effects though, because this is Rifts.

Regular objects of Wormwood matter are MDC, 50 to a 10 ft area, and an opening made this way will seal itself at a rate of one foot per minute. Basically, a small house has 25K MDC which is more than some gods. Corrupted areas of Wormwood get a save--or rather the good caster has to make an attack roll of 14 or more to cast successfully, and the reverse is true for evil in good lands. This roll seems to be unmodified. Trying to reverse a spell requires a 19 or higher and double PPE.

On to the spell list.


Control Temperature: modify temperature by three degrees per level for an hour.

Create Burial Place: they repeat the saving throw text for every. single. spell. Anyway this creates a shallow grave and absorbs a body, allowing the planet to recycle it. 2-3 foot pillar optional. This spell is totally cool for like, working with a community in-game, but it’s one of six a priest automatically starts with and this is all it does.

Create Fountain of Water: Makes a fountain or pool of drinkable water. Neat! Also almost the only way to ever get water on Wormwood.

Create Life Force Cauldron: This is an evil spell, you are a bad person if you use it. Wormwood resists it and you have to roll 9 or higher. These cauldrons create evil things like worm zombies and magic slime. It is powered by human sacrifice.

Create Magic Slime: ‘see section on symbiotic organisms’, apparently a component of potions.

Create an Opening: Makes an opening of variable size in a Wormwood building, duration one minute. Wait, I hope houses grow natural doors. (They do)

Close an Opening: Closes an existing opening with a saving throw if it was an Opening made by an opening spell. Two minutes per level.

Create Pillar: Make a Wormwood pillar with small climbing branches up to 50 feet high and 25 MDC per five feet, which is downright flimsy compared to the houses.

Create Shelter: Creates a round hut that can house up to 2-3 people, duration variable.

Create Stairs: Make stairs. More PPE for longer duration.

Create Tunnel: Like the other shaping spells, tunnel.

Create Wall: As the others, a wall of tough Wormwood stuff.

worms for the worm throne

Create Worm Zombies: Made from a Life Force Cauldron, presumably by the Horned King, see dark minions. Evil only.

Destroy Life Force Cauldron: Spending a shitload of PPE makes this roll easier and disperses the life force cauldron.

Heat Point: Make an area one foot in diameter hot enough to do 2d6 SDC or light fires, maybe cook with. Given the non-existence of wood as a thing on Wormwood it seems less useful than it could be.

Hell Fire: Well this sounds ominous. It is an attack spell, 4d6MD and 2d4x10 to supernaturals, including vampires. It also lasts a full melee round, but it also takes a full round to cast.

Invisible to Magic Seeing: Pretty much exactly what it says, this is actually a pretty useful spell given the propensity of some alien intelligences to spy. Too bad it doesn’t work off Wormwood.

Life Fuel: A healing spell of various applications, can cure toxins and disease, free victims of mind control, allows giving of PPE to other Wormwood casters, shield their personal PPE from PPE vampirism, and limited direct SDC/MDC restoration.

Locate Places of Evil: Now, they went out of their way to say that the Sense Evil psi power was useless on Wormwood. But this one allows tracking of crawling towers, evil-dominated settlements, or armed camps. There isn’t a direct numerical statement but basically ‘a lot of evil’ so one alien intelligence or a lot of smaller demons.

Locate Food & Resources: What it says on the tin, except it won’t find crystals & symbiotes.

Locate Home Town: A legitimately useful power on a place with so few landmarks.

Impervious to Symbiotes: Alphabetical order is optional I see. This is more of an ability than a spell, it just makes the person immune to all symbiotes, good and bad. Priests and apoks only.

Mold Structures: More interior designing.

Open & Close Dimensional Rifts: As per the Core spells.

Remove Symbiotes: Allows removal of even hostile darkness symbiotes.

Repel Symbiotes: This is basically a turning spell, and can even stop crawling towers for a day if they fail a save.

but bats eat bugs!

Ride Giant Parasites: If you really want to. Lasts fifteen minutes per level, so keep an eye on your pack tick.

Summon & Use Angel Hair: Enough fiber falls to make a full suit of clothes.

Summon battle saint & Orbs: This is from the intro comic, waking the giant robot ‘symbiote’ or whatever with a bunch of PPE. Apparently battle saints are nearly undetectable until activated, so they might be buried all over the place and you’d have to go digging through random mega-damage hills to find out.

Summon Edible Grubs:

Summon Entities: This is an evil spell that summons ‘entities’ from the Conversion book to Wormwood.

Summon Flies: Insects have found their way into Wormwood and this is a spell that allows them to be summoned.

Summon & Use Symbiotes: Allows summoning symbiotes from the planet. Details to come.

Summon & Command Parasites: Expensive, evil.

Summon & Use Spirits of Wormwood: At the GM’s discretion there are no spirits (commonly called angels) available but at least you don’t lose PPE for that.

Summon & Use Stones & Crystals: Requires an unmodified 15 or higher to succeed and burns somewhere between 1d4-2d6 permanent PPE.

Summon Wind: Some weather effects, potentially useful, not interesting.

And that’s it for spells. A lot of these seem like just...spells. I don’t understand why a priest wouldn’t be able to cast Rifting spells off Wormwood, or the fire spells, or several others. I can see why ‘mold the living planet’ type spells wouldn’t work on non-living planets but the rest seems like an arbitrary restriction. Also, working with Wormwood to make housing any other way (except imported stone) is impossible, so you have either the church or weird shaman as civil engineers unless ordinary people can learn some of these. As well, it’d be kind of neat if the Priests of Light/Cathedral were working from a hidden level of technical knowledge that they did not commonly share and thus resented wormspeakers for using a certain natural affinity that rejected their hierarchy. This would be an interesting class conflict. But it isn’t written there.

It also means that again, the Priest (and to a lesser degree the Wormspeaker) start out with a really limited slate of abilities which are mostly non-combat. Also, the beginning of the section says that priests get the most (and they do get more by leveling but they start with less) and that evil and evil priests have a restricted list. This is a lie. There are several spells that are 'evil only' but none that are restricted to only good.

Symbiotic Organisms of Wormwood

posted by occamsnailfile Original SA post

Rifts:™ Dimension Book One: Wormwood Part 19: “Symbiotic Organisms of Wormwood”

Basically, Wormwood has symbiotic organisms that work with the planet, and with humans. The Forces of Darkness have made corrupted versions of some of these. The Cathedral frowns on them for unspecified reasons. They can only be removed with the Remove Symbiotes spell. They shrivel and die when removed from Wormwood, which I think is lame, and work on pretty much any humanoid but not creatures of magic like dragons. Unlike the symbiotes in Atlantis, these are largely positive if gross-looking to cultures that frown on having worms in the mouth.


They’re arranged sort of alphabetically and sort of by category and so we start with the Battle Saint. These giant organic robots predate Evangelion and so do not have teeth. They do however mimic the owners skills’ and attacks, and have MDC equal to the pilot times 20, and I assume that means you do not multiply in SDC for SDC-humans. Which is pretty weak for a skyscraper-sized robot honestly, given that most humans will have 20-30 MDC including class bonuses. Holy Terrors can have comparable MDC as a base class. Only Wormwood humans, major psionics, cyber-knights (for...reasons?) and True Atlanteans (because fuck those guys) can pilot these.

When defeated at least they just turn back into a hill and can’t be awakened again for a week, they can’t be destroyed. Only 12 are known to exist and 5 of those are in one location. Good job, Wormwood. Their damage is merely passable for what they represent (1d6x10 MD punch) and they can activate a few spells including Close Rift. Kind of a letdown as the good guys’ single greatest weapon, of which only a few exist.

Battle Saint Orbs are like floating Saint heads with less MDC, fewer attacks, and more spells. 32 exist though some are lost.

Spirits of Wormwood are like ‘shimmering humanoid mists’ and are sometimes called angels. They will attach themselves to a host body and give them some special abilities for 3d4 hours, including flight, imperviousness to ‘energy’ though magic does half damage, various psionic powers, some armor, and intuitive knowledge of the Wormwood area.

Next we get to ‘claws’. Claws have native 40 MDC and attach to various points of the body, where they adhere. They include claws to permit seeing the invisible (??) and increasing magical power, piddly MDC damage, increased running speed, and claws on eyestalks that can see around corners and see invisible and stuff. Not freaky. The claws in general aren’t great except the Booster claw that increases magic.

Next, crawlers. Look like centipedes or something. 50 MDC. These tend to look like bugs with tendrils proceeding into the skin. A bit unsettling, obviously. They do stuff like making one immune to psionics, illusions, and mind control, grant 80 MDC (which seems to be fittable under armor, this is pretty good), grant imperviousness to fire, heat, disease, poison, and grants limited regeneration. That one reduces PPE by 1/3rd though. There’s a phantom-of-the-opera looking mask one that grants permanent mind/aura block and protects against most psionics and illusions. The next one raises PS and lets one never fatigue but reduces speed by 1/5th. Another one grants immunity to life draining which could be quite useful though at a 20% MA cost. Pff, dump stats. Another is a ruby necklace with bug legs that allows comprehend languages and vampire immunity but makes food taste blander. Last is a little black orb with legs that grants some bonuses against poisons and potions (and one evil item is specifically a potion-maker) and also allows secreting poison. The crawlers have some heavy costs associated with them but they grant some pretty beneficial effects.

Stars resemble starfish and I am not going to be able to see them as anything but various sizes and colors of Starro so I am not even going to try.

typical wormwood schoolchild

Stars seem to grant more direct powers versus the buffs made by the crawlers. The first one creates a bright shining wall that repels undead, ‘shadow beasts’ and basically darkness-dwelling creatures and deflects lasers, can be done 2/round. The mindstar actually does look like the picture above, grants some psionic powers. The magicstar grants a lot of Wormwood sensing powers and is a PPE battery that regenerates hourly. That’s it for stars, they’re decent but not much variety.

Worms! Some of these seem to be fairly standard equipment in Wormwood judging by the NPC writeups. Worms of armor provide 60 MDC and regenerate themselves, and don’t appear to be incompatible with the armor crawler above. Worms of blood are tiny, thin, red worms.

like, you know, bloodworms

These are swallowed alive to stop internal bleeding or will halt bleeding and close a cut ten times faster than normal. Worms of Mending actually repair injuries in ten minutes and look like white pieces of thread. The worm of power attaches to the tongue like that horrible fish parasite and allows casting of a few energy spells. Worms of seeing also rest in the mouth and grant several informational spells and sensing forces of the Unholy. Worms of speech allows talking with pretty much anything that can be talked to, including spirits. Worm of spirit is a thin purple worm also attached to the mouth or tongue. They allow casting of turn dead, constrain being, exorcism, and remove curse among a couple others. Given that at least two of the things in this section allow speaking all languages, making Wormwood speak Earth-English (modern even) is pretty needless. There isn't a lot of variety overall for like say classes such as the Symbiotic Warrior, who might enjoy the benefits of the magic boosting symbiotes but has no native spellcasting abilities. Aside from attribute costs, there aren't really any limitations on getting these, except for classes that are supposed to use them extensively and therefore have a strictly limited regime on how many they can have.

The Wormspeaker class gets all of the ‘attach’ worms by default, which gives them a passable battery of spells to cast but makes them gross, and the abilities they get are not fantastic. They get a few other symbiotes later, at set levels--it doesn’t say how others might be limited in acquiring these, outside of having to cast that expensive spell that Priests of Light won’t want to do. These symbiotes are the sorts of things that would cost literally millions of credits in other books, but Wormwood operates on a moneyless hierarchical barter system so the PCs would have to grind rep to get them. It also isn’t clear why the Cathedral frowns on symbiotes, some of them seem like they’d be very helpful or even essential (worms of blood and mending) to normal living. If it’s because they want people to depend on their priests I could believe that, they just never say this or explain why these natural products of their beloved planet are so hated.

Next: Corrupted symbiotes. It's not Rifts if the badguys don't have exclusive and often superior versions.

Bad guy worms

posted by occamsnailfile Original SA post

Rifts:™ Dimension Book One: Wormwood Part 20: “Bad guy worms”

Since this is Rifts, evil has to have its own versions of stuff which are probably better than the good ones. They will also look grosser and do more harm to the wearer but haha evil.

this will surely help with getting through college

These are all evil ‘symbiotes’ of evil that are not really symbiotic at all. Things like ‘life force batteries’ which weaken the host and drain their PPE. Also it specifies that the Unholy calls those ‘soul batteries’ but they don’t actually eat souls, unlike practically everything else in Rifts. The batteries are used to subjugate and punish humans and the stored PPE is used by their evil sorcerers. Life Force Cauldrons are the feared sacrificial altars where human PPE energy is absorbed and stored from victims. Requires a spell to truly destroy. Magic Slime is a base component of several potions and ointments that mimic Core book spells. There’s also debilitating and magic-nullifying slime, and even a healing slime that costs 1000 PPE to make. Lastly there’s a stasis slime that does...stasis. It doesn’t say that evil humans can’t use the other types of symbiotes but it does say the ‘Forces of Darkness’ cannot, so that’s a bit unclear.

Now we get to things they actually call parasites. If they think those other things are ‘symbiotes’, I am not sure they understand what the word ‘parasite’ means. But anyway these are created beings that serve as troops of the Unholy and there are a variety as one might expect. Originally Wormwood made parasites as part of its defense mechanisms and apparently they have all been completely corrupted, Wormwood can no longer make the useful ones. They are typical Siembieda monsters who enjoy hunting and killing and tormenting other beings. Also, after specifically giving a couple classes in here poison attacks, all of these are immune to poison.

Battler Parasite

not your Siembieda usual, but close

These are huge, fifty foot battle bugs--the battle saint fought one in the comic. They do more damage than the saints and have on average roughly equal MDC. And the Unholy can grow more.

Tick Parasite

aww, that one’s just kinda goofy-lookin’

These descriptions refer to specific points where some of these can be seen in the comic, which is actually helpful. These are fairly common attack bugs, 60 MDC, annoying (45%) pounce attack that works on things 10ft or smaller--this very specifically includes non-upsized Holy Terrors, who are 10ft exactly, and pinned characters can’t make physical attacks or even roll to escape it seems.

Beetle Parasite
Lumpy potato body of a tick but with big beetle mandibles and and fangs and stuff. Tougher than the tick, more likely to succeed on a pounce, all around slightly more annoying bullshit. Also has more MDC in the head than in the main body because fuck you called shots.

Monster Worm Parasite
Horrible giant worm that snakes silently along the ground, smooth and unsegmented but not lumpy. Big enough to swallow a human target whole, though lacks rules for doing this and can only knock over, not pounce/pin.

Tangle Worm Parasite

looks like a sideways roper to me

Long worm with a turtle-like head and fangy mouth. Two long entangling tentacles. Has a 50% chance to entangle that works like the pins from the tick/beetle. These are actually relatively easy to deal with damage-wise but these high-success immobilization attacks are seriously annoying, especially when they hunt in packs.

That’s all the worms, next we get to things called ‘Kriktons’ which are more insectoid generally.

The Krikton Flailer is first, and is noted for having low-human intelligence to go with its predatory bloodlust. A bit more generally tough than the beetles, with a stupid pounce attack AND tail entangle.

this thing having a knife actually kind of cracks me up

Next is the Krikton Leaper.

i admit, that is a fairly badass insect ride, aside from the chaos symbols

Huge and feared, very tough, very likely to pounce and pin an opponent for continued biting.

Then we have a Krikton Battle Wagon. This is not a machine, but a living being with wheels like inline skates. Bumpy wheels. Here, look.


Anyway they’re big attack wagons and though they don’t seem to carry passengers. They have a lot of weapons and attack hard but they can’t pin, just knockdown. They can fire spines as a volley, but have a limited number. They’re just big rollerblade tanks.

Last for this section, the Crawling Towers.

play your preferred version of the ghost & goblins music here

Moving fortresses of evil made from the stuff of the planet. I like the idea of these though I would’ve given them centipede legs. They’re quite tough, as one would expect, but only move about 10 mph. They can be stopped in place by certain Wormwood spells, which will probably enrage the large number of residents. 6000 MDC per ten foot story, about 8-12 stories.

All of these have kind of a lot of MDC for being disposable enemies, probably to cope with classes like the apok and Holy Terror. Also, the pounce-pin attack is waaaaaaay overpowered since it only has to succeed once and that PC is basically out of the fight unless someone else saves them, since they apparently cannot resist once pinned. I mean, I don't think that what Rifts needs is a grappling flowchart, but that one wasn't thought through.

Alright, enough. Next, Stones and Crystals.

A bunch of hippie shit that isn't in England

posted by occamsnailfile Original SA post

Rifts:™ Dimension Book One: Wormwood Part 21: “A bunch of hippie shit that isn’t in England”

Magic stones and crystals are grown by and a part of Wormwood. They grow wild outside of Unholy territory and and can be summoned deliberately at great cost. They can be used loose but are often worked into ornaments. As with other Wormwood items, they wither and die immediately if taken off-planet, which I think is weak. Rifts talks about awesome magic items all the time but the examples we get are often underwhelming and/or prohibitively expensive compared to technology that does the same thing. These would still be expensive but some of them are at least useful.

crystals and sausages, things you don’t want to see made

Blood stones work by augmenting the human body, but apparently without having to sink living tendrils into the user and look like a bug like symbiotes. They are always completely red, never given a faceted cut, range in size from robin’s egg to soccer ball. They’re somewhat rare but three times more common than crystals.

Greater stones:

Battle Stone: Doubles damage of a weapon or MDC of armor when set in it. Keen!

Bio-Booster Stone: Sadly, not a Guyver. Does boost physical attributes temporarily for PPE cost, of which PB is for some reason the most expensive.

Bio-Field Stone: Various protection fields may be activated with a 60 PPE limit.

Eye Stone: Adds a few visual powers and +5% ( ) to several skills (including carpentry) at a cost of 1 PB and 1 ME. Also must be worn Eye of Vecna-style.

Healing Stone: Heals stuff, and in worst case, healing trances stuff up to four hours.

Psi-booster stone: Boosts psionic powers and ISP, which is weird since psionics are completely non-native to Wormwood.

Next we get ‘lesser stones’. These do stuff like add nightvision, mimic the effects of greater stones with smaller PPE reserves, purify water, and make characters immune to negative emotional magics. None of these are bad, they might even be reasonably balanced things to hand out occasionally. If they worked outside of Wormwood.

Now we’re on to magic crystals. They are usually faceted, and usually a bit larger than blood stones. Wormwood people also just refer to them as ‘gems’ since Wormwood doesn’t have native mineral resources.

Control Gem: “Super rare!” Amplifies magic summonings and controls by five times. Also grants 8 castings of several summoning-related spells per day. It can also work like a crystal ball on one’s summoned slaves. A shifter would probably knife your mom’s puppy to get one of these. Vespers stole one from Salome in the intro comic, basically grabbing something worth the price of a small city. If Wormwood used money.

Crystal Ball: I remember there already being a least one item called this in the line already, but w’ev, here’s another. It allows observation for thirty minutes for twenty PPE, please insert another twenty PPE to continue. Only observes places the viewer is familiar with but can actually ‘enhance’ or zoom in on images. Can also follow a target into an unknown area but must remain fixed on target. Also, it has to stay on a claw pedestal. Specifically.

Energy Cell Crystals: Contain mystic energy, vary by size, used all over the place to power TW motorcycles and other machines. Naturally regenerate daily.

Life Essence Crystals: Can store the whole essence of a person and preserve them, though they are unaware of space or time unless A) someone holds and permits communion with the crystal, allowing the stored essence to observe, B) It gets put in a new body, including a robot. I am quite honestly surprised that the upper class of Wormwood do not have this done as frequently as possible--it’s basically immortality that doesn’t even require human sacrifice and isn’t particularly evil of itself. Also the crystal has 1000 MDC and regens 200 every 12 hours.

Eye of Wormwood: Does not require eye-replacement for usage, grants some useful Wormwood spells at 6th level potency.

Heart of Wormwood: Large and sparkly yellow thankfully, allows a slightly different set of spells to the Eye.

Magic Booster Crystal: Doubles duration and range of magic spells, raises PPE and PE by 25%. Pretty neat.

Spell Gem of Destruction: Quite the moniker. Can cast several offensive spells like 6th level.

Spell Gem of Dimensions: This is super-useful, it permits casting a list of teleport/travel spells and Open/Close rifts up to eight times per day. Given how most shifters are crazy and evil and Wormwood loves it some dimensional trade, these should be vital infrastructure.

Spell Gem of Illusion: Illusion stuff, I can’t remember how good the spells are but a lot of enemies and even some friends are immune to them in this book.

Spell Gem of Ma--you know, we get the idea that they’re spell gems, make up some new names. Casts an assortment of spells, some useful, some status effect, eight a day.

Spell Gem of Protection Like the others, protective spell list.

Lesser Magic Crystals

Lesser Energy Cells, Lesser Spell gems of various kinds (two spells twice a day, 1st or 2nd level), ‘Light Crystal’ which is not a final fantasy artifact this time, Finder crystal which does a few of the ‘locate’ Wormwood spells, Shadow Crystals allow some stealthy stuff, and a ‘Spell Gem Blank’ which is like the other lessers but a practitioner of magic can imbue it with two spells that it will then retain. And you can use any kind of spells, temporal, elemental, etc.

The lesser crystals are again not bad, not overwhelming. Some of the greater ones might be kind of overpowered (control) but in general they’re pretty good items and would give Wormwood a very competitive set of trade goods.

Next: Forces of darkness. Yay!

Now, the badguys

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Rifts:™ Dimension Book One: Wormwood Part 22: “Now, the badguys”

The Unholy, Forces of Darkness, evil, or just “demons.” These get used interchangeably in the book and by the people of Wormwood, since they are facing one major threat and don’t really need to develop a complex taxonomy for what exactly is menacing them today. The Unholy rules with an iron fist, the despotic demon rule is law, justice is a joke and humans are mistreated cattle among the turmoil of the empire. They perhaps enjoy some basic rights as long as they profess loyalty, and the war zones are obviously exempt from this. It does say the Forces of Darkness actively ‘need’ human slaves and worshipers, which is more than any of the ‘pantheons’ we’ve been presented with admit to--it doesn’t say why they need them, just that they do.

Then they give one of those squad breakdown things Kevin loves to write and we’re on to the Dark Priest NPC class.

Dark Priests are the corrupted ministers of the Unholy, humans who have forsaken anything but their own gain and create the corrupted parasites and objects that the Host uses to enslave the surface of Wormwood. Their powers are almost identical to the Priest of Light but with a much bigger spell list. The spells list said that “Dark priests get fewer and access to a restricted list” but that seems to be a total lie--if anything about a third of the list is ‘only evil characters would do this’. They can also let the Unholy or one of the Host possess them to gain some temporary power. The possessing entity can sense if its real body falls under attack and can return in 1D4 minutes. The Dark Priest suffers no downsides to possession.

also, dark priests may have some issues with black people

Unlike Priests of Light, they embrace symbiotic armor and wear other armor over that as long as it doesn’t have a prowl penalty. Even evil does not use money in Wormwood, but the Dark Priests expect to be at the top of the food chain and get the best food and lodgings and etc, and will have ‘4D6x100,000’ credits worth of valuables. They can have up to four symbiotes but not before level three--the limits for symbiotes are poorly explained all over--and they’re willing to use Life Force Cauldrons and other evil stuff. Also at third level they get minions that increase in time. These are meant to be at least medium bosses so they’re passably tough and surrounded by annoying monsters and supporters. Killing one would not be the impossible feat of striking down any kind of Intelligence (especially since they can’t dimensional teleport) but they would definitely be a handful.

Next we get Dark Minions. Aside from the parasites being formerly part of Wormwood, I don’t know why those weren’t in this section. Instead we start with the Air Fish RCC, the first of a shitload of enemies.

No really. Air Fish. Char had to fight with some of them in the intro comic. They’re basically flying piranha, if piranha were actually dangerous to people and three to five feet long. They’re intelligent, but generally wild hunters and scavengers. The Unholy brought them to Wormwood from somewhere and they do a lot of evil’s grunt work. Oh, and they’re an RCC, but the note at the bottom says they’re not available as PCs. They’re not too tough or strong, but they hunt in packs.

Beast Guards are next, another non-player RCC. They were apparently once human, but sold their souls to become TMNT. The pact they made makes it physically impossible for them to raise a hand to their masters, even if they wanted to. They’re among the lowliest demon servants and come in two types: the hyperactive canine and the more stoically sadistic armored guard. The canine is much weaker than the armored type, which suggests that they got a raw deal for soul-selling. The canine typically doesn’t use weapons, the armored type likes polearms--though they have to enhance them to get MD out of them, or buy vibro-weapons or whatever.

helpful identifiers i guess

Demon Goblins: ‘perhaps a distant cousin of the goblin faerie’, but more powerful and cruel. They are actually minions of Salome rather than the Unholy but they work with the Forces of Darkness generally. They’re not very tough at all (6D6x2 MDC) and have a few classes with way too many skills to bother writing down for something so cannon-foddery.

short people are always so angry

Demon Hounds are a demonic predator larger than a horse, and can be ridden. Simvan Monster Riders are inevitably mentioned. The demon hound riders are a specific humanoid species that has an empathic link with the mounts, and dress like Mel Gibson’s version of the Coalition.

seashell kneepads?

Hounds and rider work together for themselves and share a link over five miles per level of rider. Killing a rider brings down the Hound’s vengeance. Riders and Hounds are gentle and cool with each and completely hostile to everything else. They and the Sky Riders (whom they hate) seem to have joined the Unholy from elsewhere, and not all of their species is loyal--the rest are just back on the homeworld. Very rare good or less evil Hound Riders could be PCs, the book supposes , but they’re probably going to get hunted down.

Next is the Entrancer. Most of these are evil illusion and mind-controlling monsters (which the book amazingly gives defenses against) but 10% have turned against the path of evil, which impresses me a little bit, that evil beings would show free will. Also another 25% are independent mercenaries.

the one on the right is the Entrancer, the other one is just some goat guy

They’re pretty tough, Wormwood-nerfed Mind Melter powers with 1D4x100 MDC and a lot of illusionary/mind-controlly magic knowledge. They feed on strong emotions and may become affected by said emotions themselves, or react in moments of great stress according to a percentile table of Very Unstable Personality reactions that range across the emotional spectrum including 81-100 being Love and Happiness.

I’ll close this post with the Feathered Serpents. No, not Quetzalcoatl or anything related to it. They’re more like sky dolphins in terms of being fairly smart jerks. They’re the preferred riding animal of the Sky Riders (enemies of the Hound Riders as mentioned before) and very loyal to their riding partner, though this relationship is somehow “nothing like” the symbiosis between Hound and Rider. Its tongue can ensnare prey and it’s extremely strong.


It has six attacks a round and a couple hundred MDC and when it is killed it will ‘thrash around and attack everything for 4D6 minutes’. You can at least shoot a 90 MDC wing off to tie it to the ground, though it’ll grow back in five months. Mean and vicious and ridden by warriors who are probably also pretty tough.

Next: Morphworms! And other strangeness.

Progressive CR, also alpha

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Rifts:™ Dimension Book One: Wormwood Part 23: “Progressive CR, also alpha”

More Forces of Evil. I appreciate that the forces of the Unholy have a little nuance (a tiny bit), some entities brought with them from other worlds who may not like it on Wormwood, or which made a really bad soul-selling deal and can’t get out of it. They’re still pretty one-note and often a bit overpowered in the MDC realm but we shall carry on.

Morphworms are next. They’re hideous evil monsters who feed on humanoids and mammals. They already know about Earth and are dimensional travelers. I’m going to leave out the section on how and how often they eat, the illustration is probably sufficient. Basically they go insane with hunger every seven days and remain constantly gross.

a worm that has worms

Despite berserker hunger, they are intelligent, just evil. They are called morphworms because they can shapechange, obviously. They usually disguise themselves as beautiful people to lure in the unsuspecting. They also have hundreds of MDC and can naturally dimensionally teleport to their homeworld or other visited world, though only twice per day at 70% which means they could actually fail and be stuck, rarely. A lot of them are allied to the Unholy because of the good hunting.

Next is the Ram-Bat who is apparently actually the goat guy in the left hand side of the Entrancer picture. They are the typically mean bullies who pick on the weak and prey on other intelligent life, durable as a heavy-armored warrior with supernatural strength but not overwhelming.

Then we get the ‘Rathos the Rumbler’ RCC. These are demons who love war, and their species name is ‘Rathos’ but humans call them ‘Rumblers’ because ‘the earth rumbles when they walk’. Apparently away from Wormwood they have limited earth magic. They more MDC than the Ram-Bats but a stupider name so that probably evens out. Both like to use weapons though the book keeps mentioning hand-to-hand weapons as if MD hand to hand weaponry weren’t kind of rare and weak.

sure, okay

Next is the Shade RCC. Unlike the apparently shout-prone Ram-Bats and Rumblers, these guys are calm and collected supernatural predators. They’re elite warriors and spies with natural abilities to turn invisible and shadow meld. They are tougher still than the Rumblers but don’t do much natural MD damage--they need weapons for that. They have psionics and a few natural magic spells, mostly the shadow melding and flying. They also take double damage from light-based attacks, including lasers.

i love the doofus grin

Now it is time for the Skelter Bats which featured in our intro story. They appear to be ‘part snake, insect, bat, and demon’, which, get off the damn fence will you? Anyway they’re big scary flying things that the Sky Riders use a lot because they’re easily bred and obedient and always ready to snap down at prey. They’re tough, they can pounce and riders often travel in groups.

i am the night

Sky Riders ride both the Skelter Bats and Feathered Serpents and perhaps other flying animals as well, since they don’t have the same telepathic bond with their mounts that the hound guys do. They’re prone to reckless stunts at least while others of their kind are watching, and love to show off. They like to pick up enemy fighters and sling them into groups of others, bowling-style, or snag them with a hook and drag them into obstacles or along the ground. They use vicious skyborn tactics and are all big meanies. Individually they aren’t extremely tough, but they travel in groups and ride more than one to a bat/serpent/whatever sometimes, and can wear armor and use weapons.

The Temporal Raider is given an entry but not stats--you’re told to see England for that, standalone GM. The Raiders are often independent and significant portion of them even work with the good guys, but they’re too useful to turn down and too individualistic to judge as a whole, apparently.

Lastly, we get the Worm Zombies, because as an evil invading army of demonic death, you gotta have zombies. They’re corrupted from Wormwood’s essence rather than being the other kinds of zombie Rifts has presented us with and can speak a few repetitive words like ‘you must die’ or whatever. They have 60-120 MDC from ‘armor’ which apparently someone with too much time and armor might put on them, and it’s extra-strange since they’re nine feet tall. They’re vulnerable to silver for some reason, and tend to pick up any hand-to-hand weapon nearby to attack with. Not a huge obstacle but strong enough to annoy.

Overall while I think these critters are overpowered (even with things like apoks around) they have a little more variety than a lot of the ‘is a sadistic supernatural monster’, with actual factional differences and monster races who may actually not automatically be serving the Darkness or may be working for their own agenda on the back of the Unholy, and not all of these sadistic evil monsters share the same culture--the Hound Riders in particular have their own thing going, and the Temporal Raiders actually have more of an explicable role in this book than in England even if that’s where they’re statted.

End of minions! On to Lords of Darkness! Only twenty pages to go!

The Host of Darkness (will seat you shortly)

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Rifts:™ Dimension Book One: Wormwood Part 24: “The Host of Darkness (will seat you shortly)”

Okay, there’s a hierarchy listed here. The Unholy, High Lord Lesion, Lord Krikton Master of Parasites, Salome, and then the Host who are The Unholy’s species but serving him. The Host is the correct collective term for them, and they are the last of a dying breed (thank goodness) of supernatural monsters. Apparently they were never great at dimensional travel and thousands of years ago they got imprisoned in some limbo-like abyss dimension by one of the many other powerful evil multi-dimensional entities, but they never talk about it and asking them will get their eternal enmity.

The hedonistic pre-Host Wormwood people managed to open a gate to this pseudo-dimension and one of them allowed the Unholy to possess them, transforming them into a new shard of itself and setting it free. Each member of the Host who tries to escape has to find a willing host to give up their body, so trickery is involved, and having possessed and rebirthed, they are now native to Wormwood. It seems to be a specific curse from their imprisonment that they specifically cannot leave their reborn world. They also do not have a soul, so destroying their body simply ends them--none of this d-teleporting or drifting around as energy forms or whatever. I approve of this, though I am sure they will have long rambling bullshit for statblocks.

Also they apparently obey the Modron principle in that if three or more or present, one becomes the leader and the others start a hierarchy below. They cooperate rather than backstab, at least now, because they are few and dying and actually have a reason to be on each others’ side. There are 19 total hosts. Also, they can only gain one member every 20 years.

Of course, being so few in number, they’re immensely powerful. Well, pretty powerful anyway. They have 1D4x1000 base MDC which is dragon-league but not the crazy numbers they start slapping on gods and ‘alien intelligences’. They gain a few hundred if there are three or more, but it’s not for every three, just the once. The leader gets 4D6x100 extra as well. Also they apparently cannot swim--they drown, which is hilarious. Holy water burns them. Wormwood is perfect with its oceanless dryness. Half damage from magic fire and plasma.

Their big special ability is ‘the power to warp of shape nature’ which only occurs when three or more are present. It happens automatically, and basically starts shaping areas around them into a demonic appearance. One can see how this is a problem for Wormwood. Areas under Host control consequently all start looking more sinister than the weird gray-brown-pink living stone planet already does. They normally get a list of core spells in twisted landscapes they control, but on Wormwood they get a bunch of Communion spells instead.

i suppose baphomet had to be somewhere in any book mentioning the word ‘templar’

They have a bunch of psionics, some natural but actually fairly restrained natural MDC attacks, and no spell list outside of the Wormwood communion. That’s unusual but not really unwelcome, there’s enough to deal with there already. They also have a big hoard of treasure which they do value even if the rest of the planet doesn’t. They’re about 10-13 feet tall and look like the above. There are about 10,000 more of these trapped in the un-place where the Unholy came from.

So these guys are very strong, but I feel like PCs could work out a way to beat on them. At the least they don’t have the escape fuck-yous of most other villains and while the presence of tens of thousands more is quite threatening, they’re not just biding their time until they want to overwhelm the last stand of goodness, they’re stuck. The overall dreariness of Wormwood’s prospects is kind of wasting the relative balance of these as enemies, I think, and their nature-twisting abilities ties neatly with Wormwood being a living planet who is being warped and infected by these beings.

Some individual members of the villainous host get some writeups. First is the Unholy; he’s awful and mean and lost his left eye in a fight with the Confessor (of course) and has sewn a patch into it as a reminder since it would grow back otherwise. He controls his minions well, and those who serve him revel in the power they have over others under his autocracy of raging evil. He doesn’t go out of his way to be sadistic but sure doesn’t hesitate to hurt things and has no hesitation in using humans like cattle.

He also has the one dimensional power that the Host possessed naturally: the power to create the Black Abyss, which is a dimensional pocket prison not unlike that which the Host themselves were trapped in. Normally they imprison a foe in stasis for 1D4 days per level unless put on a nexus, then it goes up into centuries--and if five or more are done at one nexus they block other rifts from opening. Only the leader of the Host and second in command can use this power. Shifters and temporal classes can find people trapped this way, and temporals can learn it as a spell. It costs 500 PPE and lists no save.

Otherwise the Unholy obeys the stat guidelines above, and tends to fight with a battle-stone enhanced scepter that does 2D6x10 and has he 6100 MDC.

Lesion is next, and he is The Unholy’s trusted advisor. He pretty much runs things day-to-day but does not aspire for the throne because evil is always loyal to evil. He has agents infiltrating everywhere, even the upper echelons of the Cathedral. He actually has a better scepter than the Unholy which is studded with like five different crystals and bloodstones.

Lord Krikton is the “Master of Parasites” and has a gift for further mutating creatures and made a lot of the parasites that so addle enemies with their pounce attacks. He’s also working on three new designs, “Material for a supplement perhaps, Hint, hint. The Editor.” . He hoards stuff more than other Host, is envious, and meaner even than the two in charge, which is to say Diabolic versus Miscreant. He actually does want to kill the other two ahead of him, but it’s hard. He’s unstable even by the standards of evil otherdimensional monsters. Also, he fights with a boom gun.

Then there’s Salome, Lesion’s sexy sorceress lady. They are, the book emphasizes, friends. On the one hand it is good to see a working professional relationship between opposite sex (ish, one is a giant goat-demon) characters. On the other hand they did make the only female villain sexy even if she gets pants. Anyway, there’s a lot of rumors about Salome, that’s she’s a Sunaj or something, but she’s not, she’s Lazarus Vespers’s old friend from school and was also not his lover. She’s power-hungry and cold and even the Host think of her as an equal. Except Krikton. Because he’s a dick. She also controls the demon goblins as their queen, having freed them from enslavement by an alien intelligence and they’re much happier now. She’s Aberrant, showing mercy to worth foes or whatever, and a 10th level Shifter with a bunch of symbiotes and magic weapons. Also unlike Lazarus she wears armor, though she still only has 155 MDC.

you have no power over me

And that’s it for the pre-statted NPC villains. The thousands of MDC on the Host guys would be tiresome to whittle down but is possible, or one could just reduce it of course, and they don’t have the reams and reams of spells and special abilities that some other entities do, nor are they stupid biblical-themed nonsense demons, aside from the Baphomet look. The four enemies detailed here actually have something approaching personalities, even if they aren’t fascinating character studies or anything.

The biggest problem I see with them is that they are specifically forbidden by curse to leave Wormwood, but if they win and conquer it all, the planet will die and so then probably they will too, especially since Wormwood is so specifically hard to dimensionally find and the Host have to work really hard to get their peeps out. So there's a flaw in their plan of conquest. Maybe that's why the Cathedral still exists at all, to be the Apple to the Unholy's Microsoft, a fig leaf for the Justice Department. Or maybe they don't realize the full extent of the damage their presence does to the planet. I actually like that their existence twists worlds around themselves in this context but it does mean they better check themselves.

Next: The Domain of the Unholy, not written by Erin Tarn.

Wouldn’t be a Rifts book without a geography lesson at the end too

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Rifts:™ Dimension Book One: Wormwood Part 25: “Wouldn’t be a Rifts book without a geography lesson at the end too”

So we’ve detailed the Host and their minions, now we talk a bit about where they live and what they rule. According to this, there are “a dozen demon cities and scores of human cities” under the Host’s domination, as well as tons of ghost towns and ruins and stuff, slowly being absorbed back into Wormwood.

But first we need to talk about the Free Cities because Erin Tarn didn’t go to all of them and so couldn’t write on it. Worldgate was explained, apparently others exist in the Unholy’s overall territory but have to fight tooth and nail to stay free. There are some random numbers you can roll for population, armed force levels, and percentile breakdowns of citizenry as well as common buildings.

Then we get to the dominated cities which are “60%” completely lost to despair, though they might quietly ignore freedom fighters hiding among them. We get another population breakdown which includes secret temples and wormspeakers, and another list of common buildings that includes all the vices this time, like drug dens and slave pens. It then goes on with another generic city breakdown for the “Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing City” meaning a place that only pretends to be obedient but is being all French Resistance about it.

hey look, another picture of the Confessor

Then they talk about typical demon city, which is any place inhabited mostly by monsters though it could be one or two types or multiple, depending on what books you own I guess. Humans in these cities are slaves or quislings.

Now we get to the named locations, starting with the capital of the evil empire, Charun. It is a “typical demon city” which means it is with spikes and horns and doors that look like fanged maws and such, both from deliberate sculpting and that thing the Host does to their environments. The Unholy’s palace is described and it kinda sounds like Dethklok’s ship with beaten-down slaves and sharp points everywhere, and another of the Host is named as high priest of evil--Kaanker, who is female but not statted past ‘9th level’. It also describes some of the palace defences, which are unsurprisingly tough, but include a treasure room like a proper dungeon. The city itself was really only mentioned in passing, but then, where else are PCs going to go? Oh, also it has 3.5 million residents which is equal to like half the unconquered human population.

Atala is Lesion’s city and full of more demons. Apparently a “Lord Mar” is governor of the region, the cities, and “the Goblin Gate and the Mountain of Skulls” which sound like local demonic tourist attractions. The Goblin Gate is actually Queen Salome’s kingdom apparently, and plays host to both the demon goblins and an uncommon number of free but evil humans. Also the Confessor used to live here, which might lead to some awkward meetings.

The Unholy Desert is named for being close to Charun and being 110 degrees all the time. It also mentions the 400-year old wreck of an otherdimensional spaceship that crashed in it, which would actually be a neat thing if it weren’t inaccessibly situated in the heart of enemy territory. The Mountain of Skulls is a resin mountain that no longer flows and instead has become a massive ossuary. There’s also “Rock Ridge” which is apparently a battle saint mount occupied by an evil dragon calling herself “The Rock” which will make me snicker every time I think about it. She’s statted out a bit but not very interesting, and has a bunch of monster friends from the Conversion Book, buy now.

The Valley of Spires is a huge foresty cluster of Wormwood’s stone-pillar trees, Krik Lesion is an evil human priest who named himself and the city after his masters, Demon Bridge is a permanent rift that only opens to evil dimensions on a random table, Kriktonspire is exactly what it sounds like. There are a few other demonic or dominated cities named, and they’re mostly unremarkable though many either occupy the sites of Battle Saints or are rumored to. Oh, and Lalibela, that permanent rift in Ethiopia that nobody ever noticed.

Following that are experience tables, character sheets, and ads for Rifts miniatures and the base Palladium role-playing game because everybody loves converting to MDC and back. And that’s Wormwood.

I feel like this review in general has been super-wordy but it’s hard to avoid when explaining some of the relatively complex concepts of the world. Wormwood’s basic idea is kind of neat, if weird, but the christian imagery feels extremely out of place. There are also things that aren’t adequately explained about the Cathedral and human territories “of Light.” Like the entire religion that the Cathedral is supposed to be--we have no theology for them, aside from We actually learn more about the governance of the Unholy than the humans in places and the non-economy is nonsensical. Also, why do these people not build or at least designate roads? I understand they don’t have pack animals but they know what cars are and the planet is mostly flat and easily traversed.

The villains and monsters are a bit better articulated than the general “is a vicious supernatural predator” that dominates other Rifts antagonists, though not by a whole lot. If you filled in some gaps and scaled back the despair a few notches you could run a decent campaign with Wormwood, though you will definitely need other books in the Rifts line. Stand-alone my ass.

Also, this book really highlights why the MDC system is stupid and broken, with all the swords and maces and other SDC weapons in the hands of naturally MDC humans and monsters, and buildings made of naturally MDC living planet alongside those made from SDC stone from other worlds. I know that a lot people who might or ever have run a Rifts game ditched or in some way modified MDC in general and I wish to recommend that all others who may still play the game should adopt this policy. To run Wormwood you’d pretty much have to.

I considered doing some Wormwood theme revamping in the Palladium thread but that's really a lot of for something that I wouldn't actually use for any other purpose. A single simple change is not making Wormwood symbiotes and etc fall off and die the second players leave the planet, because that was really just needless. More importantly, you'd have to develop the Cathedral's actual theology and how it differs from the Wormspeakers and why. This is an unbelievable gap that we're just supposed to Christian-assume in I guess. The Truman art in the book is good, there's just not much of it, and the Flint art is okay and kind of different in look from the typical look, but Siembieda also contributes his usual linework along with all that writing. The book really would have done better as a separate game, though then it probably would have ended up in a Conversion book someday anyway. The setting has some possibilities but they are often crushed under the weight of poorly thought-out material.